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


Dear Nathanael (6 Years)

Dear Nathanael,

Happy Birthday, son!  We love celebrating you and the gift of God that you are!

It amazes us each year how much you grow and mature.  This year has been no exception!  Some things have not changed though.  You are still an incredibly active, animated, loud, exuberant, passionate, talkative, sensitive, inquisitive kid who loves people, loves God, loves stories, and loves the outdoors.  Legos and trains and cars are still at the top of your toy list, with puzzles, games, and drawing now joining your list of favorites, and you continue to enjoy singing and making up songs. (You've begun making up your own songs to sing to Jesus when you're on the toilet or first thing in the morning after you wake up!)  Chapter books have been a huge hit this year; we are amazed at how long you can sit still, and we enjoy watching your face animate as you imagine the stories you are hearing.  You enjoy making up stories with as many random toys pulled together as possible when you play.  You love to explore nature, and you and Dad have gone hiking quite a few times this past year, just the two of you together.  You've also really taken to bike-riding and have gone on many rides with Dad or with the entire family.

It's been fun watching your understanding of friendship increase this year.  You have really made some great friends in Kindergarten and through church, and it's been quite difficult for you to be away from them while we're in the States for a few months.  You like to try and write them notes sometimes, having us spell out words you want to write.  We love that you have a "Friendship book" which all of your closest friends in Vienna have signed, complete with pictures and favorites and photos.  What a special gift for these months away from them!  Your Kindergarten class even made a video for you and emailed it to us to tell you Happy Birthday!  You are a loved kid, Nathanael.  You are a good friend.

One of your greatest evident growths spiritually has been your heart for your friends.  You often ask us when we meet new people if they know God.  Sometimes you even ask them!  You love praying for your friends every morning and sometimes you like to simply talk to us about how much you want your friends to know Jesus.  You even chose to gift one of your best friends with a Bible in German this last year for his birthday, and you often ask with concern if we think he is reading it and learning about Jesus.  When we hosted Syrian refugees in the fall, you were concerned not only about their physical needs but about their hearts as well.  You seem to know in part that the most important thing in life is our relationship with God.  We pray this understanding will only grow and deepen each year of your life.

Included in your love of friends and your heart for people to know Jesus is your sister.  You pray for her each morning as well.  You say that she is your best friend on weekends and sometimes on other days as well!  She began Kindergarten with you this last summer, and you were so proud of her and helpful as she learned and adjusted.  You are a caring, kind, protective, sweet brother (most of the time).  And the amount of laughter that the two of you share is amazing!  Your joy in life is contagious, and we love how it has rubbed off on your sister.  Eva recently began asking "why" a ton, and we laughed when you finally answered her saying "just because, Eva!"

In the Fall, you were able to visit your future elementary school, and you interviewed in January and were accepted to begin in September!  You loved the bilingual aspect, but you were a bit concerned at first that they didn't speak your third language (Turkish)!  During our summer trip to Turkey last year, you were picking up quite a bit more Turkish, counting from one to ten, speaking pleasantries with the waiters and hotel staff, and you often ordered simit for us at our neighborhood bakery in Vienna.  We love that you are showing great interest in the Turkish people and language, something that you know is dear to our hearts as well.  You have only blossomed more in terms of your comfort in German, and Kindergarten has also brought with it some maturity in your social skills as a leader, learning more about being inclusive and considerate with others when leading.

This year has been a year of many big adjustments.  You love predictability, so we weren't sure how you'd handle it all, but you have really shown your ability to adapt and be flexible when truly needed.  We've talked often about the things we like and don't like about new situations, and you seem to be processing the changes quite well.  In addition to the trans-atlantic travels and lots of extra special time with both sets of grandparents and your aunt and uncle here in the States, we made it to London twice last year to visit your new cousin and his parents.  We love having having family with us on the European continent!

As we enter another year of your life, we know it will have it's share of difficulties and struggles in addition to the exciting pieces, but we trust that God will continue to teach you how to navigate life in such a way that honors him, that shows others love, and that is about living in the abundant life only found in Jesus.

We love you immensely, Nathanael.  Happy Birthday, sweet boy!


Nathanael Alim King
last day as a five-year-old


Howdy, y'all!

Now Texas!
I finally took Gregory to my beloved Pine Cove!
Skyping with my littles.  Oh, how I missed them those nine days!!!
A stop in Waco meant stopping by Magnolia.
(We didn't actually make it in!  Oops!)
But more importantly, we made it to Baylor!  Such memories...  And so many new structures!

Back in Kansas

It's time for a post.  As our blossoming Spring time in Kansas is wrapping up, here are the essential photos to remember some of these special moments:
My little cuddler wanted me to zip her into my hoodie!

Car Trips to visit the Greats!

One of my first priorities for our time in the States was to see my grandparents.  The kids loved meeting some of their "Greats"!
Sweet time with my Grandma

My amazing Grandpa!
When Eva first saw Great Grandma, she ran and gave her a hug!
Car trips have had their ups and downs, for sure, but for never having traveled by car before, they're doing great!
Along with visiting my grandpa and grandma in Western Kansas, we visited the family farm.  What a sweet tour my cousin Gwen gave the kids!  They speak about it all the time!
She sure looked content at the wheel.
Nathanael had to sit in every cab in sight!
Little boy heaven
Precious moments with Grandma where she grew up
Big green tractors have always been a favorite.
They stuck close to Aunt Ann when feeding the chickens.  Their faces are quite accurate.  But Nathanael warmed up to them and helped collect eggs!
Visiting Grandparents always means fun new (old) toys!  They loved it, and I love their crazy creative minds.  Pictured below: flying an airplane while enjoying a meal on their seat-back trays (of course!)


First three weeks in the States

Today is marks three weeks in the States.  How are we doing?  How has it been?  What is strange?

Well, surprisingly, we haven't had too much shock.  We took the first week to try and adjust and rest a bit, do some shopping and settling, my sister visited, and we ate some great food.  Other than adjusting to the time, it was a nice week.
Nathanael and Eva love the space here at my parents' home in Kansas.  It is novel to them.  They have a new level of freedom.  But most of all, they love being with family.
I turned a year older this week.  I can't complain about my DQ cake!
We've had funny moments of forgetting cultural norms (like my greeting people with cheek-kisses instead of hugs or handshakes), and we've smiled at the cultural differences such as how friendly and talkative waiters and clerks are.

In most ways, Vienna is our home now.  It's all our kids really know, so they are really freaked out by wearing their shoes in homes and riding in cars everywhere, and they find big yellow school buses and lines of semis strange.  All of this has been mostly expected though.

One surprise has been how encouraged we have been by the times we've spent with ministry partners.  We have really wanted to be a blessing and encouragement to others, but we have walked away from each gathering feeling so abundantly loved and blessed.  On top of that, our kids have really enjoyed getting to know these special people, and they're regularly asking when we get to go visit more people!  Thank you, God, for this gift.


The Whirlwind Month of January

So January was simply crazy for us.  Our kids ended up doing a lot of this:
Gregory was in the hospital for a couple nights for testing.  The kids and I got the flu a week before our flights to the States.  Oh yes, and then there were all of the preparations to be away from home for almost seven months.  What a month!

In the midst of that, we celebrated Gregory's 35th birthday.  I barely pulled off baking a gluten-free peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake, just before collapsing with illness.  It was delicious, but we threw almost half of it away because of the flu and flying. :(
Flights were much better than we could have imagined, thanks to in-flight entertainment, snacks, and lots of walks around the plane.
Neither kid slept on the eleven hour trans-atlantic flight, but that was no surprise.  We ate at Chili's in the Chicago airport (chips and salsa!!!) and then passed the remaining 2-3 hours playing in their awesome play area.
Once we boarded our flight to Kansas City, Eva completely lost it, wailed for about five (very long) minutes, and then fell asleep.  I was barely able to wake her to get her off the plane, and then she ran immediately into Grandpa and Grandma's arms (to their extreme delight)!  Both kids slept the entire two hour drive to their home, and then began the long week of trying to adjust to the time change!