Exploring Europe

Welllll, I have been busy! It is a good busy, entertaining a girlfriend from 'home'. She arrived Sunday and we're off exploring Europe. I always love hearing someone exclaim at all the interesting things they notice about the differences between Europe and America. I have forgotten many, and it reminds me again from where I have come, and how far I have gone. Both literally and mentally. It makes me appreciate all I have been handed on my plate, the good life I have built for myself and my family. And it makes me feel proud, seeing my achievements through another woman's eyes.

We have thus far visited a cathedral, a castle, cube houses, Erwin's parents, a war museum, a Yugoslavian restaurant with all my girliefriends in attendance. She's been here 2 days. Think I made a full-schedule? You bet! I love sharing my new home with people, giving them the same adventures I once only dreamed about. Knowing that when a friend comes here, they are being given an opportunity to live a new culture, see new things, and beome better world citizens, be more understanding of the differences between people, or maybe the complete spin, and how we're all the same.

Tammy has been my friend for 13 years. We have weathered many a storm together, and shared much love and many smiles in our book of life. We have also shared many tears. Yesterday, while circling through teh war museum, we shared more tears, looking at the pictures of the war cemetaries, people standing beside soldiers protecting them from harm. Europe is alive with history. The tanks and planes that served in WWII show how two separate worlds came together to do big things, to bring conclusion to a disastrous world Hitler initiated.

And now, standing on European soil, Tammy is able to do big things as well. No tanks are needed, no planes dropping bombs. With her eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hands, she is experiencing life as Europeans experience life. She is learning, about people and countries and cultures. She is taking it all in, and will go home with a new insight into life. It is something she will never forget. It is something that is stronger than war. It is understanding.

I am glad I am a part of making this all happen...and I am glad I have my girliefriend by my side.



Let me set the scene. I am lying in bed with Jari, reading him a bedtime story. He's fidgety, not completely concentrating on the story, when he pipes up:

Jari: Mamaa....?
Mama: Yes, Jari?
Jari: I know something you don't know. But you can try to guess. I'll give you three chances.
Mama: So, what am I supposed to know?
Jari: I know where the very biggest volcano in the world is.
Mama: Hmmm, you're right, I don't know. But let me guess? Hmmm, Japan?
Jari: Nope (holding up three fingers and folding one down)
Mama: America has some big volcanoes too.
Jari: Nope (folding down yet another finger)
Mama: I dunno...uhm, India?
Jari: hahaha Nope (giggling as he shows me a fist with no more chances)
Jari: The biggest volcano is in Africa.
Mama: Africa? I don't think so. Where did you hear that?
Jari: Nobody told me. Just my brain. And I have golden brains!
Mama: haha Golden Brains?
Jari: Yep, and they are very smart and know everything and then whisper it in my ear.
Mama: Well, I think they whispered the wrong volcano in your ear.
Jari: Nope, Golden brains know EVERY-THING!
Mama: Hmmmm...
Jari: Yep. And know what else mama?
Mama: What? (wondering if we're ever going to get back to the story and try to fall asleep)
Jari: I can also talk to dolphins.
Mama: Talk to dolphins? How do you do that.
Jari: With my golden brains. And when I become a monkey.
Mama: You are definitely a monkey (I shouldn't have tickled him...)
Mama: (continuing reading)
Jari: And you know what mama?
Mama: Yes, I know what. I am going to finish this story.
Jari: But why did grampa shoot all the dinosaurs?

Mama: Goodnight Jari!!! It's time for your Golden Brain to go to sleep!!!


Reading English

I am blown away by language. Lately, when Jari picks an English book for me to read at bedtime, he wants to read it too. And I have been completely amazed at how well he is managing to read. Dutch and English letters sound very differently. He hasn't had any English training other than me speaking to him. And yet, when he opened his email yesterday, this is what he read from Gramma. I am truly amazed.


New Ideas

I am so impressed with our new autism counselor. She is to the point and honest and I feel like she could really work well for our family. After 3 visits, she is the first to offer me a bit of assistance achieving not only ideas, but the carry-through of those ideas. She speaks candidly to me and to Kaeden, and though I try not to get my hopes up too high, due to the major disappointments we've suffered in the past, I am feeling really good.

Today when she arrived she immediately asked Kaeden to recount the appointment last week and what her reason for being here was. She discussed the plans we had made and went through each one, asking each of us in turn how it worked. When I told her of my confusion in how to use a certain plan, she accepted the criticism and looked at another way of working it. She remains firm that she isn't a miracle worker, but does hope to help restore some peace into our home.

After discussing some of the negative events surrounding our week, she told me she'd consider some ideas and come back to me with possibilities next week. She doesn't dive into anything, but wants to consider what may best work for our family. She is happy that we are trying to find help. She was thrilled when I told her my husband agreed to a weekly one-hour playdate alone with Kaeden, after voicing my concerns that he is just no longer willing to put in an effort. She told me that his dedication is exactly what we need to seek out changes. That my devotion is what will see these changes through. That Kaeden eneds to learn what dedicating himself means, and that once he sees us carrying through with these plans, she has hope that he will find his way as well.

Today we agreed on a yellow and red card plan. 3 warnings and then a red card for time out in his room. This is to help the reaction and negativity in our voices during a conflict to no longer be an issue. We don't need to use words, and in fact, it is better when we don't. Kaeden will benefit from not hearing us 'belittle' him while he knows visually what his actions are doing. When we say no, it becomes a verbal confrontation. Using these cards, hopefully that confrontation won't ensue and Kaeden gets the idea without driving us to irritation which further thunders up the problem.

I can't say whether this will work or not, but the idea behind it seems really useful. I would love to have a system to create less conflict between our family members. Kaeden will no longer have the need to have the last word, as no words need to be exchanged. Words are used only during positive interaction. And she continually reinforced the idea that mama and papa are working hard to help our family, but his job is to follow through with the commands (cards) or he's just adding to his own discomfort in our family.

After she left, Kaeden adn I sat down and made our cards. I have them in my pocket, waiting for their first use. And I hope when our counselor returns next week, I can say that the system is working, that our family is in slightly better spirits and humor.

I'm interested to see what happens when the first red card is distributed...or even if the red card needs to be pulled out. Tensions are currently high, but can I hope some of it can be resolved by a simple stoplight system? I'll let you know...



This afternoon I picked Jari up for lunch. As I waited, there he was jumping and playing amidst all the other kids. When his eyes met mine he ran towards me waiting outside the school gates. My hand clasped aroud his in an effort to protect him from the swarm of egotistic driving parents...and he looks up at me and says, loudly, within hearing distance of other parents: What did you to your hair? Did you get paint in it? It's all white.

I glanced around me, picking up the pace to head towards our home. "Mom, why is your hair so white?" he pried again. "Because that's what happens when you get old," I told him.

"Now you can be a gramma," he replied, running towards the basketball hoop to shoot a few of our typical lunchtime hoops. "But gramma's can't do this," I told him, popping the ball out of his hand and shooting a layup. Unfortunately the ball didn't go in.

I think it's time for me to dye my hair.