Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Stanfill Family Letter 2017

Merry Christmas 2017!

After a long dark winter, light burst upon our family in late April when the sunshine of all our lives, Annabeth Lark Stanfill, joined our family. From the first moment she has been a happy, peaceful little babe, beloved by all who meet her.  She’s the kind of baby that makes every patron in the restaurant stare, maybe not just because she’s peaches and cream perfection, but more because of her sunny, cheerful temperament that can make even the sourest face smile. Her fat cheeks are endlessly kissed, she is carted about all day long by adoring older siblings with varying degrees of gentleness, and she tolerates it like an angel. She rarely if ever cries unless she’s tired, hungry, or needs a diaper change.  She eats like a little piggie.  She rolls and sits and stands earlier than her mother allows.  She is joy personified!

With Annabeth came the spring, and a lovely year it has been. Soon after Annabeth was born I solved a ten-year mystery and diagnosed myself with a abscessed tooth from a botched root canal in college.  Since getting that fixed, wow, I feel 10 years younger! Homeschooling has been our best yet this year, the kids and I all agree.  We’ve read hundreds of books and taken endless trips to zoos and museums and hiked so many beautiful places. I fell in love with my little 7-year-old Primary class. I founded a new mother’s homeschool study group where I’ve made wonderful life-giving friends. I love to ride my new bike “Baby Blue”.  Though I am but a poor rider, I dare say few people enjoyed beautiful Colorado as much as I have this year.

Michael’s been plugging away at work through a multitude of challenges, most springing from an acquisition this past year.  To our joy and relief, a new job opportunity fell into this lap in a most miraculous way, and he starts his new job for the Brigham Young University Audit Department in 2018. We can’t help but smile like fools at the thought of so many beloved family and friends nearby, free classes for both of us, and an endless supply of art, music, thought and theater at one of our favorite places on earth.

To cope with all the crazy, Michael’s been riding his bike like mad. He easily surpassed his 2,000 mile goal and plans to hit 2,500 by the end of the year. You’ll probably find him spinning in the basement at 11:59 PM New Year’s Eve. The highlight of the year for him was undoubtedly his “bachelor’s weekend” when he and three of his besties ditched their cumulative eighteen children and met up at Lake Tahoe for four days of delicious midlife cycling hedonism.

A vacation highlight for the rest of us was “Camp Beach-Doggie” in Southern California this fall. Instead of our usual family rendezvous in Montana, my siblings and mom all met up with us in a gorgeous beach house near Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.  I can’t begin to convey the fevered pitch of excitement as all five of my kids saw an ocean for the first time. We ran out to the water squealing in joy and excitement at the wonder of it all! And then four wondrous days together near the water! I don’t think I exaggerate at all by stating that Jed and Zoe boogie-boarded a solid 8+ hours every day. They were in heaven!  Sitting on the beach talking and laughing, sometimes standing quietly in the surf watching the sunset, it was just so wonderful to be together as a family in such a beautiful, peaceful place.

Jed is nearly 11 years old and nearly a man, as far as he is concerned.  He’s still a passionate Scouter and earned his Webelos and Arrow of light this year. Like his dad, he set a goal to ride 100 miles this year and ended up riding 150. To his great pleasure, he is now taller than his Aunt Lisa. He learned to cook over a campfire, mow the lawn, fix anything on his bike, and bake bread like a boss.  He took his first small aircraft flight through the local Young Eagles chapter. I love hearing him play the piano with so much enjoyment, but most of all I love that he still snuggles his mom and holds my hand in public.

At 8 years old, Zoe left babyhood and became a big girl this year, much to my joy and horror.  She and her baby sister had a combined baptism and blessing service this July that left us all overflowing with Spirit. She has so many friends that there aren’t enough days of the week to play with them!  Her piano is coming along well and after many years of struggle her penmanship is beautiful! She can bake cookies without assistance, and held her own “Free Cookie Day” service project this year where she handed out more than a hundred cookies to all the kids in the neighborhood.  Her favorite part of the last year was probably “Girl’s Art Club” with a few of her best homeschool girl friends.  Twice a month they got together at our house for two hours; that is, to paint for ten minutes and run around playing and eating snacks for 110 minutes, occasionally gushing, “I just LOVE art!”

Zane is our tall string bean 6-year-old.  He’s four and a quarter feet tall and weighs about four pounds.  Despite my best efforts to shovel food into him day and night, he still has the physique of a famine victim.  Despite appearances, though, he is still our happiest boy. He has permanently adopted his little Walmart smiley-face doll, “Happy Joe,” as his sidekick and it fits him perfectly.  It isn’t easy to be the middle kid of five. He finally gave up on mom and dad ever having time and taught himself to ride a bike without training wheels.  He learned to swim and then decided that he doesn’t swim. He can read a little bit but is too busy to bother. He bounces and rolls and hops and skips about constantly, he really is incapable of holding still.  But to my surprise, nothing escapes his wiggly attention and he has learned so much from our homeschooling this year.

Michael observed recently that at age three, Van is like a cat.  He really doesn’t like you unless he wants to, he yowls a lot, and isn’t great at using his litterbox. Fortunately, he is also very cute and soft and snuggly... sometimes. Van eats everything, bangs everything, scribbles on everything, shoots strangers, punches all the kids bigger or smaller than him, tortures Zane incessantly, has countless black eyes and teaches himself to use power tools without permission. He learned to talk this year, much to everyone’s joyous relief! This boy is 100% so much of everything! But more than anything he is Mommy Birdy’s special Baby Birdy who loves to cuddle in the “nesty” of her lap.

This year for the Christmas season, the kids and I are memorizing a beautiful poem titled “A Christmas Carol”.  I think the first verse sums up our year pretty well.

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all alright.)

With love,
Vanessa (and Michael, Jed, Zoe, Zane, Van, and Lark)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Zoe reads a real book

Ever since her big brother decided to learn to read this past year, Zoe Ann has held a keen interest in reading, too.  Last year we went through most of a K-1 reading program, but by the end of the "school year" she was having a harder time and losing interest, so I just let it go for the summer.  She was only 4 at the time, so I didn't feel there was a rush.  I knew she'd be back when she was ready.

And sure enough, this fall she has started showing interest again.  She found my bag of Hooked on Phonics beginning readers and started sounding them out on her own.  Then when Jed started reading time each day, she wanted some snuggly reading time with mom, too. I thought about starting her off again where we had ended last year, but I felt impressed that she would enjoy it more if we started way back at the beginning and let her feel a strong sense of mastery and enjoyment.  So we went waaay back to the very beginning of Hooked on Phonics Kinder, which she tore through in a week or two. Then we went back again to the very beginning of Progressive Phonics and let her work through that Kinder program, and then recently we started up into the intermediate level.

About the time we started the intermediate level, I noticed that Zoe was sitting in bed and sounding out words from her library books.  She would climb into bed with Zane and read him parts of his board books, sometimes just making it up but other times obviously trying to read the specific words on the page.  Then last Sunday, while we were at her grandparents' house, she pulled out a favorite Dr. Seuss collection, and since nobody particularly wanted to read it to her for the 7 millionth time, I suggested maybe she could read it to me.  So she snuggled up on the couch right between Mom and Grandpa and... she totally read it.

We got through half that night and she finished it at home the next morning.  You should have seen her (quite literally) bouncing with excitement. "MY FIRST REAL BOOK!!!!"
Since then we've been reading every day.  She has a fantastic memory for sight words, and she is not afraid to tackle anything.  When she sees a word she can't figure out, it doesn't stop her at all, she annoyedly instructs me to read it, and then plows on through.  If I'm not there, she makes up a substitute and keeps on reading. I love her fearless attitude.

Last night I walked into the bedroom for lights out, and found Zane and Zoe curled up in Zane's bed together.  Zoe and I had just finished reading "Ten Apples Up on Top" for the first time, and now she was reading it out loud together.  They were both giggling and howling at every silly page, their little bodies snuggled up together under the blankets.  Zoe looked up as I walked in, and she proudly declared "Look, Mom!  I can read to Zane now!"  Zane shouted "Yeah!" And I couldn't help proudly smiling a bit myself, too.  These kids make life so worthwhile, so satisfying.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sick Zane and his care providers

My poor little Zane was so tired and listless today at church, nothing at all like his usual perky, 100% busy-boy self.  He doesn't have a fever, but he obviously doesn't feel well.  I enjoyed the 3 straight hours of sleepy church snuggles but Van was not so much a fan, as evidenced by several hours of him attempting to kick Zane in the face. Unfortunately, between his foot and Zane's face is my belly (AKA "Everyone's favorite pillow.")  So it was also pretty much three straight hours of contractions. Also, hauling both those boys around just about broke this pregnant lady's back. We were all really ready to be done by the end of church.

This little sad guy.  Awwww.

Fortunately, I had plenty of help once we got home.  As we all know, Zoe LOVES to serve people, and nothing thrills her more than having an invalid around the house. I deposited Zane on the living room couch directly from the car, and she immediately started clucking and cooing and tucking and loving the sad little man.  She shared all her most beloved toys and brought him everything he could possibly want or need. Skipping around the house with joy over his misfortune, she trilled and sang and squealed about "how many serves I can do for Zane today!"
The queen of "serves"! He really looks appreciative, eh? 

Happy big sister tenderly asked him what he might like to eat, and then went to the kitchen to fix a sandwich to his precise specifications (ham and cheese with mayonnaise, plus a top) without any motherly guidance or help. To my surprise, she even got him ushed from the couch up into his seat at the table and though he's hardly eaten since yesterday he cheerfully munched half her sandwich before he gave up and headed back to his snuggle spot.

I commended her on her kindness toward her sick brother and thanked her for her help.  

Jed, never one to enjoy someone else's validation, broke in loudly "Well, it wasn't just her!" 

"Oh, really?" I replied

"Um, yeah."  Pause for thinking.

"I helped too. I noticed he was talking really soft and I told him to talk louder."

I must have looked skeptical because he added "I mean, it was REALLY soft, Mom, like a sick person!" (insert imitation of what was obviously to him a pathetic sick person mumble.)

I asked, "Do you think that made him feel better?"


"That wasn't the only thing I did.  I also whacked  him in the knee with a broken hanger."

Isn't Zane lucky that there's at least one female sibling in our family?  Because gosh, when I feel lousy I always wish I had a big brother to whack me back into health with a hanger. 

(Although now that I think of it, I think my mother would probably consider this a perfectly valid form of healing, especially if it involved being whacked while cleaning a chicken coop. Maybe Jed's inability to be sympathetic to the ill comes from his Granny's side...)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kid Stats!

 Kids had their annual checkup.  Here are their stats!

 Cute skinny girl. 

Crazy Zany.  The doc must have commented twenty times on "how much more of a talker this third one is than your others!"  But only because Zane practically shouted his way through the whole hour and a half of appointments. This little boy is a big happy humdinger.

Baby Van also had a checkup.  Everything looks and sounds great! Can't wait for this baby boy!  Zane hugs and kisses and bangs and shouts at my my belly a thousand times a day, so I imagine Van is absolutely terrified of emerging from his protective womb and won't arrive until Halloween.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Toothbrush trouble

Scene 1: Michael enters bathroom and screams in horror as he sees Zane, completely naked, grinning hugely as he waves Michael's toothbrush over the open toilet. Apparently the electric toothbrush is dancing. There is no clear evidence of contamination, but the circumstances were such as to necessitate a full sanitization of all objects and children involved.

Scene 2: Two days later, Zane walks into my bedroom, singing a happy tune.  I look up to see he is (again) completely naked and cheerfully singing "I clean my bum, my bum so clean!"  I realize he is scrubbing his cute little bum with his big brother's electric toothbrush. There are some sort of bubbles involved. Toothbrush is promptly confiscated before persnickety Jed realizes the nightmarish nature of the infraction.

Zane's 3rd birthday party!

Everyone gathered to celebrate BIG ZANY! Zane's best friend cousin Hallie, accompanied by family, was in attendance.
Baby Scarlett was excited for the party, too!

 First order of business, get the kids decorating the cake!  Everyone stripped down to their undies and got a knife.  I made a big batch of red (ish...) fluffy frosting and made some eyeballs with the intent that the kids could make an Elmo cake for Zane.  We let the kids go at it, and with plenty of red dye, skittles, and eyeballs, this is what they proudly presented:
What IS this thing?!
 It's so ugly it makes Scarlett cry.  And the rest of us laugh until tears.

Next... presents!

Zane in his fantastic Super-Guy costume from Auntie Lisa.
 Most kissable Super-Guy ever!  Oh my gosh I can't resist his manly charms!

 And last to blow out the candles.

Maybe we need a little help from big brother.
Happy birthday 3 year old boy!

This little man brings so much good cheer into our family.  I call him my "Happy Boy" and he has very much adopted that moniker.  I often ask him "What are you doing down there in the basement, Zane?" and he'll answer "I just bein' a happy guy, Mom!"  He is rarely, so rarely, fussy, needy, or cranky. Zane can entertain himself for seemingly infinite lengths of time, singing to himself, telling himself long stories complete with sound effects, apparently hilarious because he laughs at his own jokes mid-narrative.

After a summer in the sun, usually in a state of total undress (can't keep clothes on this kid for any length of time!), Zane is one honey-brown little boy, with blonde-highlighted sticky-up hair and a permanent look of exuberant surprise.  He runs on strong sturdy legs and clenched chubby fists and a scowl of focused determination. Did I mention his feet are huge?  He grew out of his size 11s this week... so now he and Zoe wear the same size!

To the confusion of randomly approached unfamiliar adults, he proudly announces that his name is ZANY and that really fits him quite well.  He is one crazy, noisy, busy kid.  He really didn't start talking in earnest until about 2/3 of the way through his second year, and now he is making up for lost time. A constant stream of near-shouting narrative and exclamation fills our home from dawn until dusk, punctuated occasionally by impressively formed sound effects.  

Zane's favorite toy is a plastic hammer.  He is rarely found without one of his hammers to "do my work!"  Except maybe when he's outside, and then he's always got a stick or two clutched in each hand, brandished and banged with wild, noisy, joyful abandon.

Zane knows the last word to every phrase of our Declaration of Independence memorization. All the other words, he points out often, can be easily replaced by his favorite fill-in words "What-ay-what-ay-self-evident!"

In the last month, Zane has started coming up to me, climbing into my lap, and throwing his arms around my neck.  Nose to nose he declares "I love you, Mommy!  I love you! I kiss you Mommy!" and then he peppers me with delicious, sticky boy kisses.

He also love love loves his "Baby Van." At the grocery store, he will often walk up to passing old ladies and shout, pointing to my belly "DIS MY BABY VAN!!  HE COME OUT SOMEDAY! Uh-HUH!" He pets and kisses and shouts at my belly all the day long.  I can't wait for him to meet his baby brother.

Whenever he leaves my presence, Zane cheerily shouts to me his travel intentions "I goin' downstairs Mom! I'll be back soon, Mom!  See ya later, Mom! Bye, Mom!"  Yes, this happens nearly every time he leaves the room, and I never tire of hearing him.  See ya later, Zany. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Am Pregnant

In case you didn't pick up on this earlier, I am pregnant.
Here is me at 33 weeks.  My belly is gigantic, still measuring about two weeks big, but I feel grateful this last few months I have been feeling great.  I haven't gained too much weight, probably thanks to daily swimming controlling the swelling this summer, thank you neighborhood pools! I am generally sleeping better this time around than any of my other pregnancies, too, for which I am very, very grateful. 

All of my kids have had distinctive personalities in the womb.  Little Van is no exception. This is the squirmiest baby ever.  He moves and wiggles and kicks and punches constantly!  I love it! At his 20wk ultrasound the tech kept laughing because she couldn't get a shot of his head.  She said she had never had a baby so wiggly that she literally couldn't get a lock on him, it took about a dozen tries.  So it sounds like I'm going to be a very busy mom in about a year.

All the kids are NUTS about Baby Van! Especially Zane.  He probably talks about the baby thirty times a day, and is constantly running up to hug and kiss my belly. Zoe already has vast plans about how she will be babysitting once the baby comes.  Jed is excited to share a room with the baby once he is grown enough.

And a gratuitous matching shot because we are so cute together.

Zoe's Birthday

We had a quiet at-home Sunday party on Zoe's actual birthday.  At her request, we made a fluffy pink princess cake.  She helped decorate it and couldn't stop squealing and gazing joyfully at it all evening.
 Blow out the candles, Zoe!
 And of course licking off the princess.
Since we didn't have any family available that evening, Zoe was totally on board with having our friends the Woods and their two boys over for her very feminine party.  Because she is the coolest kid ever.
A giant pile of presents ready to be opened.
Jed had been shopping garage sales for weeks and weeks to get Zoe just the perfect gift.  He spied this little stuffed white unicorn, which Zoe is insanely wonderfully crazy over. Jed is just like his dad, he is an AWESOME gift giver.  He earns all his own money for chores and spends a ton of time looking for just the right thing that will make his sister or brother happy.  He is such a cool kid!  And look at Zoe's happy face!
I bought Zoe puppies.  
 She liked them!

 The theme of most of her gifts, however, was her BIG gift, which was a complete rearranging of our bedrooms and now she gets the top bunk in a room with Zane. Jed and I found a bunch of darling pillows for her bed.  Her Great-grandma Janete sent her some super cute girly Minnie-mouse sheets.  The pillows were a HUGE HUGE hit.  I am pleased to say that I think I spent three dollars on Zoe's birthday this year.  Thank you garage sales.
 This is actually a sweet little book for Baby Van, sent from Granny Zo'An, but everyone loved it so much already.

 A baby doll from Granny and Poppa.  Zoe squealed "She has brown eyes just like me!!!" when she opened her up.  She named her baby Isabelle and carts her around everywhere.
 I didn't get photos, but Zoe also got a darling "first princess" Belle doll from her Auntie Lisa and she has been so happy with these two new dollies! This little girl has a strong maternal streak and it makes her mommy proud.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Five-year-old Zoe Ann Stanfill

 This beautiful creature is my five-year-old daughter.  My long, honey-skinned, strong minded joyful runner.  Her sunny, affectionate personality hasn't changed at all since she was this happy little flower:
She still emerges from her room every morning with a leap and a grin, a hug for her mom, a little "newborn" baby of some variety cradled tenderly in her arms.  This girl overflows with love and care for other people.  She revels in the strength and capability of her strong, lithe body.  She runs and jumps and rides and swims and embraces every bit of her self.  She makes and keeps friends as easily as breathing. Whenever she runs, she laughs and squeals with joy. She reads little books with gusto, sleeps deeply, strewn across her bed, and sings her heart out all day long.  She overflows with passionate emotion for everything in her life, and in the best way.
Probably my favorite part of Zoe, though, is that she self-identifies as a person who serves others.  She LOVES to help.  Everyone. Any time. Eagerly, with total enjoyment of the act. Just this afternoon she crept up to me on the bed, eyes alight, grin pasted on cheek to cheek.  "Guess what, Mom!"  What Zoe?  "Look behind those towels, and you will see I did a SERVE!"  Sure enough, she had sorted out my laundry and folded my washcloths while I wasn't looking.  
She has an eye for service opportunities.  She gets her brother toys, she carries dishes over to the table, she hugs people who are sad, she befriends children who are lonely, she rubs tired feet and backs, she helps cook dinner, she cleans up other people's messes and unlatches little brother from his car seat.  If you ever deprive her of an anticipated act of service, watch out, because you will have a storm of tears on your hands. She tells me every day the ten thousand ways she has already planned to serve mom and her new brother after the baby is born. This girl frankly loves to serve. When you ask her, she will tell you outright "I am like Jesus because I do serves!"
I've never met a woman full of so much love as my little Zoe Ann.  There are no words for the feelings of joy and pride and honor I have to be her mother.  She is a truly remarkable person.

 Happy birthday, special girl.