Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing Pains

As a little girl I remember my Dad's garden in the back yard. I use to go outside with him and help plant all the different vegetables and later when they were ready I would go out and help pick them or dig them out of the ground. I loved it! I loved plants so much in second grade I bought a rubber tree plant with my honor roll money, that plant is still alive (and huge) at my parents house. I was a regular green thumb in the making.

 A few years ago, when Kevin and I moved to the area of Georgia in which we now live, it was the first time I had an appropriate place to garden. I was so excited and talked my MIL into having a garden with me. We rented a tiller and had Kevin till up an area. We planted a small area, full of all sorts of plants... cucumbers, cantaloupe, tomato, squash, watermelon, and corn. We laid a soaker house throughout the garden, we kept it weeded and fertilized and awaited the fruits of our labor...

As the weeks went by and our plants started to attract bees with their flowers and they started to produce fruit, we were so excited! That is when everything began to go wrong. I noticed a dust underneath my squash plants and the leaves were dying. As I began to investigate further I realized there were little grubs in the base of the plant. Upon researching what these could be, I found out they were Vine Borers (see picture) and they absolutely destroy your squash plants and anything related.

As I watched all my squash and zucchini plants die off after only bearing a few veggies I was so disheartened. Then I realized they were also affecting our cantaloupe and watermelon. This  devastated a huge portion of our garden.

Our tomatoes continued to do okay. Our corn didn't do too well, simply because there were too few stalks to have the pollination needed. All and all my inaugural garden was a failure. I was down but not defeated. I took the "glass half full" view, "Hey, at least I learned something". 

Skip ahead 2 years

Mostly because of time (not gardener embarrassment), this year was the first year I tried my hand at gardening again. I mean, I knew everything now, I was going to avoid vine borers and have a bumper crop. SO EXCITED!

I decided to do some container gardening since we are renting and I didn't want to tear up the yard. I purchased some potting soil and containers and planted sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, tomato and cucumber. I also had a small plot of potatoes in the ground. I watered and weeded and watched for the dreaded Vine Borer (the only problems squash can have) and fertilized and then... all started to fall apart.

I went to tend to my plants one day and noticed this...

 to the untrained/my eyes this was just yellow dots on the leaves of the cucumber plants. Next thing I noticed the leaves were actually dying. Drat, so as all good gardeners do I Googled the new ailment...Cucumber blight. You see, we had had such a wet, humid few weeks that our plants were developing a fungus. I tried to save them, I bought a spray called Deconil, it did help but in the end my cucumber plants succumbed to the disease. 

The humid condition also contributed to this...

 end rot. This affected my squash and zucchini.

My tomatoes ended up getting this...

 Blight...this is also a fungus and ruined my tomato plants. 

I did manage to plant some squash and zucchini in another area of the yard and at last check they were disease free but they were not producing what I expected...

instead of squash and zucchini, I am getting squashzucchini...

Once again I can say I have learned a lot this year, but I am starting to think that the little girl that was a green thumb in bloom may never realize her gardening dreams, perhaps a fungus killed them...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If I was meant to carry this, I would have been born with a pouch

"If I was meant to carry this, I would have been born with a pouch!" 
Sue Hiland

Those words I swore I would never utter and yet I have broken my own promise and uttered those words many, many times. The problem with having kids and even a husband is that you become the carrier for all things that have become tiresome to carry. Why is it the mom of the family that attracts such pleading as, "Mom can you carry this?", "Moooommmmm, I can't carry it anymore, it weighs 3 ounces and I am tooooo tired!"?
Well ladies, let me tell you why it is the female of the species that develop this ability to pack and carry all things that have any value or potential value...because we have pouches! We call them "Purses" and we love our pouches and we often spend hours searching for the perfect pouch to put all of our necessities in. All the while our precious little ones and spouses are lurking in the shadows waiting to see what pouch we bring home so that they can begin to cram it with their own stuff. Oh, they will act like they are disappointed that you spent money on yet another purse, but don't let them fool you they are so excited, to them it is theirs as much as it is yours.
Don't get me wrong, having a purse crammed full of stuff is how I tend to operate, but I want it to be my stuff and stuff of my choosing. If I am going to tote around 20lbs on my left shoulder and cause permanent nerve damage, I want it to be because I needed to have all my stuff with me, not everyone elses.
Kevin always asks me for things he needs and assumes I would carry in my purse..."Hey Heather, will you get some chapstick out of your purse for me?" I scrounge through my purse and come out with a Burts Bee's Hibiscus tinted lip balm, which he refuses to use (go figure) and then proceeds to criticize the fact that I am not carrying his items in my pouch..."Who wouldn't have chapstick in their purse?...why do you even carry a purse if you don't have chapstick?" blah, blah, blah...He loves the idea of a purse, as long as he has someone else to carry it. Should I need him to hold my purse while I go to the restroom when we are out, he will hold the straps between his thumb and forefinger like he is holding something foul. But should he have the need to clip his nails or desire a piece of gum he will dig right through it and find what he needs (assuming we aren't in public).
Again,don't get me wrong, even though I am ranting and raving about having to carry a lot of stuff in my purse, when it comes to my purse I like to be more prepared than a Boyscout about to hike Mount Everest (do the scouts go to Nepal?). I have been known to carry enough ink pens to supply a community college art class and enough silverware to restock the Olive Garden for the evening. I have saved people from hypoglycemic episodes by quickly pulling snacks packed with simple sugars from my purse...but despite this abundance of useful wares in my purse, I am still ridiculed by the lack of something someone else might need and then made fun of when someone discovers something odd in my purse, such as a single toddler sock or 4 bottles of hand sanitizer.
I don't buy lots of purses and tend to not spend a lot of money when I do get one. Recently, I have been on the hunt for a new purse and finally found the purse of my dreams today, which I will carry for the next 17 years (wink, wink). As a bonus it was on clearance!!!! As I reflect on my previous battles to protect my purses' free space and prepare for the use of my new purse I am officially laying down some ground rules.

1. My purse will be used to carry items of my choosing, should you desire for me to carry an item of yours you will be charged rent
2. Should you make fun of anything I have in my purse your rent will be doubled for all items of yours that are residing in my purse
3. (for the children) Should you ask me to carry an item of yours and another item of yours already exists within the confines of my purse, the older of the 2 items will then be handed back to you to carry or thrown away.

Ladies, join me in a stance against the unrealistic and ignorant expectations that we carry everyone else's stuff and enforce your own "Pouch Rules"..."Protect your pouches!" Say it with me now!

Her she purty
 It might not be your favorite purse, but it was exactly what I was looking for

her best side

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of School

So the kiddos have started back to school.

Clara is in her second year at Early Headstart. It is such a great place for her. Her therapist is able to come to the daycare and do her therapy once a week. I think it helps her so much to be around kids her age and encourages her to strive to pull up and stand and move around. She has also recently qualified for Speech therapy since she is a little delayed in her expressive speech. Despite her expressive speech delay she is above average in receptive language and the emotions that go along with being told certain things she may not want to hear, like "No!". She is also closing in on the terrible 2's and had a complete meltdown during therapy this week. Hopefully therapy will go better now that she is back in school and in a routine. 
she is telling lies! How could someone as cute as me throw fits?

Lincoln and Ainsley have also started back to school. Lincoln is in 2nd grade (tears) with lots of friends from previous years in his class. On his first day home from school he said "She is the nicest teacher in the whole school". Lincoln had a super nice teacher last year who set the bar really high so his new teacher must have wings and a halo!

Ainsley is in Kindergarten and teaching the class herself...Okay, so she is not teaching but I am sure if she was given the opportunity for an audience she will take it. She is also very excited about her class.

At open house the other night we were asked to fill out sheets on our children. The first question was, "What is your child interested in?" Kevin quickly answered Lincoln's with "Lego's, drawing, basketball". I was left to answer Ainsley's and it was really tough. Ainsley is very active and into everything but doesn't really have a "favorite". I thought on it and finally found myself writing "socializing". I could think of nothing more accurate. I turned to Ainsley and asked her what she liked about school and she quickly responded, "Lunch time". So in a way, our answers were the same because I am sure her lunches are spent mostly "socializing".

getting so big!

We have had a great summer but I am glad to have the kids back in school. Lincoln and Ainsley had gotten to the point that they were going to bed fighting and waking up fighting. They need some time to appreciate what good siblings they have. 

My babies are growing up, I don't know how it happens so quick

Monday, June 27, 2011

Plans are for wimps!

We traveled to see Kevin's brother and his family for a long weekend that I had off from work. They live in a rural area of East Tennessee not too far from Gatlinburg. We had discussed what kind of activities we would do on our way back from his brother's house. We had thrown around the idea of going to Dollywood (a themepark) and decided that maybe the Knoxville zoo would be fun and something we hadn't done before. So we headed West toward Knoxville. 

Not too far outside of Knoxville, I started watching the exit signs for a place for lunch so we wouldn't have to spend money on food at the zoo. Then a sign caught my eye, it read, "Zoo and Camel rides 3.2 miles". I knew this was not The Zoo, but it did raise some curiosity. We passed this exit because there was nowhere to eat, but the thought of that sign kept coming back to me. I told Kevin I had seen the sign and because the sign didn't say the actual name of the place (unless its name was "zoo and camel rides") I was left to "Bing" the question "Exit 402, zoo and camel rides". I got a hit.

Apparently, the true name of this destination was "Circle G Ranch" and they had a good website (which is always a good sign, right?) and described their operation/facilities (you can see the website here ) as feeding animals from the comfort of your car, riding camels, and petting zoo. I told Kevin of these various activities and I think his exact words were 
"Let's do it!"

I was still skeptical since I had never heard of the place, much less any reviews good or bad. We were committed now though, so we drove on back to Exit 402 forgetting our initial plan of the "real" zoo. 

As we exited and began our 3.2 mile trek to Zoo and Camel Rides our first ominous sign was seen 
Yes, those are bungee cords holding, (mostly holding) the sign to 2 rusty posts. Despite the appearance of the literal (and figurative) sign, we did indeed turn right as directed. We were committed...

We continued on a narrow, windy road wondering what we were getting ourselves into. 

When we arrived at the Circle G Ranch you could see the wild animals roaming in a small cleared off pasture with a gravel drive that encircled it. This gravel drive was maybe the size of 2 running tracks. 

Things were not looking good for the Stanfield's fly by the seat of your pants decision. I even believe that at this point I turned to Kevin and said, "Do you want to go to the 'real' Zoo". He said, "no, this will be fine, we have already made the decision". 
We pulled up to the check-in and waited to be helped in our adventure into the Circle G Ranch. Sitting waiting for the employee to come check us in I noticed and snapped a picture of a couple of things. 
Warning signs, lots of warning signs and...
a sign made out of deceased animals' bones. I couldn't help but wonder where all those bones came from, maybe a Halloween clearance buy, maybe.

Then our very gracious greeter came to check us in and even allowed me to snap his picture.
He gave us some very important rules, like don't feed the camel with the purple halter, the pigs, or the donkey with your hands...oh, and if you are feeding any of the "Big" birds do it like this (I didn't get a picture of the demonstration to share with you all, so should you find yourself at the Circle G Ranch please pay attention, as this summary is not comprehensive). This nice gentleman also made us aware that the actual gravel trail went way back into the woods beyond the ranch and that it could take around an hour or more to complete, at this point I started patting myself on the back for a good decision. Now we weren't worried about getting our money's worth, but whether we had enough gas...
And so the Safari began...

It started out very cute
 and then we realized that some of these wild animals were...wild

 Yes, that is a East TN

They even had this Quartet that was serenading Kevin
 (Kevin's face is so funny in this picture)

We continued on through the park and saw some awesome animals. 

 occassionally cleaning snot from the lense of the camera 


 It is well known that Chevy hoods are natural habitats

 look at these 2 wild animals!

3 day old camel, too cute!

 The kids had a blast, they got to feed the animals...

Lincoln, tries hard to hide his excitement...

 but he really did have a blast!

Clara, liked it too, but apparently her olfactory senses are very sensitive

So what started with a trip to the zoo, became an awesome, fun trip to "the zoo and camel rides" at Circle G Ranch. I recommend it to anyone in or traveling through the Knoxville area. It was a lot of fun and the employees are very gracious and accommodating. 

Thanks for a fun, unplanned day Circle G Ranch

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Whopper and an Artist

So today was a sad day...

at least for a mom who is struggling watching her kids grow up. For all level minded individuals it would constitute a great day where 2 amazing kids closed the door on a small part of their life, only to open a new door. 

It was Award Day at school!

Ainsley's class was our first stop. We arrived at her class and there were 5000 people waiting to go in to watch their child, grandchild, 3rd cousin finish Pre-k. They started with a little slide show of their year in Pre-K (tear jerker),  then they received their awards (more about this in a minute) and then finished up with the Rite of Passage dance also known as the "Cha-Cha Slide". Ainsley does a little too much "grooving"with the Cha-Cha, but she loves it. As a side note, it is also a very funny dance when the majority of the participants are unsure of their right and left... 'slide to the left, slide to the right'. Ainsley, like the rest of her peers, received an award today. Her teachers were very creative with their awards and gave "Candy Awards", the child received the candy that matched their award . One child received a Laffy Taffy award because they were always smiling and laughing, another child received the Score award because they are so athletic, then a child received a Zero award because she had gotten in trouble "zero" times this year...I have to be honest, at this point I started to look at the table still holding the candy that had yet to be handed out, in search of 100 Grand bar, sure that this would fit the number of times Ainlsey DID get in trouble. Ainsley, did finally receive her award, and to my relief it was not a 100 Grand bar instead it was Whoppers. For those of you who know Ainsley, she can tell lies with a straight face, but she is also dramatic and expressive to the extreme. The teachers explained the award and said "Ainsley, received the Whopper Award, because she is our best storyteller. She tells very good and very LONG stories!" I loved it. I fought back some tears. She has grown so much this year. She is so bright and inquisitive and that was really fostered this year. She had some great teachers and learned a ton. Thanks Mrs. Torbett and Mrs. Langley! 

Here is a picture of Ainsley after she received her award. 

We then went to Lincoln's class to watch his awards and slide show. He really is growing up and it is happening way too fast! Since this was a first grade award show the crowd wasn't as massive, really just parents, siblings and a few grandparents. It was so sweet watching their slide show. These kids will go to school together their whole life, and I can imagine how embarrassed they will be when I insist on showing this little jewel to them when they are in highschool! and I will insist! Lincoln's class had your classic elementary school awards. Fast Boy Runner, Fastest Girl Runner, Smiliest, etc....see classics! The teacher, Mrs. Brooks, explained that the kids pick the awards and that some things are really important to 1st graders, like the aforementioned "Fastest" awards. In the past couple of years that Lincoln has been in school and received an end of the year award, their has been a theme to his awards and this year was not an exception. Lincoln received the "Most Artistic Award". He really does amaze us with his drawing, lego building, and creative abilities. Among just being an all around great kid! I am so proud of my munchkins and the people they are becoming!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obladi Oblada

So when I got home tonight Kevin asked me if Cheese was "okay?"...I said, "I don't know, why?". Kevin, "He hasn't moved since I got home."...uh-oh... 
Upon further inspection, Captian Cheese Nibbleton III 

had indeed passed away. 

We have no idea what Cheese succumb to and I looked at Kevin and said, "How should we tell the kids?" In true husbandly fashion...he didn't answer. Since I was left on my own to decide, I apparently thought dinner time was the best...WRONG! 
Slobbery, teary pizza makes things more sad.

Well, Lincoln and Ainsley were so torn up about Cheese's death, Clara not so much...

 She was planning a rafting trip.

In between dramatic sobbing and snotting there were phrases like, "I want a new pet" (boo, hoo, hoo), "Can we get a tarantula" (sniffle, choke). 
We decided that to help with emotional closure we needed to bury him and have a little graveside service. To this Ainsley said, "Can we wait, I want people to know about it and come". We couldn't wait. So for those of you who would have liked to have been there, I apologize. I told Ainsley, I would write a blog about it so "people would know".

We loaded up the old Sienna "Swagger Wagon" and drove over to our land to bury him. Lincoln, had found a very appropriate coffin (Adidas shoe box) and Kevin dug a hole.

So it was a sad day at Camp Stanfield. The kids are recovering. They went to bed hungry, since they were too sad to finish their pizza (hindsight is 20/20). Their little eyes will probably be swollen tomorrow from all the tears. And we will not be getting a new pet, tarantula or otherwise, for awhile.
I feel bad that my children are having to experience this heartache, but life will go on and they will heal.

On a related note: Please let me know if you need any hamster supplies...we have found ourselves in possession of some that will not be used.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oatmeal Sunday and Stanfield Firsts

"Oatmeal Sunday" is a nearly weekly event at the Stanfield's. As the name suggests, we have oatmeal on a Sunday. The entire family enjoys oatmeal, especially with butter and sugar. As an added treat, the boys like to stir in a spoon full of peanut butter and eat it like "real men". The girls like to have a little bit of peanut butter on the side of their bowl and dip into it with every bite, very dainty. Clara likes to eat her's with her right hand and hold her spoon in her left.
I am not sure exactly when Oatmeal Sunday started, but am pretty sure it was a Sunday. Our quick cook oatmeal makes it a quick, warm meal that still allows a little bit of sleeping in, before racing around the house so we can be on time to Sunday School (on time give or TAKE 15 minutes).
So this morning was an Oatmeal Sunday...we also added buttered was 5 star affair this a.m. We ate our oatmeal as Sadie lurked around the table waiting for her turn. Sadie also likes oatmeal and knows what an important job she has in licking the bowls clean so as not to have cement, dishwasher proof oatmeal leavings in the bowls*. She takes it very seriously and doesn't miss a spoon. As everyone was finishing up their oatmeal, except Clara who was diligently working on some between her 2nd and 3rd digits, I headed upstairs to get kid's clothes and Kevin conveniently disappeared (j/k). I returned with clothes and adamantly encouraged the young ones to put them on. Kevin, got Clara and himself ready. I did Ainsley's hair. Kevin tamed Lincoln's hair. We poured to-go cups of coffee and were out the door to church. This is where the first comes in...WE WERE EARLY...3 whole minutes. Amazing. Who knew getting to church early, means one of the best parking spots? Who knew there were people who actually got there even earlier than 3 minutes before church...craziness.
With successes like these, there is no stopping us. Who knows New Salem UMC, you might even see us at early service...might, I said might.

*realizing now, I might want to mention Sadie is a dog. Not our 4th child that is forced to lick the leavings of all the other family members bowls.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Getting it off my chest...again

Clara, the baby, the blessing, the doll, the miracle, is all those things and more...oh, so much more. So I don't want this post to come across as me wanting her to be someone other than she is. Clara, was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that causes an incomplete closure of the spine during in utero development and in turn leaves individuals with varying degrees of disabilities.
Of the disabilities, most obvious, but probably least important (my opinion) is gross motor skills affecting areas of the body typically lower than the defect of the spine. Children with Spina Bifida can also have bowel and bladder issues, that can cause severe kidney disease and renal failure if not treated appropriately with cathing, medicines to relax the bladder and potential surgeries. They are all (nearly all) born with a brain malformation called Arnold Chiari Malformation II (ACM II). This malformation can cause fluid that bathes the brain and spinal chord to not flow appropriately between the two areas. The fluid will build up on the brain causing Hydrocephalus. Hydro is treated with a tube that runs from the ventricles in the brain to the peritoneal cavity of the abdomen commonly called a VP Shunt. The malformation can also cause some other more severe issues that I won't touch on here because I am not fully informed due to Clara not having to deal with them.
This is where I really start...Clara does have a VP Shunt. Shunts are amazing. They drain the fluid from the brain which enables normal brain development and prevents mental delays caused by pressure from excess fluid. Shunts are miserable because they can and often This is where we found ourselves on February 10, 2011. It had been determined that Clara's shunt was not functioning properly and needed to be replaced. Her first one had lasted over a year, but we still found ourselves where many SB parents have found themselves many times before.
When we first got our diagnosis that Clara would be born with Spina Bifida. Everyone would ask "Well what can you do?". I knew that there was a surgery that could be done while you were pregnant, to close the baby's defect theoretically stopping amniotic fluid from continuing to damage the exposed spinal nerves. These surgeries started being performed in the US in 1994. In 2003, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a part of The National Institutes of Health initiated a study called MOMS ( An amazing, but now heartbreaking study. Due to the NICHHD study the prenatal surgery went from being a choice we could make, to having to qualify and then get randomized and then move for months to a study site. We did not qualify to participate in the study. Clara, would have to wait until she made her grand entrance to have her necessary surgery. Still with well intentioned questions from friends and family, "Well, I have done some research and did you know there is a surgery you can have now..." with my scripted response, "Yes, but we can't choose to have it and we did not qualify for the study."
On February 10th 2011, in a "blizzard" in Nashville, early in the morning...Clara, taken from my arms, was wheeled back to surgery to have her failing shunt replaced. On the very same day, the New York Times front page, ABOVE the fold posted this   

 It was determined that the surgery is indeed a success and one of the most notable successes was the reduced chance for a shunt (in turn, shunt failures)...Ironic.
As parents, we did what we could. Who knows of the potential problems a surgery like that would have/could have caused... The roadblocks, speed bumps were there for a reason. I adore Clara. Clara is who God wanted her to be. And I truly believe that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Blogging I shall go

As if my plate isn't full enough I have decided to add a new task. The task will be a blog. Will I complete it at regularly scheduled intervals?

Well, Of course not...that is not my style

I will use it mostly as a way to keep family and friends updated on my family and happenings. I hope you all enjoy it and if you don't...if you could just kindly keep that opinion to yourself.