But let me back up to our trip from Utah to Idaho. This would have been our shortest leg of the entire journey had we not opted to make a couple of extra stops en route. First, we wanted to take our kids to Temple Square in Salt Lake City. I think, despite their grumpiness from over-exhaustion, they really enjoyed seeing the sites. One funny moment occurred when I was trying to help Maia remember that she can ride escalators. Anyway, she really wanted to go in the basement of the Visitor's Center where her dad, Mason and Marlee had gone, but was too afraid to go down the escalator. (Side note: about a year ago we actually paid for some psychotherapy for her so she could overcome her anxieties—including riding escalators. After meeting with the psychologist, I took her to the mall where we practiced “The Relaxing Breath” and eventually conquered this fear by riding up and down escalators for a couple of hours.) Well, there was no way I wanted to go back to our too-afraid-to-ride-the-escalator days. I calmly reminded Maia that she could do it and then said, “Look, let's watch the rhythm of the steps as they come and then step on. One...two...three...step!” She remained frozen in place with a frustrated look on her face. “Mom, they move too fast! What do they think we are—cheetahs?” Ah, my sweet daughter. The good news is that she did eventually get on and ride down where there were no less than six smiling missionaries cheering at her success.
After temple square we stopped in a little town called Corinne, Utah to visit our old home teacher and his family. When Michael and I were newlyweds we were in a huge Provo ward where we felt like no one knew us and no one cared to...until we met our home teacher, Kurt. He and his wife were expecting their first baby around the same time as we were expecting Maia and we just bonded. Stopping by their house was the best pit stop of our whole trip. They have a farm with tortoises, ostriches, emus, pygmy goats, chickens, and a pig (I'm probably forgetting some animals, too). Mason was running around not knowing where to go next. I think he thought he was born into the wrong family. He loved all the animals and was in their pens most of the time. Marlee and Mackenna loved the tiny leopard tortoise most and, after spending the better part of an hour refusing to exit the car due to the presence of said animals, even Maia put a tentative finger on the tortoise's shell. Sweet Larissa wouldn't let us leave without giving us some new books on tape, an emu egg and and ostrich egg (which she opened with her power drill and emptied before our very eyes—that's one BIG egg). Anyway, it was great to see this fun family after so long.
The road in Idaho was plagued with multiple construction zones (shut down to one lane) and even a brush fire. Finally, we got to the Boise area and went straight to my friend Carmen and Brian's house. I lived with Carmen in the dorms my freshmen year (We met Brian lived there, too—we were all great friends. They started dating and now have the perfect Mormon love story). Anyway, Carm and I had our first babies three days apart so it was fun to see how big they are now! She and Brian look the same as they did when they were 18. We had a great barbecue with them and let all the kids get their wiggles out in the park right behind their house.
After the reunion with my freshmen friends, we went to the hotel to greet our family for the start of the family reunion. Michael and I chose not to stay in the hotel for the entire duration of the reunion because we had a free house offered to us just ten minutes away. Michael's mom offered up the extra bed in her room and Maia and Mason were thrilled to spend the next two nights in the hotel with Grandma Margaret. We took the little girls back to our house and got some shut-eye.
Thursday morning a bunch of us went to Zoo Boise. Michael's aunt had procured 60 free passes for the zoo (children 3 and under are free anyway) so a huge horde of us went together. It was a grand time to see all the little great-grandchildren running and playing and looking at the animals together. Highlights for us included Michael obtaining a porcupine's quill and walking through the butterfly garden.
After a quick lunch in downtown Boise we headed back to the hotel where I took Mackenna up to Margaret's room for a nap and Michael took the older three down to the pool with the rest of the crew. After nap time, Mackenna and I joined the merrymaking at the pool. Soon, it was dinnertime and the whole fam-damily went to a little Chinese restaurant around the corner from the hotel. To get the idea of how our family filled this restaurant you have to understand that Michael's mom is the second of eleven children. This reunion was for Michael's grandmother, her eleven children/spouses, their forty or fifty some-odd children and their spouses and their children. Did that make any sense? The point is...it's a lot of people (even when some couldn't come). So, we packed that restaurant and had a nice meal together.
Friday was Riding the River Day. Michael took Maia and Mason with countless relatives to go tubing down the Boise River. I am so proud of Maia and Mason for having the courage to try this new activity! They both returned with smiling faces and endless tales of splashing fights and “falling” into the river. I stayed back at the hotel with Esther, Jessica, Chuck and Marilyn on baby duty. Together, we watched all the little children deemed too young for the river expedition. Esther and I took some kids to the park for a minute, but we mostly hung out at the hotel and enjoyed a pizza lunch. After lunch, I took my girls and my niece, Savannah, back to Margaret's room for naps. It was so cute to watch Marlee and Savannah together; they are first cousins and only three months apart in age, but they rarely play together. At family dinners, they ignore each other most of the time. I don't get it because I always wished I had a cousin my same age to play with but they don't seem to care. OK, they are still pretty young. I'll get over it. My point is that I was so happy to see them playing together all morning and when we went down for naps they were in the same bed, laying on their sides facing each other and giggling. It was so cute!
Grandma Betty hosted an open house to show us all her cute house in Boise. She's got pictures of her descendants everywhere. It really shows how she treasures her family.
Michael attended a family meeting Friday evening while I took our kids back to the house and put them to bed. My childhood friend and daughter of the woman whose house we were staying in, Emily, came over to visit me for about a half hour. We grew up together with our moms as best friends so it was nice to sit and chat about our families.
When Michael came back from the family meeting, I had to wake myself up and go back to the hotel. Christy and Lori, a couple of Michael's cousins, and I had made a date to go buy the new Harry Potter together at midnight. We recruited two more cousins to join us: another named Michael, and my old college roommate Kimber (the gal who started it all for my Michael and me). The five of us set out on our quest. We searched for a Barnes and Nobles on the GPS and headed over. WOAH! The bookstore had already met is maximum capacity of 1200 and the parking lot was filled with shoulder-to-shoulder humans awaiting entrance. After deciding it just wouldn't be right to knock over some people with our car to snatch their books from them, we did another search on the GPS and looked up Wal-Mart. We were there in less than five minutes and greatly encouraged by a parking lot full of cars and not human beings in a queue. There was a twenty- or thirty-minute line and that's all. We laughed and joked while we waited for our turn to buy books. The beauty of the Wal-Mart book-buying excursion was that we were still able to see die-hards in costumes (our favorite was a Prof. Trelawney with giant glasses) but also buy Michael the new deodorant he so badly needed! It was a win-win!
Saturday we had a massive photography session at the Veteran's Memorial Park. Enter reunion t-shirts. Each child of Grandma Betty and that child's descendants had a t-shirt color; ours was “funshine yellow,” as I like to call it. We got all kinds of photos—grandkids, great-grandkids, families by color and then the giant group photo of all of us. I don't have a copy of that one yet since every one of us was actually in the photo. After the photos, we fought swarms of wasps to eat a nice picnic lunch. Then, we played silly games like a relay, egg toss and wacky hair-style competition. After several hours at the park we headed back to the hotel for some more family time poolside.
This time Michael took a turn at nap duty and I got to relax and chat at the pool with our fun relatives. I am so lucky to have so many great in-laws. Of course, I love that I get to see my fun friend/old roommate Kimber at any and all family reunions. You just can't beat marrying your dear friend's cousin for a guaranteed good time at any extended family gathering. Through my friendship with her, I knew Grandma Betty and various other aunts and cousins long before I met my Michael. I enjoyed my hours by the pool chatting with the many family members, especially my sisters-in-law. Each has such a uniquely pleasant personality. I managed to supervise the kids for about four hours and never once got thrown in the pool. Let me tell you, with this crowd that is quite an accomplishment.
After picking on picnic leftovers all day, we didn't feel the need in our guts to go to dinner, so we just got the kids out of the pool long enough for a twenty-minute break before heading to the YMCA. Our family had rented the entire pool area at the local YMCA for more water fun. And what fun it was! There was a very large kiddie pool with a little dragon water slide for the babies and toddlers. Then, there were two larger slides for the rest of us; one was very twirly and curvy and the other was a short, steep drop. I couldn't believe that Maia tried the steep one, but she did. Maia and Mason both spent the hour and a half in constant water slide mode. At first, Michael and I were taking turns watching the little girls, but when we learned we could take them on our laps we gave that a try. Both of them loved the slide (the steep one was off-limits for the littlest kids) and suckered both their parents and their Uncle Chris and Aunt Meredith to take them down repeatedly. It was a great finale activity for the whole family!
People started leaving early Sunday morning, but for those of us who stayed a little later, we had a nice family breakfast at the hotel. It was lovely. In our big family, there are just so many interesting and diverse people who have one important thing in common (other than their DNA): they know how to have fun! I look forward to the next reunion in 2012.