All About Mama

The past week I have been busy. And it's been all fun stuff in which I have immensely enjoyed. Monday I had my yearly BBQ with my choir. We rode bikes through the countryside and ended up at one of the choir members houses for a terrific BBQ and lots of laughter and silly singing and I managed to make it home after the bottles of wine were flowing, but my bike sure wasn't heading in a straight line. I fell into bed around 2am.
Friday my girlfriends and I celebrated my and my friend Amanda's summer birthdays with a Greek dinner out, heading to Sex in the City in which there was lots of laughter, and listening briefly to the music playing during the music festival throughout the city. I was certainly spoiled and it was lots of fun being out with the girls. The conversation never ceases, the jokes and laughter are abundant, and hugs at the end of the night complete the feeling of being loved. Thanks for your friendship, my girliefriends!! I crashed into bed at 3am.
Sturday, we packed up our car with all our camping gear and headed out on a last European jaunt as a family before our trip to America. We managed to take in two museums which were magnificent and loaded with activites for the kids, watched the boys dive in the pool for a first sumemr swim, and played soccer on the field in front of our tents. The weather was perfect, and so were the smiles and fun we shared together. It couldn't have been better, and mama didn't have to cook!
Sunday we stopped by my in-laws house for a farewell party before we leave. There were Dutch and American streamers decorating the garden and the BBQ was all set up for a delicious feast. I shared a bottle of wine with opa and the tables were filled with a sense of comfort and home, fitting in as a member of a wonderful family. I blew out the candles on my cake and was spoiled with lots of special gifts for my birthday. And my boys couldn't have been more happy as the money bags they made at a museum were filled to overflowing with lots of money...rewards for good report cards, a treat for the trip, the emptying of the piggy bank to supply our little ones with a larger bank account. It was a very good evening.
We amde it home in time to watch the final game of the European Championships and I was happy when Spain won, even though nothing would have completed the happiness of the past week better than having Nederland in the finals. Still, I won't complain. I have been blessed time and time again with special treasures in my life, and these celebrations are just the tip of the iceberg. Now, it's time to get my suitcases packed, clean up the house, and head off to my other home, where more fun, more family, and more gifts of love and acceptance await me. I have a lot to do, but once I arrive on American soil, I'll feel the passion of truly being home. And what a treat that is sure to be.

So, my blog may be neglected and I may not get to read my faves as often as I normally do, but I promise you'll hear all about it when I am once again home sweet home...whatever that really means. I'll try to send a few updates when I can be online, but mostly, I'm just planning to enjoy my family and my kids in the summer sun, playing, recharging, and just being me. Until late August...have a super summer!!!


School Stuff

I am such a proud mommy!!! Got both my boys' school reports and they both had terrific reports. Makes me very happy. Jari is moving on to second grade, while, get this, Kaeden hits high school (7th grade for us Americans). Last night we attended Kaeden's grade school graduation and I couldn't help but choke back a few tears. The director gave her little speech and Jari had me cracking up again. She mentioned in her speech about having helped these little people grow up and stand on their own legs...I look over at Jari and see him standing there one foot held high as he tells me that he can stand on just one leg! At least he was listening even if the meaning went right out the other ear! kaeden was very subdued the entire evening. It was what I refer to an autistic event. I couldn't touch him without him pulling away, couldn't congratulate him without him staring through me. But it was still very meaningful and he wouldn't allow his diploma to leave his hands. What hit me the most was when the director mentioned the faith and trust we put in the teachers and the school. While my faith slacked numerous times throughout this past year, I still gave my child over to these people I barely knew. His emotional, mental, and physical health was in their hands. And he came out stronger than when he entered. And I came to know and respect two amazing women. Teachers are amazing people. They have hearts of gold, and the amount of love and commitment they give our children is outstanding. It is a very honorable profession, and I am glad I was able to be part of that life, if only shortly. I miss being in a classroom, interacting with children, helping them learn and watching them grow. Being the one they come to when they scrpae their knee, or asking with help tying their shoe. I miss the daily contact with children, being seen as a hero in their eyes. But, I am so grateful both our children had teachers who gave so much to help our boys be their best. Thank you! So, one day to go and summer vacation is upon us. The sun is definitely marking this special time of year. This afternoon Jari's bookbag was filled to the brim with all of his workbooks and goodies. Earlier in the week, Kaeden struggled carrying his backpack home. I look through their work and can't believe the amount of learning that is accomplished in one short school year. How much knowledge they have acquired, how much they have been subjected to. And then I think about my own childhood days of books and pens and paper and school, and know just how far they have yet to go, how much more they will learn, not from books and papers, but from life experiences. And one I will never forget is standing in a room filled with parents, teachers, and graduates, all relieved and proud, taking a step into another new adventure, more experiences, more learning and more life.

Congratulations My Riley Boy!!!


The Test Report

Jari came home with his end of year tests and report card today. He's a champ when it comes to school work and we have no reason (at this point) to have any worries. What we do have reason to do, with that son of ours, is laugh uncontrollably until tears flow down our face. So, I was looking over his test with him. Few errors, but the ones he made were careless, stupid little things...reason for me to believe he just wasn't in the mood kind of mistakes. So, no real big deal. Suddenly I get to a page of math. Halving and doubling numbers. The top portion of the test is perfect...the bottom portion, oh, not so much. He has 4 errors out of 10 questions. Not something consistent with his normal self. And then I see 'the note'. On the portion of the page for teachers comments, in little boy Jari handwriting is a note: Well Done! 0 Wrong! (and I might add that Well Done was misspelled as well...spelled how it sounds, but still incorrect, just to give you a visual!) ***Goed Gudaan! 0 F!

And on top of Jari's perfect handwriting in the teacher box, is his note all crossed out in red pen with two !! exclamation points after his words!

I don't think Mrs. Teacher was impressed with his mistakes...but oh, how he made me laugh. I can only imagine, the entire time he's taking his test, just waiting to be done with it so he can pen in his note, worrying not about the correct answers, but thinking about the little score he's going to give himself...his mind not on math, but his view of his perfection! He is going to break some hearts sometime. He's already done one (mama's) in for good. But the teacher, ehhh, I'm not SOOOO sure?!


It Stinks!

Tonight, as I tucked Jari into bed, he couldn't get comfy...it was twist and turn and upside down and rightside up and just plain ole nothing is gonna work tonight. Granted, it is a HOT and HUMID day, almost too much to bear for anyone. And even though I kept all the windows closed up and curtains pulled, it's still a bit smothering. Anyway, Jari finally sits up, looks me in the eye, and says "Mama, I can't sleep. All I can smell is Kaeden." I couldn't stop laughing. Especially since I took Jari's pillow that Kaeden was laying on last night during the game and put it back on Jari's bed earlier today. So, now we know...Jari knows how Kaeden stinks!!! And he can't sleep with the smell of his brother slumbering in his bed. The giggles are still penetrating my soul (and face)...


It's OVER :-(

I did my best to kick and yell and scream, but it just wasn't enough. Tonight Nederland lost in the quarter finals against Russia. It may seem completely pathetic, but I am heartbroken. The orange fever overtook me and I thought we had this cup in the palm of our hands...and now, we go away with nothing. Nothing but memories of a poorly played game and all the what-ifs...and I can clean up all the orange fever paraphernalia littering our home as I kick and yell and scream some more, but this time in disappointment. I wonder how my husband is feeling, celebrating this game on his yearly trip with his oldest friends, cheering on his country, and falling short...I'm sure the beer will be flowing to mend a few of the broken dreams. Too bad it won't be flowing in celebration instead. Too bad, so sad....

Until Next Time My Fellow Nederlanders...when we'll be smiling at the END of the game instead of just at the beginning...


Out In 'De Peel'

Wednesday I needed to get away from the daily ritual of life. I took Erwin to the train station, went grocery shopping, and watched wildlife wandering along the road on my way home. When the kids both arrived home, we took a picnic lunch to one of my favorite nature areas in Holland, went on a walking adventure, and played hide and seek among the plants and trees. There are long wooden bridges which forge a gap between wet, muddy shoes and the swamp lands. There is a tower to climb and see miles upon miles of grasses and heather, and the wildlife is abound. We saw many frogs, bugs, birds, dragonflies, horses, cows...and with the sun shining and a breeze blowing, it was the perfect remedy for a brittle soul. Here are pictures of our day out in De Grote Peel...the swamplands of Holland, the freelands of my soul.


Airfare Schmucks!

I'm a bit peeved today. We're having some major internet issues, and nothing is working smoothly. No fun to be online. So to those bloggers I normally read and share my thoughts with, sorry, but until this mess gets cleaned up, I can barely even make it into a site. It took me hours just to open up this page today, and it just ain't worth the trouble!!! Hopefully we'll be back to normal soon.

But, what's got me even more peeved? Yeah, all these new airline changes they are implementing. No more free drinks, no more free baggage, no more free nothin'. I just can't sit back and let this all go by unnoticed. The cost of airfares has managed to increase greatly with the rise of fuel costs. I get that. As much as I don't like the fact we paid over 2 months salary for a summer vacation (ahem, just the airfare, I mean), I understand that the cost of flying has to increase with the rises in fuel costs. That isn't the issue here. But why all the extra charges for baggage? Why am I being penalized for bringing my clothes, toothbrushes, and stuff I need with me? Why, when I am sitting in an airplane for hours on end should I not be given a drink to 1) cure the thirst that comes fom flying in a cramped, stuffy quarter for hours on end 2) distract me from the boredom of flying for a spell and 3) give me something to excite my kids about and keep them good at least as long as it takes for them to get their free drink...and cola at that! (my kids do not get to drink soft drinks on a regular basis)? If I were allowed to bring a drink with me on the plance, it wouldn't be so bad. But with all the new security measures, I can't even do that. Don't get me wrong, I am glad security is improved and I don't complain that I have to remove my shoes, leave all the bottle of lotion at home, and be nearly strip-searched when I beep. And I don't even mind that I can't bring a drink with me...that is, until I am forced to BUY one on the plane. I didn't even mind when they quit serving meals on flights...so, we can eat before we leave or when we arrive...but when it comes to the sacred issue of a chug of replenishing and fresh water, I think things are being taken too far.

As for the luggage...they were already getting really picky with weight limits. First the approved weight was lowered, then they started weighing each piece forcing you to remove articles of clothing and rearrange bags to meet the standards, and now...I am allowed 1 carry o and 1 piece of luggage for free. After that it's $25 for the first extra piece and $100 for each thereafter. Now, I am traveling for 2 months with 2 children across America and back across the ocean again. I need more than the usual traveler needs. Maybe I sometimes pack too much that isn't necessary, sometimes I bring too many treats from Europe back to America with me, and sometimes I buy way too much junk in the US and have to transport it all home again. But the fact is that the bare minimum they have reduced our luggage allotments to are much too disciplined. It doesn't seem fair to be penalized for what we have always taken for granted as a traveler. Air travel is going to take a hit when all these changes go into effect. People are not going to be happy with the higher costs of travel. People are going to think twice about hopping on a plane when they realize that adding the reservation costs, luggage costs, boarding costs, drink costs, and tips to stewards is going to add an extra $300 onto the already high cost of their trip. And don't even get me started on the super greal deal of frequent flyer miles-HA!

What I am saying is that maybe not ALL airlines are followingthese new guidelines, maybe not all destinations have the same rules, maybe not all....but it is starting, and I will be one of the first affected by these changes...changes which I consider unjust and unfair. And yeah, I will end up paying the fees, because what else can I do. But I canguarantee you that I will be grumbling, the people at the gates and theose that check in tickets are going to be dealing with a LOT of unhappy customers. And when I accidentally spill 3 sticky, wet $2 colas on the seat of the plane and in the stool pocket in the seat in front of me, it'll be the best $6 I spent on my flight.


All About Kaeden

This weekend was Kaeden's end of year school party. He was excited about getting to go and partake in all the games, sit out and have a drink on his school grounds with his family, just share his school experience with mama, papa, Jari, oma and opa. Unfortunately, the weather gods were not with us. Dark grey clouds filled the sky and the ground became a mass of cold, wet puddles. Not at all the type of day he was anticipating. Not at all the type of day to go and enjoy a school party.

Still, Kaeden and I went early. His class was involved in the yearly play and we wanted to watch them dance and sing and say their lines. No, my son was not involved. Due to his behavior issues this year, his teachers felt that it was not something in which he could complete, and that was enough to put me on edge and settle me into a state of discomfort. I chose not to argue the point, but just let it be. Afterall, he really has had a lot of troubles at school, and I am not the one who has to deal with all the harrassment. With a group of autistic children, anything and everything coud go amiss, and why create an even greater stress for him and his teachers. So, we went to watch. We got there 20 minutes early and headed to the auditorium. Upon our arrival, the doors closed in front of us and we were informed that the auditorium was full. I was disappointed. Kaeden was disappointed. But there was nothing to do...20 minutes extra at a school play and it was full...do you know HOW big the school auditorium is? It is huge. And I am amazed that SO many people show up to share this day with their children. I am so glad that these little people, each with a handicap, each struggling to fit into society, are rewarded with the support and love of their families...so much support that we couldn't even fit in the room.

So, we waited for papa and Jari, oma and opa to join us at Kaeden's school, while we wandered around looking at displays, prsentations, and what all was offered. We had the oportunity to go into the high school, and I observed all the classes in which Kaeden will join in next year. I was so set against him being placed in a lower level educational bracket than the one I know that he could complete. This has had me tied in knots for months, but I finally gave in and agreed to place him in the lower level classes...simply, again, due to his behavior issues. See a pattern here? Behavior issues get in way of his success and opportunity...time and time again. Dang! Anyway, going into the classrooms, seeing the projexts and assignments, lessened my obstinate nature. It looks as if he will have things to do, challenges to complete, fun and work a good balance. As much as I would still love for him to work hard and be his best, seeing the classes in action gave me a better feeling than I have had about our decision in months. I think it will suit him, for now, until he finds his way and learns to fight through his autism, rather than crerate upheavel and disruption trying to figure it all out.

So, we bought tickets, the kids played a couple games, they ate a couple waffles, and we visited the store with handmade goodies. And then we came home to a Father's Day BBQ...in the rain and cold, but still yummy and wonderful being with those we care about...our family. And that is what is meaningful in life. Whether you are an autistic kid trying to figure out the world, or a mama fighting for what is best for her child, or a grampa just there to be supportive and see his grandchild on Father's Day, family and love and being there for one another is all that really and truly matters. The rest aways just falls into place, somehow, somewhere...but it's family that really makes all the difference. Feling a part of somehing, feeling secure, feeling loved and treasured...the only thing thmtters, th only thing important, the only thing we really and truly need.


The Weirdness of Me

I'm feeling so weird the last days...as if another person has come and sort of overtaken my body, my mind, and my soul. It's not a bad thing, neccessarily, but it's a bit unnerving. I'm not sure where I begin and where I end, and because of that I feel a bit confused and disrupted...life feels a bit different.

There are just little things. Like, I have been baking nearly every day and creating different kinds of meals for dinner...not the normal Tera mix it all together and taste all those flavors on your tongue, but making marinades and trying different herbs and cooking with wine and adding fruit to sauces. I've made fruit bread, muffins, fudge, and special puddings. And it just feels kind of strange, this new kitchen goddess that has come to live within the confines of my body.

And then there are the naps. I haven't so much been tired, really, but every day I need to take a nap. I set my little timer for 20 minutes and usually reset it 3 times. I don't even really fall asleep, but lay in my bed with my eyes closed, listening to all the sounds of construction outside my window, smelling the thick, fresh tar as it becomes a road in which we can actually drive on. I lay there in my bed with no thoughts, just focusing on the moments as I rest. It makes me feel a bit old, and even older as I always have to get up to pee, cutting my nap a bit short, hurriedly running downstairs.

I haven't stopped thinking about our trip to the Consulate in Antwerpen. We had to renew Kaeden's passport and while there we noticed again the photo requirements for passports. I was completely surprised to notice that while I had to get retakes because my face wasn't completely showing centered, my hair covering my ears a bit, my eyebrows not completely visible, that muslim people ahve the right to wear their shawls and turbans, the rounds of their face contour just showing beyond their headgear. Things like this would never have bothered me in my past life, but today I feel a sort of fear lingering behind my eyelids. I have never been a judgemental person, but I recognize a form of this taking shape in my life. It seems as though little signs of this are peeping up everywhere I look. I'm not sure I am happy with these changes, but I am more aware. I'm aware of the problems religion delivers in any and all walks of life. And I don't agree with the rulings the government has made concerning rights of muslim people. Maybe next time I renew my passport I will wear a shawl...at least it wouldn't matter if I had a bad hair day. I'm just slightly more aware of the world around me.

I haven't been able to speak with my parents regularly as I normally do. Yes, my dad has a cell phone, but no, he doesn't always have service. I am used to calling my mom up just to chat anytime I get the urge. With them busily trying to repair the damages from the tornado, their business still closed, they still homeless, I don't have that connection and it makes me feel aware of the distance, the road each life takes, which is a differing path than the next person. I feel a bit loney for the bond with my parents that has been missing these past few weeks. And as they work to restore their home business, and life, I am here on the other side of the world, going through the daily business of life as always. It makes me realize just how apart we are, the giant leap I took to step back from my previous life and enter this here in Europe. I have it much easier than I did in the states. But maybe a bit too easy? I don't handle the stress of situations and life as easily as I have in the past.

My son informed me that all I ever do is yell at him. Which is somewhat true, when I think back to our days. It is hard to stay sane and calm when someone is always pushing your boundaries. So, I have made it my goal to be more patient, more understanding, a litle bit more relaxed. I haven't yelled nearly as often since I have become aware of his take on our relationship. But I still can't get him to listen, to follow-through, to make his effort in helping me achieve my goals, which ultimately help him. But I do not like the mom I have become, forever nagging, yelling, getting irritated an irate. I like this me better...just keeping check of myself and my emotions, and trying to recognize what it does to those around me. Our home has been a bit quieter and a bit more peaceful.

I've been thinking a lot about my trip home, to America, quickly approaching this summer. I have this little niggling feeling inside me every time I consider it. I don't know what the feeling is, I have never had it before. It isn't fear, it isn't excitement, it isn't happiness or pain. But it sits there all the time, working at me from inside out. I consider all the money, the time, the preparation for this voyage overseas, and it makes me wonder where I stand in my life. Will I ever be completely content in one life or another? Have I opened myself to the possibility that my home is now here in Europe, with my husband and my children, our home, car and pets? With no 24 hour shopping and few drive through fast food joints, with delicious fresh bread and Sunday outings, vacation plans and the high cost of fuel? The things I used to miss from home have been replaced by my substitutions here. The only thing holding me to America is my family, and this thought that I owe my due of being patriotic to the land which was my first home, the land which helped to create the person I am today. Yet, my ideals lie a bit more European at this point in my life. This niggling feeling...where do I stand as an American?

And finally, voetbal, als known as soccer. It has become a passion of mine. Especially with the European championships in full swing, I am so engrossed in all that is happening in the world of this sport. I watch the games, I play with my son, I read the news, I watch my competition...and I feel strange about all of this. Yes, as a girl I played soccer. I was on the first team our high school ever had. I enjoyed it, but wasn't passionate. I have never been passionate about a sport, but payed them all and enjoyed doing so. But now, I have this passion about a sport. My adrenaline roars as I consider the next game Nederland will be playing on Friday. Will we become European champions? I decorated my home, I created orange meals, I painted the flag on my face...and it's almost as if I believe this will all help Nederland to be their best, kick their balls a little harder, score a few more goals. It's just a game, a sport...but it's so much more...a country coming together in support of their land, their countrymen, the colors of teir royalty. And I fit in. I am a part.

So, what is different about me? It's just these little things, and a whole lot more. But in some small, weird way, I think I am finally adjusting. After 8 years, I feel a new sense of me. I feel as if maybe, just maybe, I am home. And that maybe, just maybe, I am where I belong.


Father's Day

I dedicate this post to my husband, the father of our two challenging boys, the same of whom bring us so many smiles...and give us reason to celebrate Father's Day! Happy Father's Day to the best papa in the world. We love you! But, what is it about you that we love?

I love the way you play soccer with Jari every chance you get. Even when he's whining to play more, more, more, you still take you few free minutes to kick him a few balls...he thinks you are his soccer hero. I love that.

I love the way you attend all of Kaeden's important appointments with me. Often, it gives me great insight into how much you truly care about our son. Though the two of you have a somewhat turmultous relationship, when I hear you state his positive qualities during these appointments, it fills my heart with faith and love.

I love how open you are to all our family days out. Our children are seeing so much and doing so many activities that many children don't have the chance to be involved in. Whether it is a visit to a zoo or park, a walk in the woods, family movie night, family game night, a trip to the car races, a camping trip, a giant parade or just a visit to family, we are always on the go during the weekends. We may not get a lot accomplished at home, but as a family, we are growing, and our children are learning from all they are able to see and do.

I love how you hang posters of flags of the world, play geography games, and teach our children that there is a world much greater than the little corner in which we live. Our children are growing up to be knowledgeable about other people, cultures, and countries. This is something I was never given the opportunity to learn as a child, and I am happy that my children have a father who brings this to their attention.

I love when you go grocery shopping, and bring home a treat for the kids 'just because'...the just becasue is because you love them, and though they don't get special surprises on a daily basis, you do it just enough to let them know that they are important, and they can excitedly await their next surprise from papa.

I love hearing you read to Jari when you tuck him in at night, and I listen through the walls to hear which direction your conversation will turn at the end of the day. Sometimes I hear you discussing school matters, sometimes sports, sometimes telling him stories about your own youth. Those are moments in which I don't even take part in which I treasure.

I love when I am gone for an evening, come home, and ask how it went, and you tell me that it went really well and BOTH boys were good. It makes me happy that I can feel confident in leaving them with a dad just as competent as their mama, and know that you are building a bond with your boys that will last a lifetime.

I love when you persuade the boys to talk to my parents on the phone when they call. As much as both of them often despise talking on teh phone, it is important in them keeping a bond with the grandparents they don't regularly see, and it amazes me how in tune youa re to the needs of this bonding with their grandparents.

There are so many more reasons that I am glad we came together to share the responsibility of parenting thee two beautiful children God put in our care. You deserve a special day devoted just to you, complete with a handmade Papa tie and bacon sandwiches for breakfast AND lunch. You are the only man I would choose to be papa to our children. You are truly a wonderful man, a wonderful example of what a papa is supposed to be. Thank you for being a role model for our sons, for giving and giving to our family, and helping me realize time and again that when I chose you to be my husband, I made the right choice.

I love you...we love you. Happy Father's Day!


My Lil Reader

I think he is reading REALLY well considering he didn't even know the entire alphabet just 9 months ago. I am so proud of him! And I have to admit, at this moment in time he is in the highest reading group in his class...I love how expresive he can be during his 'lezen'. This is a story about a thief that comes into the house and the alarm clock goes off. He throws it against a wall...yep, Jari's choice from the school library. I hope he always loves to read as much as he does now. I know reading brings me a great deal of pleasure, and I have bookcases full of books to prove it.