As I mentioned in the last post, we didn’t get as much time as I would have loved at Bear Lake this year.
It’s interesting how things shift and change as kids get older. When I had younger kids we would fly from D.C. (where we lived for six years with our first three babies) and stay for a whole month at the lake (Dave would come in and out as he could from work). We had long Bear Lake days stretched out for miles in front of us, babies spending endless hours splashing in the shallow and toddlers filling up their days with imaginations and sandcastles.
Dave and “baby” Max in the boat that is still running today:
Little Max and Elle back in their glory days:
Back when all my siblings clung onto my babies before any of them had babies of their own:
My brother Eli now had four kids of his own:
And we may as well throw in this one years later since its Lu with Elsie and now they’re both Sophomores together:
Oh how the years have passed in a blink!
Now each year we seem to get less and less time as the younger families fill in where we left off (remember I’m second of nine kids), but we sure bask in whatever we can get. And I love watching my “babies” lugging around all my siblings’ babies on their hips.
And I’m so grateful for the reunion that draws us in each year. Even my big kids with no cousins their ages join the little grandkids sparkling with anticipation as the reunion opening ceremonies approach.
How we do the “Opening Ceremonies” of the reunion
After dinner we gather on “Grandchildren’s Green” (as my dad has named it), and the reunion kicks off.
I love the view and the love and the unveiling of the reunion “theme” and the light as we assemble in that spot.
I LOVED looking around at my own circle within the bigger Eyre circle, ALL nine of us together on that green for the first time in two years. And feeling so overcome with gratitude for each of them.
And all the connections.
This year my brother Noah and his wife Kristi were in charge, and I loved the theme they chose: “Count it All Joy.”
I loved it so much that I’m hoping to do a “Sunday Ponderings” post in more depth on Sunday, but for now I’ll say that they unveiled it complete with balloons and even some fireworks going off on the sidelines (one of which malfunctioned which was a little adventure in and of itself:)
I know it sounds silly but I got teary when N&K and family did this little synchronized dance. For some reason the part that stands out most to me was at-first-glance-seemingly comical part when some had nylons on their faces and others were pulling them back, their faces stretched and contorted trying to “run” in slow motion from the symbolism of the tough stuff in life. It just hit me how much of life is like that: our faces (and souls) stretched, trying to find our own unique paths and voices while wading through so much. Not only do I see it in my own life but I’m so deeply intertwined with so many siblings and friends and sisters at church (and even internet “blog reader friends” who understand that “nylon” piece so well). It made me teary thinking of Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place) and others who figure out that transformation from dark to light so that they can “count it all JOY” and the others just trying to crawl their way through, determined to keep trying.
Recognizing the miracles when they come.
Noah and Kristi’s family had a little past video to show us (we used to make music videos at reunions, funny)…
…and then they unveiled the schedule for the reunion days:
Let’s just show that sky behind them for a second:
There we go.
And a close-up of the calendar…Cubby was much more excited than he seems here 🙂
Family Music BONFIRE
After the opening ceremonies everyone loads up with bug spray and heads down to the beach for our traditional bonfire…
…where they play snippets of everyone’s favorite songs that they turned in, and everyone guesses who picked what.
…and it ends with a dance party…and this time glow sticks.
FAMILY REUNION GAMES
This year we did reunion games at the old original cabin we grew up coming to each summer.
Noah & Kristi had us line up according to height and counted us off into eight teams:
(each year the “reunion chairs” figure out a new way to divide people up, I thought this was a good idea this year!)
In one “station” they had set up pickleball lines and had two games going (everyone loved the pickleball!)
Another station had teams get blindfolded and took them in a room with their hands behind their backs and they had to try to figure out as many items that were laying around the room as they could using elbows or faces.
It was pretty tricky I have to say!
And my team didn’t do so well!
In another station the team had to hold up a bucket of water with socks on their feet.
The team members had to carefully balance that bucket as one by one each person had to take off a sock. Then another round taking off another sock. Then another round putting back on one sock. Then the last round putting on the second sock.
All without dropping that tub of water and getting wet.
Here’s Claire’s team starting out strong:
But ending with that girl getting pretty wet!
We played the ping pong game with water in another station, and “big bootie Judy” in another.
This station was a watermelon eating contest:
…except it the contest turned into who could eat the slowest rather than the fastest as the watermelon started running low. Ha!
A couple stations not pictured: Smashball and “throw the fruit snacks in your teammates mouth one step further away each try.”
It was a fun new twist on games.
How to manage reunion WORK
We have tried all kinds of systems to keep everyone “in the game” for keeping things tidy and clean during the reunion. Everything from beads kids could earn for necklaces to popcorn parties for the hardest workers to handcuffing my mom to chairs wherever we went (she can’t seem to help herself from working everywhere she goes).
This year my sister wrote a list of jobs on a chart on the fridge and every kid needed to pick one and complete it before they could get dinner.
I think it worked pretty well.
Also as part of the reunion we did some bigger work projects. Like pulling SO many weeds from rocks:
Cleaning, painting, weeding, you name it.
How to manage REUNION FOOD
Speaking of dinner, I’ve mentioned this before but we love how the food goes at the reunion. It’s funny how in a family of nine kids along with all the in-laws the vast majority loves to cook.
Every family is assigned a lunch or a dinner at the reunion, and oh man, some of my favorite recipes are from the reunion: Japanese curry (my brother Eli served his mission in Japan and makes it every year), Lentil Tacos (my sister Charity made up this recipe and it’s a tried-and-true favorite in our house these days…well, I shouldn’t say “these days” because Lucy is not a big fan and that is our “house” these days, but it’s been a favorite for the big kids…and it is HERE), another new favorite my sister made this year (Greek wraps I’ll have to share soon).
For our meal we worked and chopped and grilled and whipped up some pretty gigantic portions of our favorite: watermelon and feta salad.
There was a new twist on Fear Factor this year…it was just drinks for the win.
Love how they set it all up…
…with boxes everyone put their straws through to taste and guess what was in there for the win.
Pretty good times right there.
I don’t think there’s ever a night when we’re at Bear Lake when we don’t bask with all our hearts in the sunset.
Usually we’re up on the road walking after dinner to take it all in:
…and most years it’s just the moms after the babies are settled in. But this year we got big groups joining in.
The younger generation included.
Love those views.
Ok, this wasn’t a part of the reunion schedule, but it is something to note since there were FOUR dogs at the lake this year.
Which is funny because although we grew up with dogs, none of us have been dog people until recently. My sister got one shortly after we got Bo Jangles, then a brother got one, and my other sister recently joined the dog ranks so we had four of these furry creatures joining in all the festivities.
Bo was happy about all the company I think.
We had a few games going on at night…this night was our favorite: “One and Done” (explained, along with lots of other games back HERE).
The line-up of the possible winners and losers on the left below, the winner and loser on the right.
Also, of course, some discussions, something we do best at Bear Lake (always with hot cookies coming out of the oven to accompany it all).
It’s my favorite to watch my adult kids hanging in the kitchen with all my siblings, all abuzz with deep conversations and so much going on late into the night.
Quidditch at a family reunion
Noah and Kristi’s family pulled off a lot of miracles with a group this big, one of them was Quidditch. I unfortunately missed a lot of this one, but boy it sure looked like it was fun with so many kids staying to keep playing well after everyone else petered out.
“SING OR SWIM”
The kids loved this one: my brothers played a song while someone was perched precariously on the edge of the dock, holding onto a rope for support.
Let’s get a better look at that position:
There we go.
They started playing a song, and then stopped it at a random spot.
The person hanging on the edge has to finish singing the lyrics where the song ends.
If they don’t know them, or can’t keep with the beat, they’re gonners…into the lake they go.
This was a big hit, for those participating as well as those on the sidelines:
Even the dogs were quite interested 😉
We always somehow pull of a family picture…which is trickier and trickier with this big group, but luckily Ashton had a tripod and a great camera:
Love the individual little pictures that happen on picture night too…
SOOOOO grateful for these two who made all this possible!
The married kids:
I wonder how that group will expand in the next few years!
We always go to the church congregation in Dingle, Idaho on Sundays. We have since we are little and we love it.
This year, since we had all our kids and wanted to soak them up all together for a minute, we had our own little family meeting after church.
We sat on the porch together and talked about different ways we have “counted it all JOY” lately as per the reunion theme. I LOVED what each one shared, taking us deeper into their own unique journeys. Man I am so lucky to be part of this.
They had to leave that evening to get back for work and school and practice, so we were so glad we could take advantage of that time together.
We always have a big group testimony meeting on Sundays.
It was an extra special one this year, so many thoughts and love shared.
Claire had to leave straight from there…giving her cousin one last hug before she left since they won’t see each other again until after Eliza’s mission. (She started the MTC right there at Bear Lake during the reunion!)
I’ll come back and add a picture of that…she rocks!
I forgot to mention there were little 5-minute devotionals morning and evening each day which I loved.
Filling in the gaps…
Between all the scheduled activities there was a lot of this going on:
I love watching the younger generation move up and take the spots of all the older cousins.
And the older cousins taking the spots of all the adults…out there waterskiing.
Babies and kids on the beach:
Lucy’s “LELE” group:
An Uncle bonding with a niece over examining the swallow nests built at the beach pavilion:
All kinds of imaginations and games running wild:
And more dancing…Noah is almost done with the family dance video I think.
Annual TENNIS tournament
This is always a thing, but man alive, there was so much going on this year that for the first time I don’t know that there was ever an actual winner.
We sure had fun playing while our kids were there though…even in the rain.
One of my favorite things this year is that they incorporated “Golden Hour” into the evenings. We had dinner a little earlier and went down to take in the sunset on the beach most evenings (and still had time for a late-sunset walk:)
It was this sweetie-baby’s birthday one of the evenings so it was fun to celebrate him out there:
Always gotta have it. It was complete with some family lip syncs which our family (consisting only of Lucy and Grace by then) didn’t do because we were all in a huff about something or other. Ha!
Still, it was pretty fun to watch all the talents those kids came up with.
After the big festivities my parents took the teens on a little outing…and there were some last minute wrap-ups.
I could go on and on, but I’m out of time.
As I’m sure you are too!
If you’re still here, CONGRATS on getting through! Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Goodbye reunion 2022.
You were good to us.
Excited already to see what next year brings!
I always love reading about your reunions! And man – you guys are a tall group, ha!
Thank you for sharing all of this. I dream about having a reunion like this someday. I noticed on your schedule that you have daily morning and evening devotionals and on Sunday you attend church and have a fast and testimony meeting together. I would like to connect with my family in this way, but have some family members that are openly hostile to church, family prayer, testimony meetings and devotionals. I imagine that in your large family that not everyone feels the same way. What do you, or would you do if a family member considered an invitation to pray together or share thoughts from scripture or teachings of modern day prophets as an attack on their autonomy or lifestyle? Do you all counsel about it beforehand? Are there some who choose not to come because they know it would make them uncomfortable? Do people participate in what they want to and not participate in what they don’t want to?
I know these are intimate questions and if you are not comfortable answering them here, I understand. I would love for my family to have the respect for one another that would allow us to gather without having to pretend that we either believe or disbelieve in order not to offend one another.
As someone who used to believe and cherish gospel teachings I can tell you it would be really upsetting to attend a testimony meeting. It would be a painful reminder of everything I’ve lost. Not everyone would feel the same way but I can tell you it would be really hard for me—and I dearly love my family members that are still in the church.
There are three homes to their reunions and an entire beach. It seems someone would not have to go to that activity and still be comfortable. But I did notice the entire family went to the one grandson’s wedding at bear lake and the grandfather did the ceremony. The ones who are members seemed to support doing it the ‘other’ way. There is over 40 people surely some are not going to agree on everything about everything all at the same time.
Emily, that is a great question. I think there has been a mutual respect fostered and nurtured over the years and I’m so grateful for that. We discuss a LOT, (I think that’s our favorite past-time) so I think everyone has become so comfortable (and trusting) enough to share deep feelings and thoughts, even contrary ones, and we can delve right in. I know this is quite unique, and acknowledge that it has taken years of fostering to get to this point. And just to be clear, not everyone jumps at the chance to share a testimony, of course, and not everyone was at all the devotionals, but everyone is open to listening and learning and for the most part the majority of us kind of thrive on that stuff to be honest.
I understand what Heather is saying about how a testimony meeting could be a painful reminder of what is lost. But I have a question for you, Heather (and I ask in acknowledgement that all I know is just that little snippet of what you wrote…). Is there a way to make a compromise if there are many still in the church in your family and that is an important part of their lives? A family reunion has the potential to really build bridges, perhaps if you set up some good parameters or “ground rules” it would help you feel more comfortable? For example, instead of having a “testimony meeting” what if you held a discussion where people could share things that are important to them or something special you have learned in the last year. Perhaps that would give everyone the opportunity to share goodness rather than cutting anyone out? And also build understanding?
I can imagine there would be big divides created when a family is too nervous to talk about what is important to them, so I think it’s so important to figure out a solution that could work, together, if you possibly can. Just as you want them to have respect for where you are in your journey (and I really hope they do!), I think it’s important for you to realize they may really need that outlet for where they are in theirs. Maybe if there is enough communication a respectful understanding can be found.
Again, I don’t know any of the details, so I apologize if I’m overstepping. I just know so much building can go on in a family with a good framework set in place.
Emily, I hope that answered your question sufficiently. Bottom line is that communication is so important. And the biggest and most effective part of communication is listening. Each family is coming from such different spaces, but hopefully we can try to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and learn from the journeys we are each traveling.
Oh certainly! There is lots of room for sharing life experiences and insights. You worded it beautifully Shawni. When it comes to spiritual topics, however, there is an imbalance of how open I’m willing to be with those who are still engaged in the church. My loss of belief (and the reasons for it) has devastated me. And it would be destructive of me to share that openly with those who believe. I never want to send someone on the same journey I’ve taken. So while some can speak openly about their spiritual experiences and beliefs, I (and others) feel compelled to censor what we say and how honest we can express our thoughts.
An above commenter mentioned family members being “hostile” when hearing gospel topics at family events. I wonder if that comes from a place of pain and loss.
Thank you for your thoughtful response Shawni. By the way, my mom’s name is Shawny so it a a beloved name in our home!
Oh I love that your mom is named Shawny, such an uncommon name so it’s good to know others are in my club:). I am so very sorry your journey has been a tough one. I think you are right, so much of the time hostility does come from a place of pain and loss. So difficult to grapple with those hopeless feelings. I hope you will find an avenue in your family to connect with open hearts in a way that works for everyone. Sometimes as time passes things get more manageable. I hope. Sending you much love on that journey.
My husband’s extended family found a way to do this really well and I really admired his grandma for it when I married into the family. They just called it a discussion time and like you said shared things they’d learned throughout the year or been going through. They started it by singing Love One Another. I definitely think it can be done in an extended family with different beliefs if there is mutual trust and respect. Love the discussion here!
Please tell me what is the game : Big Booty Judy is?
And does your parents own the cabin or do you rent every year?
It’s just a rhythm game that this may explain better than I could: https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Big-Booty
Yes my parents own the cabin…my dad bought the property when they first got married with my mom’s savings as a surprise for her. Ha! A whole “Eyre sisters podcast” episode is coming all about that soon!
He used her money to buy something as a surprise? While that is very sweet, I wonder if she wanted her money to be used for that, or was she saving for something else, or just for a rainy day? Also how did he get access to someone else’s savings account. Just wondering, thanks!
Yes, it’s a long story and a pretty great one, stay tuned for the podcast explaining it all!
Ahhh…Speaking of which, when might one expect the release of the much anticipated sister podcasts? Excited for your latest endeavor!
Oh gosh, we have pushed off the launch date a couple times since we didn’t realize how much work it would take, but we are all set to launch the second week of September. We are excited! More to come about that next week!
Love seeing your reunion posts over the years! What a wonderful tradition you have all built.
Please think about releasing a Bear Lake/Eyres Feed a Crowd e-cookbook! Would love your recipes ☺️
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. I would love to be a contributor to an environment of kind authenticity, where family members feel safe expressing their honest thoughts, but don’t seek for ways to use those thoughts to shut each other down. Thank you for mentioning the time and effort it takes to cultivate these trusting relationships.
Wishing you the best as you try to navigate that with your family. I’m sure it will take patience and work, but I believe patterns can change with conscious effort. I hope as you set a precedence of listening and trying to learn from where family members are, others will follow. Sending you love!
Oh Shawni, this is spectacular! Thanks so much for taking the time to capture these precious memories. And thanks for this beautiful collection of insightful and interesting comments in this wide open space! Love to you all!