31 July, 2008

We're off!

We just got back from a visit with M's cousin and his family. Leroy Sievers once said that the greatest gift you can give someone with cancer is a little slice of normalcy. C had built an intricate creation out of legos and really enjoyed showing it to S and B. And I was actually able to make it home before the tears came...

We're leaving tomorrow to travel down to the Ardennes where we've rented a house with extended family. After that M and I will take the kids and the dog down to the Provence for two weeks worth of camping. Of course we also plan to do a lot of hiking and to sample about a bazillion different kinds of local wines and olives.

See you all when we get back at the end of August! Take care of yourselves and enjoy your summer vacation! :-)

30 July, 2008

Bad news.

A cousin just came by. The chemo isn't working for M's cousin. There is nothing more that can be done for him.

We're all waiting for the prognosis, which might be given on Friday.

Although this is not exactly a surprise after the most recent test results it is still a shock all the same...

He's only 25 years old, engaged to be married and had his whole life stretched out before him. How is this possible?!

28 July, 2008

Dag allemaal!

Hello from ze heart of ze Netherlands! The weather here is fabulous and I'm slowly recovering from last week. On top of packing and everything else I had to do hand to hand combat with my nefarious Internet provider.

(For those of you new to this blog and my Internet woes: never take candy from strangers and NEVER EVER sign a flatrate contract with 1&1 no matter how attractive it sounds!)

So last week we were without Internet on top of everything else. I haven't been that consumed with rage since... well, since the week before when S got accosted at school, but nevermind...

I am now on vacation and it is off to a great start. On Saturday we took M's 98 year old grandma out to dinner. We wanted to go someplace local, and it just so happens that the nearest restaurant specializes in organic vegetarian food! My meal was amazing-- a broccoli tart and crisp green beans with blood orange sorbet for dessert.

The woman who runs the place suddenly showed up at our table with an armful of books with pictures of historical Dubbeldam, the area here where Oma grew up. She flipped through the pages with the black and white photos and her face came alive! Then she told us stories about what it was like here in her youth and during the war. I have never seen her so engaged or animated! The whole evening had a bit of a magical touch to it.

I've been sleeping in in the mornings and have been indulging in all sorts of exotic teas. Have taken some long walks along the dikes with D and have spent a lot of time in the garden just gazing at the birds and flowers. The boys have liberated a few hundred snails and carried them to safety.

This afternoon I biked into town with my mother-in-law and bought a bathing suit. And not the usual cheapo, flimsy kind that will fall apart before the end of the season, but a horrendously expensive chichi affair; an indulgence of the highest order. (which, of course might also fall apart before the end of the season, but hey, at least I will look dashing up until the point of its passing...)

Tomorrow I plan to break in said suit at a nearby swimming pool; and maybe eat some tasty sandwiches.

My week is shaping up just fine, thank you! How's yours?

23 July, 2008

We made it!!!

School is out; let the summer begin!

The terrorist ended up getting expelled after the umbrella incident. It was kind of an empty gesture since he only missed the last three days of school, but I was just happy that at last someone had finally taken action!

We will be leaving on Friday for a month-long vacation, so I am knee-deep in camping gear and laundry. I have never been so happy to be packing up our stuff-- normally I hate it, but after the last couple of months I'm so ready for a break!

Am giddy with excitement and am playing Coldplay's new album at full blast. It's amazing!

I'll be in Holland next week and will have an Internet connection so you're not rid of me yet!

Happy summer, everyone!

18 July, 2008

As the stomach turns...

The terrorist beat up a girl with his umbrella today in school. Apparently he hit her point-first full force in the stomach. When I left school she and the witnesses were in with the principal. I had to hurry home, though, to return a call from the police.

When I spoke to the mother yesterday she said that he was shaking with fear. That seems to have worn off today...

17 July, 2008

It is definitely time for this school year to end.

There's a boy in S's class who is a complete terror. He disrupts class, bullies other kids and vandalizes property on the way home from school. Unfortunately he lives near us and walks to school using the same route as S. If he sees S he runs up to him, kicks him, throws him into bushes and pushes him out into the street.

I've tried talking to the teacher. I've tried talking to the mother. Other parents of bullied kids have gone to the principal, all to no avail. Two weeks ago he choked another student when the teacher left the room. Nothing happened.

Today the teacher left the room again.

This terrorist started mercilessly teasing a heavyset boy in the class. S told him to knock it off and leave him alone. So he turned his full wrath on S. Yanked him out of his chair by the hair and threw him on the ground. S apparently got up and got back in his chair, only to be dragged out by the hair and thrown on the ground again. This was completely without any further provocation from S-- I heard the story from S's classmates long before I heard it from him.

This time he's gone to far. I have contacted the police. I talked with an officer and told him very calmly what had happened, and that I realize that this incident in itself didn't end in personal injury but that I was worried that the next one might. At first he sounded a bit skeptical, because, of course, we are talking about third graders here, but later he became sympathetic and said that he'd pay this kid and his mother a visit, and that maybe that would help.

I picked S up from sports this afternoon and when I saw the terrorist I just boiled over. I shouted at him and told him I'd called the police and if he so much as touches another hair on S's head again he's going to be very, very sorry.

Scared him to death, at least for now, and embarrassed him in front of the the teacher and the other students. I'm not proud of myself for terrorizing a 9 year old, and S will probably suffer the repercussions later, but at a certain point enough is enough. Even for a committed pacifist like myself...

5 more days of school. Just 5 more days....

10 July, 2008

Savoring the sweet moments

The boys are playing with a boomerang down in a field near our house. As usual I sent the walkie talkie with them. I was buried in a project I'm trying to finish when the walkie talkie started beeping. The boomerang was stuck in a tree and they didn't know what to do.

Normally I would have been annoyed at the interruption.

Today, however, I walked down to the field and personally rescued the boomerang from that tree.

And I came bearing lollypops.

It just keeps on coming...

My VHS German teacher and I have developed a friendship over the last year, so when classes ended last month she agreed to give me private lessons up until the summer vacation. I showed up at her house this morning and she was very agitated.

"I'm so glad you came today-- I can really use the diversion. My husband has just been diagnosed with prostate cancer and we're waiting on test results to see if it's metastized to his lymph nodes."

She was so shaken and I felt so intensely sad for her! Life seems so precarious to me at the moment. I've got tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat every time M or the kids leave the house. I'm trying to keep everything in perspective, but it's not always easy...

09 July, 2008

Double gulp.

I am just reeling. Just got off the phone-- one of S's friends started throwing up blood last night. The took him to the hospital in an ambulance and he was in intensive care for several hours. They gave him blood and stabilized him-- moved him to a normal room, and then it started again, so he's back in intensive care.

They're apparently doing an endoscopy to see if they can locate the problem, but it sounds like everyone's in the dark. And this is a very healthy, robust kid! He and S attended a birthday party together on Sunday and I've got a picture of him right here smiling with his popcorn at the theater!

Are we all really so fragile? I can't help but think of his mother and M's cousin's mother and what they're probably going through right now and I've got tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.

Sometimes it seems like it's only a matter of time before something horrible happens to any one of us. We're just biding out time until then, that's all...

08 July, 2008


M's cousin has just finished his two rounds of chemo. He went in for some scans last week and was in for a shock: although the largest tumor has shrunk he suddenly has two new tumors in his liver. (!!!)

He was feeling so much better, his hair was coming back in and the family's optimism was finally returning. In spite of all that, his blood markers have suddenly skyrocketed off of the charts. It doesn't look good....

Give your loved ones a hug (or a call!) today! You never know what tomorrow might bring...

07 July, 2008

Photo update

The last 10 days have melded into a blur. S and B are enjoying jam-packed social calenders, with end-of-the-year school activities, field trips and birthday parties. I'm doing my best to keep up with them, but can feel my brain starting to wither with the effort.

We're having fun, though, and here are a couple of pictures just to bring you up to date:

B's class participated in "Sports Day" in which all the 1st and 2nd grade classes competed against each other in track and field events. Here's Speedy pulling ahead in the final stretch.
I flew to Dublin to visit an old friend. Luckily I'm well connected, otherwise I might have had to stay here...
S and his class took a field trip to a sheep farm last friday. They learned a lot about wool production and even got to try their hands at spinning yarn!

The high point, however, had nothing to do with sheep. They all got to swim in a creek that ran through the farm. Hence the bathing suit and wet hair in this picture.

01 July, 2008

Tick Watch 2008

M found two ticks on our underwear drawers over the weekend. I feel like we're in one of those horror movies where the monsters keep reappearing no matter how hard you try to escape them.

Oh yeah, and the neighbor? Her tests came back positive.

Normally I would probably be shouting "Run for the hills!", but that seems to be where they're coming from...