Monday, December 17, 2007

The Year in Review: Christmas 2007 Edition

Christmas 2007

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from the newly formed de Jong family, American edition!!! It’s been a pretty wonderful year for us, with a few obligatory bumps along the road of wedded bliss. Here’s the China-friendly recap:

2007 began with Niels and Jen on different continents, neither of which being North America. Jen was in China visiting her much loved, much missed adopted family, The Kennedys. At the same time, Niels, with growing affection for Jen, decided that Christmas in the States without Jen would be too lonely, so he headed to the Netherlands to spend the holidays with his family. And Dad was at work. Jen was still a little gun shy about the whole marriage thing (she’s head-injured, so a little slow to recognize a good thing when he’s right in front of her!) A day after Jen arrived in China, an earthquake hit Taiwan, knocking out all internet connection to the States. Literally, the ONE person in the world Jen could reach outside China was Niels. Even before Jen told her parents she was dating someone, Niels got to contact them to let them know Jen was safe in China. By the time both Niels and Jen were on American soil again, they knew there would be no more Christmas’ apart. Yay!

February was a flood of activity and planning. Though not officially engaged yet, Niels and Jen began planning their future together--all while trying to keep the world’s worst kept secret--starting with a sparkly shiny token on Niels’ love. Jen’s ring was purchased in February though it would be a while before it made the trip to her finger. Jen’s mom braved the winter snow to meet Niels and give her approval. She arrived just in time to check out the other big purchase of the month: our new home in North Canton, Ohio. We finished up the month by heading up to Canada to introduce Jen to many of Niels’ friends, including his future best man, Joel and his lovely bride, Carolyn.

Jen and Niels started the month with a weekend at FamilyLife’s marriage conference. We took the pre-married version and Niels made Jen proud by asking all the married guys for advice. We continued our tradition of travel and headed off to Europe for Jen’s first trip to Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands and France. She had a great time learning about Dutch language and culture through immersion, but of course, the highlight of the trip came March 20, when Niels proposed to Jen in a purple flower garden at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Now that she was officially betrothed, Jen decided to finally, officially, move to Ohio. Our good friends, the Prices, were kind enough to put a roof over her head. Bailey’s too. It was an emotional trip for Jen, driving away in the Penske truck. She has many happy memories in Grand Rapids and she misses her friends very much. We try to get back up there as much as we can. Now the wedding plans began in earnest, with the most important part being our
pre-marriage counseling with Pastor Jeff. What a great time!

In May we made the trip to Minnesota for our first wedding shower. Niels continued to meet more and more of Jen’s family, including her adorable nephew and godson, CJ. He proudly showed the couple all his treasures with a loud, “TA DA!” We sure wish that cutie was a little closer! Also in the spring, we hosted our first houseguests, the Handys.

In June, we were showered again, this time in Michigan. The rest of the month was flurry of preparation for THE BIG DAY!

We started the month with our last shower, this one with our Ohio friends, timed perfectly to also include THE KENNEDYS, home for a month after their first year in China. We’re sure other things happened in July, but the most important is OUR WEDDING, on July 29. It was an unseasonably warm day, in the mid-90s, so we were all radiant. We have so many special memories of that day and are incredibly grateful for the guests who came from seven states and four countries (three continents) to celebrate with us.

Is there a better way to start a new month (and marriage) than on a sunny Caribbean island? We don’t think so. We spent an amazing week in Curacao, an island in the Dutch Antilles, just North of Venezuela. It’s described as Arizona on the beach, and we think that’s just about right. After we arrived home, our family was finally all living under the same roof: Niels, Jen and our Shih Tzu, Bailey. Bailey was a great help in unwrapping our presents, especially the tissue paper and bubble wrap. Thank you so much for the generous gifts that make our house a home.

Once again, we traveled this month. We took Bailey on the longest road trip of her life, to Vermont, where we witnessed our friends Sean & Jessica say, “I DO!” It was actually the second wedding we attended together, both as a married couple. The first was our friends Jon & Penny, just two weeks after ours. The end of the month found us making our first major decision as a couple. After much Thought and really cool “Coincidences,” we made the decision to spend our Sunday Gatherings at a new place, RiverTree. It’s much like Jen’s former place in Grand Rapids, so we feel right at home. Best of all, we’ve met a wonderful group of friends. One of our new friends actually told Jen about a job that was right up her alley: 5-7 hours a week at the bookstore/library. After sixteen months, Jen is employed! (And it kicks her butt…in a good way).

October was a difficult month for us. It started off well, with the exciting news that we were expecting!!! Our joy was short lived when we miscarried our precious one on October 15. We named her “Jo,” for Just Ours. While Jen was with the doctor, they found a 6cm lump on her right breast. It took several rounds of tests and many anxious weeks before we received the relieving all clear. Thanks, Dad!

American dad visited in November and helped Jen do what she’s been putting off for much too long: apply for Disability. We are grateful for the many hours Jen’s dad spent poring over legal and medical papers and making LOTS of copies, and especially for taking Jen to the office to officially file. We spent Thanksgiving in Arizona with Jen’s mom and Gramma. Niels was quickly put to work with all the “man jobs,” but he received his reward in good ol’ fashioned Minnesota cooking, warm winter temperatures, and an amazing day with Jen road tripping to the Grand Canyon. Wow!

As we write this, the first snow is gently falling. Soon it will be the first Sinterklaas Day for Jen and then the first American Christmas for Niels. We’re looking forward to a second visit from Niels’ parents. We figure we must have been really good for them to come over from Holland twice this year. Last weekend we put up our first tree and under it lies our first Christmas gift to each other: the 2008 updated version of CATAN!

States: AZ, CO, MI, MN, NH, NY, OH, PA, VT
Countries: Belgium, Canada, China, Curacao, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands

Plans for the New Year…
• Single-home ownership
• Becoming parents
• Christmas in Holland
• Trips to…

Top 5 Things We Like To Do:
1. Play Catan, Ticket to Ride, Phase 10, and Gin 13 (Thanks, Gramma)
2. Travel
3. Be Together
4. Watch “Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Chuck”
5. Watch DVDs on the big screen at home and at church

No comments: