Spring came slowly

Phone photos from March and April.  They show the slow progression of Spring here, which has most definitely arrived now.  More importantly, they show my two littles enjoying and exploring life.

A friend gifted Eva with this awesome outdoor suit!  When we pull it out, Eva lies on the floor with a huge grin, waiting to put it on!
Snack time in the toddler/baby room at church
(she thinks the entire time is snack time)
Absorbed in sticker fun
Fun at home park
And then, of course, we had another bout of illness.
Coloring and actually getting along!
Eva's favorite thing to do outside:
take leisurely walks and explore

Celebrating our Five-Year-Old!

On Nathanael's last day as a four-year-old, we went out for ice cream.  We actually sat in the ice cream parlor and ordered special treats!  Nathanael loved it, and Eva handled it acceptably (read: only one or two mini tantrums this time).
We began the big birthday morning with "big green monster eggs" per Nathanael's request.
Then we took him out of Kindergarten early and picked up pizzas for lunch, again per Nathanael's request.  Our kids love pizza.  I can't blame them.  I could probably eat pizza twice a week and never grow tired of it.  Next came cake!
And then fun gifts and cards!  We were so blessed to have family and friends from afar send in cards and gifts and drawings!  This year, Nathanael had a special package from Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge with drawings from the preschool class there!  He honestly couldn't believe a class took the time to make him birthday cards. :)  Cute.  He also recieved cool drawings from his friend, Josiah, and an elaborate treasure map from Uncle Andrew and Auntie Angie.  Drawings are great gifts for a five-year-old.
Then. came. the. bike.
He loved sitting on it, wasn't so sure about the pedals, and was ready to "give up" for the day after about ten minutes.  It was a start.  We knew it would take time.  We're thrilled that he's excited still and trusting he'll learn in time.

We concluded the day by hosting our church small group, which was really special for Nathanael.  Small group days are some of his favorite.  He loves having people over!  Sharing birthday cake with them makes it even more fun!

An Easter Tradition

I meant to post this before Nathanael's birthday.  Oh well.  Better later than never.
Nick and Deborah Cioffi introduced us to this Easter tradition in Boston, and we've since adopted it.  This year, we simply managed to add our family's four butterflies.
I hope that when the kids are a bit older and it's not so overwhelming to try and host and socialize, we'll more regularly invite people over for Easter.  Our collection is growing!
I love that Nathanael knows each butterfly and who made it for or with us.

It is special to have a story to tell when we speak about butterflies at Easter, a story of re-creation, regeneration, new life, and beauty.  It is an easier connection for me to make to Jesus' Risen Life than the Easter bunny. ;)

Here are the kids on Easter afternoon, receiving their Easter stickers, lemonade Peeps from the States (I could barely choke one down!), a mini chocolate bunny, and of course, an Easter lamb cake.  Haha!
Oh yes, and eating an Easter egg from church. "Look, Mom! The middle is yellow!"


Dear Nathanael (5 Years)

Dearest Nathanael Alim,

Happy birthday, son!  Another year full of life and learning!  We thank God for the gift of you.  What a year it has been!

On May 6, 2014, not long after your fourth birthday, you expressed your desire to follow Jesus.  It was such an exciting season for you, talking for the first time about wanting Jesus to live in you, learning about asking Him for help, learning that you can depend on Him in every season...  It is a journey that has only just begun, one you will travel your entire life.  We are so excited for you, and we praise God that He has brought you out of darkness into His glorious light.  For eternity!

This year, we began memorizing Bible verses, and we have delighted in hearing you pull these verses into your everyday life, talking about how they apply and how God helps you through His Word.  One such example is in dealing with children wanting you to join them in bad behavior.  We've spoken a lot about not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good, (Romans 12:21), about what it means to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), and about how you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).  A few others that have been significant for you and that have been a part of many conversations this year:  Philippians 2:14, Psalm 118:24, Psalm 56:3, Ephesians 6:1, and Luke 18:27b.

In September, you moved into a new group at Kindergarten, the yellow group, where the "older kids" go.  You, along with a couple other four-year-olds, joined the five-year-olds in the preparatory year for elementary school.  It has been an excellent move for you.  The teachers frequently comment about how great your German has become, and the older class has challenged you and increased your interest in certain activities such as organized games, puzzles, and drawing.  Just the other day, you began writing the beginning of your name on your own, and we are proud of your growth.  The first few months of being in the yellow group were difficult, as you were often called a "baby" by the older kids, simply for being the youngest.  We prayed that God would help us know what was going on with you, and then you opened up to me one afternoon and shared all about it.  We had a wonderful opportunity to speak about who you are, that you are loved by Dad and Mom, and that most importantly, you are loved by God.

You are a great big brother.  This year has brought quite a bit of adjustment in being a big brother.  Eva went from non-mobile to extremely mobile this year, and you have had to be okay with having her following you everywhere and "messing up" many of your carefully planned creations.  It is not easy, but we are proud of the growth we're seeing in you.  Many times, you choose to share, to be kind, to give Eva something she'd like while you find something else.  You are learning about what it means to love people by sacrificing for them, and we are proud of you.  You and your sister have so much fun together.  No one can get the two of you giggling more than when you're together!

Last summer, we returned to the family resort hotel near Antalya, Turkey, and you loved it just as much as the prior year.  You began learning some of the required movements for swimming and really increased in your confidence in water.  We can't wait to go to Turkey again in August!  You were able to visit a few water parks with your Kindergarten last summer, a definite highlight for you (and huge leaps of faith for Dad and Mom).  The summer also included allowing you to order chocolate ice cream cones from Tichy, something we did quite often actually!  Grandpa and Grandma visited in the summer, and we all explored Salzburg together, and then they returned for Christmas with Uncle Drew and Auntie Carrie!  We made lots of great memories together, as always.  The dear Cioffi family visited as well, and you especially loved sharing life with Josiah for a week!  We are so thankful for Skype and staying connected with family and friends despite the distance.  Speaking of family, last week, you became a cousin!  You are excited to fly to London soon to visit Uncle Andrew, Auntie Angie, and Desmond.  It will be your first time in an English-speaking country since your second birthday! :)

You remain an incredibly active, seemingly constantly moving, passionate, talkative, inquisitive kid.  You love people, love being with people, visiting people, having people over, praying for people, hearing stories about people, caring for people, and most importantly talking, talking, talking with people...  You maintain your initial hesitation with new people, but after some time, become quite attached.  Your favorite activities include:  building with Legos (both following the set instructions and creating elaborate scenes on your own), playing with cars, building with play dough, coloring, listening to stories (we recently got into chapter books!), singing songs, dancing and jumping, riding your balance bike, running, climbing, playing in the sand...  You create complicated stories and weave many different themes and settings in and out of your play, which is quite entertaining, and sometimes quite confusing, for us.  You really enjoy playing alone a lot now, which may have more to do with maintaining control over your toys without Eva's interference. ;)  Still, you have matured quite a bit in your independence in the last year.

Your big birthday gift this year is a bike, and we are excited for you to learn and become comfortable and to discover the freedom of riding a bike!  We know you are ready.

Nathanael, you are a blessing to Dad and me.  We are constantly challenged by you, challenged to look to God to raise you and love you well, challenged to trust your Maker completely with your life.  We know He has great things for you, a glorious plan to use you for His glory, to use your love for people and your energy and joy and passion, that He may be lifted high.  Keep following Jesus, son.  He is everything.

We love you.  Happy birthday!


Nathanael Alim King,
looking so grown up on his last day as a four-year-old:


A Happy Heart

"He has a normal and healthy heart."

What wonderful words to hear from the cardiologist today after multiple tests on Nathanael's heart.  We are grateful and honestly relieved.

I was so proud of Nathanael and how well he behaved in the midst of the new and unknown and strange environments today.  He had his almost-five-year-old moments (like when he was screaming and stomping while we were walking along a crazy windy promenade on the way to the appointments), but I was proud of how he pulled it together at different points where it was clear he was uncomfortable.  I love this little guy so much.

Nathanael and I took the afternoon to be together yesterday after church.  We had pastries at a cafe, took the train outside of Vienna, attended a musical about the story of the Prodigal Son from the Gospels (his friend, Jonathan, was in the choir), and concluded with another train ride and stop at Subway for sandwiches and CHIPS!  What special memories we made.  Have I mentioned how much I love this little guy?  I can't believe he'll be FIVE in a week!


A real heart check

We'd love your prayers for us on Monday.  Nathanael will have his first EKG.  He saw his pediatrician about a month ago for an infection, and she noticed some abnormalities in his heartbeat.  She saw him again a couple weeks ago, hopeful that it would have normalized with his infection gone, but it remained.  She made no speculations but simply pointed us to a specialist for an EKG.  I personally feel a combination of gratitude and mild anxiety, gratitude that God led us to discover this, whatever it may or may not be, and mild anxiety because tests like these often lead to multiple other tests and doctor's appointments to determine if something is going on that needs addressed.  I am not the biggest fan of lots of doctor's appointments.

Thanks for praying for us, however the Lord leads.