Thursday, December 14, 2006

Merry Christmas 2006

A blessed Advent season to you! We’ve had another full and invigorating year. We celebrated Elijah’s first birthday this April, a milestone we commemorated with three separate parties. We are tremendously grateful for all the ways that he has been growing; his therapists are all very pleased with his physical and cognitive development. He had minor surgery to put tubes in his ears and has been hearing better ever since. He has been learning to communicate with sign language and recently signed a three-sign sentence: “eat,” “all done” and “bye!” At meals he has this little salute where it looks like he’s waving, “Waiter!” He’s now happily cruising and climbing up and down the stairs with a minimum of tumbling. His favorite book is Sandra Boynton’s Dinosaur’s Binkit.

Josiah is now five years old. This year he’s been fascinated with I Spy books, and he’s enjoyed David Wiesner’s books (including a postmodern, alternative retelling of The Three Pigs and his latest, Flotsam) and Mo Willems’s pigeon books, most recently Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! He’s been doing well in preschool, learning math and spelling, and on occasion has written little handmade books of stories. Josiah is also now into educational games on his Leapster and v.Smile, which of course are gateways to non-educational video games, like his current obsession, the Lego Star Wars game on PlayStation 2.

After two years of research, writing and revision, Al’s third book was released this June: The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty. It was favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Books & Culture. In conjunction, he started blogging at and has wasted entirely too much time in the blogosphere since. He’s done a number of radio interviews and a bit of speaking and writing related to the book. (Let him know if you’d like to buy a signed copy!)

This July, we were in Denver for the International Christian Retail Show, and then we spent two weeks on campus at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There Al was a participant in a Calvin Seminar in Christian Scholarship on the topic of writing as Christian proclamation, and we discussed books such as Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis and Russell Rathbun’s Post-Rapture Radio. Ellen and the boys came along, and Josiah and Elijah had a great time in the seminar kids’ program, going to the children’s museum and the beach, picking blueberries and going on treasure hunts.

At the end of the summer, Ellen had a business trip to Asia and Al tagged along. We first spent a weekend in Seoul, South Korea, to meet with several publishers that Ellen works with in her international rights work. We visited the world’s largest church and did a little sightseeing. Then we had a week in China for the Beijing International Book Fair. We learned about publishing opportunities in China and also got to see how various church and children’s ministries are doing there. We also visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Al picked up a bunch of 2008 Beijing Olympics stuff. In October, Ellen went to Germany again for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

We’ve been continuing to lead worship at our church once or twice a month, and visiting our local library is often a weekly event. We’ve also enjoyed getting to know other families through local Down syndrome networks and dinner groups. We got into Lost and have been working our way through season two. The only TV show we catch live is Heroes on Monday nights. And besides our ongoing hobbies of stamping and collecting comic books, we also started solving Sudoku puzzles. But as always, most of our discretionary time is spent reading. Here’s what kept us up late at night this year:

In fiction: We highly commend Dwelling Places by fellow Calvin seminar participant Vinita Hampton Wright, the award-winning This Heavy Silence by Wheaton prof Nicole Mazzarella, and Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner. We also appreciated The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Ellen read the legal mysteries of Lisa Scottoline, the chick lit of Tracey Bateman and Jodi Picoult’s compelling My Sister’s Keeper. She also read through Lemony Snicket’s entire thirteen-volume Series of Unfortunate Events, including the final volume, The End. Al is not usually into vampire books, but he enjoyed Stephenie Meyer’s young adult novels Twilight and New Moon.

In non-fiction: Al appreciated The Long Tail by Wired editor Chris Anderson and The Wal-Mart Effect by Fast Company writer Charles Fishman. Not Buying It by Judith Levine is an interesting chronicle of a year without shopping. Sprawl: A Compact History by Robert Bruegmann is an important contribution to discussions about suburbia. 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published by Pat Walsh is a brutally honest look at book publishing. And for nostalgic fun, we enjoyed Bill Watterson’s three-volume The Complete Calvin & Hobbes.

Some of this year’s most significant religion books were The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne and Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N. T. Wright. There has been no shortage of recent books about evangelicalism, but one nice overview is Believers: A Journey into Evangelical America by U.S. News & World Report religion editor Jeffrey Sheler. Another noteworthy portrait of a religious subculture is Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish by Tom Shachtman.

Our favorites from IVP this year were The Contented Soul by Lisa McMinn, Evil and the Justice of God by N. T. Wright, Surprised by Jesus by Tim Stafford, The Danger of Raising Nice Kids by Timothy Smith, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith by Crystal Downing, Finding God Beyond Harvard by Kelly Monroe Kullberg, More Than Serving Tea edited by Nikki Toyama and Tracey Gee and Reconciliation Blues by Ed Gilbreath. IVP’s new Likewise line includes Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? by Preston Jones and punk-rocker-with-a-Ph.D. Greg Graffin, Flirting with Monasticism by Karen Sloan and Sacred Travels by Christian George. And to commemorate IVP’s 60th anniversary, we published Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. An Anecdotal History of InterVarsity Press, 1947-2007, by Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll. Since Al is such an IVP geek, he served as project editor for the history, and both Al and Ellen appear at various points in the narrative.

Shortly after Christmas, we’ll be off to Urbana 06 in St. Louis for a week of global missions and book sales. Blessings to you this new year!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pictures from our trip to Korea and China

If you're interested in our recent travels to South Korea and China, see my other blog posts about the church in China, children in China, and book publishing in China.

With the editorial staff of Korea IVP.

The world's largest church: Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul.

At the Great Wall of China.

Ellen taking the toboggan down from the Great Wall!

At the Beijing International Book Fair.

At Tiananmen Square.

At the Forbidden City.

With orphans in a foster home for kids recovering from medical procedures.

At the Temple of Heaven.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ellen on losing Josiah at Target

We lost Josiah at Target. He was only lost for five or ten minutes (if even that), but it was frightening. Al took Josiah to the bathroom and when they came out Josiah said, "I'll find Mommy!" and ran off. Al found me and we looked around the area we were in for a few minutes without any luck. After what was probably about two minutes, but felt longer, I rushed to the customer service desk while Al kept looking in another part of the store.

I was embarrassed to tell the clerk that we had lost our four-year old, but I reasoned that if someone kidnapped him I would spend the rest of my life wondering why I didn't tell the customer service representative sooner. So they announced a missing child alert over their walky-talkies and I had to tell a security guard what Josiah was wearing. As the guard was in the process of notifying store personnel that a child with a blue Mickey Mouse shirt and black and white shoes that light up was missing, Al walked over holding Josiah.

I was relieved to have found Josiah, but I worried about future incidents. So I tried to tell Josiah what he should do when he is lost. "Don't wander around looking for Mommy or Papa. Stay in one place. Find someone behind a counter or who is wearing a name tag." Josiah listened for a minute and looked at the people behind the counter. Then he said, "Mommy, I have a question," (which is Josiah's way of saying, "Can I talk now?"). "I wasn't lost. You were lost, Mommy. I could not find you!"

Josiah says the same thing each time we talk about being lost. "But Mommy, I wasn't lost. You were lost." It's cute, but it's also very frustrating. I want to make sure he knows what to do if he ever gets lost again, but if he can't even admit or understand that he is lost, will he do the things he knows lost people should do?

I wonder how often I say the same thing to God, "I'm not lost, God. You're lost. I can't find you!" Perhaps God smiles and says, "No, I'm not lost. I know where I am and I even know where you are. But because you cannot admit that you are lost and won't do the things I've taught you, it is hard for you to find me."

I hope we never lose either of our children again, but if we do (and somehow I think it is almost certain that we will), I hope they will admit they are lost and remember what we have taught them to do. Similarly, I hope that when I am feeling lost and alone, that I will remember seek God instead of blaming him. And its possible that the best way to for me to seek God will be to rest in one spot awhile and maybe even look for someone who works for God ("behind the counter") to ask for help.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

More Josiah-isms

We were trying to get Josiah to brush his teeth before leaving for preschool. He was playing with a new toy and ignoring us. When we became more insistent he protested, "Leave me alone! You're ruining my life!"

Then at dinnertime, Ellen was telling Josiah about the positive review of Al's forthcoming book. Josiah said, "That's cool. You're awesome!"

At bedtime, Josiah wanted to stay up. He said, "Leave the light on, please. I want to read books, like you. I want to match you."

Then this morning, he found an ant crawling across the living room floor. Somehow he put it onto one of Elijah's toys, a treehouse that has rotating discs. I heard Josiah say, "He's spinning. He's getting dizzy." I went over to look at what he was doing, and I asked, "Where's the ant?" He pointed to a couple separate pieces of the ant and said, "He broke. He died."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Josiah has a question

The other day, Josiah asked me, "Excuse me, Papa, may I ask a question?"

"Yes, you may ask a question."

"What's a paddle?"

"A paddle? For a boat?" I took out Josiah's MagnaDoodle and drew a picture of a boat and a paddle. "Is this what you mean?"

Josiah looked a little dubious, like I wasn't quite answering his question. So I asked, "Do you mean a petal? Like the petal of a flower?" I drew another picture.

"No, a paddle."

"I'm not sure what you mean, Josiah. A pedal? On a bike?"

"A paddle!"

"Tell me where you heard the word, Josiah."

"Autobots wage their paddle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons."

Friday, May 12, 2006


"Aren't we cute?"

"Come on, Josiah - time to wake up!"

"Transformers - more than meets the eye."

"We match!"

Friday, April 28, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What middle names are for

Josiah's middle name is Alexander, and when we get upset with him, we say, "Josiah Alexander Hsu!"

Josiah was recently upset with us. Speaking to Ellen, he said, "Mommy Alexander Hsu!"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Elijah is one year old!

Elijah Timothy Hsu was born on Apr. 8, 2005, and we just celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago with family and friends. In Chinese culture, the first birthday is quite significant, perhaps even more so than the actual birth, because of historically high infant mortality rates - many kids didn't make it beyond that first year. So the first birthday is an occasion of much rejoicing.

This is especially true for Elijah, since at first we thought he might have Trisomy 13 or 18 rather than Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), so we could have been planning a funeral around this time rather than his first birthday. Needless to say, we are so glad to have him and treasure every day we have with him.

He had three birthday parties - one with family, then an open house for friends, and then another party at Gigi's Playhouse Too with other kids with Down syndrome with April birthdays. Here are some pics from his parties.

"Elijah’s Gift," by Ellen Hsu

We were so happy when we learned you were coming. We had decided to share our family with another person and were delighted to learn of your “forthcoming” arrival. We told all of our family and friends about you and made plans for you join us. We wanted and planned for you from the very beginning.

At our 20-week ultrasound the doctors were a bit worried about something they saw. So we scheduled an appointment with a specialist and asked our friends to pray for you. When the technician performed the level-2 ultrasound I marveled at you. I could see you so clearly and I loved you immensely. After awhile the technician left and said that the doctor would come in soon. Your Papa arrived while I was waiting. The doctor spent a long time looking at your images while your Papa and I talked about how wonderful it was to “see” you.

We were astounded when the doctor said, “There is definitely something wrong with this baby.” My eyes immediately welled up with tears while the doctor gave us a long list of “abnormalities.” He told us that he suspected that you had Trisomy 13 or 18, conditions that usually cause disfigurement and death within the first year. We had an amniocentesis so that we would have at least some idea of what to expect. Would we plan for a birthday or a death, a celebration or a funeral?

The results of the amniocentesis took awhile to arrive, and we spent the intervening time preparing for the worst and praying for the best. We recruited a group of friends and family to pray for you and for our family. When the doctor called and told us that you have Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), we were relieved and thankful because chances were good that you could have a long, happy and healthy life.

The remainder of the pregnancy was not easy. You didn’t grow as fast as you were supposed to and you frequently became so still within me that I would go in for non-stress tests to make sure you were okay. On the morning of April 8, 2005 I went in for a routine exam with the maternal health specialist. We were at exactly 37 weeks, full term. The doctor was concerned about your slowing growth and limited movement. He decided that it was time for you to be born!

I called your Papa at work and told him that instead of going on a lunch date, as we had planned, we were going to have a baby. You were born at 12:39 p.m. weighing 4 lbs. 7 oz. You were in good enough health that they let Papa hold you and take some pictures before whisking you away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). You needed an oxygen hood, so I couldn’t hold you for awhile. I was so happy when they finally put you in my arms.

You stayed in the NICU for about two and half weeks. I stayed with you during the day and then went home to be with Josiah in the evening. I wasn’t able to hold you as often as I wanted to, but I would sit by your bed and read so that I could be near you. It was wonderful when we finally brought you home.

And now you are already turning one year old! It’s surprising how quickly the time has passed. The past year has been filled with high and low moments, medical and therapy appointments, milestones reached and new friends made. God has answered many of our prayers for your health and I am so thankful. Because of you we’ve made new friends, learned new things and experienced God’s grace in new ways.

Elijah, you are a gift from God and I am so glad that you are my son. I love you now even more than I did when I first saw your image on the ultrasound and I am immensely proud of you. I love your smile and laugh and I am proud of how hard you work at your therapy. I am thankful for your good health (and your good sleep habits). Everyone who meets you falls in love with you and you bring our family great joy. “God gave us you,” and I wouldn’t trade you for the world!

As we celebrate your first birthday, we thank God for you and for God’s work in your life so far. We pray that God will continue to bless you and keep you. We pray that God will smile upon you and bring you great joy that will spill out of your life and bless the people around you. We pray that you will have the courage to dream big dreams and that you will follow God all your life. We love you very, very much. And God loves you even more!

April 2006