Thursday, August 17, 2017

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like School Time

For the past 23 years, the little nook in our kitchen has sufficed as our school room during the day, until dinner time when it was frantically converted back into a dining room before Dad's return in the evening.

 The teacher's seat was always at the head of the table with the students sitting around her. Every day, stacks of schools books were removed from the cupboards and piled high on the table and half finished projects spread out on the floor.

Sometimes it was hard to find enough wall space to display all of the creative projects and activities in progress. After mom purchased two large wall maps for school, we realized we were short on wall space to hang them. We decided it was time to move the school room to a larger area. There had been talk of turning the upstairs bonus room into a workout room, a game room or a theater, but instead, the space was utilized to accommodate our new school room.
 It took a table, a desk and some chairs before the room finally started to come together. 

For Austin and Ania, the new and improved surroundings would make the first few months of school all the more exciting.
But for one student in particular the idea of a schoolroom, secluded from all of the household commotion and deliciously distracting conversations that occur throughout the day, it was not quite as thrilling an idea.

Her tendency to get easily distracted was, in fact, a good part of the reason that her two teachers had hoped to move the center of the schooling to the upstairs.

It was exciting, the idea of devoting an entire room to school supplies and activities. To have a place to display geography map's and historical hang the kiddos creative poster boards and the teachers whiteboard filled with all of their due projects.

One day, I discovered that Ania had already gotten a hold of the marker to the whiteboard and, with anticipation of the upcoming school year, she had written, "Back to School" in big, bold letters.

It was only two weeks before school began. There was still one big event to anticipate before the beginning of the school year. It was the kiddos first time of attending the Clark county fair. They didn't want to miss a single ride that day, so we made a point of getting there in plenty of good time!

To make the experience extra authentic, mom bought the kids a bag of cotton candy.

I think it did surprise us a little when Austin came off "Freak Out" literally freaked out 😊 He wasn't quite sure if he wanted his littlest sister going on the ride.  

That night, Mom and Dad set up the tent in the backyard, staged three sleeping bags inside and laid out three flashlights for the three little to spend the night outside. 

Austin has become quite adventuresome with his culinary skills lately. Thursday night has traditionally been family night for as long as I can remember. But with everyone's busy schedules, it's sometimes hard to preserve that time. Austin decided that he would ensure that it happened by making dinner every Thursday and having it ready by six o'clock.

I informed him last Thursday that we were going to make omelets and rolls together for family night.  We made the omlets together. But the rolls he made completely by himself...his first shot at using yeast in a recipe 😊 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Family Stay-cation

The Spafford family did not take their 5th annual trip to Mt. Rainier this year. They had planned on it from the beginning of the year when Dad made the reservations at the Ohanapecosh campsite. But as the time got closer, it seemed we kept running into obstacles; it felt like we might be pushing it a little too hard to make things work. We held a family counsel in which it was decided that we would stay back and have a family stay-cation over the weekend...

Charae best put it..."Acknowledging the fact that the Spafford family has been blessed with an impeccably delightful vacation and an opportunity to celebrate a family wedding in California and owing to the fact that duty and honor call us to take care of responsibilities here at home, the aforesaid Spafford family have determined to remain home instead of making the traditional trek to Mount Rainier and instead to enjoy the comforts of the home and the beauties of the surrounding area where we are so blessed to live."

Our goal over these next three days were to give Dad as much opportunity as we could for him to work in his shop knocking off projects that have been building up for months. Our second objective was to do something special together as a family each day.

In line with what Dad has done for every one of our vacations, we girls put together a brochure with our plans for the weekend...

Day Number one: our vacation started Thursday morning with a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Dad was going to work outside with Jonathon putting up shades on his den windows. We girls decided that we would get dressed up and head over to officer's row for a photo shoot. It was an extremely warm day for such an excursion and I am afraid that we all looked a little wilted by the end of it :) But it gave Kayleen some practice with her camera, and an excuse for the rest of us to dress up and have fun :)

That evening, we packed up a picnic lunch, loaded up some kayaks and headed to Battle Ground lake. It was a race to see who finished their meal first and claimed the first trip in the kayaks. The rest of the group waded in the water waiting their turn.

The lake water was surprisingly warm and comfortable for swimming. Austin practiced laps back and forth from the shore to the middle of the lake. When it was noted that Ania's swimming techniques didn't go beyond the doggy paddle, Mom and Dad made a note that swimming lessons were a requirement for this fall.

The next day, we had a hurried breakfast of waffles and sausage. Dad had found a hike in the gorge, Oneonta Falls, that he wanted to try. It was only 1/2 mile in, but what made it so spectacular was that you waded through water most of the way, crawling over rocks and logs. 

At the very end, there was a beautiful waterfall in which we swam around for while. The water was cold at first, but once the kiddos had become acclimated, they swam around like fish :) 

Around evening time, we watched Sense and Sensibility as a family. Usually our first choice for a family cinema is a good familiar BBC classic :)

With the weather being as hot as it was that week, we weren't sure whether it would be conducive for a fire roast that evening. But a determined little Austin set up all of our camping chairs and dug a hole in the middle of our pit. With the little wood that we had stored away in the garage, he built a fire big enough to roast sausage links and kept it going so that we could roast marshmallows for s'mores.

It was the first time that we had used the fire pit in the seven years since we have lived at this address. We sat around the fire discussing fall plans for sitting out there with bowls of chilly and mugs of cider! I think that now that we've discovered the delights of a campfire in the backyard, it will be quite the popular place for meals now :)

We wanted Dad to have another full day in his shop on Saturday, so we took the kids and went bowling at Big Al's. A lot of us discovered that we had no talent with the bowling ball. Others who were there for the first time took the lead with their scores! Kayleen came in first with her team of four and Cosette stole the victory over her two older sisters. Charae commented that when she stopped trying to throw the bowling ball like a professional bowler, she found her aim was a lot more accurate ;)

Some of us kids had pooled together to purchase a karaoke stand. Saturday after bowling seemed like the perfect time to try it out. Everyone picked out their favorite songs, and each went up to demonstrate their "talent". Ania and Leisel stole the show with "Part of Your World". Kayleen and Cosette followed with a duet of "Falling Slowly". When Charae made her debut, she sang most of her selections in Korean :) 

Dad and Jonathon had made a lot of progress on the cupboard that they had been working on. We didn't want to stop their momentum, so we didn't leave for the Columbia till seven. It was just in time to catch the most magnificent sunset. Our table was situated perfectly with a view of the Columbia River before us.

When dinner was over, we made the 20 minute walk to Renaissance ice cream for a couple scoops of our favorite flavors.

It was of the Lord that we had that time at home. With all that has been going on lately, it was nice to just stick around the area and not really have much to do. It was good for Jonathon as well to have that time to prepare before he left...

Last picture taken with Jonathon before he left on his trip
Jonathon boarded a plane Sunday afternoon for a three month business trip in Malaysia. 
For those of you interested in keeping up with him, he has started an Instagram account:
As for my part, he has requested that I keep him up to date with snippets from home every week. Ambitious, I know ;) But I'd like to try. This is post #1 ;)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Memories at Manzanita

It didn't matter that we weren't leaving for the beach until six in the evening. We were just happy to be leaving on Friday, two days earlier then we had originally planned. We were packed snugly into a fifteen passenger van, utilizing every spare inch for all that we would need for a week of fun at the beach. As we drew nearer to our destination and the anticipation grew greater, everyone looked around for familiar landmarks. Someone sighted Haystack Rock and there was a debate in the car as to who saw it first. Our first glimpse of the ocean was just as the sun was beginning to set. Kayleen sat beside Leisel and me chatting excitedly for the last hour of the trip, sharing her exuberance with everyone in the back seat. We passed the 8 mile marker and before we knew it, we were parked outside the B's Nest.

How is it that a place can feel so much like home? A little cabin not far from the beach. You can see the beach from the front yard and at nighttime, hear the rushing of the ocean from the bedroom windows.

Mom, Jonathon and Charae set about instantly to make clam chowder. It was ready in time for a 10:30 dinner. Everyone else set up the beds and unpacked the groceries, stuffing loads of goodies into kitchen cupboards. We discovered that Austin had done the only manly thing a guy can do when he packs for himself...he had forgotten his toothbrush. Dad took Austin into town to purchase one. They came back boasting that they had been the first in the family to walk to the beach.
Dinner was preceded by the ritual passing around of our beach brochure. Dad and Mom had planned the schedule for that week with the right amount of fun and games and the perfect amount of relaxation. Every tradition was on the list: taking a picture by Haystack Rock, breakfast at Wayfarer, and multiple trips to Astoria.

No one is very eager to rise that first morning of vacation. There's nothing more appealing when you escape to the beach for a week then to just relax around the cabin and walk the beach during the day. We have come to the unanimous agreement that cabin days are our favorite ways to spend our time.
Being the first one up in the morning, I was charged with the not so easy task of waking everyone who wanted to go to the coffee shop. Everyone has their specific times that they want to be woken. Some people require a second round and others a third before they finally wake up. An hour later, everyone was finally ready to go and we headed to Bread and Ocean Coffee and Bakery.
We took the path along the beach on the way home and set about to prepare a breakfast for the family.

Ah, that day of first times: the first morning at Bread and Ocean, that first walk on the beach, that first family cinema in the evening...our vacation had begun.

With his growing interest in the Navy Seals, Austin had ambitions of doing the sugar cookie one of the days while we were at the beach. Something about sitting in the water getting wet and then rolling in the sand afterwards and running four miles seemed like the "cool" thing to do.

After walking for a bit beside the ocean, we headed back through town for a milkshake. Cones and Candy had finally opened back up again after being severely damaged by the tornado in October.
As has been tradition in the past, each evening, Dad took one of his kids out for a coffee to talk and walk the beach together. It was Kayleen's turn that day.

I thought that night, the most pleasant sound to go to bed to must be the sound of happy talking and whispering as everyone gets ready for bed.

The next day, after attending the church service at Calvary Bible church, we took the 45 minute drive to Astoria for the Sunday Farmer's market. Before we strolled through the crowded streets to view the different vendors, we headed for the food court. Everyone checked out the different food vendors and decided what sounded good for lunch. When we had all finished, the next tradition was to purchase kettle corn from our favorite stand. 

A rather sudden change to our plans occurred early Monday morning at four when Annie woke up with the flu. Leisel and I jolted up in bed and mom came upstairs soon afterwards. Within half hour, Jonathon and Ania were the only Spafford's who had not woken up. Caring for Annie had become a family affair. Austin peeked his drowsy head from beneath the covers and speculated that this could be a minor case of food poisoning; it seemed like more of an effort to console his own mind then ours :)

We finally all made it back to bed and a sick Annie attempted to go back to sleep. Morning didn't come for everyone till eight o'clock, which made it a bit of a later trip to the coffee shop. Austin and Ania joined us for coffee that morning and we convinced Dad to come along too. Mom and Charae stayed home to care for Annie. We enjoyed our various coffees and juices sitting on a log looking out on the beach. I remember mentioning that it would be so pleasant to come home to a breakfast, and sure enough, Charae had breakfast ready for us when we came back. We enjoyed a leisurely meal together minus one member of our family who slept in the upstairs bedroom too sick to rise. Everyone was discussing various modes of flu prevention at the breakfast table, downing teaspoons of cider vinegar and vitamin C packets. Austin had made a stop at the Little Apple that morning to pick up some peppermint tea for Annalise.

Later that day, mom stayed back to make ice cream while the rest of us went into town to do some window shopping. We couldn't pass up getting a single scoop of ice cream after taking in the scent of waffle cones wafting through the window of Schweitert's ice-cream.
 Later that day, we relaxed on the porch reading a round of Agatha Christie's "A Murder is Announced". The book was passed around the group, each person voicing the different characters in the story.
Four o'clock on the dot, the reading stopped for a very important call. Marzano's pizza had just opened and we were the first to call in an order for four large and two mini gluten free pizzas. Annie was not well enough to eat any of it but she joined us as we ate out on the porch. As the weather was just so sunny and perfect still, the 6 older kids and Mom and Dad took a quick walk to enjoy the beach at evening time and take in the sight of the sun setting over the ocean. The ocean felt like such a familiar sight to Leisel and me who had been out sailing on it two weeks earlier.

Annie was finally back to feeling herself. Mom had made her drink a cup of Austin's peppermint tea the night before and she felt well enough to join our cinema that night of"Magic of Ordinary Days". We waited on pins and needles for someone else to fall ill. Austin felt psychologically sick at times, fearing that he too was coming down with the flu. We were all feeling like we might be able to go through with our original plan to go to Wayfarer the next morning when Ania informed us Monday night that she had suddenly become nauseous. We put our caravan to Canon Beach on hold.
But the next morning, I got up and found Ania as chipper as ever!
Our plans were back on! 
We had the most amazing breakfast at Wayfarer, compliments of Jonathon ☺
We also did some in town browsing and were able to visit the original home of Sleepy Monk Coffee. Charae purchased a bag of our favorite Monastery blend for the family :)

Back at the cabin, everyone sat reading their various books, our favorite "beach" music playing in the background ...I was finding the story of Les Miserable to be quite intriguing, while Ania gave us updates on the progress she was making in Oliver Twist. Charae was reading through her second Agatha Christie.  Austin, a most dedicated student determined at the beginning of the summer that he was going to work a year ahead in Math. When he told Mom that he was going to bring it to the beach, she wasn't sure whether he would ever actually do it. He surprised both of us by his dedication. On several occasions while everyone else was reading, he took out his book and worked through Algebra lessons. Annie, who can never stay focused on one thing for very long, rattled on about various random subjects that came to her mind. Some people enjoyed reading on the beach....though it usually turned into a nap in the sand 😊

....We later concluded that Annie's flu was the result of a reaction to milk. (A bowl of creamy clam chowder and a 20 oz milkshake can have that effect on you when you haven't had milk for months 😊)

Several members of our family were convinced that rising at the crazy hour of 4:45 would be the perfect opportunity to watch the sunrise. The report that we got from them when they returned made the rest of us glad that we had staid back in our warm beds. The sun didn't rise till 6:30 and they sat freezing on a log for almost two hours. We made a trip to Nehalem that day and visited two antique stores. Jonathon came away with a 1950 typewriter and two cast iron pans to add to his collection.
We stopped at Buttercup for some burnt chocolate homemade ice cream. Ania got a free second scoop after her first scoop decorated the pavement. We decided to stop and see Frants (our Danish friend from last year) on the way back. It was definitely of the Lord, as he was in the process of moving.
 Austin, who had been waiting all day for it to get cold enough for a fire, began stacking wood in the furnace. The water for tea started boiling and everyone slowly gathered into the main room to begin our evening. Our cinema series for this trip was "Our Mutual Friend".

Rain...waking up to precipitation on the ground gives such a cozy atmosphere to being at the beach. It makes a mug of sleepy monk coffee all the more inviting and sitting and reading in the cabin a cozy choice for the day. We went to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck at the the Fort Steven's State Park. The ship was washed ashore in 1906 and became permanently embedded in the sand. Near by was the Battery Russel, another interesting historical sight. 

It was Austin's turn to spend time with Dad that day. Austin had wanted to bike the length of the beach which ends at the Manhattan Jetty, so Dad had rented two fat tire bikes. When they were finished with their bike ride, Jonathon decided to take me for a ride. He didn't tell me beforehand though that the "purpose" of this trip was to compete with Austin and Dad... I let him know that he had picked the slowest biker in the family as his companion. We rode the 12 miles in less then two hours. The biking was a lot harder then it looked. As Jonathon put it, "There is absolutely no coasting on the sand; it's uphill both ways" ;)
We came back in time for the local farmer's market. Dinner that night was at the beach...a campfire in the sand roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. The sausages had that signature crunch of sand that is such a part of eating at the beach :) The campfire was made by our professional pyromaniac who has mastered the art of making a fire without a lot of smoke. It wasn't cold that night but the warmth of the fire felt good! We watched the sunset while fishing boats sailed out in the distance.

It was our final day, but no one was allowed to talk about that. We were going to enjoy this trip to the fullest. Saturday was one of those nondescript days where nothing out of the ordinary happened and yet it was so memorable! I suppose it is because family time is what makes the vacation doesn't matter what you do. 
It hardly seems worth mentioning: an evening as a family, sitting out on the porch talking amongst ourselves. But those times are some of my favorite memories, everyone just relaxing together, chit chatting, sharing laughter, talking over plans, and reliving memories.
That night, we had an Acquire match. There are too many members in our family now for us all to play solo, so we had to team up. Charae and Annie's team took the championship.

We've gotten the cabin cleaning process down to a science. By noon, we had everyone packed up, the car loaded, and the place in shipshape. We made one last little visit to Bread and Ocean. The weather was overcast that morning...I wasn't sure why it had to be so inviting the day we left ;)
It's special when a trip like that ends and you're ready to start it all over again. There's a feeling like it only just began. No one was ready to leave. Dad took us on one final drive through town and we said our goodbyes to Manzanita till next time.

...Austin never did the sugar cookie ;)

Dad always has his camera ready to capture memories wherever we are. This year at Manzanita he took 1,000 pictures (enough for a family slideshow ;)