Monday, July 19, 2010

Even Better Than TV Reality

My goal is to blog every day this week, breaking our recent trip into different segments. Ideally, there would be pictures in each of these posts, but as my camera spent the trip happily nestled in its charger 800 miles away from us, pictures are a bit problematic.

Actually, our vacation was just a trip "home." Meaning "the place where I grew up." I have to catch myself referring to Utah as "home," however. It is a term that confuses my kids a bit, and I don't know if they will ever count Utah as one of their homes. However, this particular trip is the first time I felt like we actually had a vacation, instead of just visiting grandparents. (Also lovely and important, but when you live away from your roots you sort of of feel like you travel a lot without ever getting to go on vacation.) As my kids get older, this type of travel gets easier and easier. They were very well behaved on long car rides for the most part. And with no nappers in the bunch, it was easy to make plans that lasted all day long.

The reason for planning our adventures when we did is that Plantboy's family held a family reunion over the weekend of the 4th of July. We stayed in Park City in a lodge large enough to hold just about everybody. This is no small feat. Plantboy is the sixth of nine children. ALL of them came to the reunion with spouses and kids. All told I believe there are 53 people.

Plantboy's sister, ArkansaSis, was in charge this year. I think it was the best one we've ever had. Her organization is even more impressive considering that her family was living in Guatemala until the late spring of this year, she organized the rest from halfway across the country, and announced to the family during the reunion that she is pregnant with baby #5! Even if it had been mediocre I would have been totally impressed.

ArkansaSis built the reunion loosely around television reality shows. The first night we played games, Minute to Win It style. It isn't a reality show I'd ever seen (not really my favorite genre), but the silly, simple and challenging games were a blast. I'm definitely going to use some of these ideas for a future Young Women activity. (Note: Is it Young Womens activity? I hate that. And if it is, should there be an apostrophe??? Help, grammar people.)

The second day, we went to the summer resort up at Snowbird. Though we didn't do any formal family games, it was called our "Survivor" day. Jedi Knight and Plantboy did a ropes course. Jedi didn't even break a sweat despite being harnessed 20 feet off the ground, so proud of himself that he was exactly tall enough for the height requirement. The little ones did a bounce house. We all did the Alpine Slide a couple of times as well as taking the tram, a hike, and a couple of different ski lifts for some fabulous views. I also rock climbed and did the zip-line. The boys bungee-trampolined. All in all, it was a wonderful day. I think the best result of our survivor day is that I now am looking forward to our Disneyland trip later this year. (My mother's idea.) I had been kind of dreading it, but my kids were surprisingly patient and adventurous as we waited in lines and presented them with new things to do.

Saturday night, we met around an outside fire pit for American Idol and s'mores. It turned out that we didn't do karaoke, but we did sing our family song(s). Each reunion, we have to make up our own family verse based on the tune to "Army of Helaman." There is a family chorus we all sing together. People use this song as a time to make announcements (how we found out about AkansaSis's baby), recap the previous year's events, but mostly it is a chance to try and be the funniest. With nine verses, it takes us a while to get through, but it is always great. After we dragged the exhausted kids to bed, Plantboy's dad did a grown-ups only fireside that was completely awesome, but I will give more on that in another post.

Sunday, a huge group of us invaded the Jeremy Ranch ward. It was very cool to be at church with so many family members. After church, my in-laws were able to get a single picture with every member of their family in it. Even their daughter-in-law, with her week-old baby girl, made it up for a couple of hours so that she could be there too. There is only one kid who was so grumpy that he wouldn't look at the camera; everyone else, if not smiling, is at least looking. Do you want to take bets on who feared the camera would steal his soul? One of mine? Getting warmer! It was the Youngling. He has his arms crossed and head down. You can see the top of his beautiful curly blond head. What a little punk.

Sunday night we were divided into non-immediate-family teams to play Amazing Race style games. Except for that Vienna sausage episode that nearly made me hurl my guts out, and the fact that our team got the bad luck of running up and down a huge hill a couple of times (our clues were in the WORST possible order), it was extremely cool. ArkansaSis had really come up with some clever games and the terminology in the games was very Amazing-Race-like. After games, we bundled up (it was COLD in Utah on July 4th!!) and headed into Park City for fireworks. We tried to torch all the kids with sparklers, but they all lived to eat 14 pounds of Red Vines and stay up WAY too late.

Monday morning we wrapped up with a "Biggest Loser" fun run. My kids were a bit out of it by then, so we were rather dud-like and stayed back, doing our cleaning assignment early so that we could get Plantboy to his flight. (He was so busy at work that he was unable to stay on vacation with us the whole time.) Plantboy ran and proudly won in what he called his "age division." Of course, most of the brothers made the same claim because each brother narrowly defined the categories until they were the only person IN the category. Plantboy clarified--he beat all the brothers and that was all he cared about. The prize? Bragging rights for two years. The best part about the fun run is that each person was given a piece of stiff fabric, a pin and a sharpie to give themselves a number. Some of the numbers were hilarious. There were various Greek symbols and Roman numerals. There were a couple of equations. Plantboy's number was 8675309. Mine was "threeve." (If anybody gets that joke, I'll love you forever.)

The reason Plantboy's family is so wonderful, however, has less to do with the games and activities, and a lot more to do with the in-between stuff. You know in the reality shows, how they do all the stupid interviews in between the exciting bit? People back-stab one another and reveal all manner of unpleasant things about themselves by the way they act and talk. But in Plantboy's family, people genuinely get along with one another. Of course it was easy to walk in on a conversation in which you disagreed with the direction of the discussion, but you were always welcome to contribute.

The first night I met Plantboy's family, there were about half as many as there are now. We drove from Utah to Denver to meet them over Christmas Break. I studied the whole way there so that I would remember everybody's name. What I found at the end of a long drive and a big snow storm was love and acceptance I had known in very few places. They loved Plantboy, and that love extended without reservation, and immediately, to me. Things haven't changed though eleven and a half years have passed since that night I was terrified of forgetting somebody's name. I'm so grateful not only to have been born into a wonderful family, but to have married into one. It is nice for a nomad to have a soft place to land.


Z. Marie said...

This all sounds like so much fun!

emandtrev said...

That sounds like one of the best family reunions I've ever heard of. The activities and games sound so fun for everyone. Hooray for that!

I loved what lovely things you had to say about meeting your in-laws for the first time and how great they are. I remember many of those same feelings when I met and started spending time with my husband's family. I too feel pretty lucky with where I landed.

heidikins said...

This sounds lovely! And I'm so very glad you married into an AwesomePants family!


Rainie said...

What a reunion, I wonder if we can hire ArkansaSis to do one of ours:) You're a lucky girl to have two great families. I can't wait for pictures.

chicagosapps said...

That sounds so fun! I would love to know the chorus of your army of helaman song--it would give me some ideas for our reunion. You can email me at