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!