Butterflies and Siblings

Easter was just before Nathanael's birthday this year.  I shared a couple Easter pictures in Nathanael's birthday letter, but I forgot to post our Easter butterflies!  This year, we were blessed to receive butterflies from the Cioffi family in the mail - what a sweet surprise.  We're thrilled to add them to our collection.  I made a fan butterfly, and Nathanael had fun cutting and gluing on the blue one this year.
I don't think I shared the butterflies from last year.  Wow does this seem like forever ago; I was still pregnant, and our dear friend and colleague, Krishana, was visiting to close up her apartment and move back to the States!
Top left: Krishana's; top right: mine; bottom left: Nathanael's; bottom right: Gregory's
And these were some recent sibling photos I simply had to include.



We had fun celebrating Nathanael at home and at Kindergarten.

Here's the collection of birthday goods.
 On the 22nd, his actual birthday, we took him out of Kindergarten a bit early and picked up our favorite pizza for lunch (at his request).
Then came the gifts.  He was so excited to open all the thoughtful and generous gifts from family and friends!
Then it was CAKE TIME!
I went with a Lego cake because it was easy and thematically consistent.
And after the sweets, we had to immediately sit down and get to work on those gifts!
  Nathanael was thrilled to get to stay up late on his birthday, in order to finish his Lego cars.  It was sweet to spend the extra time together and stretch this special day of celebration a bit longer.
 Then a few days later, he celebrated at Kindergarten!
We chose to take chocolate donuts. (No homemade stuff, sadly.)
 And I made favors for each of the kids, a little package of treats with their name and the Cars logo on them.
He got to pass them out to each of them.
 As you can see from the pictures, he was delighted to be the center of attention.


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!

your daddy and mommy 

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


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!

your daddy and mommy

Evangeline Elif - 10 month old


The joys of Spring

Sunshine, sandboxes, beautiful parks...  We here in Vienna have been loving the first couple weeks of April.  What a blessing!

We pulled out this toy barn which had been in storage. What a hit!
Gregory took the kids for a morning, and I escaped to Kurpark Oberlaa for a morning of spiritual retreat.  I can't believe we haven't discovered this place earlier!  It is wonderful and not far from our home.  We will be visiting here often, I am sure.  Open fields, lawn chairs spread throughout the park, dense woods, manicured gardens, large and small ponds...oh, and let's not forget the multiple playgrounds throughout!  It was the perfect setting for me to escape and simply focusing on being with God.
 This was where I spent a good hour, reading and journaling and praying.  Only the ducks kept me company.
The cafes at the entrances are convenient for a much needed Melange fix.
 And to end this post, some pictures of my littles enjoying the weather.