Monday, February 2, 2009

The Christmas Cards are Out!

Okay, American Christmas cards were mailed today. We still have Canada and China to go, and hopefully Dutch Dad has already sent out our Dutch cards. Sure, it's February, but hey, good things come to those who wait. Some people might want to send out Christmas cards before Christmas, but since when have we done things the normal way. For those of you on our list, expect to receive this letter, and Daniel's birth announcement in a few days:

Christmas 2008/New Years 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow…what a year 2008 turned out to be! As most of you know, it was pretty hard year, but it ended on a very high note. It seems fitting that the verse to sum up our year is Romans 8:38--And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

We’re changing things up a little with our annual letter. Instead of our traditional chronological list, which would seem a little repetitive, we’re going to list our top ten memories of 2008.

10. Finding Out We’re Pregnant! – After two miscarriages, we were thrilled and more than a little apprehensive to learn we were pregnant again. Receiving this good news at Easter gave us confidence that this new life would finally result in a little one for us to hold. We were very blessed to have an amazing OB, Dr. Brister, who would keep very close tabs on Jen for the next nine months.

9. Hosting our first Catanarama! In January, we invited our local friends over for our first annual Catanarama (yes, we’re planning to repeat in a few weeks!). We had five games set up around the house and our friend Ashley won the tournament. The night was a huge success, as we increased the Canton Catan addiction percentage a few notches.

8. Visitors! July was a busy month for us. Over the fourth, we were visited by our good friend Gary, who ventured south from the Great White North. We greatly enjoyed introducing him to our local friends. At the end of the month, Jen’s dad, sister Liz & nephew CJ made their way from Minnesota. It was fun to show off Jen’s growing tummy, and CJ declared that he would be having a boy cousin. Two weeks later, we learned he was right!

7. Local Travel. This year we explored the local scene. We lasted four innings at a freezing Cleveland Indians game in April, hiked Gorge Park in Cuyahoga Falls, explored Hocking Hills during a spontaneous day trip, celebrated Koninginnedag (Queens Day) with other Dutchies, commemorated our first anniversary with a special evening out in Cleveland. We also made two trips to Grand Rapids over Memorial Day and Labor Day. It turns out that the latter would be the end of our travels for the year as Jen was put on bedrest shortly after we returned home. Of course, our most common travel destination over 2008 was to the OB clinic and Labor & Delivery!

6. Giving up the condo. After two years on the market and many price drops, we made the difficult decision to pursue a deed in lieu of foreclosure. We made two house payments for about 18 months and just got to a point where we couldn’t do it any longer. Not our proudest moment, but making the decision has lessened the financial and emotional stress greatly.

5. Niels is a Dutch Celebrity. The historic implications of this year’s presidential election have gained the world’s attention. One Dutch TV program chose Canton, OH to represent the average American. Niels was profiled at length and our Dutch family had great fun watching us on Dutch national television.

4. Niels Gets His Green Card. It took the US government record short time to decide that we really loved each other and should be together. Just days after our interview with immigration, Niels received his Green Card!

3. Jen’s Health. This has been the hardest year, physically, for Jen since sustaining her head injury in 2004. After our first miscarriage, the doctor found a lump in her right breast. It was 6.5cm when removed in February, and gratefully, benign. But the story of the year was the pregnancy, with Jen’s body fighting her every step of the way. All told, we 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, plus 9 weeks of bedrest due to pre-eclampsia and 14 weeks with an insane headache. The actually delivery went well, but Jen has had several complications since, including one very scary day when Niels wondered if he would be raising our son alone. As we close down the year, Jen is still dealing with high blood pressure, swelling, muscle spasm, and some residual effects from her head injury crashes in the hospital. It still sounds like a lot, but she’s improving more each day.

2. Our Alaskan Cruise – After we had our second miscarriage we wanted to make sure to be away on vacation when the due date for that pregnancy would come. With Jen having been on a cruise and Niels having been to Alaska we decided to give each other a taste of both so we booked a cruise to Alaska on the Holland-America Line… It turned out to be Spirit West cruise (if we would have booked through them) featuring (among others) Bebo Norman and Phil Joel. We didn’t get to see Bebo perform, but we did talk to him and were fortunate to sit through a performance of Phil and his wife. But the real highlight was being on a cruise together in the only two weeks of the pregnancy Jen actually felt good. Alaska was great and so was the food! Love cruising, that will be continued… and our number 1 memory of 2008…

1. Daniel Joel’s safe arrival! On December 9 at 7.47am our bundle of joy, Daniel Joel de Jong arrived at the talented hands of our awesome OB Dr. Brister. We are so proud to be parents of this little man. We named him after two people we greatly admire and in 2009 we will make sure he meets both! We want to thank God, almost all the nurses at Aultman (minus 1 in particular…), both our parents and our friends for making the weeks after the delivery a little less crazy. Today he’s 7 weeks old (yeah, we’re writing this in the last week of January 2009) and we love him more each day. Pictures of him can be found at his own PicasaWeb site:

• Trips to Grand Rapids, Hocking Hills (OH), explored the local attractions (Mercy Medical, Aultman Hosptial, Stark County Women’s Clinic), and many a side-trip to Target Pharmacy and the Mercy ‘Professional’ Pharmacy.
• Alaska, Seattle WA, Canada (BC) and a brief stop-over in SLC and PHX (that is Salt Lake City and Phoenix for all of you not versed in IATA airport codes).

Plans for the new year…
• Single-home ownership
• Sleeping more than 3 or 4 hours at a time
• Having a healthy baby growing into a toddler
• Christmas in Holland
• Showing off our son to anyone crosses our path (possible trips to GR, MN and China)
• Going to Canada from Feb 13 through Feb 22 (thanks to Penske for the meetings in Toronto on 17, 18 and 19 Feb!!)

Top 5 Things We Like To Do:
1. Play Catan, Ticket to Ride, Phase 10, and Gin 13 (Thanks, Gramma)
2. Hanging out with our small group, which are now addicted to the first two items of our #1 thing we like to do.
3. Be a family with Niels, Jen and Daniel (oh yeah, and Bailey)
4. Watching the 2008/2009 SuperBowl and looking forward to the NFL 2009/2010 season with NFL Sunday Ticket
5. Watch “Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Chuck”

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