Friday, July 7, 2017

Isn't It Lava Lee

It's been five years since the last Lee Family Reunion. We've added seven more people (which brings our total to 49), families have moved, Aaron got married, Taylor went on a mission, Grandpa Bob retired, and much much more. This time we were in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho and Soda Springs, Idaho. That added a fun family history element to the reunion since my Grandma Carol Chester Furniss grew up in Soda Springs.

My family arrived at "The Lodge" on Sunday afternoon and I immediately put my funeral potatoes in the oven since Jen and I were on dinner detail. Grandpa had all the families introduce themselves, then he chose a random grandchild to quiz after each introduction. They did great! The Lodge had a giant room where we could all sit around tables and eat together. I brought six 9" x 13" pans of funeral potatoes and six dozen rolls. Jen brought four hams and buckets and buckets of fresh green beans. Brian made homemade root beer and Grandma brought ice cream for root beer floats.
That's Jen's youngest, Henry. He is a silent observer - very shy. Brian hooked him by letting him help with the root beer. Science and root beer! What kid could resist that?!
The kids spent a lot of time on this weird slide in the backyard. Emil is stepping on a big, fake snake at the bottom of the slide. (Someone warned me early on that a kid had already peed on the snake. Ha! Take that, snake!)
Root beer floats! That's Claire, Chloe, and Helena. Makenzie's two little girls, Claire and Ruby, worshiped all the older girls. As they should - they have some fantastic older cousins.
One of the great pleasures of the reunion was seeing the cousins hanging out and talking and laughing. It seemed like everyone was cool to sit with whomever and have fun. This is Ethan, Harrison and Emma.
There's Adam, Weston, Henry, and Taylor. You can see in the background four of the uncles in the kitchen. Another favorite thing - seeing the in-laws work together and enjoy each other's company.
One of the things my family does not mess around with is getting a family photo. That was Melissa's assignment this year and she crushed it. For about two and a half hours Melissa arranged people, coaxed smiles from little ones, and endured the sarcasm of many while she captured this amazing moment in time - all 49 of us in the same place at the same time. (That's Allyn's youngest, Denham, looking like a sweet little angel.)
That's Melissa's family waiting their turn. I pushed the button for their photo, but not until everyone else had their turn.
The view at The Lodge included beautiful green hills with a lazy train going by several times a day. There's Helena and Evie (two of Katy's girls) enjoying a train with Makenzie's youngest, Marco.
Bridget got a sliver while we were waiting for our turn. She can't endure slivers! Thankfully we were close to the end so she could dry her tears and get hugs from Grandma Peggy.
It was fun to see nieces and nephews interacting with aunts and uncles. That's Katy's two oldest girls, Eliza and Vivien, talking with their Uncle Ben. They should really listen to that guy. :)

Monday was our first day at Lava Hot Springs Olympic Pools. It's a huge complex with giant slides, medium slides, small slides, and diving boards and platforms. It was the 3rd of July and it seemed like the entire state of Idaho came to play. Our kids are at the public pool here in town all the time, so we kind of know what's going to happen, but the crowd at Lava Hot Springs was insane! Every time I turned around I'd lost one of our kids. I tried to throw some of the toys for them to dive and retrieve, but other kids would pick them up and sometimes even adults would bring them back to me. (Seriously? Did you think I dropped that on accident?) My blood pressure was up most of the day.
During one of our breaks we got all the six year-old cousins together for a photo. That's Ian, Chance, Colin, and Emil holding Ruby. Makenzie thought up this pose and we were all surprised that Ruby was game to do it. Looking at the photo afterward Emil said, "I got the best part, the feet." Cooties! Hahahahaha! Seriously, though, how crazy to have five kids all in the same grade in our family!
My boys got along really well with their cousin Claire. She's fun and she knows what's up. :) Behind them you can see that our family and some of the Furniss cousins who joined us took up the whole hillside. Toward the end of the day Brian and I got on a raft with the kids and floated down the river. Aron had been shuttling people back and forth all day in his van - dropping them off, then picking up where we got out. On one of the first runs of the day Ben cut open his lower back on a rock and had to go get seven stitches. Thanks to him everyone knew to avoid that particular drop and also yell out, "Butts up!" when we came to the rapids. Brian and I were on high alert through that whole run down the river with the kids, but Bridget, Emil and Colin were howling with laughter and delight the whole time. "This is just like that ride at Lagoon!" Except way more dangerous.

After a quick shower, everyone met back at The Lodge for a secret dinner. We followed Grandma and Grandpa through Lava Hot Springs and out to a cute little farm. We took a wagon ride to a beautiful spot for a chuckwagon dinner and play time.
First I had to give Emma her T-shirt quilt that I finished the Saturday before the reunion. Like a boss.
Grandma gave everyone a bandanna to wear. There's Lilja and Eliza getting Brennan all fixed up.
Grandpa and Grandma were in our wagon. (And so was Melissa - we should have had a camera in both wagons!)
There we are! I have pool hair, but Brian always looks good.
We were packed in pretty tight, but all these cute girls didn't mind holding the little ones. From left to right, Vivien holding Bryce, Lilja holding Chance, Emma, Evie, Helena, Anya, and Bridget.
There's Marco wondering what the heck is happening. He probably could have fallen asleep right there.
Makenzie and Marco
The wagon driver let the kids take turns riding shotgun. Colin insisted on wearing his bandanna like a ninja. He is cool 100% of the time.
Cutie cousins - Anya, Chloe and Bridget. They're all 11 right now. Bridget is six months younger than they are and right now it's a big six months. She'll hit a growth spurt and catch up, but the difference is pretty stark between them. They still get along great - I'm so glad they're friends. :)
Brennan and Lori (and Melissa taking photos in the background).
We had to get a photo of all the in-laws because they wouldn't stop crying about not getting a photo on Sunday. It's so fun to have all these awesome brothers and sisters! It was getting dark and my camera likes to lose focus when it's dark. Still...
Right?! That's the other wagon full of our family coming down the hill at sunset. It was so beautiful!

Tuesday was Race Day. Katy's family knows their stuff when it comes to races. They do Spartan races together. They put together a 4.5K (in honor of my parents being married 45 years) that included challenges our ancestors faced when they came over on the Oregon Trail (which was very near The Lodge). After a flag ceremony and the National Anthem (it was the 4th of July), everyone eight and older did the race. Bridget walked with Chloe and I was looking forward to a leisurely walk with Brian, but he made me run most of the time.

Our first obstacle was "crossing a river in the rain" - crawling on a blue tarp under a yarn maze while being sprayed by Matt with a water gun. Ha! We ran down the hill to Evie and she helped us shoot at buffalo with Nerf guns. I think the next thing wasn't until Lori and Brennan at the halfway mark where we got a snake bite and had to hop on one foot for a while. Helena helped us with picking up buffalo chips (putting golf balls in a bucket) and then Eliza gave us a nasty drink of soda water from one of the Hopper Springs and a bite of buffalo jerky. The second half of the run was mostly uphill and very difficult for this old lady. Katy gave us dysentery about 20 yards from the finish line (putting our foreheads to a bat and spinning around 10 times) and then it was over!
Totally earned that finisher's medal.
 Everyone who finished got an awesome medal. Ethan won the race and his Dad, Ben, came in last (with those fresh stitches in his back).
Another father and son, Harrison and Jeff. Look at those young boys - they don't even look winded! "We're all in such great shape!" 

Katy and her family quickly shortened the course for the under-8 crowd to do their race. All the little kids had been watching us and making plans. They were ready! (Allyn's own children encouraged her as she came up the hill, "You can do it, Aunt Nicole!" Hahahahaha! Emil and/or Colin said, "Go, Mom!" They should have known I'd be behind her. Haha!)
Denham! Hahahaha! All the little kids needed a big kid or adult "buddy" and Colin asked me to be his. Emil chose Lilja because "she's my favorite cousin - don't tell anyone."
I should have let Bridget or Brian follow Colin 'cause I was hurting! I gave her my phone instead so she could take photos. Aren't those shirts awesome! Ben designed the logo and I helped him pick colors, then I ordered the shirts and picked them up. Of course I ended up with two extra ladies shirts and we have two men who need shirts. Missed again.
Bryce and Chance crossing the river. So cute!
Harrison came back and pumped Miles up.
I love how hard Emil tried. He threw up after eating the jerky and drinking soda water. Then he kept running. Champion material!
"Mom, can I get a piggyback ride?"
Grandma helped him finish strong. :)
This photo makes me so happy! How lucky is Bryce to have five awesome sisters! Vivien (on the right) was the first female to finish the regular race. Power!
Denham is ready for that medal.

After an awards ceremony, Allyn and Aron served us grits casseroles and fruit for brunch. Everyone was hungry and sweaty - it's probably the best food I've ever had. :) Then it was back to the swimming pool. On Tuesday Brian mostly helped people run the river while I took care of the kids at the pool. There were a lot less people there, so we could play easier. Later in the afternoon, Brian and I took the kids down the river again. When he got back to the pool I filmed him jumping off the top platform - it's three-stories high. Not a joke.
There's Brian on the top waiting for his turn.

After dinner (hamburgers and hot dogs by Makenzie and Melissa) we went to an old baseball diamond near the church in Lava Hot Springs for kickball. This activity was led by Aaron and Lori. They found a sport everyone could do! Genius.
Everyone is listening closely to Uncle Aaron's instructions.
Looks like Jeff and Allyn are taking this a little more seriously than the rest of the people in this photo. Ha! Brian and I weren't on the same team. I was hiding out in deep center field when he was up to kick and of course he kicked it right to me. I called it and hoped and hoped I wouldn't drop it. After I caught it, Allyn grabbed me around the waist, she said to keep me from falling down and losing the ball. The whole play was so funny - I couldn't stop laughing for several minutes. I got him out!
This is Jeff's fire pit at sunset after the game.

Wednesday was our big family history reunion ranger activity in Soda Springs, Idaho. I made a booklet similar to the ones we've filled out at national parks. Grandpa Bob had the "ranger talk" where he told stories about his grandparents. I had a page with a photo of Grandma Carol and Grandpa Lloyd Furniss standing on the bridge in Hopper Springs in 1947 and 1991 where the kids wrote what they thought of the taste of naturally carbonated water. Grandma Peggy was at the spring with little red shot glasses of the soda water and she was wearing a cute apron and a hat. The kids told me later that people thought Grandma was official and she was handing out samples to people who weren't with our group. HAHAHAHAHA! I told the kids about mail delivery in the 1870s when their great-great-great grandfather, William Chester, did it. Then they carried a bag full of mail while riding a stick horse to deliver it to aunts and uncles who were posted around the little park area. 

We started, though, at the geyser and the cemetery. The kids were supposed to find their name (first, middle, OR last) on a headstone and their birth date. There was also a BINGO game in the booklet with activities for them to complete.
Anya and Bridget look for their name and birth date.
One of the BINGO items was "Give Grandma a hug" - so Grandma got lots of love in Soda Springs.
Bridget commented that it was unusual to have a photo of Harrison smiling and Chloe not smiling.
Emil walked up to Uncle Ben and asked if there was a headstone with his birthday over there. Uncle Ben answered, "Over where? Oh! I mean under where?" (One of the BINGO items was, "Get someone to say 'underwear.'" Hahahaha! I'm so funny.)
Another BINGO item was to have a thumb war with an aunt or uncle. Gabriel and Chloe challenged me and they did not win. Look at these two freckly guys! Fun.
Henry and Weston secretly loving reunion ranger activities. :)
Noah finding Uncle Matt's mail while Taylor does a creepy photo bomb. :)
Waiting to deliver mail: Bryce, Adam, Ruby, and Evie. (Adam ended up taking home a prize for completing his booklet, getting the fastest time on delivering the mail, and getting black-out on the BINGO game. See? Secretly loving it.)
Sweet Moira found TWO pencils. That is literally the only time I've ever seen her without her hair done.
Aunt Allyn helping Colin identify his cousins' baby pictures in the booklet.
Another BINGO item was singing the ABC Song with Grandpa Bob. Eliza and Grandpa sang it in French.
Grandma, Grandpa and me on the bridge by Hopper Springs. I got a little emotional driving back to Lava Hot Springs after doing all this stuff in Soda Springs. I felt like my Grandma Carol would have loved everything we did. I know it made her happy. All that work was worth it.
My kiddies standing where their great grandparents have stood.
There are Lloyd and Carol in approximately 1947 on the same bridge.
When we got back to The Lodge Grandpa Bob had the reunion rangers pledge to keep the stories of their grandparents for the next generation.

For months Grandma Peggy and Grandpa Bob have been telling us about a surprise guest on Wednesday afternoon. Who could it be?! We all made guesses, we were all wrong. Our special guest came soon after the pledge, escorted by my Dad's cousin Jolynn.
Some of the grandkids waiting for our special guest and looking in the wrong direction for him/her.
Our special guest turned out to be my Great Grandpa Edward Lee's 1933 Model A Ford! Is that the coolest thing ever or what?! This is the actual vehicle (different paint job) that my great grandparents drove nine children (including my Grandpa Curtis) around in. Edward Lee took such good care of it and the people he sold it to took great care of it. My Grandpa Curtis's brother, Wayne, tracked the car down and bought it from the last owner when it wasn't even for sale. Now his daughter, my Dad's cousin Jolynn, owns it. I still can't believe it!
One of the many reasons this makes me so happy is because Emil is a car guy. He wanted to see everything inside and out of the car and he stood by and listened closely to everything they told us about it. (Original interior and original engine!)
My Dad told us about going to Lee reunions and all the siblings, his aunts and uncles, parking their cars and popping the hoods so that Grandpa Ed Lee and all the brothers could look at the engines. The Model A is a relic from our family history that we can see and touch even though my great grandparents and even my Grandpa Curtis Lee are gone now.
Emil stayed outside listening to the adults talking and looking at the car long after the other kids had wandered away. Jolynn's husband, Richard, noticed and told Brian, "We're going to get him a ride in the car." Emil couldn't stop smiling. Later that night Emil said his favorite thing about the reunion was getting to ride in "that old car." He went swimming with his cousins! He went down the river in a raft! He did a fun race! But it was riding in that car that he liked the best. My heart! I love that so much.

Katy and Claire made dinner, Hawaiian Haystacks while I played Farkle with other people who had nothing better to do :). Brian and I were on clean up duty and after that we just got to chill and talk with my awesome siblings and in-laws. Brian went with Aron and some of the older kids to float the river again. Colin found cousins inside to play with and Emil found some to play with outside. So many options! 

I can't believe it's over! All I can think about is when and where we can do it again. Thanks, all my family. You guys are the actual best.