Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Home for the Holidays!

The weather predictions were forecasting snow and there were certain members of the family that were praying very hard that they would be right! The temperatures began dropping causing the precipitation to turn to snow. There were no complaints when Leisel's school got canceled and Dad and Jonathon had to stay home from work due to icy road conditions. They even got a breakfast out of the deal.


By Sunday, the roads were quite clear and it seemed that we would have no trouble making it to church. The trouble began afterwards when we were supposed to take a meal to some friends up the Washougal River road. It is a little colder where they live, and our 15-passenger van didn't take well to their icy driveway and steep incline. We it began sliding back and landed in a small ditch, Dad directed everybody out of the car. We awaited the arrival of a tow truck that would be available to tow our van out on a Sunday afternoon. 


Our annual Christmas party was the center of all of our activity that first week in December. Three days before, the house was cleaned from top to bottom. Mom worked at making  170 dinner rolls and the rest of us worked at making five different desserts and four hearty soups. Mom can attest to the fact that mixing 50 cups of flour into dough is no easy task. 

When the guests began to arrive at 6:30 Friday night, we all relaxed in the company of dear friends. 




Dad fit in our third school field trip into the busyness of the Christmas rush. Early on a Saturday morning, we made our way into downtown Portland to visit Powell's bookstore. Each student was given some money to spend on any book that they chose. Austin could hardly limit himself with all of the military history books available there. And of course Annie and Ania found their knack in the Charles Dickens section of the store.
The trip ended with a most satisfactory meal at Pieology for some custom pizzas.


We got to experience what Leisel called "Christmas caroling at it's finest"...the snow had left a nice layer on the ground and the chilly air made everybody bundle up just a little bit extra that day. We'd learned from our past mistakes not to try driving the van up icy hills. Instead, we would get out and trudge through the snow on foot before making it to the different nursing homes :)


Sunday the 12th, Hillcrest Bible Church held a Christmas service. Some people played special music,  and throughout the evening, different scripture passages were read as well as the singing of a number of carols. Dessert following the service brought with it a wonderful evening of Christian fellowship.


With the threat of more snow, we weren't sure whether the weather would hold out long enough for us to make it to the showing of Polar Express at the Imax. Though the weather outside was biting cold, we enjoyed a lovely time at the Theater. 


Our traditional baking was carried out in the usual manner: everybody divided into teams, piled into the kitchen, and began the baking process. Whether or not there was much taste testing done that night, I cannot say.




Grandma and Grandpa were scheduled to arrive on Wednesday evening, only a few days before Christmas. Their plane took off on time, and even made it to the Portland airport, but due to the heavy fog, they were unable to land. The pilot made the decision to circle around and fly back. The next day, Grandma and Grandpa had to make the choice whether or not they wanted to venture out again. A few persuasive calls and texts from their grandchildren eventually did the trick and they made it safely Thursday evening.


Christmas Day we were to celebrate Christmas in the best possible way... in the house of God and with His people. Pastor Will had prepared a Christmas message for our gathering together Christmas morning. After we arrived home, it wasn't long before everyone had piled into the living room. The long process of stockings and presents commenced with many squeals and "thank-yous" from everybody.


Mom and Dad's gift was saved till last. In the first box, there were hats and scarves for both of them, They were made in the wonderful land of Ireland. The next gift was an Alaskan calendar. Everything was going according to Jonathon's meticulous planning, even down to  the brochure falling out from the calendar pages.  Mom and Dad were shocked. Come May, Dad and Mom will be headed off on an Alaskan cruise.


Austin had set aside 10 dozen eggs for our Christmas eggnog (even though it only takes 21/2 dozen) with a sign in front of them warning people not to use them. Along with the delicious eggnog, we enjoyed a fantastic Christmas meal. Although the baker of the Christmas pies was given a most terrible time when it was discovered that she had left the sugar out of the pumpkin pie.

Some of us had been long awaiting a trip to Aurora, Oregon. It is a small historic town containing 17 antique shops.  We only made it through 8 that day. Of course, antique shopping would not have been Dad's ideal picture of a perfect day, but he happily took his family and made it an all-around special day. The shops were still fully decked for the holidays and Christmas music was playing in every shop.



Most of us walked away without purchasing anything that day. But there were certain members of the family that added a great deal to their antique collections. Austin rejoiced at finding a WWII backpack that he declared was "the only one in the family that had seen D-Day". Jonathon finally found some records that would play in his 1912 phonograph! A collection of Charles Dickens books was found to be too irresistible a deal to pass up. 


We ended our little excursion at a delicious little bakery to satisfy the coffee cravings the travelers had been experiencing all that day.



We all felt like this was a rather productive Christmas break. Dad had a chance to make more progress in his shop. The promise of seven hope chests began to materialize as a load of 75 cherry boards were picked up and loaded into the shop.



We began the garden prep for summer. Leisel and I made a trip to the International Coffee Roasters of Portland to salvage a truck load of burlap from the dump. There was something about working out in the crisp winter air, keeping warm by taking loads of bark chips back and forth to the garden that felt just perfect!

We never did get our white Christmas. But something about this year felt extra special. There was something about the snow on the ground the days leading up to Christmas that made things feel more like Christmas. Each evening we curled up on the couch for an episode of Bleak House and a healthy portion of dessert. We stayed up till one in the morning practically wearing out Kayleen's new game of Avalon. We also enjoyed a  sporadic trip to downtown Camas to window shop and a visit to the Vancouver Mall to enjoy the Christmas decorations.
Candles and cider always provided the perfect atmosphere for a night at home. 
We all look forward to seeing what the Lord has for us in this new year and pray that the celebration of Christmas continues everyday of 2017!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Thirty-Eight For Thanksgiving

 I am not going to ramble on with excuses like bloggers often  do about how busy 1,800 pounds of apples kept mom and me  for a week in October; or about how a couple of unplanned visits to the ER (along with a visit from the firemen to the Spafford household) threw a hitch in the following week's plans; nor will I mention how a two week trip to Redding was necessary in order to prep Grandma for having 38 people in her house for Thanksgiving. Instead, I shall try to pleasantly relay to you the events of our Thanksgiving time and the days after that when we immediately switched gears to Christmas festivities.




As is customary, two Spafford girls were sent down to Redding, California on the train, two weeks before Thanksgiving so that they might, by all possible means, help Grandma prepare to host 38 people in her home. Their responsibilities were as follows: Keep Grandma calm and Grandpa under control ;)




Though they were there to work, there was plenty of time to play as well. There were shopping trips to the mall with Grandma, rides in Grandpa's Model  A, lunch with an Aunt at Cheesecakes and a date out with Grandpa for sushi.




Then came Monday and it was all business from there! There was so much to do and so little time to do it in. There were lists to be written and rewritten, there was grocery shopping to be done, and then done again to pick up the groceries that we missed. The house needed cleaning, the fridge clearing out, and the list went on. 




On Tuesday, we finished up last minute duties to prepare for the rest of our family's arrival, which was supposed to be later that day ; however, due to heavy traffic along the way, they didn't arrive until 2:00 A.M. the following morning. Grandma's once-clean house finally became invaded by the rest of the Spafford household. Her peaceful home would not know another moment of quiet until our departure the following Sunday.




Thanksgiving day arrived, and it went off more smoothly then ever before. The turkey had been precooked that Wednesday, and everyone contributed something to the feast. There were several very happy announcements made that day of new additions to the family.

 Grandma's house was fully decked for the Christmas Season, and it was now time to go home and do our own. Mom had packed all of our Christmas albums so that we could play them during our seven hour car trip home. Everybody was so ready to get into the Christmas spirit that as soon as we arrived at six in the evening that Sunday, we prepared to decorate. Boxes were brought up and the house became decked for the season. 


Now begins the 20 day countdown until Christmas! The best part is always in the days leading up till Christmas. There are so many traditions on the Spafford list that there are hardly enough days to do them all in.



The tone around the home feels just a little more jolly then normal. The house smells of pine needles and freshly baked goodies. Each song that is played has a Christmas ring to it. The mail lady pays frequent visits to our home delivering endless amounts of packages...Let the traditions begin!

The December schedule soon fills up! There is the annual Christmas party at our home, the lady's fellowship with our church, and caroling to the shut-ins. The boys have picked out a full and luscious tree that now sits waiting to be decorated. The gingerbread home was artfully put together while we watched Charlie Brown films. There is always a long list of holiday movies that seem to put everyone in the Christmas mood: Holiday Inn, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and many more. This year we added  "The Polar Express" at the IMAX theater to the Spafford's list of traditions.



School projects around this special season consist of reading through Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", a gift-exchange shopping trip to Walmart, Christmas card writing, and baking goody-plates for the neighbors.



As the old song goes, "there is no place like home for the holidays"...