Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Family Reunion 2013

This summer reunion was the first time we had all the family together in about 4 years.

We rented a massive waterfront cabin on Island Park reservoir with beds for 28 people. There were 9 bedrooms, including a bunk room upstairs with 5 queen beds in it where all the girls slept. The past few years have been abnormally dry, so the water level was quite low.

We had to move our dock out quite a distance. We also had to be careful where we took the boat and at one point the men went out and rescued a boat that was hung up on a sandbar. Something similar happened to Joel's boat way out in the middle of the channel, where you would normally expect the water to be deeper.

It took much of the first day to sort out things with the boat and the dock (which had to be moved out to deeper water), but the kids had tons of fun just throwng rocks in the water or playing on the grass.

I set up a 50-foot waterslide on the sloped lawn with 6 inflatable bowling pins at the end and the kids played on that for hours. One of the highlights for me was when I got to bowl Cannon down like a human bowling ball. He is such a funny little kid.

Having spent much of the previous week in Highland, Katie was very attached to her older cousin Livvy, who is 13. However, once we all got together, Livvy had cousins her own age to play with. To her credit, Livvy and the girls were very good about letting Katie tag along on their various adventures, which often included wearing wigs and shooting hilarious videos with Kaitlin's video camera. Katie would stand nearby sniffing her blanked and smiling at all the funny things they were doing. Ava remembered Katie from our recent trip to North Carolina, so she wanted to stay close by Katie's side. Fortunately, the older girls could accomodate two toddlers on their set, and they were very good about entertaining them.

One evening we looked outside to see all of the grandkids (minus a few of the older ones) out playing freeze tag on the lawn. Katie and Ava were "it" and they were chasing all the other kids and tagging them. The finer points of the rules were a bit lost on the little girls, but they squealed in delight at they chased everyone around, tagging them over and over again. Every time Katie tagged someone they would freeze. Every time Ava tagged someone they would fall down. This must have gone on for 30 minutes or more and Katie hardly stopped running the whole time. When it was finally time to bring her in for bed, she kept tagging me and saying "freeze" while I was dressing her in her pajamas. It was probably one of the greatest experiences of her life so far.

Friday morning we got up early to launch the boat and go for some "good early" ski runs. The thermometer said 45 degrees F when we first left the house. Adam was the brave volunteer to ski first, and afterwards he was so wrapped up in towels that he looked like a mummy. We finished our ski runs and came back to the house just as the sun was finally warming the air and the breeze was disappearing altogether. Sometimes Good Earlies aren't the best runs of the day -- but they are always good and they are always early.

In the afternoon we made our lone excursion from our massive cabin to see a much smaller cabin. 20 minutes away near Big Springs is the historic Johnny Sack Cabin, a fabulously-ornate handcrafted little place built gradually in the 1930s by Johnny Sack, who was only 4'11" tall. Johnny never married, claiming "a woman would just put rungs on my varnished floors and draperies over my picture windows." There were huge trout under the bridge at the springs that we could feed, although there was quick a war brewing between the ducks and the gulls to see who could eat the fish food first.

"Fun With Uncles: Summer Edition" made its first appearance -- making sugar-cookie sculptures. We stole the idea from my sister-in-law and claimed it as our own. As with the Christmas Edition, the Uncles rely heavily on the Aunts to make things happen. The cookies essentially melted into tie-dyed patterns of goo, but the kids had fun anyways.

Saturday morning we didn't get up quite so early and we found the sun was warm and the water was perfectly still. I went for a ski run and found it was one of the best and most enjoyable ski runs that I can remember. There were no boats around and no reason to turn or loop around. I got up quickly and was able to string about 25 cuts together before I finally got worn out and crashed. Cutting on the glassy water was effortless and very gratifying. This is why I waterski.

Scott came on the boat in that first early morning and after that I don't think it ever left the dock without him on board. He liked to sit in the back and feel his seat rise or fall, depending which way the boat turned.

Riding the Tube in Island Park. Scott had been riding with Livvy, Kaitlin and Charity
S: I want to get off the tube.
J: What's wrong, Scott? Why didn't you like riding the tube.
S: It was too fast, and the waves were too big... and I didn't like the singing.

Katie came on the boat in the afternoon and loved the experience. She giggled a shrill laugh for the few minutes, pointing at everyone on the tube and at everything around her in the boat. She finally settled into R's lap and smiled the whole time. She wasn't scared of the boat at all.

As usual for this family, board games were constantly in play. I played Dominion exclusively, but I know there were many other games circulating. Somehow Gary manages to narrowly beat me all the time. I must learn his secret. There was lots of time to sit, to chat and to read, as well.

One of the highlights of the trip was when nearly all the adults lingered at the dinner table and recounted our stories of first dates, engagements and weddings. The common theme in most stories was how the brothers generally botched things up or gave bizarre gifts. Gary and Allyson's courtship stood out because it was missing the manic highs and lows (well, mostly lows) that many of the boys had subjected their wives to during those dating years.

Two of the nights we all sat around the main room and listened to Cam and Dad tell stories. One night was about their various motorcycle trips. The last night the stories were mainly about working on the family farm in Aberdeen. I got a small video clip of one of the motorcycle stories, but they were all so funny that I wish I had gotten them all. One of the best was the story of how uncle Bart and Grandma W had helped Cam cut the foul-smelling fiberglass cast off his leg using a power saw.

Cam: Remember Christmas in Castleridge? After each person opened a present, Grandpa BJA would say, "I shot an arrow into the sky and down came... a book" -- or whatever present it was.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer 2013: Missionary Reunification

For some reason, this is the year of Missionary Reunification. I have been mostly out of touch with old missionary companions for the last several years, and suddenly this summer I met up with a bunch of them.

Perhaps it started with the Raymond Parade. I recognized one of my companions (the only other Canadian in the whole mission) sitting in one of the vehicles, throwing candy out the window. I shouted his name (Bikman!) and he found me in the crowd and shouted back. Our conversation was short, but it was enough to figure out that he was now a professor at BYU and I could look him up. We exchanged a few emails and arranged to drop by and see him during our visit to Utah. It has been 15 years since we served together, but it seemed like hardly any time had passed at all.

I had exchanged a few emails with another companion (Davis!) who I thought lived way off in Missouri or something. Apparently, he has finished his residency out there and now works as an ER doctor in Orem, Utah, and lives just a mile or so from my brother's house. In fact, I ran very close to his place during my marathon. We arranged to go visit him as well.

There was a mission reunion being planned for the same day as my marathon, and it was far enough away that I couldn't be there. However, the Facebook chatter generated by the reunion planning helped me figure out that another companion (COOOOOP!), who also was my business partner and workout buddy at BYU, was going to be in town visiting from his place in Dallas. We set up a time to drop by and see them. Here's a quote from when we pulled up outside the house they were staying at--

Visiting the Cooper family in South Jordan
D: We're here!
S: Do they have dogs here?
D: I don't know. But if they do they could just put it in another room.
S: Or in a bucket.

Our poor kids were dragged around to all these different houses to instantly make friends and start to play with all these kids they'd never met before. In most cases they did quite well. I was proud of them. In one instance, we needed Netflix to come to the rescue.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer 2013: Cascade Springs

I took so many pictures of Cascade Springs, the photos will require an entire post.

The kids loved to run ahead and cover every inch of pathway front-to-back and then back-to-front. On the other hand, my sore knee didn't handle downhill slopes very well, but I discovered I could manage quite well if I walked down the hills backwards.

Scott and Maddi were best buds during our trip, which was fun to see. Livy was very good about being Katie's special friend and watching out for her on the hike.

Scotty helped me take the picture of the squirrel. I ran the zoom and helped aim it and he ran the shutter button. There were about 50 pictures of that squirrel that we have not provided here. They will likely be printed in a special commemorative album called "Squeeblo the Blurry Squirrel." Watch for it in bookstores.