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