Four month recap in words

I have been remiss at posting about our experiences and musings these past four months.  Easter Sunday began an eleven week road trip from Kansas to the East Coast and back.  It was one of the most exhausting and encouraging experiences of my life.  I can't express how those two went together, but it's simply true.  A paradox.  Along the road, we saw family and relatives as well as dear friends and ministry partners, visited and shared with many churches, reminisced as we stopped in places we'd formerly lived or visited, and created many new memories together as a family.  Car travel with a three- and six-year-old was not easy; some days were better than others.  Having work meetings with said children along was even more difficult.  But we did also have a lot of fun interspersed throughout the days.  Our social Nathanael loved all the kids he was able to meet and play with over the two months, and Eva remained her fairly flexible self, for the most part.  How we survived over two months of absolutely no routines or rhythms, I can only say that God sustained us.  We had very little illness, and we only had to cancel a couple get-togethers, which I'd say is quite impressive.  We're thankful for God's upholding right hand through it all.

Once back in Kansas, we had a little over a week to put some pieces together and then fly back to Vienna for ten days.  Why, you ask, just ten days?  We had to renew Nathanael's residence permit, in person, in Vienna.  There was no way to do it earlier or later.  (Believe me; we tried a lot of ways back in December.)  So we went.  We weren't sure how it would be, returning to our home and community for just a week with jet lag on top of the linguistic and cultural differences, but we came away from that week with a renewed sense of calling and purpose and a clearer vision for a few aspects of our work there.  We also were able to spend a bit of time with a handful of dear people, and that was life-giving to our souls.

The past week or so has been a change of pace for us.  Finally, we're trying to slow down a bit.  Breathe.  Reflect.  Dream.  Prepare.  Be together.  Gregory is giving time to his course preparations for the Autumn.  We've taken up jogging together.  We're considering how we can create healthier family rhythms and routines when we return to Vienna, reconsidering priorities, and asking difficult questions.  In a week, we'll go to Colorado for two weeks, a combination of visiting with ministry partners and seeing friends, spending five days with my family in the mountains, and attending a conference with our organisation for employees currently on stateside ministry.

August 18th begins our new 3-5 year term in Vienna.  Just a little over a month away!  I can almost touch it.

Thus ends my photo-less update from the last four months.  I doubt I will find time to write much in the next two months, but hopefully I'll return to regularly posts after September.  Thanks for following along!

Okay, one photo from the North Shore in May.


Back home, for one week

Back home in Vienna for a week...
Lots of this
And this at "home park"
We took the kids to "church park" to ride bikes many evenings.
Water break
The kids loved going back to Kindergarten/Pre-school for six days.  Nathanael's Kindergarten teachers gifted him with this awesome gift cone as a graduation gift.  (It's a germanic tradition to give kids these filled with school supplies and sweets when they begin school at grade 1.)
Playing at home...they're somewhere in there.  I think it was their lair.
(Notice the stroller is in the middle of the fun.)
We went swimming with a dear friend at her lake house.
Eva wanted to put on her own sunscreen.
The kids retired indoors to water paint!
And this is how we made it through the layover in Chicago -- an awesome playground!


A Kansas Summer

(Posted 7/17/2016)

We had a little under two weeks in Kansas before our quick trip to Vienna.  I think we packed in enough fun in those ten or so days for a couple months!

Painting the house
Helping in the garden
She was COVERED in dirt.
Sandbox play
Pool play
Homemade ice cream!
Chores - picking up fallen apples
Digging up potatoes
A bit of carpentry

Celebrating our little gem

(Posted 7/15/2016)

This sweetheart was such a delight to celebrate!

First we had an early celebration with Opa and Oma in Michigan.
Trying on her new outfit, creatively
Then, a few days before her birthday, we celebrated with Grandpa and Grandma with blueberry muffins and homemade ice cream after she woke from her nap; you can tell she was still not quite awake!
Ballet shoes!  (Thanks, Thomasons!)
Admiring the home-made card from her big brother
Stumped or just tired?
Blowing out the candles
Dancing in her Minnie Mouse costume
We flew to Vienna on her actual birthday, which technically means she was jipped out of a few hours, since we lost seven hours in the air.  But for a three-year-old, it's not too bad to fly internationally on your birthday-- games and movies all evening and cuddles with Mom all night!

Our "big" gift for Eva arrived the next day in Vienna.  Somehow I missed a photo of the unwrapping, but you can see that it was a hit.  She slept with it by her bed. :)
For our one week in Vienna, this stroller was on the move whenever Eva was awake, and it was usually filled with her Winnie the Pooh, carefully covered by her special blanket.

In my attempt to get a nice birthday photo for Eva's birthday letter blogpost, Nathanael joined the photo shoot, and I simply had to share the progression of these photos.  As you can see, Eva decided it was time for Nathanael to leave her photo shoot!
Real life.


Dear Evangeline (3 Years)

Dearest Eva,

Happy third birthday, Evangeline!  You are our little gem, our cuddle-bug, our big bundle of sweet sensitivity.  We celebrate your life and how God has grown you this past year.  Our prayer for you is that Jesus will be your everything, that you will find life and purpose and rest and joy in Him.  We thank God for you, Eva-lein.

Your greatest developments this past year are definitely verbal!  You enjoy your new-found freedom in being able to speak your mind, and the things that you say and the ways you say them make us smile all the time.  You have more recently been using "because" clauses (which often are not quite logical), and you vacillate between trying to keep up with your brother verbally and simply letting him take over.  Before we came to the States, you didn't prefer one language over another, mixing the two all together in your sentences.  Then you began speaking solely English with German sentence order.  Now you seem to have adjusted to speakoing full, mostly correct, English sentences.  We are curious to see how that changes as we return home to Vienna in August.

We've had quite an odd last five months, traveling all over the States, with little routine or predictability.  You've always been our flexible, go-with-the-flow girl, but one way we've seen you grow these past months has been in your willingness to push past your shyness to engage with others.  You really do love being with people (as long as you're not the center of attention), and you've enjoyed all of the new kids to play with on the road and all of their interesting toys!  You'd had enough of all of our church visits about halfway through our travels though, begging us every Sunday morning to not leave you at another Sunday School again.

Your favorite activities currently include:  swinging, sliding, any type of water play, riding a balance bike or tricycle (yea for pedals!), dancing and twirling, and walking to keep up with bigger kids. :)  You've recently really taken to dressing up, love picking out "pretty dresses" to wear every day, and will wear high heels or dress shoes around all day if we let you.  You love Minnie Mouse and Winnie ("Honey"), and you're currently really into watching Curious George and "Bob Builder Fix It."  Filling and carrying bags, playing "doctor", listening to music, building train tracks, solving puzzles, stacking legos, and having a tea party all bring you great delight.

Nathanael, whom you currently call "My Hanael," remains your all-time favorite person ever.  He is your best friend, your hero, and the one who can make you laugh the hardest and cry the hardest.  He sure loves you too!  Sometimes his high energy and talkativeness can be a little too much for you, at which point you either come to Mom for quiet cuddles or try to find a corner to be alone for a bit (good luck with that!).  In addition to a few friends from Kindergarten, you've gained a couple more best friends, "Yosiah" and "Nomi" topping that list.  You love praying for your friends in the morning.  It sounds something like this:  "Jesus. Amen. Des. Jesus. Amen.  Yosiah. Nomi. Jesus. Amen. Amen."  Your bedtime worship songs often sound like this: "Jesus, you love me. My mom and dad love me.  I love you, Jesus.  I love my mom.  I love my dad."  Your sweet and simple spirit combined with your depth of feeling are so adorable.

In addition to all the extra time we've had with extended family this past year, which you've loved completely (you sure seem to sense how special family members are!), you loved our family beach vacation to Side, Turkey last summer, soaking up every moment at the sea, playing in sand, and at the pool.  You also loved Nathanael's birthday visit to Legoland in Boston, the ferris wheel type ride being your favorite!  Anything your brother does!  (You think you're six too.)

Our sweet Evangeline Elif, we love you, sweetheart. We celebrate you with delight.  Happy birthday!

Lovingly, your mommy and daddy

Last day as a two-year-old
In your Minnie Mouse birthday outfit


Back on the road

(Posted 7/17/2016)

I think by the time we'd left Boston, I was so tired that I forgot to take pictures.  Here are the random treasures I did capture:

Haven't you always wanted to live out of your car for a few months?  As a family of four? (SAY NO!)
Lots of special memories made
Playing with new friends
We drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel.  It was stunningly beautiful!
They didn't actually sleep in a twin bed together, but they sure love morning play time together in bed!
Our last two days on the road were spent making memories with my college roommate and her family!
Eva napped TWICE on the road during the entire two months of traveling.  The second time was our last day on the road.  Such a cutie.