Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Six Years Ago Today, My Life Changed Forever

Six years ago today my life changed forever. That night I lived through the worst pain and was rewarded with the most precious gift ever. That night I stopped being a child and became a mother. That night I learned about love. My body, my sanity and my heart have never been the same.

I love you, Lukas!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rollercoasters Are More Fun With a Friend or Two

Someone told me just the other day: "The rollercoaster does up too." Makes perfect sense. But I'm tired. Tired of searching for fulfillment and just creating more noise in my life. The amount of stuff that I am interested in is mind-boggling, yet I don't master any of it. I'm tired of trying to be a better person to the many, yet failing the people that are near and dear. 200+ facebook friends, yet all alone on my darkest days. Aside from my parents, no-one calls unless they're returning my call or they need something. Would anyone outside of work and school notice if I just disappeared? I need an inspiration and some major course corrections before I waste another day on clutter and takers. The hardest part - differentiating between the important things and the clutter, and between those who truly care and those who don't. The only thing I know is that this is not about being single, but about being alone with my feelings, my fears, my hopes, my struggles, my victories, my life, and realizing that I have been so for as long as I can remember.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

11 Years Ago Today, I left behind everything...

11 years ago today, I left behind everything I knew, loved and owned, to marry a man I had madly fallen in love with in another country, far far away. And as this marriage has turned into a mere legality, I have been asked whether I will stay here.

Yes, I left a lot behind, but I never regretted my decision, because I knew it would be easier for me than for him based on our very different family situations and characters. Yes, I had no idea how hard it would be for me to become grounded in a new place and that this would eventually come at the expense of my marriage. Yes, I miss being able to hang out with friends who have known me since preschool and I miss being only a long car ride away from my siblings and parents. Yes, I miss swimming at Eiskanal, riding bikes through Siebentischwald forest, enjoying good company at Biergarten Lueginsland up on the old city wall, sailing on lakes of drinking-water quality, skiing in the Alps, and strolling through Christmas Markets. And yes, life might be easier in a place where childcare and college are more than affordable and where social justice is not a bad word, but I would feel just as displaced upon my return as I felt when I moved here 11 years ago.

This is my home now. It's my children's home. My children's other grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are here. Their schools are here. My friends are here. My hobbies are here. My job is here and it's a pretty good one. My new memories, traditions and favorite places are here. In short, my life is here and I intend to love it and live it to the best of my abilities.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Love, Blood, Sweat and Tears

I thought I would be more relieved.

After a year of waiting, evaluations, waiting, evaluations, and more waiting, we finally have it in our hands. Black on white. The report from the developmental pediatrician states an assessment of PDD-NOS, Developmental Delay, Disruptive Behavior w/ risk of ADHD and Sleep Disturbance. That's it. The developmental inventory shows my 50-month-old scores on average at the level of a 34-month-old, only 8 months more mature than his little brother.

According to Wikipedia, "Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is one of the pervasive developmental disorders and autism spectrum disorders. PDD-NOS is a diagnosis for people who are well-described by the PDD label, but cannot be categorized by any other disorder. It is usually milder than autism and has similar symptoms to autism, with some symptoms present, and others absent." (And yes, I am aware that ADHD presents with developmental levels about a third younger than chronological age, and that the diagnosis in the early years often volleys back and forth between autistic spectrum disorders and ADHD, so this is not the final word, but it would be foolish to ignore it.)

I thought that finally having a diagnosis would be a relief. That I would finally be able to say, this is it, let's get help for that. But, we always figured it was primarily ADHD. And with that, when all else fails, you can always try medications. Not that I would readily want to do that, but it was available as an option if school and family life just became too impaired. With PDD, there's no such thing. Sure, there's meds for some of the symptoms, i.e. the ADHD aspects could still be treated, but there's no pill to guarantee that my child will go to kindergarten at age 5, have a chance at going to college or having a successful career or even more importantly successful or rewarding relationships. There's no pill that will make him less challenging to his environment. There's no pill that guarantees that I won't have to worry about him every single day for the rest of our lives.

There will be only lots of love, blood, sweat and tears.

Our options are to continue the current interventions through the school district, and to add intensive private therapeutic interventions such as behavior therapy, occupational therapy, etc. Applying for TEFRA or Medicaid, and Genetic Testing for Fragile X and other conditions were mentioned.

I am not relieved because I just had it confirmed what a long and hard road we have ahead of us. Because my to-do-list just grew exponentially. Setting up and attending appointments, dealing with insurance, applying for federal aid. And most of all learning to love my child unconditionally and patiently regardless of how annoying or disturbing he can seem.

No pill. Only lots of love, blood, sweat and tears.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Construction Activity

We've been busy: In the last few weeks, we've assembled a large backyard playset for the kids and drained our pool for a new liner to be installed.

The playset was purchased at a fundraiser auction last fall. This spring, we disassembled and transported it back to our house with the help of some colleagues. Mike then power-washed and stained it. We prepared the site for it by removing most of the sod and grading it for proper water drainage, then covered everything with heavy-duty landscape fabric. The playset was assembled in one evening with the help of our friend Marcus and Grandpa Bob. All we need now is a truckload of sand, as we had to decide against any other ground fill due to cost. Dominik already loves to swing in his own special way!

The pool was drained over the last few days with sump pumps and the pool company came today to remove the old liner, do some minor patch work and fit the new liner. Now it's filling with water with a filter attached and a vacuum between the liner and the pool walls to prevent wrinkles. It (almost) looks like new again and we're looking forward to many pool parties this summer!
As usual, more photos can be found on Uta's facebook profile:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Casanova in Training

One of those times that make it all worth while for me is at night when I go to bed and quickly wake Lukas to put him on the potty. (Not so fun on the other hand: changing pajamas and sheets in the middle of the night.) Especially when I miss bedtime for some reason, so I still get a chance to see my boy and say good night. Most of the time, he remains half-asleep while I carry him to the bathroom and back to bed, and he has this contented smile on his face.

Last night, I missed bedtime because of a hair appointment and when I picked Lukas up and carried him into the bathroom, he asked: "Are you all done with your hair cut, Mami?" - "Yes, Lukas." - "It's beautiful. You look beautiful, Mami."

Now, I hate to say this, but I don't think he even opened his eyes to look, but nevertheless: Ladies, look out!

Where does he get this stuff? Mike and I don't talk that way. He doesn't watch much TV, but he loves music - his favorite song these days is "Jessie's girl". So, I will blame it on pop music for now and look forward to more night-time sweetness.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Okay, Mom.

So simple, yet the most beautiful words heard out of my almost 4-yr-old's mouth after I told him "no" for something. No tantrum. No negotiation. No repeated requests. Just "okay". And I have witnesses. Whose jaws dropped.

Are we finally done with the Terrible Twos or did he just realize I'm even more strong-willed? More likely, the hard work of his teachers is paying off. They spend a lot of time talking about using your words and controlling strong emotions. Either way, it's just so cool!

Monday, April 20, 2009

NDV Winter Sports Clinic

At the end of March, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Disabled Veteran's Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado, as a volunteer ski instructor. For an entire week, I taught disabled American war veterans between the ages of 23 and 86 (!) to ski with the help of various adaptive equipment.

The cameraderie and energy amongst instructors and participants was unparalleled. It is amazing what these people have experienced and how they have chosen to recover and continue to enjoy life to the fullest. Each one of my students had a special story and I am honored to have played a part in the physical and mental recovery process of someone with a traumatic brain injury, or to have enabled someone with a degenerative disease to get up on the mountain on two skis just one more time. And what a rewarding experience to see the smile on their faces and receive their praise and gratitude at the end of the day.

I look forward to being a part of this wonderful event every year for many more years. I've selected some photos below, but there are many more photos on facebook (this link should be publicly accessible).

Joe and Uta with Angel.

Uta with Richard at midstation.

Peter with Al and snowboard guru Andy Finch.

The complete Minnesota gang (missing Dana; 16 of the nearly 200 instructors from all over the US)...

...and the usual suspects.

About the Winter Sports Clinic
About the Courage Center Ski & Snowboard Program in Minnesota

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bilingual Baby - Echt Zweisprachig

Dominik is not even two and probably doesn't have 50 words in his vocabulary yet, but he is already interpreting German into English for us. It goes like this:

"Dominik, sag mal 'Auto'" [say 'car'] - "car"
"Sag mal 'Laster'" - "truck"
"Sag mal 'Ente'" - "duck"

[Photo: Easter egg hunt, 4/12/09]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rest in peace, Fifi

Fifi as a Kitten, well before we got herIt was a tough decision, but I think we did the right thing for you. I'm glad I could be there until the end and say good-bye. We will always remember you fondly as the spunky little kitty that would defend her territory against the smallest chipmunks and the biggest dogs. Remember hissing and spitting at Kayla through the basement door? Remember bringing mice into our bedroom? Remember chasing through our old house from top to bottom whenever there was another critter walking by the windows? Remember sleeping on our computer monitor or on the tiny shelf in the entertainment center? Remember your kitty castle with little holes all over that you could stick your paws through to bat at us?

Fifi around 4 years old Maybe you can be a doggy in cat heaven. I know you would like that; and Dominik would finally get it right!

We love you. Rest in peace.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wise Boy

The boys and I had a rough bedtime last night, everyone was agitated, no one wanted to go to bed. Despite my best intentions to keep calm, the impatient and angry mob inside me won out a couple of times. Lukas quickly took over the role of adult in charge: "Mami, no yelling, just say it." And then proceeded to tell me a little anecdote about his friend at school, whom he seems to have taken a toy away from, his friend promptly yelled or screamed or threw a tantrum, and calm teacher intervened with above words, or so I gather the incident occurred. After the initial surprise, I collected myself and realized how awesome it is that the boy gets to go to preschool and learn coping behaviors, and doesn't have to spend all day with me and the unruly mob.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snow Day

Well, it wasn't really a snow day, but it could have been, had it started snowing 12 hours earlier. By evening rush hour, several inches of the pretty white stuff had fallen, and we spent a fun evening outside, sledding, skiing and shoveling.

Growing up fast

Dominik is growing up so fast. In the last couple of days, he added such critical words as NO, HI, and ON (or AN in German)!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Skiing Together

In a mixture of boredom and insanity, I decided to take both boys skiing by myself a few weeks ago. Dominik had never been out and only practiced once in the basement, but immediately started walking on his plastic "skis" over to the bunny hill. Lukas has been getting good enough that he can ski without tethers and too much interference from me. So we spent a few hours on the bunny hill, with me riding the magic carpet up right behind Dominik and then skiing down with him between my legs. Exhausting, but fun!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Seit einem Jahr oder so nennen Nadja und ich Dominik ab und an liebevoll "Fettsack". Ist er ja nun wirklich nicht, das Kind ist ein Fliegengewicht mit seinen 20 Pfund. Aber er hat so süße dicke Wadeln und so einen runden Bauch nach dem Essen. Nun ja, vor ein paar Tagen begrüßte Lukas dann Nadja morgens mit "Fettsack"! Ab sofort heißt Dominik jetzt "Kiek", nach seinem momentanen zweitliebsten Wort, Keks, und das Wort Fettsack hat Hausverbot.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wir sind wir

Santa scares little boys all over the world

Dominik taking apart our furniture

Lukas hiking at Taylor's Falls

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Special Chippendales Performance

Dominik doesn't like clothes. When winter came, he kept pulling on his long sleeves and was quite mad when I put footed pajamas on him. Every day, I find his socks in the strangest hiding places around the house, and we rarely bother to put them back on anymore. Yesterday, I came home, he was already short-sleeved and bare-foot. After saying our hellos, he disappeared around a corner, then came back, handed me his jeans and walked away again. Spent the rest of the evening in his onesie. I can't wait until he learns to unbutton those and starts taking it all off.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

More than Words

Dominik's current collection of words:

  1. oh-oh
  2. wow
  3. papa
  4. mama
  5. daddy
  6. nada (nadja)
  7. goo-goo (guck-guck = peekaboo)
  8. ee-ah (hee-haw = i-ah)
  9. moo (cows)
  10. bah (sheep)
  11. cool
  12. digga (tiger or "Dicker"?)
  13. doggie (all things furry)
  14. papa bear (this is from a German kids CD)
  15. lookatdad (look at that)
  16. tssinder? (what's in there?)
  17. duk (truck)
  18. tunnel

This is starting to get interesting, because there is more every day now. Finally!

Lukas Skiing Photos

An album of Lukas skiing between January 2007 and January 2009 has been posted on Uta's Facebook profile: