Our First Post-Language-School Task

Now that we've made it through the crazy two months of language school (and PASSED our A1 exams!), we're on to some different types of activities.  My favorite, for many reasons that I will shortly expound upon, was a trip to IKEA!!!

Gregory and I are huge IKEA fans.  We love their prices, the ease of transporting large pieces of furniture home in our own vehicles without delivery charges, and the accomplishment of assembling these items.  But we also love the IKEA store -- the maze of fun furniture displays, the cheap and yummy food, the espresso bar, and yes, even the accomplishment of making it through the store successfully!  Yesterday, on our first IKEA visit with a child, we discovered a new delight -- watching Nathanael explore toys and furniture in the kid's section!  We were all quite entertained.  (And in case you are not aware of the IKEA kid-care, they watch your kids for free between the ages of 3 and 10!  We're counting down the months to a free date!)

But on to the purpose of this post.  After over two months, Nathanael has been outgrowing the nightly use of our hosts' pack 'n play.  (Read:  None of us have been sleeping so well these days.)  IKEA's crib prices simply cannot be beat, so we headed out on our little adventure the first day stores opened here after Christmas; the store was crazy crowded!  And I feel as if I should also make a note here about visiting an IKEA in a language you aren't completely familiar with yet:  if at all possible, try to go to one in a language you know first; I cannot imagine how confusing it would be the first time without being able to fully read and speak the language!

We found the crib I'd seen online, and Nathanael begged for us to let him get into the display.  We conceded, and our little guy proceeded to lie down in the crib and sing his sleeping song.  We were all hooked.

This morning, I am pleased to report that all three of us slept through the entire night.  What a relief!

Nathanael loved watching Dad put the crib together.

And here's his new little haven.

It's crazy that we've had our son in "temporary/loaner" beds from age 3 months until 20 months!  And we have another 4-5 more to come!  (Those "loaner" beds have been a huge, huge blessing though!)


Christmas Day Memories

Here are a few of our favorite Christmas Day photos.  We didn't manage to take very many this year.  Someone kept us busy!

Sorry this one's blurry, but he was so excited to wear his boots that he really wouldn't stand still.


Our Little Helper

Nathanael wanted to show you all how he does laundry here in Vienna.  Seriously, I did not prompt him on how to do this!  I simply asked him if he'd like to show the camera how he does laundry, and this is what he proceeded to do. :)

First, he puts the clothes into the washing machine.
Then he adds detergent here.
Then he presses this button to start the machine.
Next he puts the clothes into the dryer.
Then he closes the door like so.
And he turns this knob to select the level of drying.
Aren't you proud of our little helper?!

It's amazing how much he has grown up in these two plus months!


Thoughts on a Tuesday morning in Vienna

I'm on my daily trek into the city for class.  I should be studying now, but my iPod just switched from German dialogue to Augustana's "Boston," and all of a sudden, my romantic sentiments are engaged, and I'm inspired to write - with pencil and paper yet!  Why not blog, right?

Vienna, in the late autumn / early winter, is covered in a thick fog.  It's the curse of the Donau.  This beautiful waterway which shimmers bright and blue in the summer causes a droggy haze to cover the city in the drudgery of winter.  Every so often the sunrays find their way through the haze, and we all breathe deeply and sigh.  "Die Sonne scheint."  I made up a silly song in German on Saturday, singing it with giddiness to Nathanael as we walked to the grocery store.  It was simply about the sun shining, the weather being warmer, the day beautiful...  It reflected the light feeling of the sunny morning.

Where am I going with this?  I cannot help but view all of this from a spiritual perspective.  I actually love the fog here -- it's something different, and it causes me to have a greater appreciation for the sun when it blesses us with its rays.  Recently I have been reflecting on God's sovereignty in often only allowing us to see what we must for our current situation, sometimes one step further.  We rarely view this foggy haze as a blessing.  But when the rays of understanding suddenly break through, it is truly glorious!  We see a fraction of the beauty of our Creator, how He marvelously works all for His glory and how He is so intimately aware of our needs and concerned with our good.

As I strive to learn this new language, I am truly in awe as to how God had prepared Gregory and me to be here in Vienna in the many years prior, even though we were oblivious to His greater plan, even though we felt we were often walking through a foggy haze.  I smile as I think of how this also is only a tiny thread in the tapestry of His Kingdom's plan.


A Palace, A Wood, and Remembering the Dead

As class hasn't been too exceptionally challenging yet (we've not yet completed our second week!), we've been taking advantage of weekends and holidays to get out and see the sites.  Last weekend, we visited the famous Hapsburg summer palace - Schonbrunn.  We'd been told it was gorgeous, and we discovered that everyone is telling the truth, but it's not necessarily the palace that takes your breath away; it's the grounds.  They were stunning in the brilliance of autumn.  Unfortunately, the pictures don't show you this, so you'll just have to come and visit.
Tuesday was All Saint's Day, and so we took a morning walk together to a nearby pond.  Nathanael loved playing in the leaves, pushing around his stroller, finding dirt piles in which to play... (He's cutting his fourth tooth in one of these pictures. :)
Then we headed to the Vienna Woods in the afternoon.  Gregory and I love urban settings, but we definitely appreciate and need time in wooded areas.  We loved to take walks in the woods near Gordon Conwell on Boston's North Shore.  We were thrilled to discover the Vienna Woods.  They are large and breathtaking, and apparently there's a great view of the city from the top.  We just didn't catch the sun to see it on Tuesday.
We ended the day by stopping off at a cemetery for some cultural education on how Austrians remember their family members on All Saint's Day.  Almost every grave had candles lit earlier that day by visitors.  Many were decorated with floral arrangements.  The final picture here is a grave piled with wreaths, likely from a burial that morning or the day prior.
Though the experience was educating for us, we were consumed with compassion for these people and their lack of knowledge (in the heart) of our Savior Jesus Christ.  We pray God might use us here to make a difference in many lives...


German in the Autumn

Gregory and I have made it through our first week of German language class!  We're thrilled to finally be able to focus on this language and even begin to see some improvements in our comfortability with speaking.  Of course, that said, a lady on the train today was trying to ask me or tell me something about Nathanael, and I had absolutely no idea what she was trying to say.  (Other than I COULD understand she was using the "she" pronoun for my son - ha!  Oh well, he IS beautiful! ;)

Nathanael and I just returned from a family date in the city.  It's the moments like these that take my breath away.  We met between classes, walked to the Naschmarkt to grab doner and durum for lunch, and ate by the playground in front of Karl's Church.  The trees are turning, and the chill in the air seems to whisper, "Autumn is here...autumn is here."  I managed to snap a few pictures of Nathanael playing in the leaves, but they really don't do justice to the beauty of this time of year and the glee exhuberating from this little boy's being!

We are so encouraged to be in Vienna as a family.  It is the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise from God, that He would bring us here to serve Him and His people.  We're here now (though not yet permanently), and we're striving to learn German so that we may best serve Him here.  We're excited to see what He does!

 (As you can see, he is finding plenty of sticks to play with in Vienna.)
 You wouldn't believe how many pictures of Nathanael come out like the following:
That's our boy, always moving his feet!


Proof that we're here

I've taken very few pictures since we arrived in Vienna, somehow none during travels and our first day here.  I guess that's what happens with a toddler. :)  However, here are a few from the past couple days.

This one's for the grandparents.  Nathanael has found a couple places to pile his cars and trucks.  This is one of his favorites.
Here's Greg outside the BAO offices, where he'll eventually work.  They didn't have a big sign, so he's pointing to it in the picture.
Outside the Hofburg Palace
(I think Nathanael was pointing at a truck driving by, imagine that!)

In front of the famous Stephansdom
He finally fell asleep in the afternoon.
Karlskirche at Karlsplatz, practically across the street from our language school
Still sleeping at Schwarzenbergplatz
Playing in the Stadtpark (it reminded us of the Boston Public Garden!)


And We're Off!

We're off to Vienna tomorrow.  I'm hopeful to share some pictures and stories over the next 12 weeks, but only when I'm taking a brief break from language study!  In just over eight weeks, we take our German proficiency exams which will allow us (assuming we reach A1 level) to apply for our residence permits on January 2.  When I think about the next two months, I have some anxiety related to my own abilities to learn what I need while also caring for myself and our family.  But I know our God is big enough to do this, and I believe that He will!  We'd love your prayers for us as we adjust and learn over the next eight weeks!

In other news, Nathanael will be 18 months old at the end of the week!  What an exciting journey parenting is!  I feel I must comment about how well he has been doing in the church nursery for the past couple months, lest I forget this stage of adjustment.  The last few weeks, he has practically climbed out of our arms to go into the nursery, no fuss what-so-ever when we leave.  What a change from last year!  I expect he'll struggle more in the coming months with the different places, people, and language, but I know he (we) will eventually adjust.

Here we are all serious-like and ready for our residence permits.  haha  These pictures just make me laugh.

Now, I must get back to packing and decide what toys to take for this little guy.  I'm thankful Austria has plentiful rocks and sticks!

Little highlights

Raw onion, anyone?
An added challenge to the normal push-ups
Gregory and his dad used to do this...
Nathanael is quite serious about his Little People.


Apple-Picking with the Cioffis

Another highlight from our time in Boston -- one of the only other ones of which we have pictures -- was our Cioffi/King Family Day. We spent the afternoon at Smolak Farms in North Andover and concluded with an incredible lobster dinner. We discovered that (1) Nathanael still loves apples, and (2) Nathanael has expensive taste - he loved the lobster!

Nick and Deborah took some amazing pictures, so here are the highlights of the Kings.  I'll abstain from sharing all the adorable pictures of Josiah; let's just suffice it to say that he is quite the cutie.

Tickles at lunchtime
Finally a great family photo
This boy loves apples!
He was rarely without two apples in his hands.
We had to hold his fingers back, lest the peacock take a bite!
First touch of goat...hmmm, how momentous!
The cider and cider donuts were incredible!
A picture to cherish for years...