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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?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Isaiah - Three Months Old

The past three months since Isaiah was born, life has been full. Scratch that. Life has been crazy. We have...
  • Had visitors in Bangkok. My brother and his family visited for two weeks. We tromped all around Bangkok with five kids ages five and under.
  • Gone to the ER. (Five stitches in the back of Grace's head, she's fine.)
  • Attended a week-long conference with colleagues from Southeast Asia. Isaiah attended too.
  • Moved out of our rental home of almost two years in Bangkok. We packed up all of our belongings and have them stored at our friend's house until our return in April or May.
  • Made the 28ish hour journey from Bangkok to Denver as a family of five. Michael got sick to his stomach and we almost missed our trans-Pacific flight.
  • Jet lagged with a four-year-old, three-year-old, and newborn. (By the way, the first couple days are nuts, but they adjust fast. Don't be afraid of international travel with young kids.)
  • Gone to the ER again followed by a four day hospital stay. (Isaiah, bronchiolitis, it gave us a scare, but he's doing great now.)
Having a newborn in the middle of all of this sounds like a terrible idea, but Isaiah has seamlessly slipped into this busyness and his chubby, smiley little self has brought us so much joy.


I've always heard of the mythical "easy baby." Now I know that they do exist. Isaiah is calm and happy. He doubled his birth weight in two months. He started smiling at just two weeks. (We didn't even know that was possible!) He (usually) sleeps often and well. He's content to sit in his rocking seat or on a lap watching and listening to the chaos and noise of his two big sisters. When we scoop him up, he is all smiles, cooing and ah-gooing, gurgling, and giggling.

Being parents the third time around, we know these things have very little to do with our super duper parenting. This is just the way Isaiah came, so we thank God for gifting our family with this sweet, baby boy.

~

Ten days old and freshly approved for his Certificate of Birth Abroad, U.S. Passport, and U.S. citizenship.



Sometimes, Isaiah has three mommies.


Isaiah started smiling at two weeks old and hasn't stopped since. Here he is four weeks old and beaming and cooing at his daddy.



Isaiah has been growing so quickly. He started just shy of seven pounds and wore newborn sized clothing. He doubled his birthweight in two months and now at three months old, he's outgrowing his six month size clothes and I'm pulling out nine month size clothing. Someday, he will be taller than both Michael and me. Possibly much taller. Here he is about six weeks old and already packing on the pounds...



He loves his baths.



Both girls have very readily welcomed him into our family. Cora in particularly loves her baby brother. Isaiah really enjoys sitting in his baby seat or on a lap in the middle of the sounds of his sisters singing, arguing, yelling, talking, and bickering. He particularly likes the sound of me scolding them!



Pic #1: about an hour into our journey to the U.S. Pic #2: about 24 hours into our journey to the U.S.



Two months old and napping with his great-grandpa, Arno.



One of several morning naps under Nana and Papa's Christmas tree.



At two months old, Isaiah came down with a cold which turned into bronchiolitis. On December 23rd around noon, I was nursing him and putting him down for a nap when I noticed the color on his face was not so pink and his breathing was rapid. I remember my last words with my nurse practitioner mom while rushing out the door to the ER, "What do I do if he turns blue?" "Small puffs of air, call 911, I'll be right behind you." He perked up on the ride to the ER (phew), he was put on oxygen and hospitalized for four days right over his first Christmas. It was hard to have a baby so sick. It was hard to look forward to being with my family for Christmas for so many months and then to miss that. But, I'm so grateful for the nurses' amazing care and many people's prayers that carried us through.


Back "home" at Nana and Papa's house with his two big boy cousins, Malachi (14 months old) and Jackson (just a day older than Isaiah).


I admire these beautiful eyes every day.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Welcome, Isaiah

Our third child arrived on Saturday evening, October 7th, here in Bangkok after a lightning fast and super smooth labor. He weighed 3.14 kg (7ish pounds) and was 51 cm (20 in) long.

Here's the story of his birth and his name.





Our first two kids came early (38 weeks) and very quickly (2 hrs and 4 hrs). So, this third time around, we were prepared to rush out the door at a moment's notice starting at about 37 weeks pregnant.

I remember feeling crampy and injured the day before and the day he was born due to my OB stripping my membranes without asking for my permission or telling me what she was going to do. (culture. shock.)

I remember the afternoon before Isaiah was born, receiving texts from my sister, Andrea, saying she thought she was in early labor but not sure yet. My sister and I had overlapping pregnancies with our babies due just one week apart. It was such a joy to be able to share this experience. But, all of our sharing was via texts and phone calls because we live around the globe from each other. In the joy, there was the heartache of not getting to give each other awkward pregnant hugs, feel her baby kick, or sit down in the same room to swap pregnancy stories.

I remember waking up overnight to waddle to the bathroom and checking my phone and seeing texts about Andrea's progress at the hospital. Her baby was on its way...

I remember waking up Saturday morning to pictures of Andrea and Jason's newborn son, Jackson, born Friday afternoon in Colorado. What a gift!


Looking forward to holding this amazing little man in December.
I remember going out to dinner for my mother-in-law's birthday on Saturday. I remember continuing to feel tired and crampy, but I enjoyed the distraction of a beautiful, fun meal. My contractions were still so irregular, there was nothing to time and no reason to head to the hospital.



I remember arriving home from the birthday dinner at about 6:30pm and lying down in bed to rest because I felt awful. I lay there listening to the happy sounds of Michael bathing our daughters and I wondered what life would be like with a newborn in the mix. 

I remember 7pm when I was overcome with one huge contraction that felt like I was already mostly through labor. I remember yelling through the closed door, "Michael! We need to go to the hospital NOW!" and Michael's parents jumping in immediately to take over the girls' bedtime routine.

I remember the contractions slowing down while driving to the hospital and feeling relieved that our son wasn't going to come as fast as I feared.

I remember checking in to the hospital at about 8pm, the doctor doing the first internal check, and guessing it would be about two more hours. I felt greatly relieved because the pain was already so intense.

I remember the pain being so great, I didn't know if I could do it much longer. I looked up at the large digital clock in front of me, saw that it was 9pm and I told myself to just hang in there for 30 more minutes. 

I remember Michael encouraging me and holding my hand and telling me our baby would be here very soon. I discovered that vigorously rubbing my face helped the most with the pain. Weird!

I remember at almost 9:30pm the pushing contractions started. This part is always THE WORST.

I remember the doctor telling me right away that she saw his head. I responded in disbelief, "Really?!" The pushing contractions were so intense, I felt like I must be injuring my son and I asked, "Is the baby ok?" And the doctor responded, "Yes, he's fine." This exact exchange happened with all three kids.

I remember Isaiah coming out at 9:33pm and first noticing how healthy he looked and that he was indeed a boy!

I remember after cleaning him up and stitching me up, Isaiah was placed cheek to cheek with me for our first picture. I remember crying with relief over being done with pregnancy, done with waiting, and done with labor, with a healthy baby boy.

I remember the doctors whisking him away saying "hospital policy" was for newborns to be separate from their moms for 3 hours post-birth. (Culture shock again!) The prospect of being separated for three hours was the hardest part, more difficult than labor. Michael followed the doctors as they wheeled my crying boy to the nursery and advocated hard for Isaiah and me to be reunited. 

I remember about an hour after he was born, they finally brought him back and I got to hold and nurse him. The love was instant.

~

Isaiah means "God is salvation." He is indeed salvation in every way. Isaiah's middle name, Arun (อรุณ), is Thai for "dawn" and is a direct reference to Isaiah 60 where God comes like the dawn bringing an end to the perpetual night that we live in and Isaiah 58 where God promises that when His people pursue justice, their light "will break forth like the dawn."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cora - Three Years Old


This past year was full of big milestones for Cora including becoming fully potty trained (last September), learning to ride a bike with training wheels (January), switching from a crib to a "big girl bed" (February), giving up her pacifier (February), and starting preschool five mornings a week (May). That's a lot for one year!

Some of Cora's favorite things these days include:

Our family. Cora adores each member of our family, even her soon-to-be-born baby brother. She gives snuggles to the baby (aka my belly) every day. When Michael or I come home, she runs to the door, excited to have our family back together. When we drop her off at school, she insists on getting a hug and a kiss. When we pick her up, she comes out of her classroom bouncing and giggling and plasters herself to our legs. Also, she loves her stuffed gray bunny so much, he practically makes the cut as a family member.

Grace. Cora particularly loves Grace. (And Grace loves her back.) She started preschool in May five mornings a week with hardly a tear. We were so impressed by her bravery. Then, Grace was slammed with sickness and missed many days of school in a row. Cora's bravery crumbled quickly and we realized that she was fearless because she knew her big sister was in the same building. Since then, I've noticed more and more just how much she looks up to her big sister, following her and copying her and riding off her bravery. 



Scotch tape. Cora loves taping everything. She even taped a colored pencil to our bathroom door. She also loves stickers, paint, crayons, markers, etc. Besides her art supplies, Cora's favorite toys are Michael's big bucket of Duplos from his childhood, her IKEA train set, and her doctor kit. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.


Doing everything by herself. It's very difficult to force Cora to do anything she doesn't want to do. But, when she wants to do something on her own (which is often), we cannot intervene or she will scream. She has figured out how to do many surprising things -- like pull in most of our family's laundry from the drying rack, button her school uniform buttons, and peel her own fruit. 

Perfect example of this fierce independence: When she was approaching two years old, she was showing all the classic signs of potty-training readiness, so we attempted to teach her. She utterly refused, so we stopped trying. Then, about three days after we gave up, she decided on her own terms that she was ready and she potty trained herself. Just a month later, we were able to ditch her overnight diapers too!

Provoking us. Cora loves to tease and provoke her big sister... probably because Grace reacts so well. She is by and large a very good kid, but she can be really naughty, doing exactly the opposite of what we tell her to do with a mischievous glint in her eye. She definitely has a strong, classic "threenager" streak in her.

Singing and talking and being silly. Cora's voice is very raspy and cracks a lot. She loves to sing out all the songs she knows, particularly Thai preschool songs, loud in her raspy, unsteady voice. When she acts silly and makes us laugh, she throws her head all the way back, laughing with delight. But, she doesn't talk and sing and joke all the time. Sometimes, she gets lost in her play world of coloring, blocks, and trains and she's absolutely silent for long stretches.



Eating. Cora is tiny. She has been since the day she was born. But, she eats so, so much. Today, she plowed through an entire adult sized portion of chicken and rice plus many pieces of guava for dessert. At the beginning of the school term, her preschool teacher told us almost daily, "She ate two whole bowls of food for lunch!" If only she knew we usually have to give Cora a snack when she gets home too.

Cora, you are one-of-a-kind and we love you just the way you are.

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