Third Birthday Celebration in pictures

I just love celebrating this little guy!  I can't believe he's three.

We had so much fun preparing for and celebrating this special birthday.

Nathanael's Kindergarten celebrates birthdays, so we joined in on the fun and made party treats for all the kids: little robots!  (Thanks, Claire Miller, for this awesome idea!)
Nathanael helped me make and bake some delicious blueberry muffins to take as birthday treats.  They were a hit!
Nathanael picked out the decorations for his cake.  I'd never done this type of cake decorating before, so I was thrilled about how easy it was and how well it turned out.  (I was going for simple and easy!)

Nathanael loved the cake and enjoyed blowing out his three candles.  Apparently he was able to blow out candles on his muffin at Kindergarten as well!

We were excited to receive these two books from the Cioffis!  I'm not sure who's more excited to read these, Nathanael or us!
What better gift for a three-year-old, right?!  These were actually from Grandpa and Grandma at Christmas, but we held off on them since we'll only start this adventure in the next few weeks.

Friends from church found out we were looking to buy Nathanael a balance bike (Laufrad), so they loaned us one of theirs!  What a blessing!  He's thrilled about it, and he had a few semi-successful attempts today.  The first try did end up in tears of frustration (which we expected).  Doesn't he look so big walking to the church park to try it out?!

When we picked Nathanael up from Kindergarten this morning, he was wearing this cute hat -- a special privilege for the birthday boy!  He loved it!  We walked to our favorite Turkish restaurant for a special birthday lunch.

What a sweet day for a sweet boy!

Dear Nathanael (3 Years)

Our dearest Nathanael,

Happy third birthday!!!  Three years ago today, we found our lives forever changed by your presence in our family.  We celebrate the physical life God continues to give you, and we pray that you may soon know the abundant joy of life everlasting in fellowship with God.  Jesus took the punishment you deserve when He died on the cross, and three days later, he conquered death and rose to life again, that you may know this life with God through Him.  You ask about Jesus often, especially when the topics of death, life, suffering, and disobedience come up.  We pray God would turn this curiosity into faith in Him.  Keep asking questions, son.  And keep seeking Truth.

What a year we have had!  The day after your second birthday, we boarded a plane and moved to Vienna!  After four months of living in another family's home here in Vienna, we finally settled into our own home in August 2012, and it has been amazing to watch you settle and learn to call this place home.  You have also settled well into the lives of our church community here, loving Sunday mornings to sing together to Jesus and play and eat with friends.  We're so thankful for these dear people God has put in our lives!  And speaking of friends, you began Kindergarten (preschool) this year!  We had been praying for this opportunity for you for over a year, and the Kindergarten across the street called us with a sudden opening in February.  Though your adjustment was slow and took some time, you now love your 2.5 hours each morning to play with your new friends and teachers.  You frequently ask in the afternoons if you can go again, and you keep pleading with us to let you stay for lunch.  We're thrilled that you have this consistent and natural exposure to German and are already impressed with the random German words and sounds you've taken on in a few short months.

At three, you continue to exhibit a great enthusiasm for living life to the fullest, wanting to take advantage of every waking moment.  You are full of contagious laughter and constant teasing, and yet you continue to love and need time to simply observe and make your own decisions about people and things.  You thrive in routine but continue to amaze us with your ability to be flexible when needed.  You have your father's intense curiosity and desire for information and constant learning.  Thus you do much better in new situations if we can talk you through them a little in advance.

At some point in this last year, once we'd settled into our home and you were feeling comfortable, your English language simply exploded.  Now it seems that nothing is beyond your ability, once you hear it used properly a couple times.  You amaze us almost daily with your complex sentences and advanced grammar, but of course, you also struggle with the typical toddler things such as conjugating "do" properly or getting all the pronouns right.  It's an adorable combination.

We love that you've maintained a close connection to our family in the States.  You speak about your grandparents and uncles and aunts almost daily, tell stories about them, and ask to pray for them.  We're so thankful to be able to Skype with them regularly and even have them visit from time to time!  Last year brought visits from Grandpa and Grandma to help us move and settle and then again for Christmas along with Uncle Drew and Auntie Carrie, and you speak about those times together frequently.  We look forward to making more memories with family in the next few months as they come to see us and meet Evangeline!

What a huge change it will be for you to be a big brother!  You seem genuinely excited to meet "baby sibling" as you often call her, and you have taken on a fascination with baby dolls, often pretending that they are Evangeline, and you're helping us take care of her.  What a shock the real Evangeline will be to you!  We're excited about this new step for our family and trusting that God will knit the four of us together in a unique and special way, just as he has done with the three of us these last three years.

Cars remain a favorite for you, and it's amazing the creative things you can come up to do with them!  You love stories - reading them, retelling them, asking us to tell you more stories, making up your own.  You sing often, making up your own words to the "ABC" tune, or simply humming yourself to sleep at night, when you're not squealing or talking loudly to your animals.  Though you want your independence and often enjoy playing on your own now, your eyes light up when Dad or Mom (or others) join you in play.  You love people, and you love making others (people or stuffed animals!) feel included.  Outdoor play remains at the top of your favorite activities, especially slides and sand.  You still enjoy running and jumping and operate almost constantly at such an amazingly high level of energy.  Food continues to be a source of comfort, and you almost always want to try whatever Dad or Mom have.

Nathanael Alim, we love you more than we will ever be able to express!  You are such a delight to us.  We thank God daily for allowing us to be your parents.  Happy birthday!

your daddy and mommy

Some birthday morning photos


A Surprise Baby Shower

I thought we were simply going to be babysitting our friends' kids for a few hours on Saturday morning.  But when we arrived, a house full of loving women from our church greeted us to surprise me with a double baby shower!  I was overwhelmed by the love and support and friendship, immensely grateful to these women who are becoming friends and family to us.  I had slept horribly the night prior, so my German was a complete mess, but they were so patient and accepting of me, including all my fumbles in speaking and understanding.  Here are a few pictures that tell the story of the time together.



Mother/Son Date Weekend

Gregory's off at a three-day conference with BAO, so Nathanael and I are having an extra special date weekend together.  I sure love this guy!  I'm going to miss all the one-on-one time we've been getting.  Once Miss Evangeline arrives, our lives will definitely change!