Sep 20, 2008

The Meeting of the Mothers

Our family at Suicide Cliff Lookout, Sabbath, September 27, 2008. From L to R, my mom Rosalind; Barbara's mom, Carol; Me, Elijah, and Babs.

It took them ten years and the birth of their first grandchild, but our mothers finally made the epic journey across the vast Pacific to our little tropical outpost. They arrived here on Thursday night, September 18 and since then Babs, Elijah, and I have been living in the lap of luxury! They've been treating us like royalty--cooking for us, cleaning for us, changing and burping Elijah. We're so grateful for their help, but even more than that we're enjoying just being with them. It had been more than a year since we'd last seen our moms, and no matter how old you get there's just something reassuring about having mom around.

It's been fun to share our island life with our moms too--all our favorite restaurants, the most spectacular views, and the charms and rewards of working with our lovable students at the school. I think having seen it for themselves, they have a better understanding of why we've stayed here all these years.

Barbara's mom, Carol; Me; and my mom, Rosalind at the airport on the night of their arrival, September 18, 2008. They look pretty good for having been traveling for more than 24 hours!

The Mothers-turned-Grandmothers meet the Little Fella for the first time.

Three Generations: On the couch, me, Babs and Elijah, Carol and behind the couch, Rose.

Life with Elijah
Elijah is growing like a weed--he's up to almost 9 lbs already. He's a strong Little Fella--he can already turn himself over from his tummy to his back and he lifts his head a lot. This past week he's finally begun to show signs of developing a nighttime routine which makes things a little easier for the four of us. He typically goes three to four hours (and sometimes longer)between mealtimes at night but feeds more often during the day.

Elijah, being held by Grandma Carol "on the phone" with Aunt Dawn: "What's that you say? Shocking!"

Hanging out with Mommy

His shirt reads "Already Breaking Hearts." So true!

I love being a dad!

I love this expression. It's all about the eyes!

The Little Fella being held by Nona Rose.

Elijah Visits the School
On Friday, September 26 Babs returned to the school for the first time since before Elijah was born. This time she carried him in her arms and the kids were thrilled to get their first look at the long-awaited baby Maycock.

Elijah makes his debut at the end of our Friday joint worship program.

The fifth and sixth graders check out Elijah

The Little Fella is so popular!

A brief video of Elijah visiting with the third and fourth grade students.

Baby Dedication.

This past Sabbath, September 27, 2008 we had Elijah dedicated to the Lord. We figured it's never too soon to dedicate our precious little guy to the One who made him and Who cares for him even more than we do. Two other familes dedicated their boys at the same time as we did. Rhonda and Nicole videotaped the dedication and I will post it once I can edit down to a manageable size

Baby Dedication

All three families with their babies.

At church. So far Elijah has proved to be a very well-behaved churchgoer, though he does sleep through everything!

Dedication Day Portrait: From L to R, Pastor Eliki, Barbara's mom Carol, Elijah, Babs, my mom Rosalind, and me.

Seeing Saipan with the Moms
A few pics of our moms on their adventures around Saipan
Coffee Care for my mom's birthday. Sunday morning, September 21, 2008. We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than to take her to our favorite restaurant in the whole world!

Nona and her grandson. Happy Birthday Mom! It's so nice to have you here.

The two intrepid travelers at the Last Command Post, Saipan. Sabbath, September 27, 2008.

Checking out Banzai Cliff.

Babs and her mom at Bird Island. (Note the rainbow in the background).

Babs with mom and mother-in-law at the Grotto.

The Auntie Brigade
The Plan was that our mothers would arrive in Saipan just a few days before Elijah was born. They would help us survive those exhausting, challenging first three weeks of his life. But God and Elijah had other plans. Our boy showed up three weeks early and Babs and I were left to fend for ourselves. Well, not entirely. I'm a big believer in the "It takes a village to raise a child" philosophy and we asked a few friends and colleagues to help us out. They became Elijah's "Auntie Brigade"--six women without whom we would never have made it through those first three weeks until the moms arrived! Amy, Jaimie, Rhonda, Andrea, and Carol came over on a rotating basis every evening so that Babs could rest and I could do non-baby work for a few hours. Gloria Pierson was our Breastfeeding Guru, who helped us navigate the tricky waters of Elijah's feeding via phone and e-mail. We deeply appreciate all these women did for us and for Elijah. Though busy with their own lives and responsibilities they took time to help us as we took our first tentative steps as parents. I'd also like to express my appreciation to all of our school and church family as well as friends in the community who have been so loving and supportive towards us and Elijah. The thoughtful gifts and offers of assistance have been meant so much to us. Together, you have added to our joy. Thank you!

Auntie Jaimie and Auntie Rhonda with Elijah. Jaimie's mom warned in a comment on this blog that Jaimie LOVED babies! So I took her at her word and asked Jaimie if she wouldn't mind coming over once a week to help with Elijah for a few hours. She readily agreed and Rhonda tagged along for the ride. Both women are true baby-lovers, and despite dealing with frantic crying jags and messy diaper changes, their enthusiasm for babies seems undimmed. Thanks you two for all your help!

Auntie Amy and Elijah Amy is our preschool and daycare director so her entire career is built around caring for little ones. Naturally she is absolutely crazy about babies and she has a lot of experience working with them. It only made sense to ask her to join the Auntie Brigade. Amy took more shifts than any of the aunties--Saturday nights as well as Wednesdays and Thursdays. It wasn't our intention to overwork her--she wanted to come that much, and probaly would have come every day, all day, if we'd let her. In fact, she tacked on a few bonus visits on Sundays during the day as well. It was thanks to Amy that Babs and I were able to have our first "date"--brunch at Coffee Care--since Elijah was born. Amy, as well as several of our other teachers also helped Carol clean up and organize our house on when Elijah was born and in the days immediately following. While Elijah was busy being born, she even purchased, delivered, and set up the crib for him. Thanks for everything, Amy!

Auntie Andrea with Elijah, working the "late shift". Andrea Stafford--unflappable, gentle, encouraging, and exceedingly patient-- was an indispensable auntie! She's been through this before (three times!) and has the cool, collected air of an expert. Every time she came over she soothed our rattled nerves and calmed our fears with her even-keeled, peaceful spirit. In addition to several hospital and home visits during Elijah's first week, Andrea came over the first Thursday night of Elijah's life, again the following day and then on each Tuesday after that until our moms arrived. She was also instrumental in helping Babs with learning to breastfeed. I was always amazed that with three young children of her own, Andrea still had the time, energy, and interest in coming over to help us with Elijah. The gift of her time and wisdom as a veteran mother meant so much to us. And a big thanks to Dr. Mike for holding down the fort at the Stafford home so that Andrea could come over.

Auntie Gloria, pictured here with her husband Ken. Though she's yet to see him in person or hold the Little Fella in her arms, Gloria Pierson was definitely an integral part of the Auntie Brigade. Her son Ken Junior is our good friend and the director of our dental clinic here on Saipan. In those foggy first days after Elijah's birth I can't remember whether it was he or his wife Crystal who gave us Gloria's contact information and told us to call her if we needed help. We were on the phone with her in the first week. You see, Gloria is a professional lactation consultant. Or as we put it, more informally, she is a Breastfeeding Guru! And her deep knowledge of the mysteries of nursing was exactly what we needed in those early days. Despite being on vacation at the time, Gloria was happy to talk to us on the phone at length and correspond via e-mail, answering our many questions, providing timely advice, and giving us unstinting encouragement. She even had a colleague express-mail some vital nursing equipment to us. Her professional knowledge and personal passion were invaluable to us as we struggled to learn how to feed Elijah. Thank you so much, Gloria. I'm sure the day will come when Elijah can can thank you himself with hugs and kisses!

Auntie Carol and Elijah. And then there's Carol Paez. Where do I begin? Barbara's closest friend in Saipan has been helping us with Elijah from the very beginning--literally. While they were both relaxing at the Mandi Spa one Saturday night in January, Barbara told her that she thought she might be pregnant. The next day Carol provided us with the pregnancy test that confirmed Elijah's existence. Carol spearheaded the clean up and organization of our house when Barbara went into labor three weeks earlier than expected. And she was in the delivery room with Barbara on the day he was born, helping her work through the contractions--Barbara says she could not have done it without Carol's reassuring presence and constant help. Carol was one of the first to hold Elijah, the first person outside the hospital staff to care for him. Since then she's been a lifeline to our new family. She came over many times in addition to her regular Sunday and Monday evening visits. She was there for, and helped facilitate what has become known as "The Breakthrough", when Elijah finally started feeding regularly. She gave him his first bath. Carol, with her years of experience as a nurse and as a mother, did so much to soothe our fears during the early days of Elijah's life when we feared disaster at every little change in our precious one. These few words of appreciation can't begin to cover the debt of gratitude we feel towards Carol for her generous help and heartfelt friendship. Something tells me that, whether near or far, Carol Paez is going to be an integral part of our son's life for many years to come. Thank you, Carol!

Carol is the key! Elijah with the two women who did the most to bring him into the world.

Sep 19, 2008

On Being an Infant

Right now I can't say for sure that Elijah loves me. He seems to mainly focus on eating, sleeping, pooping, and crying. Babs and I exist mainly as either a conduit or an obstacle to achieving those goals. Still, each time I look at him my heart is absolutely full--whether he's sleeping peacefully, crying frantically, or pooping dramatically with a loud grunt followed by a look of accomplished awe. I love him completely and unreservedly. How he feels about me matters little. After all, he's still just a baby.

People told me that when I became a parent I'd gain a new and deeper insight into God's love. And sure enough, during late nights, wasted by exhaustion, cradling my wailing son in my arms I found myself thinking a lot about God and in the process, seeing old truths in fresh ways. My "Little Fella," as I've taken to calling him, is teaching me much.

There's a line in a Rich Mullins song that says, of God, "I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want than take what You give that I need." I've long recognized the truth of this sentiment in my own life but it wasn't until I watched Elijah in the first few days of his life that I began to see how this human struggle to surrender might look from God's perspective.

Elijah had some difficulty learning to eat during his first week. I know breastfeeding is supposed be natural and all, but babies do have to learn to eat. For Elijah it was doubly hard because the nurses at the hospital gave him a bottle with formula on his first night of life. It turns out that the bottle is "crack for babies." Bottle-fed babies often have a hard time switching between mom and the bottle. I'm learning that it's far too easy for us as new parents to overshare, so without going into graphic detail, let me just say that Elijah had this problem. For the first four or five days, feedings for Elijah were tense, stressful occasions for mom, dad, and baby. He was so hungry and he seemed eager to suck on just about anything--a piece of his blanket, my shirt, Barbara's finger, even his own hands--anywhere but the one place he'd actually receive lifegiving nutrition and emotional satisfaction. It was so sad to see him crying, his head bobbing about, mouth wide open looking for food, frantically jamming his owns hands into his mouth and all the while what he needed and wanted was right there in front of him. If anything, he seemed angered by the insistent presence of Mom's banquet table. Despite all of this, I didn't get angry at Elijah. I was worried and saddened but mainly I just loved him all the more.

I think God is like that with us--we who search the world over, settle for that which does not satisfy, when all the while God holds out to us exactly what we need and want. "Come on, Little Fella," he coaxes, "taste and see. You will be satisfied, I promise."

Thankfully, Elijah figured it out and now nurses regularly and peacefully.

Elijah also cries a lot, and when he cries. . .boy, it's like the end of the world. His mouth opens wide, his eyes squint shut, and his little lungs go to work. His arms wave frantically and his hands gesticulate in a way oddly reminiscent of those old newsreels of Hitler orating maniacally to the masses. His legs pump like he's riding a bicycle and his body writhes and shudders with frustrated rage. His cry is generally rhythmic, but every now and then, in a moment of high drama he'll draw out one long wail that finally stutters to stop when he can't hold the note anymore. I always thought I'd be annoyed by his crying--that I'd just want to "make it stop", but it doesn't bother me in quite the way I thought it would. I still want him to stop crying and I'll do everything I can think of--burping, rocking, talking and singing, walking, changing his diaper, handing him off to Babs. But I do this not because I feel bad for me, but because my heart breaks for him. I now understand why Jesus wept at Lazarus' grave even though He knew He was about to resurrect him. It just hurts to see your child cry, even when you know everything is going to be all right.

Still, despite that ache born of love, I often feel something akin to amusement when he cries. A wet diaper, a gas bubble, hunger pangs are such a BIG DEAL to him. He doesn't seem to realize yet that the diaper will be changed, the gas will pass, the hunger will be satisfied. Each time he encounters discomfort he reacts in the extreme--"Oh no! I'm HUNGRY!!! AGAIN!!! Will I EVER eat. . .waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
Furthermore,his means of communication is very limited right now and crying is about the only way he has to express his needs. I realized that he can't see things from my perspective. He doesn't yet know that everything will be all right and that the things that he thinks are the end of the world really aren't.

I guess I'm like that with God too. In fact, I remember that during those difficult days before he learned to nurse, I cried out to God--hands gesticulating wildly and everything: "He won't eat!!!!! AGAIN!!! Will he EVER eat. . .waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" And I'm sure God sighed, with His heart full, and a beumused smile on His face, and said "Awwww, Little Fella. He's going to start nursing regularly in less than 24 hours. It's gonna be okay. . ." Course I kept crying until, sure enough, he started feeding. And then, just like an infant would, my crying stopped as suddenly as it had started. The need was filled.

As much as I love this time with Elijah, it's kind of exciting to know he won't always be a baby. There is so much to look forward to in the years to come and I eagerly anticipate each day with him. I know that when Elijah's a little older he will begin to respond to me not just out of need, but out of love. He may not know enough to love me now, but I know that one day he will. I have a feeling God's looking forward to the same thing happening with the infant writing this blog. In the meantime, the love each of us has for our respective babies is no less and far more than I ever imagined possible.

Below two shots of my favorite girl and our Little Fella:

Sep 14, 2008

More Elijah Pics

Elijah William on his One Week Birthday, September 7, 2008

Family Portrait after church, Sabbath, September 13, 2008.

That's the "I just finished eating" grin of satisfaction on Elijah's face.

Mama with our "Little Fella"

This past Sabbath, September 13 Elijah went to church for the first time. He was very well-behaved though--as many do--he slept through the sermon (and all of the service for that matter). Afterwards, we were surrounded by church family eager to see the little guy for the first time. He woke up in the usual fashion--starving--after that and Babs fed him in the car during the church potluck. Before we left, Crystal Pierson snapped some of the pictures you see above. That same afternoon, I took some of the pictures you see below:

Look at those eyes!

A short video from Sabbath afternoon. Sorry it's so dark. . .

This is Elijah's "hungry" look. I took this photo just before his lunchtime on Sabbath.

What a cutie!

A sidelong glance.

"No further questions"

Sep 13, 2008

Last Days B.E. (Before Elijah)

Forbidden Island hike, Sabbath afternoon, August 23, 2008.

Elijah arrived like a thief in the night, when we least expected him. We knew we were living in the Last Days before his arrival, but we had no idea he would come so soon. Still we couldn't have been happier to see him arrive. Though everything wasn't quite perfect, the thing that mattered most--our hearts--was completely ready to receive him.

Take what object lessons you will from our experience. In any case, here's a photographic account of some of the things I did in those last days before our world turned upside down and changed forever.

Three weeks ago, I went hiking down to Forbidden Island with Ken & Crystal, Twyla, Nicole, Rhonda, Jaimie, one of our students and the Pierson's passel of dogs:

Rhonda and Jaimie pose with the island.

Rhonda, Jaimie, and Nicole--Missionaries don't come much tougher than these three.

Some of this year's running crew at the hidden pool at Forbidden Island. Actually we haven't run together since Elijah was born, but I plan to get back out there--probably once the grandmothers arrive. (Oh, and 4Runners--you know who you are--don't worry. You're irreplacable.)

The end of a successful hike and another lovely Saipan Sabbath. (L to R, Nicole, Me, Crystal, Ken, our student, Twyla, Rhonda, and Jaimie).

Two weeks ago we had our annual REAL Christian Theater retreat. It ran, as it usually does from Friday night to Sabbath evening, and we held it, as we usually do up at the Maturana House of Prayer. This year, Babs didn't come up to help with the cooking as she usually does though (she opted to stay home and rest up--little did we know--for bringing Elijah into this world later that weekend).

We've got a full team this year, and even have some boys on the troupe, this time around. The group is younger (half the team is in 5th or 6th grade) but full of spirit. I'm looking forward to one of our best seasons yet!

The 2008-2009 REAL Christian Theater drama troupe, Sabbath, August 30, 2008

The following pictures are mainly for our former teachers who know and love these students:

"M" and new REAL director Rhonda Prokopetz

Two veteran actors, sixth grader"Ji" on top, in her second year with the team and seventh grader "Little Sister" starting her third year.

New director Ms. Megan Mocca with "M" and "J"

"The Treasurer" second from left and one of our new fifth grade team members.

Another new fifth grader on the team.

"Little Sister" and Rhonda.