We made it to Vegas. It's definitely warmer than home and feels nice to walk in the sunshine without a winter coat and scarf keeping me warm. It's nice to be back in America, but it's been a slightly rocky adventure of sorts. I have family here visiting me before I attend the wedding of my girlfriend. At the moment, there are eight family members spread troughout this casino hotel, all here because they want to be here with me. It makes me feel special and loved, and I am thrilled they are all present, sharing their time with me. However, 10 people in one space with differing opinions makes for a bit of stress and pandemonium. Add to that 3 people who can't walk (oh, geez, my parents have aged with their health issues since I last saw them and it sincerely hurts my heart) in Vegas, and the choices are slightly limited. Spending days in a casino is not exactly a cup of tea. Though I enjoy trying out my luck for a $20 pop, that's about the extent of my gambling enjoyment. But sitting inside a casino for hours on end and those bells start pushing you, and when they do, your inner spirit falls as you realize that hard-earned cash is being thrown down the drain. It's not that I have lost much money, but it still seems so pointless. I can slightly understand how people get addicted, because it just makes you a bit crazy, all those clinks and bells and spinning wheels.

My dad gave a couple homeless people money yesterday while we were eating breakfast at Burger King on the way outta town to get into nature. I felt bad about telling him that he's just enabling them. My dad is a good, giving person, and would help the world if he could. Especially those less fortunate. He has a soft spot for people that need help. But here in Vegas, there are a LOT of homeless, and shelling out money to a select few is not going to save the world. It won't even save those few. And though I don't think that handing drunken homeless is the key to helping them, I wish I wouldn't have berated my dad for it. He was just trying to help, and I hope that he doesn't look at me in a more selfish light due to my viewpoint. I too would love to figure out how to save those 'lost' souls.

I My gramma could become one of those lost souls. Her gambling habits are quite profound, and it makes me ill to see her throwing her money away like she does. However, she enjoys gambling and told me that if it brings her happiness at this late stage in her life, why shouldn't she do it. Her children are all grown and living their own lives, and she can't take the money with her to her grave. She has a point, but thinking about all the places those hundreds could go besides a slot machine makes me reel in disbelief. I love her immensely and she is also giving and good, but her spending habits leave much to be desired. I hope that when I am her age I can find a worthier cause for my excess money.

I'm starting to miss my boys. They are in good hands, but I feel so far away from them...and I am. I hope they ae doing well and out time apart gives us the needed sustenance to be better parents. We desrve this time away, giving to ourselves, giving our marriage some much needed time and energy. I hope that we have the chance to allow that, and that I have the strength to place my husband at the top of my list instead of taking out my stresses on the person to whom I am closest and have chosen to be my partner in life. But I also hope he will try harder to give me time with my family without adding extra pressure to the already hectic nature of this trip. It has been SO long since I have been with them. All I want to do is curl up next to my mom in bed and let her play with my hair, just be with her. Our time is too short, too precious, and I'm feeling a bit dissatisfied.

So those are some random thoughts from Vegas. We are having fun and laughing and smiling and I adore having my loved ones close by. And I can't wait to see Tammy and watch her marry this man she has chosen, and hope that she truly has found the one. I'll let you know later if I come out of this crazy casino alive...



It has finally arrived after months of waiting...and it will surely be over all too soon. But for now, I am excited! My first trip to America with just my husband by my side. A chance to visit my family, witness my best friend's marriage, and spend coutless hours sharing warmer weather with my husband, hopefully exploring even more of Nevada...and maybe winning a few dollars pocket money at the slots too. It has finally arrived....it has been long awaited! Yeah! I'll be back with stories to tell....


Bedtime Games

The scene: Jari and I are snuggling in bed. I am singing, trying to get his eyes to become heavy and allow sleep to overcome him. I rub his back trying to relax him. But...
"Mama, let's play a game!"
"Hey bug, it's nite nite time. Mama is tired. You need to go to sleep so you'll be happy tomorrow."
"C'mon Mama, it's just a little game," he says, swinging his arm around my neck and pulling me in closer. "It's fun!"
"I like games too, but it's too late to play a game. We need to go to sleep."
"Okay mama, but which would you choose? A tv or a computer?"
"I'd pick a computer. Then I can communicate with my family and friends."
"Yeah, and a tv you can just watch for a little while and then it's over. And would you pick a bus or a car?"
"I would pick...."
"I'd pick a bus cuz it's bigger so more people can ride in it and get around. Would you pick water or cola?"

"I'd pick water, because your body has to have water to survive, plus you can make other things with water."
"Yeah. that's what I was gonna say. Uhm...."
"Jari, would you pick a shirt or a jacket?" I asked, knowing I was completely getting myself pulled into the game.

"A jacket, becuase you can always have a very light jacket so you could use it as a shirt, but still be warm if you had to go outside."
" And would you pick a soccer ball or a bike?"
"I'd want to pick a soccer ball, but I would pick a bike. With a bike you can go places and you can carry groceries home on it. And with a soccer ball all you can do is kick it around and you have to carry it, it can't carry you."
"Jari, would you pick a boat or a train?" This game was getting fun. I wasn't even tired anymore, considering my son's answers.
''A boat. I think. But maybe a train. A boat takes you all across the water to see Gramma and Grampa in America. But a train can go faster, but I can't go to America then. Can't I pick an airplane? Mama, would you pick carrots or strawberries?"
"I would pick strawberries. They're yummy!!! So, would you pick hugs or kisses?"

"Uhm, I would pick kisses. Would you pick hugs or kisses, mama?"
"I would pick hugs. I like kisses, but hugs squeeze the love right into you. And you get warm from hugs. And you can feel a heartbeat with a hug. I like hugs the best."
""Mama, can I have a kiss before I go to sleep?"
I reach over to give him a kiss and tell him I love my Jari kisses. He reaches around my neck and snuggles tight against me. Sleep is finally overcoming him after our little game, as it has awakened me. I begin to sing, loving the feel of my son snuggled next to me. He turns his head toward me.

"Mama, I think I like hugs best too. We like to snuggle close, huh mama? And I can feel your love."
And I started to sing softly, his hair tickling my face: Mama's boy, Mama's boy, he's the center, of mama's world....Mama's boy."

And later when I woke up, I could still feel his warmth, still feel his love emanating through to me.


Fuzzy Dice

Jari and I played a game the other night before bed. It wasn't a typical game we play. Oh no, we played a game designed for mamas and papas.

Last Valentine's Day, I gave Erwin those fuzzy dice, a game for us to play. On the red dice are the words Toes, Lips, Neck, Ears. On the black dice the words Kiss, Lick, Tickle... and Jari found the dice in our room as we were getting ready for bed.

"What is this for, mama?" he asked me. "Uhm, it's a game," I responded, my cheeks a bit flushed with red. "Can we play it?" he asked. "Uhm, okay" I answered, not sure how to play this out. I didn't want to confront him with the reality of what kind of game it was, stripping him of his little boy innocence. So, we played the game.

He giggled. He loved it when he had to tickle my ears as I laughed and laughed. He loved it even more when I was forced to lick his toes. "Ewwww, you have a GROSS one," he chuckled as he held out his fresh from the bath feet for me to lick. Luckily, they were fresh from the bath.

Throughout our ten minute game, my mind raced. This is NOT something you should be playing with your son. This is a sex game. This shouldn't be happening. Yet, as we played and laughed and giggled, it was also all okay, innocence at its finest.

At least the dice got their first use. I think I will once again retire the dice to their quiet place in the cupboard, hoping that one day Erwin and I can play. But, for the time being, the red and black fuzzy dice proved to me that sex is only sex when the innocence is lost.



One of the things I love is when I am getting Jari breakfast. He comes downstairs, his hair all askew, and I greet him good morning and ask if he slept well. He always looks so little to me in the morning, and as I stand at the counter making Erwin's lunch while he runs in to go pee, I watch his pyjama clad body retreat.

When he comes back, I always go to him, give him a quick cuddle, and ask what he'd like for breakfast. Samwich or cereal? Most often, it's cereal. I actually prefer it that way, knowing we get to go through one of my favorite rituals. I open the cupboard door and check the cereal contents. We don't buy name brand, except on the surprise ocassion, and our cereals are not called Honey Loops or Fruit Loops or Cookie Crisp. Instead, Jari names them by the picture on the box. Bee (the round ones or the circles?), Penguin, Bear. Sometimes, the picture changes as a different brand is purchased, but even if the penguin has turned into a polar bear, it's still penguin cereal. It always makes me smile.

So, I check the contents, and ask if he'd like Penguin or Bee? Penguin, he says, as I retrieve a bowl from the cupboard. There is no penguin on the box, no picture at all in fact, and he asks as he watches, "Are you sure that's Penguin cereal, mama?" I hand him his cereal, with just a touch of milk as he hates soggy flakes, and won't drink what's left in the bowl, and answer "Of course it's Penguin cereal!!!" And always, always, I ask him if it's yummy, and he always, always answers YES!

Penguin cereal is one of his favorites. Penguin cereal is the equivalent of Frosted Flakes. Monkey cereal is a close second, aka Cocoa Crispies. And then there's the Bee...have any idea what the Bee might bee? Think oma and opa will be able to decipher our secret cereal language when they come to take care of Jari while we're away? I may need to write out a cereal decoder...but it won't matter, as oma and opa call it all "hondenbrokjes (dog food)" or plain ole cornflakes....but who'd pick Cornflakes when you could choose the Penguin instead? :-)


"Those" Words

The newest, the latest, another peak. Autism, ups and downs, rounds and rounds. You'd think after all these years, I'd know what to expect. He's already 15, I've been delaing with this for years. But yet again, my world is thrown for a loop, and I'm stunned, staring with a deer in the headlights look, caught unaware.

Kaeden has started cussing. This isn't something really new. He gets frustrated or angry and out come 'those' words. He can't express what he means and 'those' words get a reaction. We remind him (sometimes gently, sometimes in anger) that 'those' are not words we appreciate hearing from the lips of our babe. That 'those' words are not respectful, and indeed are very rude.

So, no, it's not new. But the style with which he's started using 'those' words is new. It isn't when he's angered or frustrated. It isn't when he's confused. It's more like he thinks this is the new cool and he's going to be the coolest kid on the block. He walks around muttering Shit, Damn, Fuck and Jesus Christ all day long, adding 'those' words to each and every sentence which leaves his mouth. "Jesus Christ, this is fucking good coffee." "Shit, I can't find that goddamn movie." "What the hell? Where did I put my fucking coat?" "Mom, Know what? I learned a fucking cool new move at Judo"!"

And it's annoying me. I may ocassionaly allow a curse word to pass my lips, but it's not something that is typical in our home. We don't use 'those' words in everyday conversation. But Kaeden does, and I am not sure how much more I can listen to before I explode. I constantly remind him to stop, I explain that it isn't nice, and I even send him to his room to get control of himself. But he simply continues.

Another stage of autism, another peak on the rollercoaster ride. Any ideas?


The Day Plays Out

I stood at the reception counter and paid my bill. There was nobody in front of me, noone waiting behind me. Just me and the receptionist in this normally very busy doctor's office. A doctor's office where differing doctors are present on differing days, space rented to spread their service area, bring more specialty services to our local area. It's a place I have become a frequent visitor recently. It almost feels natural to head there, and I no longer need to say my name when I check in. They know me. It feels kind of relaxing, in a situation which is far from stress-free.

So, I paid my bill, zipped my wallet into my backpack, and headed out the door slinging my backpack over my shoulder. I didn't know what my plan was. I had taken the bus to the doctor's office, knowing I could catch another bus home, or walk. With the snow falling down leaving my covered in wetness, a a bite whipping through the breeze, I looked at my clock. 30 minutes til the bus arrived. What could I do in 30 minutes time?

I headed to the dentist to get my paperwork stamped which the dentist forgot to stamp at our last visit. She came out with her mask and gloves on and I heard the whirring of her equipment in the background. My mind was blank, but I smiled and asked about her new twins, then asked her to take care of this little task. I was out the door in two minutes.

I went into the pharmacy and paid the bill I owed, not giving Kaeden enough money to pay for his meds last time. I still owed 5,96, and when I went in, the pharmacist immediately went in search of his tucked away copy of the bill. "Yeah, Kaeden's medicine costs have gone up," he told me. I thanked him for turning over his medication anyway in good faith.

25 minutes til the bus arrives I thought. 2 minutes to walk to the stop. 23 minutes to go. My mind was still swarming. I couldn't concentrate and just wanted to go home. I needed to go home.

I walked into the store and grabbed a pair of socks to send to my niece. Socks are easy, just stick them in an envelope, no extra postage. I like socks since moving to Europe. A perfect little Ï'm thinking of you"gift. I grabbed a couple cards on my way to the checkout, and noticed a big bag of lolly-pops which Jari has been begging me to buy. So, I did. I added my loot to my backpack. I no longer carry a purse, but my backpack is always on stand-by for those little purchases, a bottle of water, and a pack of cookies in case Jari is with me. He gets cranky when he's hungry.

I looked at the clock above the optician. 9:33. The time was wrong, the hour way off base, the minutes exactly on. I had 10 minutes to go. I decided I'd just have to wait longer for the bus. I didn't have enough time to do anything else, so I started the short walk in the falling snow. It was falling in huge flakes, wet but not sticking. My hair became wet and the droplets fell from my jacket. I stood at the busstop, feeling the cold, my mind still swarming, yet nearly blank.

The bus arrived and I put my ticket into the reader. It took off 80 cents for my 4 minute ride, and I considered for a moment I should have just walked home. There were 4 other passengers, all elderly, and they watched me as I passed and the bus jaunted on it's way. I took my seat, thinking it barely paid to sit down. Yet I did, and then glanced out the misty windows. We stopped to pick up another passenger. He climbed onto the bus using his cane, and as he limped towards a seat, my eyes misted over, just as the windows on the bus. He's handicapped, I thought. Life isn't easy for him. He can't walk.

And then my thoughts turned back to the doctor's office, to my visit to the neurologist and the nerve tests I had just had done. I'm handicapped too. My hand is not healing. I have nerve damage, and muscle damage, and instead of getting better, it's turned for the worse.

And the blur looking out the window was misted over, and I wasn't sure if it was from the warm air hitting the cold bus windows, or the tears suddenly streaking down my own cheeks.


Legalities of Kids

So, Erwin and I are heading off on our first overseas vacation just the two of us. Though I'm looking forward to going and have made all the arrangements for the care of the kids while we're gone, we haven't yet completed the one task I feel pressured to do. We haven't taken care of the legal paperwork to ensure our kids are secure in the case something should happen and we should both die.

There are numerous reasons for this. First, I don't even want to consider dying, let alone leaving my children parentless. Second, I'm not entirely sure what I need to do legally. And third, our situation is so completely complicated, Erwin and I cannot come to a decision as to who to name as our children's guardians. Neither of us feel confident naming any of our friends or family members as guardians for our kids. It's not that we don't trust family members, and it's not that we don't think they'd keep our kids best interests at heart. But in this place where we have to make a choice of guardians for our children, to place their entire future in another's hands, is overwhelming and we feel completely and utterly alone. Not just me, not just him, but both of us. It's something we agree non regarding this subject of which we've discussed frequently the past number of weeks.

A typical choice would be our parents. One set or the other. However, both of our parents are aging and not in the best of health and we don't feel that we should strap them with the care of our children. When I see and hear how tired they are just keeping them for short visits, whether a day or a month, I know we cannot put the responsibility of raising our boys on them. They are simply too old to have to raise a young family again, and add an autistic child with special needs to the mix and it seems impossible.

We live in one country, my family lives in another (in which Jari has never named America home and it would be so difficult to take away all that is comfortable and normal to him in the face of losing his parents as well), and Erwin's family lives in yet another country. The logistics of this are daunting. Legally, there would be thousands of hurdles.

Our siblings would be another logical choice. However, we don't feel that saddling our brothers and sister with our kids is a possibility. Erwin's sister has chosen not to have children because she doesn't want them. We can't force someone who doesn't even want kids to take on the responsibility of our boys. My one brother and I don't have a strong relationship (though it has gotten better over the past year, it's not a relationship I could comfortably place my children) and we don't agree with their parenting choices, as they vary so greatly from our own. My youngest brother, though I love him dearly, I can't see him and his family being able to deal with all the conflicts that come with raising Kaeden. We know that all of our siblings would do the best they can for our boys, but we can't find any of them the best choice for our kids.

Friends: I have a number of close friends with whom we have considered. Some are our age, but have no children. Some are just not financially or mentally stable enough. Some we don't know well enough, others we don't think they'd be able to handle the addition of our boys. Other Family: There should be options here, but as we go through the list, the options seem to dwindle away. One of our main choices due to lifestyle, parenting choices, and knowing the boys would be loved and well cared for, is negated due to the acceptance of marijuana use in the home, which we don't feel right subjecting our children to.

Kaeden's autism certainly plays a major role in our difficulty with choosing. His autism creates additional financial and emotional burdens in which people would have to be able to accept and deal with. I sincerely do not know many people who could have this stress added to their lives and be okay with it. I need to know, without a doubt, that he would be loved and accepted and helped, and I don't know where to find that within or outside of our family, in the face of looking at a lifetime. Because with Kaeden, it is a lifetime, and not just until he's old enough to move out of the house like it would be for Jari.

Yesterday, as Erwin and I sat talking this through over coffee at the kitchen table, we both fell silent when Erwin suddenly commented that maybe the best would be for our children to become wards of the court and be placed in a foster family who would come to accept and love them as their own. We wouldn't burden others and the boys would be cared for. But we all know how fostering works and how children get thrown from place to place.

In the face of losing their parents, I don't want my children to also lose the love of family, close friends, and the comforts they have known their entire lives. I just cannot fathom what to do, and I am totally stressed about this decision. Most likely, we will never have to use our choice, most likely our children will not lose their parents...but the possibility does exist. What are we supposed to do? How can we make a decision that concerns not only the future of our kids, but of whoever takes on this responsibility? How can we ensure they will be loved? How can we ensure they remain together as brothers and don't lose parents, home and a brother?

I don't like having to consider this. But it's one of those jobs we signed up for without knowing it when we made the choice to become parents. And I believe that it's the least we can offer our children, ensuring them their security, if it does come to play in our lives. Now, how, where, and most importantly, WHO?