6.20.2014

Dear Evangeline (12 months)

Dearest Evangeline Elif,

Happy first birthday, sweetheart! We could not have imagined the joy God was gifting us with one year ago at your birth. You are such a dear, sweet girl, and we love you immensely. You are beautifully and wonderfully created by a God who loves you and who longs for you to know Him as well! We thank Him for you every day, Eva.

This month's most noticeable change for you has been the addition of teeth! You're up to three now, with more most definitely trying to pop out. Yet you still aren't so great at handling foods that need chewed much. Finger foods are fun, but you seem to most often prefer to be spoon fed - our little princess. You have begun to transition away from nursing and seem to have done really well with that change thus far. You are a great eater and are eating just about everything now.  Your birthday strawberry cupcakes were a hit, though you were not so thrilled about the candle being blown out before you got it.

You are measuring around 76 cm in length (about 30 inches, 75th percentile) and weighing 9.8 kg (about 21.5 lbs, 60th percentile). You continue to prefer sitting and scooting to any other movements, and you can pick up quite a bit of speed when you have a goal in sight! You have become a huge cuddler. You always were, but at this age, the cuddles seem extra sweeter as you like to lean your head sweetly into our shoulders and hold onto us tightly with your arms and legs. We simply melt.

You love music, dancing, Lego Duplos, books, and items that are good for soothing your sore gums. Your favorite entertainment is definitely watching Nathanael playing and trying to join in on the fun while sharing in the giggles. You love swinging, riding the see-saw with Nathanael, playing in sand, and getting into parts of the house that you're not supposed to. :) And you are really getting good at imitating sounds and actions you observe. Blowing kisses is one of our favorites.

This past month, Grandpa and Grandma arrived for a visit, and although it took a bit of time, you are quite comfortable with them now and absolutely love having them around. We took a four-day train trip to Salzburg, and you were remarkable adapting to all of the activity. You loved taking naps attached to Mom (and she loved the cuddles), and once you settled the first night, you slept well in the hotel all three nights!

You are a charmer, often looking intensely at strangers, not cracking a smile, and then suddenly giving out one of your precious, twinkling smiles, complete with a little head tilt and sometimes a shy turning away. It is adorable. It has been called flirty. But at this age, we are simply delighting in the fact that you're feeling a bit more comfortable around people you don't know. That said, you still let the tears fall at times when you are a bit overwhelmed by new faces getting too close.  At home, you are such an incredibly pleasant and content little girl, full of laughter and smiles and exploration.

Our dear sweet Eva-doll, we love you and celebrate you today. We delight in your life. Happy birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy

Evangeline Elif - 12 month old



5.20.2014

Dear Evangeline (11 months)

Dearest Evangeline,

Happy eleven months, dear!  It seems that each month we find our hearts more and more stolen by you.  You are such a sparkling gem, full of sweetness and gentleness, sensitive yet incredibly flexible, beautifully vibrant yet also contentedly sedate.  You bring immense amounts of delight to our family, dearest.  We thank God for you.

You are measuring 73 cm in length (about 28.75 inches, 55th percentile) and weighing 9.3 kg (about 20.25lbs, 55th percentile).  Eating is becoming a bit simpler as you eat almost anything and are a bit more into finger foods now.  And it seems you may be moving out of the stage where everything goes into your mouth, as you played in the sandbox today for an hour without attempting to eat any of it!

You are mobile now, though your method of mobility is scooting, definitely not crawling.  You no longer spend more than a few seconds on your stomach before pushing to sitting, and then you scoot yourself around a room, exploring items and grinning hugely with new discoveries.  You can self-entertain for remarkably long periods of time, especially if Mom, Dad, or Nathanael are in site and can look at you and smile or say a few words now or then.  Remarkable!

You love to dance, and family dance parties bring out your giggles.  When you hear music, you often begin to bob up and down or sway back and forth, sometimes clapping your hands.  And it is all accompanied by an adorable smile.  Books, blocks, and puzzles seem to be your favorite toys lately.  The more textures to explore or pieces to pull apart, the better.  And you have begun to attempt to put items into objects and understand the concept of puzzle pieces belonging in certain spots.  It is fascinating to watch you develop.

You have taken some strides forward towards moving out of stranger anxiety, though it is still quite an issue for you at points.  You reserve most of your vibrant personality for those with whom you are very comfortable, and to the rest of the world you are mostly pensive, hesitant, and bashful.  You have begun to show us your silly streak though, especially in the game of pretending to hand us an object and then taking it back with a sweet and silly grin.  You love to laugh.  And no one brings out your laughter quite like your brother.  You absolutely love to splash in the bathtub with him, giggle together in the elevator, flail about together in silliness after naps, play together under the kitchen table.  You try to imitate his sounds and actions and have begun driving his cars, complete with the vroom vroom sound!

This last month was a big one for your brother as he began expressing his need for Jesus and his desire to believe in Jesus and have Him live in him.  We are delighted and hopeful about this step for him and pray every day that God would also show you how you can know Him through Jesus.  We long for you to know love and forgiveness, grace, acceptance, joy and contentment in Jesus.  Only He can offer these fully and eternally.

We love you, dear Evangeline.  Your life is such a God-given blessing to us.  Happy eleven-month birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy

Evangeline Elif - 11 month old

4.22.2014

Dear Nathanael (4 Years)

To our dear Nathanael Alim,

Happy birthday, son!  What a wonderful four-year-old son God has given us!  I don't know how I will capture some of this past year's adventures and who you are becoming in this letter, but I will attempt it.  You are such a joy, Nathanael!

This year, you became a big brother!!!  You were so excited to welcome Evangeline into our family and have done incredibly well with this huge adjustment.  To our delight, you love sharing a room with her and seem to handle the interruptions mostly well.  You are a wonderful big brother, looking out for her, getting excited about her developments, carefully teaching her new things, expertly attempting to calm her when she is upset.  We are so proud of you.  And no one can quite make her laugh like you can!

This past year brought all of our families to visit us in Vienna, and you loved the unique time with each special person.  Although you enjoyed the fun outings that came with their visits, you simply soaked up as much time as possible being with them, laughing together, sharing in Nathanael silliness, and making countless memories together.  We are so thankful.

You are a seemingly never-ending bundle of energy and excitement.  You love to talk, and you try not to leave out any details!  You are full of questions and love learning, often taking in more than we expect, as we later discover when you "teach" the other parent the new information.  You love people, helping them, talking to them, playing with them, and making sure they are a part of your life.  That said, you also have a pretty strong tendency towards shyness, especially with people you don't see often or spend much time with.  That generally translates into silly noises and actions but a refusal to say intelligible words.  Haha!  You get excited every time you see one of our neighbors with his huge dog, and you want us to stop whatever we're doing to go over and say hello to them both.  (The neighbor loves it as well!)  When we drop you off or pick you up at Kindergarten, you often want to tell all the caregivers what we are going to do that afternoon or evening.  You simply love to share your life.  We adore that about you, son.

Just after your third birthday, you expertly transitioned from diapers to the toilet.  It only took one accident to convince you to make it to the toilet in time!  Shortly after Evangeline was born, you began staying longer at Kindergarten.  You loved being able to stay for lunch (you love the warm Austrian meals!) and eventually transitioned to taking naps at Kindergarten as well.  Simultaneously,
this year saw a huge change in your communication as you began to understand and speak German comfortably.  Your Kindergarten teachers often comment about how clearly you speak.  You began attending and adjusted to the kid's program at our church (with the help of M&M rewards for staying there on your own), and every week you look forward to getting together with our small group, two families who are becoming a significant part of your life.

You love to play outside--run around, be loud, explore nature, play in sandboxes, kick a soccer ball, ride your balance bike, climb, go down slides.  Indoors, you love to build with Legos, play with cars, solve puzzles, read books (especially your word books and dictionaries), play with pillows, play in the toy kitchen, and of course, play with whatever your sister has at the moment.  You love to sing, singing songs in German from church or the kid's program at church, from Kindergarten, or English songs we play around the house.  And you enjoy making up your own songs as well, often a funny combination of German and English.  You are our big helper, assisting quite well with making your bed, emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, folding clothes, taking out the trash and recycling, getting items for Evangeline, and washing dishes.

We took our first vacation as a family of four this past year, flying to Antalya, Turkey, and spending over a week at a resort near the sea.  You loved playing in the pools, the sea, the sand, and soaking up lots and lots of time just to be together as a family.  We also flew to Germany for a conference last summer, and you enjoyed the opportunity to experience a "Kindergarten" in English!  (It was really just a group of volunteers who put on an awesome kids' program during the week conference.)  And finally worth noting, you and Dad held down the fort for four days on your own while Mom attended a women's conference in Italy.  We all missed each other quite a bit!

Nathanael Alim, we love you so much, but as we talk about often, God loves you even more.  It has been amazing to see how much you are learning and taking in from our daily Bible stories, from experiencing loving discipline and grace and thus understanding the consequences of disobedience.  You are asking a lot of good and difficult questions about what it would mean for you to believe or not believe in Jesus.  We see God at work in drawing you to Him, and we pray for you every day, that you will know God and experience the all-satisfying, great and glorious life in Jesus!  You are an enormous delight to us, son.  We thank God for the gift of you.  Happy birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy 

Here are a few pictures I took of you both on Easter (two days before your birthday).




4.20.2014

Dear Evangeline (10 months)

Dearest Evangeline,

Happy ten months, dear!  And a joyous Easter Sunday!  As Mom and Esther K. practiced music for the Easter service this week, you joined along in singing and dancing in your highchair.  It was adorable.  You are such a delight, Eva-doll.  We pray that you will have many years to join with us in the Easter celebration of Jesus' risen life.  He is Risen!  And through Him, you may also live!

This month's biggest development for you was giving up your third nap.  It took a week or so, but you finally shifted your remaining two naps a bit further apart (for which we are grately thankful), and we love the extra wake-time hours we have with you.  You now prefer to take naps in your bed, and we think that you're going through such a huge develpmental leap right now, that you're really struggling to let your mind and body rest and sleep.  Once you give in, you sleep really well.  But we've had a bit more of a struggle the last couple weeks in getting you to fall asleep.  It is pitifully cute how you just want to play and talk.

You are measuring 72 cm in length (about 28.3 inches, 55th percentile) and weighing 8.9 kg (19.6lbs, 50th percentile).  You scoot around quite a bit, but you still haven't ventured into true crawling.  Most attempts (mistaken or intentional) end in face-plants and pouty faces.  You still have quick hands!  You were able to capture Mom's coffee mug at a cafe this past month, and although it created quite a scarey scene (and a soaked Mom), you recovered from the incident within minutes without any injuries.  We are thankful!  You are really into taking things apart right now--unstacking books and toys, emptying baskets, moving piles of laundry, or messing with your brother's toys.  You love reading books, especially now that you're awake for longer periods during the day. 

You seem to love almost any food we give you now.  You're pretty good about eating finger foods and getting most of it in your mouth, but we still mostly spoon-feed you for the convenience.  You ventured into various meats and spices this month, and you seem to enjoy them all.  No teeth yet, but that is no surprise to us as your brother's were also late coming in.

You still prefer to say "Dada" and say it constantly with a very rare utterance of "Mama."  You are attempting some sign language, though it's not quite accurate yet.  You love to give high fives and are getting close to clapping.  You laugh a lot, especially in response to your brother, and love playing peek-a-boo games with all of us.  You have allowed a few people to hold you, other than Mom and Dad.  But in general, you are right in the middle of intense stranger anxiety.  Otherwise, you are a very content and flexible little girl.

This month our family finally visited Kurpark Oberlaa, and we had a splendid time together.  You absolutely loved swinging with Dad and giggled so loudly every time the swing moved towards him!  You got to sit in and feel grass, watch your brother throw a Frisbee, and observe sheep and goats.

We are so delighted by you, dear, sweet Evangeline.  We are thankful for the gift of you and love you, dearly!  Happy ten-month birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy

Evangeline Elif - 10 month old
 

3.20.2014

Dear Evangeline (9 months)

Dearest Evangeline,

Happy nine months, dear!  What a month of expression this has been for you!  Your sparkling personality has come out more and more every day, and we greatly delight in seeing the unique person God has created you to be.

This month has brought wonderful, Spring weather to Vienna, and that means lots of fun outdoors!  You've gone down a slide, played on the see-saw with your brother, played in the sandbox, and spent many hours watching outdoor activity.  We've taken walks together and brought you along on many outings, and you rarely complain.  We even had a three-day conference at Puchberg am Schneeberg, and you handled the train travel and hotel room without any issues.  We were amazed!

You've seemed to enjoy trying more "grown-up" food.  Baked and cheesy mashed potato, cottage cheese, lentil soup, cheddar and Gouda cheeses, carrot soup, chicken, beef stew...plus venturing more into finger foods and self-feeding.  (What a mess!)  But I think your absolute favorite part about finger foods is sitting at the table and eating dinner with us.  You are so distracted by smiling at and expressing your joy to each one of us that it seems you barely eat anything.  Our dinners are full of much laughter with you at the table.

You are measuring at 70-71cm in length (about 27.75 inches, 60th percentile) and weighing in the same as last month at 8.6kg (19 lbs, 55th percentile).  It feels so strange to already be dressing you in one-year clothes; you are growing up too quickly! :)  You are finally content on your tummy for long periods of time and have discovered that you can scoot really well on your tummy (mostly just backwards) and get to almost anything.  You've scooted forward a bit and it has almost looked like crawling. But so far, it hasn't stuck like the scooting backwards.  You have begun using toys as tools to reach other objects, and you've recently taken an interest in exploring books on your own with your eyes and hands instead of only your mouth.  You remain a great, long night sleeper, with the occasional interruption now and then (usually your brother), and you're still stubbornly sticking to three daytime naps, though the final nap keeps shrinking.

You love playing Peek-a-boo, have finally added "Mama" to your preferred and constant babbling of "Dada," and have shown a little interest in attempting some of the baby sign language we're teaching you.  You love to make a funny almost-growling-sound from the back of your throat, and it makes us laugh every time.  Your babbles are beginning to sound more like words each day.  You give out lots of smiles and giggles and love to offer Dad and Mom your open-mouth, slobbery kisses.  You laugh with a sweet sparkle in your eyes, and you are a great delight to the three of us!

We love you, dear Eva-doll!  Happy nine-month birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy


Evangeline Elif - 9 month old
 (At this age, getting one good picture of Nathanael seemed almost impossible, due to his activity level.  Every single picture I took of this girl today turned out marvelously.  What a different child!)



2.20.2014

Dear Evangeline (8 months)

Our dearest Eva-doll,

Happy eight months!  Oh what joy and delight you bring to our family.  We thank God for you each and every day, sweetheart.  You are beautifully and wonderfully made, and we love you dearly.

Daddy frequently comments, "What a gem!"  And it is true, dearest.  You are a treasure.  We love your sweet personality and gentle temperament, your sparkling smiles and dainty giggles.  When we pick you up and you hold onto us so tightly, we almost never want to put you down.  What a sweetheart you are!  Even your brother will hold still for a few minutes in order to hold you or sit with you or allow you to explore his face with your hands!

Your height/length hasn't changed much this month, still measuring around 69cm (27.25in, 55th percentile), but you've gained quite a bit of healthy weight, now weighing 8.6kg (almost 19 pounds, 70th percentile)!  You are still taking (and needing) three naps a day.  You sleep amazing well at night, and you have been waking up happy for most of the month, despite continuous colds!  You prefer to sit now and often protest when we lay you on your back.  That said, you wiggle around so much that you often end up on your back, and then you don't seem to mind it.  You still show almost no interest in turning over, though you can do it.  You've lunged forward a few times when you've been on your tummy, and you love to move and exercise your legs.  You have wonder-arms and can stretch and reach things I am convinced are out of your reach!

You love toys that rattle when you shake them, and we often find you holding two toys, hitting them together to make noise.  You adore book time, and you're turning pages on your own now.  You are developing so quickly in communicating.  You respond to our waving by waving back (with a huge smile) and have even begun initiating "hello" waves.  You have signed "more" a few times when eating.  You are familiar with games we frequently play with you, and you express your pleasure with smiles and giggles.  You love sitting across from your brother at the dinner table.  You watch him and smile at him and delight in him when he looks at you and is silly with you.  You love to talk to him and try to imitate his silly sounds.

You can successfully eat a few Cheerios, though it takes quite a bit of effort.  You are able to drink water from a sippy cup, but you still refuse to take milk from a bottle or sippy cup.  You've begun to eat yoghurt and love it.  And you've also ventured a bit into bread, and you seem fascinated.

You remain an incredibly easy-going, flexible, transportable baby.  And it seems to be a bit of your personality combined with being a second child.  We are thankful that we can take you with us on outings and visits and appointments, and you provide us so much joy!

We love you, dear Eva Elif!  Happy eight-month birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy

Evangeline Elif - 8 month old
 And a few more...

Waving!
 She's usually either talking or has a toy in her mouth.
 Talking!
 She spotted a toy on the floor that she wanted, and I almost expect her arms to reach it! ;)

1.20.2014

Dear Evangeline (7 months)

Dearest Evangeline,

Happy seven months, dear child!  We thank God for your life and the gift you are to our family.  You are a treasure, dearly loved, cherished and adored.

As this past month has seemed to bring out more and more of your personality, I wanted to share some of what we have observed about you at this age.  I am so curious to see how God develops you as you grow and mature.

You are an incredibly content and pleasant little girl who absolutely loves to cuddle.  You can endure a lot and be stretched a long time as long as we're holding you, which actually makes you quite adaptable at this age.  You respond to our smiles immediately with a sweet smile of your own, but we have to work much harder for your giggles.  Oh, but when you do (especially when we kiss your neck), the sweet little laugh melts our hearts!  You are quite responsive, calming quickly in our arms or with us near.  You like to observe your surroundings, especially if you may do so without being the object of attention to people you don't know.  Stranger anxiety is definitely a big theme right now.  You are sensitive and somewhat unpredictable, more so than your brother was, at least.  You are especially sensitive to sporadic loud noises or simply too much activity or too many people when you're tired.  The only exception to this seems to be your brother.  You are fascinated with him, even when you're tired or upset.

You have begun making known your likes and dislikes this past month.  For example, you are not thrilled when you can't reach a toy you want or your brother takes a toy from you.  And because you can clearly reach out for items, it's fairly easy to read your likes as well.  You often tense your body and kick your legs when you're really excited, such as when we come to you with a book to read or come to you after you wake from sleeping.  We love to see your delight, dearest!

Naptimes were somewhat of an unpredictable struggle this past month, possibly due to illness, or perhaps all the activity due to visitors, or maybe it was just a phase.  But the past few days, you seem to have suddenly decided you would grow up and accept your naps again with little to no protesting!  We are thrilled with this change.  You have also finally been sleeping unswaddled, and consequently you are entertaining yourself longer and better in your crib when you wake.  We often find you facing different directions or playing with your feet on the bars when we enter your room.  You still hold to your three-naps-a-day schedule.

Your physical growth has been steady this month.  You are measuring 69cm (27.25in, 75-80th percentile) and 7.75 kg (17lbs, 50-55th percentile). You finally rolled over a few times in the last week, though you appear to be completely uninterested in continuing doing so.  And each day you become more and more stable sitting on your own.  You spend quite a bit of time playing with toys in your highchair or sitting in a laundry basket.  You are bathing in the big bathtub, and you are fascinated with splashing the water with your feet, though not a fan of how all the toys you reach for float away.  You are eating three "table meals" and nursing four times a day.  Your new favorite foods are mango and dinkel grain flakes, though you still adore avocado, oatmeal, sweet potato, green beans, and peas.  Pears have finally grown on you, but the new "too sweet" fruit for you is banana.  You barely put up with it.

This past month brought your Opa and Oma to Vienna for their first visit!  It was absolutely wonderful to watch you bond with them, especially sharing your smiles with them every day.  Uncle Andrew and Auntie Angie joined us for Christmas and New Year's as well, their second time to see you, and you especially loved reading in Angie's arms.  We are so thankful for family visits and for the ability to stay closely connected in the in-between-times through Skype!

Dearest daughter, we love you greatly.  We pray for you every day, that God would bring about new life in you, even at a young age, that you may know early on the joy of walking daily with Jesus, covered by His grace and led in His love.

Happy seven-month birthday!

Lovingly,
your daddy and mommy

Evangeline Elif - 7 month old