Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the Road Again~Family Reunion 2011

On the road again....

We had been so busy getting ready for the family reunion and getting the house and yard ready for the wedding reception held here in our absence, that we were pretty wiped out from the get-go. But you know how it is once you get on the road, the work is behind you and you have a new spurt of energy and we were excited all over again.

It had been a few years since we had driven to Utah and we had forgotten how long and boring the drive is and how big Nevada is. Yikes! It is a bit like childbirth, you forget the labor after it is over but, when you get started again on your next birth you get that old familiar feeling~painful.

The first part isn't too bad, the Sierras are beautiful any time of year and this trip we got the added pleasure of viewing all the seasons at one time. We love the beautiful trees as you approach the state line and also the gorgeous mountaintops nearing the summit. So took a few photos to begin our journey.

We had never seen snow in June before in this abundance. Just a few days before we left the pass was closed to traffic due to a snow storm. Seriously? Once into Nevada the visual show is over. You see some variation of this for the next 8 hours. Ugh!

But the road wasn't particularly crowded and the sky was blue and the desert more green than usual. The carrot we kept dangling before our eyes was seeing the family sooner with every passing mile. And it did give us lots of time to discuss how we wanted the family reunion to go, somethings we wanted to share with the kids as a group, etc.

The funniest thing about the drive was we felt like it was taking forever. It usually takes about 12 hours but this time it was over 13? We were beginning to think that Salt Lake City had moved to Idaho or something??

But finally we arrived, safe and sound and tired at Jen and Lowell's. It was great to see them again and like we had never left, except that they had a brand new beautiful kitchen after many weeks of hard labor. Like the drive, most things that require work turn out pretty well if we just stick to it. Piper graciously let us bunk down in her bedroom again, what a great kid! Ah, it was great to have our heads hit the pillow that night. We needed all the energy and strength we could muster for the next couple of days when we shopped and cooked for the reunion.

Laura had thankfully made the menu that was Spencer friendly in the allergy department and the grocery list. That saved us plenty of time. But still Missy, Jen and I were gone for several hours getting everything we needed to feed 19 people for the better part of four days. I have never read so many food labels in my life. To avoid any soy and peanut contamination is a major chore. Count your blessings if you do not have life threatening allergies to food.

Jim's mom flew in to SLC on Saturday for the short time of the reunion. We had just about everything done by the time she arrived. Laura and Robert and the boys arrived that same night and stayed with Robert's parents overnight. We were going to church the next morning and then heading to Sundance and the big house. Everyone was pretty excited! Chris and Missy and their family had duties at their own ward so we were going to meet them at the big house in the afternoon.

Eagerly waiting for Laura and Robert and the boys.

We like to wait outside and charge
the car when people arrive!

Here they come up the court!
Molly is the first one to step out and welcome them!

Finally the long lost Auntie, Uncle and boy cousins arrived!

It was a grand reunion for us all.

Auntie Lou Lou had never met Hazie.
It was a long, long wait for them both!
Uncle Robert had passed through on Navy business
a few years ago to see her for a little bit
but it was the first time for Spencer and Ross
to meet her too.

Love at first sight!

It was amazing to see our oldest grandchild and
youngest child standing side by side...
Piper almost all grown up now.
Sunrise, Sunset swiftly go the days...!

Great Grandma and some of the kiddos.

We made Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch after church and then everyone was ready to go to the big house and wait for Chris and Missy, Connor, Aynslee, Zachary, and Owen to arrive. Fortunately, the resort house was only 30 minutes from home so it was a nice short drive to our destination.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The "Cabin" @ Sundance, Utah

It doesn't get much more beautiful than Sundance, Utah.

The setting is just magnificent, with its beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks, its gorgeous evergreens, flowers and quaking aspens, the water falls, the velvety green meadows~it is truly a paradise. In the winter it's one of the world's most sought after ski resorts. In the fall it is equal to New Hampshire and that is going some. In the spring, well, I am not really sure, winter lasts too long.


Staying anywhere near it would be such a blessing, even in a pup tent. (Not saying I am volunteering for that, however.) The house that we rented was absolutely perfect, we could not have wanted more. In fact, we felt humbled and very privileged to have the opportunity to be in such a luxurious place.

We have tried many different options when getting together with our family. Our home is just too small. We have even had tent trailers all the way down the driveway for each family. Nope...still not it. We put up a tent for all the kids, in the center of our courtyard on the patio...OK, but far from ideal. The secret we learned this time is lots of space. In fact, quoting my husband, "Space is the ultimate luxury!" After this vacation I totally agree. In this house if you needed your own space you could find it in any number of different places at any given time.

The Breeze Way Hotel in our backyard!

The scenic pictures on this post are from flickr and the house shots from a couple of websites that rent it. I have done this for several reasons.

1. It is hard to get an idea of what Sundance is like without some fabulous camera equipment, special lens attachments, etc. To get an overview you need to be on the ski lift and sorry, not goin' there!

2. The house also requires a wide angle lens as it is very large. I have included a few of our photos but you will know them when you see them because they just cannot take in the view adequately.

3. The house is full of light and reflections from the windows making exposure very difficult. Even some of the website pics are bad. But what is here can give you a pretty good idea of what it was like.

4. Once the flood gates were opened to the family, it was impossible to get any decent still shots. There was just too much motion and commotion to do any kind of justice to this home alone. Now it is different when you are trying to capture the movement and activity and we have lots of those to share later. But for this post it is all about the setting.

The Cabin is located on the big loop that goes around Sundance Resort at 8997 N. Timphaven Rd. This home is unbelievably well-suited to a large family reunion. We highly recommend it if you are ever looking for a place to be with your family and enjoy their company without a lot of distractions. Although expensive it is less than putting everyone up in hotel rooms and a billion times more fun.

The ceiling in this living room/great room is two stories high. If you are sitting on the sofa you can look directly up to the second floor, balcony. Guess how many of the kids loved this feature? All of them! They loved throwing love notes over the railing as well as observing the goings-on below from that vantage point. After a conk on the head, one of the Daddies had to veto that action.

The fully stocked kitchen is gorgeous and very user friendly. The island was ideal for setting up our buffets. Hazie's high chair attached perfectly to it so it gave her a great place to be right in the middle of all the action. The refrigerator held a lot. Thank goodness. Feeding 19 people three times a day is something I don't do often. So glad the kids and Jim did so much of the work, it was a great cooperative effort and everyone participated.

The Butler and His Pantry~
just kidding Jim is still in his church clothes.

This photo only shows you about 1/3 of the pantry that is off of the kitchen. It was bigger than a lot of kitchens I've been in. This is incredibly handy when you bring up a lot of food, who wants it sitting all over the house in bags for people to trip over and kids to get into? Not I. This builder thought of absolutely everything.

There is a very nice laundry room with detergent, fabric softener sheets, and iron and ironing board. Bring your own Shout, you will no doubt need it, right? They also had lots and lots of clean, white, fluffy towels.

In the great room there is a fireplace that is two-sided. The other side opens into a nice-sized dining room that seats 8, but we easily squeezed in one more as we had nine adults. We brought one of those white, heavy plastic tables for the kids to eat out on the deck. Brilliant. No messes inside, they loved eating together without the adults and vice versa. It didn't take them long before they were done eating and all playing and we could linger longer, relax and chat.

We also used the white hard plastic table for them to do their crafts on, so that again kept the messes contained much better. I think they should stock one in the garage there personally, as the cabin sleeps 20 but, people would have to eat in shifts if everyone wants to sit at a table.

This is a small corner of the master suite.
The king size bed was dwarfed by the size of the room.
The view was lovely and private and Jim and I enjoyed it immensely.

There was a large closet in the master
and the bathroom was over the top.

Doubled tiled shower, jetted tub, a separate sink and counter area for each person and separate water closet and nice linen closet. But the crowning blow was just off of that area.

The walk in shoe room! It has a long bench to sit down on while putting on your shoes and windows just in case you wanted sunlight for dressing. There was also space to hang lots of clothes in case you ran out in the other closet. Too bad I only had sandals and tennies to put there. This became a great hide out for the kids while they played hide and go seek in the house with its 20 rooms (including 5 bathrooms) and nooks and crannies. They loved it. I landed up having quite the private time with Owen in here when he rolled in to chat in Hazie's wheel chair.

This is the upper floor's landing where the kids loved to play with the Legos and throw love notes off the balcony. Robert and Laura, Gloria and Chris and Missy had nice bedrooms up here.

Laura and Robert's bedroom.

Pool anyone?

This is the pool table in the basement that could be set up as a ping pong table as well. Right out the window is the hot tub. In this room is a game table area and a full media room off this large room, for big screen TV/movie viewing. It has a large corner leather sofa and a bunch of those gigantic bean bags. There is also a large children's bedroom down here with its own bath, with several beds and lots of floor space where most of the kids slept.

The last thing downstairs was another full master suite which Jen and Lowell snagged since they were there first, slept down with the all the kids and had Hazie in their room. It was a fair trade, those grandkids giggled late into the night. More luxury and more noise.

And here is the hot tub.
Jen took this photo and called it
'Cousin Soup.'

I hope you have enjoyed the tour of the "cabin."

Jim and I kept wondering...who has this kind of money anyway?
I cannot imagine having a house like this just to rent out.
I wonder what their real house looks like
and the cabin they don't rent out??

What a kick to experience how the other half lives,
if only for a few days!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Planning Our Family Reunion

Some friends and readers have asked me to do a post on what we did at our family reunion and the things we did to plan for it to be a successful, fun time for everyone. I suppose there are about as many ways to have a successful family reunion as there are families. Here are some things that worked for us.


The thing about our family is that we like to plan events. This is key for us in just about all the things we do. We like to have a rough schedule of what we will be doing when, whenever we travel. There is a balance that has to be worked towards when doing this planning so that even though you plan, there is room for spontaneity. In the surgery office where I worked we use to call it buffer time, to allow for the emergencies and the unexpected. You don't want to be barking out orders at a family reunion or blowing a whistle when it is time to move to a new activity but you want organization, lots of it.

Once you have chosen your venue and the length of time for the reunion you can set about brainstorming and deciding how you would like to spend the time. You consider your own families special needs if there are some, the ages of the people attending, health issues, etc. and go from there. One thing we knew or sure, we didn't want to spend a long time driving to the place. We chose this house for its proximity to the kids' homes and because of the proximity to a nearby hospital should there be a need. With Hazie's breathing issues and Spencer's food allergies this was a primary consideration for our family.

Decide what your objectives are in having this family reunion. Do you want it to be destination vacation where you go someplace and then do a bunch of things as a group, like Disneyland as an example? Or do you want it to be a place where your family can spend time together just being together without having to think about the added planning and expense of admission costs, etc. For us this is what we wanted.

1. A place that didn't have a lot of distractions like shopping or special attractions, so that we could concentrate on just being together, strengthening our family bonds, letting the kids get to know their cousins better, a place where we could relax and talk and just be. Having the luxury of space was key. Having a place that had a beautiful natural setting was also desired. Since none of us have a house that accommodates 19 people comfortably, we definitely did not want it at anyone's home.

2. I really wanted us to have some family pictures taken. Not just snap shots but actual time set aside with someone other than a family member taking more formal pictures. That had to be arranged in advance. One of our good family friends, Traci Hartman, took the photos which was another advantage of having the reunion in close proximity to the kids' homes.

3. We wanted all the adults to have an opportunity to be in charge of at least one aspect of the reunion so that we could share the work and the responsibility so as not to have it be a burden for any one individual or couple.

4. The last thing that was paramount for Jim and me was the opportunity to strengthen our family spiritually by sharing some of our thoughts with them in a formal gathering, by playing together and engaging in other wholesome, uplifting activities. We wanted to be able to enjoy watching our grandchildren interact with one another and become better friends. We wanted the Dads to have fun together, the moms, and every other combination of family togetherness to have time and opportunity to take wing. We tried really hard to have it appeal to all ages and interests and that took a lot of planning.

One thing that greatly contributed to the success of our reunion was extensive work on the menu and shopping lists and cooking before we left. The last thing any of us wanted was to spend a bunch of time on that at the reunion. We had Laura do the menu so that everything was soy and peanut free. She also made a fantastic shopping list for us. While she was flying to Utah, Missy, Jen and I were shopping and Jim helped in preparing as much of the food as possible in advance. Grampa also kept all of Jen's kids and all of Missy's kids and three neighbor kids to boot, and fed them all lunch while we shopped. Jim and I went to Utah two days in advance just to help get ready. I think that really helped ease the burden on the kids that had six people to pack for while we had only two and were already packed.

We decided that we will keep the exact same menu for future reunions to eliminate all that work having to be duplicated. We had things that were simple or that could be heated in crockpots like chili, pulled pork for sandwiches, hamburgers, spaghetti, etc. We served hot lunches and dinners and everyone was on their own for breakfast so we had lots of choices like cereals, muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, etc. Jim and I paid for the rental of the house but we all shared the cost of the food. We figured out that by eating this way it cost us less that $30.00 per person for the entire reunion. I think it averaged $2.87 per meal. The very best part was not having to do a lot more than heating things up for the meals and pitching paper plates which = more play time and more time to relax. Also not eating out saved a ton of $.

Some thoughts on planning the activities for each day is up next.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Activities

flickr *

Some of you have seen the visual aid of putting big and little rocks and sand in a jar to illustrate to concept of time management or prioritizing tasks or activities.

Once you decide what you want to do, you put the big rocks in the jar first. This assures they will get done first and that there will be time and space in the schedule for that to happen.

One thing we have learned with our family is that two major events per day is good. Lesser activities can be sandwiched in, but for the most part we don't plan a whole big itinerary of things to do. The grandies are still young and the attention span varies greatly. Coupling that with individual interests and ages, choices become very important. What we did not want to happen was having people sitting around saying, "Well, what do you want to do?" Then someone else saying, "I don't care, what do you want to do." Times 19. It is such a time waster...you know the scenario. This can be avoided if you all ponder these things and then you make specific plans in advance. I know this is very intuitive for some people but for a lot of people it isn't.

So this is how we broke it down into the big rocks and smaller rocks that were optional activities that filled in the gaps. Both sizes are listed on the rocks in the jar above and will bring back specific memories to the family.

As a side note here, our family regards meals as big rocks and whatever anyone was doing at the time a meal was served...they stopped that activity and came to the family meal. The exception to this was breakfast where each individual family got up, got dressed and ate and were ready for the day by 9:00 am.

Grampa and Great Grandma: were in charge of the hikes around the area. They both love this and the kids and some of the adults enjoy it too. Jim went out and scouted the area for simple hikes and had a plan of where and how far they would go each day they went out.

He made sure that the hikes did not go by any streams which had turned into torrents of white water rivers, due to the snow melt and run off. He made sure several adults went along on the hikes to insure the safely of the kids.I was amazed at Jim's mom once again. She will be 85 in November and her abilities and stamina are astonishing for her age and a hip replacement. She was also a great helper in the kitchen.

Jim and I: were in charge of our family meeting. In our church we have (FHE) family home evening every Monday night. We planned this activity in the morning on Monday to kick off the Reunion in a more formal way then just starting in on a bunch of activities. We also planned for some time capsules for the kids and Laura helped on that too. We also arranged for and planned the family formal picture taking. We took lots of photos, as in hundreds between all the cameras, at the reunion and I have edited most of them that we are keeping and using. Laura has also worked on that too for a separate project. They are making us a photo book for our anniversary of the reunion!

Missy and Chris: were in charge of bringing board games, Chris did a Lego Challenge with anyone who wanted to participate and Missy made Pretzel Bites from scratch so any of the kids that wanted to could participate. We all enjoyed scarfing them down. Chris also helped with the electronic stuff like hooking up cables to the big screen TV for viewing the home movies, etc. Everyone helped in the kitchen and I think Missy did more than her share. And they also headed up family scripture study every night.

Jennifer: was in charge of the crafts for the kids and the moms. This was a big job requiring a lot of prep and bringing a lot of things. The Moms all made paper banners that said Happy Birthday and we also made paper flowers. The kids made Father's Day gifts for their Dads and Grampa.

Lowell: was in charge of the Family 2011 Sundance Film Fest we did and he did the major amount of the editing for all of that. Both Lowell and Chris starred in their film and Jim and Chris did a lot of the picture taking, transferring things to computers and flash drives, etc. Lowell uploaded the movie they made to Youtube and it is a real treasure.

Laura and Robert: were in charge of the Family Birthday Party. They really wanted to do this as their kids always miss everyone's birthday and vice versa. Laura made party bags for all the kids (specific to their ages and interests) and Robert was in charge of the games at the party and they both put out a fantastic ice cream sundae bar for all to enjoy. The party was a lot of fun. The singing was outstanding!

All of the kids: planned a 43rd anniversary celebration for Jim and me on the last day of the reunion. They cooked breakfast for us and gave us balloons and presents. It was definitely a big rock and we appreciated it very much! Definitely left a beautiful heart print on both of us.

Everyone worked really hard and did their best~that usually brings good results.

There are pictures and more details on all of this but these are the major things that people came prepared to take charge of on selected days and times. They will be in an upcoming installment on the Family Reunion. Part 1 was also published today and can be found right below this post. Click on Older Post.

*I sincerely hope that the person who took this picture of the rocks in the jar will not feel like suing me for using her 2006 flickr photo to illustrate a concept. Or for altering it by adding picnik.com text. Yikes...I hope she realizes we spent all our $ on the reunion so there is little to be gained. Hopefully she will be flattered and will grant me her tender mercies for borrowing this!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Family Flower

Our Special Flower Power

When Jim and I began to plan the meeting with our children and grandchildren we realized what a touching opportunity it would be. It had been since Christmas 2006 that we'd all been together under one roof. Owen and Hazie were not even born then. It was kind of one of those moments when someone asks you, "If you only had a few minutes what would you tell your posterity?" We felt the weight of it and prayed what we said would make a difference and would set the tone for our time together at Sundance.

On Monday morning after breakfast we gathered everyone around the living room and Laura led us in a song "I Am A Child Of God" and then we began our meeting with a prayer. This is the way Family Home Evening always starts with an opening song and prayer. Then there is a short lesson. Our topic was The Importance of Our Family.

Grampa began by talking to the parents about how important marriage is and how your spouse should be your first priority, even in times when you feel you are pulled in forty directions at once. In essence your family is you and your spouse forever. The kids will grow up and create little families of their own.

He told them to love and honor each other and even though they may be very different in many things their bond is their love and their commitment and their foundation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With that common bond and foundation, everything else will work together for their good. He commended them on the excellent job they are doing. He shared our deep love for each of them as families and individuals.

I talked to the children primarily, but the lesson was for everyone. I used the large, fancy flower you see at the top of this post on its long, green, leafy stem as my visual aid. It is very glittery and has a ruby red, jeweled center that I attached to it to emphasize the center. I had developed this lesson a few years ago for a presentation I was asked to give and I felt it would convey my thoughts well to a large age range of kids.

Holding the flower up for all of them to see I told them that this flower represents our family. When you came to earth you were the beautiful gem in the center of the flower. Heavenly Father loved you so much He sent you to a chosen family that would love and protect you all of your life.

That family, your mom and dad, your brothers and sisters, your grandparents, your aunts, uncles and cousins are all represented by the petals that surround the center or you. Also there are your ancestors, your future husband or wife and your own children and grandchildren in that flower. It grows and changes as you do. Some petals fall off but are never forgotten, and new ones are formed~all are extremely important in your life.

I explained that each of us has one of these flowers and we are not only the center on our own flower but we are a petal on each family member's flower as well. Our relationship to the person in the middle determines our position or stewardship in the life of the person. The two petals that are always side by side, working the hardest in their behalf, represent their Mom and Dad.

I explained that every petal has a job to do and each is very important for loving and protecting the person in the middle. I added that everyone else in the room was a petal on their own flower and were always there for them to help and guide and love them. I told them they never need to feel alone, because they aren't.

Even though we live far apart we can remain close but this requires an effort on everyone's part. It is like tilling and preparing the garden for some beautiful flowers to grow there. It is one reason why I write the Gramma and You Blog @ http://grammaandyou.blogspot.com for them. Its purpose is to help them to know and appreciate each other more and stay connected.

I explained that we are each other's "People." Others will come and go in our lives, but family is forever and will always be our very own, "Special People," handpicked just for us by God himself.

Grampa added that just like every flower has roots from which it gets its strength and nourishment through rich soil, the sun and living water...we all receive that same beneficial kind of growth and life from the son of God, Jesus Christ, and His gospel.

He told them that the gospel and their family are the best way to find protection and refuge from the harmful things of the world. Those two things are also the things that will bring them the most love and happiness in life. We asked them to remember these things whenever they see a beautiful flower from now on.

The kids seemed to like this lesson and relate to it. At the end we asked them to form a circle in the middle of the floor. Hazie was then placed in the middle of the circle. Then Grampa asked them to imagine that someone was approached the circle wanting to do Hazie harm, to hurt her or tease her. He then stood up and came aggressively towards the group like he was this "bad guy."

The kids all understood that it was their job to protect her so they all surrounded her to shield her from the impending danger. Some moved closer to her, encircling her and placing their own bodies between her and the danger, others attacked the danger directly in her behalf.

It was very sweet and they all got the point.

After this we sang another song and closed with prayer. We put out some 3x5 cards for everyone to write love notes to family members because it is important to verbally share the love we feel for each other. Everyone got into this...we ran out of cards! Every night there was a collection of these precious gems under our pillows.

Auntie Lou Lou (Laura) also made them some special ringed note cards to write something to each cousin that was fun that they'll remember they did together at the reunion. They could then put them in their own time capsules that we made for them to put mementos and pictures in of the reunion.

Our feelings were that it went very well and that it helped them bond to each other more and to have a very good time together during the reunion. If there was any problem between any of them during the Reunion we never did see evidence of it. They all got along beautifully and played and shared and enjoyed each other. It was our dream come true. Here are a few photos of some serious togetherness. Nothing could have made their grandparents happier. It was priceless.

Piper and her sweet baby sister...Hazie

Ayns and Julia

Chloe and Owen

All the kids but Ross

Zach, Ross, Spence, Julia and Aynslee

Connor and Chloe making sure that Hazie
felt included in the hike.
We saw this repeatedly in all the kids!

Owie and Chloe
Sweet cousin bonding

No Ross in this photo
He was taking a little break
@ the house during this hike.

The kids always had choices about the events
which made them all happy!

Chlo Jo & O-Mo (Owen Monroe)

Spencie taking a turn
at jumping off a tree stump.

The brotherhood of the cousins

Spencer and Hazie having a heart to heart chat.
We love how they get right down to her level
instead of talking down to her in her wheelchair.
Kids are so intuitive about that sort of thing.

Ayns and Jewel hanging out in the rainbow bathtub!

Connor and Hazie hot tubbin'!!

The film makers, Piper, Con and Zachy

Rossie and Owie sharing a cuddly moment

Gramma edited OUT of this(Yikes, I scared myself!)
morning pile up on our bed.
One of our favorite traditions!

Jewels and Ayns
Writing love notes to family members

on three by fives to tuck under pillows!

Ross and Zach in deep rapture
over something on the iPad.

Grampa and I had to pinch ourselves,
who could ask for anything more?
Neither of us that is for sure!