Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Frank Family Favorites of 2013

I sat down and asked the kids today what kinds of "Favorites" they had this year.  Colsen's immediate response was, "NOT CHRISTMAS."

Our Christmas was pretty lame, thanks to the flu, but overall our year was full of blessings.  So without further ado, here are the

Frank Family Favorites of 2013:

{ (P) = Pete; (A) = Amy; (S) = Strider; (R) = Rayna; (C) = Colsen; (M) = Miles }

Favorite Books:

The Secret at Pheasant Cottage by Patricia St. John
The Treasure Tree by the Trents and Smalleys
Unbroken  by Hillenbrand (S)
One Second After by Forstchen (P)
The Language of Flowers by Diffenbaugh(A)
The House at Tyneford by Solomons (A)

Favorite Computer Sites/Activities:

FitnessBlender (A)
Jacque Lawson's Advent Calendar (C) & (M)

Favorite TV shows:

"Alias" reruns (P) & (A)
"Wild Kratts"(C)
"Curious George" (M) & (R)
"The Middle" (S)
"Downton Abbey" (A)

Favorite Vacations:

Hilton Head (P) & (A)
Black Mountain (twice)

Favorite Experiences:

GateWay ceremony
Cousins Camp (S), (R) & (C)
Dance recital (R)
Violin recital (C)
The Belk Bowl (S)
Getting the mail (M)
Ridge Haven Camp (S)
Skiing (P) (S) & (C)

Favorite Classes:

Speech and Debate (S)
Art (C) & (R)

Favorite Photo Collages:

Favorite new recipes/foods:

Buttermilk Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
Spaetzle, Sauerkraut and Sausage
Coconut Lime Chewy Cookies
Spinach Chicken Pasta Salad with Terikyaki Dressing

Favorite Video Clip That Reminds Me of Colsen and Miles:

This one from Despicable Me 2

Favorite New Family Business/Hobby:


Favorite Unauthorized Activity:
Riding the vacuum cleaner without pants on

Favorite Haircut:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Colsen's career aspirations

We had this conversation out of the blue the other day...

Colsen:  Do you think I should be a mechanical engineer?
Me:  Sure, honey, that sounds good.  We know a lot of mechanical engineers…  Poppa,--
C:  Wait – POPPA is a mechanical engineer???  I have to talk to him!!
Me:  Ok –
C:  I know Strider would love to talk to him, too.  I think he’d loooove mechanical engineering.
Me: Hmmm… Why do you think that?
C:  Because you get to play with fire all the time!
Me:  Ummm…. No, not really.
C:  Yes!  Because mechanical engineers make cars and to make cars you have to use fire to weld the pieces together!
Me:  Well, there are different jobs for making cars.  I think you’re thinking of a welder.
C:  Yes.  I want to be a welder.  Can I do 2 things?  And I think I want to be an accountant, too.  And are there any jobs that you do a lot of sorting?  Cuz I am made for a job with sorting.  I’m good at sorting things – like laundry and stuff, you know.
Me:  Well, yes, you can –
C:  But I don’t know.  Mechanical engineering just keeps coming to mind when I think about what job I should do when I grow up.  I think I’ll just be that.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Top 10 Things That Were Not So Bad About Having the Flu on Christmas Eve

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, this family was a mass of pathetic-ness.  I was on Day 3 of the Flu, having rarely left my bed for the duration.  (I don't think I've ever been sick like that before -- only the time I had an extreme case of mastitis.)

 Colsen and Miles were on Day 2 of the Flu.  Most of the time they were in relatively good spirits, but occasionally, such as when ibuprofen suddenly wore off, they would burst into tears and wails about aches and pains, and then drop down spontaneously on the floor and fall asleep.

Strider, having had the worst of it last week, was just a Constant Coughing Machine.  And not the casual kind of cough, either.

Pete, despite being the only member of the family to actually get a flu shot, still got a touch of the virus.  He was upright, caring for the rest of us, but was pretty congested and unhappy.

Rayna alone seems to have side-stepped this flu... which is a huge answer to prayer (Thank you, God!), since she is the one who has had such bad reactions to fevers in the past.  We're praying she continues to stay fever-free.  She was a sweet nurse to us through it all.

This morning, though, Christmas Day, we are all doing MUCH better!  It's a Christmas Miracle!

Last night around 1 am I woke up and changed my shirt yet again, having drenched it with sweat... and then realized I suddenly felt completely different than I had when I went to bed.  I could breathe without awful, painful coughing.  I could stand up straight.  I didn't feel like I might pass out as I walked.  The fever was gone.

When we all got up we were greeted with laughter and happy voices -- and still some coughs -- but no one was miserable.  This, of course, has put me in a very thankful mood, so here is my list of:

 Top 10 Things That Were Not So Bad About Having Influenza A on Christmas Eve

1. At least it wasn't the stomach bug

2. Waking up healthy on Christmas Day has never been so appreciated.

3. We had carolers/viola-ist come to sing to us last night, which made me cry.  Of course everything was making me cry yesterday.  Even the Johanson's Christmas letter which was written by their cat, for crying out loud.  Yes, I had a high fever.

4. We've had a few friends reach out with sincere offers to come bring us food or get us what we need.  I've been amazed by these offers;  who has time to do extra things like that on Christmas??

5. At least we were home, and not traveling, this Christmas, and so did not expose our large extended families to our pathetic germiness.

6. We get to spread out the merriment for the next week or so.  Our Christmas brunch with our neighbors was postponed until the weekend, and we're hoping to see some of the Wray family over New Year's.

7. Being reminded again what a prince my husband is.  He has been cooking, administering elderberry syrup and garlic, rubbing essential oils on feet, doing the last-minute wrapping, bringing water, planning special things, etc., etc.  We are all blessed by him!  (Meanwhile, I was upstairs reading a book about a monastery in the 1300's -- and they were using elderberry syrup and essential oils to combat ailments then, too!)

8. Rayna didn't get it!

9. When one is feeling miserable, it is much easier to say, "Come, Lord Jesus!"  So Advent was more real to us in that way.

10.  Being in the midst of darkness, the Light is that much brighter.  Yes, this world will continue to have darkness and suffering for now, but the LIGHT has come, and that has made all the difference!

So yes, we are all disappointed that this Christmas didn't go as we planned, and we didn't get to the fun Christmas Eve or Christmas Day extended family activities, but we know this Christmas did go as God planned it, and there is grace for us, even in the midst of the Flu.

(Taken on one of our healthier days)

Monday, December 23, 2013


I couldn't figure out why the little boys kept giggling about something on the Christmas tree... until I found this:

I'm quite sure we hung it up like this:

.... but someone decided to rearrange it.

I put it back to the right way... but found the baby mooning me yet again today.

Poor baby Jesus.

Praise Dancers

 Under the wonderful tutelage of our dear friend Paige, Rayna and some of her friends have been learning some new praise dances this Fall.  Every Friday they met at the dance studio to practice, and this week the culmination of the semester was to visit a couple of local nursing homes.  They did great!

My birthday

Earlier this week I was thinking about writing something about the contrast between my birthday and Christ's -- one happens on the shortest day of the year in the midst of the cold and dark, and the other celebrates LIGHT....  But then this year my birthday fell on a particularly lovely, warm day!  So maybe I'll write that blog post another year.

In addition to the beautiful gift of warm weather, I also was blessed this year by gifts from those around me... including these:

I also was able to enjoy a very lovely lunch with several friends (with long, uninterrupted, grown-up conversations!), and a yummy dinner that night, made by Pete!

We were happy to have Dad, Keiko, Sammy and Sophie with us, too.

 And to top it all off - -a peppermint ice cream cake!
I was very thankful for this beautiful day!

More memories to record

Some miscellaneous photos, events and conversations from the last week or two...

Getting ready to go out on Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt/Race
Watching a movie with cousins
Enjoying cousin time

.... and sister time:

Conversation with Colsen while we were Christmas shopping:

Me:  How much money do you have?
Colsen:  $40
Me:  How much are you going to spend on Christmas gifts?
C:  Probably $15.
Me:  Are you saving the rest of your money for something?
C:  Yeah… When I grow up I want to have 25 kids, so I’m saving my money to buy a big house.
Me:  Aw, I love –
C (interrupting):  AND an electric scooter.  I really want an electric scooter.

Conversation with Strider:

Strider:  I can't believe I lost $5 out of my pocket!
Me:  "A fool and his money are soon parted."
Strider:  Nice job watching Downton Abbey, Mom!

Miles and the balloon:

While we were shopping at the dollar store, Miles found that he had one dollar left over to spend -- and then he spotted the helium balloons.  He was fascinated and decided he really must have one.  (I don't think we've ever gotten the poor guy one like that before!)

So he quickly retrieved his last dollar and gave it to the lady, had me tie the string around his wrist, and out we went.  All the way home he was so thrilled about it, asking me all kinds of questions about how the helium works, what would make it leak out, etc.

After we got home, he showed his siblings proudly, but then almost immediately announced he was going to take it outside to let it go up in the sky.   We tried to talk him out of it, reminding him he wouldn't have it anymore.... But his responses was:

"I want it to go up to Mr. Spiess so he can have decorations in Heaven."

And we would never argue with that.  He let his balloon go, watched it as far as he could see, and was happy with his decision.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


This year both of our extended families decided to eliminate some of the gift-giving, so I thought we were in for a much simpler season all the way around.  Yesterday, though, when I was trying to figure out why every day this month has left me feeling frazzled, I decided to count up my list of people I was preparing gifts for. 

 By the time I added in all of the various family, friends, neighbors, kids' teachers, tutors, etc.....  it totaled  42 people.  Forty-two gifts that I am either buying or making.  For someone decision-making-challenged such as myself, just the process of figuring out what to buy/make 42 times is overwhelming!

So.... I'm a little frazzled, and not finding much time for writing, recording, taking pictures, etc.

I do want to record at least one thing from this last week, though. We had the annual mini children's program at church this past weekend and it was sweet.  I didn't get any good pictures -- just a few fuzzy ones from Pete's phone and one I snagged from Facebook, but here's what I have.

Rayna was a narrator/Scripture-reader (not pictured below), Colsen was a shepherd, and Miles was a sheep.

A shepherd and one of his flock
Practicing his "herding skills"

Sunday, December 15, 2013

First Debate Tournament

This year Strider has been putting his superb arguing skills to good use by participating in a Debate Club (and also daily practicing with his parents).  Yesterday was his first tournament and it was a whole new world for both of us.

  First of all, it was the first time he has donned a full suit -- ever, I think.
So handsome -  and annoyed I'm taking his picture

 Besides that, the tournament was pretty cool, too.  :) There were two big categories of competition: speech and debate.  As one of the officials reminded us, these kids are all pretty impressive since they are all willingly doing something most people fear more than death: public speaking!

Of course he wouldn't let me take more pictures, so I had to keep sneaking them.
 All of the kids in his age group for debate are arguing whether or not video games are more beneficial than harmful this year, so they came prepared with arguments for both sides.  For each match, a coin was flipped to see which side each team would argue and who would go first.  There are all kinds of complicated rules and timing... I didn't follow all of it.  But I did enjoy watching my boy speak as a confident and logical orator.
Photos taken surreptitiously from my iPad

Strider and his partner debated three rounds and at the end of the day the results were tabulated and they came in first!  (There were only 3 teams in his group, but still it was an exciting win.)

This was the beginning (practice) tournament for the year.  Beginning in February, the real season begins, so we'll see how it goes!  I'm so thankful for this opportunity for him to learn and grow.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Non-occasion cousin time

It seems like we often only get together with cousins when there's a big event or holiday.  So we've been thankful for some extra times lately to hang out just for fun!

Keiko, Sammy, and Sophie are in town for awhile (while John is in Afghanistan), so we're enjoying getting to see them. They came over for dinner on Saturday and our kids loved playing with them.  Miles, in particular, was fascinated with having a little girl in the house.  He wanted to carry her everywhere... and she graciously went along with it.

 Then on Sunday, Ava and Branson came over for a few hours.  I suspect I have a reputation of being rather healthy and strict, so to combat this perception I made sure to feed them plenty of sugar.  (And I even let my own kids have junk food, too!)

Playing "Ticket to Ride"
We got glimpses of Sage, Kai, Addie and Lincoln at church yesterday (and saw Ellie briefly last night) and this week we have plans to see the Clarks as well, so in the span of a month (including Franksgiving) my kids will have seen 19 of their 21 cousins!

And I very much enjoy being an aunt!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weekend of Parties

We've gone months with no major parties... and then suddenly this weekend we had 4!

Here are a few pictures from a couple of them...

Cole and Milo went to an Indian party at their friend Levi's house- - and came home looking like this!

For our Life group Christmas party, we played a few games....

Yes!  It was a fun time!