2 Things:

1. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, our car will be full to bursting at the seams with all of our stuff....because we're heading off on vacation to a Holland destination! We'll be spending a week enjoying the sights and visiting museums and zoos and playing in the colorful autumn forests and relaxing in our little house in the woods...yes, we're off on vacation! Here's our Holland destination: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veluwe

2. We have company coming this afternoon! Yeah! My American aunt is visiting her family (my cousin, her husband, and their 3 kids, one of whom I have not yet met...he's 6 months old) who are stationed in Germany, and they are heading our way to say hello. I always LOVE having company from home, sharing this little piece of Europe I call my home, letting them see rather than have to envision where I now live. So, though the timing wasn't right to really have an adveturous visit (did I mention we're leaving on vacation tomorrow?) I'll still get to see them all and I'm really excited! Plus, now knowing that they are stationed just 4 hours from us, makes the possibility of future visits a reality as well, which, hey, I'm always up for seeing family.

So, those are the two things. I probably won't have internet access where we're headed, so I'll be back in November, surely with lots of stories to tell and pictures to share, and hopefully a renewed spirit, sharing special moments with my little family. Happy Fall!!! Oh, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!


My Lil Devil!

Definitely No Angel Wings To Be Found...I like him just as he is, my lil devil!

Kaeden In School

Last night I attended Parent-Teacher conferences for Kaeden. I came home feeling happy with the place he is in. He is enjoying school, and doing well there. His class consists of 7 kids, 2 boys and 5 girls between 12 and 15 years old, all with differing handicaps. He is no longer in an exclusive autism classroom. But, he is doing terrific!!!!! And I am so proud of his accomplishments to date. Not yet has he received a check which would limit his entry to special activities. He helps in the class, he accepts criticism from classmates, he laughs and makes jokes with them, he seems happy to be a part of the class. He does his work, and does it well. He has been able to partake in the school reward program, and his teachers told me what a joy he is to have in their class. And they also told me that after reports from his previous school behavior, they were worried...but had no reason to be.

I was glowing by the time I left the school halls. My son has found his niche, he is succeeding, and happy all in one breath. And wow, I am so glad.

When I came in the house, Kaeden was in the bathroom getting ready to brush his teeth before bed. I walked towards him and did nothing other than give him a thumbs up...and in that moment, I saw his eyes brighten with pride, I felt a connection between us as he lowered his head onto my shoulder and gave a little chuckle! "I am so proud of you, Kaeden! You are doing GREAT in school!!!" and I pulled him close, into a hug which bonded us in this special moment.

After he brushed his teeth, he asked me if I would snuggle with him in my bed. We read a story, I sang songs, and rubbed his hair, my 'little' boy snuggled tight against me. It was a moment stopped in time, remembering back to days long past when he was just a little guy, when I wasn't scared and living in a cloud of autism dust, when it just felt so perfectly right and not worrying about whether my son was happy, if he would be a success, but just relishing in the feel of him warming my body, my heart, my soul, with his love. Last nigth gave me back something that has been lost in the shuffle of life with autism. It gave me back my little boy, and all the dreams I once had for him, now slightly changed, but a dream for a happy future none-the-less. I am so proud of you, my beautiful boy!


Women of the Web

Last night I had a meeting. A meeting on my calendar, and nothing to do with kids or friends or school or family. It was a meeting for me. A meeting which I attended as the new webmaster for my women's club.

This year, I kind of got myself pulled into being on the board of our local women's club. It wasn't something I was sure I wanted to do, but after being asked a million times I finally broke down and decided to give it a try. Though we've only had a handful of meetings, and a couple activities I was involved in, I think I might just enjoy it. And now, I have been voted in to create a website for our club.

I haven't made a website before, though I enjoy being on the computer. And it seems simple enough, as it is just a template in which to place activities and members, etc. But still, I am really looking forward to being involved in something in which my work is seen. Something of my creation in which I can be proud. And so, I had a meeting. And now, with my little handbook in hand and a few ideas spinning out of control in my mind, I am hoping to spin them off onto a new website for our club. It should be a challenge keeping on top of it all, and I hope I don't get bored with it all too quickly (I tend to get distracted after I do things for too long), but I think it'll be good for me, good to have something to keep me busy, something to challenge me, and give me a creative outlet for my ideas. I'm looking forward to getting started!


Autism Eyes

This week has given me a few more facts about how my son sees the world. It has been mind-opening for me to hear his views on things, and realize that he truly sees the world through his autism-eyed glasses.

We were watching tv, while it was still light outside. On the screen, a dark night was being portrayed. Kaeden asked me: Mama, where do they live that it is so dark outside when it's still daytime here? When I tried explaining that the show was taped, he stayed focused on the fact that the people were speaking Dutch, which means they live in Holland or Belgium, so it had to be light there too. He just wasn't comprehending that a movie is a movie, and doesn't mean that it is live.

Yesterday we went to a museum. It was a nature museum and there were animals which had been stuffed. Kaeden was really interested in the videos they were showing of all the different animals in their natural habitats. As we passed a display of the storks, Kaeden said: Look, there are the storks. I think they are making babies right now.

Now, this may be just a little something that could be misunderstood...but it wasn't. Kaeden truly believed the storks were making babies, human babies.

So, sometimes I have to step back and wonder if he really lives life always inside his autistic mind, or if sometimes he just has an autistic moment and misunderstands concepts. This is very typical of autism, translating things literally. And hearing his viewpoint makes me remember how hard it must be to live with autism. And how hard it is to be a parent of a child that sees the world differently...


The Neighbor Boy

Jari got out of school and immediately I heard his pleas: Please, mama, please can Jakub come and play. I already asked him. Please can he come play today?

I enjoy it when my kids have friends to play with. And I welcome a chance for them to share time with their friends. However, this particular friend is here every day, from the minute school lets out until after I send him home when our dinner is ready to eat. He lives just across the street from us, and it's a very convenient friendship. I like Jakub, I really do. He's a nice kid and never causes me any problems. He is polite...but he is NOT MY KID! And he's here far too often.

So, when Jari pleaded with me to have his friend come, I told him No, Jakub was just here ALL day yesterday, and teh day before that you had another friend here, and the day before that Jakub was here, and now I want a break from other people's kids!

Just as we were discussing why I didn't want a kid here this afternoon, the doorbell rang. Jakub was standing there, with the same pleading 'Can I play?' in his eyes that my own son was also giving me.

I reluctantly opened the door further, and told him he could play for a little while.

And that is when he gave me a HUGE smile, his blonde hair shining, his eyes twinkling and handed Jari a sucker.

"It's my very last sucker and I saved it just for Jari because he's my very best friend!" Jakub said, putting his arm around my son's shoulders. "We're best friends, huh Jari?"

As I saw the two boys embrace, their eyes sparkling with friendship, I decided maybe it's no so bad afterall. He entertains my son, they play well together, and he gives my son confidence and self-esteem and happiness. So, I pay up in cookies and drinks and finding things for them to do, but what a small price to pay to see two little boys happy, learning what it means to be giving and loving; learning what it means to share and to be a true friend.


As kids get older, it seems like we as parents only manage to get more busy. It used to be hectic, dealing with crying babies and diaper changes and needing to be constantly on guard for falls and dangers in the house. Now it is hectic in the need for organizing playdates and sport activities and school activities and scouting and the like. It seems we are always running here or there, and our family activities always circulate around someone having a game or meeting or whatever else falls across our path in the week. We can't just wake up Saturday and say: Hey, let's go to the woods today. Now, it's more that we set the alarm to wake up in time for the game, go and watch Jari play soccer, run a few errands that need to be done, and make it home in time for Kaeden's scouts. It isn't nearly as free and impulsive as life was when we still had babies running around. Of course, we don't need to bring the stroller and diaper bag and extra clothes with us either. Now it's just tell the kids to get in the car, and they go. Usually, mama still has to make sure the coats make it along.

Parenting has so many different dimensions. With our growing children, our duties change. We need to teach our children what is appropriate behavior, discipline them for being unruly or cruel, and help them find their place in this world by organizing and making sure they are where they need to be. We need to stimulate them by giving them choices, but not too many choices that we get too bogged down with appointments ourselves. It's management skills, being a parent.

Last night, I forgot that it was Sport Club for Kaeden. Jari had a friend here playing all afternoon and I played a game with Kaeden and then started dinner. Suddenly, as I was putting laundry away, it dawned on me that I had forgotten all about Kaeden's activity. "Kaed, we forgot sport club tonight!" I told my son. "Didn't you want to go?"
"I forgot it too, mama." he replied, concentrating on his Playstation game. I was glad he was otherwise occupied, as sometimes forgetting sport club could result in a full-blooded meltdown from my son. Having the game to entertain him kept his emotions in check.

Yesterday, I got all of Jari's needed items ready for his special Autumn adventure with his class. I made sure Kaeden had his gym clothes for his gym class. Both boys left the house with full bellies and healthy lunches. As did my husband. I made a few important phone calls, answered the door when our oil was delivered, paid a few bills online, read the electric meter and tried to turn it in online, ran to get some meat at the grocery store, did laundry, cleaned up the visible messes, made dinner, played games, supervised playing children, said hello to the neighbor, looked up activities for us to do while we're on vacation the end of the month, and chose not to attend my choir activity (Erwin wasn't home in time, and even though I could have reminded him, I soemtimes feel like he has enough on his plate and I don't need to add to his daily struggles. When I do choose to tell him he needs to be here for this or that at a certain time, he ALWAYS is. Even if it is in the middle of the day when he should be working. But marriage is like that. You give, you take, you share, both responsibility and joy and struggles, and somehow, when you both give it your all, everything gets managed just fine...and life seems to revolve and circulate and you live together comfortably.)

Anyway, even though I was home alone yesterday from 8:40-3:30, I had a busy day. I have been considering going to work, as it is something I would like to do for my emotional health, and the extra money could help finance our trips to America, activities for the boys, the oil to heat our home, the lunches out with girlfriends...yeah, all those extras. But, I don't know how we would manage everything if I was working. My boys have it very easy as I am always here for them, and they know that whatever they need, mama is always here. They don't have to worry who will pick them up from school, when they need to attend daycare, why they can't have friends come to play...it is natural for them to have the comfort of knowing mama will be home when they are, to supply a snack, to play a game, to help with homework, to find a misplaced soccer shirt or judo belt.

It was a choice Erwin and I made for me to be a stay at home mom. And I am glad my children have the security they do, this being my job. However, my job seems to be changing as my kids get older, and as I become even more busy than when they were toddlers, I wonder what is in store for me...but I have a hunch that as Jari ages another few years, he's going to be quite self-sufficient and independent. And as Kaeden ages a few years, he's going to need more assistance, and maybe not just from home and mama's heart. And so, I will happily continue my job, helping my children to grow into their own people, and know that this job, though not always exciting or satisfying or giving me social contact, is the most important I could be doing at this time in my life, in my children's lives. And someday, Erwin and I will again find the time to wake up lazily on a Saturday morning and have a leisurely breakfast before we grab our bikes for a ride through the woods, our kids off on their own activities, their own calendars and agendas filled with their own handwriting, while mine is just a reminder to be at the soccer field at 6 for Jari's game, or to attend Kaeden's Judo exam watching him receive his next belt.

This parenting stuff is ever-changing. It's both the best ride and most wrecked accident all rolled up in one. But it's an adventure I wouldn't want to be without.



Tonight I was tucking Jari into bed. He has a difficult time falling asleep as he is scared of monsters and ghosts and the dark and anything that has to do with night. So, Erwin or I usually tuck him in and read a story and sing songs and rub his back until he falls asleep (or we do, whichever comes first). So, tonight I was tucking him in. We had read a story together, him one page, me the next (wow, can you believe he can already read to me...real books!), and then I sang a bunch of songs, but he was still squirming around. Nederland was playing a qualifying game and I wanted to see the end, so I told him I was going to leave him and I'd check up on him in a little while.

"Okay, mama" he said reaching up to give me a kiss. "It's okay. I won't be scared cuz in my dreams James Bond will protect me."

I couldn't help but stifle a laugh as I gave him one last goodnight kiss heading to watch Nederland beat Norway 1-0. Yes, James Bond, please protect my little boy. Keep him safe all through the night, and wake him with the morning light. Amen!


How To Say Goodbye?

Back years ago I had a friend. She was stunningly beautiful, with long, curly dark hair, a perfect size 6 body, and a Louisiana accent to boot. She wasn't just a friend, but my sister found...and every spare minute we had, we spent it together. Her name was Mechelle.

When I was 18 I quit college, packed up my belongings, and headed off on my first long term away-from-home adventure. I put a lot of thought into how to make my first adventure work, and it took me in the direction of New York, where a family awaited me as their nanny. I loved children and knew that I would do a good job as a nanny. The family I had contact with was very different from my own, and yet we immediately fell into a comfortable existence, from the first phone calls. I was signed up with a nanny agency, and after going through thorough testing was approved to be a nanny. And, this family was interested in me. With a 4-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter, as well as two parents in upper-class, high stress jobs, I found myself not only away from home, but away from everything familiar. Living with them was not like heading out to the woods to cut trees with my dad, or heading over to the station to visit our regular customers with my mom. It was a different lifestyle. And it was also a different region of America. I was living on Long Island, with traffic jams and green grass and the ocean just around the bend. It was a new start for a teen desiring adventure and a something different. It fulfilled my desires for adventure and excitement and gave me that sense of who I was. It was there that I found myself.

And Long Island is where I met Mechelle. We worked for the same nanny agency and I was asked to pick her up and bring her to one of our monthly meetings, as she lived in the same area as I did. I had been with my family for a couple months, and was desiring friendships which hadn't yet formed. I was thrilled to find someone that I may be able to discover New York and the east coast with. And on the night of our meeting, I tentatively went to pick her up.

We hit it off imeediately. After our first encounter, there was no separating us. We got together with our kids, we got together in the evenings, we got together in the weekends, when we would often camp out at one or another's home, and we made more friends. We shared thousands of adventures together, and discovered a friendship that was truly something special. We talked and talked and got to know each other to the cores of our beings. And I loved her, as she did me.

When, 3 years after I first started working for my NY family (as I still call them today, the boy now 22, the girl now 19), Mechelle and I decided that it was time to start life on our own, go back to school and find ourselves a career, we chose to move to Colorado together. I have always loved Colorado, and I knew Mechelle would as well. So, after telling our families goodbye, we were off, back to the West of the US, and another new start.

If I go into too much detail, this will become a book, but we found an apartment, found jobs, signed up for school, and began life together In Colorado, my second-hand car our mode of transport, and our second-hand furnishings lovingly restored by our own hands. We often headed to Laramie in the weekend to visit my family, where we were both always welcome. And our life was terrific for more than a year, when things started going wrong.

Mechelle met a man. And they got pretty serious pretty quickly. And from the outside, he seemed okay. But, as I soon found out, he was into drugs, and pulled my friend Mechelle into that lifestyle as well. She lost her job, dropped out of her classes, and found comfort only in partying and being with her druggie boyfriend. I can only tell of my side of things that happened, but our friendship started to dissolve. I'm sure it was a two-way street, and I know I was jealous of the time they spent together, when before it was always Mechelle and Tera, Tera and Mechelle. But anyway, after a few months, we were like two strangers living in the same home, with her boyfriend an added addition to our little family. And then lightning struck, and we parted ways...and since 1994 we have had no contact.

The past number of years, I have been trying to locate Mechelle. I have had no leads, other than an old address of one of her sisters in Louisiana. And I sent a letter there, with no answer received. Then, yesterday, as I was surfing the net, I came across an old ancestry page where I had left a message a few years back asking if anyone knew Mechelle, where she was, or how I could contact her. And there was a reply. From her niece.

It was not, however, the happy jovial reply I was hoping to receive. I wasn't going to be reunited with my best friend of the good ole days. She was dead. In 2004 she was hit by a car in Fort Collins, Colorado. And she was buried in Louisiana, after suffering brain damage from the accident. It seems she had not been in contact with her family much, but her boyfriend paid to have her transported back to Louisiana. She was not married, and had no children. But she is now flying among angels in the clouds, and I am feeling a bit let down. And wondering what happened, what her life was like, what she accomplished and if she managed to free herself from the life of drugs and mishaps? I feel a great sense of loss, even though we haven't been in contact for years. I feel a tiny piece of me has been torn away, that hope of renewing our friendship now shuffled into a closed up box in the back of my soul.

Mechelle, I hope you had a good life. I hope you were happy and given the opportunity to share much laughter in your too-short time here on earth. And I hope that all the pain is now gone, and that you are enjoying fluttering on angel clouds watching us all from above. And seeing me, as I think about you, and all the wonderful times we shared togehter as two lost souls looking for companionship and warmth. I miss you. And I love you, still.

Rest In Peace My Dear Friend.


A Day of Okay?

Okay, so it was a day. Not a bad day by any means, but certainly contained a few downs. Let me recap.

1) I made brussel sprouts for dinner. It is the first time I have ever made them myself and thought it would be good for the kids to try a new veggie. I already knew they weren't Erwin's fave. But, I made them anyway. FAILED experiment. I won't be wasting money on them again.

2) I finished the book Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. I always feel a great sense of letdown when I finish a book. And I read a LOT of books. And I have been on a major reading streak lately and can't seem to put the book down until it's finished...or until my legs start tingling from sitting too long. Whichever comes first. Anyway, I enjoyed the book, even though the ending made me cry.

3) I was busy cleaning out our sewer today. There's nothing like a clogged sewer system to make you want to yak. As my hands fished out all the joys known to mankind, my breathing actually regulated once I got used to the smell. But, even after washing 10 times and taking a shower, I can still smell it on my body. Yuck! And, it's not yet finished. Though I managed to pull out nearly 3 buckets of goo (or is that poo), I didn't have the proper hose to actually get it unplugged.

4) My computer crashed...and remains crashed...something about: Unable to read disk error. Seems serious to me, so I will be temporarily computer-less...which is like, Awww, SHIT! Guess I'll have to get my kicks on Erwin's laptop when he gets home from work, and hope it doesn't cost an arm and leg to get the desktop fixed.

5) I have managed to develop a bladder infection. Yeah, a few dribbles a hundered times an hour with a sting that bites. Argh! Guess I will be heading into the doc for a prescription.

So, that's a bit how my day played out. Not too bad, in the greater scheme of things.



If you know me, you know my least favorite chore is ironing. I absolutely hate doing it, and do anything I can to get out of doing it. My family's clothing consists of the items least necessitated for ironing...but even then, sometimes I HAVE to iron. My husband needs shirts for work, and sometimes my kids like to wear those nicer than tshirt 'dress'shirts...and sometimes even I need to look like a less-than-frumpy mama. Still, if I don't HAVE to, I don't iron. We all live a slightly crumpled up life :-) I like it that way.

So, imagine my horror, surprise, confusion, and ecstasy when Kaeden came home Friday afternoon begging me to let him iron my tea towels. Yes, he knew all the steps and recited them proudly as I pulled out all the wares I despise for the chore...ironing board, water, iron, wrinkly towels....and he proceeded to iron my towels, something I would NEVER be inclined to iron, keeping my ironing needs to the bare minimum. He walked me through the steps to a perfectly fresh and pretty tea towel package. And he LOVED doing it!!!

So, now I am feeling quite excited about his newest classes in school...he's learning to iron? He's learning to cook? He's learning to wash dishes and mop floors and wash clothes and did I mention IRON?!?! My days of housekeeping may be coming to an end...I wonder what else I can get myself up to....


The Official Ballot

Look what I got in the mail this week. My official American voting ballot. As I opened it up and saw the candidates names staring back at me, I felt a bit panicked. This voting stuff is important. This voting stuff is a big deal. This voting stuff, well, it makes me think and analyze and research and....and....I have to be an adult. I have to be a good American. I have to do my part to make the American ways, liberty and justice for all, a reality. But I am just one teeny, tiny person clear across the waters not even standing on American soil. I hear and see the negativity that froths forth coming from people on this side of the world. I want to hear them speak of America as the powerful, beautiful, helpful country I once knew it to be. I don't want to be one lonely soul in a sea of Europeans trying to defend my country. It is the job of my country, the politicians, the citizens, the president...to do that for me. And now, it is my job to pick my choice for the upcoming president.

I have deliberated over this for months, watching the debates online, reading news, researching candidates. I am interested, but feel only slightly informed. I have two main candidates in which may take over the job of leading our country. I personally like Obama for many reasons, but I am fearful that he is too inexperienced, will need assistance in making decisions. Is this the right man for the job? Someone I see as unfit to make a major decision on his own? Someone who can't make a spur of the moment decision because he isn't sure it is the correct one?

And then there is McCain. He is old. He is more experienced in life. He shouts out cries of following on the steps of the Bush administration (YIKES!) and he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate (double YIKES...though I am in favor of a woman being in the white house, I am not keen on this particular woman).

So, what to do? My own views and values follow a more liberal, social approach. But as Americans, we're quite limited to choice in our democracy. So, these two candidates spark through, and we know that one of them will win. Which will do a better job? Which will pull America up, help her to shine, help our citizens feel safe, healthy, comforted and in control? Help me to stand proud and tall when announcing that I am an American citizen, even as the government bulletins I receive from the American Embassy warn me to shelter my American identity when in public situations?

I'm getting out my pen, doing my tiny little part by marking that circle with my choice. The man I feel will best help America to shine...and hope, that I won't be failed by too many promises, too much media favoring, and find that glimpse of what America truly stands for, liberty and justice for all.

** I am voting for Obama. I already 'know' that his message for change offers too much of a good thing. But if some of what he proposes becomes a reality, I think America has a good foot in the right direction. I just hope he learns quickly enough and is able to make some of those necessary decisions for change. Keep your promises, Obama!