Here’s an experiment, and a first time for everything: trying to marry two new year’s traditions in one blog post:
1) An American New Year’s letter, in which families give an overview of what happened in the past year. These can be funny, bragging or honest, but I always like getting them in the mail and reading about the lives of friends.
2) A Belgian New Year’s letter, usually written by kids and read aloud – standing on a chair in front of the extended family – for their godparents, wishing them good health and happiness in the year to come. Ideally, it rhymes so I’ll try my best to give you some poetry here!
Here we go…
1. The De Schutter family in 2013.
Life was good for us in 2013! We enjoy living in sunny and beautiful California and were blessed with good health and good fortune. Alex (8) and Elena (6) are doing well at Ponderosa Elementary School. Alex is growing into an independent third grader who loves reading and reading and reading and also science and social studies. He likes his teacher and makes good friends in and out of his classroom. Soccer was his sport in 2013! He played two seasons, and is often seen carrying around a soccer ball after school. He also made progress in swimming and shows an ever growing interest in legos, Star Wars and robotics. On Wednesday nights, he goes to the Logos program at Church where he loves connecting with the other kids and always looks forward to seeing what the ‘dinner dude’ will be wearing.
Elena is a proud first grader and loves going to school with her very cute group of BFF. She played soccer as well, with Tom as one of her coaches. Other after school activities included swimming, Spanish, music lessons and gymnastics. She performed in a choral festival with her music class and had her very first piano recital. Tom and Elena joined a father/daughter group at the YMCA and went camping together. In the meantime, mom and Alex bonded over Star Wars movies and popcorn!
Tom continues his career at Synopsys, in his new role as Product Marketing Manager for Virtual Prototyping. He traveled a lot in 2014 and went multiple times to Japan, Germany, Belgium, Scotland, England, Austin TX, Portland OR and San Diego CA for work. Even while working hard and putting a lot of dedication into his job, he manages to be home on time for dinner most nights and spends time with the kids as soccer coach for Elena’s team, going on father/daughter outings and playing Magic The Gathering with Alex.
My main role is still ‘mom in chief’, taking care of the family, household and driving kids around to soccer practices and other activities. 2013 was also the year in which I got back in the classroom, teaching ESL to adult learners through Refugee Transitions. Teaching English was definitely a change over French, Dutch or Italian, but being back in adult education just felt right for me. I continued tutoring high school students in French for a couple hours a week, leading to a situation in which I teach French to (very) rich people and English to (very) poor people…opposite worlds! I volunteered at Church as a 2nd grade shepherd and 2nd grade Logos teacher, and helped out in the kids’ classrooms once a week reading with students. In my spare time (huh?) I enjoy hiking, riding my bike, reading and meeting with my book club, cooking veg(etari)an food and baking bread. And coffee. And sleep.
As a family, we traveled to many beautiful places, including Tahoe (first time skiing for Ilse and the kids), King’s Canyon national park, Hawaii (Big Island), Santa Rosa CA, Belgium (and The Netherlands) and New York. Tom’s parents came to visit us twice.
So yes, life was good for us in 2013. We were confronted with life’s fragility in the lives of friends and family dear to our hearts, and are thankful every day for our blessings.
2. Nieuwjaarsbrief 2013.
May your days be filled with joy and laughter,
and may you all live happily ever after.
We wish you happiness and good health,
and just enough wealth.
May you notice goodness and beauty all around,
in a world where kindness can abound.
Be thankful for daily bread,
sunshine, forests, ocean and at the end of the day… your bed.
Take care of your loved ones, have compassion and let go,
2014 will be your year to grow.
Jullie kleine kapoenen, Tom, Ilse, Alexander en Elena De Schutter.
Sunnyvale, 1 januari 2014.