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)

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