Sunday, November 27, 2011

Budapest, Hungary

A few weeks ago, Anthony and I had an opportunity to take a short retreat away from the kids.  This was our first time away from them together.  Although it was difficult to leave them for 4 days, it was really nice to have my husband all to myself! 

View of Budapest from the citadel - Buda on the left with the castle grounds and Pest on the right with the Parliament building.  Margaret Island is in the middle of the Danube river beyond the second bridge. 

This retreat was provided by The Christian Hospitality Network and Christ Fellowship Church and was such a blessing to us.  We stayed in a nice spa hotel on Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube River.  The retreat was created to care for missionaries on the field and the group was so thoughtful about our needs.  We were treated to great lodging, two filling meals a day, massages, gifts, and medical care.  Both Anthony and I were seen by doctors who were helpful and encouraging and who offered solutions to long-term medical needs we have had.  The team of individuals who sponsored the event were so encouraging, thoughtful, and loving.  They even contacted Stateside friends to deliver notes of encouragement to us from them.  In the evenings, an optional time of worship and devotion was offered.  It was such a beautiful window into heaven as missionaries from dozens of countries representing many ministries came together in fellowship to worship the living God.  And, of course, my social husband made friends with the team and connected over discussing music ministry.  This led, at the end of the week, to them giving him the brand new acoustic/electric guitar they had brought with them.  Anthony was stoked and has been using it at youth group every week since. 

Besides the blessings of the retreat itself, we were able to really get some needed rest.  Without kids to interrupt a good night's sleep for the first time in nearly 5 years, we were able to catch-up on some sleep.  It was also awesome to get  uninterrupted time with my man!  It was so fun to connect and get a large quantity of quality time together. 

We even got great exercise as we experienced Budapest on foot.  We really enjoyed the city with its interesting history and eclectic influences on architecture and culture.  One afternoon we hit the hop-on, hop-off tour bus to get to see the sights further out.  The best time to view Budapest, though, was at night.  We would walk down to the bridge at the end of the island and see the parliament building, the castle, the churches and the citadel all lit up. 

Military amphitheater remains from Roman times

Roman ruins on Margaret Island

Budapest at night - Parliament building on left and castle grounds on right

The kids did great without us for a few days.  Many thanks goes out to our co-worker, Heather, for taking them on while holding down ministry programs for the week! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Best 18 Euro We Ever Spent

The Gartenshau in K-town is a unique place that I have not seen the likes of anywhere else.  We have visited it from time to time over the years and the kids really liked it.  So this year we decided to get a season pass for just 18 Euro and it has been so worth it!  We went at least twice a month this summer.  The Gartenshau closed at the end of October for the year, so we will be anxious to go back when it opens back up in the spring.  I saved-up lots of photos of our many trips to "Dino-Land", so here is our photo tour of the park for you...

It is a short walk over a bridge to get into the park.  We got smart half way through the summer and started bringing the kids' bikes for this part.

First of all, there are dinosaurs!  What kid doesn't like a park full of random dinosaurs?  It starts with these smaller statues at the entrance and progresses to life-size dinosaurs throughout the park.

 And then there is the sand...what kid doesn't like to play in the sand?


The several playground areas...What kid doesn't like a good slide? 



A fort that you can climb up to

And the water playground....what kid doesn't like to play in the water?

And the creek...

one afternoon when we had friends join us

 Sometimes we get lunch...what kid doesn't like dinosaur shaped chicken tenders and a dinosaur toy with their lunch?

we have collected quite a herd of dinosaurs

The park is actually a garden center, so they always have a beautiful display of flowers.  The summer garden display was the theme of the world, so they had flower beds to represent different continents.  This fall they began a fairy tale theme with all kinds of gourds.  See if you can name the fairy tales below....

2nd, 3rd, & 4th place for biggest pumpkins

We often end our time with a little ice cream...cause what kid doesn't like ice cream?  (Well actually me when I was a kid.)  Alethia always went for the pink Hello Kitty ice cream bar.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

We spent time Friday celebrating friends and getting to dress-up and eat candy.  We have a small stash of Halloween costumes from previous years and hand-me-downs.  I let the kids raid the stash and pick what they wanted to wear.  Alethia chose a penguin costume that was meant for Masami, so it was about 3 inches too short in the arms and legs, but what is the point in arguing.  Masami chose an adorable monkey costume from cousin Micah and announced that he was Curious George. 

At Alethia's German class on Friday afternoon, the teacher Miss Jenny, asked each kid (in German) what costume they would be wearing for Halloween.  Then, she taught them the German words for their costume.  Many of the kids had chosen classic Halloween characters like zombies, witches, and Frankenstein's monster.  When it got to Alethia, she proudly replied that she would be a penguin.  Immediately, one boy about 10 yrs old (who is going to be Frankenstein's monster) said, with surprising tenderness, "Ahhh, she is going to be a cute penguin!"  He then asked how to say "cute penguin" in German.  Such sweet affirmation for Alethia from such a surprising source. 

After German class, the kids got dressed in their costumes and we met up with friends to join their unit's trunk-or-treat.  It was everything I want out of a Halloween experience: short, tame, to the point...candy!  We shuffled around a parking lot admiring all the fun costumes and creative trunk decor and filled-up the kids candy bags. 

Alethia, Kylie, Emily, & Masami

Afterwards, it was back to the Kouba's for pizza and fun.  The only thing missing was mulled apple cider...but I put my order in for next time. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Masami Turns 3!

I can't believe how quickly these kids are growing!  I no longer have babies in the house.  (And soon, hopefully, no diapers!) 

Last weekend we celebrated Masami's 3rd birthday.  Despite a round of flu making its way through our house, we managed a nice little celebration.  Masami had been asking to go swimming for weeks, so I had promised a swim outing to the German pool for his birthday.  Unfortunately, Anthony was laid up in bed, taking his turn with the flu, but I didn't want to cancel on Masami.  The German pool is a little indoor water park, but makes it difficult to be the only adult with two young kids.  There was no way we would be able to do the big water slide as I couldn't take them both with me at once and I wasn't going to leave one alone while I took the other.  So, I asked a friend to go with me.  Heather was glad to go with us.  Masami was so happy; he was doing a little dance around the pool.  We had a great time. 

Thanks to the commissary cake display, Masami had been asking for a Spiderman birthday cake for months.  Since I was not about to pay for a big pre-decorated sheet cake, I decided that I would just figure out a way to make it myself.  I was pretty pleased with the result:

We had a family dinner of Masami's favorite home cooked meal: Yakitori with our friends, Heather and Jennessa joining us.  (They were the only two that I dared to invite into our germy home...luckily, both were willing to brave it and came out unscathed.) 

I guess it was sort of a "Super Hero" themed birthday between the cake, the action figures, and the costumes that Masami got.  He loved it!

All of us wearing hats that Masami got for his birthday

So, it was a fun day with a very satisfied little boy.  Masami is such a light in our lives!  He is goofy and charming and clever and tender-hearted.  He loves playing with his sister, loves getting attention, and loves to cuddle.  His favorite things are dinosaurs, Little Einsteins, Super Heroes, Toy Story, and VBS songs.  I love watching him grow and learn and discover life and God.  I am so blessed to have this little boy in my life!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our house is a very, very, very fine house...

Jess takes you on a video tour of our home in Germany. Since not everyone gets to visit, we wanted to take the visit to you. Our home has come together over the years through the generosity of many people and we love hosting and sharing it with others. Hopefully this entices you to come and visit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


For 5 years we have been living just a few miles from this lake, and I never realized how cool it was.  We headed over there one warm afternoon in August for a youth event and loved it.  

 The sand was a bit more like dirt than like sand and the kids got pretty dirty, but they loved every second of it.  Nothing a good bath couldn't fix. 

Masami, Alethia, and one of our students, Alexandra
 The water was a great way to cool off in the hot summer sun and it was nice and shallow for the kids to play in.

 This is definitely a spot we will be visiting in future summers!