Saturday, November 22, 2008

More notes

It snowed today for the first time since we've been here. We had decided not to bring snow clothes (crossing summer/fall/winter created difficult packing decisions). This means that many pairs of socks were used for mittens today. Many.

My very sweet new friend, Sharon, took me around Vienna yesterday. We really enjoyed stopping in at Cafe Demel ... chocolatier to the emperor. My piece of cake is on the right. Do you see the purple candy on top? I resisted buying a box of those candies ... I'm not known for buying depreciating assets like purple candies for 16 euros. But it was a delicious piece of purple, and they are known to have been a favorite of Empress Sisi.

Here we are, after traipsing around Vienna in the rain, looking for those hard-to-find European good deals. Have we ever mentioned it is NOT a good deal to shop here?

Well, Steve complained that my piece of cake got a blog entry and his trip to Innsbruck received nothing. In spite of my jealousy, it's not my fault. I don't blog someone else's trip. In closing, did you know we have a secret passageway?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Eating a lango in Vienna. The boys shared one ... they are like a garlicky elephant ear.

- I've been told that if you don't have a scarf on your neck, your cold will get worse. You will possibly even catch cold.

- If you don't go for that line of thinking, they sure look great. I bought some. And a sweet new friend (Hi, JoAnn) taught me how to use them.

- I was in the changing room this week taking Sammy and Si to "tournen" (gymnastics). In the midst of moms and dads ... five women changed their pants into something more comfortable for Mommy & Me class.

- I love getting the kissy-kissy-cheek-press from my new Austrian friends. I'll miss them.

- People will stop you on the street to "scold" you for not dressing your little child warm enough. Silas is really good at getting his socks and shoes off. Did you add those two together?

- I'm worried about Silas' Afghani friend who played with him the entirety of every Thursday night. He was supposedly transferred over the weekend. He seemed so kind and lonely.

- Iranian tea is possibly the best tea ever made.

- Rice can be quite complicated to make - if you want to do it "right" according to my neighbor from Iran. Who knew? Now I do. Come on over for dinner.

- Silas learned how to say "octopus". This is a major accomplishment for our quiet little boy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Castle ruin

We hiked for what felt like an hour (and could have been) up a tree-filled hillside. The trail wound through on its way to the ruin we had spied some time ago from a swimming pool in Baden. It is called Ruin Rauheneck. It is also supposed to be from the 12th century and even has a ghost story - but we read it in German, and I don't think we're good enough to translate it. I found a little history on the castle here and there. I don't know how much of it is true. But suffice it to say, it was really an eerie-beautiful place that we fully enjoyed.

Above you see the little chapel altar in the castle. There was a stone cross above the door into the room. It was fun to imagine what it looked like.
Trees growing inside of the ruins that makes it seem so very ancient and special. Steve loved taking more pictures than you'll ever want to see when we return. It makes history come alive to imagine real people living real lives so many years ago.
Well, I just accidentily deleted an exciting picture for the boys ... the spot from where the archers could shoot arrows. They liked climbing out and looking down to the ground. It was fun to walk out for adults, too. Too bad I don't feel like uploading it again. :)
The tower at this castle is a triangular one. It was really dark and musty. The day was foggy and the fog began to descend into the valley while we were there. It made it very beautiful as we looked out and then began our hike back into town and to the train for our way home. We had a really nice day and everyone voted these castles as the top thing to take y'all to if you come visit us in the next three weeks!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You would think

You would think we had hit some castles by now. It's been on our list for a long time, and we didn't even actually try to go to any castles yesterday. We tried to visit a medieval abbey that is still in use, but the buses didn't cooperate with us. So, after much deliberation (which included unnecessary train rides in the wrong direction), we decided to brave the iffy weather and hike to some castle ruins. We had a great, mostly non-rainy day ... probably our favorite sight-seeing day so far. We hiked out of Baden up to beautiful Ruin Rauhenstein first. Here you see the cliffside view.

We could find almost no history on this castle ruin, except that a former owner took the roof off to pay some tax in time past. We loved the peacefulness, the fall colors, the trees growing in the middle of it, the hiking and the price - free. It is set directly outside the lovely valley of Helental, which is supposed to be beautiful, romantic and famous for it's hiking. People love to hike here ... they call it wandering. And each little, carefully-marked trail is called a "wanderweg". (literal translation - wandering way)

We climbed the tower and could see the town of Baden surrounding us. It was easy to imagine times gone by. Looking to the hill straight across, we could see the next ruin we wanted to visit. I loved the view of the castle without its roof. Steve loved that it was a ruin. The boys loved the toilet that was merely a hole leading directly to the outside of the castle.

All in all, it could have been very romantic. Here is a peaceful picture taken by our fun neighbor, Adam, who joined us on our outing.

Of course, romantic hikes through castle ruins from the 12th century are always a bit interrupted by the "girls have cooties" crowd.
We hiked on to our next ruin ... saved for the next post.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


For most of our two months, we have lived normal life. Coming with our four children has meant that we still get to clean the same amount, cook the same amount, supervise the same arguments, school the same children, wash the clothes and make the boys pick up their room. We may be in Europe, but we're still grocery shopping. (Actually, Steve is grocery shopping - it turns out our schedule pretty much only allows HIM to do that honor.) That's not a lot to write home about, except that those same things can be and are all different and harder. They take longer, too. So here are some things that are normal .............. but not.

Going to the bathroom: While it may not be the squatty potties I encountered in India, it does have it's own special flair. We have performed unscientific experiments and discovered that smell travels faster in air than in water. Note the special "shelf" in the toilet making all our experiments possible. We like the U.S. ones better. :)

Shopping is a normal activity. But it's not Safeway or Albertsons. It's called Billa or Zielpunkt. Without a van, we walk and carry all our own food (six people eat a lot). With a baby-sized refrigerator, we shop often. The food must have fewer preservatives here, because it all goes bad much more quickly. We pay for our shopping bags, so we re-use them. At most stores, you must put a coin in the cart to use it. Don't forget to weigh your food and mark the price ... the cashiers do not do it for you. And be quick about it at the check out. Really quick. Our Bend Fred Meyer grocery store cashiers wouldn't last five minutes here.

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Or die. Or be arrested or fined or something. We all recycle. But Austrians RECYCLE. Paper bin. Plastic bin. Colored glass bin. White glass bin. Milk carton bin. Old food bin. Metal bin. Regular trash. That's not all, actually. Here's the sweet set up in our neighbor's apartment. Much cooler than ours. I admit: I like recycling.

Cooking is three times a day here, too. We have fewer ingredients, because we didn't want to buy a new pantry for three months' worth. The pans in our kitchen are awful! I'm not used to cooking with gas ... so I burn a lot of dinners. I think my sweet Iranian neighbor thinks I actually can't cook. We eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day. Muesli. Muesli. Muesli. The biggest difference? The size of the items. I present to you the largest bag of flour we have found so far.

Television. Actually, we don't have it. But we watched it on vacation. Did you know that Strawberry Shortcake is called Emily Erdbeer (Emily Strawberry)? And Curious George is called Coco. As expected, it's in German.
Have a great day! Steve is at The Oasis right now. It has been our all time favorite thing to be there. The people are absolutely wonderful. It's what I would want to post about every day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


While I (Brooke) was away a couple weekends ago, Steve took the boys for a day to Prater. They had a nice time ... but were bummed to discover that they were too short for most of the rides. The bumper cars were fun, though.

Jake was tall enough for this ride. And here's what he thought of it:

"Wiener Riesenrad" means Vienna Giant Wheel. Vienna's real name is Wien (pronounce the "w" like a /v/, please. And don't say "vine" ... say "veen"). Anyway, enough language lessons for today. It's the big, famous ferris wheel you see behind them in this picture. They didn't go on it. No one was interested. It's really slow. And, I think you all know, slow isn't the speed at which Vossler boys operate.
While they had fun in Vienna, I went on a church retreat for women. Yes, it was in German. But I asked for translation this time, because I didn't want to miss the stories the ladies were telling as they introduced themselves. It was really special to get to know the ladies better. They were all very friendly and welcoming. I also had the fun of riding and rooming with an American ... so we blurted out all the English we could in our short hours together.
We've had such a nice time here. October has had beautiful weather, and now it's all beginning to change and get colder. We saw a building in Vienna putting up Christmas lights today. We'll get only the beginning of the magical Christmases here before we return home. I'm really looking forward to visiting a Christmas market, and there's a part of me that has grown attached to this place. I honestly don't know why ... 640 square feet with six people, a bathroom that floods when the boys take a shower, hand washing dishes in a little sink, half a refrigerator, a big city, ... but something about it is homey. It really is a wonderful country, with wonderful people. We'll be home in one short month.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Our boys, with our visitor Alan, in a tree on the grounds of Schoenbrunn Palace on the day I decided to take everyone to the children's museum there. I had help and we were set for a great day. But it was closed. So the poor children had to endure the actual palace tour. They had their own audio guides, which helped immensely.

Jake and Alan with their paper boats ready for floating.

Our boys were pretty sad about leaving our home in Bend for so long. So some of our dear friends in Oregon prayed specifically that our boys would have special friends here in Austria. Little did they know, a little girl across the world was also praying for friends. God answered all those prayers.

A wonderful family with Youth With A Mission is living here in the same guesthouse. Actually, they have their own house and office on the same property (which means they sweetly share their extra freezer space with us poor dears who only have half a refrigerator).

From Day 1, our children were all out playing together. With their permission (by special request of a wonderful Grandma in California), here are some photos. We must apologize to the grandma of these children, though, because we are missing Caleb in these photos. Somehow, he wasn't in any of them!

Of their three very fun children, you'll see the youngest and only girl, Katia, where you will nearly always find her - in a tree - which is why our boys like her so much. Here she is with Eli. The huge benefit to all this is not only are they having fun ... but they are VERY motivated in their schoolwork so they can play with these children every day.

Matthias is a great friend to everyone. The boys all really enjoy him. Silas grabs his hand and drags him everywhere (and Matthias is so nice about it). The boys all go to gymnastics together. We were given a great deal for Jake and Eli to attend twice a week, while Sammy and Si go once to a Mommy/Daddy & Me class. Here is our friend, Matthias, with the activity he instigated: making paper boats and floating them down the nearby creek.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This last week I took a four day trip to the Urkraine with a couple of Denton Bible Church missions staff members. The purpose of the trip was to see how the Bible Training Center for Pastors (BTCP) classes are going in the Ukraine and to see how we can be of encouragement and assistance to the believers in the Ukraine and surrounding countries. We stayed at a seminary just outside of Kiev and were quite impressed with the training that is going on there (picture to the left). For me it was a particularly special trip, as it took me closer to my father's birthplace than I have ever been before.

My father was born just north of the Black Sea in a German speaking community in what was then known as Bessarabia. Now it is a part of the Ukraine and is just south of the border with Moldova. Much of what I saw outside of Kiev matched the pictures in my mind from the stories of my father's childhood. I even saw a few Ukrainian women wearing scarves over their heads, which reminded me of my Oma. The food was good. I had fried chicken and mashed potatoes for breakfast for the first time in my life. I also had the opportunity to share a few thoughts from the Bible during a chapel service and greatly enjoyed hearing the students sing worship songs, even though I couldn't understand a word.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where do we begin?

Oh, for the time to tell you of ice caves, neighbors and visitors, pumpkin cream soup, Kiev, washing dishes in a one-sided sink, palaces and more. We had lots of fun with our seven year old friend, Alan, who came to visit from Texas while Steve went with Alan's daddy and another staff member from Denton Bible Church to the Ukraine (a post from Steve about his trip will follow). The picture below shows what the boys did when it rained for an entire day and we were stuck in 640 square feet.

While everyone was here, we all headed into Vienna. We lost Alan's daddy on the U-Bahn, were turned away from an Austrian restaurant, repeated a visit to Stefansdom and walked the grounds of Schoenbrunn Palace (where the picture below was taken ... with Vienna in the background).

That night, the guys decided to give Steve and I a surprise date. They returned home with five boys, and Steve and I stayed in Vienna. Our date was a lot like our honeymoon. [Honeymoon Flashback: rain, broken camera, everything closed, speeding ticket in Montana and ran out of gas]

As we walked through Vienna, we came upon a very special discovery of which you should NEVER take advantage should you make it to Vienna. It is called, in English, "Long Night of the Museums". In theory, it's amazing. For 13 euros, you can visit any museum in Austria until 1 in the morning. We excitedly found a quiet, out-of-the-way museum in which to purchase tickets and began our journey. Later news reports would tell us that 400,000 people turned out for the event. And that is exactly what it felt like. After declining to stand in line at museum after museum, we squished our way into the Albertina to see the art exhibits. We made it through part of Van Gogh before we decided to cut our losses and go get dinner. We have never been in anything so crowded. It wouldn't have been legal in the U.S.

But dinner was much better. Steve accidentally talked me into a long skinny hot dog. Yummmmmmmmmm. The photo below was taken that night. It was a beautiful night and we really did have a nice time together. We should have just walked around Vienna, because we found some beautiful spots.

Below are our friends, Chris and Alan, from Denton, Texas. Thank you, Antonia, for sending your wonderful boy and equally great husband to spend time with us. We enjoyed them so much!

Next, you see our unpaid German tutor, Adam. He just joined us from Denton Bible Church in Texas. The boys hang all over him and he is especially gifted at locating playgrounds.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Austrian viruses

Having nothing to do with this post ... but we thought you'd enjoy a shot of the boys passed out one night during our trip.

Well, if you're following our life, here goes:

We have had three separate men arrive from Texas on three separate days here at the guesthouse. They are from the church with which we are connected for this time we are spending here in Austria. We had this great plan. Our friend, Chris, arrived just last night and brought one of his children who will be staying with me while all the guys travel. The plan was to leave me in a foreign country with five little boys (don't let Jake hear me say "little").

Earlier this week, all four of mine came down with colds. I thought it was perfect, since only Jake was very sick. The rest of them had it so mildly (and me, too) that I thought for certain we had escaped dire illness while our little seven year old friend, Alan, came to visit.

And then ... last night ... just as I as going to bed, Sammy began crying. And crying. His stomach hurt. And then I spent the entire night in the bathroom with him (insert your favorite word for vomitting). So, after me being up all night with Sammy, the guys all left on the train for Brno ... and I remain behind with these five boys. Everything is going fine, and the guys will be home tonight. But they also leave again on Sunday for four days to Kiev. And so ... you can fill in the blanks on all the fun possibilities.

...drinking much needed coffee ... flavored with delicious French Vanilla Coffeemate sent by Antonia (Alan's mommy and my dear dear friend who is going to find out when she wakes up in a few hours that her son is spending the day with an Austrian virus)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Day 5

Before a few more trip highlights ... here is a bit more about our week:

On Monday I had the privilege of helping with the clothing distribution at The Oasis. I keep wanting to include pictures, but I need permission first. This was kids' day. The place was full of mothers and their children milling about. Besides hanging clothes and observing, my primary job was to spend time with those who were waiting for their number to be called. I filled my time with coloring, learning new names, blowing bubbles, and holding babies. It was valuable to see the system they have in place for trying to give everyone a chance at getting what they need. I dislike shopping in a lot of ways, so that task takes me forever. I cannot imagine having my four children, walking into a little room and having only a few minutes to find what I am looking for with a four item limit per child. The system is well done as a way to service that many people and give everyone the basics of what they need. The volunteers have also tried to learn what they can in other languages so they can help the best they can.

As a side note, I found it very amusing to see a particularly grandmotherly looking lady claiming four children as her own, when the volunteers were quite sure those children had already been claimed that day by their real mother. It's the age old way of getting more out of a shopping trip - bring grandma.

On to our trip. We spent our fifth day in Bad Aussee. The drive there was gorgeous and we passed into a new Austrian "Bundesland" on that winding road. Our goal was to hit the Lebkuchen factory ... gingerbread. We had heard there was a tour, but in reality, it was a taste test and a 6 minute video. Oh well.

We then hit another awesome Austrian playground and headed out for some lake viewing and hiking. We had a really nice time letting the boys just run a bit wild. I'll include pictures of all that later ... but for now I'm terrible about planning the order of the pictures I upload. You're left with a picture of Sammy's new favorite game, Old Maid.

Monday, September 29, 2008

How to do Hallstatt with a two year old

Silas was too little to go in the salt mine. So I present you with a guideline on traveling with a two year old ... a fussy one at that. My goals for the day were to see the parts of Hallstatt I had missed two days before, to have no tears or screaming from Si and to do a little shopping.

- Begin by praying that those threatening clouds will not rain.
- Allow your two year to do nearly anything he wants (of course, when the postcard shop owners tsk tsk you for allowing him to hold the stuffed animals for sale ... you have to put the stuffed animals away, no matter what that two year old says).
- If he wants to walk, he walks. If he wants to push the stroller, let him push. Dawdling anyone? Yes.
- Allow two year old to climb every stair of the nearly 100 which go to the Catholic church you want to visit. Up. And down. While it will take forever, just think, you're only carrying two backpacks and a stroller while you make sure he doesn't fall. Things could be worse. He could be screaming.

Bring two other children along. Flatties. That's what we call them. Did you know we brought our friends to Austria with us (a la Flat Stanley, all you teachers)? The Reimer family's 5 children are traveling along in squished form. Their three eldest went to the salt mine with Steve (are you impressed that he took six children?). That left me with the younger two.
- Allow two year old to hold the flat children during the entire 3 hours that you must kill, regardless of your fears that Baby Naomi will end her tour of Austria in Lake Hallstatt.
- Fearfully enter any shops. Be tempted to blame the Christmas ornament you dropped and broke on the two year old, but fess up and plan to buy it. Besides, you are already embarrassed that you brought a two year old into the store.

- Decide the next shop shouldn't have a two year old in it. Leave him parked right outside the shop, where you can see him perfectly and a lady happens to be playing peekaboo from the bank.

- Freak out when you realize you forgot that cars actually go down this narrow little road and rush out to be a responsible parent.

- Make certain to discover for a VERY long time what people do with their bread that hardens so quickly here.

-Visit every bit of water in sight. If your view is of Lake Hallstatt and the surrounding mountains from a high point, make sure to notice the ducks way down on the shoreline and NOT the view. If you are headed to an ancient Roman ruin ... who cares ... it's the creek that matters.

- Go ahead and visit the Beinhaus (repository of who-knows-how-many skulls and femurs) because your toddler will have no idea that it should seem a bit gruesome. Don't plan to stay long, as he'll think it's interesting and want to touch them. Leave. Now.

Days 3 & 4

We loved listening to the cow bells all day and even all night long.

Our family on a windy upper road in Hallstatt

Sunday morning found us deciding which of the two churches in town to visit. As the church bells clanged, we headed into the Lutheran church and slid into the 200 row. I hope we didn't take anyone's regular spot, however, we're not sure why anyone would fight for these pews. With that level of "comfort", there is no sleeping in church occurring either. I didn't sit in them for very long, thanks to Silas (with whom I took a walk in the cemetery) ... but take my word for it.
For the Vosslers who remained in church, the highlight was when the pastor ascended his high and holy place for the German sermon. We have never seen a high and holy place. And I, for one, am bummed that Si needed to make his noisy escape from that echoing building ... I never got to see it.
We swam in the afternoon at the local pool. It was advertised as being warm, but we sure wish they had put some of the energy they used in heating the floor tiles towards that pool water.
Day 4. Back to Hallstatt. We had missed multiple things when there the first day, so we came back to this sweet little village.

Steve and the three biggest boys headed on a cableway to the salt mine. Inside, they wore cool miners' clothes, rode a little train, slid down a slide, learned about a squished salt man ... all the things they were supposed to do. And, since they are Vosslers ... they added a few more attractions. They licked the walls. You know, since it's a SALT mine. And yes, the walls were salty. They collected and, of course, licked rocks. Did you expect any less? They would have brought home the fire salamander Eli was about the catch, too, if someone hadn't quickly stopped them. Apparently that is not safe. I haven't looked it up yet ... but something tells me fire salamanders aren't the Western Fence Lizard we're always catching in Bend.

I'm not sure who is raising these boys.

On the train in the salt mine

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Days 1 & 2

Spying out friendly birds on the Traunsee ("See" means lake, usually)

The Gosaukamm

Just above Italy sits little Austria, three quarters of it bulging with mountains. We had the opportunity to visit the center, right on the edge of the Alps last week. The picture above was the view from our balcony (when the clouds permitted). We stayed in a hidden away little town called Gosau. If you could see directly behind that mountain, you would have a glimpse of the stunning Dachstein Glacier, which we only rarely saw ourselves. Thankfully, the almost constant clouds allowed us plenty of time to play without too much rain.

Heading out, the boys were duly impressed by the speedometer registering 130 km/h in our rental van (did you know that minivans are considered luxury rentals in Austria? Ouch). The parents were impressed by the Danube Valley and the fact that they could find their way with four boys. When we entered the Salzkammergut area, we wandered through "a little town on a gorgeous lake with a mountain by it" (just repeat those words continually throughout this entire trip report and you'll have summed up most of it ... for those who are interested, it was Gmunden on the Traunsee with the imposing Traunstein flanking it). The boys aren't jaded tourists just yet ... they loved it. And the ice cream. They also spent a great deal of time trying to catch birds. Silas spent a great deal of time convincing his parents that travelling with a 2 year old is just plain stupid.

Day 2 was spent in truly picturesque Hallstatt, the oldest town in Austria. It was first settled by the Romans and Celts. We even walked on Roman flagstones. A local shop had renovated and discovered the Roman ruins beneath their building. We enjoyed (between bouts of Silas's crying) visiting that. We end up deciding to come back to Hallstatt on another day later in the week.

While the scenery was fantastic, we also have to give a great big thumbs up to Austria's playgrounds. This one in Hallstatt also had a zip line, a boat IN the water, an island and what we call The Octopus.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Austrian 911

The boys and I (Brooke) took our first trip on the train alone last night. You wonder why this is an accomplishment? I'll tell you, but first take note of that red button.

I'm a small town girl. Trains are new to me anyway. These train doors open and close very quickly, the trains leave very quickly, and these smaller trains do not have easy stroller access, so a mom alone with her children has to make certain none of them are left at the station while she carries the stroller up the steps onto the train that is ready to leave the instant the last person enters or before. We did it!

Do you remember the red button? The one within reach of any average four year old?

We were at the station last week waiting for our train. I was caring for Silas, and Steve was striking up a conversation with a man in German. It occurred to me that I was hearing a German voice asking, "Was ist dein Name?" coming from a direction in which there was only Sammy. And then I heard my son happily holler, "Samuel!!!!" As I looked up, I realized Sammy was hopping up and down speaking to that post. That German voice became quite intense, so I rushed over and immediately saw that red button.

The red button says, "SOS". Sammy had called Austrian 911 and I was quite unable to explain that there was no imminent danger. We almost had a visit from the Polizei. But, thankfully, the man Steve was speaking with came running over and explained that a child had pushed the button.

Phew. Were you surprised it was Sammy?

A trip

Now that Silas seems to have adapted to our little apartment, tomorrow we leave for one week to the Salzkammergut area just to mess him up. We will have less internet service availability, but we hope to update while we're gone. If not, when we return we'll give a report. We have been silent for a week, so we have lots to say anyway ... watch out for a bomb of posting.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Things Part 2

Thursday night gave us an experience we have never had before. Most of you know that a big part of the reason we decided to live in Austria for three months is to aid the refugees here in practical and spiritual ways. Austria's largest refugee camp is in a little town near us. Right outside the camp, there is a place where the refugees come for various kinds of assistance. On Thursday nights, they offer a free coffee and tea bar. Men, women and children come to hang out and play games in the cafe. We had great fun joining in.

Steve found that, in Russia, they play by completely different checkers rules. Watch out when he gets back ... he now has new powers. [After proofreading this with Steve, he says he still doesn't quite know what those rules are]

Somehow, I taught two seven year old boys (Eli and a new friend from Kosovo) how to play chess .................. in German. I never thought I would be relieved to know that someone spoke German, but even the little German I speak gets me a lot further than my non-existent Chechen.

We could hear different languages everywhere as people interacted. We met people from Mongolia, Iran, Israel, Russia and primarily Chechnya. We have been told that there is very little to do inside the camp. That would explain why that was the first time I had ever seen a table surrounded by teenage boys putting together a Winnie the Pooh puzzle. The tea was wonderful and we enjoyed ourselves immensely (well, that is, until a Russian and an Israeli cornered Steve and tried to talk politics ... boy, they picked the wrong guy).

We have been very impressed. This ministry loves and respects these people and their cultures and children and languages. They are not on a crusade. They aren't playing a numbers game with Christian converts or seeking to Westernize or alter cultures. They seek to love people with the love of Jesus in the short time the refugees are here - and if the opportunity is there, to share with them something most have never actually had the chance to hear.

We have no pictures of this time we spent. It wasn't exactly a tourist activity. Perhaps, as time goes on, we will have some - but just know that we sure wish we could show you what we were able to join in on!

New Things Part 1

It's legal here (you understand that if you live in Bend)... almost expected ... that you would hang your clothing to dry. I did it to be romantic. The other loads have gone into the dryer for the 2 more Euros it costs where we live. Not that I'm doing a lot of laundry - you don't change clothes every day here. (The boys wear their play clothes for quite some time). My neighbor here told me that they can spot Americans by the fact that they have new pants on every day. So, because I don't always love household chores, I've joined them. And I have much less laundry. If you see us in the same clothes all the time when we return, you can know that we are oh-so-European now. And if I get a clothesline, watch out homeowners. Oh wait, we live in the Deschutes River Woods ... hee hee ... Well, if I get a clothesline, I'll just hang it between all the old cars in my backyard. (sigh) It's so hard to keep up with the neighbors out there. [Dear Neighbors ... I don't mean your place.]

The boys' room: I love the yellow comforters. Our bedroom has two of these beds for our very own Fred & Wilma set-up. Speaking of us ... Steve & I celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

Guess what we get to do in the mornings? Steve and I trade off taking our morning run through the vineyards. Isn't it phenomenal? The smell of grapes is delicious and it is completely peaceful. I miss my running partner (Hi Joy) ... but you can't beat this!

Did you know that Eli temporarily has glasses? We only just obtained them before we left. He apparently has a focusing problem that can be fixed, and it begins with three months of these. This should help his reading and his headaches. And maybe, just maybe, he'll even be able to play his Gameboy for longer periods of time. (smirk)

Monday, September 8, 2008

A beautiful Sunday

Another train picture. I love this one. Here, we are headed to our first Sunday service in Vienna. We will normally attend another church, but we were visiting with our new friends, Russ and Roswitha and their daughters.

It was a wonderful experience. We even sang a German song we were familiar with. Everyone was very friendly. Again, they are so kind to the children. I went along with the boys to children's church - I thought I might learn German better listening to children's teachers (as opposed to that man whom I married who actually understood the sermon).

It was really fun watching the boys try to sing the German songs and play the games. Sammy loved his teacher and her puppet. I took him to the bathroom during his class and he whispered/squealed to me, "It's fuuuuuuuun!" And, yes, it was a good decision for me to go to the children's classes. I even learned my German body parts. They also sang a really cute song about what a good job God did when he made us. It begins with joyfully singing the German equivalent of "Bulls-eye!" We left church and I heard Jake holler to the boy he was playing with, "Tschuss, Jan!"

After church, we went to a Chinese restaurant with our friends. By the way, even Chinese food is different here (but good). I always wondered if we were actually eating Chinese food in the U.S. Now I wonder even more. And this is pretty much how Si behaved.

We weren't finished. Since we were already near the city center, we decided to take in some ice cream. And after our friends went on home, we chose an impromptu (meaning, completely unprepared) visit to Stephansdom. St. Stephan's Cathedral is stunning. Built in the 12th century (okay, okay, all my facts were found on the computer this morning while we homeschooled ... remember, this was an impromptu visit?), anyway, built in the 12th century means the steps are really, really old. There is something about walking where so many people of time past have also placed their feet. Sunday was the feast of Mary's birth, so there were worshippers and candles and, yeah, tourists. The boys were duly impressed with the height and beauty. This was their first Gothic cathedral, so they were actually quite interested. Jake shouted (no joke), "Whoa! That looks medieval!" I quietly informed him that it was.

We took in the south tower. 343 steps. Si had to be carried part of the way. But the three oldest had lots of fun pretending they were about to die. Here is an obligatory from-the-top-of-the-tower shot. See the Necco wafer roof? Viennese citizens donated those tiles when that section was rebuilt. I'm so making St. Stephan's for this year's gingerbread house.

If you come visit, we'll try the north tower and see the bell and the pulpit and all the things we missed because we were so, ahm ... impromptu. Oh, and Steve made me find our way back. I had to locate a German speaking citizen and ask them for directions (in German) to our train. Did you know that if you ask 10 people in Stefansplatz for directions ... only three of them will speak German? hee hee ... we even had three people tell us, "I no speak English." What? We were asking in German!