My Mom grew up in Montpelier, Idaho. It is a tiny town close to Bear Lake (which stretches across the Utah/Idaho border). Forty-three years ago, as a surprise wedding gift for his bride, my Dad used all of my Mom’s savings to buy a lot at Bear Lake. Now, I don’t know for sure, but if I am reading between the lines correctly, I’m thinking my Mom wasn’t overjoyed about that little fact. I mean, sure, she adored Bear Lake, but was that a smart purchase for newly-weds? Had my Dad thought about the fact that maybe she had something else in mind for those savings of hers? Although I should probably know more details about that little story, I do know that that purchase was probably one of the smartest things my Dad ever did. Because when you have a place to gather your family, it is kind of awesome. We have spent chunks of pretty much every summer of our lives up there taking advantage of the beauty of that place (more about some of our summer nights up there back here). And that’s where we have our reunion each year. Although my parents used to be totally in charge of it all, years ago we started to take turns being the “master-of-ceremonies.” We go in order of age, and this year was Tal and Anita’s turn. And they were masterful at it.We started out with the “opening ceremonies” where they explained what we’d be doing. It looks like everyone was pretty mesmerized by their magical planning: Lucy was in deep concentration about it all: We started right out with the unveiling of the Reunion CD. Everyone sat around and listened to the songs Tal and Anita had compiled from what people had turned in and guessed who’s was who’s. Although they look like they might be bored to tears in the picture up there above, the reunion CD is one of everyone’s favorite reunion traditions. We listen to it the whole time we’re up there. The music-unveiling wasn’t quite as picturesque as it was last year since campfires were off-limits this year:But hey, it worked just as well. The Food Before the reunion begins whoever is in charge assigns out the meals. My mom gathers most of the supplies since so many of us are coming from all over the place, and we take turns preparing. It is a little bit of mass-chaos at meals. Most of the time for lunch we eat down at the beach. Here are my brothers whipping up some masterful burgers: A Scavenger Hunt Tal and Anita made up a scavenger hunt for the kids and divided them into teams. Here’s the first clue: Claire was apparently a little confused about her team’s first clue: Actually maybe a LOT confused 🙂 But it must have all worked out in the end because I never heard any wailing going on. Rain I don’t think we’ve had rain at a reunion in ages, but it poured that day. It was awesome. (Hot chocolate.) Volleyball My Dad unveiled a volleyball net this year. He figured with all these super tall kids of his along with their quickly-getting-taller nieces and nephews, it would be a good investment. And he was right. It was a big hit. Max and Elle were especially happy about that thing. Poor Dave who had broken his foot the day before (more about that back here) had to sit and just wish he could play from the sidelines. At least he had good company. A Birthday It happened to be my youngest brother’s birthday on the first day of the reunion this year and his wife has this tradition of making him some sort of creation of the number he is turning that year. This year it was a giant 29 made out of his favorite: gummy bears. The kids weren’t too disappointed about that… The Annual Tennis Tournament My brother Josh and Elle were partners this year in the annual mixed-doubles tournament, and they were a force to be reckoned with. First they took out Jo and Aja: …after Jo and Aja had beaten out my Dad and Claire. I’m not sure my Dad realized Claire had only had a handful of lessons when he told her she could join the tournament, but he was so cute with her. Then Josh and Elle beat out Noah and Kristi: But they couldn’t quite take this dynamic duo out for the finals: Julie is pregnant…I think that baby brought them good luck 🙂 My Dad decided he and Max should play the winners just to get in some extra playing time.He goes hog-wild over tennis and Max kind of caught the tennis bug this year. He has a wicked serve. But those two pulled it off again. I think the pregnancy and the matching shirts had something to do with that 🙂 Don’t let that smile fool you that he was ok with that loss. He was mad-as-a-hornet about that. One of my favorite tennis parts of this summer, though, was playing doubles with my two oldest kids and my little sister Charity (she was my partner in the real tournament but we didn’t do so hot so we wanted to play some more). It was the biggest rush for me to play a real game of doubles with them and really get to have some great rallies. I was on cloud nine after that. Maybe I don’t want them to shrink back into babies after all 🙂 Family Pictures We always do family pictures at our reunions. We have too many photographers and control-freaks in the family to not do pictures. This year my dad (one of the beloved control-freaks we all adore) decided that since we’ve already done pictures at the beach: …and with the sagebrush mountains we love as a backdrop: …this year it would be great to take our pictures in front of this old abandoned house on our way to church: It is kind of famous in the area for being “haunted.” I know, great place for a family picture, right? But we followed him out into that dewy grass on a Sunday morning and took those pictures. All the grandkids: Then we did just adults. Elle was the main photographer for this so we could take the camera off the old garbage can it was sitting on with a self-timer for the other shots. She took this one which was very fitting since Dave told me I needed to take control of the situation: My Dad requested that we do something to pizazz up the picture. Here are some tries: It seems that the in-laws weren’t overly pizzazy so he tried with just the kids: Not very successful except for Noah with his teeth…Yeah, much to my Dad’s chagrin, we may not be the most pizzazzy people on the planet. The girls got very excited about the dress-ups my Mom had up there. And got some practice in for the big talent show. Elle decided to curl Lyla’s hair. I was so grateful Elle was there. She had girls’ camp right after EFY and then we were going straight to India so there was a chance she may not make it up there. That made me sick to my stomach so we opted out of Girls’ Camp this year. It was sad to miss because man alive they do a great job at Girls’ Camp around here, but she survived just fine. Dave had to get back to work, darn it, so we hugged him goodbye. Have I mentioned before how incredibly grateful I am for this man who works so hard for our family? Just making sure… Wow, we are lucky. Talent Show I don’t think any reunion is quite complete without a talent show, right? The kids were SO excited about it, but I personally think the audience was more entertaining: Check out how proud my parents are… Lucy decided she was Snow White. At the Beach A big part of the reunion is always spent just lounging on the beach. Max is trying to take after his uncles on their cuts…he’s got a little work to go ;). MFME The girls left the kids with the dads and snuck away for our own little dinner one night. I sure love those ladies. Late Nights and Meetings At night during the reunion Tal and Anita made a new motion that the kids go to bed a little earlier so we could have more adult time. Awesome idea. We taught everyone how to play “Ripple,” the game we learned from Dave’s family. They were actually much more excited about it than they make out to be in this picture: Someone is always whipping up something in the kitchen, whether it is cookies or prep for breakfast the next morning. And sometimes we have meetings about all kinds of family business. As you can see Ripple was just as enthralling as the meetings. I do love that my parents have set up some great ways for our family to “broaden and contribute” (our family motto). Bird Watching This year “Bird Watching” appeared on the reunion agenda. My little nephew McKay took his preparations for spying those birds pretty seriously:I love him. There are a few bird refuges around the lake. It was a perfect, incredibly gorgeous night for the job. We headed out in groups to see who could find the most different species of birds. This is what we saw from the car. Serious beauty, right? I love Bear Lake weather. I lucked out with my mom, my sister and these three in my car: Let’s see if we can see them a little closer… There we go. Apparently most of us had the same idea on the best place to spot birds because most of us bumped into each other out roaming the area. We ran into these sweeties: And these boys too. Man I love this girl. Here’s a little assortments of the beauty we spotted: We thought we did pretty awesome and patted ourselves on the back until we got home and saw where Max, Elle, my two brothers and one of their wives went: I stole their pictures they took my breath away. My brother Eli is an amazing photographer don’t you think? I think his team may have won the contest cause these are only a small sample of the fabulous creatures they saw: Plus they found Elle’s future truck:(Every time she sees a truck like that she goes a little bit nut-so…I keep telling her she better start saving now for gas…) We arrived home so in awe of the beauty of the world God created for us. Here are the girls’ renditions of the birds they saw.Eliza’s got a funny beak, Claire must be a very serious bird, and Hazel is holding a “fish” like one of the birds we saw. The adults of our team: I’m going to have to recap the “Fear Factor” part of the reunion later because it was a wing-dinger, but seriously, this is longer than a novel. Congrats to anyone who has make it this far 🙂 The reunion re-cap from last year is here. People asked a whole bunch of questions last year so I did a Q&A on Bear Lake here.