2011 in review

14 weeks
january: we announced some exciting news.

february: we discovered that the little peanut growing inside of me was a girl.

Trail (Wadi Rum)
march: we traveled to jordan where we rode camels, camped in the dessert, and floated in the dead sea.

april: we celebrated easter in zurich and found out that our little one was going to have a cousin!

la sagrada familia
husband and wife
may: we traveled to spain, celebrated my 31st birthday, and were married in switzerland

june: we celebrated stijn's 33rd birthday and took one last, very pregnant trip home to see dear friends marry.

july: we not so patiently waited for the arrival of our baby girl.

eleanor faye
august: we welcomed our beautiful eleanor faye (after 32 hours of labor) and began to see how much joy and love a little person can bring into our lives!

september: eleanor received belgian and u.s. passports and stijn was granted a green card.

eleanor and moemoe
october: my best friend came to visit, eleanor took her first trip to paris, and we traveled to belgium to introduce her to her family.

november: we flew to the u.s. for thanksgiving and to introduce e to her american family.

december: we took the train to zermatt where eleanor saw snow for the first time and we traveled to belgium to celebrate her first christmas.

2011 was another amazing year of love. a 365 day lesson in being open and adaptable, the year taught us what it means to be a family. it brought weddings and babies, and adventures to places only dreamt of. it brought new friends and tested friendships with old ones. it brought motherhood, and with it many more dreams for the future. when i look at the summary of what each month brought i am amazed by the themes of family and travel. i believe that these will always be the focus for our little family of three. my wish for this next year and all the ones that follow is that they be filled with more of the same!

le mariage


the original plan was simple; we would marry on my family's farm memorial day weekend. all we needed to do was to apply for a fiancé visa which would allow stijn to enter the u.s. with the purpose of marrying me. and so we began the painstaking process of compiling our dossier, filling out numerous forms, ordering original copies of birth certificates and various other official documents. we were all set. the plan was to post everything when we returned to cincinnati for christmas and cross our fingers that immigration approved our case before our may wedding.

then a surprise; a positive pregnancy test. a big game changer but we're adaptable and so we quickly decided that it would be best for me to apply for a permit to stay in switzerland and have our baby here. sounds easy enough right? hardly! more documents (lots more), many trips to different offices being told something different each time, and 3 months later a decision. i officially had residency here and subsequently health insurance, but no permit. apparently unless stijn and i got married, switzerland would not let me stay here. so we completed the paperwork to get married here and they ruled that we couldn't get married unless i had a permit. you see the ridiculousness don't you? we realized it was time to pull out the big guns so donning my tightest dress and armed with our encyclopedia sized file we went to the office de la population for once last plea. we figured if nothing else worked my pregnancy might appeal to their humanity. surely they wouldn't deport a woman who was 6 months pregnant. it turns out we were right. the canton of vaud ruled that i was illegally here but that they would tolerate it. excellent! now the civil court just had to approve our request to be married and it would be over. sadly, it was not that simple. the court here (because they don't know how to read english apparently) wasn't recognizing one of my documents as official. they kept asking for an official decree and we would respond saying the document they had was the official decree. (sidebar: all of this took place through mail correspondence as there is no office you can go to to have a reasonable discussion with a human being) we were exhausted and at our wits end. i felt defeated and deflated. marriage; beautiful and usually filled with joy had become 100% administrative. the joy had been sucked right out of it. with so much love between us we were having to fight for the right to marry and it seemed there was no way out. in one last desperate attempt i headed to the american consulate in geneva. they were as confused as i was regarding what switzerland wanted from me. we decided that attaching the form we had already sent them numerous times to official u.s. letterhead with a fancy seal was worth a shot. it worked! a few weeks later we were called in for the preparation of our marriage and in another 2 weeks we would be married, on memorial day weekend as it turns out.

it wasn't what i had envisioned my wedding day would look like. i never thought i would be 5000 miles away from family and friends making the most important commitment of my life. i never thought my parents would give me away over skype. i certainly never would have guessed that i would be 7 and a half months pregnant on my wedding day. but a year ago i also never would have thought that i would be this happy, married to the man i love, and ready to welcome our first child into our family. i couldn't have asked for a better day. the weather was perfect, the ceremony intimate, the celebration relaxed, and my daughter was there for all of it. i guess it turned out the way it was supposed to; we learned through the process how we handle difficulty as partners and with all the hair pulling frustration we continued to walk united.

we still plan to have that celebration on my family's farm only when we do we will be celebrating one year of marriage, our daughter will be in our arms instead of my belly, and i'll be able to drink all the champagne i'd like.

many thanks to all our friends and family for your love and support through everything. at times you were a shoulder, at times just an ear, at times you commiserated with us about the frustrations of swiss bureaucracy, at times you were a voice of reason, and we are so lucky that you were there to have been all of these and more. we love you.

many more pictures from our happy day will be posted tomorrow!