The Language of English

After our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, Sinterklaas and his helpers, Zwarte Pieten, strode into our house and surprised us with a visit. It was really fun, and what a jokester that Sinterklaas can be. He actually asked me for a classic American baked bean recipe as he was leaving. And, during his visit, which lasted an entire hour with the boys singing and dancing and Sinterklaas discussing with them all the good things they do and the things they could do better, he started speaking in English. He asked the boys if they could speak English, and Jari told him horse, while Kaeden added the addition of the word lady, in which Sint then joked about a sexy lady...hmmm...

But, what really made me crack up laughing was when Sint said: I'm just pulling your leg! As the rest of my company looked around puzzled, I started cracking up and couldn't help myself from jiggling at my own good fortune. Someone that I could actually crack an American joke with, not feel as if I couldn't speak my mind, and he'd still understand the nuance of me? It really hit me in a way I haven't considered for many years, since I first started living in Europe with the understanding that my limited language skills wouldn't allow me to speak freely and crack jokes on a whim. I was sitting up there laughing on cloud nine with this saintly, holy Dutch icon man sitting in my living room and grasping the concept of an American joke. And I totally felt as one with him, felt okay to be me, to laugh and smile and be my American self, to say things that were American that others wouldn't understand just for the sake of feeling free, as I typically don't in my everyday Dutch conversations. So, I'm pulling your leg is a saying I will never forget, and will probably choose to use more often, as it gave me a sense of my long lost American self, and made me feel totally, well, American...and accepted as such. It was a great evening, and for many more reasosn than just that. But, that was one of those seconds in time that define you, that you hold onto, just a little something that gives you courage and acceptance, and from my Thanksgiving, it was the whipped cream on teh slice of pumpkin pie.

Tonight, when Jari was brushing his teeth, I was in the bathroom with him looking at our aquarium sitting on the bathroom counter. We have always had our fish in the living room, but due to needing the space for turkey dinner, I moved them on Thanksgiving day and have left them there, trying to decide if I like them better in the bathroom. So I asked Jari: What do you think of having the fish in the bathroom?
He replied: They fit in better here.
Why? I asked him.
Because the bathroom is all about water...the sink and the bath and the toilet, and fish are all about water cuz they need water to live. But the living room, it's all about the tv, and electricity. I think the fish like it better in the bathroom!

So, now you know. Each room of the house has a personality. And right now, our fish are adding their own character to the personality in our bathroom, because fish like water better. And, the LIVING room, well, it's all about the tv..... I won't say another word. I plead the 5th...


Happy Thanksgiving!

From our house to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!


Happy Birthday Erwin!

Today my husband celebrates his 39th birthday. Happy Birthday Erwin! May it be a year filled with all the glory you deserve, all the success of which you dream, and all the love that you give to us returned ten fold. Hiep, Hiep, Hoera!!! Enjoy the last of your 30's and try to remember (if you can in your 'old' age) where you put your keys, wallet, and slippers!!!
In other news, look at all this snow!!! It just kept coming down and I was quite excited to see a thick blanket covering the ground last night. Too bad it's nearly gone this morning, but at least I had my moment.



This week I spent the better part of a few days helping my neighbor lady fill candy bags. She has a little shop that's right next to our house, and had an order for 300 candy bags to give their employees as a Sinterklaas treat. We set up all the different boxes of candy and made a production row out of making the candy bags, tied them up with a ribbon, and off into the box to be picked up next week.
What we were discussing while trying to count Marias and peanuts was the differences in holiday traditions around the world. In Belgium and the Netherlands, though both celebrate Sinterklaas in similar manners, there is still a difference in traditional candies, and styles of celebrating. It was also fun to tell them about a traditional Christmas stocking (at least traditional in my family).
So, here's what we placed in the Sinterklaas 'snoepzakjes' that we filled today:
15 peanuts in the shell
1 package Speculaas (a ginger type cookie decorated in Sinterklaas form)
1 large chocolate coin
1 Mars bar (Mars in America and here are different candy bars)
1 sack of potato chips
1 mini Mentos
1 decorated ice chocolate square
1 chocolate/marshmallow cigar
12 Maria soft sugar candies (schuimpjes/guama)
2 spekjes (colored marshmallow candy, and very popular with children year round)
1 sack Nic-Nacs (a hard, bland cookie with some super sugary hard frosting piped on top)
1 6" hollow chocolate Sinterklaas
Here are the pictures of the traditional Belgian Sinterklaas treats.
In Nederland there are kikkers and muizen (frogs and mice) made from chocolate and marzipan (Erwin's favorite treat), chocolate letters (you get the letter that your name begins with from Sint as a typical Sinterklaasavond surprise in your shoe), pepernoten (hard ginger cookies), taai-taai (a soft anise flavored cookie), and suikergoed, which is a sugary half-hard, half-soft candy that is usually mixed in with papernoten and schuimpjes (soft foamy candy) to create the typical Strooigoed.

Got all of that? Because even if you don't, trust me, it's a yummy time of year here in Europe!


Alien Me

How can it be that I feel so unsure, so uncomfortable in my own skin? Nothing has changed in my world. But I feel so disfigured, so completely tight and knotted in all the wrong places. I want my mind to be free, my body to be healthy, my heart to feel flowing and not so rock hard. I am stuck in a rut in which I question who I am, can't come to terms with what my place in the world is. I feel a weight hefting me down, shoving me deeper into the ground with each step I muster. And, there is no explanation for any of it; none, that I can actually take hold of to cement all the pieces together. I just feel like curling up in a fetal ball and crying until all the tears are spent. Tears for what, I don't even know. I want to be held tightly, arms wrapped around me, protecting me from these thoughts, warming up my entire spirit, until I can once again face the world. I need to feel welcome, to feel wanted, to feel comfortable and secure. I just want to be loved. Loved more passionately and deeply than I am able to love myself right now. To be able to concentrate and to actually accomplish the goals I set out for myself each day, but never manage to achieve as I walk in circles and can't focus on my one foot in front of the other, let alone the rest of the world out there waiting for me, needing me, expecting me to be strong. I can't put my finger on this sadness, but I know it hides behind my eyes, comes forth in the discalming manner in which I speak, the steps I take looking as if I am climbing a mountain. I am not me hiding behind this alien being shrouded in the folds of my skin. I just want to be me.



One of my favorite pasttimes is watching my little guy play soccer. I'm not one of those parents that finds it a task to have to attend another game or wash soccer clothes or be home in time for practice. It is something which brings me a great deal of joy, watching my son out on the field. I love cheering him on, giving him a thumbs up, and sometimes shouting at him to get after the ball. I'm not one of those parents that others would look at and think: Geez, she's boisterous. But, I do support my son and his team, cheering everyone on. And soccer, well, it takes up a great deal of time and interrupts our regular life when we're required to be there for games. We don't have freedom in the weekends like we did in the past, but instead our weekends circulate around when Jari will be playing. My son, he's pretty good, if I do say so myself (he's got good genes!). Soccer is his life at this point in time, and I am glad I have the opportunity to make it happen for him. I hope he will be a success and be able to further his soccer skills, and become the star he hopes to become. So, this was a pretty big soccer week, and Jari had his first ever injury. Nothing serious, but he stretched his groin and had trouble walking for a few days. I suggested he rest up and miss practice so he could play in the game this weekend. He was adamant that he go to practice. Until the day of practice, when he was walking all funny, and he came to me. "Mama, my leg hurts." I asked where, rubbed it a little, told him it'd be okay in a few days. "Mama, maybe I should stay home from practice today and rest my leg so I can play in the game this weekend." Yeah, that might be a good idea. Only you know how bad it hurts. But I would rest today. "Mama, but I can for sure play this weekend, right?" Well, it depends on whether your leg is healed or not. But you have lots of games, so if you miss one it won't matter. My son decided to stay home from practice. And by the weekend he was feeling better, walking normally again, and I wasn't worried about his injury any more. Anyway, here are some pictures of my son in action on the field. He usually plays forward as he has speed and stamina, but they still change positions on the field often. I particularly like the picture of him going in to score...see his coaches foot helping him kick the ball?
You can click on the pictures to make them larger and see his voetbal expressions!
Go Groen Star Beek!!!


Saints in the House

Well, what a weekend we had. Saturday we watched Jari play soccer and then quickly left to whisk our chillies off to see Sinterklaas, arriving just in time to watch his boat harbor and collect a few handfuls of treats from Zwarte Piet. We then biked to the city center where we got pushed and shoved in a line with 'millions' of swooning children waiting for their chance to give the good holy man a hand...and collect their stash! We managed to stand in the perfect spot to make it in the top 20, meaning we were one of the first in line. Sinterklaas took his time with each child, asking what they wanted as a gift and settling each on his knee, before handing them a snoepzak (candy bag) filled to the brim with wonderful treats. It was pure magic. Just ask my seven year old whose eyes were twinkling as he made known that he wants a new ball, man sauce (Asia sauce, as Jari calls it...his fave), and Indiana Jones Lego for surprises at the door this year. Kaeden informed us that he is expecting a new laptop, a videocamera, and a cell phone. No worries, my boy, no worries (said as sweat trickles from my brow). But truly, it is magical, and it is special, and I have this year left to fully enjoy every aspect of the magic with my children. And when I trip over their shoes sitting filled with carrots and pictures at the door, or have to pick up markers and paper yet again after another 'tekening' was created, I will do so with happiness...thrilled that my children have been offered a life in which they can be free to dream, to fantasize, to hope and to believe. Believe in the magic of the season.
Oma and Opa kept the boys overnight (what a TREAT! THANK YOU!!!) while Erwin and I attended my yearly St. Ceciliafeest for my choir. We had so much fun. We shared lots of laughter and great conversation, and were awarded by understanding just a little more of the dialect spoken than we could last year. The food was all about fish, ever course being a special serving of fish, which was a huge disappointment for the two of us who cringe just at the thought of fish, but luckily we could remove some of the seafood and still had a nice meal. And the desert bar...to die for! YUM! Our theme this year was Famous People...Erwin went as Batman while I managed to become President of the US for a night. What a high walking into the party venue and receiving cheers all around as I waved my American flag, and was greeted by yet another Obama face in the crowd. The costumes were varied and fun, making the atmosphere really come alive. We staggered home at 2am and fell into bed, only to sleep in until nearly 11am without our spawn to awaken us. Did I say THANK YOU yet to oma and opa???! So, all in all, a very saintly weekend filled with fun...and magic...and well, life is quite good.


A few things

Kaeden made the bus wait again (3 times this week). The bus teacher rang my doorbell and told me they will NOT wait again. He hasn't even gotten out of the shower when it arrives. Makes for a very stressful morning ritual for everyone. But how do I get him to get himself ready on time. Good question...one we'll be working on in the coming days. He HAS to make the bus. I have no other means of getting him to school.

Erwin and I REALLY enjoyed our time out last night. The concert was terrific. Having so many varied artists you don't have a chance to stop and catch your breath before the next one arrives. We had to leave before it was over, so we didn't see the finale. Too bad, but it was woth it to beat the crowds. Plus, my friend who was watching the kids has to work this morning and as it was, we didn't make it home til 1:30am.

I had a moment of hope for America last night. A couple of the artists asked "So, is Belgium ready for President Obama?" And the entire crowd cheered and raised their flags and clapped. I think the entire world is ready for a change. I was thrilled to hear Belgians cheering for America. That's not something they do very freely. One woman in particular sitting in the section next to us was really animated. I was wondering if she was an American. It's possible, but I just think the entire world is ready to see our nation shine again. America holds a key on so many levels for issues across the globe. I know I was cheering as well...and will be as Obama begins the work needed to put his plans into action.

Live was my favorite act last night, but I missed them playing Lightning Crashes, one of my faves. Simple Minds is my favorite band. I think because I have seen them live before it wasn't as sensational as seeing a new band, but they are always magnificent. Sinead O'Connor sang those high notes really lovely, but she sure doesn't know how to put on a crowd-pleasing performance, other than her voice. She didn't hardly move, other than tapping her shoeless foot. Midge Ure was also great as smoke rose from the stage as he sang Vienna. And the fireworks shooting through the Antwerpen Sportpaleis was quite spectacular. Oh, and the comic musicians...wow, they really kept the show moving along, making classic music something to sincerely sit back and thoroughly enjoy. Some of the biggest cheers went to the Harlem Gospel Choir which surprised me, but they really do a great job of pulling the crowd in. And the orchestra was not as magnificent as I had hoped, but they got better as the show went on. So, all in all, a very worthwhile adventure out with my husband.

My favorite moment of the evening was when Simple Minds was playing and Erwin wrapped my hand in his. I had this very real moment of truth and didn't even hear the rest of the song as I sat there thinking: This is my life. This is my husband. This is where I belong. Something so simple, yet so profound. Life is full of the very littlest of treasures when you take the time to really look around you.


10 Years Later

MY BOO IN COLORS^^  kissmeh
October 28, 1998 The first day I met this man. Tonight, we're celebrating our 10 year anniversary. We're going on a date...off to enjoy the music of Night of the Proms. http://www.notp.com/english/home
I can't say enough about what this man has done for me. He has given me comfort, security, and commitment beyond anything I had ever imagined for myself. He has stayed by my side through all the trials, and loved me more than I sometimes love myself. He is the one I turn to when I need a hug, the first person I want to share with when I am happy, the one I reach for when I am hurting. And he is always there, supporting me and giving me his love. I don't know where I would be if I hadn't met him 10 years ago. But I do know that I am happy that I chose him to be my partner in life, that he chose me to be his wife, and that we have created the life we share today. Happy Anniversary, Er! Thank you for being mine.


The Times: Changing.

Back in 1955, Rosa Parks was the first known black woman to take a seat on a public bus. She was tired of being discriminated against for her color. Throughout all these years, black Americans have struggled to be equal to their white American counterparts. Today, another first has become a reality for America. In this historic presidential race, Barack Obama was voted, by the American people, as our next president, our next leader. He is a black man. And his is the new image of the American family, granting each African-American a chance to see equality, a chance to feel that slavery is finally a thing of the past. Congratulations, America, on change that is about to take place. Congratulations, Americans, on voting in fresh blood, someone who will bring about the needed changes for America to shine. Congratulations, Obama, and success in your work as you help America climb.



is weer voorbij :-( Yes, our fall vacation is over, but it was so nice getting away from home to relax and do things we don't get to do every day. We had a great time exploring the Gelderland region of Holland. We've gone there numerous times before, but each time is another surprise with new things to see. This year, our vacation started off with a typical Tera entrance...I was playing hide and seek with Jari and sprained my ankle...badly enough that I had to hobble around all week. That was Day One. Day Two? We went to head off to do some sightseeing and our car wouldn't start. We called our travel insurance and they sent a tow truck to jump us. We left the car running all afternoon as we took turns looking at the sights and staying by the car. Day Three? Car started, we headed off on a nice nature walk through the Veluwe with all the fall colors crunching under our feet. Got back to the car...dead again. Called another towing company who got us started and then headed directly to a Nissan garage where we got everything fixed and could really begin enjoying our vacation. Still, it was fun testing out all those new, fresh-smelling cars and imagining which we would choose IF we could have any we wanted.

The rest of our vacation was really terrific. We visited my favorite zoo ever, called Apenheul. It's a zoo completely filled with monkeys of every sort, and they are free range throughout the park and come right up to you. It's a lot of fun. We also went to the train museum which was a huge hit for the kids as it is very interactive, and we went to the water museum which was also an afternoon well spent. We spent an afternoon at the Nederlands Mint where we played all kinds of money games and you can see one picture where I got in trouble trying to take a picture of the money-making process..oops! We also went to an artillary museum which always makes me imagine all those that have been through war. Especially since I have been in Europe, and I see so much evidence of the war even as long as it has been over, it humbles me.

Of course, we celebrated Halloween when the great pumpkin surprised us with treats hidden all through our house the night we got back from the zoo. The kids were totally in their element and couldn't wait for his arrival. And he managed to keep them quite stocked up on treats for an evening viewing of Lord of the Rings!

Here's a link to the pictures if you want to share in our adventures this past week.