Last month, June 2016, we had a “de facto” family reunion in Utah. It wasn’t planned as a family reunion per se with set activities every day, like swimming or boating or sightseeing. God, through His loving Providence, arranged things so that I had many separate events in Utah where I could see family and friends. I saw His hand as he arranged for all of these things to happen, within two weeks of each other and not all on the same day! I am so thankful for Him orchestrating all of this.
It was so refreshing to see my sister who I haven’t seen in over a year and all of her 6 adorable kids, ages 2 to 13. I also got to see my two sons who live away from me, hear my nephew report on his mission to Armenia, see my brother who lives in India right now on a diplomatic assignment, and see a niece off on her mission. The only family members missing were my husband, who had to stay home and work, my sister in law who was recovering from surgery, and my daughter, who is away in Kansas City for the summer working at a software company. I got to connect with my parents and siblings, talk a ton with my second cousin who is also a homeschool buddy, visit with homeschool friends as well and pick up some LDS books at a thrift store for a $1 a piece. (Pretty much impossible to find at the thrift stores in my small AZ town!) I also got to go to the temple for another nephew when he got his endowment before his mission to Virginia. God is so good!
So here is a rundown of our cousin vacation in Utah before I forget these memories!.
Day #1 Saturday
We left our home in Arizona to drive 9 miles to St. George in order to see my kids’ cousins on their dad’s side. This was the first time I have been apart from my husband for more than three or four days! He stayed in Arizona to keep working. He got to go to Utah two weeks before to see our son in a ballroom dance recital. Now it was my and the kids’ turn to go to Utah. We have to save dh’s vacation days for the Shumway family reunion in July and then our return to Utah in the fall for our son’s missionary farewell. (He has been living with friends in Utah to finish his homeschool activities before he goes on a mission. He will be receiving his call in the next month or two!)
Despite all efforts in planning we did not depart on time, which was 9 AM. I had to breathe deeply and remind myself that it’s OK to delay departures for a big trip in order to have a “teaching moment” with my kids. As we were about to leave I noticed clean clothes and toys scattered in the living room. Arrgggh! Like most moms, I get these frustrating moments when I am tempted to feel that I’ve failed as a mom. I get reminded that my kids still haven’t learned their “duties” and choose to walk by and not take care of responsibilities. I hate coming home to a messy house so I insisted they take care of these things.
These cuties, some of our cousins, were all waiting for us in Utah! Some of them came all the way from Maine.
We finally left and drove north and west. wending our way all through Arizona: Tucson, then Phoenix, then Wickenburg, then through the Hoover Dam area, and then stopped in Mesquite for dinner. Fortunately, we did not have a flat tire in the lone wilderness of AZ on that stretch of highway between Wickenburg and Wickiup like we did three years ago! Then we went to our designated overnight place, which happened to be a luxurious vacation home owned by my friends’ parents in the St. George area. She generously let us stay there, which was such a nice treat. The kids loved playing in the swimming pool with the water slide. We got there after dark. Even though it was time for bed there was no way I wasn’t going to let them go swimming, since we had been in the car all day and needed to do something active to wind down. The pool had a huge chest next to it full of water toys, so the kids had a water gun fight at 10 PM at night. I enjoyed relaxing next to the pool, watching them, and writing in my journal. I had been in a pool and hot tub two nights before when my husband and I went on a overnighter in Tucson. Sometimes I just don’t want to go to the effort of getting on my suit, getting wet, and then drying off! So I stayed dry.
I had another frustrating mom moment during this trip to St. George. Towards the end of the trip, through Las Vegas, my younger kids kept babbling, chattering idly. That totally got on my nerves. It bothered me that they seemed incapable of talking about anything meaningful. We had been listening to books on CD but they didn’t want to pay attention. Maybe they were just done listening for the day? I got this huge stack of books on CD. We alternately listened to three books that day, 1 for adults, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and 2 for kids, Heidi and Across Five Aprils. Those books for kids apparently were not engaging enough for them.
On the way home I noticed the same thing happened, in the last two hours. This time I offered them to use some apps on my iPad. It worked, the babbling went away. The best part is that they weren’t just playing a silly game, but they were doing Scratch, so they were learning coding.
Day #2 Sunday- Missionary Report of our Cousin in St. George
This was our day to enjoy cousins in St. George. The cousin who is the same age as my oldest daughter, 20, reported on his mission to Armenia. He had been home for two weeks. He gave a powerful talk where we felt the Spirit. He emphasized how just as Jesus Christ asked Peter, “Dost Thou love me?”, Jesus is asking each of us that today. “Doest Thou love me?” What is our answer? If we don’t know the answer, then, my nephew challenged each of us to go home that day, to the scriptures, and then to our knees to find the answer. If we do love Jesus, then we are to feed His sheep. This is why my nephew decided to stay on his mission when it got hard.
Later at the open house at my sister-in-law’s home I got to visit with some homeschool friends. One of them mentioned that the DeMilles took off the “not” parts from the list of the Seven Keys on their web site. I am rejoicing! I never really liked the “inspire not require” thing. That one phrase has caused so much damage in the homeschool community! I will resist the tangent, since I’ve already blogged about it. Anyway, that afternoon we drove four hours to Highland to arrive at my parents’ home where we would be spending the next week and a half. It was sooo nice to get there before dark and see my parents, brother, his wife, and kids. I had come home! My brother lives around the corner and up the street from my parents, in the same ward. This was the first time since having kids that I visited my parents’ home for more than just one night.
Day #3: My Sister and Cousins from Maine!
My baby sister just happened to have the reunion for her husband, his parents, and siblings, and their kids, the week before this. So she decided months ago to spend the following week with our parents. When I heard about this plan, and that our brother from India would be coming as well, I just had to be there too! She got in with her kids on Sunday night from their other family reunion so Monday we got to play with them! After two days of driving, it was so relaxing to just hang out and visit. We had a Family Home Evening that night with Grandpa and Grandma, and my brother’s family. My son Dallin came down to join us so he and I had a lengthy conversation while the rest of the family broke into smaller groups of activities after the lesson and ice cream cones.
My daughter with some of her cousins.
Day #4 Service for Grandma
We spent this day hanging out some, but actually did work too. My other sister came over with her son so now the kids had even more cousins to play with. The sister from Maine and I made a menu for the week and plans for cooking, then a shopping list. While my mom, Grandma, went shopping, we rounded up the kids to do service for her. My sister got half the kids to work on putting tomato starts in pots. The other bunch of kids and I tackled cleaning out Grandma’s fridge to get ready for the new food. We threw away a bunch of stuff that my mom will never know about. shhh, don’t tell! This was somewhat cathartic, as I had meant to do this at my home before I left but didn’t get around to it. Maybe that night my husband did the same thing with my fridge! (Ha-ha, fat chance!) When my mom came home with a whole bunch of groceries to feed the crew for the week, we weren’t quite done. I had run out of energy. (Did I mention it was super hot? True to form, my parents had not turned on the swamp cooler yet so I was dying. I finally got them to turn it on a few days later. For some odd reason they tend to wait until after Independence Day!) I skipped cleaning out the top shelf of the fridge. Then we put groceries away and started fixing dinner.
My sisters and I with our niece.
Day #5 Picnic
We spent this day hanging out and gearing up for a picnic in the park. I also had to teach my Eternal Warriors Healthy Eating class online, so the kids played with their cousins while I did that. In the evening, we gathered everything up and went over to the park. The older kids played croquet and the younger kids roamed around. Everyone roasted hot dogs. Somebody decided to roast the hot dogs on sticks, held over the coals, instead of placed directly on the grills so the hot dogs took forever! Watching the croquet game reminded me of the days when my sibs and I played croquet while we were teens.
Day #6 BYU Day!
I had not planned to visit BYU-Provo when I left Arizona, but I got talked into it. I spent three years there and graduated and tend to think that I am “done” with that place. It’s an attitude to repent of I guess. It’s not that I hate it, I would be happy for my kids to be students there, I just forget that it has some cool things to see even if you aren’t a student. I discovered that my sister planned to go to the BYU Museum of Art with her friends from her old neighborhood from before she moved to Maine. When I was talking to my husband about her plans, he suggested that I take the kids to tour BYU. We have a lot of family heritage involving BYU. I got my bachelor of science degree from BYU, so I think of it as a place to study, not as a place to tour with kids. But the more I talked to my husband about it the more I decided it would be a good thing. We did take the kids there about 8 years ago to expand the vision of the older kids, and now it was time to take the younger kids, as they were 2, 3, and not even born during that last visit. As I toured the campus, tons of my memories of studying and courtship with my husband 25 years ago flooded my mind. I almost wished I could be a student again. Almost! I am glad to be done with jumping through somebody else’s hoops!
Day #7 Museum of Curiosity Day
We took the kids to the Thanksgiving Point Museum of Curiosity. It’s like the Ashtons read my mind years ago. The Ashtons are the people who own Thanksgiving Point. Two decades ago when I had just two little kids, I remember distinctly thinking, “I wish somebody in Utah Valley would build a children’s museum here! I want an indoor place to take my kids to play during the winter time that’s not Grandma’s house or the Playplace at McD’s or the small carpeted play area at the mall. So my dream came true! The above pic shows my daughter and her cousin climbing up one of the netted walkways in the huge jungle gym room that has enough noise and climbing stuff to satisfy any ADHD child. I was so glad that I didn’t wear my flip flops and that I am 70 lbs lighter than I used to be. I was able to climb with ease with my daughter and niece.
Day #8 Temple Day!
On Saturday my nephew received his endowment at the Oquirrh Mtn. LDS Temple. He was preparing to go on his mission to Virginia. So I got to be there with both sisters, my sis-in-law, 1 of my brothers, my parents, my bro-in-law, my niece, and my son. Happy day! This temple has a special place in my heart because I “attended” the dedication of it via satellite on Sunday August 23, 2009, and then had my 7th baby later that same day! So the temple is as old as my baby.