A step-by-step guide for planning a family reunion

(See part 1 to start at the beginning.)

Food is a big deal at our reunions.
Because the majority of us like to cook, and we also conveniently like to eat:)
There are some whiz-bang cooks in this family of mine.  The in-laws included.  And I love getting new recipes from them each year.
I know a lot of families would rather not put all that fuss into food and keep it simple which is great, but there’s something about hanging out in that kitchen at the lake, hot sunlight flooding in the windows (sometimes it’s so so hot!), lots of adults gathered around the kitchen island chopping and mixing and helping while discussing the world, kids swirling commotion all around us…it’s all just part of “us.”
Then we all dish up:
And sit around eating and discussing all kinds of things.
This year we sat out on the porch most nights…but over the years most of our big talks have been inside around the big square table.
The reunion chairs assign the meals out well before the reunion so my mom can help gather the supplies (she just can’t help herself, but this year she was out of the country helping with my sister’s baby so we were able to show her we are capable.  Ha!).
There are certain meals that have evolved over the years and have become a “given” for certain siblings.
Eli and his wife Julie always make Japanese curry.

He served his mission in Japan and became an expert curry chef after that.  We all die for that stuff, our mouths water for it each year….which results in the necessity for some very big pots 🙂

Jonah always grills up his “Jonah Burgers” for his meal.

He came up with this particular burger rub years ago with so many interesting spices that we all fell in love with, so he whips them up for us every year.
I think that awesome mustache helps create the “burger-chef” persona.  Ha!
Usually we have lunch at this little “pavilion” near the beach.
Noah and Kristi usually do these fish tacos I posted the recipe for back HERE.
And everyone else comes up with new creations from year to year.
Saydi and Jeff were ambitious and took on whipping up falafel for all of us.
And when I say “whipping up,” there was actually no whipping because that is a labor intensive meal for all those people.  We were pretty grateful because it was delicious.
Unfortunately I was really lazy with my camera this year and I didn’t pull it out to capture the food creations but there are some good pics from a few years ago back HERE.

One lunch Dave and I set out some cards so everyone could write a note to Max.

He’s the first missionary out of all those cousins and it was kind of a fun way to connect with him.

Thanks sweetie-pie Emmeline for that great note.
We plan to make Max a bigger part of the reunion next year since he’ll still have six months left in Taiwan by then (still so long!)  If anyone has any great ideas to help make that happen please send them along!
Again, laziness with the camera left me few pictures of the job charts and how that all worked, but here is Claire’s “group” cleaning up after one of the lunches:
(more on how we do reunion jobs back in that last post back HERE.)
We are so lucky to have such a great place to stay at Bear Lake.  Each family has one room, so although it is close quarters, it works so great.  There is something I love about having all my kids in one room with me.

Every year the TENNIS TOURNAMENT is a big part of the reunion.

I only took a few pics this year, but above is one round, below is another.

Dave and I played good enough tennis that we beat out the pregnant girl in the semi-finals.  Ha!  Those guys are really good though, for reals, so we were pretty proud of ourselves 🙂
…only to get beat by these two in the final, dang it!

This tennis court gets a good workout every summer.

Other stuff…

We hung out at the beach every afternoon this time around, and we loved it.

Lu utilized some of her beach time to work diligently on her autobiography.

I’ll have to share it some time because it is a wing-dinger of a book.

Excuse this blurry picture, but this is where we usually hang the calendar and all the job/goal charts:

One night we spent some time looking through old family pictures.  Pretty great memories came to the surface from those babies.

Years ago my Dad made up “groups” of grandkids to make it easy to do particular things with them.
I should really have my parents write a guest post about how they came up with all this stuff because I love that they thought it all through.
They do Grammie Camps and Grandfather’s Secrets with different “groups” so they’re not always dealing in the masses.
My sister makes a Bear Lake book for my parents every Christmas (covering all that we did that last summer) and likes to put pictures of the “groups” in each year.  I helped her get them pictured this year.
Here’s group #1 minus Max who is far, far away:

Group #2:

(I went a little crazy on these guys since they were willing:)

…and these three are kind of as thick as thieves so I didn’t get many pics. of them down on the beach.
Group #3

Group #4:

(these guys gave themselves several new nicknames this year…they went from the “princesses” to the “princess puppies” to the “dogs” to the “uni-bunnies” and were pretty serious about each of those names.

I’m sorry to say that after that I get mixed up on who’s in who’s group because none of my kids are in them, but it’s fun to watch all these little cousins bond like nobody’s business up there.

It was a weird year for me this year with all my kids being old enough to really fend for themselves, and all these younger mothers (and fathers too) I get to be related to changing diapers and putting babies down for naps and feeding them in high chairs and struggling with toddler tantrums.

It feels so weird because in my mind I was just there.  Just barely.  How did it suddenly shift from all these younger siblings of mine doting over my babies and toddlers, so proud of their new uncle and aunt status, to my kids doting over and helping with their kids?

Blows my mind a little bit I have to say.

Blows it right away.


Each year we somehow maneuver a family picture.
This year we decided to do it right there easy by the cabin, and the light was so beautiful!
By the time everyone arrived we lost a little of that glow, but we still caught the people so that’s what matters.
Here are my parents with the grandkids, minus Max and new baby Moses.

We got most of the families individually too.

Here are Eli and Julie (NYC):

…and us…

Tal & Anita (Switzerland):

Jo & Aja (freshly returned from traveling around Europe for eight months, now settled back in their home in Maui):

Saren & Jared (Ogden):

Noah & Kristi (Southern California):

Saydi & Jeff (Boston):

(missing Charity and Josh in those photos…)
Saydi took some awesome baptism pictures of Lyla who was getting baptized in the lake the next day.
While all these big cousins loved on their little cousin Zara:
…and Lucy basked in the fact that her reunion “secret buddy” came through with the nicest little services for her.

BAPTISM/last day

Sadly, at some point the last day of the reunion has to arrive.

Gladly it went out with a bang as our darling niece Lyla chose to share her baptism with us right there at Bear Lake.

I love that this has kind of become a tradition that if the grandkids turn eight in the summer, most have been baptized there.  Grace’s baptism was back HERE, and Max’s I think was before I started blogging, but it’s kinda fun for some of these kids to share that special baptism spot.

Lucy was sure singing that song with gusto:

…and as you can tell, she was quite enamored with this baptism.

(It helped her reminisce her own baptism a couple years ago over in China…lots about that over HERE.)

She confirmed by her dad and all these great uncles and grandpas:

The baptism was followed by heading to church together and our traditional adult testimony meeting.

I loved some of the things that were said so much that I had to take notes.  Some of this will just make sense to me, but I want to have these words here so I can look back and remember:

Notes from the testimony meeting
Always “love more.”
“Mourn with those who mourn” Anita…
“And if not…”
“Written on the fleshy tables of the heart” Noah
We can feel the Holy Ghost and we know where it comes from. Kristi
Iron Rod…saren and Claire

Elle…decisions and how calm and right she felt heading to Hawaii
put ourselves in other’s shoes, makes us “love more.” –Dave

The teenagers joined in this year and even Claire came at the end and each shared their sweet feelings about the gospel and Jesus Christ in their lives.

It was a great way to end our Bear Lake time this summer.

Sometimes we linger after the reunion and try to string it out as long as we can, but the reunion was later in July this summer so we had to start heading home since school keeps creeping to start earlier and earlier here in the desert.

Gosh darn it!

I hate saying goodbye.

But so grateful for those golden memories of another summer at the lake.

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  1. i can't decide if this makes me happy or sad … but mostly happy 🙂 already soooo excited for next year. moses is going to have the best time of his life!!!

  2. When each of our sons were out on their missions we had a "cardboard" poster made of them. It became like our families personal "Flat Stanley". We would take those cardboard cutouts on all kinds of adventures (sometimes just strap that cardboard cutout to the side of the motorhome) and then send our missionary the pictures of the places he had been and the people he had "visited". Those cutouts went everywhere (4-wheeling, weddings, Thanksgiving dinner, reunions, Christmas parties – as well as the annual family Christmas photo….you get the idea). At first I worried that it would make our missionaries feel homesick…..but each of them said it never did. They said the pictures always made them laugh out loud and were good conversation starters……and as an added bonus they said it helped them know they were not forgotten (as if they could ever be!!).

  3. Hi Shawni! If you happen to have some time would you mind sharing what foods you have used in the past for Fear Factor at your family reunions? Would love to do something like this with our family reunion but don't even know where to start. Thanks 😉

  4. Ahhh! What a delicious feast this was! Not only of great food but of bonding and loving and caring and magic and memories. Thanks so much for taking the time to do all this. I loved seeing the family pictures and the group pictures and the fun pictures and all of it! Simply awesome!

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