Sunday, January 5, 2014

52 Blessings - Reunions (A-Z Recap)

auld lang syne. noun \ˌōl(d)-ˌ(l)aŋ-ˈzīn, ˌȯl(d)-\. : the good old times.
L-R Back Row:   Abe, Grace, Calvin, me, Ande, Zeph, Joe
L-R Front Row:   Cali, Atlas, Ray, Levin, Afton, Michelle, Eliza, Ty
(Thanks to Cali who took our family pictures via timer - she'd push the button and run to her spot.
The timer method makes for pretty authentic smiles as everyone cheered for her to make it in time.)

We were to have our first official Calvin Payne Family Reunion last summer.  But you can tell by the photograph that that wasn't very good timing as it would have interfered with the family birthing schedule.  The kids voted to have the reunion at Christmastime instead.

We rented a home half-way between here and Seattle and gathered there on the evening of December 23rd. Here is a smattering of our favorite memories from the reunion . . .

Eliza, Ray, Atlas
The Donkey was babysitting a Cow and a Duck

The first night we had family home evening and outlined our agenda for the reunion and everyone was given a team.  Each team competed and performed different duties each day.  For example, while the Cows did the dishes, the Ducks picked up and emptied the trash, and the Donkeys babysat while the Ducks and Cows worked.  The next day the teams switched jobs.

The last night we were together we sat around the kitchen table and had a reunion evaluation. Everyone agreed that being a part of a team was great and wished for more team opportunities.

Michelle making rolls
Ty making cheese cake (good thing he had Abe and Grace bring their pans)

Cooking for 15 people in a kitchen that was equipped with one mixing bowl and  a 4 quart saucepan took skill, but it did not stop us from having great food.  Here are the food favorites:

Ty's cheescake (how could it not be good when it was made with 10 packages of cream cheese)
Michelle's crescent rolls  (how could they not be good with over a pound of butter in them)
Ray's crepes (how could they not be good when cooked to order and served with freshly whipped cream)
Calvin's prime rib (how could it not be good when he aged it for five weeks)
Buffalo chicken wings (plucked by the whizzbang chicken plucker especially for Christmas)

Calvin as . . . no, not Santa . . . Porter Rockwell

We had nightly devotionals.  The first night Calvin gave it.  Beings it was Joseph Smith's birthday (Dec 23rd) that day, Calvin dressed up as one of Joseph's close friends, Porter Rockwell, and told a few stories of Joseph Smith.

Each family's devotional was uplifting and inspiring and closed the day in a very good way.

eliza, afton, michelle, & ty.
Michelle, Eliza, Ty, Afton

Cali, Levin, Ray, Atlas

Joe holding a new game Ande gave him

Several Christmas' ago we started the gift tradition of giving each family "a few of our favorite things".  One of Joe and Ande's gifts to each family this year was a favorite game. Playing all the new games was fun and we didn't have nearly enough time.  Everyone wished for more.

We also played Werewolf.  The second round of Werewolf got a little intense because I fell asleep and wasn't playing my part effectively.  I cost the whole village their lives. After a few very sincere apologies and promises not to get so competitive, we played another round and went to bed safe and secure.

Another game we played was the song guessing game.  Joe had collected everyone's favorite song for the year and burned them onto a cd for each family.  He played the cd and we had to guess the song to the person.  The bonus is we now all have a cd of good, fun songs to listen to and remind us of each other. I won't hear What Does the Fox Say? without thinking of Clara, or What Makes You Beautiful without thinking of Afton, or Eliza Jane without thinking of Eliza.

I always wanted a game loving family, but not bad enough to play hours and hours of Candyland or Monopoly to get it.  God gave me one anyway and I'm so glad.  

Grace and Afton

We are lucky to have a traveling hairstylist that attends all family functions.  Grace graciously brings her scissors, wax, dyes, and talents and makes us feel . . . and look . . . better.

a blurry picture of Cali teaching Joe about camera settings.  Obviously I was the one who needed the instruction most.

One of the great things about family is the different skills, ideas, philosophies, wisdom, and knowledge each person brings to the unit.  Listening to all of the different conversations about politics, business, current events, to-share or not-to-share recipes, programming iPhones, apps, how to fight fair, and many other topics were interesting and instructional.

joe, ande, & zeph.

kind words.
Abe and Afton

Each person had an envelope with their name on it that hung clothesline style above the entry table. Everyone wrote something that they loved and appreciated about each person and put it in his or her envelope.  At the end of the reunion, everyone received their envelope.

Giving appreciations at Christmas is a tradition we have enjoyed for many years, but this was the first time the grandchildren have been included.  The parents enjoyed getting to read what others feel about their children.  Ande said one of her favorite things of the reunion was seeing how much all the siblings love each other's kids.  That is one thing I appreciate about each one in our family too - they are really good uncles and aunts.  They take that calling seriously.  

land navigation.
L-R   Joe, Atlas, Ande, Zeph, Ty, Ray, Abe, Calvin, Cali

There were a few topics that Calvin wanted to discuss while all the kids were together.  One was emergency preparedness. He had Abe teach land navigation to anyone interested in learning it.  The group above spent a couple of hours learning how to correctly read maps (like magnetic north versus true north, locating your location, etc).  Emergency evacuation plans were discussed . . . and the Wheat Thins made it possible by being the paperweights.

Abe, Calvin, Joe, Ty, Ray

Not a one of them complained during family pictures.  Not once.  Even when they were promised it was over and then were asked to come back for this one.  They are not only handy, they are handsome.

oh, ho, ho.
Ande, Afton, Levin on Christmas morning

A favorite memory Ande had was lying in bed with Levin on Christmas Eve and telling him the story of Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer for the first time.  Levin giggled and held his hands over his mouth in excitement as she told him about Santa, presents, and Rudolph.

Joe ran around the house after the kids went to bed jingling bells and saying, "ho, ho, ho."  Joe could easily hire out as a Santa or Disney enthusiast.  He makes things fun with his enthusiasm and hearty laugh.

Grace and Abe

Ray and Atlas

Can you have a family reunion without a qualm or two?  You can't help but worry something will go wrong. Luckily, things went smoothly.  Except . . .

Ray and Levin were in charge of getting a Christmas tree for the reunion.  I thought they had forgotten, but quietly and without fanfare they dragged a fresh Christmas tree in after dark on Christmas Eve.  Ray made a make-shift tree stand from a bucket and wound a strand of lights around the branches.  When I asked him about it, he said, "It was touch and go for a minute."  They found a tree about a mile from the house and since it was cold and dark, Ray left the truck running with the lights shining and Levin inside to stay warm while he sawed it down.  Levin started playing with levers and buttons and locked Ray out.  The truck windows are heavily tinted and you can't see in on a sunny day let alone a dark night.  Ray's phone was on the seat.  He was stuck.  He couldn't leave Levin in the running truck and walk a mile.  He couldn't call for help.  He couldn't break in.  In the meantime, Levin was enjoying himself at the wheel.  Ray banged on the window and finally got Levin's attention and told him to start pushing buttons on the door.  Levin finally hit a button that rolled down a window and Ray shoved his arm in it as fast as he could while he coached Levin to keep pushing.


Cali said she knew that I truly loved our grandkids when she saw me brave the backyard hairball jacuzzi with Ray and Levin so that Afton could go swimming.

Along that same line, Ande said one of her favorite memories was taking Zeph swimming for his very first time at the pool down the road from the house.  Ande, Calvin, Abe, Ray, and I had a great time on the slides.  Since Grace couldn't go into the hot pools or down the slides, she quietly walked Zeph up and down the cool pool while he waited for Ande.  

Calvin had a hard time leaving the steam room and sauna while the rest of us had a hard time tolerating them to keep him company.  It was a sweat lodge.

top shot.

Without a doubt, Top Shot (run by Ty and Michelle) was a top contender for favorite memories.

Ty conducted it just like the TV show with contests, elimination ranges, shoot-offs, videoed interviews, a cup mounted to the mantel as each contestant was out-shot.  It was incredible . . . and so fun.

As the rules were announced, I think it is safe to say many of us didn't really care if we got out early.  But once the competition began the more each of us wanted to win . . . or at least compete for more than one time.  Ty gave us many challenges with different weapons:  ping pong balls, sling shots, darts that we blew out of pvc pipe shooters he made (we left incredible slobber trails on the window), and the wii.

We were in our teams - Cows, Donkeys, Ducks when the competition began.  The Donkey team consisted of Ray, Joe, Calvin, Grace, and Atlas.  Their team was obviously weighted for shooting challenges.  And that is why it surprised everybody when they got sent to the elimination round first. Joe and Ray both tried to protect delicate, pregnant, female Grace, but Calvin had no mercy and shot her cup and sent her to the elimination round.

Everybody was giving him guff for picking on Grace.  It didn't even fluff his feathers.  It was a contest.  He made a perfect run in the shoot-off.  It was an obstacle course throughout the house shooting cups with blow darts.  It was impressive.  While high-fiving his good run, we couldn't help but feel sick for Grace. Reunions just shouldn't self destruct on the first event.  But Grace was a good sport even though she is a fierce competitor and likes to win.  She started the course.  All be darn if she didn't have as perfect a run as Calvin's.  Until she hit the last challenge.  It took her three darts to put the last target down.  Nonetheless it was a respectable run.

Grace in the elimination challenge

Colby Ty gathered us all together to recap the event and read the times.  Grace won by 2 seconds!  There was loud rejoicing.  Everyone knows Calvin is a good shot, and he wouldn't let you forget it if you did, but someway, somehow, Grace put him down.  If you ask Grace what one of her favorite memories is of the reunion she will smile and say, "Beating Dad at Top Shot."  If you ask Calvin what one of his favorite memories is of the reunion, he will solemnly say, "When Grace put me out in Top Shot." If you ask anyone else they will say, "That Calvin went out on the first round in Top Shot."

Another tense moment was later when Abe and Grace had to shoot against each other to stay in.  Colby's Ty's watch said Abe won by a few seconds, but Joe's watch said Grace had won.  However, Ty's watch was the official timer so Abe mounted Grace's cup on the mantel.

There were plenty of lighter moments too.  Ty was shooting paintballs at Michelle during one break in the competition.  Michelle is athletic and agile and was effectively dodging the balls, but it was cartoon material when she hit the ice.  Both feet went up in the air and she splatted on the ground. And once she rolled over and we knew she'd live it was very funny.

The best shot might have been Ande's first nailing of a 3 point cup with a paint ball and sling shot.  It was a fine shot that shut down the false bravado from the other side.  Good thing Cali had Ande on her team because that same challenge Cali couldn't hit the cup six inches away from her.  Luckily Cali escaped the elimination challenge, but sadly Ande was put out.

Ty was creative in the contests and each challenge was unique.  Nobody's possessions were safe when it came to targets.  Even Afton's.  She got a frog game for Christmas where the frog jumps into the air when a lever is stepped on.   Within hours that jumping frog was a skeet-shoot target.  The shooter would yell "Pull" and Colby Ty stepped on the lever and sent the frog in the air for the darts to hit.

The saddest event to watch, however, was the final match between Ray and Abe.  By now, the contest had been going for three days.  There was skin in the game.  The final challenge was a contest of all the events. Abe competed first and had a good solid time to beat.  Ray followed and, at the last target, it appeared he had the lead.  All that was left was to hit the tree with a tennis ball and Ray would be THE top shot.  Ray could. not. hit. that. tree. to. save. his. soul. or. to. win. the. title.  Each time he missed, he had to fetch the ball to throw again.  After ten throws it was painful to watch.  We cheered loudest when he finally hit the tree.

Victory was Abe's and is one of his favorite memories.

But if you ask any of the girls, the real victory was when we had a shoot-off with the boys and won.  It was a classic example of male versus female strategy.  The men were aggressive and on the offensive.  They were hunters.  We defensively held our ground (high ground mind you, we stayed on the stairs where we could see better) and knocked them off one by one.  It was pretty great.  I know the men will all contest this paragraph, but it's like I tell them, "History belongs to those who record it."  So let it be written.  So let it be done.  We won.

Eliza, Calvin, and Levin
Calvin teases the kids mercilessly . . . and they love him.

Grace said, "We each got our own bedroom and bathroom, but we still got to come downstairs and live amongst each other.  We didn't have to leave each other.  I really liked that."

Cali said, "One of the highlights for me was watching Afton slide down the stairs on her bottom.  Levin was sitting on the couch watching her.  When they made eye contact they both started screaming, excited to see each other.  It was so sweet."

Afton discovered shadows a few days before the reunion.  It scared her.  Badly.  She refused to touch them which meant she couldn't move sometimes without stepping on her shadow or on a chair's shadow. Everybody jumped in to help her, whether it meant carrying her around her shadow, moving chairs, or encouraging her through her fear.  It was pretty sweet to see uncles and aunts rally around and help her.

Zeph trying to get some strength back

Even projectile vomit from 3 of the 5 grandchildren while we were there didn't deter us . . . much.  Everyone accepted that sick kids are a part of real life . . . and reunions . . . and helped each other out by rocking, holding, and cleaning up.

Cali, Ande, Michelle, Grace, me

If I were to going to be stranded on an island I would want to make sure each one of these women were on it with me.  They are fun, sensitive, caring, smart, resourceful, and funny.  We share many similar traits, but we are also different.  Our family needs these women.

Eliza and Michelle

Calvin and I were going to babysit while the adults went skiing, but there was no snow so the moms and dads didn't get a break.  Instead we played more games and had fun being together.

Ande and Zeph

How Calvin and I wish that a Payne family reunion could be a yearly thing.  But with families scattered across the nation and their responsibilities to business, country, and their own growing families, we don't feel it right to put the financial burden on everyone that often.  So our next one will be in 2015 and the Follett family will plan it.  In the meantime, we'll work to keep our relationships growing and healthy and wear our t-shirts that Ande made to remind us that we have each other every day not just every other year.

L-R  Afton, Levin, me, Eliza, Atlas, Calvin, and Zeph

My, oh my, what a wonderful time we had.  Being with the kids and grandkids was so fulfilling and satisfying.

It's the truth, it's actual
Ev'rything was satisfactual
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
It's a wonderful feeling, feeling this way

And . . .

Calvin and I left as the reigning champion ping-pong team.


Rachel said...

Sniff, sniff, sniffle. I just couldn't get enough of it! Oh gosh.... so happy, and sad.

Gail said...

I agree with Rachel! I hope you continue to have these reunions as often as possible. As grandkids get bigger it will get harder and harder to get together like that. It also amazes me how organized y'all make these get togethers. We are lucky if we organize the food!

Grandma & Grandpa said...

Love, love, love your pictures--especially that last one! So fun to be Grandma and Grandpa, isn't it!--even great now, for us! Happy New Year to a great family!

Deidra said...

I loved the Top Shot videos on Instagram. What a fun family!

melanie said...

I was secretly hoping for an A-Z recap. Yeah, you read my mind. This post is full of goodness. Love every bit of this and your wonderful family.

Your new family picture is perfect. Cali's hired and she wont even have to run and pose, ha.

Jill said...

I know I always say this, but I wish I was part of your family! You guys have a gift for being together, working together, playing together and appreciating everyone's gifts! This was so fun to read!

Heather Williams said...

What a happy post! You have such a great family! I have to tell you too that I just love your family photo and I love your glasses too. You look wonderful!

Susan said...

Love, love, love your A to Z posts!

I also love, love, love your new glasses! And it's weird to see Calvin without glasses!

Your pictures are darling! Cali did such a great job!!

Yahoo to a successful reunion!!

Darla said...

Janey Payney.... I've been waiting, watching.... waiting .. watching for your Christmas Post... and it was well worth the wait. I love you and your family, they are such an inspiration & you probably don't even know it. I wish you all the best in 2014 ...

Love you....


Rachel said...

What a fun bunch! I enjoyed reading about it and especially seeing all the great pictures.

Alisa said...

I love everything about this post! The family photos are the best I have seen of group shots!
I love your family's example of working to be together. None of that came about without work and sacrifice. Thank you for sharing this. It makes it all seem possible!

Alisa said...

I love everything about this post! The family photos are the best I have seen of group shots!
I love your family's example of working to be together. None of that came about without work and sacrifice. Thank you for sharing this. It makes it all seem possible!