Every two years, the entire Johnson clan get together for a family reunion. Everyone takes turns planning/hosting and this was our year in charge. We’ve been talking, planning, buying, fixing, scheduling and rescheduling for so long that we hardly know what to do with ourselves now that’s it’s over. The weeks prior to the reunion were a nightmare as Ben was working super long days (11pm or later) trying to get his work done so he could take the week of the reunion off and I was trying desperately to reach some sort of agreement with the kids to please stop trashing the house as I cleaned it. Things seemed to be stacked against us as the washing machine tried to break (we fixed it), the vacuum did break (bought a new one), the invisible fencing for the dog had to be completely redone, and the dog peed all over our bed late the night before our guests arrived, most likely in protest of the new invisible fence. We made it though, and 49 Costco trips and 1,000 loads of laundry later, we were ready.
To accommodate a few last minute scheduling snafus, we went with a different format for this reunion and all of the out-of-state guests were deposited into four host family homes. We then found activities that centered around each of the homes so that each family would get a break from driving at least one of the days.
Our opening activity was a dinner and smores roast at Matt and Joy’s house. She made a great pasta bar that pleased everyone, adults and kids alike and aside from a frightening near death experience with Axel running down a hill towards a cement wall, everything turned out wonderfully. I’m so impressed that she was able to host everyone and throw together such a great dinner while being pregnant. Joy, you rock.
On Wednesday, Molly turned 12 and I brought her a special breakfast in bed. We had already celebrated her birthday on Monday, but I wanted to recognize her actual birthday too. Turning 12 is a big deal.
Everyone came up to our house for what was supposed to be a family carnival. However a huge rain storm ruined our plans, so Ben switched gears and found us a fun trampoline place to go to. We still met up at our house for lunch and a few fun activities including decorating backpacks and writing letters to David who is on his mission, and then after the trampoline place we came back to our house for dinner. Dinner was a little late because I tried to run Molly to her soccer practice (her birthday wish) and I got lost in the process without my phone to navigate for me. I eventually made it to the right place (after a bunch of prayers and a near panic attack) and we served up the delicious meats Ben had spent all day smoking in the smoker. When Molly got back from practice we sang to her and she blew out the candles on her birthday cake.
We weren’t sure the weather was going to clear up enough for the family pictures that we had planned Thursday morning, so we decided to rearrange the schedule yet again and move them to Friday. Instead, on Thursday we met at a park near Mandy and Joe’s house for lunch. It was a beautiful park and the kids had fun running around.
After lunch we all headed over to NW Trek for what turned out to be one of my favorite activities of the reunion. Even considering that at one point I lost Adelaide and was sternly called to the office to come retrieve her… having no idea that she was ever lost. Not one of my best parenting moments, but good job Adelaide for knowing what to do.
The tram ride was so much fun and we were able to see plenty of animals. Animals are one of Oliver’s very favorite things and he was in heaven.
We stopped for a little cotton candy and kettle corn to revive our spirits. This picture was taken before I lost Adelaide and traumatized her for life.
After NW Trek we stopped and picked up pizzas for dinner. This stack is only half of the pizzas we ordered. I’ve never seen so many pizzas!
After pizza at the park, Joy and Sandy organized a few pioneer games for the kids in honor of pioneer day. The kids all looked super cute in their bandannas and bonnets.
To close the night, we met at Joe and Mandy’s house which was only a few minutes away for the park to celebrate Grandma Johnson’s birthday with cake and a fun African wishing ceremony Joy put together. It was really sweet and Mandy was so nice to put together the party. She has the most beautifully decorated home.
Friday was the day we spent down in Federal Way by Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We started off with the baptism of Audrey and Anna. It was very special to have all the family in town for the baptism even though the littlest of the Johnsons were quite squirly from nap deprivation. At one point in the program all the cousins got up and sang “I’m a Child of God.” It was beautiful. Grandma put together an amazing luncheon afterwards and then we headed over to a nearby park for pictures.
This is how Ollie felt about heading over for pictures and he wasn’t alone. The nap deprivation had turned all the littlest ones into crying blobs. I don’t know how Ashley did it, but she managed to take beautiful pictures of each of the families and one gigantic group shot. It took her over two hours and I never saw her lose her temper once and she’s pregnant on top it! Goodness. She might just be an angel. She showed us a peek at the pictures and they are amazing. I’m so excited to get copies.
After pictures we turned the kids loose in the park. They continued their meltdowns but at least we didn’t have to worry about them keeping their picture clothes clean anymore. We then had a couple hours of free time to decompress. Ben got us slurpees and then drove around trying to get Ollie to fall asleep, but Ollie wouldn’t give in.
We met back up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house to feed the kids dinner and then something glorious happened. Grandma hired babysitters (a lot of babysitters) and then we left all the children and went out for an adult dinner. It was fabulous. The adults were laughing and talking and there wasn’t any crying children. Grandpa gave each family a book he had been working on for several years that told the story of his life through music and included his favorite pieces and the stories behind them. It is such a treasure and I can’t believe the amount of time and love that went into putting it together. I want to put together all the music he mentions in it and play them for the kids so that they can become familiar with them too.
Saturday was our last official day of the reunion. We all wore the shirts I screen-printed to a Mariner’s game. I was so proud of those shirts because I learned a new skill in making them. In hindsight, I probably should have only made them for the kids, because I don’t think Adults are that into being matchy matchy.
The weather was beautiful and the game was great because the Mariners won. :) Ben and I left a little early so that we could get dinner ready for everyone after the game. Just as I was putting food on the table, Henry threw up all over the kitchen floor. The stomach flu had been quietly creeping through the reunion and Saturday proved to be the day that it all hit the fan and people started dropping like flies. But I didn’t know that yet. I cleaned Henry up and quarantined him in my bedroom.
Poor Henry had to watch our epic marshmallow fight from my bedroom window. Grandpa had made marshmallow guns for everyone and quite a battle followed. I think Grandpa had visions of an organized sporting event, but once the adults got hold of the guns all chaos ensued. It was so much fun. I think I used my entire bag of marshmallows trying to get Ben back for shooting me in the eye.
After the marshmallows were picked up, we surprised Grandpa with a retirement party. He retired this year from teaching music at the high school after a very long career. Joy put together a touching tribute and Ashley made a slideshow and book that included an entry from each of the 8 kids. I haven’t had a chance to read every entry, but I read Ben’s when he wrote it and it made me sob. It was so tender and full of love. That Grandpa Johnson is a very good man and he has touched a lot of lives.
At this point, things started to fall apart. Ashley made a slideshow of all the pictures she had taken over the course of the reunion, but while we were getting ready to start, Wesley threw up all over himself, LeGrand and the carpet. We got them cleaned up and started the slideshow, but everyone was feeling nervous by that point. As soon as it was over, Molly ran upstairs and threw up. I had made a bunch of pies for dessert (not from scratch, I’m not crazy) but everyone pretty much ran for the doors. By the following day, I think half of the 45 people ended up getting hit by the flu and as of today (Tuesday) the count is still rising.
On Sunday we had to forgo church because both Ollie and Adelaide came down sick. I pretty much walked around in a haze all day, cleaning up barf as I went. I feel so bad because Sandy and Perry, and Lance and Mandi all had to pack up and go without much help from me. They were just amazing house guests and I feel so grateful for all the work they put in. Sandy cleaned my kitchen more times than I can count and her children helped me clean and sweep. Mandi cleaned the schoolroom Saturday night after it looked like a bomb went off and then cleaned out the whole apartment before she left. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about all they did for me.
I am so grateful for this family I married into. I wouldn’t wish for any other family in the world. It is filled with so much love and kindness and so many good people. I love each and every one of them and I am so grateful for these reunions that bring us all together and strengthen those family bonds. Sure it gets tough, to plan activities for such a large group, especially with so many young children, but my kids know and love their cousins, their aunts and their uncles, all because of these reunions.