Dear Nathanael (7 Years)

My dearest Nathanael,

Each year as I begin your letter, I am moved to tears by how much you have changed and grown and matured over the last year.  It is such a great honor for me to be your mom and to walk alongside you at this stage in your journey. God is so good in gifting your dad and me with you as a son. He has such a wonderful plan for you, for His glory and your joy in Him.

We love you so much, Nathanael. You turned six in Boston, and now you turn seven in Vienna. Although we missed our home and friends in Vienna so much while we were in the States, you really connected with some of your roots during our visit to the States. Firstly, we spent so much time with family​, and you frequently scheme how you'll move back to the States sometime and live with your grandparents.  You understand how special and significant our relatives are, and you enjoy being with them all.  Secondly, it was clear how much you identified with the culture. You do really well here in Vienna, but you're at an age now where you also sense the cultural stress that is part of our lives. It was fun to watch you freely being yourself in the States, especially with other kids. Thirdly you loved being in an English-speaking country.  You picked up tons of colloquial phrases and words and lost a lot of your ease of speaking in German. This trip changed you. It also pushed you out of your comfort zone with new experiences and trying new things. You did great, and we're so proud of you.

This year you officially became a school kid in Austria. You've gained a new level of independence with this status, and you have pulled it off well. You jumped right into learning and have stunned us with your love of reading and your ability to tackle almost anything in English.  And you're really jumping into reading in German already too!   It's fun to see you taking initiative to write notes and read signs.  You've taken well to math as well, but it is a bit more work for you since you're learning it in German!  You also enjoy drawing more, something you especially took to with Grandpa in the States.

The best part of school for you though is the other kids.  You love your new friends from all over the world, and you all really get each other -- kids raised in Vienna but with multiple cultures and language represented.  Your best friends are from India, England, Sri Lanka, Austria/Africa, Croatia, Hungary...and you love your Austrian teacher and your Australian teacher.  What a blessing and answer to prayer your teachers and friends are!  I have prayed for them for years, and it has been so much fun to see you walk through your first year of school with them.

In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, you've had a lot of new experiences this past year, related to learning:  swimming lessons, piano lessons and learning to read music, receiving an allowance and learning to save and give generously, weekly football training, a four-day theater workshop, a morning architecture workshop on building bridges, speech therapy and incredible improvement with s sounds.

Additional new experiences this year included:  your first trip to the movie theater to watch Moana with your class, attending three birthday parties without us (Ben, Samuel, and Elliott), having a friend sleep over while his dad was in the hospital (Bemitha), visiting the natural history museum and loving the dinosaur exhibit, learning about and getting hooked on Dinosaur Train and Paw Patrol in the States, and enjoying countless chapter books, favorites including:  Little Pilgram's Progress, Heidi, Jungle Book, Charlotte's Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle set, Farmer Boy, and Peter Pan.

Some of the highlights from the past year in terms of traveling were: a week in Colorado with family, our East Coast road trip with new people​ every day, our birthday outing to Legoland Discovery Center in Boston, Christmas in Portugal with Grandpa and Grandma, our annual retreat with GEM colleagues in Austria, a brief train trip to Budapest, Hungary, and our Easter trip to the JUFA hotel in Neutal. You make new friends everywhere you go.  You also love when we have house guests, and we frequently have to put limits on the time you spend with them!

You are such an awesome kid.  You are a great big brother, looking out for your sister and making sure she's doing alright.  You even allow her to make decisions once in a while, which is difficult for you since you love leading and directing others.  You are caring and inclusive and have such a sensitive and exuberant heart.  We love walking this journey of life with you, Nathanael!  It has been fun to hear you taking initiative to pray for your sister on the way to Kindergarten and school on some days, and you have grown a lot spiritually this year as you've gained a greater grasp of the spiritual life and what it means to have your righteousness in Christ alone.

You still think you are going to be a police officer.  You're not so sure whether you still want to be a police helicopter pilot, but you haven't ruled it out.  You continue to adore building with Legos, both coming up with your own creations and following the instructions to complete a set.  We can't help but see the influence of your engineer grandfathers in you, and we love it.

On we go into another year with you.  We couldn't be more delighted.  You are a gift from God, Nathanael Alim, and we thank Him for you and pray for you every day.  We love you, son.

Happy Birthday!!!!

your mom

Nathanael Alim King
last day as a six-year-old


Enjoying Spring in Vienna

Every change of season brings along the excitement of returning to previously dormant activities.  Spring definitely competes well in the competition for favorite season change.  We love being outdoors for longer periods of time and enjoying evening sunlight again!
A Saturday bikeride with Eva when Nathanael was at a birthday party
Tree climbing
Trees blossoming!
A bike ride to Schwechat City Park and back.  This was where we stopped to eat a tiny snack and relax.  (This 24k ride was most definitely withOUT the kids!)
Sand box fun
Deep in thought

Carnival and Costumes

So Fasching (Carnival/Mardi Gras) is really big here.  Halloween isn't really a kid holiday, but Fasching is.  Kindergartens and schools have big parties and all the kids dress up.  This year, Nathanael's school had their party (they brought in a professional clown to perform) the day before Fasching, and Eva's was the day-of, so my pictures of the two dressed up are unfortunately not on the same day.
My big police officer (technically he said he was a police helicopter pilot)
My Minnie Mouse
And because I'm posting this two months later, I have to include a few other "dress-up" photos I've taken of Eva in the last couple months.
Ballerina Eva
Sick day wearing brother's hand-me-down dinosaur jammies:
Snow White
Chef Eva making pasta necklaces of course
Eva Pirate-ess
Just Eva being herself.  I love it.  (Although I do not necessarily enjoy the countless changes of clothes almost every day!)

Eva's Art

This Kindergarten craft made me giggle.  I had to share it.  It's actually from January...

Easter Break, Butterflies, and a Theatre Workshop

Here in Austria, the kids get a week off school before Easter and two days after.  It has been a combination of fun and insanity.  It's Thursday now, so we're halfway through the break.  I think that's a small success.
On Friday, Nathanael brought home the little bunny in the photo above with urgent instructions to water it.  It's garden cress that they planted that morning.  He is so excited to check on its progress each day.  The other little pots are our attempts at a couple lettuce plants and a few herbs.  Nathanael and I planted them a few weeks ago on our balcony when we had a warm afternoon.

We partook of our traditional "Easter Lamb" on Wednesday.  We wanted to share this yummy, glutenous cake with our guest before she headed out on the last piece of her European journey.  (Thanks for visiting, sister!)  As you can tell, the kids were just a little excited about the cake.  They also LOVED having Miss Forsythe visit again!  "Let's play another game of Uno!"

We finally hung our Easter butterflies yesterday, and the kids continued their hard work on their annual contributions.
Their finished butterflies:
Necessary inclusion:  In case you think the pictures make it look like a quiet, peaceful, bonding activity, you should know that about a quarter of the time we spent together on this was fun and bonding (though NEVER quiet).  The other three quarters were filled with bickering and arguing and disciplining, as I think should probably be expected with a six and three year old.  I was glad when it was finished this year.

Lastly, I must post photos of my little pirates, though blurry.  Nathanael has a performance today, and I can hardly wait to see it!  He has attended a four-day Theatre workshop this week, and they will give a 30-40 minute production to conclude the workshop.  There are seven or eight kids, and their director worked with them to write a play and come up with all of the costumes and the set and props as well as rehearse it.  Fortunately three of his best friends have attended as well, and Nathanael has loved every day!  I hope to post a few more pictures after today (hopefully not blurry)!
Trying on the costumes (my pirates never stand still!):