Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Birthday Surprise

Leisel and I knew that we would be leaving on a trip with our Grandparents on the official day of Charae's birthday. As some of us were driving home from church one Sunday, we decided that we needed to hold an early birthday celebration for Charae, and we needed to make it a big one. With ten people planning it, the details came together quickly. A notebook was taken out and filled with a guest list, menu items, and decoration ideas.

We only had two weeks to put everything together, so we jumped right away into making phone calls and writing grocery lists. Mom and I sneaked away on several occasions to the grocery store and party city. When asked why we had been gone so long, we came up with all sorts of convincing excuses. Trying to hide things when you all live together and to keep 10 people from letting the cat out of the bag is quite difficult.

The fridge became a hiding place for bratwurst sausages, salads and condiments.
We had only to hope that Charae would have no need to venture out to the fridge till after her birthday. 

The night before, there was still a list of last minute tasks to finish and they would not be easy to do while Charae was around. A few minutes before we were supposed to leave for prayer meeting, Mom, Kayleen and I backed out of going to stay home and finish the tasks. We couldn't think of any reasonable excuse to give Charae for why we weren't going to church. 

We got a text from Leisel when the family was on their way home saying they would be there in five minutes. The kitchen was still in a state of catastrophe from dinner and the party preparation, and we knew Charae would be wondering what in the world we had been doing the whole time if the dishes were not finished. When she came in, the kitchen was clean, and we were calmly occupying ourselves with normal activities trying not to look as frazzled as we felt :) We waited till Charae was in bed, and then took out the mixing bowls, cut out more banners, and loaded up the car with all of the party decor, trying to tiptoe around the home the entire time. It was one in the morning when we finally decided to quit :) 

We were pretty sure that the girl whom we can never slip anything by was now well aware of the fact that we were planning a surprise birthday party for her. Resigned to that fact, we consoled ourselves  that she wouldn't know all of the details and who would be there that night.

Our story had been that Chris was inviting our family over for "a meal before Jonathon left for Malaysia and a simple celebration of Charae's birthday". And that is exactly what Charae was expecting when she walked in Chris and Melinda's door. She hadn't noticed the line up of cars outside parked by the barn. She didn't see the balloons attached to the chairs, nor had she noticed the crowd of people tucked away in the kitchen ready to yell "Happy Birthday". 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sweet Summer

It's hard to believe that June is here and we are already half way through another year!
We're taking every opportunity to enjoy the sunshine, although some people have a bit of a tougher time when everything is in full bloom then others. The hay fields are high and the allergies in our household are at their peak.

 After the weather had cleared and we were beginning to feel the warmth of the sun again, we decided to pack up a picnic lunch and head to Hockinson park. We made a call to Leisel at the middle school and asked if she would be able to join us over her lunch break.

Jonathon put Austin in charge of the garden this year as the sole planner and manager of our crops. He's in charge of planning the layout of the garden, what to plant, taking soil samples to be tested at a lab, and planting all of the seeds for the year! We've taken a few Saturdays so far to prep the garden with layers of compost and bark chips. There is a crop of tomato plants growing up in Dad's shop where a few tables and some heat lamps have served as our greenhouse.

When it came time to mow the lawn for the first time this year, Ania pleaded with Austin to teach her how to use the John Deer tractor so that she could take over the responsibility. After one training session, mowing the lawn has become Ania's favorite farm chore, and it has been hard to keep her away from the tractor.

The kiddos finished early with School this year giving their teachers an early summer break. On Tuesday and Thursday of this week, they presented their poster board presentations to the family as well as a Roman play that they had been working on throughout the school year. 

It always amazes me what a thorough and detailed knowledge the kiddos have of the subjects they study! They each have a unique way of presenting the history that they have been learning from the Rise of the Roman Empire to it's fall. Once again, Austin and I worked together to trim his lengthy presentation down to a manageable size. I know it's a good problem to have because he had studied his topic so thoroughly and has so much to share on the subject of the barbarians! Austin informed me though that WWII tanks would always be his favorite topic to study ;)

 As nervous as the three kiddos were Thursday night as they dressed in their costumes and waited upstairs for the family to watch their play, they did a fantastic job of performing! There were many moments where they had the family in stitches as they enacted the 18 page drama of "A Three Dollar Day" with Shakespearean talent :)

Mom and Dad left for their cruise at four in the morning on Sunday the 14th. Their groggy children got up to say goodbye. Although Mom and Dad had only gotten a few hours of sleep, you would never have been able to tell by their energy and excitement that morning. If there was any reluctance in leaving everybody, it definitely didn't show :D

We heard very little from them, which was exactly how we wanted it! From what we did hear, they were taking in every moment of their time together! They told us that their first couple days on the ship felt like they had been there a whole month...time seemed to stand still!

Two gala dinners gave mom the opportunity to dress formerly for dinner. Jonathon had upgraded Mom and Dad to a suite on the ship and they both felt like royalty with the special treatment they received.

We tried to make that week for the kids as special as possible. Each night, we watched an episode of Cranford and enjoyed a serving of whatever dessert the cook had whipped up for that evening. The Saturday before their return, we all took a trip to the mall. Some of us were craving either a bubble tea or a fruit smoothie. Jonathon took Austin and Ania over to the "serve your own ice cream" bar and allowed them to choose their ice cream and dish as many toppings on it as they wanted. When Jonathon went to pay for their treats, the total of their order was $23, each ice cream weighing half a pound.

What else has been keeping everybody busy of late?

Charae is finishing up her last few months of college. Her goal right now is to finish in September...and she couldn't be more ready for it. The end of the school year is always extremely busy for her as she ties together the loose ends for her foreign exchange students preparing them to return home. Her classes at the Russian school have ended, but she continues to teach English to six Korean students.

Jonathon has had some unexpected changes to his summer. He found out that he would be returning to Malaysia in June for a two and a half week period and then soon after that, taking off again for a three month trip. He will be gone from the beginning of August through October. 

He's excited for the opportunity to return to Malaysia, but also will be disappointed to miss his favorite month of the year...September ;)

In Halloween attire :)

Leisel will be finishing up her work at the middle school at the end of June. She plans on pushing ahead in college over the summer months.

Since my job as school teacher is finished for the summer, I've had an opportunity to do some babysitting for our little neighbor boy. The little guy has practically been part of the family since he was born and is always a bit of a celebrity when he's over at our house ;)

Kayleen absolutely loves her new nanny position and enjoys every opportunity she get to show the twins off over Skype calls to home.

Cosette has officially graduated from high school. Her plans right now are to take a break from studying and work a bit on our land, looking into ways to use our land (purchasing cows, expanding our chicken clan, etc). 

On Monday, we commemorated memorial day by attending the Willamette National cemetery Memorial Day service. It's always an important way to remember those who have served our country! As the band played the service themes for each branch of the military, the different men who had served in those branches would rise and be recognized! As the colors were posted, two jets flew was too cloudy that morning to actually see them though :) 

When the service had concluded, Austin walked over to the tombstones, letting me know that there was still one more thing to do. As everybody gathered around to read some of the memorial plaques, Austin made his way down rows of white stones reading the names of some of our fallen heroes. I think he was specifically looking for the names of WWII soldiers :)

On the way back, Dad treated his family to Mod pizza. We all made it through the line and nine orders of pizza and two salads were on their way. 
With the extra time at home, Dad made it out to his shop to do some woodworking while the ladies busied themselves in the kitchen preparing a barbecue. 

Evening walks have been a summer favorite for us this year, and a very satisfying conclusion to a lovely evening. After dinner was through, a few of us girls took a walk, enjoying the last bit of evening sun. 
We ended the day by watching "We Were Soldiers". Although it's hard to call that movie enjoyable, I think it is a sobering reminder of the sacrifice that is being made for our country both by those out fighting for our freedom and their families left at home!

As far as summer plans go, we have a pretty full schedule with our annual camping trip to Rainier coming up in July and summer family camp in August. Last year, we made the Clark County fair a new tradition for some of us kids. 
We had to do a little rearranging of our schedule to make our beach trip work for this year. Our original plan had been to go during the last week in August, but when Bub's trip to Malaysia got scheduled, we all agreed that our only option would be to reschedule. We're all so thankful that we get to go at all! I think it's been the first year where we've actually had so do so much maneuvering around everyone's busy schedules to make the time work...but it's worth all of the hassle to make it happen :)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

May Birthdays

The month of May holds three very special birthdays in our household: the birthdays of Leisel, Cosette, and Austin.

The Lord added a third little blessing to the Spafford family on May 4th, 1993. 

Growing up, Leisel and I were the best of friends. There was nowhere that she went, where her little sister didn't follow...which might have explained why everyone around them thought that they were twins ;) Leisel was the perfect leader at getting her sister into all kinds of trouble and came up with the most exciting adventures

Leisel was a complete tomboy all her growing up, and very much a daddy's girl. During her early years, she could be found fishing with dad, climbing trees with the neighbor boys, or taking bike rides down her favorite trails. In the year 2010, she and dad joined the church bike trip to bike up Mt. Hood.

Her favorite shows growing up were "Cinderella" and "Winnie the Pooh" :)  

Her sisters like to tease her about being a "blond" based upon some very substantial evidence :)
We try not to mention the time that she stuck a metal thermos in a microwave, or almost walked "up" a "down" escalator. We even try forgetting the many times that she's gotten her sisters lost while driving through town or traveling in Korea...these moments just make her all the more lovable ;)

Leisel is still very much a country girl. She spent an entire summer working as Dad's contractor for his shop, dealing with all of the builders, plumbers and inspectors. She loves to spend time at the shooting range and looks forward to hunting season this fall. On the weekend, her favorite thing to do is work out in the yard!

It's been such an encouragement over the years to see her devotion to her Lord, getting up at 5:30 every morning to make time for bible reading before her work. 
Leisel works as an attendance clerk at the Hockinson middle school and is loved by everyone that she works with.

After Jonathon, mom's last three babies had been girls. He was beginning to feel a bit outnumbered and was hoping that maybe this next one might be a little brother. When we got the call from mom on May 26, 1999, Jonathon sighed; "Another girl!"

...and yet, Cosette would prove to be Jonathon's closest buddy growing up. His lap was her favorite place to sit and his room was where she ran to when she was scared during the night. 

Cosette had the darkest skin and hair of all mom's babies, most closely resembling the "Pent" side of the family. Her siblings had fun convincing her when she was very young that she had been adopted from an Indian tribe.

She was the first baby that Daddy named. After watching "Les Miserables" he told mom that he wanted to name their next little girl "Cosette".

Cosette used to come to mom all dressed up in her cowboy gear, playing the part of Messala from "Ben Hur". She'd enter the room wielding her plastic knife and announce whether she was a "good" or "bad" Messala that day :)

She is now a brilliant mathematician, studying both physics and calculus. When my students need help with a math problem, they are usually redirected to Cosette for an explanation ;)
A complete country girl to the core, she loves working out in the yard or helping our cousins with their horses.

It was the first day in May. Mom had been at the hospital for several hours and her family of seven were waiting at home. Standing around a phone, they eagerly awaited the phone call that would introduce to them their new family member. 

Finally, the call came....It was a boy! Jonathon had finally gotten his wish.
Over the years, although there are 14 years between Austin and Jonathon, they have become best of buds. 

Going to Karate every Tuesday and Thursday, they also find ample opportunities to practice their Kenpo moves at home. Their sisters have become quite accustomed to the sound of yelling and banging coming from the workout room. 

Austin likes to find moments when his older brother can read more of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with him or watch what he calls more "manly" movies (war films ;)
At one time, Jonathon tried to teach him how to use a German long sword, and later they tried making their own swords.

Though there were a few minor "consequences" to growing up among seven sisters, Austin also found it had it's benefits :) He has a special relationship with each of his sisters.

They say that having a temper comes with being a redhead...this proved true in Austin's case when he was just a small little fellow. Jonathon would take him to the park to ride bikes. Austin hadn't quite mastered the art of rounding corners. When he'd start riding and come to a wall, instead of turning the bike, he'd throw out his arms and hit the wall going full speed. Immediately, he'd throw down his bike, and stomp away saying, "This is a stupid, stupid day" :)

Austin has a very dry sense of humor, and can say things with the straightest face, leaving his sisters doubled over with laughter. His humor has often been compared to that of Abbot and Costello (a show that he loves to watch with his little sister:)

Since he was small, Austin, like most boys had a variety of occupations that interested him. His conflict between becoming a soldier and pastor troubled him for sometime. A military chaplain would give him an opportunity to do both, he thought. He has an amazing brain for math and has considered taking the same path as his older brother in mechanical engineering. 

Austin is a very enthusiastic learner and very hard worker. His responsibilities around the farm include full care of the chickens, their daily feeding and collecting of the eggs. He has also taken charge of the garden, deciding what to plant for the year and then doing all of the labor :)

Austin entered his teen years on Monday. No longer a little man, he is competing in height with his older brother. His sisters have to do a double take now when they hear his voice to discern whether it is Dad or Austin talking. 

Here's a little video that Austin recently took part in with his little sister :)