Saturday, September 07, 2002

Highly necessary after the past few days:

Five things that have made me happy:

1) When I told Kai last night before bed "Thank you for being you" (I sometimes say this to the kids), he answered "Thank *you* for being *you*, so I can be *me*". It was just so wonderful of a statement.

2) Photographing a bunch of beautiful butterflies this afternoon, nature sure has quite a palette!

3) When I saw Rick dressed in his workout clothes today, to go to the gym with me and endure my griping about my mother, even though I know he is not fond of talking while exercising.

4) When Rick came home with a computer program that teaches Dutch for him and the kids to use. It's so special they all make such an effort to speak *my* language!

5) Talking to my brother and sister and feeling their love and support and knowing that, even if my mom is lost to our family, we won't fall apart, my dad and my siblings and nieces and nephews will still be there and care just as much.
It's been an emotional few days, since my mother came back from the Netherlands. I don't really feel like telling the whole story here again, as I'm sure it will stick in my memory forever. But I'll have to get used to life without a mother, so much is clear.

On Thursday, Christine and I went to the National Gallery of Art to get our minds off everything going on with our respective families (how did two people meet that have so much in common with each other? Coincidence? I think not!). Her mother has totally gone off the deep end and mine is not far behind, if not there already. Same background, same personality disorder, how creepy is that?

Anyway, the Gallery was great, quiet, serene, beautiful works of art and a wonderful little restaurant with a scrumptious buffet. Ah, that's the life!

On Friday I kept busy with workout, massage and haircut and meanwhile tried to mentally deal with the blows coming out of my parental home.

Today was similar. Rick was very sweet to go work out with me as I really needed a companion today. Besides that I mainly took pictures of all the different butterflies in our yard. So far, I identified the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (plentiful), the American Lady, the black female Eastern Tiger Swallowtailand the Great Spangled Fritillary . Some of the pictures turned out great as you can see!

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

And the schoolyear has started! First we had a wonderful day at the Renaissance Festival in Maryland on Monday. We brought Katja's friend Meghan and Kai's friend Nick with us. The boys really enjoyed the Torture museum (as did Katja, Meghan and Saskia stayed out) and the Unnatural History museum. We ate the wonderful food there, like sweet potato fries, fry ribbons, soup in a bread bowl and fried pickle (my personal favorite).
It's just always a lot of fun that festival. I didn't get a chance to shop much, so I definitely want to go again this season (it goes through mid-October).

My dad came along as well and we all ate dinner at the Renaissance Cafe nearby, a wonderful restaurant and appropriately named ;).

Yesterday was the first day of school! We got up at 6am, to get Katja ready for her bus at 7am. We were the only parents at the busstop, which kind of surprised me. But then I realized all the other kids had older siblings. Still, I'm fairly certain I will wait with Kai and Saskia as well.

Then we walked Kai and Saskia to their classes and took first day of school pictures. I went off to the gym, did a very tough class with Claudia (we both felt we were getting quite a workout! I guess the machines are good, but you do get used to them and the classes use muscles I didn't even know I had!).

After class and shower, quickly back to the school to help Saskia through her first lunch. She only needed me for about 10 minutes so I left and ate lunch at home (the school lunches just don't appeal to me!!).

On the first day of school our tradition is, that I get brightly colored poster board and stickers and shape that into a large cone, which I then fill with snacks and school supplies to make the homework more fun. I thought maybe Katja would feel too old for it now, but nothing was further from the truth! So I went and picked them all up with the huge cones in my arms.

Christine and I managed to get a manicure/pedicure in somewhere in between as well and I cooked dinner (fajita's) for the first time in a long time! I was utterly exhausted last night, as were the kids!

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Weekly wrap up (I liked this one!):

1. What is your earliest memory of going back to school? Describe the feelings you experienced and, if you can remember, something that happened that day.

My earliest memory is going to the first day of school in Senegal. I didn't know a word of French (I was 6) and was put in a totally French class. I remember I was very proud at the end of that day that I knew the word for "bird" was "pie".

2. Who was your first teacher? What do you remember about him/her?

Mevrouw (Mrs.) Zinkweg. She was my kindergarten teacher in Holland (the year before we moved to Senegal). I don't remember much about her, except that she had black hair.

3. Did you enjoy the first day of school as a child? Why or why not? Did you enjoy the first day of school as a teenager? Why or why not? If these feelings changed from childhood to teenage years, what happened to change them?

I enjoyed it, except when in grades 4, 5, 6 and 7. Those were the years I was teased mercilessly by one group of 4 kids. I would love to know what became of them. In 7th grade, my parents switched my school so I wouldn't be with that group (I came in in 4th grade from Senegal) and I never had a problem since.

4. What was the most exciting thing about starting school again? What was the most frustrating? Why?

I loved getting new books, supplies and everything. Most frustrating? The long bike ride to and from school! 5 miles each way, rain or shine (or snow).

5. If you have children in school now, how do you mark the occasion of the first day of school? If you don't have children, how did your family deal with the first day of school? What was the best part of the first day?

I await them after school with a construction paper cone, decorated with school stickers and filled with homework supplies (fun pencils, highlighters, bookmarks etc.) and candy. I start this tradition when Katja started first grade and it's always fun to get my mind off missing them that first day, while I buy the stuff and exciting for them to do their first homework of the year.
Second installment of the day, as Rick and I are playing Yahoo's Literati. Fun! It's still gloomy out, but our friend Kevin has taken his 3 kids and our 3 kids to Spy Kids 2. Yippee!

We had lunch at Ruby Tuesday's, they changed their menu and I had a wonderful chicken white chili soup and the salad bar (and snacked from Kai's buffalo wings and Rick's crabcake, but those are "free" calories, right? ;)).

Then we went to Payless , as Katja still needed "regular" shoes (non-sneakers) for school and Saskia needed sneakers (always hard with her, as she only likes "dress" shoes). Both were found though, this time. Plus a cute little purse for Katja for personal stuff at school.

When it's so gloomy outside, it's often hard to think of things that make me happy, but here goes:
1. Playing games with my hubby

2. The homey feeling of a sleeping dog at my feet and a sleeping cat on the chair. And the clock ticking quietly. It's home!

3. The greenery outside, it's amazing how quickly nature rebounces and looks green again after some rain!

4. Our friends, I can't say enough just how special they are, especially for taking our 3 all at once, LOL!

5. The prospect of a sunny day in our very near future, at least we know this weather never lasts beyond a few days here!
While the rain is streaming down, hopefully putting a dent in the nasty drought we've been having, I thought I'd update here. Katja's orientation at middle school on Friday afternoon turned into a little bit of an adventure. We went with her and the 2 six year olds and went straight to her locker. She had bought a bunch of stuff to spruce it up (didn't know there was so much you could put in your schoollocker, all magnetic: mirror, picture frames, pen holder, toilet bag, shelves and more!). Everything fit well, but the door seemed a little hard to close when we were done. We checked if anything was in the way, but no, so we gave it a good push and shut it.

As we tried to open it again (Katja wanted to practice her combination), it wouldn't budge! We had Rick and a friend, who was there as well, pull on it, hit on it etc. But nothing. So Katja and Rick went to get help and came back with the principal (a very nice man, glad to have met him now) and his keys. He opened the locker up and we were all puzzled as to why it jammed. Finally we figured out, that one of the shelves was right at the height of the lock, which made it turn wrong somehow. So we moved it and problem solved, yay!

Katja had become quite nervous through all this and wanted to walk through her schedule (literally, from classroom to classroom) several times. This is a big school, compared to her elementary school (though not as big as other middle schools!) and her classes were then upstairs, then downstairs. Good exercise for them throughout the schoolday! Plus they have daily PE, great!

But the 2 six year olds were getting tired and one of them lost a tooth (Jill) and that was a major happening, of course. So I stayed with them, chatted with the vice principal, while Rick went with Katja to her classes. The little girls sat on the floor by the front door, wiggling each others teeth, very cute! It struck me what a world of difference 6 years makes: at 6 they're still so little and at 12 on the brink of adolescence. Sniff!!!

I finished Katja's book, "Forever" by Judy Blume. It *was* too old for her, but I still think it's good she read it. She had read it on Monday night and woke me up at 2:45, because her nose was stuffed up. I thought she might have a cold, but it turned out to be because she had been crying while reading the book.
The book discusses the first true love of a high school senior, including intercourse, in a fairly graphic way. This was not mentioned on the back of the book or in any way clear by looking at the book, by the way, before anyone thinks I don't check what she reads.

She insisted I read the book too, so I did and, as an adult, I liked it and recognized much from my first love (and the "natural" end to that love, because I found someone else). I hope to have a talk with Katja about it. One thing Judy Blume mentioned that I really liked and will keep in mind, is that her character's parents wanted her to bring her boyfriends to her house, instead of "parking". Not because they didn't trust the girl, but because of criminals preying on people who "park".
The book is definitely beyond a twelve year old's scope, but we'll keep it around for her to re-read in later years. Not that I think she'll be one to jump into it, so to say, but this book is a good deterrent for casual sex.

Yesterday I went to the gym and chatted with my friend Jeanne, those are the best workouts, when I have someone to talk to. Then I dropped Kai and Saskia at a friend's house and chatted there too and my dad came over for dinner and we chatted some more. So yesterday was an unfruitful chat day ;).

Now we need to fill in this rainy day, as sitting at home brings back memories of boring, rainy Sundays in Holland, yuck! Though strangely enough, because it happens so rarely here, the occasional rainy day is welcome.