Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Smiths are here!

Jason, Shannon, Coleman and Rowan arrived safe and sound last night! Today we had a great time catching up at the zoo, in between taking someone to the bathroom, breaking up wrestling matches and trying to remove Abby from Rowan's hip. Abby's new nickname is "the barnacle", as she is literally attached to Rowan. Speaking of attached, this was the only picture I got before my camera battery died...
Jason with Coleman on a "leash" ;) Too funny!

Line of the day: "Well, it is intended for hippos!" Said by Shannon after Luke inadvertently touched a live shock wire at the hippo exhibit while Brad was holding onto him. (Brad had commented that this shock was way more intense than sticking your finger into a light socket.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Making progress, friends, and our place a home

Last week I went out to lunch with a woman from my German class. As we talked, I told her about how nice our neighbors are and how the kids are making friends at school. She commented, "You are lucky! For most people here it takes a long time to get to know people". I agree with her statement and yet I also know that God has been answering our prayers for nice neighbors and friends...we just haven't gotten lucky. I am grateful for our neighbors and the friends we are beginning to make.
Speaking of our neighbors next door, I had asked you all to pray for their daughter who was to have surgery on her brain to remove a small tumor. Unfortunately she got a cold and her surgery had to be postponed until mid October. I will let you know when I know more details than that.

We also invited a few friends over from school last week. This is Abby's new friend Alice. Her mom is Italian, her dad is Austrian and they lived in Dublin until last year. She has the cutest little accent and Abby definitely has a fun time repeating it. They are in the same class at school and on Thursdays they take ballet together.

Luke's friend is Gian. He is originally from Nepal and then lived in Holland for several years. I think they hit it off so well because he speaks really good English. They also both really like playing video games!:)

This is Abby at the park with our neighbor Felix. He just turned a year and Abby has a fun time "watching over" him.

This is Frederick. He is Felix's older brother and he and Levi are the same age.

Here we are registering Levi for kindergarten. That is what they call preschool here. A spot opened up at the school directly across the street from our house and Levi and Frederick will be in the same class. He will start classes the first week of October. This school seems like it will work better with our busy schedule and Gritt, Frederick's mom has offered to help with taking and picking up if we need it.

This is a self-portrait that Abby did in school. It cracks me up that she still draws the sun shining above her! (like it did in Florida)

I told you I would get a picture of the nun in my German class, and I did! Tomorrow is our last day as a group and new classes start again in October. My teacher was really great and my vocabulary has definitely expanded. Overall, it was a very good start!

So between studying and entertaining, we have also gotten our house much more in order. We got our black and white wall up and now it definitely feels more like "home". Below is a picture of our bedroom. Literally it is only a BEDroom, but it is cozy. It is hard to get a good shot because it is so small and the ceilings are slanted, but you get the idea. The cool piece of furniture that slides back and forth over our bed is compliments of IKEA. I use it to do homework in bed!

Finally, this is our coatrack that we had in Florida. It definitely is getting much more use in Vienna!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bluetongue strikes Vienna too!

The outbreak has spread to Vienna...see here for details! I think Levi's case is pretty serious!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cravings and a day trip..

This morning Brad and I both woke up craving a good ol' start your Saturday off right breakfast at IHOP. You know the kind with the stack of pancakes as big as the plate that melt in your mouth and your choice of eggs and enough slices of bacon and sausage to meet your daily intake of saturated fat for a month. Yea, that is what I am missing. Breakfast here looks very different and much more healthy. Which is a good thing, I'm just missing a few comforts from the States.

We are also missing a good juicy steak. Yesterday we got our hopes up when we went to Sopron, Hungary for a little day trip. It is only a 1 hour train ride from here and an opportunity to get our passports stamped. We were told that there was a great steakhouse there too. So afterschool we left and arrived to find "Joe's Steakhouse".
It looked like it was straight out of Texas, with a covered wagon and saddles at the bar as seats. Our mouths were watering just thinking about sinking our teeth into a medium rare steak.

After we worked up an appetite walking around the town, we ventured into the restaurant and ordered 2 tenderloin steaks, which they show pictures of on the menu that make you want to drool. We ordered 2 potatoes in their "jackets", which are baked potatoes and some kids meals for Luke, Abby and Levi. After waiting for quite some time, our meals finally surfaced with lovely presentation. After one bite however, we were sold on the fact that what we got was NOT beef, but instead a mystery meat that I will leave to your own imaginations. The "gray" meat had a very different sort of taste, not one like we have ever experienced before. Our dreams of a juicy steak shattered. This place looked like the real deal... Maybe we just caught them on a bad day, as the kids food was fine. I'm sure Brad will one day be able to turn this story into a great sermon illustration and we were laughing about it even in the restaurant. A few moments later however, we weren't laughing when we went to catch our train back to Vienna.

We arrived back at the train station with 15 minutes to spare. We waited with everyone else on the platform and once the train arrived we all got on with the crowd. Because we had the stroller and scooters and the 5 of us, I suggested we go to another car in the train, so we would have more room...I think it was Chris Farley who said "BIG MISTAKE, BIG MISTAKE!"
We all trickled out and went to the next was as if it were happening in slow motion as the doors of the train shut right as we got to the next car. With the conductor standing at the same doors we were standing at, we were hopeful that he would have seen us frantically punching the button to re-open the doors with our 3 kids, 2 scooters and a stroller in tow. It was with however, a smile that he almost seemed to smirk and wave goodbye as the train rolled on full steam ahead!
There was steam alright! It was coming from my ears! I was burning mad for many reasons...that I had suggested we get out to move to a bigger car, that the man watched us suffering and seemed to take delight and that the next train was not coming for another hour and 50 minutes! My sweet husband was much more sanctified than me, and took the entire situation in stride...making up games with the children as we waited in the station. Needless to say, we were very glad to get back home and take refuge in our beds. Another adventure of mishaps we can laugh about...the next day!;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bake and Pray...

(banana bread for our neighbors)

In many ways, ministry will look different here in Austria. Sometimes if I think of all of the challenges that lie ahead, I can grow weary. So instead I am focusing on what I can do at this stage...bake and pray! Yes, I know it sounds funny! But realistically, I can't communicate in German well enough yet to share my faith and we don't have a church that we can invite others to yet, so I am trusting that God can use baking and praying to minister to the hearts of those in need.

On Friday, our neighbors' (who live on the same floor as us) daughter is having surgery on her brain. She is quite young and has 3 children. Please join us in praying for their family in the days ahead...that the surgery would go without complications, and that during this time this family would see the hand of God working around them and in turn give Him the glory.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Daily Life: Grocery Shopping

I will try in some of our posts to give you a glimpse of our "daily life" here in Vienna. It seems only natural to start with grocery shopping, since I seem to go to everyday! A few things are different than in the states...first, I walk to the store. Fortunately I have 3 grocery stores in walking distance. I also use a trolley. It is sort of like a piece of luggage with wheels that can fit LOTS of groceries in it!

Here as you walk to the store, you may only cross the street when the signal is green. This is taken very seriously...even if absolutely no cars are coming!

Here is Abby riding her scooter. This is their main mode of transportation to and from everywhere when they get the chance.

Have you ever seen this many Kartoffel? (potatoes)

Another thing that is different is that you must pay for your cart. It is only one Euro, and you get it back, but I seem to never leave the house without one in my pocket just in case I need to make a quick trip to the store. Here is Abby weighing our Trauben (grapes) and punching in the code so they are priced correctly.

A staple in our house is the semmel. Semmels are yummy rolls that you can eat plain or with meat, cheese and butter. Just make sure they are fresh, as they can get very hard. Abby's confidence with trying her German out is increasing, and today SHE asked for the semmels!

What seems to be the most stressful part about shopping here is the check-out. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times and be on your toes, as they don't take their sweet time! Instead they scan your items as fast as they can and you are responsible for putting it back in your cart and then packing your own bags (or trolley) that you brought from home or purchased at the store. After your total has been given, you frantically try to look at the cash register screen, so you can figure out what they just said...obviously I still have some trouble with numbers;)Often I have broken a sweat with this process!

One helpful hint that a friend of mine told me (thankfully) is that if someone behind you only has a few items, then it is common courtesy to let them go ahead of you. It seems to score some points with the locals too!

Here is Abby getting our Euro back...

Be sure to think of us the next time you are at Publix and they are bagging your groceries and then TAKE them out to your car for you!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Neena!

Happy Birthday Neena!

We wish we could be in Florida today to change out the number stickers on the over-the top, blinking birthday sign that Mom has resurrected for many a Hunter birthday. We wish we could be there to make even a modest cake for the woman who spent hours designing, baking, and decorating everything from R2D2 to a soccer cleat to one ice cream creation that I seem to remember needing a blazing hot electric turkey knife to slice. She always went hog wild for us on our birthdays as kids, making us feel special and loved. Mom's excitement for birthdays has never let up, even if Rick and I get slightly annoyed receiving birthday cards written in bubble letters while we are in our 30s.

This amazing woman, so full of life and love, has taught me (even if I am a slow learner) what it means to be devoted to family, to have compassion and respect for the weak and aged, to take time to understand other's perspectives, to give sacrificially of time and resources, to overcome trials through a quiet, enduring faith, and to find a wife who loves the Savior.

For that, and for her, I am grateful.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recent Observations...

After living in Florida for over 10 years, I forgot how much I love the sights, smells and tastes of Fall...

If you live in Wien, you must own one of these...

I am not the only missing American is Levi dreaming about all of the toys he wants from a mag. that my mom sent from the States...

If you are NEVER leave the house without one of these...

and I am slowly, but surely becoming addicted to these... "Schokomesants" as Levi calls them...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Viva Papa!

Cardinal Ratzinger's mother was born in Tirol, Austria, and he himself is from southern Germany, and so his accent was heard over the loud speakers calling to the faithful hoard at Stephansplatz yesterday. Luke, Abby, and I (Brad) went to see this man known now to the world as Pope Benedict. A lady from Vatican TV desired to interview Luke and Abby about their musings on il Papa, but Abby played shy and Luke was afraid he might say something that would get him in trouble! Banners waved through the air reading Viva Papa! (Long live the Pope!), the crowd cheerfully chanted Benedictus! Benedictus! I was deeply moved to pray for the faces around me, and for vital, Gospel-centered churches to take root in this great city. Thank you for joining me in this prayer.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A busy week...

I wish I could be a little more creative than, "A busy week...", but that is as creative as I can get. As you probably read in the previous post, we all started school, and, over all, we were very surprised at how well our first week went. (Must have been all of your prayers!) The hardest part about school for the kids so far has been taking public transportation. One way is over 45 minutes, so if you do the math...Brad is riding on some form of public at least 3 hours a day. It has been even more draining since the weather has been unseasonably cold and rainy. One of the families from school gave Brad and me a ride home after a parents' meeting and it only took about 15 minutes to get home by car, so we are definitely considering a car now. We also have decided to keep Levi out of school for now. He was going to be going to different school than Luke and Abby, so it would have been too crazy to juggle getting him to school also. He is very content to stay with Daddy.

My German classes have been going well too. There are students in my class from Hungary, Romania, Italy, Africa, Poland, the Philippines, and of course North America. One class we talked about where we all came from and how many languages we spoke...I of course was the ONLY one who spoke one. Many spoke three or four. UGH!

Along with starting school, we had Tamara Mayer staying with us. She arrived on Monday and stayed until Thurs. She was a great help for our first week of school, as she watched the kids on Wed. and Thurs. evenings while we had parent meetings with the children's teachers.

On Tuesday eve, we had a pizza party and game night. The boys ended up playing Monopoly, while the girls sat around the table and talked! Luke cleaned house! (legitimately, according to Brad) He said it was his best night EVER since we have moved here! :) He is a "little" Brad!

Here's Leo (Dali's boyfriend), Brad, Nikolai (a Ukranian man that we have been getting to know), Daniel (Tabea's fiance), and "the Champion"...Luke

Tamara, Dali, Stacey, and Tabea

Yesterday after school we headed out just outside Vienna to Herbert and Maria's beautiful home. We enjoyed an afternoon "Jause" (substantial snack) and stayed through another substantial dinner. (They are the folks who picked us up from the airport, and he is a police officer at the Vienna Airport.) We had a great time getting to know them better and learning so many of the interesting customs of Vienna and Lower Austria.

I'll leave you with an update on "our" girls...
For those of you who don't know, all of these Austrian girls came to live with us at different times in the States. This was the first time that Dali and Tabea met Tamara. We really hope that Tamara will move to Vienna, so she can hang out with all of us more often!

Dali- Just graduated and will be starting the University of Vienna in October. She will be majoring in Sociology and she just got a new job in the 1st District at an art gallery.

Tabea- She is a teacher at Arche Noah and is busy planning her wedding. She and Daniel have set a date for June 28, 2008 and they have asked Brad to officiate the ceremony! We are so excited to play a part in their big day!

Tamara- She is living in Western Austria where she works a Konditorin (sweets baker). Last week was her birthday, so we went out for a famous Imperial Torte. She is a joy and encouragement everytime she comes to stay with us!

Monday, September 03, 2007

First Day of School

We all survived and were all home by 12:30! (and only a few tears were shed)
Luke, Abby and I (Stacey) all have homework slacking here! Luke said he already met a friend who speaks English and Abby sits with a table full of boys. How did they know she would be able to handle herself in that situation?..and give them a run for their money?

In my class there are 9 students. I believe I am the only American. We played lots of games and listened to CD's. The teacher did not speak any English with us. We also worked with partners a lot...repeating sentences etc. My partner was a nun dressed to the nines in her "habit". I am TOTALLY telling the truth. I'm sure throughout the week we will have more stories to share. Thanks for praying for us on this BIG day!

"Schultuete"...First graders get these cones filled with candy on their first day of school! Abby really liked this!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Nervous Excitement

Hausschuhe are purchased (special shoes with white soles that they wear only at school), backpacks are by the door, clothes are laid out and prayers have been offered as we get ready to start school tomorrow.

There is a sense of nervous excitement running through our house. The kids are ready to meet new friends and start learning German, but also scared of making mistakes and not knowing anyone. As a result of this anxiety, we spent most of the weekend trying to meet the needs of their love language...

Levi's really isn't a true love language, but if it has anything to do with a mess, then his heart is happy! Painting proved messy and a bit productive as he now likes to practice writing his name...all by himself!

Abby loves to spend time together! So we had "girls' time making cookies and special
punch...a secret recipe taken from her Strawberry Shortcake book...a real treat for dessert!

Luke's love language is also quality time spent together...and he loves to learn anything from Daddy. Today it was the many rules and strategies of Monopoly. Watch out Matt Cates, we have a real competitor on our hands!

So that is the latest update as we get ready to start a new chapter tomorrow. Our prayer tonight during worship is that others would see the love of Jesus flowing from our hearts as we meet new people and encounter new experiences.

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
John 16:24