28 January 2012

A Little More Up

I left quite a downer of a blog post hanging on there all week.  Sorry about that!
In my defense I had one sick Karis-girl on my hands this week.  We had our first big sickness of 2012!

Have I mentioned that we've been a part of a new International Church start?  We've been meeting with about 9-10 other families at Jeremy & Kristi's home while we look for a location to rent and expand.

This past Sunday we tried out a new facility and I think Karis picked up the nasty tummy bug there.  Her and 2 other kids from our group woke up during the night throwing up.  I stayed with Karis on the couch all night and Monday she had a fever.  I ended up keeping her home for 3 days.  She was better by Tuesday, but it left her with no desire to eat.  I kept her home Wednesday, to get some more food in her and build her strength up.  She's good now.  Her tummy shrunk so she's not eating quite as much.  I'm sure my little eating machine will be back to her normal eating self soon.
Now it's Saturday and Reegan has fallen with it.  Here's hoping and praying Brennan doesn't get it!!

Back to my downer post, I'm good.  Don't we all have those days from time to time?

Sometimes I question if I should share such personal details, but ya know, maybe it will help someone else.  I still think of a dear, now retired couple I knew in Russia.  They lived overseas for 30 years.  She was the sweetest thing and loved on the nationals, but she hated Russia.  I always admired her for her honesty and great attitude, peppered with wit and humor about life in Russia.

Our being in Vienna is not about me, visa issues, culture or anything but knowing that we're in the will of God.  Did He promise us good times all the time?  No.  He did promise to love us and not forsake us.  And even when we might feel forsaken (I'm just saying that for those who might, I'm not feeling that way in Vienna) God is there.  Maybe He is trying to teach us something or wanting us to draw closer to Him.  The big question is how are we going to respond?  I hope I'll always use times like this to seek Him and grow through the circumstances!

And now let me leave you with a few of my favorite photos that Jerry took for Eli's party (Kristi's big boy that turned 3) last weekend!

 He is sweet on Karis!!  She thinks he is pretty great too!

 This next one cracks me up!!

21 January 2012

There'll be Days Like This

 Seems that our whole family had a missing Spain day.
It's weird how it hits from time to time.  Something we see or say triggers a memory.  We all sigh big and say "I miss Spain."  It was one of those days today and then it puts me in a little bit of a funk.

People continuously ask how we are settling in or if we are liking it.  I am going to be brutally honest with you and say, not really.

That's not to say that Austria isn't a nice place to visit and I sure hope I don't offend any of my friends here, but I have to go back to a post I wrote on perspective.  So much of my perspective is based on a wonderful year in Spain.  A place we love, adore and miss tremendously.

Living here has just had some unexpected difficulties.  Doable, but definitely difficult.  The visa process makes no sense, the lack of goods that are abundant in neighboring areas of Europe, the unreal, high prices for common, every day goods, like eggs.  HAVING to learn the language because they make you!  Taxes for things like owning a television or driving on the freeway!  These little things add up and just make it easy to want to complain.

But, God called us away from Spain unexpectedly and brought us here to Vienna.  And we are learning to live in our new place.  It wasn't an easy move, but one we knew the Lord was calling us to make.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad!!  Our team is now together, which was the whole reason for this move.  We have a cute little house with a yard.  We have an incredible school where our kids are learning so much and we have made some incredible friendships!!  And meeting my blog friend, Kristi that has become a dear, in real life friend!

I thank the Lord for these things and these wonderful people that I wouldn't have met otherwise!

But, today has been a bit of a sad day for us.  Just missing our Spanish home, just a little (ok, maybe a lot).

19 January 2012

My First Printables

I have become a lover and die hard addict to all things pinterest.  If you're not familiar with this gem of a website, then let me tell you about it.  For years I have bookmarked websites in my web browser to go back to one day.  They were listed in chronological order and I'm not very good at getting it all organized, so rarely would I scroll through them.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard of sorts.  You can categorize boards and pin website to these boards to easily browse back through.  They make it simple to keep it all organized.  The other part of it is you can follow friends or random people and search through what other people are pinning.   It has opened up a whole new world of creativity for me!  I'm wanting to sew, craft and have now tried my hand at making printables.  Would you like to see?

I Corinthians 13:4-8 subway art

A while back I saw these signs on pinterest and decided to do something similar as a printable.  Now looking at those signs again, I'm not so keen on what I made, so I'll be working on it a bit more.

I'm happy for you to use these if you like.  I doubt there are many out there that would have lived in these same places, but you are welcome to it!

I'd show you what I've done with these, but that would require putting them in a frame and actually taking pictures.  I'll get there!  Ha!

15 January 2012

To the States We Will Go

It's time.

Our original plan to head to the States for stateside assignment (known as furlough to some) was going to be Summer 2013.

By about November it was becoming apparent that it was needed before that.  I think it's a mixture of many things.  Some things I've spoken about, like the stresses of applying for a visa.

Maybe 3 countries in 3 years, 4 countries in 4 years if you count our last time we were in the US has taken it's toll.

So it's time.  On about August 8th, we'll be making our trek back to the US and planting ourselves in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for 6 months.  We're still working on housing and a vehicle so we're not sure of our exact location.

The other exciting news that goes along with that is we have been asked to speak at the Alaska Baptist Convention that will take place at the end of September in Anchorage.

Can you say "GIDDY!"  I am ecstatic!!  My last visit to Alaska? 1996!  Far too long!!

We're going to try and take the whole family.  I would love to show my kids where I grew up!!  We'll see how that goes with finances.

I look forward to seeing this place again.  This the homestead near Montana Creek, AK that my parents and brothers lived in before I was born.  I knew it to be my grandparent's home by the time I came along.
It will only be in the form of a drive by as our family doesn't own it anymore.  I wonder if it even looks like this anymore.

I can't wait to see beauties like Mount McKinley, Sleeping Lady, Portage Glacier, maybe even the Homer Spit.  And I can't forget the many wonderful people I knew growing up!  Let the countdown begin!!

13 January 2012

My daughter

I just had to take a minute and brag on my sweet daughter!

It is so amazing to see a child transform!  Karis has always been a very independent, strong-willed child.  It was always very trying for me because I was not that way as a child.  I never wanted to disobey or disappoint.
In the last year I have seen this girl grow and blossom.  I almost don't know who she is!  There's not as much arguing, pushing her point, pushing the limits, getting into things like baby powder or sneaking snacks to her bed.  And yes, she has done those things.  Well, the baby powder all over the bathroom was a long time ago, the sneaking sweets to her bed was in Spain.
What I've seen is a kind, young lady.  A girl who is willing to give up the window seat on the bus to her younger sister, jump at the chance to carry a grocery bag and give her brother a piece of her candy.
I've also been SO proud of her hard work and determination in school.
Because she was learning to read and write in Spanish last year, it put her behind in first grade in her current school.  The teacher doing the testing along with the principal felt that it would be beneficial for her to have some specialized, one on one reading.  They felt she would be caught up half way through the school year.  
After the first quarter, I was called in for a meeting to go over Karis' progress.  In that meeting (this would have been in October) I was told that Karis had already caught up.  Normally they phase out the one on one time, but felt that Karis was doing so well that they didn't even need to do that.
This girl started out in the lowest group of readers in her first grade class.  And before Christmas, just 4 months later, Karis is now in the second highest group of readers in her class!  Amazing!

She is also quite a little whiz at math!
The elementary part of the school does a color chart for behavior.  Every day each child starts out on green.  If they do something like talking out of turn, doing something to another student, etc. they will be moved down the color chart, after one warning.  If they do something exceptional, they could be moved up to the highest color of orange.  Karis has made it a goal to be on orange.  She's done it so many times now that she has gotten a few prizes.  If I remember correctly, that happens once they reach 7 oranges.
Somewhere along the way, maybe age.....maybe a bit of training and definitely growing in her knowledge of Jesus Christ, she is becoming selfless.

I thought I'd be a little cheesy and write up an acronym for Karis.
Kindness ~ One day she told me that when someone gets hurt on the playground she is quick to help.  She noticed that others just stop and stare, but she stops what she is doing to help and make sure they are ok.  That's my girl!!

Amusing ~ She is developing quite the sense of humor!  She makes me laugh!

Righteous ~  I mean it in the sense that doing the right thing is becoming important to her.  Take, for instance tattling.  Now, she comes in a very humble way to tell me they are doing something they shouldn't do.
Integrity ~ I see her becoming strong and bold in her knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.  There is nothing like seeing your child love Jesus and want to be more like him.  One morning I was fixing her hair, she told me that she was headed to her bedroom to pray before school started.
Strong-willed ~ She's still got this in her, but now I see her using it more in a positive way.  She's learning how to tame that will and use it for the glory of God.

And you can't forget about the fact that Vienna thinks she's pretty great since they have an u-bahn stop with her name on it!  Ha!
 I love you, sweet girl!  And I love seeing what God is doing in your life!

05 January 2012

Austrian Visas

We've heard about and been preparing for this process for months.

For the type of visas we need, there is only one time of year that we can apply. 

This is now our 4th country in Europe.  Russia, you can't even step foot in the country without a visa.  Czech Republic requires a visit to a neighboring country to their Czech embassy to start the process (never knew why, but easy enough to drive to Vienna, Austria or Dresden, Germany) and then in a few months you show up to the visa office, sign some papers and your done.  Of course, we had a Czech helping our colleagues that was knowledgeable in the area of visas to keep up with the laws.  She was a godsend!

Spain was a little more complicated with every piece of paper you own needing an apostille (a special kind of stamp).  Although lengthy and armed with more papers than they need, it wasn't so bad.

Austria, on the other hand, just doesn't make sense to me.  Lots of paperwork was also required, but here's where it gets crazy.  You are required to stand in line vying for one of 60 visa slots (or so we've heard it's 60) that are given that year for this particular visa. Doesn't sound so bad, right?  Problem is, there is NO order.

Our visa has to do with the fact that we work in the country, but are paid outside of Austria and will not be working for an Austrian company, therefore will not be covered by their social care. 

Seems to me they wouldn't mind these kinds of workers in their country.  They don't have to pay us AND we are contributing to their economy.  Right?!

In the past our colleagues have experienced some chaos in this process.  It has boiled down to being whoever can throw their elbow the hardest gets in the door first.

The last 2 years have been a bit better.  A lawyer representing certain clients have started a list of names of those who show up.  It's a first come, first serve bases, based on when you arrive at the door.  However, the visa office honored the list last year and we hoped it would be the same this year.

The line has gotten so crazy that it warrants an overnight stay.

In past years, our colleagues have shown up around 5 am to get in line.  Unfortunately, we weren't so lucky.  Some of our colleagues drove by the office late afternoon on January 1st and before 5 pm a line had already formed!!  The plan had been to get in line at midnight.  That was quickly changed when 20 people were already on the list at 5 pm.  Jerry showed up at 6 pm and we were numbers 47-51 for each member of our family.

Y'all (and I don't use that term often, but this warrants it), y'all I am getting too old for this!  Staying up all night!!  My body does not do so well.  Especially when I am required to take care for my kids the next day!  Which, by the way, our kids spent the night with some colleague friends!  They were not required to be there.....or so we thought.  More on that in a minute.

The plan was for me to show up at about 5 am.  I could do that, but the lawyer keeping "THE list" said if I didn't show up by 3 am I could be bumped for not being there in person IF a government official came by.  Did I show up at 3 am?  Yes I did (after 4 hours of sleep).  Did a government official come by before 5 or even 7 am?  No, one did not!  Oh well!

Anyway, Julie and I hopped in a taxi and got there by 3 am.  Insanity!!!

This is craziness!  Now, I'm not saying that the US system or any other is without flaw (ha, that sounds funny)

Really?  There is not a better system to standing out in the FREEZING, MIDDLE OF THE WINTER, COLD to get a CHANCE, not even a guarantee, for a visa slot?!

We did, however, have 2 cars nearby to get an occasional warm up and we did have access to bathrooms.  But, wait!  It doesn't stop there!  Sounds so nice of them to give us access to bathrooms, right?  Well, said bathrooms just happened to be located off of a HUGE foyer area!!!  Were we able to sit in said foyer????  Nope!!

We sat out here.
That's Jerry under there.  Keeping warm and getting updates on the Cowboy game. Ha!
 Some of our colleagues.  At least we could chat to pass the time.
See that BIG empty foyer in the background?!
It was somewhere between 6 and 7 that we were able to come into the foyer and line up.  It was much warmer in there.  We were all sprawled out on the floor, mostly heads nodding off.

Eight o'clock came.  There was a bit of pushing and a bit of stress.  People were walking in and not observing the line.  Come to find out, many of them were there for other reasons.  Oops!  Things remained calm and "the list" of names were honored and we were called in order.

There was rumor that someone who put their name down before us actually turned in 15-20 applications.  Grr!  We have no idea if we made "the cut."  We're not going to stress about it.  God has a plan and we trust Him for these kinds of things.  It's out of our hands.  We've done what we can do.

As we were turning in the papers we learned that the law had changed and any child 6 and older had to be there in person because they fingerprint them!!  Not only them, but us as well.  Fingerprint a child??  Seriously?!

The workers were extremely nice and you know it's not their fault.  They don't make these hideous rules!  Grr!

We didn't walk out of there until 10:40 am.  By the time we got something to eat......we were STARVING.....and picked up our kids, it was 1 pm.  That's 20 hours that Jerry was doing this process, 10 for me.  Crazy!

I updated my status on facebook describing our ordeal and an Austrian friend apologized that his country made us do this.  How sweet is that?!

Do we know anything at this point?  Nope!  It will be 3-4 months before we hear a thing.  And so, we wait......

03 January 2012

London ~ Final Day

Our last full day, we headed to the Thames River.  On a previous trip we stumbled upon St Katherine's Docks and fell in love.  First we stopped at a red phone booth.  I'd seen plenty before, but I don't like looking so much like a tourist!  Ha!  Even though I am!!  What American doesn't go to London and get a classic photo in a phone booth?!
I have no idea what Karis was doing!  Probably being silly!

Want to see something funny?  I bring to you, circa, October 2000!!
 Aren't we cute?!
We've aged a bit!

Entering the docks.  The buildings and atmosphere is, well, charming!  Have I not said that before?!  Ha!

This Starbucks has a prime location, don't you think?!

 The docks have an exit to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Gorgeous, isn't it?!
The Tower of London.  We've never been in the tower.  The tickets are a little too rich for our liking.  Maybe another time.

An ice rink was set up next to the tower.  Like every place else, it was packed!!

We had a blast in London.  I already miss it tremendously!  The people, the atmosphere, the vibe, the beauty!  Ahh London, you are missed!
I have a feeling we may return.  So I will say "See you soon!"

02 January 2012

London ~ Day 2

This is the park we walked through to get from our hotel to the underground.  It is such a gorgeous walk!  Nice big park, tennis, runners...
Our second day we headed to the British Museum.  Across the street was this tavern.  I love the look and the names of pubs here.  Ok, this pub doesn't have a unique name, but it hits the category of quaint and charming!
The British Museum is massive!  We thought it might be a neat thing for the kids to see and told them they could see mummies. 
The inside corridor.
Brennan was a little disturbed by the mummies and didn't realize that at one time it was real people. 
The place was PACKED!  We haven't seen London like this before.  The two other times we've come it was October.  A much preferable time, when there aren't as many tourists.

Next we tried Harrods.  Again, PACKED!  Oh my!  The kids were getting elbowed and purse punched in the face.
It is a really cool place and our goal was to get some fresh Krispy Kreme donuts, only to learn that Harrods no longer houses a KK.  We were a little disappointed, but we still got us some KK in another location.
Here is the one picture I got of Harrods. Then we hightailed it out of there!
Buckingham Palace
 We stopped at the palace gift shop.  These are the ornaments that hang on the Christmas trees in the palace.  The lady working in the store asked Karis if she was getting some practice in!  Ha!

 We then made the long walk down Birdcage Walk (as opposed to The Mall) and came out right by Westminster Abby.
 And Big Ben!  Love that structure!  It is gorgeous!

 The London Eye peeking through in the back.
 Heading towards Trafalgar Square.  Don't ya just love the names of all these British sites?!
 I wasn't paying attention as to what this guard on a horse was actually guarding, but in looking at the map, it looks to be the Army's Headquarters.
We always make one of our London meals at the Texas Embassy Cantina.
 This restaurant and location have quite the history!  The restaurant commemorates when there actually was an embassy for The Republic of Texas from 1836-45.  This was not the actual location of the embassy, but it is nearby.  This building was, however, the White Shipping Line's location, the owners of the Titanic.  This is where people came to find news of their loved ones.
Texas license plates line the walls.

 Just 4,747 miles to Dallas!

Not "Texas" Tex-Mex, but it was good.
It was nice to have GOOD Dr Pepper!!

That completes our very full second day in London!  More to come soon!


  Deeper - adj. 1. extending or situated relatively far down from a surface: a deep pool. It's been a long time since I've ...