I did something bad today. I skipped therapy. I'm feeling guilty, and haven't even called my therapist to make up some excuse and reschedule. I feel like if I call him and tell him I just didn't feel like coming, it will make me feel at least honest about it, but disappoint him that I wasted his time and space for another client. Which I did do. After already rescheduling earlier in the week.

I had every intention of going. Jari had soccer practice and I had therapy and everything was all set. Then, as his coach picked him up, I just decided not to go. I stood out in the pouring rain for 5 minutes by my bike with my coat on before I just walked back in the house and said screw it. And now comes the guilt. My hand needs therapy to improve. I need to go to regain some movement, to get those muscles working. And after a therapy session, though I have some pain, usually my hand works a bit better, feels a bit looser. And by skipping, I just managed to put myself in a foul mood.

I'm getting frustrated with my hand. In the beginning I noticed so much progress. After being told my hand may never function again, I started being able to use it in little ways. My surgeon and my therapist are both amazed by the recovery I have made. But though I am happy I have some function, my hand is not what I wish it to be. I feel blessed to have been given back enough use to do some of the things I couldn't do immediately following the accident. But I still can't do everything I yearn to do. And at this point, I feel like I have reached the limit of my recovery. It just seems like this is where I have reached the top, and there's not much more good that's going to come. I'm frustrated, angry and sad. And I live in pain, though I try to hide it, and it's not as constant as it was. Still, I look at my stupid hand and feel the huge balloon-like fingers that look 1/2 normal but feel far from normal and I just want to cry. What did I ever do to make the world turn against me? A stupid question as I am alive, but one that comes regularly to my mind anyway.

Another issue is the nerve damage which seems to be healing improperly. They think my nerve may have attached to the scar tissue which means I will need either a painful series of shots to release it, which often doesn't help when scar tissue is involved, or another surgery. My hand turns blue just out of the blue, and if it gets even slightly cold, the pain is unbearable and I walk around in a fit of fury with tears streaming down my face until it warms again and I can manage. These things have me worried. Wondering if maybe, once all is said and done, I may get more use back, or if it will be another surgery, another recovery for nothing. Is this balloon-fingered disfigured mess of a hand my lifelong fate?

So, I skipped therapy today. Maybe it was more than just the rain the blocked me from going. Maybe the frustration of not having the improvement I need to make it feel worthwhile is what stopped me in my tracks. Maybe I need to get a relaity check and learn that life deals us blows, and we have the power to make the best of the situation...or sit doing nothing in pity. Today I chose the easy road...but it wasn't as easy as I expected it to be. I'm feeling guilty. I think it's time to make that call.


Point A to Point B

Kaeden is home for the holidays. It's so nice having him here to share his excitement over all the pleasurable things in life. But, it's also very noticeable in other ways. For instance, in his ability to break stuff.

It amazes me how easily things break in his presence. It seems that all he has to do is look at something, and oops, kapot! But the truth of the matter is that Kaeden is not careful. He doesn't look around him but focuses instead on his one goal, which results in him being unaware of his surroundings. And when he steps on something to get to the one place he wants to be, things get broken in the process.

If Kaeden had the ability to be sorry for his actions, it would be easier. Instead, he immediately puts the blame on someone else. He doesn't grasp the concept that if he tried to be more aware, he would automatically be more cautious. And grasping the concept of regret is completely foreign to his autistic mind. If something breaks in his presence, it's the objects fault for being there (where it should be), or someone's fault for putting it there.

This week alone, two zippers on two separate coats have broken. Why? Well, Kaeden wants to zip his coat, he pulls it without thinking, and wham...broken. The shower head is broken. He pulls it to make the water stream to his liking, but without regard for gently unscrewing the cap first...pull, wham...broken! Playstation...he wants to play. When his time is over, he stands to come downstairs where I called him. He makes the first leap, trips on the cords and pulls the whole unit to the floor...wham...broken!

It is because of this that we try to protect our belongings from our son. It's not nice to have everything always get broken though we've come to accept that it happens with Kaeden around. Still, when a new toy gets broken, or an item we treasure, it's not any less frustrating. So, Kaeden is often not allowed to touch things that belong to other people, which puts a damper on his mood. I can understand this. Still, he needs to first learn to be more cautious. But how?

Autism is a hard thing to deal with. Simple little accidents that most people are accustomed to bloom on the horizon larger than life. When I mention to people that something broke in Kaeden's presence, they think of it as an accident, something out of his control. And it is. An accident. But, accidents can be prevented if we are aware and careful. Sometimes. So, how do we teach Kaeden the responsibility of being more cautious, understanding that breaking things is something he has some control over if he is more aware of his surroundings, that getting from point A to point B takes more awareness than just making the steps? And most importantly, when an accident does occur, how can we teach him that to show regret, to be sorry, makes it more acceptable. That people will forgive easier when you take responsibility for your actions?

This is one of the reasons we worry about Kaeden riding a bike to Judo, or when he considers getting his driver's license we tell him that he isn't ready for that step yet. His surroundings mean nothing to him...only what is in his path is of importance. Just another little thing about autism.


The Gift of Giving

We have some friends who are going through a rough spot in life. Financially they are in deep distress. Though I may not agree with their values when it comes to money or their dealings with their financial issues, the fact remains that they are in a state of despair. And they are good friends who have always been there for us when we need help.

This week, after a lengthy chat with my girlfriend, I decided I needed to somehow step in and try to ease the burden they are feeling during the holidays. Who can celebrate Christmas with having so many worries etched in your mind? So, I took it upon myself to ask a couple friends from our little group if they would be interested in helping me achieve a little spirit of Christmas. They both agreed to step up and did so more fuitfully than I could have imagined.

Yesterday was the big shopping trip. I explained to the boys that becuase our friends are having trouble, we were going to go shopping and buy them a whole bunch of groceries. They both asked questions. Why are they in trouble? How much are we going to spend? As well as the comments as we shopped: Is this WHOLE cart for them? Do they have to pay us back? Can I get them this? They're not gonna believe this when they see it.

As we loaded at least a couple weeks, probably more, of groceries in the cart, I was filled with a great sense of happiness. This is what was meant to happen. This is what Christmas is all about. This is what the true spirit of Christmas means. Every item I placed in the cart, I thought through. If I was in a state of need, would this be something I could use? Is this something she usually buys to make for dinner? Oh, he loves these, let's get two. The cats, they need to eat too. And, Erwin even threw in a Chocolate Santa at the end, for good measure.

Our purchases were made as both boys loaded the groceries onto the conveyor belt and then back into our cart. Both were completely active in the entire process. As was my husband, who was a bit more hesitant about this good deed we were doing, but still agreed to my antics. With the car completely loaded, to the brim, we set off for their home to deliver our package of Christmas cheer.

The boys entered their home with first a card, telling them they have people who love them, people who care, people who wish to ease the burden of their worries. And as we started carrying boxes of food and personal care products and cleaning supplies into the home, my boys smiled through the entire process even though it was -10 degrees and bitter cold.

Something big was learned from this process. Something wonderful happened last night. I am so thankful for my friends who also made this happen, and only wish they could have been there as well to see the disbelief, and feel the sobs as I hugged my friend, and then again her husband. I hope it gives them the chance to pick themselves up and realize it will be okay.

When we got home, my boys made pictures for Santa Claus. Though I know the boys leanred a good lesson of giving, here's what Kaeden made for Santa...he likes to receive, as much as he likes to give :-)


Happiness to my Heart

Today, I went to pick my son up at school. At his home away from home. I walked in the door, sat with his assistants and drank coffee in his home. I was bringing my son home for the holidays, and it brought great happiness to my heart.

Kaeden and his friends were playing video games when I arrived. It was so nice to see him sitting there with kids his age, playing and laughing and totally into what was happening. When one game ended, he and another boy grabbed the PSP and started playing together...sharing. Kaeden was so involved, the other kid watching him move, making suggestions, and when Kaeden took them and made a new level, high-fiving his friend for the help. It brought great happiness to my heart.

When I told Kaeden he was offered a place to stay for a few days during the holiday vacation (one of the kids canceled, so it was opened up to Kaed), and asked if he would like to stay there, he was all excited. He went and told another boy with whom he's become great friends with that he'd be there during the holidays too, and the other kid whooped and smiled and they laughed together and high-fived each other. It brought great happiness to my heart.

As I spoke to his assistant, he told me, confidentially, that when he read Kaeden's reports, he was nervous about him coming to stay in the home. He was afraid of what problems an aggressive kid like Kaeden could bring, the difficulties that would arise in the home. He then told me that his worries have been squelched. He told me Kaeden is "a really cool kid, and I'm really glad I've had the chance to get to know him." It brought great happiness to my heart.

As we left, everyone there told Kaeden goodbye and wished us happy holidays. His friend happily told him "See you next week!" As we walked towards the bus stop, Kaeden told me thanks for letting him come back during vacation so he could be with his friends. It brought great happiness to my heart.

As we waited for the bus to arrive, I asked Kaeden if he wanted to do some Christmas shopping before going home. "What's Jari going to do then?" he asked. When I told him Jari could eat lunch at school, he asked that we go home so he could get his little brother from school and see him because he missed him after being gone all week. It brought great happiness to my heart.

When we got onto the bus, Kaeden sat in the front while I moved further back. He had too much stuff with him for me to sit comfortably next to him. As the bus rode along, my son kept looking to me, as if my presence reassured him, and gave me happy smiles throughout the entire ride. With each glance behind him in my direction came with it a glimmering smile which brought great happiness to my heart.

Today was one of those days in which I see my son for who he truly is. A good kid with good values, happiness, and compassion. Someone who is social and accepting, someone others love as much as he loves them. Today, seeing Kaeden and sharing life with him, knowing he is my kid and knowing how proud of him I am, how proud I am of myself for giving him this chance to thrive, brought great happiness to my heart.


Asking For Some Ideas

Hello, hello! It's nearly Christmastime if you haven't noticed. There are pretty lights twinkling all around, people shopping for gifts in stores with long lines, windows of homes present a pretty package with a Christmas tree shining through. I think we are about ready. If I buy another gift, well, our tree will too too full upon Santa's visit. Our tree is decorated and the house is less so than other years, but still has a few twinges of Christmas. We're getting cards in the mail and I need to get cards addressed and sent. We need to bake some goodies, and we need to visit a Christmas market so we can find Santa Claus and tell him what we're hoping for. Jari's letter to Santa is already made and his wish list includes a Nederland voetbal...hmmm, hope any ole voetbal will do. Kaeden has asked when we can go shopping so he can buy everyone a gift. It seems to be coming together nicely.

But, there is one little thing I'm worrying about. Christmas vacation! That means 17 days with both boys in the house with cold weather and a closed for the holidays swimming pool. Of the 17 days, 11 of them will be me and my boys, alone. So, I'm getting nervous, because, well, I need some ideas of things we can do to stay sane and keep out of each other's hair to minimalize the fighting so we can all remain happy. I know all the normal stuff...games, baking, a few little crafts, outdoors for a bit. But, I'm asking YOU to give me your best vacation idea to keep my guys entertained. Have a tried and true activity your kids love? Have a treasured tradition we could maybe begin?

We are ALL used to Kaeden living at school during the week, and Kaeden himself is getting uptight about his long stretch at home. Which makes me worry about it too. It's not easy. So, I really would like some ideas. Please!

***Tanya, I'm thinking vacation would be a good time to get those t-shirts for The Tie-Dye Project done. I haven't been able to focus on it with my injuries, but given the time we have, it could be a great activity for us to do. So, be on the lookout for our results.***


O' Christmas Tree

What a roller coaster of a day. It started with fighting and throughout the day was more fighting, with very nice moments in between. I was an emotional wreck. Tonight I feel the stress of the day filling my shoulders and my head.

Tonight, I look at our beautiful Christmas tree, decorated by loving hands, without a single episode of anger or sadness, and I feel a calm overcome me. The lights glow, and the tree stands proud in a new stand. Lots of handmade ornaments decorate her branches, and were lovingly placed there as excited boys remembered years past, when they received or made them. The nativity is settled on the cupboard, the three wise men standing off in the distance awaiting the birth of baby Jesus. Jari can't wait to move them closer to the manger every day.
We went to find our perfect tree this afternoon. We drove to the tree patch in which we usually find our beauty staring back at us, only to wander the fields and find not a single one calling us, not a single tree to bring home to join our family this holiday season. Jari found one with a very crooked top that bent nearly to the ground, Kaeden saw one which was a perfect replication of the Charlie Brown tree with no branches, Erwin accepted one that was so straight it looked as if it was a soldier standing in formation, and the one we finally all agreed upon...well, when we were told the price, we set her back...she wasn't the one for us.
We drove to another tree stand. The cost was reasonable, the trees smaller than our normal choice. Kaeden held one after another up for mama's inspection, and then there it was. I wasn't immediately drawn to her, as many branches on one side were browning, and she didn't have that perfect form. Yet as I looked at more and more, she kept returning for another glance. Yes, a bit imperfect, just like my day, just like me, just like my life...but still enough beauty, enough charm to be accepted into this life of imperfection. We all agreed that this was to be our Merry Christmas tree, and Erwin loaded her into the car.

Coming home, we put her into the stand, something we always have issues with, year after year. Our new stand proved to be a good choice, and after just one try she stood, awaiting twinkling lights and colorful decorations. We all gathered, donning Santa hats as Christmas music played and we sang along, and our little imperfect tree glowed to life.

Tonight, I accept that imperfection is beautiful. It's all in how we look at it.



The birds wake her. As she glances at the alarm clock she notes it's 6:28, the projection on the ceiling of her darkened room. He hits the snooze, the birds quiet and the morning sun expires, if only temporarily. This alarm clock, she thinks, is very annoying. She's supposed to be awakened gently, to the sun and life and nature. But, all she wants to do is sleep. It's too dark to be morning. That means yet another grey day of rain.

As the birds begin their morning singing once again, he turns off their melody and pulls back the covers, as she slips into her sweats and slippers, and heads downstairs. After a quick bathroom break, she begins her day, the lights in the house shining, the darkness of the day outside still present. She turns on the coffee pot and pulls bread and meat from their respective places. She hears the shower start spraying and tiny footsteps on the stairs. The day is now alive, her eyes still adjusting, yet wishing they didn't have to. As the door to the kitchen opens, she greets her tiny boy, his hair sticking up in all directions. His good morning greeting is hurried as he stumbles to the bathroom, and she begins making lunches and breakfasts, sipping the warmth of her coffee, topped with milk but no sugar.

Her hand, the bad one as it has been known to be called, is not yet working. It is stiff and sore, and cutting bread is a hazard. She tries for an apple instead, and leaves it's four pieces waiting to be cut smaller. She takes another sip of coffee as the tiny boy moves into the living room, where she hears the sound of the tv, Jetix cartoons, blaze to life. She begins making a schedule in her head, of all she must do today, trying to remember if there are any special appointments on her calendar. She fills a glass with yogurt drink, finishes spreading chocolate pasta on a roll, and brings it to her boy. The room is still dark as the shutters have not yet been opened, the only light coming from the glow of the tv. They don't speak, but she ruffles his hair and bends to give him a kiss atop his head. No words need to be spoken. She looks at her agenda as she recognizes that it's library day at school. Don't forget the library books is placed in her already full head.

Another sip of coffe, the cup now nearly empty. It still feels warm in her hand, and she leaves it there a minute, wrapping her fingers tightly around it before finishing up lunches. The man emerges form the bathroom, fresh and clean, a soapy smell lingering on him as he moves, his hair slicked wetly back, his contacts in his hands waiting to open his eyes to the day ahead. He grabs his shoes and sits at the table to put them on, chugs his drink waiting for him. She glances at him, sends him a smile, whether he sees it or not. She's finally beginning to awaken, see the morning come to life. They discuss the plans for the day, and with a kiss goodbye, he grabs his bag, filled with his lunch, and is gone.

She makes another cup of coffee. The day is alive, the day has begun.



This time of year is always hard for me. I know this instinctively about myself and try to prepare myself for it. I love the holidays, and put my energy into making them special. But being away from 'home' is something that just sits like a pit in my stomach. First there is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas and Kaeden's birthday...and though I adore my family here, it feels like a little piece of me is missing...missing out.

When we make our Thanksgiving decorations it is with this stubbornness that proves me to be American. When we pick out our Christmas tree, probably my very favorite day of the entire year, it is with some little niggle in the back of my head as I smell all the pine, feel the needles pricking my fingers, and sap sticking to my palm, that this is what I did back home. And on Christmas morning mingled with the delight of sharing these moments with my children, creating traditions for them, that my own family is thousands of miles away and I am not a part.

It is a subtle ache that begins in October and slowly builds through the holiday season. I feel my smile more forced, not any less real, but with a bit more effort. My eyes still shine through all the fun, but tears prick behind that twinkle. I just feel slightly wound up from stress, and not the 'all I have to get done' kinda stress that comes with the holiday season. More a stress of accepting that when I moved to Europe to make a life for myself, I also chose to not partake in all the special family activities. And it bugs me. Bugs me that I had to make such a choice, bugs me that I did make that choice, bugs me that I wouldn't do it any other way if given the choice again.

I couldn't be more happy with the family I have; my husband and our boys. We have a good thing here, filled with love and support and this year with all the changes we've had in our family, a bit more peace and rest. I am allowed to be a mom, my husband supports us financially and provides a very satisfying lifestyle for us. It is the kind of life dreams are made of. BUT, it doesn't allow me to share in all those most-important family days, and sometimes the homesickness builds until I can't see beyond it. I'm not allowed to have a Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas such as those I grew up with. No matter how wonderful those we have made are.

I'm trying to keep those ill feelings at bay, concentrate on the wonder of our life, our home, our family...here. Trying to come to terms with the fact that this choice I made didn't take from me and my family, but added to what I already had. I'm trying, but I'm starting to feel tickles of longing fill the back of mind. I'm trying, but the rain pouring down just adds to the gloom. I'm trying, but....what I wouldn't give to head to my Wyoming mountains covered in snow and reach out and wrap my arms around my mom and dad...

I'm homesick :-(



So, the past few weeks we've been discussing Jari getting his hair cut. It was getting so long that he'd have to sweep it to the side in order to see, and his tail on his neck was looking almost monkey-like. Much too long. But, Jari had other ideas. "The girls like boys with long hair," he said. "If mine is short, they won't like me anymore." (yeah, age 8, folks...it's starting already)

And since I want him to assert independence and have choices in matters like these, I didn't push the issue too hard. Until...

we were eating dinner and I noticed a chunk of his hair missing, right in front. "Jari, did you cut your hair?" I asked him. Of course, his eyes immediately went down and he said "No" but upon further investigation he finally admitted his ill deed. It was then that we decided it was high time to take care of his little mess.

So, yesterday we told him today was hair-cutting day. When he came home at lunch, I reminded him. But he wasn't having none of that. No way, no how. So, in my ingenuiety, I gave him a choice: to the barber or the mama hairdresser. He chose mama. I don't mind, I regularly do their hair to save money, and since barbers tend to do no better than me in my uneducated haircutting techniques. So, as he left after lunch I reminded him tonight was the haircut.

After school a friend came to play. After that he had homework. After that he wanted to eat. After that...but finally I settled him in the kitchen for the cut. Unfortunately, in giving him the choice of letting mama do it, I had forgotten that I have use of only one hand. As I started cutting, I realised that the job one-handed was not going to be an easy one. Try as I might, I couldn't hold the comb in my left hand to get a straight cut. We were both getting frustrated, but I'd already begun. No way I could leave him in that chunk o' hair state for school. Wonder what the girls would think then?

I did my best, and eventually got it all evened up, not too short as I promised, but short enough so he could see. He got in the bath jiggling around from hair "pricking me all over "while I cleaned up the now covered in hair kitchen (there were a few minor fights and crying fits as I worked). But, I did it! It may not be my best cut ever, but it's not too bad for a one-handed girl. I bet the girls will be drooling tomorrow...if not from the great hairstyle, from the huge blue eyes they can actually now see!


Thanksgiving Weekend

It was a really fantastic weekend. It was so relaxed with a busy undercurrent, but not at all stressed. I think it was what we all needed. Kaeden didn't even leave home after his Judo lesson Friday night and in fact stayed in his pyjamas all day Saturday. So did Jari. We played games, got started on our Thanksgiving dinner preparations, and when bedtime rolled around and I told them to get ready for bed, they both laughed and told me their PJ's were already on. Erwin spent Saturday alone shopping, which was also a nice break for him. He had a list, but also time to just wander around and get his holiday shopping done without too many eyes seeing his surprises. I didn't even shower on Saturday.

Sunday was busier, but also very calm. It felt good to have a house full of guests arriving to celebrate the traditions of our American holiday and not be running ragged trying to get everything done. Jari had soccer and won the game, but came home telling me about a fight between the ref and his coach. He was amazed when the ref threw his whistle at his coach. I wish I could have been there...makes soccer exciting, even if it was stressful for my son and he told me he was worried and confused about how to play. It really shouldn't have happened at this level, but Erwin reiterated Jari's story with enthusiasm, even telling about our team delegate getting kicked off the field. And, according to Erwin and Jari, the ref was really being a PITA....calling for the other team (biased? In this case, it seems not).
Jari also had his Sinterklaas celebration at school, and we didn't go with him this year. I felt guilty about it when he arrived home telling about singing for Sint and showing me his bag of candy. But, I had to get dinner ready, the house ready...a mama can't do it all. Kaeden chose not to attend the Sint celebration and stayed home to help me get things ready. And helpful he was. More so than I could have imagined. He had a terrific weekend.

Our family began to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner and to celebrate Erwin's birthday. It was nice to have a house full of guests to bring the spirit of love to the air. We made a menu and asked everyone to write something they were thankful for about each person. Though the task got a few groans, it was fun seeing everyone sitting at the dinner table lit by candle reading what we had all written about each other. Some read their thanks immediately, while others let it sit waiting to savor it for after the meal. It was so nice to take a few minutes of life to really consider what each person means to us.

The meal was fantastic. I was really happy with the quality of the food this year. Still, the most difficult part is getting everything served warm all at once. But, we had a delicious meal with many choices and few leftovers...just enough for one more nice meal this evening. I love doing up the whole shebang. Making it really feel like how I would celebrate at home. The Dutchies in my life think I am nuts, but even as they say it, I *think* they enjoy it as well. I have found that over the years they are much more open to trying new things, and have even loaded plates full and gone back for seconds and even thirds. They love the effort of the holiday and it makes it all worthwhile to me.

After Kaeden said grace, which he asked to do this year and did so beautifully, opa read a poem he had written for the ocassion, and what has become somewhat of a tradition and one i love. His words always hit me to the core, knowing though I may not be with my American family, I am still surrounded by love and support. His poem is beautiful in Dutch, but the words in English are just as meaningful:

Thanksgiving 2009

The years are threaded together to bring us to this day
Where we come together to give thanks
That we have food and drinks with a smile and a tear
And a safe and warm place where we can rest
Together at the table we forget our worries
Because who knows what the future may bring
Live for this day and think about tomorrow
Forget the cares that you heard or saw

As a family, happy to still enjoy each other
Young and old together at this table
Wherever we are in this world, here or in the States
Cherish your family, for you have only one.
Happy Thanksgiving.

And that my friends, sums it up beautifully.


Thanksgiving Surpries

Thanksgiving. A strange concept when you aren't living in a place it is typically celebrated. I give thanks daily for all I have in my life deserving of my thanks. But on a special day dedicated just for this purpose, it was strange to find the rest of the 'world' going on with business as usual, when all I wanted to do was help prepare turkey dinner, enjoy family, play some games, and maybe head to the mountains with my dad like we did when I was a kid.

So, because we always make certain to make a celebration of Thanksgiving honoring American traditions, but also knowing this year it falls on Sunday, I took celebration into my own hands (with a friend of course). We, the Americans in Holland. We, two expat women looking to find some tradition in a day just like every other.

I went into Holland with my husband after dropping Jari off at daycare. He dropped me off at the train station and I took it into the shopping center where I had one hour to do my own version of Black Friday before catching the train again to meet up with my girlfriend. When I arrived in Helmond, I had this excitement wash over me...it was Thanksgiving, and I was celebrating...with someone special in a non-traditional way.

When I saw her come walking toward me I forgot for a moment that it was Thanksgiving, and we started laughing and chatting, as friends are akin to do. Suddenly we both looked at each other and chanted: Happy Thanksgiving! We both laughed waiting for our bus to take us to her home. We were together, even as we were both mourning the loss of our holiday in our homeland with our family surrounding us. We were both homesick, but after a spell talking and relaxing, that feeling started to subside. I realised that though I wasn't surrounded by my family, I was surrounded by people I care about and who care about me. Here, I have created an extended family for myself, with special friends I treasure. And I was sharing this day with one of these people I remembered a wooden sign I had brought back for her once from the states saying: Friends are the Family You Choose For Yourself. Or something along those lines.

It is so very true. Family is family. Our expectations are that they will always be there in our lives, and often that doesn't turn out to be the case. And it devastates us. But friends whom we choose, those we aren't expected to give our heart, those we decide are worthy of our love, they are the ones who sincerely stand by your side.

We sat eating turkey sandwiches and then watched a movie (Twilight...I FINALLY got to see it...yeah!) and then chatted some more before I headed back to the train station in the rain. But I wasn't hiding tears streaming down my face as the rain mingled with them...I was feeling completely fulfilled with a gladness and thankfulness different thqn I expected to have on Thanksgiving. I had spent the day being reminded what I really have to give thanks for. And as I climbed back in the car when my husband collected me from the train, I knew that my family has grown since my move to Europe. My family includes some very special friends.


Happy 40th Hon!

Dear Ehr-Win,

I remember back to when you turned 29. It was just after we had met, and I wasn't even aware it was your birthday. I had sent you a few ICQ messgaes, wishing you sunny days, and when later we chatted and you told me it had been your birthday I remember thinking: Wow, he's 29. After your 29th, the wheels started spinning. It was shortly thereafter that I truly fell in love with you. It was then that I still didn't know your name. When I told my friends I was "seeing someone" I told them your name was Ur-win. I didn't learn your real name til months later, and found it unbelievable that I could be falling in love with someone whose name I couldn't even pronounce. But I was...I did.

When you turned 30, I had met you face to face, and the reality of my love for you was apparant. It was no longer just a 'thing', but the real thing. On your 30th birthday I called your home, knowing you were having a gathering with friends. The time difference was huge back then. I tried to call to wish you my love on your birthday before the arrival of your friends, but I didn't make it. I remember hearing your voice on the line and all the voices in the background and being so jealous that they had you there, while all I could do was call from afar. As I told you to go and enjoy your party, what I really wanted to say was: Can't you just stay here and talk to me all night? But I let you go and we talked the following day (everyday back then, remember the phone bills?)and you told me you had fun....but that you wished I could have been there with you too. And then you reminded me that it was just a few short months til I arrived in Holland and we'd be sure to celebrate then. And I was happy, knowing I'd have you all to myself.

When you turned 31, we had started our little family and were just beginning life in our new home in Rijpelberg. I was so happy to be there with you, so thrilled to be living the European dream. I wasn't yet homesick, wasn't yet in culture shock, was just enjoying all the cool newness of my life with you. Kaeden was just our sweet little kid without all the issues yet to encounter, and we were sincerely enjoying life as a family. Learning about each other as we celebrated not only you, but being together on such a special ocassion.

When you turned 32, I had given you the best gift any woman can give a man. A son, a tiny little replica of you. Even today, as I watch you father our son, I am in awe of the information you know and your love of the world you share with him. He was a replica of you then, and he's growing to be a replica of you now, but in interests and knowledge. If there is something I love most about you, it's the passion with which you parent our little boy, the excitement you bring into every experience. Not just with jari, with all of us, but most especially Jari. I love watching the two of you interact. 32 and a baby boy to nurture and love. A role you have pursued with grandeur and continue to excel at.

33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39,....each of these birthdays was celebrated with me by your side, whether on a ship to England or eating turkey dinner with Sinterklaas as our special guest. You give me the courage to pursue the things I love, celebration! Celebration of you, on your birthdays, celebration of my husband, the man I love, the man I treasure.

Today you turn 40. 40, somewhat of a milestone year. You don't want any surprises, you don't want it to be more than just another birthday. You want the peace of just being you, a man on your birthday, a father and a husband, a lover of history and world happenings. You want to be recognized as the man you are, sharing pies with your colleagues at work, a quiet celebration at home with family. Blowing out your candles, opening your presents, settling in with your computer to relax after providing all of us with all the goodness in our lives after a long day at work. 40. And here I am, still standing next to you, still reveling in the magic of being called your wife, still in disbelief that we have each other to fall back on, to laugh with, to discuss this life we have created. And as I watch you age, from that jongen in size 32 jeans with curly hair going op stap with friends, to the man with greys shining through the curls and you belt a few notches bigger, I can't help but bewonder you. Every year, I have fallen more in love with you. Every year, I am more attracted to you. Every year, I feel more confidence in what we have reached together. Every year, I know you are someone I can count on and turn to. Every year, I wish you a Happy Birthday.

This year, I wish you a Happy 4oth Birthday. May it be just what you're hoping, and the beginning of more wonderful adventures. I love you, man of my dreams (even more than way back when...)!


Sinterklaas Magic

So, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) has arrived and with him, excited smiles and a feeling of goodness. Sinterklaas is a time that, for me, feels like the wonder of Christmas I knew as a child. I have had to learn this feeling as it isn't something I grew up knowing and feeling (For me, we had Santa, which in our home is still a wonder and treat, but Sinterklaas? Never heard of him til I met my Dutch husband). It isn't one of the traditions that has been passed down to me. But it is, nonetheless, a time I have come to treasure with children of my own, and a family who has always known this time to be the best of the year.

Sinterklaas arrives by boat from Spain sometime in the middle of November, with all his Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete) helpers in tow. They come bearing gifts of little ginger cookies called pepernoten (pay-per-no-ten) and candies, checking on good girls and boys the entire month while we all await Sint's birthday on December 5th. After his arrival, children are encouraged to make him pictures and sing him songs, which they do with a hearty lust. They leave their pictures in shoes set by (in our house) the front door, and sometimes include carrots or sugar cubes for Sint's horse, and sometimes water as well. As they head up to bed, they belt out songs dedicated to Sinterklaas, hoping he hears them and will in return for their music, leave something special for them to find in their shoe upon awakening.

Sinterklaas, the good, holy man. He brings out the best in all of us. With his cross decorating his hat and his red cloak with a spiral staff, his long white beard and a ruby red ring, he looks the part. And on his birthday, he surprises us with gifts. The gifts are left by the door in jute sacks all wrapped in colorful paper. His helpers knock on windows and doors, creating noise to let us know of his arrival, and as we sing songs to ask him to come, we eventually hear them overpower us, running to find what he has left for us. The excitement is grand, as we have a month to look forward to this moment.

Since living in Holland, and now Belgium, I have come to treasure this time of year as much as I do Christmas. I can't imagine our evenings not being spent coloring and crafting, singing, and the thrill as each little gift is pulled from a shoe in the morning. I can't imagine cool evenings without pepernoten and speculaas to munch on while watching tv. I can't imagine not having the excitement of 10 sleeps, 4 sleeps, and then just one sleep til his arrival. I can't imagine not watching his arrival on the boat followed by a parade through the town. I can't imagine shopping without having a Piet come fill my hands with goodies as they also wander the city streets. I can't imagine life without Sinterklaas.

Last night while we were making our pictures, Jari piped up: Know what? Someone said Sinterklaas isn't real.

My heart stopped beating for just a nano-second. I don't want this magic to end. I'm not ready to give up the excitement. Jari believes, and that adds to the wonder of this holiday time for me. And yet, I know the complete magic and wonder will end with the passing of this year of Sinterklaas excitement. Too many children will discover the truth, and comment that Sint isn't real. Too many parents will be ready to surrender. But Jari will always hear these words from my mouth: The spirit of Sinterklaas will always be alive if you believe in the magic.

And it isn't a lie. The magic doesn't have to end if we continue to desire the good feeling that comes from something such as Sinterklaas. We can carry on, knowing the truth, but choosing to give into the feeling rather than the reality.

And then, as we were finishing up our little crafts, Jari asked me if I knew what Sint's cloak is called. "Yes, it's called a tabbaard," I told him. "Uh uh," he answered. "It's called a tabbaard-aan!"

Erwin and I looked at eachother and laughed as we started singing the song...doe je beste tabbaard aan... (Put your best cloak on...but Jari thought it was called a cloakon :-))

This is what magic is made of.


Tera,a look inside

It's me, Tera here. I've been feeling a change in myself lately. A kind of energy that plows through me and makes me wonder just who has overtaken my body. I am much more aware of things I don't like in myself, and things I love. I have found myself getting harder as I age, but with the hardness comes an appreciation for being able to state my opinions and my feelings without feeling self-conscious about it. I'm a nice person, from inside out. I find myself smiling at strangers and wondering about them, who they are, and my smile isn't forced, but genuine. I am not a dumb person, but find myself wishing I was more knowledgeable about the world, history, simple things I take for granted. And wishing that when I did learn something new, it would stay with me instead of claiming me for a day and then being once again forgotten.

I am a mom. A mom who gives her all to be the best I can for my children. Giving them my time and energy and love. But wishing I could give them even more, knowing that I also allot myself plenty of me time, even though I don't take full advantage of what I could be doing with that time. My kids are certainly offered the comforts life has to give. They have never had to worry about who will be there to care for them, or have clean clothes, or food. Their shelves are over-filled with kid stuff, both dollar store junk and precious costly toys. They don't often play with any of it. We are a very computer-oriented family, and as much as this has positive aspects, I sometimes worry about the negative effects it has on our relationships, with ourselves, and as a family. I worry about my children's health, probably because of all the health issues Kaeden had as a young child. But I also worry about their weight, knowing that my being overweight could have lasting effects on them as well, yet I still give in far too often when asked for cookies and candy. It's a battle within a battle. My boys both have less respect for me than they should, or than I deserve. Sometimes I feel that they treat me as their servant, and I too often let it happen. But I love them with all my heart, and in the deepest place inside of me, I know I am a good mom.

I am a wife. I have had this title now for 6 years, and still to this day it makes me feel strange to say it. I have this combined feeling of ecstasy and disbelief, also proud that I found a man who loves me and provides for me. I enjoy being a wife, but worry that I could be more loving and more giving in our relationship, while in the same breath thinking how very much I do for my husband and our family. He doesn't complain, and seems to just go with the flow of the home we have created. He eats what I cook, he attends events I plan, he lets me be my own person as long as I am also available for all our family adventures. But, he still knows how to push my buttons, sometimes in the best sense, sometimes in a way I wish I never had to deal with. Him and I, we are a good couple. We get along well, but take each other for granted too much of the time. We don't allow ourselves to take advantage of 'us' time, and sometimes I worry that that could be something that becomes the breaking point for us. Not now, now everything is good, but will we still find each other appealing and attractive years from now when we look at each other and wonder who the person we've been married to all these years really is?

I am a teacher. When I say that, a hard lump gets stuck in my throat and nearly chokes me, knowing that the profession I chose, the work I love, is no longer in the cards for me. My husband and I argue incessantly about the value of this profession, and I stand strong in my views that teachers are worth more than they are given credit for. I love children. I love their honesty, their passion, their innocence. I love their energy. When I play with Jari's friends, it establishes for me all over again that I was right to become a teacher. I have a special bond with children when given the opportunity. I love opening their eyes to new adventures in life, providing them with opportunities they don't normally encounter. I love having children come to play and asking if we can please bake cookies like last time they were here, or begging to get out the craft boxes filled with all kinds of treasures most people throw away in their junk garbage. I love pulling blankets out of cupboards and telling them they can build a tent, and seeing the glee in their eyes as they ask, "Can we really do THAT?"

I am someone who loves the feeling of things being cleaned up, but who despises cleaning myself. I love wearing fresh-ironed clothes, but hate pulling out the iron and ironing board. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, but have little patience for things that take too much effort or too many pans. I am somebody who can't stand plannning too far in advance, can't stand lists or a schedule, yet realise how much easier life is if you plan, schedule, and check things off. When it comes to travel or vacation, I don't need to hear it twice before I am in search of a good deal for new adventures, whether they be in foreign countries or in the comfort of family. I love holidays, all of them, and do everything in my power to celebrate them with flair and extravagance. I am somebody who needs the sun to feel alive and healthy, and dreary winters put me in a foul mood. I am somebody who cannot overcome a small cold without it bludgeoning into something big, and I manage to attract every little virus that comes in my path.

This is me, hello Tera. I may seem like a nobody faced with the greatness of this huge wide world, I may not be important when it comes to world news, but I am me, and I am happy with who I am. I have so many facets to the face everyone sees on the outside, and very few can look inside to learn the real me. But this is me, little pieces all wound up to be this woman I have become. And looking in from the outside, looking from the outside in, I am okay.


BigHugeLabs: Do fun stuff with your photos

Here's a link to a photo journey of our Fall Break in Holland and Germany. We had a terrific week. Too bad it always seems to go so fast...

BigHugeLabs: Do fun stuff with your photos



The flat land is calling our names. I'm hoping it will have healing powers and remove this demon beast living inside my head and lungs and allow me to enjoy a break from reality too. We'll see you back on the other side when we return from a break among colorful and dancing leaves, hopefully 100% healthy again?


Happy Halloween 2009!

Yep, it's that time of the year again...and our home is filled with excitement as my boys become vampires. Don't let them seek out the warmth of your neck... Happy Halloween!!


Dance Man

Jari and I were having so much fun together dancing the other night. Giggles, smiles, and pure silly fun. Here's a glimpse of his great moves :-)


autism woes

I'm beginning to feel scared. I don't know where Kaeden's life is going to take him. He seems to me, in general, to be a happy kid. Yet, there is always the underlying anger, fear, frustration which takes him from being happy to blowing up like a bomb in your face within the blink of an eye. All those 'little things' we don't even notice- noises, lights, temperature- and they hit him like a bullet causing him to scream in agony. His scream comes mostly in the form of anger. Lashing out at those of us who love him, who he knows will continue to love him. There has been so much damage done. Our home is a tattered mess of reminders of Kaeden's outbursts, our spirits sag when his anger replaces the peace in our home. And Kaeden, when it's all over, lays hiding under blankets tears streaming down his cheeks as sobs expel from that place deep inside. He is such a loving, giving kid. And he hates his anger more than all of us combined. Yet he has no power over it. He has zero control.

Last night we attended parent-teacher conferences. I knew that Kaeden had been to the switch (time out room) numerous times this year. He tells me when I ask him how school is going, that it hasn't been easy. What I wasn't prepared for, was the extremity of the situation. Kaeden is having daily problems in the class. Daily, meaning usually 3+ times per day. He has gotten physically violent, and damaged buildings in the school. His classmates are frightened of him, as well as the teachers who come to collect him during one of his meltdowns.

Upon entering his class (1 1/2 hours later than our planned meeting...yeah, Erwin and I were both already irritable) we were greeted with sighs. "So, we need to discuss Kaeden..." and then it began. Where do we go from here? How can we work preventatively? How can we enforce rules with him having power over the teachers due to their fear? How do we ensure the safety of the other students?

  • Positive reinforcement works a charm. "Kaeden, great job, I'm proud of you."
  • Laying things out in steps works a charm. "Kaeden, see what the teacher is writing on the board? First you need to read. And then we'll discuss this. And then you will do the worksheet."
  • A calm environment works a charm. "Kaeden, see how quiet it is. Everyone is doing their work, so now you can too."
  • Keeping him separated works a charm. Kaeden asked himself to have his desk completely blocked off from the rest of the class. his desk is surrounded by walls on three sides which blocks a lot of the activity of other students.
  • Close proximity works a charm. During moments when Kaeden is not at his desk, a teacher needs to physically stand next to him and direct him, not allowing other factors to get in the way of his concentration on that single task.
  • Structure works a charm. "Kaeden, here is what we need to get done today. See, you'll do this and this and this at these times. See, it's not so much work. Every 30 minutes you get to do something else."

And this is all fine and dandy, but who is the one ensuring Kaeden's needs are met? It is nearly impossible for a teacher with additional students in the class to give Kaeden the time it takes to ensure these factors are in place, allowing him to be successful. There are no one on one aides to provide him what he needs. And though I think it would be helpful during the class to have a one-on-one aide, I'm not sure that it prepares him for the future. In his life, there will be no one-on-one aide helping him buy bread or wash his clothes or go to the post office. There will be no single person he can always rely upon except for himself. He's going to continue to grow, continue to progress to some form of independence, and he has to learn to deal with his autism and learn to have control over it. Or life is going to come to a screeching halt in a 4x4 cell.

That is what scares me. His future is confronting me, even as we work hard on his present. How will my son manage in life? Even if he ends up living in a group home, how is he going to come to terms with right and wrong, even factoring in all the prikkles that an autistic person must learn to dominate? Is my son going to have any chance at a future with some normalcy?

So, yes, I am scared. The meeting last night just reinforced all the reasons I have for being scared. Right now it's just school. What about a job and money problems and cooking and cleaning and washing and an alarm clock and regulating time...when noone else is there to help you do it when it's real life and not just school?

Where is that magic pill?



I feel my son hug me. His arms encompass me. His shoulders wrap around mine. I no longer encompass him. I look into my son's face. His face is no longer a baby face, but covered in the beginnings of a mousetache above his lips. I hear my son speak. His voice crackles as it deepens, no longer the high-pitched squeal of a child. I see his adam's apple jigging out from his neck. I stand next to my son. I no longer look down at him, rather just a tiny turn of my head upwards to look into his eyes. His feet plunk along in size 11-12 shoes, his pants a size 33 waist, his shirt a men's medium.

Where did the time go? My son is becoming a man. I can't deny it any longer. I feel proud when I look at him. Look how far we've come. My dream of raising my little boy to be a happy, productive man is beginning to take shape. The shape of the man-child standing next to me. I'm so proud of you Kaeden Riley! But you'll always be mama's little boy!


just stuff

I've started so many posts over the past few weeks, but it seems every time my thoughts are interrupted by a phone call. And once I get past the call, my thoughts are shattered into a million pieces and I can't finish what I started with clarity. So, here I am, again today, trying to find words for all that's been happening around here. I'm going to do a few quick bits, hoping the phone won't ring as I write.

  • We spent Sunday in the woods. Walking, playing, letting the sun warm us as we trudged through the fallen leaves of autumn. It was such a pleasure, our little walk in the woods. We found a polecat in the woods, hiding in his little hole, but willing to wow us with his adorable face, getting close enough to touch. The boys were in awe. We ran races, played with sticks, collected corn cobs for our Thanksgiving feast. And then, as we left, we turned our car into a farm and found our pumpkins to help us revel in the spirit of Halloween. We came home and immediately set to work carving our pumpkins. It couldn't await a day closer to the holiday itself. Little pleasures to end a wonderful day.
  • Jari and I attended an autism traesure hunt for brothers and sisters of kids with autism. It was set up in stations: gym activities with a survival course, music therapy with drums and maracas and guitars and tambourines, storytime with explanations of what autism is, how it feels, and how it affects people around us, and a video created by brothers and sisters explaining how autism has affected them. Jari collected puzzle pieces at each station during our afternoon and at the end of the treasure hunt he had 5 puzzles to bring home, all giving a kid-sized explanation of what autism means. It was a very well constructed exhibition for kids and I think Jari came away with at least an understanding that there are more people out there with autism, more kids who aren't autistic themselves, but still live in an autistic world.
  • I continue to go to therapy 2 days a week for my hand. Everyone but me thinks there is improvement. All I know is I don't see myself progressing at the rate I desire. I still ahve no feeling, still can't make it work properly, still can't stand that my hand doesn't look like a hand. However, I keep working it, hoping that eventually I'll have some use again. Will be able to function if only to put my hair in a ponytail, open a bag of cereal without my teeth, fold clothes without pain shooting through my arm. Yesterday as I waited for my appointment with the surgeon, I looked around me at the people in the waiting room, the majority of whom were elderly. And I looked at their limbs, all still intact, and I thought: What will I be like when I am 70? Will I be able to twist my hands together like that lady? Will I be able to hold a magazine like that man? Will I be able to pull open my zipper like she just did? Or will I forever and always be a handicapped version of the former me?
  • Our fight has begun with the Belgium government for funding for Kaeden. Our visit with the doctor did not result in a positive outcome and we've appealed the decision. I am tied up in nerves strung tight. Financial issues are starting to feel at the brink of swallowing me whole. And what happens now? What happens when Kaeden is an adult and we haven't been able to secure his future for him now?
  • There is a case beginning for damages against the owners of the house where our vacation led to my accident. This also has me strung in knots. I am worried. I have to somehow prove I was not at fault for the accident, that they were negligent. How can I prove it? Why would this have happened if there was no negligence? I am tired of paying all the bills, all the extra bills that we didn't have before this happened. My husband can only make so much. And now, becuase I can't work even if i wanted to, there is no possibility of further money coming into our bank account. I've discovered I really don't like dealing with these kinds of issues.
  • Jari has started seeing a therapist to help him get over the shock of my accident. She is such a calming person. Jari seems to really like her. I don't know what she is doing with him, but in the past few days I notice a difference in his attachment to me, a difference in how he regards me. I am feeling like we have a bit of hope to latch onto, my baby needs his mama again. Last night when he actually came and sat next to me on the couch made my heart just sing. I feel a huge relief wash over me as I consider that my son may be working through the effects this accident has had on him. He's going to be okay, we're going to be okay.
  • At the soccer game Saturday, I stood up to parents on the other team. They were being harsh, directing comments towards our team players, our coach. I didn't like how far they were taking their aggression. My son was out there on the field. I try to teach him to be a good sport. The other team was working against me. I went to them, told them enough! That these are just kids and they don't have the right to be acting like they were. It got results. I said my piece, walked away, and after a few grumbles I heard no more. I was proud of myself for standing up for something I believe in. For having the guts to prtect my son. It isn't often I feel enough courage to do this in Dutch, and it felt good to finally do what needed to be done...and even get results.
  • Further, everything is going quite well in life. My kids seem to be happy, my family content. What more can you ask for in life?


Message From Church

Last night, I attended church with Kaeden. I am not a church-going woman, but a strong believer in faith. I attended church last night as a member of my choir, where we sing the mass once per month. I try to bring my kids with me when other activities don't create schedule conflicts. I believe that going to church can bring a sense of community, a sense of belonging to something greater, a sense of peace. But I don't feel that we must attend church to feel the faith of our higher power.

However, last night, though I resisted going, I still went. I am glad I did. Only 4 choir members showed up to sing, and my voice was needed to help the music carry to the fellow patrons attending the mass. But above my voice, was the presence of the sermon, a wonderful message to us all.

The sermon last night was about worth. How each of us in this world serves a purpose, and the relationships we engage in throughout our life on earth. It spoke of the varying people with whom we have contact, and how each person serves a purpose and fulfills a need during our engagement with them. It spoke of power, and the power we have to make our lives complete in how we deal with the other party in the relationship.

The relationship can be that shared between a man and wife, between a child and parent, between friends, or even between two strangers coming together for some undefined purpose on the street. Each of these relationships gives us power and serves a purpose, not only in our life, but in that of the other party. How we treat these relationships varies depending upon our need and our involvement with the other party. But whatever it's purpose, and though we may not always know the reason, how we engage in these relationships makes us the people that we are, the person that others see.

Each person put on this earth serves a purpose and has worth. It is up to us to understand what their purpose and worth are, and how to make it fit into our own life. If we smile, oftentimes a smile is returned. If we growl, our worth in another's eyes is diminished. Do we have a right to judge that growl? Each person has a story, and we don't always know what the story is. We must try to create harmony in that relationship, whatever feelings it brings with it.

I sincerely needed to remind myself that each of us has worth, that each of us has a purpose. As my son fidgeted beside me, his voice not the quiet voice we *should* use in church, his hands tapping his flyer with the words of the sermon rather than quietly reading along or listening, I looked at my fellow village patrons, the people whom create my community, and I saw many different faces and expressions staring back at me. Each of these people has meaning in my life. I may not know them, I may not know their story, but there is a reason they are there and in the same space with me, a purpose worthy of my attention. What I bring to this is my own doing. But I can accept them, give them the value they deserve, and move forth with that information in hand. My son, also a fellow patron, may be autisitc, may judge the world differently, but he has a purpose, he has worth. As his voice carried above the words of the priest and I began to feel uneasy with his behavior in church, this message came back to give me peace. My son has worth. He has a purpose. Each of those faces listening in the church have the opportunity to learn from my child, to value him, understand his worth. As i sat in the pew, those words gave me peace, hope, and understanding. I am learning to be accepting, to share my story, to find peace with who I am, the power I have been given, and what I choose to do with it. I am learning to find worth in others, to value them no matter how different the paths our lives lead.

Here are the opening words from the sermon I heard last night:
"It isn't good that we as people stay alone. God called us to life to share in a relationship, with Him and with each other. We were given ears for listening, a mouth in which to speak, and a heart that has the power to give and receive love. The harmony from the creation is disturbed. Peace is something we must go out and find...."

A good basis to remember. A good basis to find worth and value in every person with whom we share a relationship, no matter how big or how small. No matter the differences between us.


Confused Thoughts

I haven't written much about Kaeden in his new home. I haven't been able to come to terms with how i feel about it yet. i have so many mixed emotions running through me with the advent of his new living arrangement that i can't seem to come to a peaceful place in my mind. there is so much to consider and so much pain, so much freedom, so much peace, so much hope. people keep asking me how he's doing in his new home. but, what they don't ask is how i am doing with my decision to place him there. and i am glad they haven't asked, because the answer is one which would take me a million years to formulate. so, i'm going to answer this in two parts to the best of my ability.

Part One: How is Kaeden doing in his new home?

Kaeden seems very happy with his new surroundings. The times I have called to check on how he's doing with the care givers, i have had nothing but positive reinforcement thrown in my face. a very good thing. they are happy with how he has adjusted to the rules, his choices to be involved with the other kids and the group activities. When i ask him, he answers with happiness. he seems to me to be very proud of this new arrangement, almost as if this was his lot in life and he finally has the opportunity to fit into his special place. he tells me (this is big) of activities they have done, what he eats, where they have gone. when i ask if he likes his new room, he proudly tells me that it is great, clean, and really 'cool'. he talks about the different kids who are his friends (kaeden tends to befriend everyone, which is sometimes good, but not always, and so i don't know what this exactly means...other than he has other kids with whom to play which is very positive). so, all in all, though school itself is still a big challenge and not exactly a cake walk, he seems completely at ease and happy in his new living arrangement.

Part Two: How is Mama Doing with the new living arrangement?

I am in a state of complete confusion. One minute i feel totally relieved that i made this decision, and in the next i can't help but let tears slide down my cheeks as a huge dose of guilt tugs at my heartstrings. people will say: Oh, you shouldn't feel guilty, you should be happy it is working out.

But noone can tell me how to feel.

guilt is part of being a mother, and in my case, guilt has been a factor of mothering my son for every minute of his life. this is just another phase of those guilty feelings, and one more phase i will forever carry with me. it hits me in the strangest of moments:: how could you just let your son go live someplace else? he should be here with you. think about the abandonment he must feel. you didn't even get a chance to kiss him goodnight. i wonder if he brushed his teeth today? did anyone give him a hug when he got angry today? did he get angry today? nobody can give him love like you can. we're supposed to be a family.

and the guilt that hits me most often of all, and hardest, is the guilt i feel when i realize i am more at peace and more relaxed and less stressed than i have been in years.

there are no more arguments in the mornings, no more hiding things from papa to try to prevent another round of fights between the two of them. there are no more struggles between brothers that lead to physical violence and fear of someone really getting hurt. there are no more battles to worry about every day i open my eyes to face the morning sunshine, worry rather than the excitement of a new day on my face, hovering behind my eyelids. kaeden's living away from home has managed to lift all these issues. and in its place i feel guilt because i wasn't able to handle it all, because i wasn't able to make the changes needed to survive as a family living under one roof.

and yet, in that same moment, i feel peace wash over me. my son is happy, playing among friends, being cared for in a place where he isn't having so many struggles every day of his life. this is an opportunity for him to grow, to become more independent, for him to be discovered in a goverment system that will assure him a future (maybe not the future i dreamed of, but a future of his own without mama having to hover and smother him for the rest of his life), whatever that may mean. my son feels pride and i see that etched on his face every time i see him.

and our home, our haven? it is without anger, without the nervous energy fluttering forever around. it is a place my lil guy can wake up in the morning and walk down the stairs without worrying about being teased, without wondering if kaeden's meds have kicked in and he can enter the bathroom without his first words being "mmmmaaaaammaaaaa, kaeden......." the glint in kaeden's eyes showing off his plan to terrorize. jari can now walk down the steps, where i greet him when i hear his little pitter patter across the floor, with a smile and good morning, where he returns with a : good morning mama. which, had become non-existant as i struggled to bark out tasks and get it all done before the dread of the bus pulling up at our door managed to bring some sense of calm after the storm.

erwin has changed. in just 3 weeks, i see my husband returning to the easy-going man i first learned to love all those years ago. he comes home to a cleaner home, we eat dinner together without reminders to eat nice, or a mess covering the entire table. we relax with a game or a movie or a story in the evening before settling jari in for the night. we don't hear kaeden's feet trampling across the floor into the wee hours of the night, erwin getting more irritated as he hears furniture being shuffled across the floor at midnight after the tenth time of tucking kaeden in (or berating him) and telling him this is the last time. there are no more stolen treats littering the folds of the couch, or under the tv cvupboard. the smell of urine from wet diapers and bedding doesn't saturate the air. the laundry loads are halved.

so, all this peace in our home, it feels like freedom. but with that freedom comes regret. regret that our son can't be here to share this family home dream i have always envisioned. that we just couldn't cut it as parents of an autistic child.

there is yet another aspect to this. we did manage it. we made a decision for our son and our family which seem to be the ideal decision based with what path our lives led. none of us found relaxation and peace within the confines of our family, and now all of us seem to have discovered it. we tried our best (and sometimes our not so best) to make it work, but we couldn't. too many factors were involved to make a peaceful home. but the decision to let kaeden go has been met with the rewards of more harmony. for everyone.

the weekends are a time i treasure. though they bring about more stress and the normalcy of life as we have known it (arguments, fights, brotherly love, messes, but also kaeden's help, his hugs, his smiling eyes, his excited stories) when we are back together, we have had a chance to recharge, a chance to taste freedom, a cahnce to just be. all of us. and with that comes the knowledge that we can manage these days together, and we'll all have a little break again soon if it gets to be too much. the weeks are definitely easier. making the weekend easier as well.

i hope that over time my husband can learn to be more relaxed during the weekend as well. that there will come a time when he can bond with our son and forgive the mistakes. when he can be a dad and not a guard, when he can take a moment to show kaeden how much he cares, not in words but in actions. because he does care, as he has shown in his attendance at appointments, his vision for kaeden and our family, his living in stress and disorganisation. but towards kaeden himself, it has been and continues to be a struggle. erwin loves deeply and heartily, but his expression of his love is sometimes, and certainly for kaeden, difficult to discover and reel in. he is finding peace again, as a man, as a father, as a husband. i pray for the peace to open up and allow kaeden in.

so, how am i doing with the adjustment? it's a mixed media of emotions. but in general, i feel more myself and less niggling worry than i have in ages. i just have to come to terms that this is all okay. that i didn't let my son go, but opened up a new world for him, and our family in return. that my son is, and always will be my son. that though i may not get to kiss him goodnight every day of the week, my love for him shines through in the pain i have endured in letting him find himself. to just be kaeden.

the pain is opening up a new world of sunshine and rainbows and flowers filled with beautiful butterfly wings sparking in the sun. for all of us.


security of me and we

it's such a little something. that tiny place deep inside which gives you a simple promise that all is okay, that though there may be tiny setbacks along the way, the whole is still intact. that this is your life, do with it what you will, but through it all you'll come out on top.

my little promise has been taken away. my security has dissipated to a tiny trickle. my half full feels half empty. i'm not feeling assured that everything will be okay, that the setbacks aren't too big, that life will plow along and find me still standing strong.

and what is sad is that it isn't about me. as a mother, my whole includes the lives of my sons, as a wife, the life of my husband. there is a tiny piece of me who belongs only to me, but i am defined by my family. i no longer live as a single entity. i have this me of which can no longer be separated from we.

since my accident, there have been many questions filling me up inside. some are positive, some negative, but on the whole i feel grateful to be alive and feel an assurance that though the road is long, i will stand proud and tall in the end. though i may not once again be complete; my hand may never fully clasp a little hand in mine again, or pick up a grape to lift to my lips, or pull a load of fresh smelling clothes from the washer, that i am still standing and i will be okay.

but that same security i felt for my youngest son has now left me with a furrowed brow, my heart crumpled into a newspaper ball. he isn't the same child he was before my accident. he is fearful, he is nervous, he is obsessed. no longer is a paper laying on the table or a finished glass of milk a comfort of home. these are replaced with a need for extreme organisation, nothing standing in his view. curtains must be pulled tightly closed or he is uneasy. if my hand comes even close to resting on his body, he tenses up as his body shakes and a scream leaves his lips, nearly paralyzing. my hugs have stiffened him as he glances fearfully my way, trying to pull away before the effect of my love reaches through to him. where he used to love to play games, have tickle fights, win soccer matches against mommy, his newest fun when mama is in the house is sitting before the tv tuning out the fact that mama even exists. he no longer has a need for my attention, for my love, the security blanket i used to be. the ghosts that strip him of sleep cannot be fought away with my presence. my presence does not bring him comfort.

i try to pull him in. i play his favorite treftiball, and see glimpses of the little boy i knew and loved just 3 months ago. he smiles, he laughs, he runs. and then, in one instant as he catches a glimpse of my arm, or my hand happens to come too close as i try to kick, or for any other number of unknown reasons, he retreats...back to his little chair in front of the tv, the sound of my voice tuned out, the little area surrounding him completely free of clutter. he no longer looks at me, but through me.

on a car ride a few days ago, he asked me to sit in back with him. my heart did a quick flutter as i sat next to him, resting my 'good' hand on his lap. then, as i adjusted my position and my 'bad' hand came into his view, he screamed, tensed, and his demeanor towards me changed. he started hitting, being wild, couln't find the calm.

i am starting to feel really worried. the effect this accident has had on him is the fault of noone. yet it is guilt i feel, and each time i see the scar traveling across my wrist, all i see is the stripping of a bond between a mother and her son. with each painful movement i make during therapy, it is with the determination to gain back some trust from the little boy who once came to me for every little thing. it is with the hope that that promised place is restored, that we'll come through this still standing tall. because i am not just me, but i am we. and right now, the we feels broken. the we feels sad, fearful, uneasy and insecure. the me needs to find extra strength for the we.