Thursday, October 11, 2018

Isaiah - One Year Old

All cred to VerityTanPhotography
When Isaiah was a newborn, his mellow, happy personality amazed me. He cried hard when he was born, but then it took him about two or three weeks to figure out how to cry again. And he rarely did. It also took him about two or three weeks to figure out how to look us in the eye and smile, which he was happy to do all the time.

Isaiah is now one year (and a few days) old and how things have changed!!

All that was mellow and easy about him has morphed into TODDLER - Isaiah is busy, wiggly, curious, and opinionated.

Look at these pics: Itty bitty baby bundle headed home from the hospital vs. one year old. The growth floors me.

Isaiah loves playgrounds - he climbs up the slides, moves dirt and rocks one fistful at a time, and tries to walk up and down the stairs. He crawls and cruises everywhere. If he sees a fan running, he makes a beeline to it to turn it off making us all start sweating until we notice what he did.

Isaiah also loves water play. At the pool, he kicks and flails trying to swim through the water. He dunks his face under and splashes big. When we wash his hands, he splashes the stream of water everywhere. He once put his hand in the toilet water. Or at least once that I noticed! 

Isaiah likes to stand for a minute at a time holding onto nothing and bouncing up and down. When he does this, he looks straight at me with big blue/gray eyes, I say "Isaiah you're standing!" and he proudly beams showing off his two little bottom teeth and his gigantic top teeth. Then, when I tell him to walk, he laughs and immediately drops to hands and knees.

Isaiah has a strong affinity toward anything with a handle, especially if it's stick shaped. He grabs and carries around his toothbrush, sippy cup, his sister's fairy wand, his sisters' hairbrush, etc. When we get in the car, I always turn on the engine and blast the A/C before I put him in his carseat. The moment I sit down to put the key in the ignition, he grabs the first stick-like thing he sees which means he usually turns on the blinker.

My first child sucked her thumb to fall sleep. My second child was addicted to her pacifiers. When the third was on the way I wondered which it would be… the paci or a finger? Wrong! Isaiah loves to chew and suck on his stuffed zonkey's ears to fall asleep. His two zonkey's ears have turned from cream to orangish/brownish. When we do laundry (which is all the time), one of his two zonkeys is always in there.

When it's time for him to leave or let go of any of these favorite things - a fairy wand, a rock, a playground - we tell him to say "bye-bye." If we forget this, he melts down into tears and throws his head back in frustration.

Isaiah is a total mama's boy. And I love it! When I show up, his whole body lights up. When I leave or when he thinks I'm going to leave, he cries. He loves riding around on my hip watching me put dishes away or make a cup of tea.

When Isaiah gets sleepy, he rubs his eyes, crawls to the nearest pillow or parent and snuggles in. When we notice him doing this, we scoop him up and have a big snuggle sesh, enjoying his soft, pudgy baby body and the feel of his big, fuzzy head resting against us.


Isaiah, I've always wanted a third child, and when I asked God for my third child, I asked that he would be a chubby, happy baby boy. I got all that… and so much more. You are a dream come true and your mama and dada love you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Cora - Four Years Old

This past weekend, our second born, Cora, turned the big FOUR!

Cora's favorite things are bunnies, strawberries, and dressing like a ballerina. So for her fourth birthday, she got to enjoy all of her favorites.

She scootered around in a brand new tutu.

She blew out four candles on a strawberry cream pie with pink whipped cream and sprinkles.

And we took her to a cafe where free range bunnies hopped around.

Here are some fun tidbits about amazing Cora in no particular order...

Cora is teeny tiny. Three-year-old sized clothing is just starting to fit her nicely. Her baby brother's weight is quickly gaining on her. But Cora eats like a kid three times her size and after dinner her stomach bulges out like a large ball. Here she is wearing her baby brother's shorts:

The past year was chock full of transitions for Cora. She became a big sister last October. Last December, she moved out of the only house she could remember living in and traveled around the world back "home" to the States - a country that felt foreign to her because she had no memories of it.

While in the US for five months, she got to live at Nana and Papa's house with long stays at three other homes. When we returned back to Thailand, we stayed at a "hotel house" for a couple of weeks and then finally moved into our new home.

After three months of living in our new home, Cora said to me, "We've been in our house for a REALLY long time. Are we going to move soon?" I ensured her that we plan to stay here for at least two years.

All of this upheaval made her cling tightly to several things.

Cora has clung tightly to family.

When we traveled to Mexico for vacation, Singapore for Michael's work, and to a camp in Thailand for church, all five of us shared a room. Cora was thrilled to get to sleep in the same room as Mommy AND Daddy AND Grace AND baby Isaiah.

The transition to preschool was tough for Cora because she had to be away from her family. Every morning, five mornings a week, we pull up in our car to the front of the girls' preschool/kinder. The girls hop out onto the sidewalk and Grace holds Cora's hand and escorts her all the way to her classroom door and gives her a hug goodbye. Cora soaks up Grace's confidence.

One of my preschool mom friends snapped this picture of the girls walking to Cora's class together at the beginning of the school day.

We've been able to teach Cora to cling to God too. When we were living in my parents' home, she slept in the basement with her sister. Sometimes during the day, she wanted something from her room, but to go down the stairs and down the hallway into her room felt too far away from mommy and daddy. We taught her that Jesus is always with her so she doesn't have to feel alone. When it was time to go down to her bedroom alone, she would reach up high gripping the air, holding Jesus' hand. She learned to confidently walk down to her room this way.

In all the transition, Cora also clung to her art. We introduced her to perler beads and she made creation after creation with them, often working for hours in a single day. More recently, she has taken to ballet. Almost every afternoon after her rest time, she decks herself out in a ballet tutu, ballet slippers, a tiara, and jewelry. She winds up her music box and dances for me.

A very small sampling of Cora's massive collection of perler bead art

Her drawings are absolutely adorable too
Although the transition back to preschool was rough, she's well-adjusted now. She idolizes her teacher and uses her few Thai phrases over and over to please her. She comes home singing all the Thai preschool songs. The other day at the mall, Cora kept trying to make eye contact with strangers so she could smile at them, press her palms together, and say her Thai greeting "sawasdee ka!"

Cora, you are one fun, sweet, snuggly girl and we are so glad you are OURS!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Isaiah - Nine Months Old

Isaiah has begun morphing from a sweet, snuggly baby to a wiggly, opinionated (yet still very sweet) toddler.

Photo cred: ตี้

Photo cred: ตี้

Isaiah is super wiggly. When he finishes nursing I have to immediately grab a chunky body part to keep him from rolling off my lap to the ground. He can pull himself up to standing and he's really trying to figure out how to crawl.

He also grabs everything. When he sits on a lap at the table, we have to create a clear zone in front of him because anything he can reach he grabs in the blink of an eye and in another blink it's in his mouth. In Thai, they call it มือเหนียว "sticky hands."

Isaiah has become opinionated about food, baths, being left to play on the ground, etc. and he vocalizes his opinions (aka fusses/screams to get what he wants). Hello baby tantrums!

He's started regularly saying a few words including "mama" and "dada" and "more." We've noticed he also uses "dada" as an all-purpose I-feel-happy word and he uses "mama" as his all-purpose I-feel-upset-and-cranky-and-want-someone-to-fix-it word. Go figure. He also tries to say his name -- "yah-yay-uh."

Isaiah continues to be super social. He stares people down with huge, unblinking blue eyes and when they smile at him, he smiles right back. He loves to wave "hi" and "bye." Whenever we leave to go somewhere new, he notices that transition is happening and starts waving goodbye.

He even socialized with the model in this poster advertisement.

Third babies are usually very flexible. We've dragged Isaiah through so much travel and transition since he was born, he's your typical third child leveled up. He has already been on 14 plane flights to four different countries (Thailand, USA, Mexico, Singapore), not including airport layovers of course. Since he was born he's slept overnight in 13 different places ranging from my parents' walk in closet to a hospital bed to a bassinet on a trans-Pacific flight.

Fast asleep on mommy's back after a long day of tromping around Singapore.

Isaiah's favorite things these days include:

  • Going outside. Do not step outside with him and then come straight back in. He will scream.
  • Playing with his big sisters' toys. And by "playing with" I mean "sucking on."
  • Drinking water and eating yogurt with mashed up banana. He's a fairly picky eater, but at least he eats those.
  • Being held. He loves riding around on a hip watching the world from up high.
  • Reading "Pat the Bunny." When I say, "Do you want to read Pat the Bunny?" He looks right where it normally sits on the end table and sometimes says "pat pat." I love snuggling him and reading to him and watching him interact with each page.
  • Our family. When any member of our family appears, Isaiah smiles with his whole body, flapping his arms and kicking his legs. His big sister, Grace, has figured out that she can make him laugh anytime, so she's always acting silly around him. He particularly gets excited when she appears hoping for the Gracie-show.
He will not fuss when a sister is nearby. Here he is playing with Cora.
Isaiah, you are so precious and so loved. Being your mama is one of my life's greatest joys.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Isaiah - Six Months Old

Our chubby, charming Isaiah will be six months old next week.

Six months.

I try to hold onto these days, this precious baby stage, but it is like trying to grasp water and the time slips through my fingers.

Five months old and enjoying the swing.

Three months old, falling asleep in my arms.

Playing "one hand" with Daddy.

Four months old and discovering his toes.

Five months old.

Four months old and snuggling with our snuggliest family member, Cora.

What is Isaiah like these days?

Isaiah is calm and mellow. So calm he still shows no interest in rolling over. That's right. Almost six months old and STILL not rolling! Though he is getting close to sitting.

He continues to be good at entertaining himself, especially if he is anywhere near the ongoing big sister show. When he is lying on the floor or sitting in his swing, the moment I flash a smile at him from across the room or swoop in to pick him up, he smiles with his whole body, kicking, flailing, and beaming.

I don't keep track (hello, baby number three), but if I had to guess, I think Isaiah nurses about nine times per day. And only one of those times is between 8pm and 8am. (yay!) So he eats all. day. long. He's already a champ at eating solid food too.

And he looks like he eats all day long. He has dimples on his lower back just above his diaper. His thighs and wrists look like someone tied a string around them. He even has a layer of fat over his kneecaps. Every time I see him in any state of undress, my heart melts.

Isaiah's parents and grandparents all have green and brown eyes, so we were surprised when he was born with blue eyes. And they have only gotten bluer. His dark brown hair was getting scraggly and patchy, so I recently buzzed it short revealing a head of dark blonde hair growing underneath. His daddy was not happy with me. Oops!

What are some of Isaiah's favorite things?
  • Socializing. Isaiah always wants to be a part of what's going on... sitting on a lap at dinner, in the middle of the family room while everyone talks, etc.
Isaiah in the action. How are they so dorky?!

  • His big sisters. He watches everything they do. He particularly enjoys the ongoing Grace variety show.
  • Drinking his solids out of a cup. I've never heard of another baby eating this way. But, whatever works!
  • Sleeping in. He's often in bed until 7:30 or 8!
  • Saying "hi." Whenever we see Isaiah, we always say, "Oh, hi!" Around three or four months old, he started copying this sound. Now when he sees us appear, he'll sometimes say, "HAAIIIYYYYYY!"
  • Sleeping on planes. His three best naps in recent memory were on his last three plane flights. He slept over two hours in my arms. He is so large, my arms were sore the next day!
Isaiah's least favorite things include...
  • Going down for naps. He usually cries for at least a couple of minutes.
  • Getting put in a sleep sack. He associates them with naptime.
  • Feeling sleepy. (Hmmm... this is ironic. He doesn't like being sleepy, but he doesn't like naps.)
Isaiah, we absolutely adore you and we are so glad you're a part of our family.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Remembering my Grandpa - Arno Enns

My Grandpa passed away on February 20th. Here are the words I shared at his funeral yesterday.


My name is Christie Stalcup. I'm Bruce and Laurie Swanson's daughter. I have the privilege of sharing this afternoon a few memories of Arno Enns from the perspective of a granddaughter.

I've noticed that in families, there is the standard, socially acceptable hug that you give each other. My grandpa's hugs were about three times that long and three times that tight and they were filled with words of love and affection. As a child, when I received these hugs, I felt like I was the most special person in his world.

As I grew older, I noticed that he gave that exact same tight squeeze along with affectionate words to each of my cousins. As grandsons and granddaughters in law were added to the family, he embraced them and welcomed them with the same affection and care.

In 2014, my husband and I were appointed as missionaries with WorldVenture in Bangkok, Thailand. With my grandparents having served in Argentina, my parents in Portugal, and now us in Thailand, that makes me a third generation WorldVenture missionary. It's been such a privilege the last few years to be around various WorldVenture folks because I've gotten to hear story after story about my grandpa and the theme is always the same -- he warmly embraced people even remembering specific details of their lives from years ago.

My grandpa was also goofy and he loved to make us grandkids laugh. We all happily filled the role of adoring grandkids and we loved to draw out his fun personality.

I remember sitting around the dinner table with my cousins and grandparents and we would ask grandpa to tell us one of his jokes. They say a good joke is all about timing and my grandpa's jokes had terrible timing. They were long, and drawn out and us grandkids would laugh until our sides ached at our grandpa's theatrics as he told his long-winded jokes.

I remember at my wedding rehearsal, my grandpa sat in a pew next to the aisle and as each of my bridesmaids practiced walking down the aisle, he playfully stuck out his cane and tried to trip them!

Grandpa was also so faithful. Faithful to my grandma, to his family, and to the Lord.

My grandpa absolutely delighted in my grandma, Cora Lee. Sometimes, he would be sitting in his armchair in the family room reading a newspaper. She would walk in the room and he'd exclaim, "Cora Lee, you're still here?! After all these years!"

My husband's favorite memory of my grandpa comes from six years ago, when the entire family, all four daughters, sons-in-law, and all the grandchildren were gathered in my aunt's family room on Christmas Day listening to my Grandpa share a few words, well a lot of words, on the incarnation, the word made flesh. As my husband looked around the room, he was stunned at the depth and breadth of the Kingdom impact of Arno and Cora Lee Enns' lives just in that family room. They truly embodied Psalm 145 which says that "One generation will commend your works to another and declare your mighty acts."

I remember before meals, my grandpa would often start his prayers the same way. 'Gracious, heavenly Father, we thank you for…' So I would like to close my words here in the same way my grandpa started all his prayers, 'Our gracious, heavenly Father, we thank you for the life of my grandpa, Arno Enns.'

Here is a biography of his amazing life as well.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Grace - Five Years Old

This week, Grace turned five - one-whole-hand years old!

Grace is living glorious childhood in all its fullness. She often plays outside all morning. When I take her to a new playground, she explores every nook and cranny. She loves building with train tracks and her new marble run. She watches Winnie the Pooh almost every day, memorizing the stories, songs, and each character's personality for fun re-enactment later in the day.

Five years ago, Grace was born so quickly, we nicknamed her "rocket girl" which is entirely ironic because now she does most things slowly. It's as if she used up all her fast juice during labor and delivery and now lives in slow mo.

Sometimes Grace's slow pace is caused by simple disobedience. But, we also think she gets distracted by her rich, inner, daydream world of stuffed animals, made up languages, and imaginary friends.

Grace is often processing the past and shocks us with how much she remembers even from a couple of years ago. She also often plans for the future. (She started telling me almost a year ago that she wanted purple shoes for her birthday so she could dress as Prince Wednesday from Daniel Tiger. You'd better believe she got some purple shoes this week.) 

Because her mind is constantly whirring and her mouth is constantly chatting, Grace gets distracted from the task at hand, and moves from task to task at a glacial pace.

With the "terrible two's" and the "three-nager" year well behind us, Grace has learned to handle her emotions really well, so the past few months she's been calm and happy. She's also become the queen of transition. In the past half year, she's gained a sibling, moved out of her home, flown around the world, and spent about six weeks in Colorado and in California. Isaiah's birth threw her for a loop, but since November, she has learned to embrace transition. She even gets excited about getting on planes, seeing new people, and experiencing new things.

Grace has really grown into her big sister role. Her younger sister, Cora, really leans on her for bravery and Grace has often led her through transition sometimes literally holding her hand to help her. 

Grace also enjoys caring for her brother. She is so proud to be one of his favorite people in the world. When he's fussy, she sometimes says, "Isaiah needs someone to keep him company." And she plays near him which almost always calms him down.

Grace loves all things medical and wants to be a doctor when she grows up (unless Jesus comes back before she grows up in which case she wants to be a ballerina). Anytime there's a new sickness (which happens often with three kids!), she asks many questions to add new info to her medical knowledge.

Getting to use a real otoscope at Nana's clinic
Grace has three stuffed animals, Doggy, Donkey, and Funny Bunny. She refers to them as her triplets, though they are usually different ages, and she throws a birthday party for one of them almost every day. When I was pregnant with Isaiah, she was often pregnant with or birthing one of these stuffed animals. She bathes them, naps them, and feeds them everyday. She even tells me to babysit them sometimes.

Grace, we love you. We love watching you grow up and become more and more you -- our Grace.

Caring for funny bunny

Monday, January 22, 2018

Top Five Books of 2017

As my husband and I have added more children to our brood, I find that more and more of my former hobbies have died. Or at least taken a backseat for the foreseeable future.

Except reading.

Every night, without fail, I read for a little while before I fall asleep. I don't think I could fall asleep without this ritual. In 2017, I read about two dozen books, cover to cover.

Here are my five favorites.

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton 

publication date: 2006

genre: spiritual formation

description on Amazon: "Picking up on the monastic tradition of creating a "rule of life" that allows for regular space for the practice of the spiritual disciplines, this book takes you more deeply into understanding seven key disciplines along with practical ideas for weaving them into everyday life."

why I liked it: This book entered my life in a season when I was feeling tired and worn. The spiritual practices, particularly silence and solitude, helped restore my soul. This was by far my favorite book of the year. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to grow spiritually.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

publication date: 2009

genre: murder mystery

description on Amazon: "'Chaos is coming, old son.' With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. Everybody goes to Olivier's Bistro―including a stranger whose murdered body is found on the floor."

why I liked it: I've slowly been working my way through the New York Times bestselling Chief Inspector Gamache murder mystery series. This book is my favorite so far. Though, if I say why, I'm afraid I will ruin it for you!

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

publication date: 1931

genre: historical fiction

description on Amazon: "Paints an indelible portrait of China in the 1920s, when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-Lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century."

why I liked it: I love stories that make me think. This rags to riches story of a Chinese peasant won the Pulitzer Prize shortly after it was published, was influential in the author earning the Nobel Prize for Literature, and was featured on Oprah's Book Club. The author lived in China for many years as a missionary kid and as a missionary. The book is written in a classic Chinese novel style (read the Wiki article). Her writing is filled with compassion and respect and the book transported me to another world and another time. Though, some themes in the book, particularly the oppression of women, were difficult to read about.

The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery 

publication date: 1926

genre: fiction

description on Amazon: "All her life, Valancy Stirling lived on a quiet little street in an ugly little house and never dared to contradict her domineering mother and her unforgiving aunt. Then she gets a letter―and decides that very day things need to change. For the first time in her life, she does exactly what she wants to and says exactly what she feels."

why I liked it: I've been a fan of L.M. Montgomery's famous "Anne of Green Gables" series since childhood. This lesser known novel is regarded as her best work of fiction. It did not disappoint. I enjoyed the character development and the twists and turns of the plot at the end of the novel.

Widen by Chris Rice 

publication date: 2016

genre: poetry

description on Amazon: "Recording artist Chris Rice, well-known for witty and thoughtful songwriting, offers up his first collection of ninety new poems. Themes of faith and doubt, childhood and aging, the cosmos, the passing of time, the natural world, color, and the power of words fill these pages."

why I liked it: I've been a fan of Chris Rice's poetic songwriting for almost 20 years. His poems are equally witty, thoughtful, and deep. I normally don't have the patience for poetry because it's often too convoluted for me, but this book of poems was accessible and lovely.

What are some of the best books that YOU have read recently?

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