They have been doing these reunions for years and years and before we had Olivia it started to seem like a big bit of a hassle for us. Packing so much up, spending money for lodging and our assigned meal for so many people, losing sleep with so many kids up there, etc. We had conversations about how it was just getting too big to be able to do.
This year those feelings really changed for me. I watched Olivia run around with her cousins and second cousins, I sang with a few other cousins as a tribute to this years graduate and missionary, I listened to people talk about their jobs, church callings, missions, and children. At the testimony meeting I cried and cried. This isn't just a family reunion, it's a network of support and accountability. Jack's nephew got up and bore his testimony and said that he feels safe when he is with his family. Jack's cousin talked about how part of why he is a good dad and husband is the examples he sees in the family. Jack spoke of growing up and leaning on the testimonies of family members until he developed his own strong testimony. We didn't have a big, connected family like this when I was growing up. We didn't have an annual reunion. I wonder how things would be if we did. If some of the struggles my siblings, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins have faced would be the same if they had this amount of love and support.
I'm so glad our daughters will have it. They will be buoyed up by the examples of righteousness from their extended family members, and will be held accountable by a large number of people for any bad choices they might make. This family shares in each other's triumphs and tragedies like no other I have ever seen. It's really quite rare and quite wonderful. I will never again be one to say that the reunion is getting too big or that it is too stressful to go. The rewards of going are too great.
This is me testing my camera before the big family photo. I dropped my Nikon before a hospital shoot a while ago and the flash hasn't worked since (and it won't digitally connect to my big flash). Looking at this photo the exposure would have been fine with some editing, but it looked so dark in the pavilion so I asked Missy to take the photo. She unfortunately discovered that she didn't have a memory card, but Hilary did! And a flash! So she took the photo and was amazing. I still like the below picture of all the chaos though :)
Olivia enjoyed the candy she found in the sawdust hunt. Sawdust hunt= Grandma and Grandpa throw candy and money into a large pile of sawdust and the grandkids get to dig in (in their own age group) and find the treasures. Don't worry, more goodies are thrown in before each group starts. The older grandkids are pros by now and will immediately bellyflop onto the pile and hoard a corner, pushing as much sawdust as they can outward and then fencing it off with their spread legs before sifting through. It's an art.
She snuck in with an older group after spotting a stray tootsie roll
The theme this year was Disney and it was sooo fun. The Aunts take turns planning the reunion and the Wertz's did fantastic this year with tons of Disney themed activities and prizes. I liked how it appealed to kids and adults. One night there was a parade where everyone put on a skit and then dressed up as a Disney character and had a parade around the pavilion. Olivia chose a Buzz Lightyear costume. She loves Buzz. Hates the wings I put on her.
Here's Buzz meeting Woody
Berlin was unimpressed
Caleb dressed up as Pooh. Liv is obsessed with Pooh. When he sat a few seats down from us, she whispered "Mama...Pooh!" and then stared at him for about ten minutes. Caleb's cute gf, Sarah, was Piglet.
Brett was a minion from Despicable Me, and after the parade Jack put on his big minion head and started talking to Olivia. She was nervous about it.
The Collettes did songs from The Lion King
Wertzs did Mulan
Thomas's did The Little Mermaid. We were Tarzan. I don't have a picture.
Jack entertained the kids by pulling them in a wagon while I played volleyball
Olivia was a handful as usual and sooo exhausting. She is so headstrong, such a spitfire, has trouble minding, and throws ear-splitting tantrums in public. I'm hoping that next year she will be at the point where we don't have to follow her around 24/7 to make sure she doesn't break something, get lost, eat dirty candy off the ground, or climb up high and fall. I've gotten to the point where I don't stress what people think about me when she flies of the handle and I have to haul her to the car, or refuses to eat her dinner and chucks it on the floor. I'm sure it makes her look undisciplined, and us look lax as parents, but I know that she is just extremely spirited and that we do our best. Someday she will get easier; and if not I love her strong spirit always and forever.