Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Family Camp Twenty-Seventeen

Family camp has been part of our family traditions for the past 22 years. Mom and Dad had only been attending TBC for a few months when they ventured to bring their three children to Eagle Fern Camp, mom being two months pregnant with her fourth at the time. In all those years, we have only missed going twice.

Whenever I think of Family Camp, it brings a flood of memories and traditions to mind. I think of the woodsy cabins with bunk beds lining the entire wall space, as well as the single bathroom that all eleven members of our family shares :)  The room has that familiar aroma of pine trees, mingled with the scent of an old cabin. It used to be such a big deal as kids to claim which bunk we were going to occupy for those four nights. 

The mornings were always a little on the chillier side around Estacada. I remember waking up and trying to quietly climb down from my bunk without waking the family. My feet immediately came in contact with the cold cabin floor and I would hurry to bundle up in a sweatshirt. The few of us that were awake would softly tip-toe around the cabin getting ready for the day and then gently open the squeaky cabin door.

The aroma of pancakes wafted up from the kitchen to our cabin. Down in the kitchen, the men would be busily preparing breakfast, armed with aprons and pancake turners.
At first, there would be just a small gathering of early morning risers sitting around the camp tables, warming their hands with mugs of steaming coffee. Gradually, little groups began to assemble in the main hall. The lodge becomes suddenly alive with the shuffling of people putting up more tables and chairs and setting around dishware.

Our afternoons centered around activities by the creek, usually swimming until closing time. As soon as it was over, we would run up to the cabin to switch into some warmer clothing.
I remember the feeling of excitement as a child, running up those wooden steps to grab my flashlight at nighttime before darkness set in and the games we'd play at dusk, running around the porch shining our lights....

This year was the church's 37th year at Eagle Fern Camp. Though our numbers were few, it made the time none the less precious. We have had to change up the structure of camp over the past years due to the low attendance, but it has proved to be a delightful change. The kitchen duties that used to be run by the crew age kids, ages 12-18, are now duties that involve the entire camp. It's been a rather welcome change, giving everybody an opportunity to get work together.

We arrived at camp around four in the afternoon on Monday and hurried to unload our van and set up the cabin. Charae had been in charge of dividing the camp into three teams. She posted the schedules in the lodge and that night gave a brief talk on what each team's responsibilities would be.

Dr. Paul Felix encouraged us in the morning and evening of each day with a message on Titus 2. By the end of the week, we had made it to the end of the chapter.
There was a separate class for the 3-7 year olds. There was an exceptionally large group this year numbering 16 kiddos..

The lodge is where the largest group of people usually gathers. The room is always alive with the voices of little people. Some of the kiddos make it down to the lodge extra early in the morning with Grandma to get their cups of hot cocoa. 

Just prior to breakfast time, a little crew of children would stand eagerly around the camp bell, waiting for the go-ahead to ring the bell for meal time. Meal times are always full of the commotion of conversations going on from at least six different tables.

Usually, in the free hours when the teams are not at work in the kitchen, they gather to play dodge ball in the gym or swim down by the creek.

Wednesday, we have our barbecue down by the creek. Two trucks are loaded up with benches and tables to take down to the lunch area. A group of people pile into the back to "ensure" that the benches and tables make it safely to their destination.

It's always a special occasion when both churches can witness the baptism of another believer. This year, three people made the public declaration of their faith in Jesus Christ...(and it just so happened to be the coldest day so far for a baptism :)

The lodge is always the fullest on the night of the turkey dinner. After a hearty meal and a wonderful message, we headed down to the fire pit for a hymn sing.

I think Thursday has been the highlight of every family camp that I can remember. It is the night that the camp crew does their special game. Our game that night was called Underground Church. It is played in the camp field and gym. Everyone is divided up into two groups: the Christians and the Centurions. The object of the game is for the Christians to find the "church" and discover the password to admit them before the Centurions capture them or enter the church themselves.
I think Will made the most convincing Centurion that year as well as providing the best entertainment  along the way :)

In these last few years, our camp has also instituted the obstacle course into the day's routine.

Two groups are given the task of finishing a low ropes obstacle course, scaling a wall (or being hoisted over the wall, as the case may be), and completing a challenge game in a matter of two hours.

There are some people that are just staples to Family Camp; people you expect to be there every year because they hold the family Camp traditions together. But it has been exciting to see how many new people the Lord has blessed our congregation with as well as the next generation of children He is raising up.

Camp has a special atmosphere to it that gives our two churches the opportunity to fellowship together in a unique way. It's a special time when we can step away from our day to day routines and come together as a camp, using the different opportunities of service that the Lord has given to us.

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 articles....to 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: https://www.instagram.com/spafjon90/
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 ;)