12.13.2011

Fat

I am fat. That's a given and how I got here is a combination of genetics and mistakes, but it is what it is. I often go through phases in which I try to take better care of myself through diet and exercise, and it works for me, if only temporarily. Often I get stuck at a certain place and lose the motivation to continue and turn to food as a comfort when I shouldn't. At the moment, without putting in much effort, I have been doing well and fitting into smaller clothing sizes. It feels good, but as always, I save the larger sized clothing for the day when I fit into them once again. I'm not sure that is a good choice, but for me, it seems to be the circle of life, and that's how I roll.

Being fat sucks. Being tired and feeling sick and having no energy is not a wonderful way to live your life. Luckily, I stay active, even with my excess weight. My children and husband demand an active lifestyle, and so we continue to enjoy walks in the woods, days at amusement parks and zoos, bike riding out in nature...all things I love and treasure, and am blessed to be able to do with my family. I haven't yet held them back from doing what they enjoy in life, even if I have held myself back many times due to my weight and size. I know they would all prefer me to be healthier and also more eye appealing, but never have my own family made me to feel like I am a burden (I am not, I do everything for them, for the record, but they could whine and complain much more than they do).

I despise being fat, and hate when people mention that I look as if I have lost weight...I do not like that attention on myself. I don't like people noticing as it makes me feel even more self-conscious. Sometimes I think that alone plays a part in my losing motivation. Stupid, maybe, but being heavy is not only physically exhausting, but also emotionally and mentally. It plays with your mind and your body. It's not a fun manner of living.

Lately, I have been confronted with numerous friends and acquaintances who have chosen to do something about their weight once and for all. However, they are doing it surgically, rather than through diet and exercise. And I am sort of stuck in this fight with myself about how I feel about doing something so drastic. Is it okay, is it necessary, is it an easy way out, is it the "magic pill" everyone dreams of finding? Here is what I have concluded given my own weight battles and my own experiences:

I believe that being overweight is somewhat of a choice. Yes, there are many other roles playing a part, but ultimately, it is me who places the food in my mouth, and if I make poor choices, I will gain. If I choose not to get out and exercise, I will have no muscles to break down the fat. This is also a choice, and one I am not very good about completing, other than for necessity. So, it lays on my shoulders, the choices I have made in getting me to this place.

Once you reach a certain weight, it is no longer an easy task to turn it around. Your habits persuade you, and even in your very best of intentions, it is easy to fail. Often, with being overweight, you are confronted with additional health issues, such as diabetes, joint pain, back pain, stomach issues, an inability to have children, heart problems. These are all medical issues, but stem from choices you have made. It is a result of being overweight. I, personally, have been lucky not to suffer any serious medical issues due to my weight, but do tend to have pain in my knees and ankles, surely from the weight they are forced to carry. This does scare me for the future, when even healthy people are confronted with walking difficulties and other medical issues, completely unrelated to weight issues, but present nonetheless due, simply, to aging. I am not boding well for the future, due to the care I have given my body thus far in life.

Medical issues can be turned around, and prevented with weight loss. I get this. I also get that having gastric bypass surgery or putting in a stomach band reduces your weight. But what really bother me about these processes, is that too many people I know are doing it not because of health issues, but simply as a chance to be free of extra fat. And I struggle with believing that this is acceptable.

I hear my friends giddy with happiness over the prospect of upcoming surgeries, or seeing others melting away into a normal-sized person. And I am jealous that it isn't me being allowed to walk into any store to buy clothes, or sitting on a plane without worrying I am taking up the seat of the person next to me, or not going on a rollercoaster for fear I won't fit in the seat. But still, I have done this to myself. Is it right for me to then have surgery to take away the pain of the years of abuse I have done to my body?

I know these surgeries are not easy. I know you must go through a period of hell before you reach your desired weight. I know it isn't an easy solution. However, when I speak to some people about it and they haven't taken any opportunity to try to do this for themselves before resorting to something so major, it does make me a little mad. Why have they been able to abuse their bodies for so long, and not have to fight to get desired results? I am not speaking of all people who do choose to have this surgery. People who have struggled with their weight, sincerely tried doing something about it, and failed for whatever number of reasons, I can back them up. But for others, I just struggle to uncover how this drastic measure will result in the new person they think they will become by losing weight.

I understand the desire to be free of excess weight and all the pain that comes with it. I understand the need to seek happiness you can't find hiding behind layers of fat. But, I don't know to what extent I agree and support gastric bypass surgery. I know I would be a candidate for it, and I also know that with our medical system here it would be affordable. Hearing my friends and acquaintances discuss their choice to have this surgery almost makes me want to head to the doctor and start the process. But something within me knows I am here because I did it to myself. And I am not sure I can allow myself the freedom of losing this weight, knowing I didn't do all I could for myself, mentally, emotionally, and physically, before resorting to something so major. I think I owe it to myself to have to fight for what I want. And if I fight and then can't manage it, then maybe I have the right to search out a deeper level of help.

I don't begrudge these people their choices or decisions. I do envy what they receive at the end. I just hope that they find what they have been seeking all along when they reach goal weight, without dealing with the problems that brought them to that point in the first place. Or, better yet, that they do deal with those issues and find complete happiness and pride in the person they become after going through gastric bypass. For myself, I've got a lot more thinking to do on this issue.


11.28.2011

Geocaching


So, we've started geocaching. Don't know what that is?
www.geocaching.com
Well, you should, as it is an extremely gratifying new hobby we have discovered individually and as a family. It's like a mini- treasure hunt with success almost guaranteed at the end. And often a little goodie to go along with it.

More than a year ago I discovered geocaching and thought it would be a f
un family act
ivity. However, at that time, Erwin wasn't all that interested, but still went on a hunt with me and the boys. Finding that first cache was a thrill, but we didn't log it as we didn't really look into all the possibilities of geocaching. We searched for a couple more, until this year when Erwin st
arted really looking into it. He was in awe of the global aspect of geocaching, as well as all the varying choices for searching. Suddenly, he was all "Let's go find a cache!" and came home with printouts for numerous caches on our trip during fall break. We even bought a handheld GPS to make for easier hiking.


We started seriously geocaching on November 1, and have already completed 27 searches. We have found three differing travel bugs (little bugs that are tracked via the website during their worldwide travels), the furthest starting out in Arizona. And all of us love the thrill of th
e hunt!

This weekend, we created our own cache. Erwin did most of the work picking out coordinates and creating questions. We made sure it was correct and then got it online today. It was exciting when we first saw it online, so you can imagine my thrill when I spotted the first geoca
cher logging into our book. I got all giggly like a schoolgirl and immediately sent Erwin a message. He left behind a new travel bug which will hopefully make its way into a geocachers hands and taken for future travels through Europe or the rest of the world.


In any case, if you like being outdoors and doing a little walking around, these caches are hidden all over the world and you become a part of a global community when you start logging
your finds. We are really enjoying it, and I can see it becoming a regular family routine to see who finds it first, what little surprise we can pull out, and keep track of all the travel bugs we've come in contact with. It's great fun. Check it out if you think it may be something for you. I simply could not imagine it wouldn't be!

Happy Geocaching from tank95!

11.09.2011

Cliques

I am not a clique person. Never have been. Even as a kid, I found myself wondering and questioning why "everyone" seemed to have to be a part of a group. And I never was. I didn't fit in, and as a teenager, it made for some difficult times for me. Everyone was going here or there, doing things with just those people in their circle of friends, failing to notice others around them. I didn't have a group, but was on friendly terms with many. I didn't care from which 'group' a person came, if I liked them for who they were, I liked them. Simple.

I was involved in sports during junior high and high school. I was also on the school newspaper and in art club. I diddled in Spanish club, DECA, and Junior Civitans. I hung out with some of the 'druggies' and spent many lunches with the 'techers'. I would guess that I would be one of those people that if I returned to a high school reunion, they would say, "Oh, I remember you. You were with me in ......". But none of them would have a flow-blown story to tell of our fun times together. I just was. I spent a lot of time with a lot of different people only because I was involved in such a diverse number of things. No one group seemed better to me than another. But because of that, I didn't get invited to a lot of parties, or head off for a concert with the kids, or have that best friend thing going on that lasts a lifetime. I did my stuff, and left it when I headed home at night.

I am still that way. I don't like big crowds. Too many people in one place stresses me out and I get cranky. I don't like to feel as if I must do this or that because others are. And what I find, is that even 25 years later, cliques are still the same. Whether kids or adults, there is always the "cool" group, the "sport" group, the "creative" group. And me, I still diddle about in all of them, still find myself a bit disconnected, still find myself wondering where and how I fit in.

When I go to soccer games, the parents always break off into groups after for a drink while we wait for the kids. The men stand at the bar, the women sit at a table next to their closest friend, and I take a seat where there is one open and listen in on all the conversations going on around me. When I am at women's club activities, I show up and sit down, the cliques of women gathering around me, and partake in conversation with whomever happens to sit next to me. When I attend parties, I join the group with whom I have come (most often the soccer moms), and make my way around saying hello to others I know not associated with the soccer mom group. And going to the bathroom? I am not one of those women who can't head to the toilet alone. In fact, I much prefer to go alone.

This quality of mine, I find it very interesting. It still often leaves me with a feeling of being an outsider, the one who just can't quite fit in. Sometimes it bothers me, most times it doesn't (not like when I was a kid and felt so dissociated from life). I have my family and my circle of my closest friends, interestingly enough also a group who seem to have no real clique. I am who I am. I enjoy a variety of activities and interests, and not one overpowers another. I think I have discovered that I am quite well-rounded this way.

People are interesting. The variety of people is intriguing. I'm just glad that although I may be the weird one, I can be who I am without trying to fit in to be someone I am not. I am kind and generous, and if you are also kind and generous, you will fall into my circle of 'friends'. This is a group that I am more than happy to be a part of.

10.19.2011

Wedded Bliss


This past weekend, Kaeden attended a wedding. Not only attended, but took part in the wedding ceremony. He passed out the ceremony books and led people to their seats. Then, during the mass, he read pieces of a story. This wedding, it gave me a little piece of something I can't explain. It showed me that my son has a place in the world, and where that place is. It made me see him as an independent young man, fulfilled.

Kaeden came home and told me his teacher was getting married, and that he could attend the ceremony. He was very excited, animated, happy to be part of something so big for someone so important in his life. I hadn't heard anything about this wedding, so wasn't quick to sahre his excitement. I thought maybe his imagine was taking over, as happens often with Kaed. I didn't want him to get his hopes up too high, so answered with a simple: That is nice.

Then, I received a note from his teacher, outlining Kaeden's duties during the ceremony, what time he needed to be at the church. He told me he was preparing Kaeden and his classmates for their part in his wedding. I was initially a bit frustrated by the news, getting it just 2 days before the date. Really, it's something I should have known earlier; what if we had other plans?

However, as my frustration subsided, I felt a sense of acceptance. Acceptance of and for my son. People in his life, whom are important to him, but for whom he is also important to them. A bonding with teachers, everyday people in the world. It gave me great satisfaction, knowing that this tight-knit little group of which Kaeden has been a part for two years now, really is the tight-knit group I have imagined. A class of five young men all with severe behavior problems, learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, and aggression. A class specially designed to keep these kids in school, to help them find their place in the world. Two young male teachers who hold the group together, acting not only as teachers, mentors, guides, but also as friends. They are not
Mr. Teacher, but Timmeke (an endearing form of his name) and Bossie (a nickname). And this group of seven has become my son's world for the time being. A place where he learns, plays, and fights, but then learns how to control his aggression and anger, how to deal with the emotions leftover from a fight.

When I saw Kaeden, his friends, and his teachers at the wedding (my curiosity got the best of me, I couldn't stay away), I recognized that Kaeden is exactly where he needs to be. Yes, he
needs guidance. He is getting it, from this little group. Maybe the teachers are too young to fully understand, they have no kids of their own, have only been teaching a short while. They are smaller than my son and Kaeden pats them on the head. BUT, they are giving him friendship with a twist- they are in control, they are guiding him. And my son fits in perfectly.

Kaeden got up to stand before the mass of people during the ceremony. He and his classmates read a story, each taking different pieces, all of them having a turn. And I heard that their reading wasn't strong, they stuttered and they had diffculty pronouncing words. They shied
away from the mike making it hard to understand. They sounded out words which were too big to get out in one breath. But you know what? They all did it! And they did it in a place where they were not only accepted doing it, but praised for the good job they did. I cried. Because seriously, how many times will my son be given a job so important and be given the chance to shine and do so with a group of people who accept him completely, for who he is, and even celebrate the young man he is.

I thank these young teachers, and specifically Bossie and his bride, for making their wedding a chance to do so much more than bind them in marriage. They also made awareness of kids with differences, and gave them a chance to prove just how great they can be, to shine before a large group of people, to say: Hey, look at me, I am A PART OF THIS SOMETHING BIG!

This little group, it may be small in size, but it's big in something more important: acceptance. And we could all use them as an example to learn from.

9.30.2011

Life Is Fragile

The older I get, the more I come to see how fragile life is. In the blink of an eye, anything can happen and life changes, for you, your family, your friends. And it's so completely unsure.

When Kaeden returned from America, he was excited to see his friends again. Particularly his girlfriend. Upon his return, he learned that his girlfriend had been in a serious car accident and was in critical care in the hospital. She was comatose and beyond that, nobody could tell us anything. Eventually, Kaeden was able to reach his girlfriend's mom via her cell phone, and she relayed the information that his girlfriend was still in a coma and had been moved to another hospital. This, of course, had a big impact on Kaeden, though he never wanted to discuss the situation. I offered to help him find out additional information and take him for a visit if that was something he wated to do. He refused my offer, and every week I ask how she is doing, if he has heard news.

This week he came home to tell me his girlfriend came out of her coma on Monday. He spoke with her yesterday and her memory is very sketchy. When I asked him more, he said he didn't want to talk about it and I saw his shoulders tense and his face grimace. I went to touch him to offer my support, and he pulled away. I knew the sign...just leave me alone.

I quietly and calmly told him if he wanted to talk, I would be here to listen. Tonight when he came home from Judo, I asked how it was as he ate dinner. Then I eased into how things went at school this week, and simply asked what he knew about Kathleen. I told him I would like to know so I don't have to worry any more. So, though he was tense, he told me his story, of her needing to undergo operations, of her not remembering anything, of her wounds. He didn't give a lot of details, but when I told him I am so happy she woke up and is still alive, he touched me on my arm. "Me too, mama. I wish that didn't happen, but I am so glad she is going to be okay." I was so pleased he opened up to me, let me in to share his pain and grief. Allowed me to offer comfort and support.

I will continue to pray for her, and for my son who has to live with the emotions of this event in his life. Life is fragile. For all of us.

9.16.2011

Working Together



I am really proud of my boy tonight. The big one. He came home from school and has been magnificent to be around the entire evening. It's days like today that give me this feeling of comfort. It feels really good.

Erwin and I attended a meeting with his home away from home this morning. We worked together to make up rules and a plan of attack so that we can all work more efficiently together. I think we have reached a really good compromise. The rules at home are the same as at the other home. His punishments are the same as well. It feels good to have finally found a team who care enough to help us make this work. Because it is a lot of work. We all need to give the same information, follow through with the same plan. And even though there will always be slight differences between home and a live-in care center, today I felt this kind of power in knowing what our expectations are, having them hear our input, and getting it all down on paper so we all feel comfortable.

This is the first time I have really felt this way, ever. Even working with this particular group of people, we always had our differences. Today we finally all committed to each other, to make it work for our son, for our family.

When Erwin and I sat down with Kaeden tonight to explain the new rules (morning and bedtime rituals, mostly) he answered by blowing out a big breath of air. "I like this," he answered. "It will be so much easier to have the same rules at home and at school!" And if he's feeling the pressures subside just from hearing our fellowship, I am interested to see what happens when we actually put it into motion. I hope it will work, for all of us. Most importantly, for Kaeden himself, to help him become more independent and trustworthy.

I expect issues to arise, meltdowns to take place. But we're all on the same page, sharing one goal...the goal to bring peace and happiness to our son, and our family. To give Kaeden the security he needs to feel confidence, and the confidence to become independent. What more could I ask?

Tomorrow begins our new system. I am leary, but hopeful. Mostly, I hope that when we falter, when Kaeden doesn't succeed, that we can remain positive, help him to accomplish the goals and be a success. That we can give him the room needed to make it all work. Starting new systems is never easy, but this time we're starting with accomplices...and they want it to work as badly as Erwin and I...and our son!

Good Job Kaeden for hearing us, listening, and agreeing to do your best. I am so proud of the start you have already made. Let's keep it going kiddo! We're going to win this thing, make our family a positive, happy, harmonious family. One we are all proud to say : This is my family!

9.12.2011

Humiliation

This was a hard weekend for me. Sometimes they are. It was one of those times when I noticed other people noticing my son. Noticing that he's different. Noticing that even though he looks very "normal" he doesn't quite act "normal". Most of the time I try not to let it bother me, don't notice the second glances or downright stares. But when I am feeling uptight and stressed myself, I tend to notice those little glances or laughs hidden behind a hand covering the lips, or someone shaking their head more. I tend to be ultra-aware of my surroundings and take evrything in, maybe to make up for what Kaeden is unable to take in. And it is very hard for me, as his mom, to recognize people seeing him as being different. It may be a good thing, for others to be faced with differences and come to recognize disabilities, but for me, it's sometimes humiliating. There, I said it. I don't like myself for feeling that way about my own son, but geez, sometimes I just want to fit in and not be the stand out in the crowd. This weekend, it was impossible.

We went to a big nature playground and we were having a lot of fun together as a family. Erwin and Kaeden even managed to play together, joke around, and laugh together without any problems. That alone had me feeling like I was on top of the world. I should know better than to get too enthusiastic, as when I do, my spirit always gets shattered. If I keep my hopes somewhat subdued, it never seems quite as damaging.

After playing in the playground we went to the mini golf and started our rounds. It was a really cool course with different paths than you see everywhere. We were having so much fun when suddenly we caught up to the masses. It was so busy we couldn't even golf, with groups of 7 or 10 or even more ahead of us. I think it stressed my husband out, all the crowds. I know it stressed me out, and I'm sure it was hard for Kaeden. Crowds always are harder for him. We decided to move forward to a path that wasn't taken by groups. Kaeden was worried about this, worried we wouldn't get back and get the correct score. Worried we wouldn't know which path we'd already completed, that the score wouldn't even out in the end. He was correct, because that little happening caused him too much stress and on the following course, he exploded. He laughed when Erwin missed a shot, Erwin got mad at his insincerity, and then it was boom!

Kaeden lost it, completely and wholly. He was cursing and screaming and spitting and pacing and throwing the ball and his club. And all those hordes of people? Yeah, they witnessed it all. The people climbing on the survival course in the trees above us? Yeah, they witnessed it too. People stopped playing as our family became a one act show for all to be entertained. And I stood on, trying to reach my son, reach through his anger, his fear, his disregard for people, and find a way to calm him. But at that moment it wasn't possible. And then, as I looked around me, I realized that Kaeden could seriously hurt one of these people. He was that out of it that he wasn't aware of his surroundings in the least. Eventually, I persuaded him to come with me as he continued to rant and swing the club around ferociously. As we made our way out of the mini golf park, leaving Erwin and Jari behind, he continued to spit, scream, curse and kick. And I was the center of attention, as was my son.

At that point, all I wanted was to get Kaeden to calm down. I needed him to come back to reality, to breathe. So I stopped, spoke calmly and let him rant until I finally saw his eyes begin to clear, his face lose some of the tension. And then, when he said he needed to go walk to calm down, I let him go. That is his best manner of gaining control, to just leave him alone. So I sat and watched people still pointing and makiing gestures my way. And silently cursed them, myself, my husband, my son. Tried to stay calm.

A little while later, Kaeden was by the outdoor swimming pool. Jari and Erwin came back after their golf rounds and Jari went in search of his brother while Erwin and I discussed what had happened. He came running back to inform me that Kaeden was swimming. Swimming? In 60 degree grey autumn weather? Swimming with no swimming trunks? Swimming?

I looked over the fence to see my 16 year old son jump in the outdoor swimming pool in his underwear, his clothes left in a pile by the side of the pool. And I had no clue what to do. I called his name, then demanded that Jari come back by us to get Kaeden's audience away. But he still had an audience. People sitting picknicking were laughing, pointing, shaking their heads, glancing back and forth between Kaeden and I. Tears pricked behind my eyes as I watched thescene before me unfold. I wached Kaeden go down the baby slide into the pool and stand there just grinning.

So what, I tried to tell myself. But it was not normal behavior. So what, I tried to believe. But it was not okay for someone his age to take part in such an activity. Eventually, Kaeden climbed out of the pool, gathered his clothes, stripped down to nakedness, and got dressed, carrying his wet underwear as he returned. I couldn't get away fast enough. I hoped the car would swallow me whole. I was utterly humiliated.

The thing that bothers me most is this humiliation. I should have been more worried about my son than what others were saying and thinking. I should have been so involved in him that I didn't notice the stares and pointing. But I wasn't. I was doing what I had to do to keep them and him safe, to help him find calm, and nobody has any idea. I am certain they know there was something not quite right, but I could have used it as a learning opportunity in place of wallowing in my own embarrassment. Maybe next time. Probably not.

9.10.2011

Marriage

Marriage. Remember those butterflies you'd get in your tummy just thinking his name way back when? How you couldn't wait for that next phone call or another letter in the mail. How you'd wait up for hours just to manage a quick chat on ICQ? And then comes marriage...

And you turn into an old married couple magically overnight. Maybe that's an exaggeration, maybe it takes a bit longer, but somewhere along the way life takes a turn and marriage becomes a comfort and contentment and all those butterflies hide away for a rainy day.

When you take your vows, in sickness and health, for better or worse, you really don't know what you're getting yourself into. You are in love and this enchanting prince has just become yours, and when you say those magic words "I do" you completely and wholeheartedly believe in them.

But life changes. You lose a piece of yourself when you marry and gain a piece of a pair, but the pair isn't quite whole because really, it's just butterflies and rosy cheeks....at least until the farts and burps and scratching of the balls while you sleep alone in bed yet again becomes the norm. It's only then, after those first few years, that you realize what marriage truly means, and what you have traded in when saying "I do".

Marriage, it takes a lot of work. UNfortunately, people don't often put in the work it takes and the marriage suffers, maybe very noticeably, maybe just in quiet hints. It could be something as minor as him not noticing you colored your hair to something major like him cheating on you. But in one way or another, marriage is often taken for granted, our partner often just a permanent fixture we expect to be around. We have changed since becoming wed, he has changed, life has changed. We aren't the people we chose to marry. We have evolved, both together and apart. In some ways it's a good thing, in some ways it's bad, but in every way it just is. It is life, and it's sharing our life with another human being. Sharing not only a short story, but a complete novel filled with delicate details.

Sometimes those details get a little fuzzy. Sometimes the characters don't all add up. We get lost in the plot, confused about whether it's worth continuing to the end. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's worth giving a little bit more to come to a conclusion.

This person we have married is the one we chose to be our partner in life. He is the one we believed in and treasured. The one we couldn't stand to be without, for even a few lonely hours. As our marriage ages, we tend to forget those qualities, forget the jittery butterflies that made us alive, forget how enchanted we were, what made him so special, what we wouldn't do to keep that feeling alive. Life becomes comfortable, easy, content. And the butterflies are replaced with the warmth of the wood-burning stove. Only not quite so hot.

MArriage is a rough road. There are lots of twists and turns and sometimes we tend to get lost at the croosroads. We aren't there to help each other find the correct turn as we each go on about our business and do our own thing, only coming together at the end of the day to say hey before falling asleep apart and not so much as a whisper of how are you today? We don't take the time or energy to to make our partner feel special, to let them know they are loved. It's just a quiet assumption you think they understand.

But what if they don't understand? What if they need to feel those butterflies, to marvel over the wonder of being together? To feel like a giddy school girl in love? What happens then? Because marriage can't just be forgotten. You have changed, you have given, you have taken, and you are no longer just you. You have become a pair, a very confortable pair of the grungiest, softest socks you dare not throw away. And only on the gentle wash cycle can they manage to hold together.

Marriage. It is a job. It takes work. And it takes butterflies to make fairy tales come true.

9.04.2011

Kaeden is Home

Kaeden is home after a long summer vacation in America with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and great grandparents. He had a wonderful time and the stories he tells light up his eyes. He was happy there, and got to do lots of fun stuff with people who love him. I missed him. Some days towards the end, it was all I could do to keep my feet planted firmly on European soil. I was also very busy this summer, so that helped to keep the distance not quite so far. Being busy means not sitting twisting your hands in worry. So, it was good that my summer was filled with adventure upon adventure of my own.

Kaeden was scheduled to come home so he'd have a week to adjust before heading back to school. That didn't happen with Hurricane Irene. His trip was delayed 5 days, and even when he did head home, he had yet another unexpected cancellation in Germany. We finally got him home though, and I was grateful we forked out the big money for the unaccompanied minor service.It was needed this time around, and I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call telling me of the unexpected situation and that they would keep my son with them until he was back in the comfort of mama's arms.

He missed the first few days of school. He's having trouble remembering rules we have at home. He doesn't like to get out of bed in the morning. He can't find anything he needs and goes on to blame everyone else for missplacing it. He's forgotten he needs to ask before taking food or drinks, and that eating upstairs is not okay. And, he's irritable beyond belief.

I expected much of this. Jet lag is a real thing and it's not easy getting the groove back. Being gone and able to do as he wanted for two months I was expecting to have to remind him that he must ask for snacks, that he can't have coke. I also knew he would be emotionally drained having spent time with people he loves the most in the world and having to say goodbye and begin over at home (with others who love him, but aren't gramma and grampa).

But what I wasn't expecting was the great amount of stress I am feeling. The tightness in my shoulders aches and I am extremely tired. I find myself once again trying to prevent problems, watching everyone like a hawk to intervene before somethign happens. Doing my best to keep people apart, and busy doing differing activities so as to keep a sense of peace. And yet, all this does is create an immense stress and disharmony within myself. Unfortunately, I can't let it go. If I do, the disharmony in our home becomes too much and nobody is happy. So, I struggle and I become the biggest person and do what has to be done. I am the heart of the home, but I am not sure it's big enough to go all the way around.

Kaeden is harder than I remembered. He requires a lot of time and energy. He is worth it, without a doubt, but it is a lot of work. I have to follow him around like he is a two-year-old. He makes messes wherever he goes and needs assistance with everything. Having this break from these circumstances really did bring a peace to my battered spirit. I needed the break, my husband, my son, and Kaeden himself needed the break. But getting back into the swing of things after the break is hard, like really hard.

I am so glad my son is home. I am happy we all had time to be happy and carefree. And I now hope that we can all find harmony living together as one.

9.03.2011

Cancer

I'm not quite sure how to feel today. It's a mixed bag of emotions and one side of me is cheering while the other shivers in sadness. Today, one of my dearest friends was given the results of a test proving her liver is cancer-free! Yeah! I am so happy about this. Been praying like crazy that this would be the result. And my prayers have been answered.

But the other side of me is filled with jittery nerves. Though her liver is cancer-free, she is not cancer free. A couple weeks back she was told she has eye cancer. It's not a common form of cancer, but she has it. And because she has eye cancer, on September 28th she will be undergoing surgery and losing her eye and her sight.

I have tried to remain positive as I hear news of her symptoms and doctors visits. I try to think: Please, just let it be only her eye. And it is. But it is her eye. And her sight. And how can I be positive when someone I love is going through such a horrible, life-changing event? I mean, thank God it's "only" her eye, but damn, it's her eye!

My friend seems to be taking this process very well. Really, what else can you do? Life is what it is and it sends a lot of blows our way. This time, it's a whopper. And I just wish I knew what I could say or do to try and make it all okay. But nothing I say or do can make it all okay. It just isn't something that is okay. Someone I love has cancer, and it's already taking a piece of her she loves. It sucks.

I hope that throughout the course of this experience, that at the very least she will come to learn how very much she is cared about and loved. I hope hse knows that I am here for her and will do anything I can to help. That my shoulder is open for a good cry, my mind filled with useless jokes to make her smile. That I am so very sorry this is happening to her and her family.

I can continue to pray. I can buy her her favorite tea. I can show up for lunch with the girls. And I can be here, there, anywhere if and when I am needed.

Cancer, you may be taking her eye, but you will never take her sight, for she sees people as they are and looks at them beyond what an eye can see and accepts them and loves them for who they are. her sight goes beyond her eyes. And that, that you will never take from her.


9.02.2011

Introducing....



We were on summer vacation in Austria and Czech Republic. One day, we went to visit the zoo. There were bears and goats and a leopard and monkeys...and a cage full of bunnies and guinea pigs. And on the cage was a sign: For Sale: Guinea Pigs €7, Rabbits €10

And Jari fell head over heels in love. With Gizmo. Whom I now introduce as our newest family member,he has given friendship to our lonely Rudy since his brother, Crocky died. So, our little gremlin (well, Jari's, but I can call him mine too, right?!) Gizmo. Isn't he a doll?



8.31.2011

Happy Bday Jari


Dear Jari,

Hey my 10 year old! How did that happen, you already in the double digits? Sometimes it seems as if you have always been with me, sometimes as if it were just yesterday that I was screaming to get you out on the hospital bed. And when finally you popped out into the world and they laid you on my chest, it was then that I knew my world was complete, my family whole. It was then that I looked at you and kissed your face and made you a promise that I would be the best mommy I possibly can. I have kept that promise my dear boy. I may not always get it right, and life may be just a little more crazy for us than for many others, but I do always do my best.

And I think we're doing okay. You awakened with sleepy hair and half-closed eyes and as you trippel-trapped down the steps I greeted you with a big hug and Happy Birthday 10 year old, and you fell into my arms and wrapped your hands around my neck. And it is in those moments that we share something strong and special and it makes all those parenting mistakes slip away into the background and the love come out and shine, and what is more important than that. A security and togetherness and knowing we have a place in the world. I think that is something very strong for both of us. Giving and taking and supplementing each other to complete each other. It is truly beautiful.

You were so very happy on your 10th birthday! All day there was a light in your eyes that just sparkled and you giggled and you laughed and you acted goofy and you smiled. I was utterly taken aback at the relaxed mode you were in, just complete joy that it was your special day and by golly, you were there to enjoy every second! You have something about you that holds you back sometimes, a shyness, fear, disharmony, and I worry about that in you as it often prevents you from doing things you want to do, from getting the most out of life. But yesterday, that barrier was gone, and I saw a little boy who just enjoyed life and wasn't going to let anything stop him. I was so happy, right along with you.

All your friends came for your party and as each arrived you just shined more and more. I watched you playing before we left for the park and that smile, I wish I could hold it in place for an eternity. We went to Goolderheide to play on the playground and do mini golf and eat lunch and everyone loved the day. You all played flag tag in the woods and all 10 of you (10...10...sounds about right!) just really got on well and enjoyed the company, and were just nice kids I was proud to say were part of our repertoire of friends. Riding bikes as you all wore your new vests mama painted with your names and they all really loved...I am so glad I have you to keep those little things important in my life. Things I love to do but don't do often enough, like painting...you help bring out that creativity in me and that is what brings me joy. Being creative, just as you are when you just do it!

You called Kaeden and Gramma and Grampa and when you were speaking to your brother on the phone, you smiled the whole time telling him about your party and when you told him "I miss you, and I can't wait to see you Thursday" it made my heart melt. Kaeden is hard to live with sometimes, but knowing you truly miss him and accept him as our family and love him as your brother no matter what, well, kiddo, that makes you strong amd generous and those qualities, because of living life with Kaeden, will help you to succeed in life. It may be hard, but I am glad you are able to put the bad behind and just accept that life is what it is and this is my brother, and he is mine no matter what.

Oma, opa and Ilse came to watch your soccer training and party with us for dinner. You liked your soccer cake I made to surprise you and even explained the perspective of the ball in relation to the net which was much too small...what a smart kid I have! Throughout every moment of the time they were here, you shined my boy. You glowed all day and I just hope that being 10 always brings you so much wonderful in life. You play little tricks on people, just little things that noone else would think to say or do...quick-witted and really good at being funny...not outwardly annoyingly funny, but just enough to make it hilarious. You used your please and thank you's (which you don't like to do!) and I just saw the kid you are and hiding behind that, the man you will become. Someone a little like your dad and a little like your mom and a little like yourself to make this really terrific combination of a person. In your actions, personality and eyes, I really saw that we are doing okay!

I am so glad you enjoyed your birthday lil bug. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you happy. Nothing makes me more proud than knowing part of that happiness comes from me...my actions, my discipline, my love. You are my heart! Happy Birthday to my very favorite ten year old. Get out there and dance like noone is watching! xoxo Mama

8.30.2011

Kaed's coming HOME!

My son is coming home! I haven't seen my boy since June 24th when I dropped him at the airport for summer adventures in America. It was long enough when I thought I'd see him Sunday, but when Hurricane Irene arrived, she replaced my son's arrival with cancellations and now it's past when I expected to see him but he's going to be home Thursday! That only took me 10 hours on the phone and my mom even more, but guess what? My son? He's coming home!!!

This summer has flown by, and lucky for me I was very busy doing this, that, and the other. I didn't have a lot of time to actually miss Kaeden, as in really miss him, just thinking about him and what he's doing and how he is and what's he doing now and I wonder where he is and is he awake yet? I thought of him plenty, and also had enough opportunity to communicate with him so it wasn't too bad and I know he had a blast, because every time I talked to him (except the time we were discussing his cancelled flight due to the hurricane) I could hear the smile in his eyes, and what more could a mom even wish for than that smile shining in his eyes and his heart.

There wer eno major blow-ups during the entire summer, and the problems that did arise seem to have been easily handled without too much difficulty. So, it all went well and I am so glad he had this opportunity. I am sure he has grown (well, he told me today he looks pregnant he's gained so much weight...) and been encased in love which is more difficult to come by here in his home in Europe. He is loved, but being with his grandparents he bonded with from day one gives him more security than anything else. And he really has a fondness for America.

In any case, my son will be home soon! I can't wait to see him and just have him in my midst again. It has been a wonderful break, but I'm ready to have him in my presence and life again.

8.02.2011

Rest In Peace

In loving memory of my little Crocky who stays with us in spirit. May you find health, lots of fresh veggies, and the very crunchiest of hay in the place you have gone. I will miss your wheeting and wiggling nose my little friend. Rest In Peace.

7.25.2011

The Life of 40






Wow, it has been a long time since I have written. Every day I think, "I need to blog about this." But it just never happens. However, life has been happening. And the past number of weeks have been magnificent and good in every single way. I turned forty. I am now officially Óver The Hill' but if being over the hill means having what I have had as of late, I am happy I am here.

First, Jari and I went on our trip to London. It was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing vacations I could have imagined. I got to see my parents and my gramma, and I witnessed the reuniting of two elderly sisters whose love can be touched and made every one of my senses alive. I realized that even being far away in Europe, I have extended family fairly close by and they are all people I can turn to in times of need. They were very welcoming and hospitable and I sincerely enjoyed getting to know them more. And then, Jari and I explored London on our own for two days which was pure enjoyment from dawn til dusk with my little man. Never have I enjoyed him as much as on those two days we shared together, It was a trip I will always hold very close to my heart. When on top of the London eye, my little boy gave me a riddle to solve: "Mama" he said with two thumbs pointed in the air. "Who is somehwere here that has two thumbs and is having the vacation of a lifetime?" he asked. And as I looked at him again, he tilted his thumbs to point at himself and yelled out "ME!" And the delight in his eyes at everything surrounding him and the feeling of his hand in mine as we toured the city will be etched in my mind forever.

Party Number One: With my English family, my son, my parents and my grandmother in our little Roydon vacation house. Streamers complete with 40 decorating our little bungalow, cups of strong, hot tea, and a cake made out of muffins. A birthday Sunday traditional dinner at Morehen "Horse" restaurant complete with Knickerbocker Glory, and then a gift given to me which was like a treasured piece of heaven. A book, made of handcrafted wood boards made by my brother, a gold plaque stating 40 Years of Tera's Memories, and pages filled with photos, messgaes of love, old cards and pictures, baby announcements, awards I accomplished, and the wristband from the hospital when I was born. It was a gift that brought tears to my eyes and made the trip totally complete.

Friday evening, after our trip, Jari and I were playing Lord of the Rings on Playstation when the doorbell rang. I sent Jari downstairs to see who it was and he climbed back up telling me I needed to go down. When I opened the door, 30 people were standing there yelling Surprise and singing Happy Birthday to me, in English. The soccer club had placed the coveted door before my house, with a poem about my life and photos of me welcoming me into the 40 Club. In Belgium, it is tradition to have an old door placed in front of your home every 10 years starting at 30. This was a gift to me. It made me feel as if my life here in Belgium is complete, as if I have been welcomed here and accepted and am now óne of the club'. The poem they wrote showed me that my activities and life in Belgium are numerous when all stacked together in a poem, and that I have found my niche living in this faraway home. What my soccer friends did for me, they will never know, but it really gave me a place where I felt competely home.

Party Number Two: Soccer friends and kids running amuck playing hide and seek, adults conversing with beer and coke and bowls of chips in our humble backyard.

Saturday, breakfast with my guys complete with a vase filled with 40 red roses from my husband and gifts hidden in the yard by my son (a poem written completely by him, he also has a gift for words, and a little paper-created city) before heading off to Helmond Sport stadium for Open Day. My son goes through the soccer circuit, scoring high points. He looks good out there on the field, and my husband and I watch and cheer him on. We buy jerseys for an amazing price of €1 each worn by the players in the previous season. It's a fun afternoon, only just beginning, because my in-laws hosted a birthday dinner for me at their place. Jari and Erwin and Oma made me a fruit cake when we arrived, and we ate it up upon completion, yum! I got some gifts, the highlight being a piece of paper. Written on it was a gift certificate for a trip to Paris! Which is already reserved and arranged for a 3 day adventure this coming weekend. Wow! My sister-in-law came with reading glasses and a guide book for Paris, as well as some spending money. Have I ever said how much my in-laws mean to me, how grateful I am to them for giving me family and love and support? For making me feel special? I think I have said it many times in the past, but it remains strong to this day. They knew I wanted to visit Paris, and they are making that dream happen, for me.

Party Number Three: At oma and opa's house with Ilse and Michel, Tante Ricky and Ome Karel, Omam, Opap, and us. I arrived to find balloons and streamers decoratin the walkway to their home, along with signs stating all the reasons 40 is so great (botox, reading glasses, etc) complete with pictures of Moi! A delicious gourmet dinner, bottles of wine, and good conversation. And they did it all at my request for me. And it touched my heart.

Sunday, slept in late and woke up to get things ready. Party Number Four just around the corner, a BBQ for friends hosted by us. The weather wasn't helpful and we had to shuffle stuff around, and my husband helped to create a wonderful little BBQ world in rain-filled skies. The food was good and way too plentiful (as always), and my home was filled with friends and laughter and stories of life. I received another gift, another gift that cannot be replaced and will always touch me deeply. A photo book of my life, pictures of me growing up and now, with friends and family, me smiling and being goofy (and even a little naughty). And on those pages were also letters written to me by all these people I have crossed paths with in my life, people I have come to know and many of whom have become a second family to me. These pages filled my heart with joy. In my 40 years here on earth, I have found a good mix, a good balance, and a good basis for a wonderful life. I have been truly blessed, and from the words on those pages I have also blessed others with my presence. It is a special gift to know you have touched others lives, and this book was testament that I have. I had to put my book down to collect myself as tears filled my eyes. I am loved, oh so loved, and by so many people. What a wonderful gift.

Party Number....nope, no more parties. 40 has come and will remain til 41, and with it I have realized what a gift my life is. I am blessed, truly. Life is a party. You have to bring out the party hats and streamers and make each day alive, find that sunshine and make it glow. I think 40 has given me another new start, a place to start fresh knowing my life is complete (even tho I miss my other son who is loving every minute of his vacation in America!). Happy Birthday to me, and Thank you to all of you in it with me. Much love!

6.22.2011

England

Yesterday I spent a portion of my day making plans. PLans that are pretty exciting, to me and my family. See, a few months back, I was also making plans. PLans for Jari and I to make a trip to England for my aunt Lucy's 90th surprise birthday party! I bought train tickets for the two of us to go, happy I was able to be there to represent my family. To visit with these people I don't see often enough, to be there to celebrate the life of an amazing woman I have come to treasure over the years of my own life. So, Jari and I were going to make the trek across the sea and spend five days enjoying London.

Then, yesterday, new plans were made. My dad, impulsive though he is, decided he was bringing my gramma to her sister's birthday party to surprise her! She decided to make the trip, so I made the reservations for my dad, mom, and gramma to meet us in London! And, the thought of being encircled in the bosom of my family has me feeling pretty good!

Even more, I am so so so happy that my gramma and her sister will be reunited once again. The surprise on my Aunt Lucy's face is one already etched in my mind before the event takes place. These two women, my gramma and her sister, have shared a very special bond in life. As babies, they were given up by their parents and lived in a children's home in London. When Lucy was old enough, she left and married, and took my gramma home to live with her. When the war broke out, my gramma was once again on her own, serving in the women's force of the army. This is where she met my grampa, and when the war was over she moved to America to begin a life with him, having seven children of her own, never giving them up.

Lucy and gramma have visited each other throughout the years, both in England and America. They have kept a close bond throughout the years, and on Lucy's last visit to America, they said their goodbyes, knowing it was the last time they would see each other in life. But, it wasn't the last time, because come her 90th birthday, my gramma will be there to share it with her sister...one last visit to share their laughter and smiles. It brings me a feeling of euphoria, this passion filling my heart, of two sisters having lived a terrible childhood, yet bringing them a connection that even great distance would survive.

And my dad and mom, bless them, know the importance of such family values, and are making it happen, this chance for them to be together one last time. It makes my heart sing and I am so glad I will have the opportunity to be present and witness the love that will be able to be felt and nearly touched. I am so grateful my parents have passed their values of family onto me, to allow me this joy in seeing two sisters united.

Plus, my kiddo, Jari, is so excited he gets to see gramma and grampa and great-gramma again! And me too!! When my children have the opportunity to be with their grandparents, it's like a light of love surrounds me and I feel complete happiness. So, it's a good thing, this planning, because it gives me something to look forward to, and something to bring joy upon impact!

6.03.2011

College

I am a college graduate. I have a bachelor's degree in elementary education with a minor in art. It's something that I worked very hard to achieve, and I am proud of the fact that I made it. During my school years I had a child and was a single parent. My child was very ill, for much of the time I was in school. We spent many weeks in the hospital where my son lay under tents trying to stay alive. It was not an easy task, for either of us. Early in the morning I would drop him off at daycare, attend my classes, go to my teaching experiences, then pick him up around dinnertime to spend a few hours playing before bath and bedtime. While he slept, I studied, or later, made my class schedules and prepared my lessons. We were busy, but we did okay. My grades were excellent, considering, and I sincerely enjoyed my classes once I got into my area of study.

I also had some night classes. These I did not enjoy. It was tough enough to find a daycare open during the day, let alone babysitters or a daycare during the evening. But I searched them out and found sitters who took my son in during these evening classes. None of these turned out to be good experiences. Though I loved our regular daycare and felt very secure and safe with my son there, the babysitters gave me a sense of discomfort. At the time, I had no choice. If I were to do it again, I would have searched further.

One evening daycare was a place that was also a daycare during the day. It was in a family home, but the family was less than stellar. Though the lady who cared for my son seemed kind, her own adult children living with her were less than appropriate. They drank, smoked, and were in jail for one thing or another. The lady also cared for her grandchild, a little girl who had criminal parents and was placed in grandma's care. Whenever I picked Kaeden up from her care. he seemed happy enough, but I always felt a tiny niggling doubt in the back of my mind. Something just wasn't quite up to par. I never did figure out what it was as I went with my gut instinct and found a new childcare provider.

This was in the form of a highschool girl living in our appartment complex. In the beginning, I really loved her. She came to play with Kaeden even on her 'off' hours, and we became friends, going shopping together, going to movies. Her own mom was a single working mother, so she found a place with me when she had noone else to turn to. It was a good thing, and I knew I could trust my son with her. I paid her well, and she enjoyed having her own spending money.

The problems started when she started dating a guy. He changed her. He would often come along to babysit, and Kaeden took a real liking to the guy. He was a bit older than our sitter, and had his own car. They asked if they could take Kaeden out for dinner, to go to the park. At first, I said no, but as I got to know them more, I allowed them short outings. However, one night I came home late from my class, when Kaeden should have been long in bed. The house was dark, and they were nowhere to be found. I went all over the apartment complex asking if they knew where my son was. There was no note, no phone call, and his car seat was still in the house. Brandi and her boyfriend showed up finally, just about the time I was planning to call the police. I let them have it as I held my son half-asleep in my arms. They were no longer allowed to take Kaeden out, and Brandi's boyfriend was no longer allowed to come over while she was working. Our relationship also changed, and she no longer liked me as much due to my becoming so hard. We quit doing things together, and our relationship turned into a working one.

One evening, I came home a bit early as I had an exam and finished early. When I got home, I saw my son watching tv on the couch and just a foot away from him were Brandi and her boyfriend doing more than just making out on the couch. I threw them outside, along with their clothes, and never saw her again. Not even around the apartment complex. I took her last pay to her mother, and discussed the situation with her. They moved shortly thereafter.

It was tough. But we made it through, my son and I.

A few days back my mom and I were discussing my cousin, who graduated from high school this year. She will be attending college and we were discussing what college means. I was 17 when I started attending college. I was not ready. My grades were horrible and I did a lot of partying. I lived in a dorm and then house with other college students. It was fun and adventurous, but studying did not fit in my calendar of events. I eventually dropped out and went on to New York to be a nanny and play and enjoy and explore. When I returned to school, I was 21 and went parttime. When I was 23 I had Kaeden, and when I was 24 I got serious. My little boy gave me the opportunity to find myself and know I had to make a life for him. I chopped down and my grades were perfect. I enjoyed my classe and loved teaching. I had finally found the place I belonged.

My mom never went to college. My dad did, while I was in high school. My mom regrets not going, and talking to her a few days back was the first time I ever knew this. She has had what I consider a successful life. She raised a family and created a successful business. She wishes she had attended school.

I am proud of my degree and all I went through to receive it. However, I have not been able to put it to use living her ein Europe. It frustrates me. But I know that what I accomplished was something big, and I feel pride within myself for doing so. And pride that I now am a stay-at-home mom so my children don't have to keep up with the demands of a lfying schedule. They come and go and mama is always there to give them security. One day, i will use my degree in the field. Today, I am using it to be smart enough to give my boys what they need, before life overcomes them and they have to start making adult decisions of their own.

5.26.2011

How To Act

I'm home. And I still feel jittery, almost as if I have done something wrong. But I haven't. What I have done is good and right, something that shouldn't need consideration or thought. Yet, it took courage, it took thought, and consideration. It took energy. What do I say? Should I smile and laugh? How will she react? Will she want my company?

Today I took a leftover meal from our women's club party to the neighbor lady whose husband committed suicide a few weeks ago. We made up a plate of food with the thought that she would be happy to have it, and the comfort of knowing we cared. As she is my personal member, I was asked to bring her the food. When I was asked, it took me a moment to say Okay. It took me a moment to catch my breath and find the strength to take on such a task. But I said okay, and I completed my task, and I am glad I did.

She didn't take the plate of food (my kids are coming tonight and i already cooked) but she invited me in and told me she had only a short time to visit before she needed to leave. I wasn't sure I was welcome or she was being polite, but I am still glad I took the opportunity to do the right thing. What this accomplished was her knowing that I care, that though the funeral is over and the act forgotten by most, that she is still important and still thought of and we are open when and if she needs someone to turn to.

I drank a glass of water, talked about the weather and the garden and her kids and her parents, but we sidestepped the conversation of her husband and his death. I didn't know what was appropriate, what is appropriate in such a situation. But the simple act of my presence and my offer to be available if she needs me was well received. She thanked me for stopping by, told me she would appreciate me coming again as she said goodbye at the door.

It could have been an act, one of courage on her part as well, but that doesn't matter. I opened myself up and she let me in.

Coming to terms with how to act is not necessary in such a situation. Just being there is action enough. And today, I took action and showed someone that I care.


5.17.2011

Dots of Goings On

  • It's raining and cold today. Nothing like the rain to make the grass grow and the flowers bloom once the sun shines again. I'm trying to keep it positive. Really, I don't like rainy, cold days. It gets me from the inside out, deep in my bones. And I can't complain, our weather has been extremely good for the past 6 weeks. I just wish it would stay that way. In this part of the world we have far too many rainy, gray days. I come alive in the sun. Just like the grass and flowers. I just don't need the rain to give me the kick to shine.
  • Soccer has been overtaking our lives lately. Between Kaeden and Jari we've spent a good portion of free time standing on the side lines cheering for our boys. Sunday Jari took part in TWO tournaments. That meant an ENTIRE day from sun-up to sun-down at the games. I love watching my boys play, but I think we were a bit too enthusiastic last weekend. By game 6 Jari was starting to drag. Game 7 and the kid couldn't put one foot in front of the other. He fell asleep in the car on the way home. Even a power shake didn't give him the extra energy he needed to continue. Last night we all attended Kaeden's game. He is a much different player than Jari but he's been doing a good job. He's been chosen for a number of games lately which shows that he's excelling which makes me so happy. Team sports are hard for kids with autism. When Kaeden first played, it didn't go well. But this year, he's shown he can do it, and he loves doing it. So, now we have two kids in soccer and it's time consuming. Time well spent and I love it, but it keeps us busy.
  • The electric in our home finally took a plunge. Our home is old and though much of the house has been rewired, there is a section that hasn't been. So, at this moment we have shut off the power and it needs to be rewired. That means a possible removal of floors, walls, ceilings...doesn't sound like something I am ready to do. It sounds like a big pain in the butt.
  • My hand has been annoying me. I have some infection which doesn't want to go away as the medication to make it go away doesn't carry to the infection due to the poor blood circulation in my hand and arm. So, the infection is spreadign instead of being cured. And I am supposed to be back in a sling not using it in the least. I haven't put it back in a sling, but I am being careful...as careful as I can with the act of life. The bad part about it is that when you have pain, it just sits there and bugs you all day long. You can't shake the overwhelming feeling and just enjoy life. There's always that little issue to remind you of your shortcomings, of the accident, of the handicap. And it's annoying.
  • Kaeden is leaving fro America in 5 weeks. It is overwhelming me. I am getting nervous and excited for him all in the same breath. I am letting him fly alone on a direct flight without unaccompanied minor assistance. He is so proud of this fact. I am a little fearful. All the what-if's keep running through my mind. He'll do great. He is a seasoned traveller, knows the ins and outs. But what-if? I keep thinking maybe I should go ahead and pay for the service. But he is so proud that I feel he is able to make this trek alone. I don't want to take that sense of independence away from him. He can do it, right? It's just one flight, just one gate to find and do so in a timely manner. It's just keeping his passport safe for 10 hours. It's just taking his meds alone once. It's just going through security once, and passport control once. Oooh, what if?
  • There is so much going on around here lately. This time of year is full of all the end of year school stuff, end of year sports stuff, as well as all these parties...we are part of the turning 40 crowd, and everyone wants to celebrate this milestone. That means lots of weekends filled with parties. Parties are fun, in general. But sometimes you have too much of a good thing. And I still have difficulty with the language in noisy, crowd-filled spaces. An hour is great, 2 hours is doable, 3 hours and I have a headache.
  • A man in our village died last week. Didn't just die, but hung himself. He lived just a few houses down from us and I can't shake this feeling of betrayal. I feel for his wife, for his children. What must she/ they be going through? How would it feel to come home from grocery shopping, put your bike away and see your husband hanging there in a noose dead before your eyes? I helped during the services, serving to the families during the after burial reception (do you call it that?) as is customary for neighbors to do here in our village. This woman is someone I have regualr contact with and seeing her made me ache. I just can't imagine. And then, while we were cleaning the hall after the lunch, people were discussing what she was wearing...tan pants and a purple sweater...and how that is disrespectful to not be dressed in black. And I wnated to scream at them: YOU THINK IT IS DISRESPECTFUL TO WEAR TAN PANTS AND A PURPLE SWEATER? WHAT ABOUT HANGING YOURSELF WHERE YOU KNW YOUR WIFE WILL COME HOME AND FIND YOU DEAD? THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS DISRESPECTFUL! Sometimes, I don't know what goes through people's heads? Why should we care what someone is wearing? Shouldn't we be there to support others, to be friendly and nice? Why is gossip so important?
  • And that is what has been going on around here. Keeping me busy and questioning life and the ways of the world. I'm sure there will soon be more to come.... in the meantime, here's a few pics of a few boys out there on the field.

5.06.2011

Health Issues

I have been thinking non-stop about my parents, my in-laws, my grandparents lately. It's been kind of driving me a little crazy. I am so worried about the health of all these people I love. When we're little kids, our parents seem so old to us, our grandparents ancient. As we grow into teens, the age gap seems to lessen and we see them more realistically...a generation gap away. As adults, we recognize that they are getting older, but they no longer seem quite so distant in years. But then, suddenly, they hit 60, and 60 sounds old-ish. 65 is the age of retirement. 70, wow, 70.

And as our parents age, health complications begin to arise. Whether in the form of a hip replacement, a stroke, alzheimers, broken bones, allergies, high blood pressure, or diabetes, these ailments become noticeable and we see our parents attending the physician's office more frequently. With age inevitable comes frail health.

Neither my in-laws nor my parents are in the best of health. Each of them suffers from one thing or another, and as they suffer, I suffer along with them. It scares me and makes me worry. And when I get scared and worried, I have a tendency to distance myself, to lessen my own worry, I assume. But it remains, as I see oma struggle to walk, opa cringe when there is too much noise, my mom tell me of her bloodtest results, and my dad as he complains of the arthritis in his hands aching so he can't even drive.

It's easy for me to negate my parents, being physically distanced form them means I don't directly see their ailments...until I see them after a time span and notice the limp in their step, the further balding, the swollen feet. Sometimes it makes it nearly unbearable, seeing the decline in my parents' health after our time apart. But nearly weekly I am in the presence of my in-laws, and I notice this or that or the other and though their negative decline is less noticebale than a reunion with my own parents, it definitely exists and I am confronted with it regularly.

I can't imagine losing one of these people who mean so much. Each of them plays such an importnat role in my life. Opa has allowed me to be myself and laughed with me as I adjusted to becoming a European, made my adjustment easier with him around. Oma is a loving woman with a very open personality which was hard for me in the beginning, but I have come to appreciate, trust, and love. She tells it like it is, and that makes it easy; no second-guessing what she is thinking. My mom is my best friend. I can discuss anything with her and know she will support me no matter what. Even from afar, there is never a doubt to who I will turn when I need a listening ear. My dad and I always had íssues'when I was growing up. He called me out when I needed it, and was a disciplinarian. As I have grown older, he and I have become good friends in addition to him being my dad. We share many of the same ideals and have compassion for each other. He is the man I have always looked up to and has shown me what hard work means, and what you can achieve by being a hard worker.

My grandparents on my mom's side are both still alive, and for this I feel completely blessed. They have given my children the feeling of having that so important extended family. However, neither is free of health problems as well as their age (92 and 84) give reason to worry. They are both at peace with their lives and both are ready for the day their Father calls them home. I'm not sure I am so ready for that day. I am extremely close to my gramma especially, and can't imagine not hearing her voice or receiving her hugs.

This all means that my family bonds are very strong, and for that I am grateful. But it does play a part in the pain and worry when each of them is in pain or has health problems. Being so far away from my parents and grandparents adds an extra burden, and though within the vicinity of my in-laws, we are not close enough for me to help on a daily basis, like I wish I could. Lately I have been doubting the decisions we have made with regards to distancing ourselves physically from family. Though our emotional bond remains close, we aren't nearby to help or be around for them when we are needed. And that plays on my heart.

I know that we need to do what is necessary to make a life for ourselves. We need to consider our children and the path our lives have led us and be together when the time allows. And we do that well, I think. However, health issues arise and it makes me wonder. Just what are our expectations in caring for our aging parents? And how will we achieve this task and fulfill our role as their children?

4.26.2011

Gumball Soccer


Last night tucking Jari into bed was a total and complete adventure. He talked and talked and talked without taking a breath. At 11, he was finally yawning and rubbing his eyes...and once again, I fell asleep before him, singing songs and rubbing his back as I drifted off still fully clothed.

Our conversation last night was started by a book I picked up in the library, called Just Ask. It is filled with one question per page of simple things a kid can answer, such as :what do you think your parents looked like when they were little, or what is your dad good at? The questions just get kids actively thinking about the things in their life.

One question, or rather the answer from my son, made me giggle. The question: What was it like living in your mama's tummy before you were born? With a sigh, Jari asked to skip that page. "It was so boring in there I can't even talk about it." he answered. But with a little prodding I told him it couldn't have been so very boring. "Oh yeah," he replied. "I didn't have too much room, but I sure could kick good in there, huh mama?" he chuckled. "I know, I know" he continued. "It was in your tummy I learned to be such a good soccer player. I think you ate a gumball and swallowed it whole and it came in your tummy and that was my soccer ball, " he went on. "And the way babies are curled up in their mama's tummy, they can do really good backward scissor kicks."

Jari paused for awhile as we looked over the illustration of the inside of a woman's body, with a baby growing in her womb. "Mama, I think I was much better at backward kicks even before I was born cuz I practiced with a gumball in your tummy!" he suddenly replied. "Mama, when you let me kick you all the time, I was learning to be a good soccer player. I think being in your tummy wasn't boring, but I got to play soccer all day long!!! And that's why I am so good at it now." he answered proudly.

I started to reply, but he flipped the page "Next one...."

So, now we know what babies do in their mama's tummy. Mama's just need to swallow gumballs whole and when her baby pops out, he'll be a little soccer star! Isn't imagination fun? In any case, I am enjoying the book as it gives me a very good view into his thoughts about life. And it gives him a chance to really consider things around him. And of course, let his creativity flow!

Oh, and it was me that gave him the opportunity to be the best lil soccer player there is, of course :-) See that there gold medal? GOLD!!! Yep, that's what he won at soccer camp last week. He is my "Rising Star"....and just how'd he achieve that? Kicking mama before he was born. I think I deserve one point for that revelation!

4.21.2011

Me and My Man


Tonight, we're going to be kid-free, my man and I. It's such a strange experience as the kids grow up and have other agendas, and you find yourself alone with this person you chose as your life partner. What do you do, when there are no little people to keep tabs on? The answer should be obvious, but somehow it isn't. Life has gotten comfy and normal and it is just what it is. Having a major orgy together, as interesting as it sounds, just doesn't fit into the picture of life we have created together. But, you never know...

So, I've got steaks marinating in the fridge, took a little extra time shaving in the shower this morning, and cleaned up a few messes I have been meaning to do all week. When he comes home tonight, it's going to be him and I, maybe a movie after dinner, maybe a game, maybe a walk to the canal. I don't know what's in store for us, but I do know the balance has been tilted, what with our little peeps growing into their own.

Kaeden is happily tucked away at his home away from home having fun vacation outings with his friends while Jari has been attending soccer camp all week. Today I hope to watch him receive a trophy for one thing or another as he has definitley earned one with his dedication and fanaticism of the sport. And then, he'll head off for a sleepover with oma and opa, something he asked to do all on his own.

Tomorrow I plan to take Kaeden to the movies, Jari will be off galivanting with oma and opa, and my husband will be off to work. But tonight, just for tonight, it's me and my man. I hope we can find something to talk about that doesn't revolve around the kids. And if we can't find a happy medium in the verbal communications department, there's always an alternative. One way or another, though it's not a typical evening to come, it's going to be a good one...just me and my man!

4.16.2011

It Hurts


It hurts.
I watch him prepare his bag, fill it with clothes and special mementos.
I watch him write a list of all he is to bring.
I watch him without him knowing.
I watch him, and it hurts.

Do you have everything? I ask
A mama and her son.
Yes, I wrote it all down, he says
And I check his list.
You need your coat I say
And I run out to the laundry line and tear it off
I smell his coat, but his scent is gone, clean with soap and sun and air

He pulls his backpack on his back.
He puts his coat on as I hand it to him
And his hand fleetingly touches mine
A mama and her son.

His touch makes me ache, it hurts
A stabbing pain in my heart
As he reaches towards me for a kiss
A kiss, something you do when you say goodbye
For me, a promise of my love
Tender lips touching
A mama and her son.

It's Saturday night, time to go
The sky just beginning to turn dark
As is my spirit as I hug him to me
His coat and his backpack covering
His body I long to feel in my arms.

It hurts, and tears fill my eyes
But will not fall, cannot fall
I must be brave, have courage and faith
This is best, this is what he needs
Goodbye my son, I love you.

And the door closes as he glances back towards me
Seeing the tears threatening to fall
And I smile, have fun this week, kiddo, I say
And as the latch closes tight, I hurt.

And one tear falls as I turn towards the kitchen
To where there is light
And I make a cup of coffee as I tell myself over and over again:
This is best, he needs this, he wants this
He loves this.

But I need you, I want you, I love you, my boy.
And it hurts.

4.07.2011

Doctor Mommy


Sometimes we as parents do something that is perfectly right and it makes us feel proud of our parenting ability. In general, parenting is a difficult game and we usually come out on the bottom, either criticizing ourselves for what we have (or haven't) done, or being criticized by our kids when we do something they don't approve of...often! Though this may not mean our parenting skills are lacking, it does take some of the fun out of this lifelong game in which we have chosen to partake.

There are, however, moments in which we realize our ability and feel confident and secure with these young lives we have been given to teach, love, share, and bewonder. I had one of those moments this week. And it's just those itty bitty things that give us just enough ooomph to keep chugging along.

I noticed Jari was in the bathroom frequently. He has a pretty typical pattern and I know when he has to pee. And it's almost never at school. When he came home and told me he had to pee three times at school, my mama alert went into motion. I watched him over the course of a few days, expecting him to complain of burning or pain when he peed, but nope, he just had to pee a lot. One night as I was tucking him in, he told me he had to pee first...and this after just having gone. After singing him his songs I came down and made an appointment with the doc for the following morning.

The doctor took a urine sample (what a process "Ï don't have to pee now mama! I can't pee in that little jar! What happens if I can't pee?"...but eventually enough little drops filled the bottom of the jar) after I told him the problem and he asked ME what I thought the problem was (Uhm, I would assume it's a bladder infection, though without the pain or burning it makes my conclusion somewhat less viable...I thought I was in med school doing rounds...ha). The sample came back positive with little bladder infection bugs. I had concluded correctly!

When Jari asked what that meant and I told him there were some little bugs in his bladder that we needed to make go away with medicine, the doctor laughed and said he was going to use that explanation for kids from now on. Yes, young doctor, I could teach you a thing or two! But since I can't write my own prescription, please do so for me.

We were handed a prescription, paid our fee (which Jari was in total shock that 10 minutes could cost so much...ha! and when I told him he could pay it with his allowance, I was returned a hearty laugh in your face NO WAY! That's your job cuz you're the mama!) and headed to the pharmacy.

Like I said, it's just the little things. Being aware of your kids, knowing them inside and out, and recognizing that you do. I felt a great sense of pride that without any complaint I was able to pinpoint the problem and do what had to be done.

Being a parent is hard work. It takes energy, time, passion, money, and love. But recognizing that you're doing a good job with the health and happiness of your little peeps, that's worth more than all the money in the world!

3.31.2011

Driving

Today I planned a day out with a girlfriend. For Christmas, I bought her a surprise of High Tea and we just got around to going. She had no clue what our plans were which I always find even more fun. I picked her up and off we went.

I discovered that since my accident and having no current driving experience, I am not nearly as good a driver as I used to be. I think I really need to get out and drive more to gain back some confidence on the road.

Today was the first time I have driven any distance, and I got the okay from my therapist as long as I didn't overdo it to my hand. But what I wasn't prepared for was how much effort it took to drive. Watching everything going on around me, seeing bikers coming at me, one way streets and railroad tracks. It was a bit overwhelming, and by the time we reached our destination, I couldn't wait to get out of the car. Something I used to love and would take any chance to do just doesn't hold the same appeal for me now. Too bad.

Before we reached the safety of the parking spot, I needed to turn around. I pulled into a driveway to do so, backed out, slowed down to allow a biker to pass, and then rammed right into the back of a parked car. On my first day driving in two years. It really shook me up. The lady who saw it happen told me there was no damage as I was getting out of the car to check it out. As I have had no accident in Belgium/Holland, I wasn't quite sure what the procedure was. When she cleared me to go, I asked if she was sure and when she gave me the go ahead, we continued on our way, my hands shaking fiercely.

After our high tea, which was lovely but not quite as spectacular as I had hoped, and definitely not good value for money, I went back to have another look at the car. It was an older Volvo with a rusted bumper and I don't think it did any damage. My car had one small knick on the bumper as well as some paint on the tow hitch. Nothing serious, but enough to scare me about my driving ability. I realise why I wasn't allowed to drive earlier. I know that driving isn't just the physical ability, but also the mental capability.

I need more driving practice before I take on another 'long' trip. My hand feels the workout, but my soul feels just a little more battered than either of the vehicles involved.