Monday, December 29, 2008

17 Months...

Today is Niels and I's 17 month anniversary. We took advantage of Oma and Opa being here to go out on our first real date since Daniel was born. We went to see the movie Marley & Me. We had been looking forward to the release of this movie for months, especially since I had read the book and Niels had listened to it. In many ways, the book relates well to our short marriage, and seeing the movie tonight was a great way to remember the highs and lows of our own history. I had forgotten about the miscarriage that the couple endured, and watching it unfold on the big screen reminded me of where we were emotionally when I read the book, recovering from our first miscarriage. It was beautifully portrayed and I was pretty much an emotional wreck for the rest of the movie. I'm always drawn to movies that portray the reality of marriage in a positive light and seeing this movie tonight with my husband on our anniversary reminded me again how blessed I am to have married such an amazing man. I'm grateful for his love, for the miracle of our new son, for my improving health, and yes, for the unbridled joy of our Bailey dog.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Skol Vikings!

Today we enjoyed the first of many family football days. Daniel arrived just in time to watch the Vikes win their first divisional championships in far too long. Thank you, Auntie Liz, for the snuggly Viking fan wear! Daniel also officially won our small group's fantasy football league. Not bad for a two-week old!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spoiled Again!

Opa and Oma have surprised us again with their generosity. In addition to helping us adjust to parenthood, they have kept themselves busy with whittling down a 17-month long "to do" list. During some of their downtime, they decided that we could really use a new couch in our media room. It's been on our budget wish list, but other things like medical bills and baby gear took precedence this year. So Opa did some shopping around and decided to spoil us with a new couch to cap off the "reconfigure the media room" project. We look forward to many happy hours with our new couch. Thanks, Opa and Oma!

Out with the old. 
Taking EVERYTHING out.

The new couch!

Still need to paint, but much better!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jen's Future

The Mom Song from Northland Video on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's been an exciting Christmas so far! After my own attempt to give myself a bath, Daddy gave me my first real bath in my new tub. It felt SO nice! While Daddy was giving me my bath, Mommy had a scare. My diaper bag fell onto the stove, which was on and we started a little fire! Fortunately, it was soon put out and Mommy's new blood pressure medicine was put to good use! Now Daddy is holding me while talking to my Gramma Chi. I like to have my eyes open now and there's so much to check out! 

This picture is one of my favorites. My grampa Elmer and I dressed alike for this picture when he visited for my dedication. Hopefully today my daddy will upload some more pictures so you can see how cute I am!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just like my mom and dad

Hey, it's me, Daniel, using Opa's computer and email. Quite the little hacker already... Opa and Oma are still here and I kinda like all the attention. I like sleeping in arms just because I like to cuddle. I'm starting to develop my own little things and in most of them I'm a lot like my mommy and my daddy. Well, mostly daddy's things. Hey, I'm a boy... at least last time I checked. I can eat like my daddy and I can sleep like my daddy. Also, my little WasteManagement plant is starting to fire on all cylinders. My parents thought they had enough Newborn diapers, but I might surprise them...

Yesterday was a long day for me. They woke me up every two hours, since I'm too sleepy sometimes to wake-up on my own. I sure like my sleep. So, to be awakend every 2 hours makes you kinda sleepy. So was I, but fortunately they also fed me and changed me at those times so I can't complain too much.

Today I'm going back to church for my first Christmas service. I'm also waiting for my Aunt Liz and her boyfriend to visit since they might come too. The last time I was at church I was a true rock-star. Everyone was oohing and awwing over me. He, he, I can't help it that I'm gorgeous. I have that from both my mommy and my daddy.

OK, I'm back in Opa's arms taking a nap so I can be fully rested when we go to church... or do they want to put me in my beloved milk-induced coma... Only time will tell.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

2007 v. 2008

Today was the first day that Niels, Daniel and I all attended church together. It was an emotional day in so many ways. First of all, we hadn't even been to church in weeks due to my bedrest. Our church family has been so wonderful, serving us with meals and cleaning. We were welcomed back and our little boy was oohed and ahhed over. As the service began, I thought of all God had brought us through in the last week, from fearing the end of my life to celebrating the beginning of Daniel's new life. And then, too, I couldn't ignore the fact that one year ago today, less than twenty-four hours before my in-laws arrived from Holland, we began grieving the loss of our second baby in three months. 

Holding my precious little boy and singing Christmas and worship songs, including my personal anthem, "How Great is Our God," our hearts are full of gratitude as we celebrate the birth of God's Son with our thirteen-day-old son.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Dedication of Daniel Joel de Jong

This afternoon, our newborn son Daniel Joel was dedicated in a private ceremony at our home church in front of friends and family. It was a rare opportunity to have photos with all four biological parents--coming from Arizona, Minnesota and The Netherlands. It was a wonderful day and since this was a semi-private event, we were able to personalize it. Please find below the complete text of the dedication letter we wrote and read during the dedication.

Dedication Letter for Daniel Joel de Jong

December 19, 2008

Sweet Daniel Joel,

Before you were conceived,
we wanted you

Before you were born,
we loved you
Before you were here an hour,
we would die for you

This is the miracle of love

Maureen Hawkins’ adapted words are our own as we bask in the honor of being your daddy and mommy. For much of our lives it seems, the best things have been worth the wait. Your daddy and mommy waited more than 30 years to find each other, and we know that God has created us just for, and only for, each other. We lost two babies before you came home to us, and once we knew you were coming, it was a long nine months filled with complications and challenges. Once you were delivered to this side of life, we found no guarantees of an easy road, and today we are especially grateful to still be a family of three. We may not always feel it or express it—especially when you are older and testing your expanding boundaries, rights and responsibilities—but you, sweet son, were definitely worth the wait. It is an honor to be married to each other, and it is a privilege to parent you. Of all the babies, in all the countries, in all the world…God gave us you.

There’s something spiritual that happens when two people marry. They are no longer two separate individuals, but one new unit, a “we,” a third personality: who the two of us are together as a couple. Given this holiday season, we especially like the way Jen’s friend Fred Stoeker puts it: Envision the groom as a solid red candy cane, and the bride as a solid white candy cane. The colors of both the husband and wife, though distinct, now intertwine and are expressed together. Daniel, we love the flavor of us.

Sixteen months ago, we stood in front of friends and family to make our vows on what would have been your Gramma Chi and Grampa Elmer’s 40th wedding anniversary. We wanted to redeem the day of July 29, and we believe we did. Today is December 19, one day past your Oma and Opa’s 39th wedding anniversary. We think these dates are significant. Daniel, we believe that marriage is not a covenant between a man and woman, but between a couple together and God. God will not break His covenant and neither will we. You will always have your Daddy and Mommy. Daddy knows that the best way to love you is to love your Mommy. And Mommy knows that the best way to love you is to love your Daddy. Our vows are to love each other from better to worse, to better again. So many people miss out on that last part. Though we haven’t been married long, we have endured enough trials to know that our love, with God’s protective hand, will survive the test of time. And our love for you will be constant as well. No matter what happens, through good times and bad times, whether near or far away, you will always be our son, we will always be your parents and you will always be loved.

Parenting is a privilege we have prayed for. At this dedication ceremony, we are dedicating ourselves to earn the privilege given us. Though we dedicate you to God, the truth is that you already belong to God, you have always been His. We are the ones to whom something has been given. God has given you to us, not as a possession – we do not own you – but as a gift and trust to nurture, guide, and encourage. So today we are here to acknowledge what you are, a gift from God, and to covenant with God, and with you, to be the parents that He asks us to be and that you deserve.

We dedicate ourselves, as your mother and father, to introduce you to our heavenly Father. Our hope is that you will grow to be a man who knows God and loves God. Our prayer is that you will see Christ in us and through us as we model His life, His love, His life and His reconciliation. We will pray for you and with you – teaching you that God hears you and cares about what you have to say. We pray for the day when our faith in Jesus Christ becomes your own.

As the future patriarch of our family, we took great care in naming you after two godly men you can look to as examples of how to lead your own family someday.

Dan Kennedy is part of Jen’s “heart family.” In Dan we see a strong man leading a strong woman, drawing out her strengths and lending his own strengths to make a more complete whole. We see a loving daddy who embraces his role as mentor and teacher to his growing family. We see a man who loves God and is willing to sacrifice his own wants for the needs of his family. We see a man who is intelligent and creative, mature and fun-loving and who, in general, greatly enriches the life of all who know him.

Joel Vriend is part of Niels’ “heart family. In many ways, the Vriend family is to Niels what the Kennedys are to Jen: an adopted family of the heart. In Joel we see friendliness, his gift for hospitality, his love for the Lord and his earthly family along with his fun-loving nature that make him a man to be admired. Next year he and his wife Carolyn will join Mommy and Daddy in parenthood and we will look forward to walking this privileged road together. In Joel we also see a man who is willing to sacrifice his own wants for the needs of his friends and family, who is intelligent and creative, mature and joie d’vivre and whom in general, greatly enriches the life of all who know him. Daniel, in the future we hope that others will say the same about you.

In addition to your namesakes, we have a few hopes for how you’ll live your life. We’ve made them easy for you to remember—when you’re a little older, of course—by using your name as a guide:

D is for DARE. Dare to do the right thing. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

A is for ALWAYS. Always seek the best in others.

N is for NEVER. Never define anyone by their worst moment.

I is for INITIATE. Initiate peace, whenever possible, as far as it is up to you

E is for EMBRACE. Embrace the uniqueness of who God created you to be: a child of God, a Dutch American, the future patriarch of the de Jong family

L is for LOVE. Love God, love others, love yourself.

The trust God has placed in us when He gave you to us is a responsibility we do not take lightly. We ask the friends and family gathered here today to be witnesses to our dedication to God, and our dedication to you. We do not imagine that we will be the perfect parents; neither do we assume that you will be the perfect child. So while we will strive to be your greatest advocates and fans, we know we will make mistakes and we will let you down. And while you will be the source of our deepest joy, you may also be the source of our greatest heartaches. Despite our shortcomings, we know that the God who, from oceans apart, brought us together, will hold us together as we see together, to love him and to love you.

We’ll close our dedication with a verse we have picked for you: 2 Chronicles 16:8--For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

It is our prayer that our Father will find you—and us—to be completely His.

We love you more than we knew we could,

Daddy and Mommy

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Blessing of Daniel Joel de Jong

We would like to compile a scrapbook of "Welcome to the World" letters to Daniel. We're looking for words of wisdom, blessing, Scripture, and/or stories about your relationship to his Mom and/or Dad. If you'd like to participate,  please send/ email/ drop off--whatever is most convenient to you--a handwritten letter, email to print out, scrapbook page all decorated, etc., along with your photo. There’s no deadline, but we’d love to have his book complete by his first month birthday on January 9. 

Please email us if you need our contact info...We'd rather not post it here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I have my wife back!

After a scary but sacred week, here we are on our way home. I'm blessed to be dad and grateful to have my wife back!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Feeling SO MUCH better...

One of my (Niels) favorite shows for a long time was 'House' on Fox. It's about this gimpy, grumpy doctor that leads a team of diagnosticians. Today I felt like I was the husband for a patient on that show. Jen was getting worse and worse and nothing seems to help. She had a CT scan, 2 MRI's, a number of drugs, but in the end she was still regressing. She was loosing more and more functions and in a LOT of pain.

That was BEFORE 8pm...

It was a little after 8pm, after the latest OB doctor and the neurologist on-call left that we started working on trying to find the most comfortable position. To make a long story short, we found one. Ironically, it involved a cheap cardbox box that Mom brought over earlier today. We lowered the head-part of the bed and put her legs on the box. Jen wanted to do try some techniques she learned from her good friend Jen Vv whilst working on a previous health issue. The technique called bio-feedback lets you focus on relaxing particular muscles that are - in this case involuntarily - cramping up. If you don't conciencusly work and focus on them you'd never know they are cramping up.

Once we got her legs resting on the box we focused on her legs and literally within minutes we started to see results (helped by switching her pain meds from morfine to percacet). We figured that with previous similar issues Jen seems immune to morfine. First we repositioned her legs and worked with her knees until she was able to actively relax them. After that she started to have good movement in her arms again and we did a few abdominal exercises. She also tolerated those extremely well. She was able to completely lift her buttocks off the bed - pretty good for 4 days post op c-section - and we knew we struck gold. Little by little all her functions started to come back.

It is absolutely amazing - you can call it miraculeus - to see how fast after we put her legs on a cardbox everything started to come back. Can you believe it, a couple multi-thousand dollar tests and drugs... nothing. A $1 cardbox and 30 minutes of leg exercises and... voila. Most issues resolved.

The downside of the whole MRI thing is that now - due to the radioactivity - we can't breastfeed Daniel for 24 hours. Fortunately, we had enough breastmilk in storage from previous pumping sessions for 2 more feedings, but he'll need 3 or 4 formula feedings tomorrow. Ah well, better a little bit of formula than a radioactive kid... ;-)

We're going to settle down and get ready for bed with a very good change of a discharge tomorrow! We never thought that would be possible around 2pm. What a difference 6 hours and a large group of people praying can make.

Good night / Welterusten

Thursday through Saturday

Alright, time for some new text. This time it's daddy writing while mommy is having 2 MRI's done. She also had a CT scan today. So what happened...

We were doing pretty well on Wednesday, mom's milk came in, Daniel was eating fine, he had a first good latch on mommy's breast, so we were pretty happy. She was still pretty sore so it was nice to have the 4-day post op approved by the insurance to recover in relative rest with plenty of help at hand.

On Thursday we hit a big snag. Not with Daniel, but with one of the nurses. She was ill-prepared to handle a post-partum TBI mom. She disagreed with some of the decisions of our previous nurse which we really liked and under her we made excellent progress with breastfeeding and she constantly interupted Jen and telling us inconsistent stories, including one that we'd be going home on Friday. Long story short, that nurse was a major cause of a pretty bad TBI crash mid-afternoon.

Later that night we cleared-up the discharge date and we got a new nurse that we really liked. The nursing-staff seemed to have gotten a little scared by the events that afternoon and ever since we're having great nursing care. However, Thursday-night Jen noticed that when she was laying down she couldn't lift her left leg. That was weird since we walked around 'the block' a couple times each time with greater ease. 

Friday-morning the still had the numbness and felt that her left leg was more of a 'dead weight'. She also started to notice that later that day the numbness was spreading to the rest of her left leg and by the evening to her left arm as well. The doctor on call ordered a neuro-consult to get some more info.

Saturday-morning it was pretty much the same, left extremities weren't really coorporating. However, this morning come breakfast she felt like she was being stabbed in the lower left abdomen where we previously noted a bruise. The nurse was called and in 2 minutes both a nurse and the doctor on-call were checking on Jen. He wasn't sure what it was and ordered a CT to have it properly diagnosed. Also the neuro-consult request was repeated since we haven't heared anything to that point and before that visit later tonight she is currently having 2 MRI's done.

All the while she is 'very uncomfortable' to say the least so it has been a very rough day for us. And just to top it off some of the stored breastmilk from pumping got contaminated with some ivory soap so one bottle-feeding turned our mellow-yellow into a burpy, bubbly and fuzzy baby. After a number of burps and spit-ups that bad milk was all cleared out of his system and he's back to being our mellow-yellow baby.

Jen should be back in 30 minutes and after the results of the scans and the neuro-consult we'll give you another quick update. In the meantime, Daniel seems to be doing well. He's starting to regain some his weight and his (very mild) jaundice seems to be clearing up.

More later...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daniel Joel: Day Two

Whew! This parenting stuff is hard work! Since Daniel is singing me a lullaby (at least, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and call it that!), I want to take a moment to note a few of day two's highlights:

  • The highlight of the day was calling China (yay Skpe!) to introduce Daniel to his namesake, Dan Kennedy. A very emotional call for everyone involved. And that's all I'll say for now, or I'll start crying and not mention anything else!
  • Lots of phone calls and emails! Many thanks to those who called, emailed and left messages on here and Facebook. We so appreciate the love of our friends and family around the world!
  • First non-family visitors. Our good friends, the Lipfords, visited today, along with our friends Fantasia and Star. An unexpected surprise was a visit from Sue, our first post-partum nurse. She felt bad about the long wait I endured while the pharmacy lost, messed up and otherwise delayed my pain meds for six hours yesterday. She brought an adorable dog rattle as a gift to apologize. Totally unneccessary, but absolutely appreciated.
  • Flowers! My sweet hubby brought two dozen red roses. We also received a beautiful poinsetta plant from our church, as well as some pretty yellow and white flowers from the tech team (where Niels serves). Thank you all!
  • I finally started to emerge from my drug-induced stupor! I'm still on Percocet for the pain, but I can mostly function on that.
  • Mom helped me start to look like I'm emerging from my drug-induced stupor. I changed from the hospital gown to my own new blue nursing gown.
  • The quest to nurse continues. For all their glory, the girls are lacking a bit on their nurse-friendliness. I'll leave out the specifics, but we'll just say that we appreciate your prayers that we'll be able to overcome this obstacle. We do have a plan in place, but it will take a little bit to see results. He is losing a bit of weight, which is normal, but so far, he's still in a healthy range.
  • My newest medical trick...because if there's a complication or quirk, you know I will find it...I have a swollen uvula (the thing that hangs at the back of your throat). Since I had unplanned general anesthesia, I had to be intubated. I just had a sore throat yesterday, but this afternoon I started gagging and dry heaving. I went to bathroom to check things out and saw that my uvula is so big that it actually catches in my throat and blocks my air. Go figure. I've been downing water and popsicles like nobody's business, and finally got some numbing spray (that Pharmacist has it out for me, I think!). It's still quite annoying, but I'm hopeful that it'll shrink down tomorrow...I hope!
  • I changed my first diaper. A lovely #2 from my boy! Many more of those to come I sure. Daddy's turn next!
  • The final weight tally was a 6 pound gain from my starting weight. Thank you, Hyperemesis Gravidarium. Current weight difference after having an 8 pound 4 ounce baby: exactly ZERO. Thank you, pre-eclampsia!
  • I slept for more than 20 minutes! This new system we're trying is quite time consuming, and I haven't had much opportunity to sleep. I finally broke down and sent DJ to the nursery for a feeding (we have to supplement with formula for the time being) and was able to sleep for almost 90 glorious minutes!
  • More new pictures! We've added some pictures to the Picasa link and here is the link to the FaceBook album (even non-FB users should be able to see these).

Little guy is finally starting to doze off, so I'm going to try to get a few Zzz's myself before his next feeding in 90 minutes. Sigh....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Daniel Joel de Jong

December 9, 2008 at 7:47am

8 pounds 4 ounces (3734 grams)

20" long (51 cm)

About the birth...

This morning after a quick c-section our son Daniel Joel de Jong was born. Since the spinal didn't take completely Jen was put under general anesthesia and 15 minutes later our OB Dr. Brister came out with a beautiful baby boy. Mommy was a little groggy for the first hour out of surgery, but is awake now and we've able to nurse him already. We are now back in our room and will upload pictures soon!

About the name…

Not long after I returned from China to visit my beloved friends, The Kennedys, over Christmas 2006, I knew that I would marry Niels. Shortly after coming to this realization, he and I spent one evening talking into the wee hours about our future. Among the many topics covered that night was the names of our future children. We quickly settled on names for our first girl (hopefully, to be shared later) and boy.

With the understanding that our little boy would someday become the patriarch of the de Jong family (firstborn son of the firstborn son of the firstborn son), we wanted to bestow upon him the names of two men we respect as leaders of their own families: two namesakes to be examples and mentors to him as he grows up to lead his own family.

Daniel Kennedy and his family have become such an important part of my life. In many ways, they are the glue between my pre-injury life and my new life. Dan and I met when he came to work for Family, and I was kicked out of my office to make room for him. Feeling bad about my downgraded digs, Dan invited me over for dinner to meet his family. Pleasantly surprised to learn that they lived in the same neighborhood, I became fast friends with Dan and his wife, Sara, and I feel in love with their two little boys, Zach and Noah. Shortly thereafter, Mia arrived from Korea, and later, my goddaughter was brought home from China.

In the years that the Kennedys were my neighbors before they moved to China, they became my adopted family as well. I spent many holidays with them, and together we celebrated their milestones, as well as my own. When my book released, the Kennedys were first in line at my first book signing. When I sustained my head injury, the Kennedys stepped up to help me with my myriad of therapies. Since board games were recommended to help get the neurons firing again, we began a habit of at-least-weekly tradition of dinner and Catan. Promoted to "Aunt Jen," I was able to observe and participate in a beautifully functional and fun family. The Kennedys family model became my own. In "DK" I saw a strong man leading a strong woman, drawing out her strengths and lending his own strengths to make a more complete whole. I saw a loving daddy who embraces his role as mentor and teacher to his growing family. I saw a man who loves G*d and is willing to sacrifice his own wants for the needs of his family. I saw a man who was intelligent and creative, mature and fun-loving and who, in general, greatly enriches the life of all who know him.

Joel Vriend was Niels' best man at our wedding, and for good reason. To hear Niels say it, his journey to faith was a slow, meandering one. He doesn't have a dramatic, "one day I hit rock bottom" story. Rather, G*d nudged him this way and that, until one day, he knew that following Chr**t was the life he was meant to live.

One of the nods and nudges came in the form of Joel Vriend. In many ways, the Vriend family is to Niels was the Kennedys are to Jen: an adopted family of the heart. Through Niels' second cousin, Chad de Vries, he got to know Joel. Chad and Niels had a trip planned to Lake Placid, NY on Niels' 1997 vacation to Canada. At the last moment Chad couldn't go, but he knew a good friend and co-worker at Christian Horizon's (a group home organization for the mentally handicapped) who was both of Dutch decent and an avid fan of the Dutch National Soccer team ('Oranje') so Chad thought he'd be a good 'wingman' for the trip. And so a new friendship began.

Niels and Joel went on many trips together, both in North America and in Europe. During those trips and later both families met each other on each other's turf and – due to a similar mindset – Niels became a Vriend-family 'brother' and 'adopted' son. One other thing was that whenever Niels was in Canada or the United States he tagged along with the Vriend family on their Gathering events. These events showed him that Gathering events weren't necessarily boring and stiff and only for the 55+ like he saw in the Netherlands. That, combined with modern day event music, was enough of a nudge to guide him back to the faith. So, just by living his regular life, Joel became a major ambassador of Chr**t to Niels and he, along with his wife, Carolyn, have become dear family friends to us and a great role model for our little boy.

The Daniel of the Book is described, along with his friends, as "healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions, perfect specimens!" Daniel also had a gift for languages, which we love as we will be raising our Daniel to know both English and Dutch. And while any parent would love those characteristics to describe their son, our Hope for our precious Daniel Joel is that he would look to his two namesakes and his daddy as he grows up to be just the man his Daddy knit him in my womb to be.

It was quite an adventure bringing our little boy into the world. Thank you for your Thoughts and support during the last long nine months!

Pictures are available on both Facebook and on Picasaweb

For all our local friends, we're thrilled to show him off so feel free to visit us as of tomorrow (Wed Dec 10, 2008) at Aultman Hospital in Canton.

Many more DJ pictures...


Hello world... I'm DJ... Daniel Joel

I was born at 7.47am today at Aultman in Canton, OH. I'm weighing 3734 gr / 8lb. 4oz. and I'm 51cm / 20in. and here's my first picture... I'm sure mommy, daddy and opa en oma will take many more of me...

Today's the Day!!!

So I was able to sleep longer than I expected, but it's 2:45am and I can't sleep anymore! I am so excited to meet this little guy I've been carrying around for the last 9 months!

Yesterday, Bailey and I enjoyed our last quiet day together. I think she knew something was up. She was so cuddly and was quite put out when I had my laptop in my lap instead of my lap dog! I was putting Christmas music on my computer so we'd have something to listen to in the hospital, and that seemed to trigger about nine months of emotions. I cried all day long! It's been such a hard pregnancy, but we managed to keep our little guy safe to his big day. All told, we've had:
  • 3 trips to the ER
  • 1 night in ICU
  • 8 trips to Labor & Delivery
  • 11 weeks of Hyperemesis Gravidarium (severe morning sickness), including 6 weeks on a 24/7 pump of Zofran
  • 3 weeks of restricted activity
  • 9 weeks of bedrest due to pre-eclampsia 
  • 14 weeks with this insane headache
  • more blood work and labs than I can count or care to remember
  • and one amazing, wonderful week on our Alaskan cruise!
After so many weeks of being restricted and limited, it's so exciting to finally reach the end. We can't wait to hold our son and to begin the process of recovery. I have a good bit of muscle atrophy from the bedrest, so it will take a little longer than usual until I'm feeling normal again, but we're grateful for the help of friends and family, especially in the first few weeks, to help us with the baby, meals and keeping up with the house.

Niels will post an update in a few hours (!!!) with The Big Announcement, but I wanted to take the opportunity to make one last post and request a few prayer items for our expanding family:
  • for the safe delivery and health of our little boy
  • for all to go well for me with the C-section
  • wisdom and guidance for Dr. Brister and the rest of the medical staff who will be taking care of us
  • for our little guy to take quickly and well to nursing
  • for strength to adjust to a vastly different sleep schedule--especially for me, as I generally need 10 hours to function since my head-injury. I know that won't happen for the foreseeable future!
  • for an easy recovery from the C-section and muscle atrophy
  • for travel safety for the family and friends coming to visit us
  • for Niels and I to have wisdom to be good and godly parents to our precious boy!
We expect that I will be in the hospital for five days (til Saturday) given my special circumstances with the head injury and risk for HELLP syndrome. So Niels will be the point person for the next little bit. We look forward to seeing and/or hearing from you soon and introducing you to the jongste de Jong (youngest de Jong)!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Pack 'N' Play is Up 'N' Set

Niels finished his last project of the day: the Pack 'N' Play. Since our house has 3 levels, we really wanted to have someplace to change and put down the baby on every level. We have the crib upstairs, the bouncer on the main level and now the Pack 'N' Play for the basement. 

Here's the completed project:Here's what he started with. I'm so blessed to have a husband who's good with putting things together!
Of course, Bailey was a great supervisor. She was quite interested in all these new toys that are not for her! We did get her some new rawhides which distracted her for quite a while, and we have a "big sister" present for her when we come home from the hospital!

Busy Daddy!

Our countdown to parenthood is in the hours now (60 hours at this exact moment!). Niels took me out for one last errand run with just the two of us. The next time I'm in the car, it will be when we take off bright and early Tuesday morning--4:30am--for our c-section! 

It was a pretty winter night with light snow (sorry, Mom!) and we went to Target for a pack 'n' play (thank you, Canton Family!), and then Babies R Us for the above bouncer (thank you, Ingrid and Bart!). I probably pressed it a bit, because I'm absolutely wiped! So Niels is now working on the pack 'n' play and I am banished to the couch for the night!

Tomorrow is our last day together before we meet the baby. We have grand plans to watch football all day! Monday is Niels' last day of work and then it'll be Tuesday morning before we know it!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Soon and very soon...

We're t-minus 8 days til baby DJ arrives. It's been a dicey few days with two trips to the hospital last week. We're getting great care from our OB and we're very grateful that all is well with baby. I'm having a rougher time fighting the pre-eclampsia. So far, it's only mild (ha!) so I can stay at home but I'm being watched like a hawk! The biggest challenge is that my blood pressure spikes pretty quickly and I'm really swollen in my hands and face. Looking at these pictures, I'd say my stomach is a bit swollen as well! It seems each day, I'm limited more and more in what I can handle, so I spend a good portion of my day laying down.

One great blessing is that American Dad drove out to Ohio to spend a few days with us (translation: be Jen's caretaker and errand boy!) Tonight he and Niels put up the Christmas tree and decorations since we have something going on next week that will probably prevent us from doing anything around the house! We enlisted Dad to take a few pictures of both of us in our final days before parenthood. This one is my favorite. Click here for more.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Every year this is the time to reflect a bit and think about all the ways God has blessed us. Yes, Thanksgiving is not just turkey, cranberries and Black Friday, but should be a little less materialistic and a little more about family and relationships.

And even though this year has had its share of hardships, it isn't all that hard to come up with a list of things that we are thankful for:
  • A full-term pregnancy: We have managed to cook baby DJ to full-term. There have been plenty of times when that seemed virtually impossible, but beaucoup prayers and lots of bedrest seem to have done the trick. We are really looking forward to Dec 9, when - Lord willing - we can finally hold our son in our arms.
  • A full year of marriage (16 months in 2 days): Our first full year of marriage. We were married at the beginning of this year and will be married at the end of this year. And guess what: we haven't spend a night apart and STILL like each other...
  • Idea in-progress for having only 1 house: After much prayer and counsel we've decided to pursue a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. Even though it was certainly not our first choice (or even 2rd or 3rd), it is a huge relief to finally know the road to 1 house payment is finally clear.
  • A new US Permanent Resident: This year the DHS finally came to its senses and let Niels stay in the US... Nah, the DHS has always been fairly helpful and quick and that alone is cause for giving thanks. After all, it is a government agency and when they are actually helpful, that is cause for praise.
  • Our mid-pregnancy cruise: In August we went north, way north to Alaska for a much anticipated, relaxing and amazing week away from it all. Best of all, it was the one week that Jen felt good during the whole pregnancy.
  • Lots of trips to GR: Grand Rapids was the destination of choice for a number of weekend trips to help with selling the condo, visiting friends and loading up on some Dutch goodies.
  • Arizona: One year ago we were in sunny Arizona (we are writing this with snow on the ground here, sorry Mom!) where Niels met Gramma for the first time and got to take a beautiful trip through Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back. Niels was also introduced to Mom's famous chicken and wild rice... and is looking forward to more in the weeks to come.
  • Gin 13: One more thing we picked-up in Arizona is the card game Gin 13. It has helped us through many hospital waits and fun times at the dinner table too... Just need to get Jen to win a bit more... We play in Dutch most of the time and Jen is getting to be quite the expert at counting (at least from 1 to 10....)
  • Debt reduction: In the tough economic times we are facing we feel very thankful that we've been able to pay off all debt, short of 1 car and the house. That includes those dreadful credit cards... 
  • Bailey: despite a scare earlier in the year, she is still with us and healthy again. She is getting increasingly antsy about some upcoming change she can't quite figure out yet...
  • Visitors: This year we've not been able to travel as much, so we were grateful to have a number of family-members and friends coming to Ohio to see us. There were: Dutch Mom and Dad, American Dad (twice!), our godson CJ and Jen's sister Liz and our good friend Gary from Canada.
  • NFL Sunday Ticket: One of the bigger splurges of this year, but it made bedrest infinitely more tolerable given Jen's major addiction to the game of football. Go Vikes! 
In general this year we've been very touched by the generosity of our RT church family. They have stepped-up to help us during the latter stages of our pregnancy with help cleaning the house and feeding our family. Case-in-point, we have a complete turkey-dinner-for-two in the fridge courtesy of our church family. 

So, all-in-all, with the hard pregnancy, 2 houses, paystub mishaps, 2 miscarriages and 1 breast cancer scare, we look back on these last 12 months with much fondness and gratefulness to God for the way he sustained us and are eagerly looking ahead to next year which will be A LOT different with the arrival of baby DJ in 12 days!!

Gobble, gobble...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Full Term!

According to my OB, today I am 37 weeks, full term! And I feel every second of it! 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good News from Jen's Neuro

Today we received the okay for Jen to have a spinal rather than general anesthesia for the c-section. This means Jen will be alert for the delivery and Niels can be in the operating room to see his son being born!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

We're ready to bring DJ home!

Thanks to the Ziesemers and our National City Reward program, we were able to go on a little shopping spree tonight to get the rest of our "must haves."

Here's a few pictures with our finished crib and changing table. We still have a few things to hang up, but Dutch Dad, we're waiting for you! :-)

We finally have a crib mattress so here's the finished crib, complete with dust ruffle, sheet, bumper and quilt.

We also got the changing pad and cover...and needed diaper supplies. We're all ready for Oma, Opa, Gramma Chi and Grampa Elmer to visit!

Auntie Liz, there'll be plenty of opportunity for you to change diapers, too!
One of the projects for Niels and Dutch Dad...hanging up the letters. (And the ledges...and the valance...and the wall art...)
And our favorite onesie...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One Month From Today...

Our c-section is scheduled for 7am, Tuesday, December 9...just one month from today! It's been a long, difficult pregnancy and we are both ready to meet our little boy! I'm still on bed rest, which is not as fun as one might think! I've watched about as much TV as I can stand, and have become an expert on computer games. I read when my headache and dizziness isn't too bad, but for the most part, I'm learning to stay in bed, or at least horizontal. Whenever I get overly ambition, I usually pay for it for a few days. There are so many things I'd like to do, but they'll just have to wait til after our son just one month!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

USA votes - History has been made

Today not only Canton voted, but also the rest of the United States and they by majority elected Senator Barack Obama the new President-elect of the United States. The next two-and-a-half months we'll see a transition from the Bush-era to a new, historic chapter of the American history. 40 years ago an election of an African American President would have been unthinkable, but today after an incredible graceful concession speech by Senator McCain, the unthinkable has happened.

I'm excited to see where Obama will take this country! 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Canton Votes - part III

Well, it's election eve and we can honestly say: Thank God! It's the culmination of pretty much 2 years non-stop campaigning. Do politicians actually do anything else?? I can't help but wonder sometimes. But, the good thing is that the whole world is covering this election and if you take the time and effort to look on some of the international sites you can actually find some refreshing insight into Election '08.

One of those sites is hosted by the Dutch current affairs program EenVandaag (like 60 Minutes or Dateline NBC). Last week they interviewed me for their web-only series about Dutch people in Canton, this week they interviewed us for the national TV broadcast earlier today. There's a few shots of our car and house at the very beginning, then we're on two features between 16 and 20 minutes in. The first clip has Niels speaking English (with me), but the voiceover and second part is in Dutch.


We'll see tomorrow if it will be President Obama or President McCain...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Canton Votes - part II

Today we found the link to the first interview they made of me for the Dutch current affairs show 'EenVandaag' who are covering the US general election from Canton, Ohio.

The video is in Dutch, but it talks about that life around here revolves around church and schools and since we don't (yet) have any kids we joined a local church (there are some other reasons too, in case you were wondering... *smile*).

Pastor Greg Nettle was talking about the elections and challenged the congregation to look at the major topics not only from a personal perspective, but also 'through the eye of a Jesus-follower'.

The rest of the video is about our personal struggle with prayerfully selecting the presidential hopeful that fits best from our perspective.[backPid]=10&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=33194

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

15 Months!!

Today marks fifteen months of wedded bliss for Niels and I! We've certainly had our share of excitement over the last year and three months, but all of our challenges have drawn us closer together and we feel more of a united team than ever. 

We have a few other things to post about (the surprise shower our small group threw for us, our unsuccessful attempt to attend baby classes like normal parents-to-be/my latest trip to L&D yesterday, and our ultrasound pictures from later today), but for now, I just wanted to post how much I love my husband and how excited I am to see him become an amazing daddy to our little boy!

Happy 15-monthiversary, Sweetie!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Canton Votes

If you have a moment you should check out a site called Sounds like a regular local website on the elections, but it is not. Quite to the contrary... It's a website by the Dutch current affairs program 'EenVandaag' (OneToday) who are covering the US elections from right here in Stark County, Ohio.

They have a Dutch and an English-language website (just click on the US flag next to the top of the page) and are covering a variety of angles; portraits of local Cantonites, an exchange program between Hoover High and a Dutch highschool in Almere (NL) and stories and pieces about the national elections with a local perspective.

One other intersting angle they are covering is Dutch nationals that have made Stark County and Canton their new home. After a tip from my dad I sent the team of EenVandaag an email last week and after a call on Saturday we arranged for them to follow and interview me during the Sunday services at RiverTree Christian Church where I was running lights that weekend. The first (short) coverage is already available - in Dutch - on their website, but a more comprehensive interview is in the works for this coming Saturday.

For those with a more limited understanding of the 'Freaky Deaky' Dutch language, here is the English translation:

Five years ago Niels came to the United States working for a logistics provider in Cleveland. There he met his wife and together with her he moved to Canton. He is a volunteer at RiverTree Christian Church, a large church in Canton. This year he cannot yet vote but the vote of his American wife feels a bit like his. They are still undecided since they feel no candidate is an obvious choice. They are leaning towards Barack Obama. On the moral issues like abortion and gay marriage they differ with Obama's points, but Obama's stance on the war in Iraq and the economy will probably sway them to Barack Obama.

After reading the story we feel the reporter captured our stance very well. We are looking forward to the follow-up story. We'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

32 weeks and counting...

This week is week 32. Jen has managed to stay pregnant despite 3 trips to the hospital in the last 10 days. Fortunately, all tests so far show that Jen is holding off the pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Oh, BTW, DJ is doing just fine. Blissfully unaware of the havoc he is wrecking on mommy's body. 

Since we've had several requests, here is the latest 'belly-shot'...

Just to be fair, here's a picture of me being the sensitive daddy...

And one last one... a bit more artistic....

Jen took this last picture. You think she might have a future in photography??? ;-)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

DJ's nursery bedding

We're winners! Niels and I won the auction on this crib bedding from eBay for half the list price on Amazon. YAY!  It's a nine-piece set that comes with:
* crib sheet
* quilt
* dust ruffle
* 2 valances
* diaper stacker
* toy bag
* decorative pillow (not really needed, but oh well)

It might be nice to get the mobile too, but we'll skip the other accessories. Now all we really need is the crib mattress and that part will be done! Next month we'll get the changing pad and start collecting diapers and wipes! Baby DJ will be here in only nine weeks!!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

DJ's 28 week pictures

Another profile picture.

This one was fun. It looks like he was smiling at us!

We caught a kick in print!

So DJ's doing well. This was just a short ultrasound, so we didn't get his measurements. It seems like we may have another one in the future. 

I've gotten sick during the last two ultrasounds. It's getting harder and harder for me to sit upright or lay on my back for any period of time. Walking isn't that great either. I get nauseous and lightheaded and my arms and legs go numb. So we did most of both ultrasounds with me laying on my left side. 

Yesterday was a long appointment. It started with bloodwork and glucola for the 3 hour gestational diabetes test. Then the ultrasound. Then another blood draw, then the doctor, then another two blood draws an hour apart. My headache was raging pretty hard by the time we saw the doctor, which was a concern, so I had to have more blood taken as they continue to watch me for pre-eclampsia. I'm doing the ever-so-much-fun 24-hour urine test today and will have more blood drawn tomorrow. 

Niels continues to take good care of me, and of course, the most important thing is that the baby is doing well. We continue to pray that we hold off the pre-eclampsia and I can wait out the pregnancy at home. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baby DJ and his 'Crib'

Last Saturday, 1 day before the storm blew out our lights and power Babies R Us came to deliver the baby furniture. They delivered it, hauled it up the stairs and put together the crib. The armoir and dresser were delivered fully assembled. After the delivery guys left we immediately put in some of the baby stuff so it kinda looks like a nursery.

Here is the process from office to nursery...

Note the litte touches of Mommy's history in the room.. the COW, the Vikings hat, DJ's uncle and his cousin CJ. Still looking for some things from Daddy. You can see more pictures of the transformation here.

Oh, and to top it off, here are two pictures of the future occupant of this beautiful room...

So, after 6 ultrasounds we finally have a profile picture... Hello DJ! Mommy and Daddy can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And we're back!

At 3:30am this morning, we were awakened by the most beautiful sight...blinking lights letting us know that our electricity is FINALLY back on...after 70 hours! We're so excited! Perhaps our friend Natalie said it best, "Being without electricity is like being without God, you can survive but quality of life is drastically reduced."

We're very grateful to be back online, and especially for the hard, round-the-clock efforts of the local FirstEnergy employees who got us powered up a day before promised!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Power out at the De Jongs

The remnants of Hurricane Ike delivered very high winds (gusts up to 70mph/110km p/h) and knocked-out our power at about 5.30pm on Sunday. We have plenty of water to drink, batteries for lights and gas to cook, but with our water pump running on electricity we don't have running water at the moment. This includes our toilettes. We are one of about 300,000 without power here in North-East Ohio so it could be another 24 to 48 hours before we have power since all the additional crews were sent to Texas earlier in the weekend.

We are camping at home and try to make due with some cell phone coverage and public WiFi.

Niels, Jen, baby DJ and Bailey

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Receiving Blanket from Papa John and Grandma Pat!

This just came in the mail today for baby DJ. Pat made it from scratch. So cute! Can't wait to bring baby de Jong home all bundled up in it!

My pretty pregnancy hands.

Usually my wedding ring is loose, but this is a vast improvement over Saturday, when I couldn't get it past my fingernail--what's left of them. It has been a stressful week!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nursery Update...Cleared and Painted

So Babies R Us called to say that our furniture is ready. Nothing like a little incentive to get the nursery cleared out and painted! Since Jen has doctor's orders to take it easy--we were in the hospital this weekend with early signs of pre-eclampsia--we recruited a little help! (THANK YOU, LIPFORDS!!!!)

Sweet baby James Lipford takes a last look at the office on Sunday.

On Monday, we cleaned and taped up the baseboards and ceiling.
Today, our good friend Rachel started the transformation to baby blue.

Niels got home from work, changed into work clothes (a new term in his vocabulary since meeting Jen) and helped finish the first coat.

One coat down, one to go...tomorrow.