...a blog for the friends and family of dan, jen, worthy, william, calvin & christian

Monday, January 28, 2013

William is 5!

 (I'm posting this after the Christmas post because there were some pictures I wanted to pull off Dan's phone before I posted).  

Our precious William turned five right before Christmas. 
He had a really special day.  
They did a party in his preschool class.  
Birthdays are a really big deal here.  It's not just bring in cupcakes and sing Happy Birthday.  It's much more involved.  The kids form a tunnel and William and a couple of selected friends get to crawl through.
He gets to wear a crown and sit in the birthday chair. And then all the other children take turns coming over and shaking his hand and wishing him Happy Birthday.  Incidentally, it's very common and polite for children to shake hands when greeting one another and adults as well.

For their snack, he gets to pick all the kids to sit at his table - he picked Calvin! and the rest were all boys.

 A class picture (plus Calvin).
 At home we did a cake.  And take note that William, our aspiring cook, put the sprinkles on himself.

Collaborative present playing
I'm just crazy about this kid.  He has a kind, generous heart.  He regularly volunteers to share treats with his brothers, because he really wants to share the experience.  He gets that sharing joy increases joy.  He just gets it. His bellow-ous laugh is infectious.  His charisma is unmatched.  He can get even the stodgiest Viennese to smile.  Our little extrovert has grown in so many ways - not least of which is his ability to communicate.  He's overcome a rather serious speech delay and with his new-found vocabulary and words, he's eager to share a laugh and chat with anyone who will listen.  
His green eyes, wayward curls and mischievous grin still overwhelm me. 
So proud of William Crispin.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Christmas Day

Christmas Day was just delightful.  
Completely restful.  Utterly relaxing.  Divinely mundane.  
We did the usual stuff that most families do - nothing too special.  
I actually woke up before all the kids.  They weren't busting and whining to start the procedure.  
We ate cinnamon rolls.
Opened gifts.
Cleaned up.
We had dinner, but it was simple.  I'm making that a tradition.  
Simple on Christmas.
 The kids seemed thrilled with their gifts.

We were really excited about this Thomas the Tank Engine book we got for Calvin.  It's the Old School one.    He's obsessed and loves to hear stories - so a great fit.

As always - at this age Christian is more interested in the wrapping than the gift.

Dan got me a MOST treasured gift.  The Doritos were delicious.
And NO - I didn't eat the WHOLE bag that day!
Worthy 7 years ago in his "My First Christmas" suit and Christian this year.
Incidentally, with the middle two born around Christmas they missed out on this outfit.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Worthy's Christmas Program

This is a quick video of a song from Worthy's Christmas program at school this year.  This group singing is the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade class.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"The" Christmas Shot

 Every year we do calendars for our parents for Christmas.  So that means every year we do a big photo shoot to try to get a photo for the December page.  In the calendar, the photos all appear so effortless.  I thought I'd give you a peek behind the curtain...

Budapest Trip

During the holidays, we went to Budapest, Hungary.  We did a home exchange online and switched apartments with another family.  So, we packed up our backpacks and kids and took the train to Budapest. Dan & I have both been to Budapest before about 12 years ago.  We really enjoyed the city and thought it might be nice to go for the weekend during the holidays.

It was about a 3 hour train ride to Budapest and the kids did great.  They're a bit obsessed with trains so generally any train experience seems like a very exciting adventure to them.  And it was definitely an adventure.  We realized early on that Budapest is not stroller friendly.  There are no elevators to the underground metros - you have to use the escalators.  Generally, I avoid the escalators as much as possible with a stroller and these were even worse because they were fast.  Seriously - they moved zippy.  We survived and arrived safely at our apartment for the weekend.  The location could not have been better.  It was in the heart of downtown, right around the corner from the Christmas market and above a McDonald's!  The kids were thrilled.
We were also a couple doors down from a TGIFridays.  While this is not my favorite restaurant in the States - there was something rather magical about our dining experience there. It really felt like we walked into a vortex that took us back to America for one meal.  First off - Calvin & Christian had fallen asleep in the stroller, so we were two kids down.  (This was the making for a perfect meal no matter where we ate!)  Upon our arrival the kids were given balloons, coloring pages and crayons.  We had English menus with things like onion rings and potato skins in them and best of all... I ordered a real American-tasting Cheeseburger and my memory is a little foggy on this point, but I think my Coca Cola even had ice!

We also took advantage of being so close to the Christmas markets.  From what I've experienced, I really like Hungarian food.  We had some fantastic dishes.  One thing that we loved was this bread loaf roll (I have no idea what the correct name of it is).  It was a roll of bread baked over warm coals then coated in cinnamon sugar.  It was scrumptious!  You can see it here in the plastic wrap.

While we were there - Dan got this hat.  It probably wasn't his first choice style-wise, but he bought it so we could quickly identify him if separated.  Most people here have black hats, so it's almost impossible to spot someone if everyone is bundled up outside.  Having a blue ball on top makes life SO much easier for us.
The kids really liked the treat.
Incidentally, this outing helped me to make a decision.  From here on out - I make hot cocoa at home, put it in a thermos and bring sippy cups for the kids. 

Some pics from our trek around town.  
It was really, really cold.

One thing we did was go to a puppet show
We weren't quite sure how this would go, but decided to give it a try... none of us speak Hungarian. 
It was terrific - even in Hungarian.  The kids really enjoyed it.
Add Especially William.  He howled the first 10 minutes.  We had people around us laughing at his enjoyment.  He has a fantastic no-restraint laugh.
They had a lot of puppets from past productions on display
The train station in Budapest... that is not our train.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

HGM Christkindlmarkt

One of the best things about Christmas here are the Christkindlmarkts throughout the city.  Most of the markets are open every day from the end of November to Christmas.  In December we really wanted to visit a Christmas market at the Military History museum (HGM) that is only open one weekend during the holiday. It's a medieval-themed market.  Let's say Christmas meets Robin Hood.
This is definitely one of our favorite museums.

There were medieval stalls all over and many people were dressed up in costume befitting the theme
Fun music throughout our visit

Guess what Uncle Jon's getting for Christmas...
The museum was free that day and inside they had all kinds of interactive exhibits for kids.  They had this miniature siege set up.  Worthy asked the curator where the Ballistas were.  The curator was quite impressed Worthy knew what a ballista was.
Not sure if these are Period Specific, but William approved.

Schonbrunn Zoo

We took a quick trip with our visitors to Schonbrunn Zoo. It happens to be on the grounds of the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, so that's kind of cool.  It's suppose to be the world's oldest zoo.

Even on a gray day the place looks amazing.

The Christmas market was up and running and there was a beautiful nativity scene set up.  The kids spent a long time checking this out.

Our walk on the grounds to the zoo... with a game of tag on the way.
That little sign says don't walk on grass...
And I had to include this because Bria got a picture of it... Every so often I will be out and come across Asian tourists that want to take pictures of my baby/kids/stroller... Honestly, I don't know what they want to take a picture of, but this is what happens.  
Move over Angelina.

Who wouldn't want to take a picture of that?!  Our sweet Christian.
Oh yeah - and there were animals there too :)

Thanksgiving Day

Celebrating Thanksgiving abroad is actually kind of fun.  It feels like we're taking our own secret holiday - which is sort of true.  We decided to do a dinner on Thanksgiving (instead of on Friday or Saturday) and to have some of our American friends over.  

I was so grateful that we'd be joining forces with our friends, the Hunters, in food preparation.  We were handling Turkey (yes, it deserves a Capital "T"), mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie bars.  
Holiday meal preparation takes some special preparation and sleuth skills here.  Canned pumpkin is virtually impossible to get at a normal grocery store. Thankfully, when my dad visited in October, he brought some with him at our request.  Pecans - also difficult to find, but I had some secured away from a special they had at our local grocery store.  Turkeys - You can get turkeys here, but they're not your giant Butterball size.  So, we had to get two.  
Oven size presents another difficulty.  Fitting these two turkeys in our oven took some MacGyver-type skills.  This leaves NO room for stuffing, green bean casserole, etc.  Thankfully Stacey tackled the other oven stuff.
In our families, it's tradition for the Men to do the Birds.  
On this, I'm a Traditionalist and totally committed to gender roles.

As wonderful as a normal American Thanksgiving dinner is what makes it wonderful is having the company of great friends join us in the celebrating.
Sarah, me, Kathryn, Stacey & Bria
The Hunters & Beilmans... partners in crime :)
Yeah - we're doing our part on the birthrate.  All the kids.  

 full table, full tummies, full hearts

Continually thankful to God for His continued Goodness & Love.

Tis the Season... to be behind on everything...

Yeah, it's January and I'm doing a post from November.  That kind of sums up the last 2 months...  I'll apply the "better late than never" adage and proceed.  On the weekend on Thanksgiving, we had some friends visit us that have been living in Germany this past year.  Drew & Bria were college friends of ours from church from back when we were single and living in Akron, Ohio. We hadn't seen them in probably 13 years or so. Through the magic of facebook - we had stayed somewhat connected.  They bravely dared to visit us here in Vienna - not knowing if we had become total nutjobs, etc.  Within 10 minutes of their arrival at our place (yep - they even were courageous enough to stay at our place!) - we were begging (yes, begging) for them to extend their visit.  The joy of reconnecting with them and the ease of just hanging out with them (and their 2 amazing daughters) was utterly delightful.  Their visit was deeply encouraging and thoroughly enjoyable. It made the Thanksgiving feel even richer.  Here's some pics from that refreshing weekend.
Dan & I with Bria & Drew
The first night we were here we went to a restaurant that wait-for-it... had a playground and a caregiver for the kids.  Generally, the thought alone of our kids at a restaurant here is stressful.  There are VERY few restaurants that are kid-friendly.  Meaning - some places don't even have highchairs, the kids are served water in stemware glasses, everyone is allocated one paper napkin and I've never received so much as a coloring sheet or a balloon... With that said, we usually don't eat out with our kids.  However, we had heard of this place and decided to give it a try.  It was a total Win! The playground was visible from inside the restaurant and the lady took them over to a separate table and did crafts while we waited for our food.
Kids at the craft table at dinner
Later that night we stopped at one of the Christkindlmarkts via Public.
Hannah, William, Grace & Worthy... they made fast friends
Yeah, it was even better than the pictures portray.  Vienna does Christmas really, really well.  
(Most of these are Bria's pics).

We enjoyed the beauty of the market and shared some warm drinks too.

Kinderpunsch is always a delight

And this was just the beginning of their visit with us!

Incidentally, Bria writes an AMAZING blog.  Please check it out. She's is wise & insightful and communicates beautifully in text.