Dear Evangeline (5 Years)

Dearest Eva,

Happy fifth birthday, sweetheart!  Every time Daddy and Mommy (and Nathanael!) talk about you, we just can’t help but smile.  You have such a sweet and tender spirit.  You are compassionate and sensitive.  You are full of color and depth and are our cuddler and charmer.

This last year has been a year full of significant maturing, as you moved into the yellow room at Kindergarten with all of the other “big kids” preparing for school.  You diligently and proudly learned how to write your nickname and are currently working on the full version which is no small task!  You and Daddy bond nightly in learning the English alphabet using your flashcards.  Along with the shift to the yellow room, your value on friendships has increased.  You have “friends” both at church and at Kindergarten, and you are excited to spend time with them.  You have a special cousin-like relationship with our godson Richard, and the two of you frequently request time together.  You love when he stays overnight and sleeps in your bed!  You had your first sleep-overs this last year with Alyssa (Nathanael’s friend Elliott’s sister); Mom and Nathanael joined in on the fun as well.

In addition to friends, your relationships with extended family have deepened this last year.  Auntie Carrie’s visit last summer increased your adoration for her as she joined us in a plethora of fun outdoor activities, including berry picking in “Far-away Park.”  It didn’t hurt that many of them involved chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream!  Time with Grandpa and Grandma when they have visited remains a highlight; last November’s trip to Hallstatt and sliding in the salt mines was definitely memorable!  We had lots of special time with Opa and Oma and Andrew and Angie around Christmas last year, and you especially bonded with Oma and Auntie Angie while baking in the kitchen!   You and cousin Des really hit it off this last year, playing really well together, and we’re excited to watch your relationship grow.  Additionally, your reading skype times with both sets of grandparents have been special times of connecting for you.

You deeply value family and adore your place in our family of four.  When either parent returns home from being absent for a time, you display sheer delight and pleasure in welcoming us home.  You love when we walk hand-in-hand and frequently join Nathanael in chanting “family hands, family hands.”  Your brother is “my Nafanael” and has that extra special big brother place in your heart.  Although three years younger, you try your best to keep up with him and join him in every single activity.  As a family, we returned to our vacation spot in Side, Turkey, last summer, and you loved having almost two weeks to be together as just a family.  You really took to the water this time – both the beach and the pools – and became more confident on your own, and you adored the Kids’ Program, even singing and dancing on stage (as long as Nathanael was right there with you) and making friends as well.

Although much of your time is spent doing whatever Nathanael wants to do, you also have your own favorite activities.  You can spend hours working on art projects.  You love your Schere (scissors), and you are known to make any surface into an art board (chairs, walls, tables..) for your creativity.  You enjoy clothes (choosing your daily colorful and creative outfits) and adore playing dress-up; you were so excited when Krishana brought you dresses and shoes and jewelry last fall!  You love listening to music, singing, and playing the piano.  You often simply stretch out your arms and dance, and we adore that about you.  You like to play “Kindergarten” at home, have tea parties, bake cookies or cakes, play doctor with your baby dolls and Winnie, and have your nails painted.  You love being at home, and you almost daily protest when it’s time for you to have your “quiet time” and play alone (although you often lose yourself in creative and imaginative play once you get your protests out).  You graduated to a bigger bike in April, to which you quickly and effortlessly adapted.  You love to ride and ride well and cautiously, only having issues when you get distracted along the way.

You are our flexible girl, going with the flow, not in any hurry, subtle and crafty in getting away with things, and always wishing you were three years older.  You can well articulate key emotions, such as sadness, fear, anger, joy, and excitement, and you feel them all deeply.  You continue to love hugging and cuddling.  You have an adorable sing-song-like statement you say when you spill something or have an accident – “It’s okay.”  You are coming to terms well with human imperfections.  You seem to understand and believe in the love of God for you and others, and you even seem to have a good grasp of the basics of the Gospel message of grace through faith in Jesus.  You regularly tell us that you want to wait to make a decision for Jesus, and we admire your determination to make the decision truly for yourself.  We pray that the way we live out love and grace will continue to point you to God’s love for you shown through Jesus’ death on the cross.

We love and adore you, dear sweet Evangeline Elif.  You are God’s wonderful creation, and you display His Glory in beautiful ways!  We are so thankful to have you in our lives and as an important part of our family.

Happy Birthday!

Your mommy and daddy

5-year-old Eva!
A week before your birthday, showing off your flower pot and coins


Goodbye, purple bike!

We sold / gave away Eva's first bike yesterday!  My momma heart was a bit torn.  My baby is growing up!



Wading in the Liesing Bach

We love Oberlaa, especially all of the outdoor fun there!  On Sunday, we put on swimsuits and went down to the Liesing Bach (stream).  It was such quality family time, and of course, we concluded with some delicious Zanoni ice cream from the local Italian restaurant!


Morning Rides along the Liesing Bach

I've been trying to go for early morning bike rides now that the weather is warmer.  I have the city all to myself at 5am!  I love the beauty and simplicity of it, the smells and sounds and sights of nature.


Nathanael's School Dancing Festival

Nathanael's school hosted a festival with the theme of dancing, and it was quite impressive what they were able to do with only a few hours of working with professionals.  Sadly, the weather did not cooperate, so it all took place in the gym instead of the huge school yard.
Nathanael had a blast.  He had a huge smile on his face during the dancing.  Eva was quite impressed and definitely wanted to join in on the fun.


And then he was eight

We are in the midst of Nathanael's birthday weekend!  It began with a few Friday evening surprises.

Then came his big birthday party with friends yesterday, which will be its own post in the next week or so.

And today is the actual day.  I did get a bit teary-eyed last night before bed, allowing myself a few moments to remember the first time I held that handsome baby in my arms.  He's now an independent and fairly responsible 8-year-old boy, too tall now to be my armrest.  It's amazing really how much changes is eight years.

I won't be posting our birthday letter publicly anymore as we want to be sure to give Nathanael more privacy as he's maturing, but here are a few paragraphs from this year's letter:

Dear Nathanael,

Welcome to age eight! You are exactly who God wants you to be today, and we celebrate you today as you have reached this new age of eight. It is just another day, but it is an opportunity for Dad and me to take some time and write to you about the last year and the ways you have grown and changed...

...This has been a year of great learning and exploring. This past year, you completed your first semester of piano lessons, even gave a mini concert for Grandpa and Grandma when they visited. You began and completed your first semester-long swim lessons at Amalienbad, and you advanced to the next class which swims in the deep pool. You even jumped off the diving board for your first time last week! You were involved in the Alterlaa Lions Fußball training club with Bemitha and Derik for a few months, and you discovered and became interested in field hockey. You and Dad visited an indoor climbing and rope's course facility, and you absolutely loved the challenge of the high rope's course. Your love of the Motorik Park at Hauptbahnhof remains, and we are quite impressed with your abilities there! During school breaks, you attended events at the Center for Architecture, loving every single thing related to Architecture. Gerlinde introduced you to the Technical Museum, which you've visited multiple times now with various friends and family. You have attended two different science lab events, learning about fire and air, to name a few. You've visited an organic farm in Oberlaa, baking your own bread rolls from the grains there.

This year you have also naturally continued to enjoy and grow in areas of interest. You love to ride your bike and have gone on bike rides with both Dad and Mom and as a family! You are usually so patient to wait on your sister or on Dad and Mom when we're running with you, and you have even ridden to school and back a few times. Your love for being active and being outdoors remains. You've even gone on multiple hikes alone with Dad in the Wienerwald. We love spending time exploring the zoo on school holidays, our favorite parts being the little jaunts in the forests. Last summer, you and Dad and Eva discovered berry picking in the Wienerberg, and you were so excited to share the joy with Mom and Auntie Carrie as well. Of course, Side and the beach and pools and sand is always a notable family activity, although you decided two weeks of sunscreen twice daily was too much for you this time! :)

Reading has gone from something you do well and somewhat enjoy to something you absolutely love, whether in English or German! We often have to remind you to let yourself sleep when you're staying up too long reading. You voluntarily read multiple pages of the chapter books we read you at night. You love reading yourself and love being read to, especially before bed and during your special Skype times with Opa and Oma and Grandpa and Grandma. Your current favorite book sets are The Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, Einfach Max, Fünf Freunde, und Little House on the Prairie. It is a beautiful gift, reading. Continue to enjoy it!

Your interest in the Bible, learning more and understanding more, has continued to grow. You regularly read various children's Bibles and tell us about what you've read. We discovered the DVDs What's in the Bible with Buck Denver last year, and it is amazing what you learn and retain from those creative shows. Your love of music continues, especially singing your favorite worship songs from church or the songs we listen to at home, or even writing your own songs! This last Christmas, while visiting Uncle Andrew, Auntie Angie, and Desmond, you really took to Angie's Ukulele and worked hard to prepare a mini-concert for us with a song you'd learned at school.

A few other memorable experiences I'd love to make sure we note in this letter: watching Cars 3 together as a family in the theater, our GEM-Austria retreat at the JUFA Neutal and how much fun you had with the kids, GEM Annual Conference in Slovenia and the incredible kids' program and new friends, signing up for a summer youth camp through church and working hard to improve in your independence around the house with chores and responsibilities, and simply being an awesome big brother who loves his sister and still picks her up and gives her great big brother hugs when she's not getting on your nerves. ;)

Nathanael, we see God in you in the way you love people and draw people together in community. Thank you for showing us God's great heart for all people. We are so thankful for you, are gift from God. We know He will continue to work in your life to make you into the person He has created you to be. We are excited to continue to walk this journey with you. We love you, son.  Happy Birthday!

Party pictures to follow in the next week or so. ;)