Sunday, March 4, 2018

Winter Retreat 2018

They say that spontaneity is the best kind of adventure and that over-planning kills the magic.

It was brought to our attention over a dinner with friends that no winter retreat had been planned for the year 2018. A group of about 20 of us sat around the table and discussed the logistics of what it would take to pull off an event like that in the two remaining weeks of February.

We would need about 18 people to fill a cabin and cover the cost of the rental, three days of meals would need to be planned and supplies purchased for them, and our Pastor would need to prepare two messages for our evening studies. The planning would be a bit last minute, but we thought it would be worth the challenge. That night, Leisel, Kayleen and I gathered around Leisel's computer and wrote up an email to send out to the church.

The planning had begun. Slowly, everything came together. Fifteen people were able to take off of work and make this event happen. Big Bear Cabin was booked for the 26-28th of February and the winter retreat was on :)

Our plan was for everyone to meet up at the church parking lot, load up into three vehicles and head up to Government Camp. The morning began with five Spafford girls invading Kyle's Explorer with an overload of luggage and heading to Trinity Bible Church to meet up with everyone. We made a stop at Black Rock coffee early on in the trip to fuel up for the ride ;)

As we made our way to Mt. Hood, Will informed us that, starting from that moment, we were each going to be given winter themed nicknames and we would not be allowed to call anyone by any other name than those names. His name would be Avalanche, which was, in his opinion, by far the coolest of all the names. 

Joseph, David, Kyle, Aaron, Marlene, Michelle, Dillon, Annalise, Cosette, Lynnae, Leisel, and Kayleen became: Balto, Glacier, Blizzard, Icicle, Snowflake, Mittens, Clarence (without his wings), Polar, Arctic, Aurora, Sherpa (because of Leisel's roll in leading this entire retreat), and ice-ice (baby).
Will liked to think that some of these nicknames sounded rather like the names of American gladiators :)

The one name Will had really hoped no one would settle on was Snowflake because of its connotation with the millennialists of our generation: "the generation of people viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations". But when Marlene settled on that nickname, Will was impressed by how readily she embraced the implications of the name, carrying on with the "everyone is a winner" theme throughout the trip.

We were not able to check in at Big Bear cabin until 4 o'clock on Monday so we decided to spend the afternoon inner-tubing. We realized with humor what a struggle it is to get 15 people together on a plan for the day. Much of the first part of our day was spent driving back and forth through Government Camp undecided on what to do. 

The first necessary stop was at the local market to purchase some sunglasses to shield everyone's eyes from the blinding snow.

The snow was 4-5 feet deep and a bit slick on the road. Giant icicles lined about every roof in Government Camp. It was evident that the Lord had provided this snowfall especially for this little retreat.

Our next plan was to stop at the Taco Shoppe for lunch. Upon our arrival, we found that it was closed. We drove then to ski-bowl west to do some inner-tubing. Unfortunately, that too was closed. 

We finally headed back into town and hung out at a quaint little placed called Huckleberry Inn. The dear little waitress convinced us that we would like absolutely anything we ordered on the menu and then proceeded to serve us seconds on our bowls of soup.
After lunch, we headed to ski-bowl east and at last got to go sledding. Half of the group split up to go innertubing while the other half worked intently to build an igloo.

After an hour of inner-tubing, everyone was a little weary from, and decided to recline at the top of the hill in the snow. 
Meanwhile, back at the igloo, Will was giving instructions to his crew letting them know that they were not leaving till they had their convertible igloo turned into a proper roofed igloo. It came time for closing and we all headed to the cabin to move our stuff in, warm up and and get settled in for the night. Loads of food that looked like it had been bought for an army rather than a group of fifteen people was unloaded into the kitchen and the soups were put on the stove to heat up. Soon, everyone was unpacked, settled in, and the smell of fresh coffee permeated the cabin. 

The living room where the main center of activities happened filled up as people cozied up onto the couches. 

Unbeknownst to the boys, some of the girls had sneaked away during the unloading process to short-sheet their beds as a kind of welcoming token :)

Leisel decided to stick with the adventurous theme of this whole trip and forgot to pack both her wallet and her toothbrush, a fact her sisters would not easily let her live down. Marlene, Leisel and I headed back into town to find a convenience store that would still be open at ten o'clock at night. Finding that the closest store was closed, Marlene popped her head into the Ratskeller pub to ask where the best place would be to find a toothbrush. It just so happened that we were re-directed back to Huckleberry Inn :)

It was all a very splendid spontaneous evening walk, even though it had a rather comical purpose.  We were in awe of the twinkling stars above us, and enjoyed the pure white snow all around us in contrast to the night sky. It was too good a walk not to share it with the others. So we headed back to the cabin, collected as many members as we could, and headed back through town.

We wound down that night with couch games, beginning with catch phrase, playing a round of empire, and an endless game of four on the couch, boys against girls. I like to think that a little cheating played a part in the boys winning the victory, but I may be a bit biased ;) We all decided to head to bed at 2:30. 
We became strangers to sleep throughout those three days not wanting to miss a single moment together.

Will delivered two convicting messages in those two days on the mortification of sin in our lives: what that looks like, and how to go about it. We were each given cards with Romans 8:12-13 printed on them to memorize. 

Day two...five hours of sleep and everyone still seemed pretty energetic :) Perhaps we were running on adrenaline...maybe caffeine ;)
The group of early risers took a morning walk to enjoy the fresh snowfall and to wait for the rest of the group to rise. When we reached town, we were joined by the two new members of our group, Raina and Betty Bosch.
From then on, they were dubbed Snowna and Elsa.

Marlene and I discovered a quaint little cabin on our walk called "snowflake challet" :)

We had a leisurely breakfast, keeping no set schedule during the trip :) Will informed everyone at the table that anyone still calling people by their real names would now be charged a nickel :) As soon as everyone was finished, we switched gears and laid out all of the lunch supplies so that we might prepare our lunches for the day's hike. Everyone fit in three cars and we set off for Trillium Lake. 
We had planned to make the whole 1.9 loop around the lake, but we only made it a little ways down the pathway when we decided to turn aside and construct a full size igloo, finally completing Will's dream project. It took a total of four hours to complete a full six foot roofed igloo that could hold 13 people :)

Dillon, (a.k.a. Clarence), worked solo on his own little project, constructing a life size snow sculpture of a body builder. It took careful sculpting before the hand of the artist was ready to call his masterpiece complete. When he turned around, there was an almost completed igloo behind his snowman. David was rolling big wheels of snow to complete the sides of the igloo and Will was giving directions as to the angles each snow block should lean. Kayleen, Joseph and Kyle were crammed inside the igloo enforcing the walls as it went up around them. Will gave careful instructions on how they should handle themselves in the event of an avalanche. His humor never wavered or ceased to amuse us the entire trip.

The igloo was finally complete and we were able to get a picture with everyone crammed inside. Little Pedro, the snowman body builder, stood on the outskirts guarding our snow structure.
A two team snowball fight followed directly afterwards, although it was a little difficult to navigate through the 4-5 feet of snow and form the powdery snow into effective snowballs.
We returned to the cabin and wound down with a violent game of spoons waiting for the lasagnas to heat up.

Wednesday morning we had our last devotional together, everyone sitting around on the couches in the main room. We were now only surviving off of 4 hours of sleep having gone to bed at 3 and risen at 7 that morning. We took one more morning walk taking the path to ski-bowl and taking a group photo.
Part of the group decided to take a car to Timberline Lodge for the afternoon while the other half of the group stayed back to chill-ax at the cabin. We started out with a slow game of code names. But it didn't take long before we were ready to switch to sardines. Finding places for full-grown adults to hide might sound like a bit of a problem in such a little cabin, but people got quite creative. The first person hid inside the dryer...other hid in linen cupboards, coolers, and underneath beds.

We took a break from the games to cook up some grilled cheese sandwiches and say goodbye to Kyle who needed to head back early that day for work. 

After a few games of ninja, the party had come back from Timberline and were ready to pack up the cabin and head to Calamity Jane's for one last hurrah!

The house cleared out and looked quite empty. It was hard thinking of leaving and returning to normal life after such special times together. There is something about the atmosphere of the Winter Retreat that allows everybody to get to know each other in a closer way then when you just see each other every Sunday at church. We sat around on the couches one last time and each of us gave a special memory that had stood out to us on this trip.

This trip to Mt. Hood topped them all! It was an unbeatable year with an unbeatable group of friends.
Those three days are always a time of special fellowship, being fed by the Word, sharpened by each other, and encouraged by the blessings that the Lord continually bestows upon us throughout the trip! Its amazing to me to see  how 15 people can come together under one roof and be in such harmony....a blessing that can only be explained because of the fellowship that we enjoy with one another in Jesus Christ.

Blest be the tie that binds 
our hearts in Christian love; 

the fellowship of kindred minds 

is like to that above. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hockinson Update

Both of our traveling gentlemen are back from their business trips and almost fully recovered from the jet lag that usually accompanies such travels.
Unfortunately, this year's nasty flu bug did not completely pass our family by. Everybody, except for Dad and I, came down with some form of the flu or other cold symptoms. I think at last we are on the mend and back into a normal groove again :)

January 7th, Annalise turned 16, a rather big milestone for her as she finally got to get her ears pierced. During an outing to the mall with mom and her siblings, they made their way to Pagoda and sat Annie down in a chair. Annie felt both excited and a bit in the spotlight, sitting in the middle of the mall, with her siblings all surrounding her :)

It always takes a little bit of work to get the kiddos back on routine after a full two weeks off of school at Christmas time. Mom and I had to find a little bit of incentive for them to get back on track. Creating a list of daily goals for each of the students to complete, we gave them an end date. If they could complete each of the day's responsibilities for two whole weeks, they would be rewarded by taking a trip to the Fort Vancouver Library for the big book sale...a favorite among the kiddos :)
 They each mastered the goal, and the following Thursday, I took the three littles book shopping. Ania managed to increase her already large collection of Mark Twain novels, Austin added to his list of military books and Annalise discovered a few classics among the piles of books. We ended the little outing with a stop at Fairway Coffee.

While studying government  last year with Annalise, Austin, and Ania, we were learning about how a bill is passed in Congress. In the process of trying to teach the concept, I suggested they try writing up their own "bill" and presenting it in "Congress". They came to me with a proposal, requesting a half hour of recess every day before lunch. From then on, it was instated that Annalise, Austin and Ania receive a half hour of recess at 11:30 every day.
At Christmas time, Grandpa purchased a basketball hoop for Austin. That has become the new rage for the littles. Each time 11:30 rolls around, the garage becomes alive with the sound of bouncing balls and laughing kiddos.

Austin has been proudly carrying around one of his latest purchases, a book on famous articles of the United States of America. He enjoys taking his government studies further in school. When a lesson touches on a subject like, the Mayflower Compact, the articles of confederation, or the Declaration of Independence, Austin takes out his book and reads through the papers coming to me later about the new things he has learned from them.

Early this year, Mom signed the three littles up at the YMCA for weekly swim lessons. Since they began these, it has made our weeks a little crazier than normal. Mom and I bring them for their lessons on Wednesday and usually try to fit in one extra day of practice with them. Austin is already proving himself to be a very strong swimmer and is working on building up his lung capacity now. He's finding that the Navy Seal workouts he is used to doing did not prepare his lungs for the swimming.

Kayleen is now a well established classified sub at the Hockonson school. Her favorite area to work in so far has been at the high school.
Kayleen eventually got a sub job at the middle school where Leisel works. Many people have noted the similarity in looks between Kayleen and Leisel, sometimes mistaking them as twins. They decided to have a little fun the first day Kayleen worked there, confusing some of the students. Kayleen went up and talked with the kids as if she knew them, asking them about their day and why they hadn't visited her in the office. Later that day, they ran into Leisel sitting at her desk, and were extremely confused as to whom they had been talking to earlier.

Charae and I kiddingly noted that we feel a little like outsiders in our own home hearing all of these unfamiliar names thrown around, and different school experiences while we sit there unable to get involved in any of the conversation :) It feels like Leisel, Kayleen, and Cosette have their own little Hockinson School community club :)

Some dear Korean friends
Charae is now looking at her last few days at home before she heads off to South Korea for a year. Although she has long been anticipating it and working toward this goal for three years, as the time gets closer, it has been harder for Charae thinking of leaving everything she has known up until now and heading for the unknown.
She does have a visit from two of her siblings to look forward to in July. They will be staying in her mini studio apartment for three weeks. Charae warned them that they may have to sleep sitting up due to a lack of space, but they will be having too much fun to care ;) 

I can't believe how beautiful the weather has been lately. It was just beginning to give us a taste for spring before it began snowing. With the weather being as it is, and the schools getting canceled, we've gotten to spend some extra sister time with Charae this week in the last few days before she leaves.
Valentines gift from my three precious students!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Memories From Last Year

Last year, on May 14 through the 21st, Mom and Dad went on a seven day Alaskan cruise on the Noordam. I had promised after that trip to make a slideshow for them condensing their memories of over 1,000 pictures into a mini slideshow :) As the summer got busier, that never came to pass. Finally, when Dad left on a two week trip to Singapore, I figured it was time to fulfill that promise, and give Dad a little video of memories while he was away from home! 

We're on the countdown till he gets home...It's now only 6 days, 8 hours, and 10 minutes till we all head to the airport :) ...and we can hardly wait :)


Friday, December 29, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Christmas break began for everyone on December 15th when everyone returned home from work and logged off for two weeks. 

It was time to relax and reconnect...
The list of Christmas traditions began...

The week after decorating the house, Jonathon, Austin and Dad headed to Glenwood Tree Farm, as has been tradition these 13 years, to pick out the prettiest tree in the lot. Mom seems to comment every Christmas that the tree gets prettier every year. We all agreed that this 13 foot Douglas Fir truly was the prettiest one yet. 

The smell of Christmas baking filled the home, as all kinds of goodies were prepared and then stuffed into colorful Christmas tins. Nat King Cole sang Chestnut's Roasting On An Open Fire and Bing Crosby made us dream that maybe this year we'd have a white Christmas. 

We were enjoying having everyone home and being on the same schedule. Sometimes there was nowhere to go and nothing to do. Dad had time to work in his shop and we took our mornings very leisurely, sipping cups of coffee on the couch and chit chatting with each other.

Austin was very eager to make up for some long lost brother time. He and Jonathon planned out several workout routines to do with one another, going on early morning jogs, singing military chants all the way. The next morning, Austin suffered the consequences of such an intense workout and made it well known to the entire household as he stiffly stumbled around the home bemoaning his sore state.

Jonathon also made up for missing a very special October birthday by taking Ania out to La Botega for Dinner. It was decided upon that they would make it formal dining to fully enjoy the experience of the five course dinner. Jonathon found that his date had very expensive tastes, and he enjoyed completely spoiling her that night. The meal began with bread and dip and potato leek soup. She enjoyed two serving of Raspberry Italian soda and selected veal and rice as her main dish. They finished the meal with two generous scoops of gelato ice cream. 

We wanted to make these two weeks both relaxing and productive so that not all our days would be spent in fun and games :) Dad's den got a deep cleaning and the garge got reorganized. The family newsletter was written up and sent out to a list of 100 people.

There were multiple Christmas events that we wanted to attend like the annual Christmas concert put on by Word of Grace and Hillcrest Bible Church's Christmas service. Mom, along with four other ladies gave their testimonies at this year's Lady's Christmas party. 

Celebrating Kayleen's 21st birthday
We took two Saturdays to carol to the shut-ins. It is a little exhausting going to five different homes singing in one day, but the encouragement that it brings to the people makes it all worth the effort. It is a blessing to be able to bring the joy of Christmas to these people and to share the story of the Lord Jesus Christ with those who have never heard it before.

We hosted the annual Christmas party in our home once again this year. We weren't sure how comfortably we would be able to house twenty-four extra people, but when the last couple arrived at our home, we had a very cozy gathering; the perfect size for a Christmas party.

Dad took the family to visit the Pittock Mansion while it was still decked for the holiday. It felt like the kind of thing you should dress up for being in such an elegant home, so we all dressed in our Sunday best and toured the mansion. 
The Columbia boat lighted parade was another one of those holiday events that kind of set the mood for Christmas. 

One day was set aside for browsing downtown Vancouver's antique shops. 

There was one item in particular that caught my eye in one of the shops...only it was $100 too expensive for my pocket book ;)
We stopped an hour into our shopping for a lunch at Thai Orchid and finished off the shopping with an ice cream at Renaissance. 

We took another day to help mom find some last minute stocking stuffers for the boys, as they are always the hardest to buy for.

Sending care packages to our soldiers in Kuwait

The kiddos and I got our care packages sent out in hopes of them reaching our troops in Kuwait by Christmas. We were excited to find some further resources for future care packages. Starkist Tuna and Hersheys both provide free packages of food and supplies for our troops if you supply them with the name of a soldier.

As always, time just flies by and before we knew it, Christmas was upon us. It was time to sit down and watch George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and take our first sip of eggnog. 

Sam joined us for our Christmas Eve celebration. Even with the sky spitting snow, and the roads beginning to ice over, Dad and Mom were able to make it to his home to pick him up. That night, he presented to mom a tablecloth that his mother had sewed for her and shipped from Japan as well as a matching dish set that Sam had initiated all of us pooling together to buy.

We did have a white Christmas indeed. We were unsure of whether the snow would last till morning, but sure enough, when everyone woke up on Christmas day, the entire neighborhood was still dusted with a light covering of snow.

Things are not all as they used to be growing up when we kids tried to see how early we could rise Christmas morning to open gifts. Instead, we all kept to Christmas break hours and slept in till 9:00.

Everyone waited at the top of the stairs for the stockings stuffers to be set out on the couch before filing down and finding a place on the floor to sit. Dad read Luke 2 to everybody as a reminder of what we are really celebrating Christmas Day. Everyone was forced to take a break after stockings to eat breakfast before eagerly digging into the gifts under the tree. 

Jonathon and Austin, as is tradition, handed out the gifts to everybody till the underneath of the tree was completely empty. The little one's eyes got a little bit bigger each time a gift tag was read out with their name on it. 

Then it began, the great commotion as Ania tore through her first gift. And then it went on from youngest to oldest. Mom tried to retain some order in the room by collecting all the wrapping paper into black plastic bags as we went along. 

The rest of the day was taken at a leisurely pace. We managed to have dinner by 5:30 and we got to use mom's new dishes for an extra formal dining. 

Dad had the honor of carving the turkey...when he was through with it, Jonathon took over to rescue another platter full of meat from the meaty carcass :)