Dear Eva (9 Years)

Dearest Eva,

Happy birthday to our exceptional nine-year-old!  What a delight to celebrate you today!  As you continue to grow and develop, we are amazed to see God shine so brightly through you.  Your name means bearer of good news, and your depth of expression and kindness and sensitivity and your deep love for people extravagantly express the good news of the glory of our God!

This has been a significant year of growth and development for you in so many ways.  Firstly, school.  You completed 2nd grade well, and at some point during the first semester of third grade, you had a huge leap in development and really took off with your reading and math skills.  You love to stay up a little later at night and read.  Favorite books are: Die Schule der magischen Tiere, Hexe Lilli, Ostwind, Hanni und Nanni, and so many others!  You have begun to step a little into reading in English as well, although that has not been an emphasis this year.  You continue to meet with Christine, your trainer to help with dyslexia struggles, and you have made huge progress this year.  We are proud of your perseverance with this as we know the challenges with dyslexia are really difficult sometimes.  Your teacher Caro enjoys having you in class, and she longs for you to be braver with your voice, to speak up loudly and confidently.  We are excited to see you grow more in this in the coming year.  You gave your first presentation this year on pandas, and you did an incredible job preparing and practicing and presenting!  Your ability to do difficult math problems amazes us, and it is fun to see you enjoy your math homework!  All of this despite another year of pandemic schooling!  Amazing!

We have seen you grow significantly in your friendships as well.  You continue to be good friends with Adele and Eliza in your class, getting together with them sometimes out of school.  Your five-day class trip to the pony farm in Styria was definitely a wonderful experience for you to bond with your classmates in a special way!  We are soooo thankful you all got to go and that the pandemic had lightened just enough by the beginning of May!  In October, your best friend Mario from school and kindergarten moved over an hour outside of Vienna, and that was understandably a difficult and sad adjustment for you.  Your friendships at church have taken off incredibly in the last few months!  You have bonded significantly with Charlotte and Julia and Emma and enjoyed time with Anna and Frieda and Mario as well.  Attending Jungschar meetings monthly has been so much fun for you.  The church retreat in Neutal was incredible!  You showed us your incredible independence and responsibility there, both areas you have grown leaps and bounds in the last year!  You value inclusion highly, both being included and including others, and you bring that strength and need into your friendships, something we admire about you.

You and Dad and Nath connected quite a bit through ice skating this year, and you were really picking it up well with Nath and Dad as your teachers!  Our family finally got to go on a ski trip!  We visited Hochrindl, and you learned to ski well in your three morning classes, even skiing down to class from our hotel on the third morning!  And swimming!  You are a swimmer now!  You finally were able to have swim class at Amalienbad, and you picked it up quickly and well!  Of course, being in the class with Nath was really special as well, and he was a great encouragement to you!

Thankfully, although still significantly affected by the pandemic, this year allowed for more experiences with friends and family.  Grandpa and Grandma were able to visit in June and then again just in April, and Jacob Coon stayed for a week in November.  Our big family vacation last summer was going back to Turracher Höhe and staying at a family hotel which had a club for the kids. You made friends quickly and loved participating in the club activities every day!  Highlights for you were the alpine slide and hikes with our family and boat rides together on the lake!  And lots of swimming!  Oh, and the food there was so awesome.  What great family memories we made together there!  Christmas markets finally opened again last year, and we had fun visiting a few together.  We made a trip to Family Park last summer, and the thrill of roller coasters and such was a delight to you!  We visited Baden as a family in January, staying at a hotel attached to the Therme and going to the Greek restaurant all together!  We visited Jufa Neutal three times, once with the grandparents, once with the GEM Austria field, and once with our church.

You still love all things cats and horses and are unsure about dogs.  Crafts and creating remain at the top of your list of favorite activities, and your wardrobe and drawers are exploding with craft projects!  Your food preferences haven't changed much; you still love schnitzel and friends, Palatschinken with Nutella, Extrawurstsemmel and Käseleberkäsesemmel!  You completed the advanced ballet class last school year and remained in the same class this year but this time with girls your age joining you!  You had so much fun being one of the ‘’advanced’’ students in the group, and we were blessed to watch you perform some of the pieces you had learned a few weeks ago!  Your delight in dancing is evident, and you bring smiles to many faces when you dance!  Your interest in style and clothes, makeup and jewelry has grown quite a bit this year. In fact, you have become Mom’s style advisor, and anytime you give her advice, people comment on her good style!

We love you deeply, our dearest Evangeline Elif.  What an honor it is for us to share life with you!  Happy Birthday!

Your mommy and daddy

9-Year-Old Eva


Dear Eva (8 Years)

Dearest Eva,

Happy birthday to our delightful eight-year-old! We are so thrilled to celebrate you today!

You are full of expression and feeling, sensitivity and empathy. Your heart loves deeply and desires greatly. We are honored to call you our daughter.

In this eighth year of life, you completed your first year of elementary school, the strange pandemic year it was. Summer was such a wonderful break from required homework and pressure to progress. You enjoyed the freedom and even worked hard to improve your German reading ability, just at your own pace. Second grade has been one of amazing growth in math and German, even a bit of English reading too. You are an incredibly hard worker. You write beautifully in cursive, can add and subtract and multiply and divide in your head, and you can slowly work your way through any German reading put in front of you. We discovered the presence of dyslexia this year and have found you a great teacher in Christine to help work through some of the extra challenges that has brought.  We're grateful for her and for your awesome teacher, Caro, in how they understand you and work so well with you!  They both comment frequently that it is a pleasure to teach you!

Second grade friendships have been challenging with the various styles of pandemic schooling, in person or virtual or only at home or strange combinations.  You are well liked by your classmates, being such a kind, friendly, playful, pleasant child with a contagious smile and sparkling blue eyes.  Your closer friendships from school have continued to strengthen, despite so little consistently at school this year. You've had Adele and Clara over to play a lot and visited them frequently as well. We've really missed this year without time with church friends, especially Charlotte, but we're also thankful for some neighborhood girls as playmates. It was sad that little Johanna moved away, but Anika and Isabella are often around.

Last summer, you and Nathanael continued building on your forest forts, played in the stream, ran through the sprinkler, splashed in the splash pool, rode bikes daily (often as a family), scootered, and played at the neighborhood playgrounds. We enjoyed lots of family grilling, and Dad even mowed a Labyrinth into the lawn one week! The summer highlights though were definitely your belated birthday party, our trip to Resi's farm, our virtual AC week in the mountains, and getting Tiger Lily!  At Resi's, you made friends, swam, played with the colt, took horseback riding lessons, and made countless family memories at the castle, hiking and the Alpine slide, visiting Kärnten, and the chocolate museum. During GEM's virtual Annual Conference, you loved wading in the mountain lake with Nathanael, family hikes, delicious food, and simply being in Turracher Höhe again as a family.  Coming home to become kitten owners was such a delight!  You and Tiger Lily have a special bond, both loving your cuddles, waiting for each other, her coming when you call.  It is special to see you love on our cat.  It is so special to have a cat!

In the fall, your dance teacher moved you up two classes to join an older ballet class.  It has been challenging with the majority of classes being virtual this year, but you have loved dancing and continue dancing all over the house and garden, even when we are at pools!  You love wearing dresses to spin and twirl.  A few weeks ago we surprised you with the gift of getting your ears pierced!  You were so excited (and nervous) and have loved having sparkles in your ears!  Additional loves include all things cats and horses.  You are still a bit unsure about dogs.  Crafts and creating, including sewing with your sewing machine, definitely top your list of favorite activities!  You love schnitzel and fries, Palatschinken with Nutella, fried eggs, Mom's homemade granola, and your favorite veggie is currently carrots (which taste even better when you steal them from Mom or Dad)!

We love you deeply, our dearest Evangeline Elif.  Happy Birthday!

Your mommy and daddy

8-Year-Old Eva


May excitement

A random collection of pictures from April and May...

One of our favorite family evening activities is seeing how high Dad can bounce the kids at this park.

Nathanael's class FINALLY got to go back to school all together and for five days a week starting May 17th!  To celebrate, they had an outing hike one day, and since they were walking right past our house, we used it as a belated birthday celebration for his class.
Ice cream and watermelon break!  (And hand sanitizer of course)
The kids and I tested and went on the first day during a break between school activities.  It was so wonderful to eat fresh schnitzel and fries at a restaurant!  We really missed that.  I think they were last open in October, but I have lost track...
And this is also crazy exciting:  Eva got her ears pierced!!!  An early birthday gift for this beautiful girl.  So proud of her!
She was not so sure she was ready, but still excited.
Tiger Lily has enjoyed the nicer weather, and she regularly deposits small creatures at our doors.
Eva is starting to learn typing at home.  (They don't learn it in school here!)
One of my new songs was chosen to be reviewed by Keith Getty and Matt Merker during a live webinar.  So cool!


Garden Progress and Gregory's Green Thumb

With Lockdown #4 looming in March, we decided to buy garden plants a bit early this year.  Perhaps a bit too early.  But we wanted to have new plants in the ground at a good time, and with the gardening stores closed, we would've been in a bind.  So we are glad we did it.  But it meant for some creative shuffling of plants and flowers and trees at multiple points in March and April!

Our back porch is finally a special space for us to use.

Gregory put in stepping stones for us!
Everything is planted!
Saving the window box flowers!
Spring beauty and new growth!
And finally our new house number :)


And then he was eleven!

These pictures posted in reverse-order, and I am too lazy to move them all around!

For Nathanael's birthday, we got him a floor sofa bed for under his bed.  He loves it!  We also helped him put bigger-kid-posters on his walls.
Since his birthday was in the middle of a lockdown again this year, we couldn't have a party with more than one kid at a time, so we spread it out.  Nathanael had three friends over for a sleepover during the week of his birthday.
It included watching multiple Star Wars films.
Of course cake.

And some fun gifts as well.

We loved celebrating this awesome 11-year-old!

(It says Save the Environment in German.  His request.  hehe)


From Lockdown #4

Eva enjoyed having a couple friends over despite the 4th lockdown.

Nathanael ran for 20 minutes straight for gym class from home!

Laughter and silliness were a plenty!
And this kid fell asleep after a sleepover at a friend's house!


Happy Easter

Allergy testing as a family during Easter break!  Haha!
Eva made an Easter wreath at school.
An Easter care package from Grandpa and Grandma!!!
A bike ride and picnic in a park
Our Easter butterflies this year.

Eva's, then Gregory's, Kim's, then Nathanael's
Happy Easter from the four crazy Kings!