Grandpa and Grandma are coming!!!

Waiting to board the train that will take us to the airport where Grandpa and Grandma are arriving!


Mid-December happenings

We had our next door neighbors over for coffee, and they gifted both of our kids with new toys.  So sweet.  Eva received a shapes ball, just like the one I had as a child!
Every Tuesday at small group, these two are full of fun and antics!  I happened to be caring for the kids and captured a few pictures this time. We love our small group community and that our kids are a part of it!
Evangeline would spend all day right here if I would allow it. She is constantly asking us to play music for her!


Nathanael's adjustment at Kindergarten

An email from my sister-in-law yesterday reminded me that I need to update you all on Nathanael's progress at Kindergarten.  We put out a "call for prayer" of sorts at the end of October, due to a few uncharacteristic behavioral issues, and then we never updated you all.  So here goes.

A bit of background.  In September, Nathanael was moved from the youngest group at the Kindergarten to the oldest group, basically the equivalent of "Kindergarten" in the US.  He and one other boy, who is also four, are the youngest, with most kids being five and many already turning six.  He has seemed to take really well to the transition, even thrive with the higher level of expectations.  Of course, the teacher has commented to me about how he struggles to sit still during their morning circle time, but that worried me not one bit!  What did she expect when she asked to bring a four-year-old boy into her class?! ;)

Still, as October was winding down, we knew something was wrong.  Out of respect for the little guy, I'll spare you the details.  But a handful of things were occurring that are simply not our Nathanael.  We asked for prayer from many of you, not knowing how serious the impetus for this behavior would be, and a couple days later, out of seemingly nowhere, Nathanael opened up to me.

In German, he said, "Mom, some children call me a baby in Kindergarten."  I stayed with him in German, and we talked about who and how often (it was a lot!).  We talked about why they may be saying this, addressing him being the youngest but also talking about how they may have been called the same thing when they joined the older group, not that that makes it right.  And then, we spoke about what to do when other people say mean things about us.  It was such an amazing, teachable moment.  By the end of the conversation, my brave four-year-old felt ready to tackle whatever may be said to him, because he knows that he is loved by God, and by his family.  And I think he better understood what it may look like for him to "love his enemies" with the love of Jesus.  We prayed together, and then I think he probably said something random and seemingly shallow and silly as a transition out of the conversation.  Four-year-olds.

We celebrate God's clear answer to our prayers.  He led Nathanael to speak with us, and He gave me wisdom to stay with Nathanael in German, to allow him to express this heart issue in the language it most affects him.  And in the end, God used it to bless Nathanael and hopefully other children in his Kindergarten group.


A filled boot

Nathanael made this "boot" in Kindergarten (pre-school) for the Eve of St. Nick!  Believe it or not, this is him "posing" for the picture; his attempted smile cracks me up.  He ends up looking somewhat disgruntled! Haha!
In case you're wondering, it was filled with the traditional gifts from St. Nicholas:  chocolates, nuts, and fruit (especially clementines).  And some of the chocolate may have gone missing the next morning after Mom went through the boot...


Residence Permit and Holiday Follow-up

On our way to the government office yesterday (to renew Evangeline's residence permit), we took advantage of a short wait at the tram stop to pray for the process and the officials with whom we would interact.  As Gregory was praying, seemingly out of nowhere came the realization that I had not copied a couple important documents that were recently updated!  We made the necessary copies while waiting in line at the office (which was quite a line, by the way).  Once we made it into the processing office, the two officials who helped us (both kind, young women) reviewed and accepted our application without issue and gave us a date to pick up the renewed permit!  We are incredibly grateful for the early realization that we were missing some important copies, the kind officials, and what seems to be a smooth renewal process this time!  Praise God!

And in other news, we are thinking we might celebrate Nicholas Eve this year... So far, we're just planning to give Nathanael a few sticks of Pez candy which we had bought for his Christmas stocking anyhow.  And maybe another small gift we'd stashed away for later.  He is going to be so incredibly excited!  Evangeline?  I think we could put a piece of paper in her sock, and she would giggle with glee! ;)

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Renewing a residence permit and Celebrating Saint Nicholas

A little bird (*cough, cough* Deborah *cough, cough*) informed me that it's high time I recommence with blogging.  I am so grateful for her willingness to push me a bit.  For over a year now, I have intended to "catch up" with blog posts from after Evangeline was born.  At this point, I am still hopeful to do that.  Until then, I think it's time to simply begin with today.

This morning, in half an hour, Gregory and I will pack up Evangeline and head to the government office in charge of renewing residence permits in our district.  They remember us every time we come (about twice a year); there are not very many Americans living in our district.  We will wait in multiple lines, attempt to keep our 18-month-old from too many loud outbursts (key word: attempt), hope we're seen before lunch, and pray that the official who receives our paperwork will not find too many issues.  We expect at least one; we have NEVER had our paperwork accepted here without the officials finding something to deny.  Hopefully, the "one thing" this time won't require too much of a disruption to life in the next few days.

Here's our sweet Eva's picture this year:
On Thursday, Nathanael's preschool will celebrate Saint Nicholas, the 4th-century saint with a reputation for secret gift-giving, in preparation for the Eve of Saint Nicholas on December 5.  Nathanael asked me yesterday if we celebrate this holiday in our family, basically wondering if he'll get a surprise gift from Saint Nicholas on Friday.  It is sometimes difficult to know what holidays to keep from the States and which to adopt here in Austria.  We were able to make Thanksgiving special as a family, but it was a completely normal day and week here in Vienna.  To our kids, it's just a random big meal with other Americans whom they rarely see.  And this week we have a holiday that is a big deal for children in Austria.  The preschool builds up to the celebration, and all the children look forward to it!  And yet we don't do much with it in our family...yet.  Maybe that will change one year.  This is only our fourth Christmas in Vienna.  We are still adjusting and adapting and trying to figure out how to do this cross-cultural living thing.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The King men were hard at work tonight, trimming the tree (and re-trimming the tree), arranging the nativity sets, and hanging the lights!  Evangeline napped through it all.

I caught Gregory in the act of re-arranging the ornaments Nathanael hung in one giant clump!  (I don't think I could've done it; it was so cute!)

When Gregory and I were dating, while living in Istanbul, we began the tradition of decorating a tree together with spiced apple cider and ginger cookies.  How special that 10 years later we are doing the same but with two munchkins joining in!


2014 Lantern Celebration (St. Martin's Day)

So I totally looked at what Wikipidea could tell me about St. Martin's Day, because the little I know about it is pieced together from random conversations (in German), often with the Kindergarten teachers and lots of ambient noise in the background, or from the songs Nathanael sings about the day (also in German).  And you know how it is, trying to understand a four-year-old, singing a song in your own language.  A portion of the words are a bit off, often humorously so.  Well, imagine it in a second language!  He does great with it, but sometimes I simply have no idea what he's singing!

Anyway, here's the short description of our experience of St. Martin's Day from Wikipidea: Children walk in processions carrying lanterns, which they made in school, and sing Martin songs.  Yep, that's it.  November 11th.  Oh, and don't forget the delicious buffet at the end of the procession!
What was kind of funny/ironic to me this year, is that the teachers chose an English song for the repertoire:  This little light of mine.  So I grew up singing this one as a kid in church.  It was so strange to be standing in a circle with parents and children here in Vienna, listening to all these non-English speakers singing, "This little light of mine.  I'm gonna let it shine..."  I wondered if I was the only one in that circle who was thinking about my son's light in terms of "the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4)  The reality is:  I probably was.  Every morning, by request of Nathanael, we pray together by name for five of his friends and three of his teachers, that they would come to know the immeasurable joy of knowing Jesus.  It is the impact we pray will be left in this Kindergarten, this neighborhood, this city, this country...


You can do it, Eva!

She is so close to walking!  Today, for the first time, Eva walked all over the park in front of our home while only holding one hand!  This is huge progress, friends!  My almost-17-month-old is finally getting some courage to tackle the world on her feet!
I just hope she's walking by Christmas!  In all honesty, her mobility dependence at this age is a bit wearing on this mom.  She so badly wants independence but is quite limited outside the home when her mode of mobility is scooting on her bum! Ha!


Music, or perhaps "Musik" is more appropriate

I've allowed myself to give in to a longing recently.  To write songs of worship again.  But not as I had before.  This time, in German!  It began with a song that was simply in my head a week or so ago.  It's about our desire as a church community to see God bring about change in our city.  I had to get it on paper; I couldn't rest until I had done so.  Then the other three came after hearing of some gaps in our church's repertoire - one Christmas song and two along the lines of repentance and confession.  Again, I couldn't rest until I'd written them!


Whether or not we ever sing them in church, it is such an encouraging experience to come to a place in a language where one can express one's heart with a depth that is sometimes even difficult in one's first language!  I have so far to go in German, but I am encouraged that I am able to express myself in German through music, especially to God, when I have time and space (and a good dictionary), and when I surrender the entire process to Him.


Enjoying Autumn Indoors

We've spent a bit more time indoors these last couple weeks.  The kids have really been into reading on their cars recently.  Hey, I'm thrilled!  It's active for their minds and hands and also somewhat of a quieter activity!  Win win win!
Look who is blowing kisses!
And discovering the joys of crayons

This is another one of my kids' favorite activities:  rearranging the living room cushions and pillows to create forts and caves and houses and cars and...and...and...

All the pictures with Nathanael were too blurry to post.  Figures.
This was simply a normal morning at our home.  Breakfast while listening to music videos.  They're really into Rend Collective right now.

My little monkey.  "I really wasn't playing with the cord, Mom."


Enjoying Autumn Outdoors

This is our fourth Autumn in Vienna.  It is a spectacular season.  This year, as prior years, we tried to get out in nature as much as possible.  That usually meant going places with parks.

Here is my little Autumn beauty.  She loves to swing.

Our big boy adventurer leads the way.
And looks who's following after!  That's right, folks!  She is WANTING to walk!
Enjoying the leaves in our home park:
either in the middle of it all, like Nathanael,
or safely and securely watching contentedly from a distance, like Evangeline.
That's my Nathanael and Eva!


Post-vacation highlights

It's always difficult to return from vacation, but we have managed to re-enter the real world and settle into some nice routines.

Nathanael is telling me about what it's like to be in the big kid classroom at Kindergarten!

My little musician
We had a Mom and Kids date to KIKA (think a small IKEA), and we came home with this great scooter.  It was a whopping 10 Euros, and this little non-walker scooted all over the toy section of the store on it.  I was impressed and whipped out my wallet.  I think this little "car" has changed her world.  She can follow her brother all over the house on wheels.  And she loves to stand and play with higher objects with the security of the "car" beneath her.  What a surprise blessing!
Oh, and look what happens when Nathanael is at Kindergarten!



Staying in Summer in Side

Okay, to be completely honest, I'm writing this post in August 2015, a week before we return to Side for our 2015 vacation there.  I can hardly wait to be here again...  I'm back-dating this in order to have it in the right place for the kids' memory books. :)  Have I mentioned how much I can't wait to be here again IN ONE WEEK?!!!

Usually, I stayed in the hotel room with Eva in the morning for her nap while Nathanael and Dad headed to the beach.  This one morning, we swapped, and Nathanael and I had a blast together.  Here he is waiting at the hotel's beach restaurant for ice cream hour.  Yes, that's right.  They served ice cream twice a day, and we tried to catch it as often as possible!
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The teeny tiny view of the sea from our balcony:
Half the fun for me of going to an all-inclusive resort is the break from cooking and cleaning!  We love eating Turkish food for over a week straight!
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Enjoying the hotel's Kids' Club
And hours upon hours spent here in the kids' pool, playing and making friends
Learning to swim in one of the big pools
Family fun at the beach
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A family favorite is sunset walks on the beach after dinner.  Unfortunately we waited to take these pictures until it was already too dark!  Haha!
 And finally, here's a link to my post from our 2013 trip.
Yea for Family Vacations in Side, Turkey!
(I think this may sadly be our last one.)