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.
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Thanks for sharing the traditions of your family. It's inspiring to see how loving you all are together. Your dad was brilliant to buy that land all those years ago. Truly a blessing for generations to come.
I've been reading your blog for a little while now and these reunions sound sooo fun! Although both of my parents are one of five we never had anything like this, I'm so jealous! And I only have a brother so I won't be having huge family reunions 🙁 I thought I wanted 6 kids although after reading this maybe I'll have 9 haha. Anyway I was just wondering, is this your entire family or do you have some missing? Oif they're all there that is one amazing effort! Good job eyre family!
ooohhhh how fun!!!!!!!!!! I don't think there is another family like it out there!!! I hope to recreate it.. i just have to have another 6 children !!!hahaha
Ok, VERY SERIOUS question!!! LOL
Where did your sister in law find her cute cute dress ( could be Julie) in front of the 'pizazz) pic
cream/white with flowers? SOOO cute!!
I also LOVE the picture of your and claire together.. priceless!!
It's not even hard to make it to the end, I love reading your posts and the only reason I wouldn't have made it to the end of this one is because I'm jealous! It looks like so much fun.
BEAUTIFUL photos, BEAUTIFUL experience! I love that your whole family always makes this weekend a priority. Thanks so much for sharing!
You've had me curious about the game "Ripple" since you posted about playing it on another vacation months ago. Could you give me a hint on how to play it? My online research has been fruitless. :p
That is crazy, we were there that same weekend. We have been doing 4 day Bear Lake Reunions for 20 years, camping on the South end. The storms that came through were crazy and we think that was the only time we have seen rain, it was all fun.
What a beautiful place! You guys do some great activities. The morning sun is great light for family foto. I love that your dad wanted to be pizzaz, that is so totally my style.
I love to see your family getting together and having fun as a huge group! And it was fun to see my last name on the winning tennis players, we get asked all the time if we know so and so Haslam but we never do, guess we come from the antisocial branch of that family tree!
SO FUN to read and see the pics! What a GREAT tradition. 🙂
I have one question: how long did it take you to do that post? From beginning to end, including photo editing. I am VERY curious!! Something like that would take me days and days, but I'm thinking you must have it down to a science. ANY advice you can give to speed up the "blog posting process" would be so appreciated! I have been ignoring my blog because it just takes me waaaay too much time.
Your family is just so beautiful Shawni! Seriously, I don't think you could find a better looking group of people. LOVE Lucy as Snow White and I think Elle needs a truck like that-I can totally see her in one of those "vintage" deals.
I stumbled across this post through pinterest.. We are having a family reunion in Bear Lake next summer which I am in charge of, so thanks for the great ideas! My dad grew up in Montpelier also! With a town so small our parents were probably BFFs 🙂 Your post brought back so many memories of that area!
How do you play the game Ripple?
Man this looks like so much fun
Your family looks so fun. You can tell ya'll love each other very much!
So so fun! You're a lucky bunch! We ran our first half marathon around Bear Lake and it was the most amazing run of my life-it was so pretty!
First of all, I absolutely adore how close you and your family are! Family time is so special. Also, I love, love, love the photos that you take. Incredible! Lastly, I love that truck. Elle totally needs one like it! 🙂
That might be one of the longest posts I've ever seen/read! Ok mostly read. Your family looks awesome…and this reunion reminds me of Dan In Real Life…one of my favorite movies.
So, you don't know me, I don't know you…but I landed on your blog. Fate? Maybe… I too have a daughter with special needs. Instead of having 6 toes on one foot, she has 4! We can't surgically add a toe though, so 4 it will remain. And like you the toe issue is the least of our worries. In addition to a missing toe, she's missing an arm and some other major bones. Oh well! She's pretty amazing.
Anyway, I do a spotlight on my blog each Friday on kids with special needs. And I'd love to spotlight your daughter and your family. If you're interested please email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com. Please feel free to check out my blog and there are links where you can read about my daughter as well as my spotlightee's.
I always love reading about your family reunions…and, I echo everyone else's thoughts—you have such a beautiful (and fun) family!!
As I was reading this post and looking through your photos, I was thinking how it must have been so much work for your mom and dad when you all were young and they were in the trenches as parents–raising, teaching and providing for you all– but oh my goodness, I can't imagine how full their hearts must be now when you all come together. The joy they must feel to see the fruits of their labors. A testament, indeed, to the promised blessings we can receive in this life when we put our family first.
Very touching post….as always, thank you for sharing such tender moments with your family and these beautiful photos.
I followed the links and got to the listing for you parents house as a rental and it said at the end that is was for sale… are they really selling this awesome family reunion spot 🙁
Truly gorgeous pictures! Your family is my dream come true. Hopefully our 6 kids will make that happen! 🙂 (are you all really tall by the way? My 5'2" self is drooling over the leg length in all those pictures!) 😉
I am truly touched by your blog. Not only have you inspired me to be a better mother, but have inspired me to give in to my husband and have a big family! Ha! Please know that you are touching people's lives by what you do. I hope to be as great as you one day.
Oh my goodness! My heart hurts for this place! I have been following your blog for a while now but had no idea you had ties to Bear Lake, and Montpelier specifically nonetheless!! My husband and I both grew up in Montpelier, my dad and praternal grandmother were both born there as well. I bet you anything your mom knows my grandma 😉 we had our reception in the Bloomington Rec. Center in April. We really love that place! You are so lucky your whole family gets to enjoy it every summer! Great pictures, by the way. This just made my day!!
I am thrilled to have come across your blog! I am in the beginning process myself (www.hellofrombyyourstruly.com) and only hope to become as talented as you (content is heart warming!). I adore the posts I have seen. It was great to see your beautiful photos/videos of India, sparking conversation about life with my two step kids (10 &15) and makes me want to book a trip to open our minds together as a family, like you captured perfectly! I can't wait to continue looking through everything. Your perspective on parenting is inspiring and I LOVE your family traditions, I'm excited to start my own! Thanks for sharing!
Shawni, this is awesome! I am so delighted to see so many little moments that I didn't happen to see! Somehow It's hard to really appreciate how amazing our experience is there until you see it in still life! Thanks for the time it took to produce this post!
These photos are all stunning! I have a question for you. What camera do you shoot with and what lens did you use? What is your favorite lens? Thanks
This looks like sooo much fun..inspiring.
I'm wanting to know how to play "Ripple". I have searched and searched online and can't find instructions. We have a family gathering coming up and my husband and I are in charge of the adult time "Happy Hour" (when the kids are in bed!). I bet this game would be perfect. 🙂