Greetings from the Michael and Vanessa Stanfill home! Now that the holidays have worn off, and the drudgery of daily winter returns, we thought we’d brighten your day with a bit of news from our end of the world.
The greatest news of the year, as of course you might expect, is that we added to our quickly growing family. Rather than go to all the fuss of traditional reproduction, however, we chose to go the non-traditional method and picked up a box full of fluffy little friends at the local Rural King. So much less effort and expense!Our six little hens have been the apple of our eyes, the fertilizers of our lawn, the providers of every scrambled breakfast, and the joy of every visiting child this year. Despite Michael’s original scheme that we name them after obscure Greek princesses, Jed and I managed to talk him down to but one Grecian lady (Halcyon, a beautiful little buff;) Jed named the two green-egg layers Perky-the-Grouch and Patty (after St. Patrick’s day, their birthday;) I named my three little fat red hens Hubble and Haley (after the telescope and comet, respectively) and Henny-Penny. We’ve enjoyed our little ladies and their yard-roaming chicken tractor so much that we are seriously considering expanding our flock next spring.
The other exciting news of the year, of course, is that Michael got O-L-D. That’s right, in August he hit the big three-oh and I’ve been rubbing it in every since. (I’m still a youthful 29!) Seems he’s got quite a lot to show for his many years, however: a darling house, two rosy-cheeked and healthy kids, a hot momma in the kitchen, a good steady job, and he still cuts quite the dashing figure. This was a banner year for the handsome husband, mostly due to a plethora of manly pursuits. Along with his continuing work in e-Business at Vectren, Michael’s been fostering a bustling side business in photography that has kept him busy nearly ever month this year. In August he began pursuing a graduate degree in Human-Computer Interactions (Whatever that means -- something with art and industrial design and computer stuff all in one. Like I said, very manly.) His degree is through a very high-tech and cool distance learning program at Iowa State University. So far he has straight A-s, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Michael has been serving in the Stake Young Men’s program for the last several years. The kids and I love this calling because it means that the Stake DJ’s playlist is on my ipod, and it’s a dance-party every day at our place! Over time, Michael has improved in his ability to estimate the junk-food consumption of dancing teenage males, but we still get lots of leftover potato chips and I have more mustard in my refrigerator than anyone could ever possibly eat in a lifetime. One of the highlights of our year was attending Youth Conference with our own little “family” of teenagers in Nauvoo, Illinois. I don’t know that I’m quite ready to be the mother of 12 very hormonal twins, but I will say they were the best and kindest kids ever, and I love them. Along with another very special trip to Nauvoo this year, when we were able to participate in my dear friend’s first trip to the temple, Youth Conference just added another precious layer to our relationship with my long-beloved Nauvoo. Michael must have done ok herding the kids around because just this past month he was called to the position of Stake YM’s Presidente, and I know he will do a fabulous job because he really, really loves those boys.
Despite his many obligations, the busy Michael still managed to find time to pick up a couple new hobbies. One, hunting, resulted in him bringing home his first rabbit, which we cooked into a tasty stew. For Christmas, I got him his first gun, and I have twice walked in on him caressing it affectionately, so I guess it was a hit. Also, Michael’s really into woodworking. Since his first project, building our chicken tractor, proved such a quick success, he immediately threw himself into a 6-month long project we like to call “The Great Picnic Table Endeavor.” The world’s largest and most beautiful, picnic table currently resides in great resplendence in our carport, where my car once used to take shelter. Now, in its higher and more nobler calling, the carport serves as a shield to the picnic table until the weather warms up enough for the finish to dry, which should be some time in... April? Meanwhile, Michael suffers a great deal of good-natured ribbing, and we all really really look forward to fabulous barbecues with friends and family in our beautiful backyard this coming spring.
Well, the backyard used to be beautiful, until one day our septic tank collapsed and we developed a sewage sink-hole in the middle of our back lawn that just didn’t quite seem safe with small children running around. This sad event provided Jed’s “Best Day Ever,” when we had every type of big machinery imaginable show up at our house all at once to completely destroy our plush back lawn (I think Michael nearly cried, he was so proud of that lawn) and leave a huge mud field in its place. We didn’t really want a new car, anyway, we much prefer having a brand-new beautiful septic tank to fill and we sigh with joy at every flush. NOT. But Jed still thinks it’s fabulous because now he has two dirt piles to play in and comes in flushed with joy and filthy every time the weather warms up enough to slip outside. He currently does not own a single pair of shoes that is not layered with two inches of mud, and he is proud of it.
Along with the septic tank, this summer and fall we had the great joy of replacing half our roof, fixing our air conditioner, replacing our thermostat, repairing our heater (several times) and having major repairs needed on both our cars. What did we do to deserve all this? Quite a lot, actually, because all our scrimping and saving over the last few years paid off and we are now officially 100% Debt Free! Woohoo! We cut up our last credit card and paid off the car in April. What a blessing and a relief that has been, especially with all the ensuing calamity and destruction, because we have always had plenty in the bank to pay for our repairs without concern. The Lord really has blessed us amidst challenges this year, as we have tried to follow the prophet’s counsel.
As far as the children, our Jed is nearly 4 years old. He is our little old-man child, who talks like a Dickens novel and loves nothing more than snuggling up with Mom and a good book... except perhaps wrestling with dad or peppering a screeching Zoe with kisses. This year he developed an alarming interest in lady-friends, and is often found holding hands and smooching one of his many love-interests. I thought I would have a few years before this became a problem, but clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the father’s tree (those Stanfill men are such lady-killers!) Jed and I started a small co-op preschool with a bunch of his little friends this year and we have so much fun singing silly songs and doing crafts every week at their homes.
Zoe Ann is nearly 18 months old and gets more darling by the day. Her chubby cheeks, bright brown eyes, infectious giggles, toothy grin and flirtatious ways win any heart. Despite her stubborn insistence on being loved and petted and carried everywhere, she has finally started going down stairs by herself (with some cajoling) and even deigns to speak to us on occasion. Her ability to eat is astounding, she is her momma’s girl for sure, and she will down cups of oatmeal or several oranges at a sitting. I am amazed at her overwhelming femininity - she is forever adorned in necklaces and pieces of pretty cloth she’s found about the house, a carefully wrapped babydoll clasped in one arm and a mewing stuffed kitty in the other. She sings and sings and sings all the day long. We love the ray of bright sunshine she brings to our home through the summer and dreary winter.
And last comes Mom, the food cooker and picker-upper extraordinaire. I am still serving as Primary President over a brood of 100 or so darling little hooligans and their amazing teachers. Finally having my Jed with me in Primary this coming year is going to be such fun, I’ll be a real Primary mom at last. I spend most of my days cooking up a storm (or occasionally scrubbing toilets) while feeding my unhealthy obsession with educational podcasts. My big project for this coming year, however, is cooking up another litttle pink-cheeked Stanfill baby, who should be joining us some time in August. Jed and Zoe have been the absolute joy of my life, and I can’t wait to have another sweet little friend to join our happy family.
We hope your year will be as happy, challenging, and joyful as ours has been. Here’s to a marvelous 2011! Love, Michael, Vanessa, Jed, Zoe, and Baby #3