Well, this post has been a long time coming. Back in mid-June, our entire Hansen family got together for a family reunion up at Hidden Springs Ranch in northeastern Utah. We had a really fun time since nearly everyone was there. Only two nieces who had work and one nephew on a mission couldn’t make it. (Italics mean Eric, normal text is Brittny)
But because a good chunk of the family had to fly in from other places, we were able to have Tim and Ashley come and stay with us a couple of days before the official start of the reunion. We were really excited to have enough space that we could actually accommodate guests! They came in on the Saturday night before Father’s Day and we were able to take them as well as Chris & Kristen (and all associated kids) to church with us the next day.
Since I’m the nursery leader in our ward (and Sam hadn’t yet gotten to a stage where he would let me leave nursery anyways) I got to go with Sam, and his cousins CJ and Kate to nursery. It was fun watching them interact with each other and the other kids. I kept looking at them and just thinking, “Whoa, you guys are definitely cut from the same bolt of cloth”. I’m not sure what it was but it just kept striking me how much the three of them looked like Hansens.
After church we gathered back at our house for lunch. I had offered to make something fun for Father’s Day breakfast and lunch, but the men had decided that what they really wanted was toaster strudels for breakfast and grilled cheese and applesauce for lunch. Since it was their day and those were really easy requests to accommodate that’s exactly what we did :) I also made up some tomato basil soup since it’s one of my very favorite things. I think I made it up the day before so all I had to do was re-heat it after church, which was wise so that there wasn’t too much of a mess to clean up afterwards :)
Brittny’s being modest on the simplicity of the soup. It’s definitely more complicated than your usual heat up a can of soup type of recipe, and it’s AMAZING soup based on the Zupas recipe. The siblings were quite impressed with the concoction.
We were getting all of the family together at Eric’s sister Katrina’s house that evening and I’d been assigned to bring some cookies. In my family the tradition for Father’s Day is to make peanut butter blossom cookies because they’re my dad’s favorite (peanut butter cookies with hershey’s kisses in the middle). So, even though my dad didn’t get any I still felt like it was appropriate for me to make some in his honor. I hadn’t realized this before starting, but I’d never made peanut butter blossom cookies on my own, and I hadn’t even been around home to make them with my mom in probably almost 8 years. At one point I was really nervous that they weren’t going to turn out right, but luckily my sisters-in-law were there and able to say they looked ok :)
Again, she’s being modest :) I love peanut-butter cookies, especially the ones with the hugs in the center!
While we were waiting for it to be time to head up to Katrina’s the kids were getting a little bit energetic. Chris made up different games for the kids to go find imaginary pets that Chris made up. They were all different things, ducks, mice etc. I don’t remember all of them, but one of them he called Ferbert. The kids ran all over the house looking for Ferbert and calling to him. I remember this now because Sam will still go around the house calling for Ferbert from time to time :)
We went up for dinner at Katrina’s and had a lot of fun just being with family and visiting with everyone who had just gotten in. Of course, one of the best things was that we were able to be with Eric’s dad for Father’s Day, and what’s the point of Father’s Day but to be with our dads? Unfortunately, we stayed pretty late and when we got back the boys had fallen asleep and it was too late for them to Skype with my dad :( I felt really bad about that but we promised to Skype with him later that week and just pretend to have a second Father’s Day (luckily, my family is pretty flexible about observing holidays/birthdays when it’s convenient rather than being sticklers for celebrating on the particular day).
Monday was the start of the family reunion. We spent the morning getting all packed up and ready to go. Then, because we had some awesome coupons, we went to Smashburger with Tim & Ashley. If you’ve never been to Smashburger, you’re missing out. It has become one of our very favorite restaurants, and we’ve agreed that they have *the* best burgers that either of us have ever tasted. Seriously. Yum :)
After Smashburger we went to Costco to pick up the things we’d need for our meal later in the week. We were planning on making Cafe Rio-esque salads. I’d decided that was a good meal that could be easily modified to accommodate whatever picky preferences that anyone might have. If people wanted to make it into a salad, great. They could have it with meat, or no meat, you could make it into a taco, kids could even just make a quesadilla. I figured it would be easy and delicious. We were teamed up with Tim & Ashley which we figured would make an easy team. Unfortunately, since each of our families only had 4 members we weren’t real good at estimating cooking for the 50ish people that we were preparing food for. To say that we over-prepared would be an understatement. When all was said and done we had enough food to have that meal at least 2 more times (and we probably still would have had leftovers). Oh well, it was a good meal and everyone really enjoyed it… but next time we’ll know to scale down considerably :)
In case anyone is wondering how to do Cafe Rio salads on your own, we recommend starting with uncooked tortillas and cooking them according to directions. Then we made this rice without the pineapple, something similar to these black beans, this pork, and this salad dressing. You just sort of pile all that stuff on top of your tortilla with some lettuce, tomato, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and tortilla chips (or any combination of those ingredients that strikes your fancy) and dig in! It’s one of our family’s favorite meals–although we haven’t made it since the reunion–we came back with so much leftover that we were eating it for at least a week straight!
Anyways, finding all our ingredients took a little longer than anticipated, but we were finally all ready to head out to the ranch. Sam slept most of the way there, but Daniel wasn’t too thrilled to be in his carseat. He didn’t like it when the sun would get in his eyes or when we’d turn. It wasn’t too long of a drive but he wasn’t a very happy camper. At one point Sam stretched his arms out to Daniel and beckoned to him while saying, “Oh, Danna Danna Danna… come here”. Eric and I cracked up! It was SO sweet of Sam to be looking out for his little brother like that, but hysterical to think what he might be expecting to happen. Was his 2 month old brother just going to climb out of his carseat over to Sam to get snuggled? What cute boys we have! Since then Daniel’s most common nickname has been Danna :)
The first night was set aside for a mega- Family Home Evening with all 50 of us! We got together for a short lesson and then had a show & tell sort of activity with five minutes allocated to each family. Most of the acts consisted of kids performances from piano playing to singing to karate chopping. Our family showed them all up by having Sam do supersaults and count to ten in Chinese!
As things were starting to wind down Sam came up to me and said “Mommy, I’m tired. Should we go home? Should we put me in jammas?” It was so sweet and so heartbreaking at the same time. I knew being away from home was going to be rough since we’d been doing pretty well at getting into a routine at home. I honored part of his request and took him upstairs and got him in pajamas. We then snuggled for a little while until he was too excited about everything going on downstairs and I knew I could either battle him for over an hour to get him to go to sleep or let him come out and play. I know that what I did was the “wrong” decision in letting him come out and play, but I didn’t want to spend the whole reunion fighting with Sam to go to sleep! He didn’t go to bed until nearly midnight, which unfortunately didn’t translate into sleeping in the next morning. Sleeping was a difficult thing for Sam during the whole reunion. He was doing somewhat ok at home with sleeping on his own through the night, and going to bed at a reasonable-ish hour, and taking naps, but it was really tough with the rest of the routine being thrown off. He alternated between taking long naps and no naps during the whole reunion. The hardest part was just being in a new place. He wasn’t very flexible at the time and so even just trying to go to sleep was tough with other things going on. He would have freaked out completely if I’d just locked him in our room and I didn’t think it was worth it. The whole experience definitely strengthened my resolve to get us on a good routine at home and have better routines in place before the next time a reunion comes around
As the evening passed, I decided I needed to maintain my position as the favorite Uncle in the family, so I broke out the Wii, Xbox360, and projector for all the kids (*myself included) to enjoy! It was a pretty fun way to round out the nights after all the louder and more physical activities couldn’t be played anymore. We also had plenty of board games and introduced the joys of Dominion to the rest of the Hansen clan. It quickly became the favorite game to play, and I highly recommend it as the rules are simple, yet the game can be customized for many different styles of play. It definitely keeps things more interesting than a game that sets up the same way each time. I much prefer a variable meta-game like Dominion, myself–it makes for great replay-ability.
I joined the group that played Boggle a lot. I find words fascinating. I don’t think many people realize this, but despite being a computer programmer my major in college was actually Linguistics. I think it’s so interesting to see language patterns and put together words. Anyways, Boggle was right up my alley. It’s especially fun to get to play with people who are out of my league in games like this, which most of the other people were. It makes for a fun challenge. One of the best parts about Boggle is that each round only lasts a few minutes, so if I was needed by Sam or Daniel I could easily skip a round or two without messing up the whole game. I’m a board game nerd so this was definitely one of my favorite parts of the reunion
During the daytime, there were plenty of activities for all to choose from, but most were for those families who had kids above the age of eight. Some of the younger kids went horseback riding with parents, and the youngest kids enjoyed the swimming pool immensely during those hot summer days.
As for the older “kids”, I participated in three really cool activities that week. First, I went rock climbing at on a fake wall attached to the side of their activity barn. There were a lot of negative angles (the kind where you are hanging from the wall rather than leaning against it), and so I failed pretty miserably. My brother-in-law Rhett brought up his shotgun and a box of clay pigeons, and group of about six of us went out to the range. I was practiced enough and loaded the launcher but was inconsistent at loading it at first, causing the pigeons to go in different directions each time. My brother Tim didn’t appreciate that very much and decided to intentionally send the shots wild for me when it came to my turn to shoot. I went four for seven overall, which was one of the best scores, despite the wildly random trajectories of the clay pigeons.
Last but not least, we got a whole group of the boys together to play some hardcore paintball in the woods. The arena was fairly heavily wooded. We tried a couple of games that had a hard time working out fair teams and playing situations given the ratio of adults to children. First we played team elimination with a river being the boundary between the two sides, but that didn’t work because the other team had the high ground. Next we tried capture the flag, but that just took forever because few people really wanted to move or go anywhere. We started being more creative with the games and found some really fun “game modes” like revolutionary war–where two teams line up facing each other in an open field, take a shot, take one step forward, take another shot, etc. The rest of the games were played out in the field because it forced players to move and take action rather than hide. We played assault where two people defended an upper position against everyone else, and the group finished up with a free-for-all round with no teams. I stayed with two nephews and played sniper to see who was the best shot at hitting various targets. All in all, the whole experience was extremely fun, but I got some pretty nasty ring bruises from all the places where I got hit.
So that just about raps up our time at the reunion. Lots of food, fun, and friendships deepened as we got to spend more time as a family together.