Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ahhhhh. Bear Lake.

Bear Lake means home to me perhaps more than any other place. Growing up, we moved a lot. But summers at Bear Lake were a staple we could always count on growing up. And now Bear Lake is a constant that our kids can count on as they grow up. (For more about the history of our family at this place, check out my post from last year HERE.)

The annual Eyre family reunion started on Wednesday night. This year's reunion has been much like all the others and the sameness is so wonderful. In my current life of moving things forward and fielding so many new opportunities and needs that pop up all over, it's so nice to plan on a period of comforting repetition of favorite activities with favorite people.

Bear Lake is about water and sand and boating and swimming and tennis and eating and talking and playing games and enjoying beauty – and it all adds up to great relationship-building.

Explanations of these photos below
The kids play for hours each day in the sand – engineering dams and castles and simply exploring what happens with various combinations of water, sand and rocks. We usually get a few more grandkids up on waterskis each year and enjoy watching the amazing waterskiing feats of all my siblings and most of the inlaws (somehow I think I missed out on the waterskiing genes). This year there was a bit of a panic involved when we found that our 18 year old boat wasn't working and seemed hopelessly broken. But my brother Jonah somehow resurrected that thing with his amazing mechanic skills so the waterskiing can still happen. The same people generally make it to the finals of the family tennis tournament (and I'm not one of them) and the occasional temper flare is to be expected with tennis (which is often quite amusing). We have amazing meals (each family takes a turn – and often makes the same favorites several years in a row) and someone bakes cookies pretty much every day (Eyres are all about cookies).

Storms roll in sometimes in the afternoon and Shawni and Saydi snap tons of pictures to make the most of the “amazing light” until it gets serious and we all frantically gather everything from the beach then watch the amazing display of intense colors that storms bring out on the lake.

My dad always wears crazy outfits using outlandish combinations of clothes that have been laying around at the lake for the last 30 years and he's the sunscreen and life jacket police. No matter how much everyone else helps or urges her to sit and relax a bit, my mom is always running around finding ingredients for whoever is cooking (there are 3 kitchens involved and ingredients always seem to be at the wrong kitchen) or helping with clean up or doing something else to make life more comfortable and happy for everyone else.

First thing in the morning, there are always some Eyres out running (and I'm with that group this year – such a lovely place to run - and I'm getting better – slowly but surely). In the evenings there are always games going on – speed scrabble is a staple each year and this year we've started playing “reverse charades” (there's an iphone app for it but basically one person on the team guesses while everyone else acts things out – pretty hilarious) and we've been playing “Just Dance” on the wii quite a bit (watching my parents slap their rear ends while dancing to “Ring my Bell” was quite a highlight).

Throughout each day here at the lake, you look around to see small groups forming and switching out members as all the adults informally rotate to catch up with everyone else. There are discussions about dreams and ideas to help move each other's ideas forward, discussions about kids and the methods, concerns, and triumphs involved with parenthood, discussions about books and movies, worries and fears, and experiences from the past year that range from hilarious to humbling. This year there have been lots of discussions about childbirth and pregnancy since we've got two pregnant sisters-in-law who haven't been feeling very well. There are lots of laughs and always a few tears thrown in for good measure. Plus you can pretty much count on some disagreements and at least one sizeable tiff between a couple of my siblings or one of us and my dad. Some reverting to our years of growing up together is bound to happen.

You also see groups of kids everywhere you look – my dad assigned all the grandkids (there are now 23 counting the two on the way) groups based on their ages a while back and the kids feel pretty serious loyalty to their groups so they're often playing together and talking together with their “group.” But often, you see the older kids helping younger kids get some food or play a game or read a book or build a sand castle. I love watching all the different kid interactions and all the clever, cute and sometimes naughty things they say and do. I loved seeing 6-year-old Camden spontaneously comfort 5-year-old Charlie after Camden won the “group 4” foot race and saw Charlie look so sad at coming in last. I've loved seeing the big cousins baby talk with the babies and the medium cousins read to the toddlers. I loved seeing adults and kids work together in teams on our relay race yesterday, everyone working to find just the right part of the relay to assign to each team member based on their age, abilities and fear factors. I loved seeing Ashton help his little cousin Lucy find her shoes. I loved spying on Oliver, Silas, Charlie and McKay as they sought out and snatched some cookies. I loved seeing Eliza and her cousins Claire and Hazel (group 3) get so excited about matching french braids and finding swim suits in coordinating colors. I loved watching my brother Talmadge coach those three girls as they put together a lip synch to a song from one of our family's favorite songs growing up. I love seeing each “group” work together diligently to clean up after their assigned meal. They've all been extra good about cleaning up and asking adults for jobs they can do so they can earn more badges on their cool group flags that Aunt Aja made for them this year.

One evening of the reunion is always devoted to our “Eyrealm Foundation” meeting where we discuss the income and outflow of our family foundation in the past year, talk about proposals for charitable causes we'd like to support in the upcoming year, and hear reports on what people have done with Eyrealm funding (Eli and Noah and their wives helped install English language-learning software at a school for leperosy affected children in India that Tal and Anita and Charity all worked at the year before, Josh reported on his trip to Ethiopia and the money they need for a pipeline that will bring water to 50,000 needy people). And we always have a talent show that includes everything from lip synchs to somersaults to skits (this year we had a skit that led into a demonstration on how to do the hymlic manoever – highly useful). Another annual tradition is the bonfire where the Eyre playlist for the year is unveiled – everyone (kids included) sends in their favorite song of the year and the reunion organizers (a different family is in charge each year) put together a playlist/CD for everyone. At the bonfire, we listen to the beginning of each song and try to guess whose song it is. The playlist becomes the soundtrack for the reunion – with spontaneous dance parties erupting here and there.  But my favorite reunion tradition is the testimony meeting we have on Sunday. We head to the good old Dingle ward where we've attended church much of the summer ever since we were little kids and put all the kids in primary and nursery then the adults head out to the lawn in the back of the church. The Spirit is thick and the love is tangible as everyone shares a bit about what they've learned from the past year and how their experiences have shaped their understanding of the gospel.

One evening of the reunion is always devoted to our “Eyrealm Foundation” meeting where we discuss the income and outflow of our family foundation in the past year, talk about proposals for charitable causes we'd like to support in the upcoming year, and hear reports on what people have done with Eyrealm funding (Eli and Noah and their wives helped install English language-learning software at a school for leperosy affected children in India that Tal and Anita and Charity all worked at the year before, Josh reported on his trip to Ethiopia and the money they need for a pipeline that will bring water to 50,000 needy people). And we always have a talent show that includes everything from lip synchs to somersaults to skits (this year we had a skit that led into a demonstration on how to do the hymlic manoever – highly useful). Another annual tradition is the bonfire where the Eyre playlist for the year is unveiled – everyone (kids included) sends in their favorite song of the year and the reunion organizers (a different family is in charge each year) put together a playlist/CD for everyone. At the bonfire, we listen to the beginning of each song and try to guess whose song it is. The playlist becomes the soundtrack for the reunion – with spontaneous dance parties erupting here and there.  But my favorite reunion tradition is the testimony meeting we have on Sunday. We head to the good old Dingle ward where we've attended church much of the summer ever since we were little kids and put all the kids in primary and nursery then the adults head out to the lawn in the back of the church. The Spirit is thick and the love is tangible as everyone shares a bit about what they've learned from the past year and how their experiences have shaped their understanding of the gospel.

Sure, there are babies crying and kids squabbling from time to time – magnified by over-tiredness and off-kilter schedules. There are big messes and lots of mutual toleration involved in so many people sharing a relatively small place and a few less bathrooms than might be ideal. The power went out as everyone was trying to get showered and do their hair for family photos and then it rained like crazy, throwing off the family photo entirely after the scramble to get 40 people dressed and ready. There are plenty of adventures – both fun and frustrating.

But this feels like heaven to me as I sit here enjoying a gentle breeze and soft sun while typing and half-watching the finals of the tennis tournament. Baby Cubby is throwing balls out of his play pen for his cousin Elsie to pick up and Dave and Eli are talking about what they could have done better in their recent tennis match. Charity and Julie are helping little Lyla come up with something fun to do since tennis isn't keeping her very interested and my mom just walked up with little Charlie in tow, asking what time we should tell Saydi and Jeff that people will be ready for lunch. I just heard cheers from the people in the boat – someone new must have got up on waterskis and the someone is driving the old Montero up from the beach with kids hanging all over the back of it. Turns out the cheering was Max getting up on one waterski.

Long live Bear Lake.



7 comments:

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I feel lucky to have had a taste of how the Eyres do Bear Lake for two summers- as bookends to the year I was on BOC with Eli. What an amazing family you are and what a wonderful place you've created for yourselves at Bear Lake. It really is kind of magical!

emily ballard said...

My girls keep wanting to invite Eliza to go do things and Adam asks if he can go play at your house every single day. Yesterday, Rachel told me you picked "the worst time ever" to be gone for a whole month. But after reading that, I see why you make the sacrifice! What an amazing tradition!

Jody said...

Hi, Saren,
I follow Shawni's blog and found yours. :) What a blessing for all of you! I have 7 ( and one on the way) and saw that pic of the crafts with Elle's name on it- would love to try it with my kiddos- I can't tell from the photo what was used? Would you please mention that- would really appreciate it! Enjoy your fun with your family!

Laura said...

I am truly envious! It sounds wonderful to be with family and enjoy Bear Lake. I need to start a similar tradition in my own family.
I'd like to year more about your Eyrerealm Foundation. Where does the $$ come from? What are your criteria for where the $$ goes. It sounds like a great idea!

Cath said...

Long live Bear Lake indeed. I hate to admit it but this is the one thing about your family (okay there are a few) - this gathering together in such a beautiful place for such a long time - that I totally ENVY. Enjoy it all! xo

Sarah said...

What a great post Saren. I'd say Group Four looks like the ones to watch. Lots of twinkles in those cute little boy eyes and those smiles couldn't get bigger.

Eyrealm said...

Love seeing these "already memories"!

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