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I fully intended to send out a Christmas letter this year. It didn’t happen, so here is an update on our family. Maybe next year 🙂


Dear friends and family,

Another year has come and gone, and here I sit: surrounded by scattered toys and the chaos that comes with my two blessings: my Mr Bug, and my Little Spratt. Their naps seem to have overlapped today, and, in this rare moment of silence, I have found myself reflecting on the past year.

What a year this has been.

2015 started with a whirlwind 5 week trip to Asia (The Philippines and Thailand). If you would ask me for a single story or highlight to summarize our trip, where would I even start? Elephant rides, exotic food, famous sights: both manmade (Banaue Rice Terraces) and natural (Taal Crater Lake), a bad case of body-covering hives, overnight bus rides and crammed public transportation, street markets, sleepless nights with a teething toddler, and the joys and nausea of being in my first trimester with our second child. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip and I am so thankful for Gary’s encouragement to save up the money and go for it.

The Lord met us in a special way in mid-May when our routine 20-week ultrasound revealed that our precious baby girl had a cleft lip. While we were told that a cleft lip is a very common and un-complicated birth defect, I was blind-sighted and sobbed for the first two days. “Imperfect” is the last thing I wanted to hear, and the idea of surgery shortly after birth was unbearable for me to mentally process.

The Lord was there.

I could write for days of the ways in which the Lord comforted and supported me leading up to Elsie’s birth: a well-timed Skype call from my sister Marta (who, at the time, was serving as a nurse on Africa Mercy ship in Madagascar and was working with the facial reconstruction surgery patients – including Cleft repair), a supportive and encouraging midwife, a loving and reassuring husband, a divinely-guided Google search, and a host of faithful prayer supporters. We are so thankful.

Elsie Beth picked the morning of September 20th as her birthday. We were in love with her from her first healthy cry, to the first sight of her stunning dimples. At 5 minutes old, she popped her whole fist in her
mouth and begin sucking on it, demonstrating that she would be able to nurse normally (something I had been worried about for months). Her cleft lip was beautiful, not scary. She was perfect.IMG_6615.JPG
Dr Joe did a great job on her surgical reconstruction in late October and she has healed so well that, unless we point out her scar, you can’t even tell. I’m thankful, but sometimes, I miss her pretty cleft lip.

She is now 3 months old and is a happy, playful little girl. She loves watching her brother, sucking on her fingers, and being held. She has recently started laughing and blowing bubbles. I am greatly enjoying baby dresses, baby bows, and all things pink.

Charles (who will be 2 in February) is turning from baby to little boy. He is like a little sponge who learns so much every day. We have entered the world of toy trucks and cars, boot-wearing adventures in the woods behind our house, and learning to build Duplos (big legos). I laugh daily at his antics and love watching his little heart learn to love and enjoy his baby sister. He active, brave, curious, adventurous, and soft-hearted. He has a few friends who he calls by name, but also really enjoys time playing by himself. He is learning to be a helper when asked, and his verbal skills are ever-so-slowly developing into sounds that mimic English words. Mom assures me that this is perfectly normal for boys.IMG_7169.JPG

Gary has earned his Master Electrician certification. While this will not affect his job or salary at his current job, it is a huge accomplishment and something he has wanted to do for quite some time. I am so very proud.

He keeps busy working full time with Votaw, and full time when he is at home. He is a great help with the two kids, and works bit-by-bit on our work-in-progress house. I enjoy watching him manage Charlie’s attempts to help with his plastic drill and hammer (or “pa”, as Charlie calls it). Most notably: Gary redid all of the ductwork in our entire house to accommodate a new Geothermal heating and cooling system this summer. Yes: this means that if you come to visit us this winter, you won’t have to keep your coat and hat on when you are inside!

I keep busy as a stay-at-home momma, part-time knitter, and manager of our busy house-hold. I’m learning to enjoy the every-day tasks that never seem to be completely caught up (like laundry and dishes), and finding contentment in the Lord.

Life is good!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and God Bless you all,

Paula (for the Stauffers)IMG_7561.JPG


Charlie is a ball of energy – full of life and adventure. He can most-often be foundphoto-3 behind the couch, digging in my flower beds, climbing on the table, exploring one of the fields that surround our house, or splashing in the toilet. When he takes a tumble and hits his head, his most common response is to look at me with a grin and say “dee?” (which is “Charlie language” for “again?”) If I smile back or nod my head, he will do his best reenactment of the incident.

When he hears an airplane fly overhead, play stops for a moment – – he stands up, lifts his face to the sky, finds the airplane with his finger and shouts “see? see?” (He thinks that’s what they’re called… because apparently I point and say “see it?” instead of “airplane”. Someday we’ll iron that one out)

IMG_6127A man after his father’s heart, his favorite toy to take in his diaper bag to church is his “pa” (that’s how he says “hammer”.)  He smuggles rocks into his bed, bread crusts into his dad’s work boots, and his blankie into as many places as possible without being caught.  It is rare that his knees are not skinned or his face has not been bitten by bugs. He has a farmers tan to rival most and his hair has bleached out to almost blonde.

He is a country boy through and through.

He loves to be outdoors – exploring, splashing, digging, discovering. As soon as he sees his dad driving home from work, he stops all play and runs hilter-skilter to Gary’s van, arms outstretched. The door swings open, Charlie struggles to climb in the driver-side door and Gary lifts him into his lap. The door closes, and Charlie’s left hand shoots out the window to wave “goodbye” to me. It’s his responsibility to drive the van back to the garage – a task he does not take lightly.

Charles stops playing for few things:photo-4

  1. Grapes
  2. Lawn Mowers
  3. Puddles
  4. Reading stories

It’s the stories that surprise me. He will plop a pile of 10 books on the couch, scramble up from the floor, snuggle up to my side, and nestle his head under my arm. He sits patiently as we read (mostly recite) the entire stack – leaning in for kisses or hugs when the books call for them, and stopping to point out all of the dogs “da”, cats “keeee”, cows “moo”, birds “bu”, deer “deee”, and tractors “mow! mow!”

When the stories are done, I ask him for a hug. He spreads his arms out wide and buries his face in my neck.

For one second, the world is still.





“Charlie, what’s your sister’s name?”

“Ellll-See!” he replies proudly, patting my ever-growing belly.

My 18-month-old son, who is too busy climbing and adventuring to learn many other words, knows one name quite well. Hearing him say it makes my face hurt from grinning and my heart fit to burst.

He may not realize how much his world is about to change.  He may not be aware how often she will take my attention from him, or how little and fragile she will be at the beginning. I’m sure he doesn’t realize how quickly she’s going to capture his heart and become his best friend… But he knows her name, and he loves her already.

photo 4_2

That’s right – in case you haven’t heard, Stauffer Baby #2 is on her way! By the end of this month, we should be holding our precious little girl and protecting her from her affectionate big brother.



Wow. So different from The Philippines. I’m glad we did Manila first-it eased me into this whole “Asia” thing.

Even though I’d never been to the Philippines, my time in Mexico (along with the fact that everyone speaks English) made it feel somehow familiar.

Not so in Thailand. Very little English, and a very different culture. Spirit Houses, temples, and Monks serve as constant reminders of the spiritual darkness in this country.


We started our Thai adventure by spending a couple days with Bob, Stacy and their kids. It was great to experience their Thailand lives firsthand. Visited their grocery store, went to their church, and saw the school they serve (and practically live) at.

Next, two days of food! Thai cooking school (a MUST if you are in Chiang Mai) and a “Foodie Tour” (great cultural and Buddhist background information. Also fantastic street food).

Wednesday we spent the entire day riding, feeding, admiring, and (YES) swimming with real Thai elephants. Best parts: getting picked up and shaken by the elephants trunk, getting a sloppy elephant kiss, and getting up close and personal with a baby elephant (who also, coincidentally, stepped on Gary’s foot – destroying Gary’s sandal (instead of his foot!) in the process)




As if we hadn’t had a full enough week already, we boarded a bus Thursday and went North to Chiang Rai. We saw some temples (spectacular, but heartbreaking), played in a waterfall (fa-reeeeezing!!), went into the mountains to see some hill tribes, and visited an amazing tea plantation in the mountains.


For those of you who have ever made the trek from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai… yes. We did stop at the “pie place”… And, yes. It was the best (albeit, it is the only) pie I’ve eaten in Thailand.

Last night, back in Chiang Mai, we braved the night market and ate way too much. We managed to find everything on our “Thailand shopping list” and are now resting up for the next few days of travel.


Tomorrow we start our journey back- first, back to Manila… And Friday we hit the skies again to return to the US of A.
This has been a fantastic trip, and I will miss having daily “cultural adventures”, fresh fruit, amazing food, and the warm weather. However, I am feeling ready to be home- for predictable schedule, my own bed, family nearby and a big bowl of cereal for breakfast 🙂

4 more days.

See you all soon!