Posts Tagged ‘reunion’


Lessons Learned from a Colorado Family Reunion Vacation…

Estes Park

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Warning: War and Peace was shorter.

If you’re a fairly regular visitor here, then you probably have detected a little themeMIP went on vacation with the extended in-law family last week. Early in the 2000’s my hubby’s family decided to do destination family reunion vacations together. Despite the diversity of people in the family, we manage to get along with each other in sometimes tight quarters for an entire week. Quite a feat for what was then a group of 24 people total. 24 people showed up this time, but that’s now only 3/4 of the family! We are up to 31.5 with a new great nephew due in early October (Yesss! More people to spoil rotten and then swiftly return to parents!).

We have taken on a number of destinations now (or they have taken on us and lived to tell the tale??): Branson, Virginia Beach, Nashville (IN), Hilton Head and now Estes Park, CO. Here’s what I learned this week while hanging with the fam-in-law:

1. Never believe the emails from a property management company regarding lock box codes.

2. Never believe the codes in the vacation home “renter’s manual” for how to unlock the dumpster. (Yes, the dumpster. Reminder–there were 24 people! And yes, locked. Bears in Colorado think a dumpster is fine dining.)

3. It doesn’t matter how much you emphasize that 1/3 of the food cost is built into each family’s housing fee, we’ll all bring food.

4. Because of # 3 and because we are all too generous, there were enough tortillas to feed a 3rd world country, not to mention fruit and Keurig cups.

5. The best solution to early morning people demanding coffee immediately is to have too many Keurig cups next to a Keurig machine.

6. Your biggest hassle arriving in the nation’s snow playground is renting a car for clear roads.

7. Breakfast for 24 takes 3 full grocery carts and 2 cars to transport.

8. When feeling the effects of thinner air, drink water.

9. You can never buy enough bottled water in Estes Park.

10. To satisfy the soda drinkers in the house, you may need another fridge for the week.

11. The freezers stay empty. This includes ice for water. And no, I still don’t understand why.

12. No hot tubbing after 8 pm. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

13. If you ask the “sub-families” to each cook one dinner meal, your biggest problem will be finding enough dinner meals for everyone and giving everyone the Monday night meal.

14. With families coming from 3 different states, the dinner meal variety is simply awesome.

15. If you didn’t get to cook on Monday, volunteer for Friday and Saturday night. You can do “leftover night” either time and it’s remarkably wonderful…and cheap!

16. If you want to do anything with the Fowlers, get up at 2 am.

17. The earliest I went to sleep was 2 am.

18. I wish I’d had more time with the Fowlers. Wait. Did they even come on this vacation???

19. When the hubby and the DSL are ATV-ing, make sure all insurance is paid up.

20. My niece’s last name must be Andretti.

21. If I ever video my entire life, call the other niece. She was smart enough not to drive.

22. Yes, you can get a speeding ticket on an ATV in Colorado. It’s a Communist plot.

23. Your spine will tell you about your ATV-ing a full 2 days after the actual event.

24. Plan your visit to the top of the Continental Divide the day before the huge thunderstorm.

25. Elk are not intimidated by goofy tourists.

26. Elk don’t respond to, “Hey Elkie, come here!”

27. I need 2 bottles of water to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

28. I brought 1 bottle of water to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

29. I need my heart meds and frequent stops to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

30. I left my heart meds in the car.

31. When you’re at the top of the world, you need 2 gift shops. Here’s a thought: add on to the already-existing gift shop??? Oh, wait. That would require fewer tax dollars. My bad.

32. I am a sucker for 3 types of stores: food, Christmas items and hand-blown glass.

33. I had the greatest quiche of my life in Estes Park.

34. There was an awesome farmer’s market last week in Estes Park.

35. There were only 3 Christmas stores in Estes Park.

36. One glass store (out of many) had an entire snowman village, including pine trees.

37. Creditors started calling our home this morning.

38. Only my hubby buys horseradish at the farmer’s market.

39. We will be playing “Ticket to Ride” this Christmas. It’s like Risk without any luck involved.

40. I predict I will be the loser of every “Ticket to Ride” game this Christmas.

41. The hubby needs to make raspberry & pecan pancakes to make me a morning person.

42. If we have granddaughters someday, they will get “princess pancakes”.

43. When I have to get up at 5 am to help the hubby with the princess pancakes, it’s probably smart to go to bed before 4 am.

44. It’s hard to shut off my brain at 4 am.

45. There is nothing as beautiful as a rodeo with a Rocky Mountain backdrop at dusk.

46. Your kids’ favorite youth director lives a mere 2 hours away from in another state.

47. My son lives 4 hours away in the same state. You’d think he lives in TX or something.

48. When visiting the farmer’s market, take your shower early. Let’s just say the temp of my shower and the cool temps were similar.

49. It takes a full car load to bring back half of our kitchen for princess pancakes.

50. My Surveymonkey membership comes in handy when analyzing family vacation feedback.

Monday’s Post: Did you fret and fume about spume? 

You Might Also Like: Grocery List for a Family Reunion Vacation; Would You Like a Family Like This?; Lessons Learned from a Family Vacation; and Lessons Learned from


Grocery List for a Family Reunion Vacation…

grocery cart

Warning: War and Peace was shorter.

Only 3/4ths of our family attended our most recent reunion vacation and yet, that still meant meals for 24 every day. For dinner each family took a night and provided a meal for all of us, but breakfast was the domain of the hubby, since he loves to cook and is an early morning riser. Upon arriving in Denver, we spent an hour getting a rental car (Yes, we were ticked, too.) and then traveled to the Wal-mart in Loveland. It only took 3 full carts of food and 4 family members to check out. The cashier said we were her highest amount tallied for her register…ever. Here’s how that happened–the register tape listed the stuff below:

5 packages of real bacon bits

3 packages of honey ham

7 packages of sausage

2 packages of cocktail weiners

2 large packages of bacon

2 packages of sausage links

126 eggs

4 large containers of Greek yogurt

3 containers of cream cheese

2 cartons of half & half

2 cans of whipped cream

3 gallons of milk

6 blocks of cheese

2 lbs. of butter

3 cartons of heavy whipping cream

3 bags of shredded cheese

1 bottle of strawberry jam

1 bottle of grape jelly

1 large jar of peanut butter

2 cans of frozen apple juice

1 gallon of orange juice

108 K-cups

2 gallons of distilled water

1 large box of granola bars

4 bags of tomatoes

2 jars of salsa

8 lbs. of jalapenos

6 bell peppers

8 lbs. of grapes

2 large containers of mushrooms

2 large containers of strawberries

6 lbs. of bananas

1 lb. of onions

2 small watermelons

2 honeydew melons

2 cantaloupes

4 lbs. of cherries

2 containers of blueberries

2 containers of blackberries

1 container of raspberries

2 large cans of tomato paste

1 bag of flour

3 large bags of flour tortillas

3 boxes of Bisquick

1 bag of corn tortillas

2 cans of cinnamon rolls

6 cans of crescent rolls

2 cans of orange danish rolls

1 large package of wheat bread

4 loaves of cinnamon swirl bread

1 large box of toaster waffles

2 boxes of instant oatmeal

4 boxes of cold cereal

5 boxes of muffin mix

3 bags of bagels

1 large bottle of syrup

1 bag of sugar

1 large package of pecan chips

2 large packages of chocolate chips

2 sets of salt and paper shakers

1 pepper grinder

1 can of Pam cooking spray

In addition we also purchased the fixings for a dinner meal and some lunch and snack items. Here’s what it took to do that:

72 bottles of water

8 bottles of Mio

2 rolls of summer sausage

1 large container of minced garlic

1 bottle of zesty Italian dressing

1 bottle of Ranch dressing

5 cartons of soft drinks

2 large packages of boneless chicken breasts

1 bag of tostitos

1 fajita kit

1 large box of rice

2 packages of lettuce

In addition, we bought a few items just to make life a little more bearable around our vacation home:

1 large container of wet wipes

3 boxes of tissue

1 bottle of sunscreen

1 large carton of goldfish crackers

3 rolls of paper towels

600 paper napkins

1 box of gallon ziploc bags

3 boxes of quart ziploc bags

3 rolls of aluminum foil

1 partridge in a pear tree

1 large bag of bird seed

1 kitchen sink

Some of these items were also later restocked as the week went by! And, other families brought items as well. There wasn’t all that much left over by the end of the week. Let’s just say no one went hungry and no one lost weight last week.

Lest you think we footed the bill entirely for this, let me be honest. The cost of the breakfast items were part of what each family contributed towards the cost of the vacation homes. Would you like to guess the total of the above (minus the last 3 items)? Submit the answer below in a comment box. I will put a final comment down below to tell which guesses were the most accurate!

Friday’s Post: Lessons Learned from a Colorado Family Reunion Vacation…

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Would You Like a Family Like This?

family vacation

When I look back on the major decisions I made in the first half of my life, many seem really bone-headed now. But one that most decidedly didn’t fall into that category was marrying into my husband’s family. They are a wonderful conglomerate of diverse Christians and somehow we manage to get along well. Unfortunately, as the years progress, we often fail to see each other due to living further and further away from each other.


Back in the early 2000s we decided that we needed another reason to gather together besides weddings, funerals, graduations, and holidays. The Reunion Vacation was born. We have been to Branson, Virginia Beach, Hilton Head, Nashville, IN, and now Estes Park. We do them every few years whenever we think the majority of us have been able to save up the necessary money to do such a destination vacation. We started renting out one large vacation home and despite renting out one the same size this time, we now don’t fit, because of grandchild marriages and subsequent great-grandchildren. So, now we rent two large-sized homes, hopefully close to each other.


Yes, four generations come together and we actually raise the eyebrows of the local residents, not because we’re the typical tourists tearing up nice vacation homes and not because we are usually fighting to the death with each other by the end of the vacation week. No, we raise eyebrows because we actually get along and actually enjoy each other’s company and do our best to leave the homes in even better shape than we found them. The first generation, aka Gram and PaPa, raised their kids right! And that has been passed down through the generations.


Now, it’s not all wonderful. We are human. For one thing, there are few shrinking violets in this group and so we can wind up with too many “Indian Chiefs”. And those few family members who aren’t as Type A often have to seek seclusion outside for mere survival’s sake from time to time. I, too, had to learn this skill since my own family was quite small.  Many of us are in our 50s and thus, none of us hear the way we once heard. Thus, all of these vacations feature excessive loudness! Again, a brief respite outside can often help.


And we do screw up, sometimes in a major way. Few of us can reasonably say we don’t have a few pounds to lose. Few of us are flexible (We breed stubbornness!) about some situations we passionately pursue. Few of us know how to quit working and thus, a feast with my husband’s family is likely to ensue at every meal and spreadsheets for all vacation logistics will often hilariously collide. (Yes, actual agendas, maps, handouts and spreadsheets abound. The Battle of Iwo Jima took less planning.) Individually, we all struggle with some internal mess at one point or another probably like any other family in America.


So, how do we cope with all of that? Grace.


Yes, we say grace, but I’m talking about the kind that comes from above. Because He loved us and forgave us, we choose to love each other and forgive each other as we congregate. Is that always easy? Nope. But this is perhaps the best part of marrying into a large family: if we get disgusted and lose our patience with one member of the family, there’s always another member we can hang with! Once I practice this little strategy, I seldom lose my patience for long and after reconnecting with those who remind me what patience looks like, I can regain some patience with the person who was driving me nuts a short time before.

Would you believe that there are 9 married ends of this family now and none of us have divorced? That love and forgiveness thing works, in more ways than one!


I hope all of you have such a family when everyday life seems joyless and pointless. But, if not, perhaps a few of the Points to Ponder below will help you begin to create such a family, even if you have to become “Gram & PaPa” and start with your current immediate family to create the next 4 generations of wonderful togetherness.


Point to Ponder 1: Name the 1 issue that seems to escalate tensions at your extended family gatherings. May I suggest that you ask for a banishment of that issue from the next “reunion”? While I firmly believe in talking things out, there are some subjects that are just too painful for some families to bear. If someone forgets that the topic is off-limits, agree beforehand to use a code word to stop that person from going any further with it. I suggest using some silly made-up word that creates a smile for most of your family members. Keep in mind that change begins with you and you may have to stop yourself from bringing it up and you may have to politely remind people to “cut it out.”


Point to Ponder 2: Can’t do # 1 because there are some really huge issues going on in your family? Here’s the good news and the bad news: You have a lot of company in America. If so, it may be time to take your immediate family and try to change only that end of the family for the better. Consult a pastor or counselor or other mental health professional to ensure that your family knows when it, itself, is getting into the same dangerous territory as your extended family. This isn’t weakness! It takes such strength to admit you need an objective opinion from someone who deals with such issues regularly.


Point to Ponder 3: Done # 2 and feel your immediate family is in a good place? Congrats! That’s awesome! Celebrate by beginning a weekend vacation tradition with your family whenever the money’s in the bank to do so. You can just go to the next town over and camp in a park or some other beautiful area, if the budget’s tight. You will be amazed at the conversations that take place merely because you are away from home. Keep practicing any suggestions that your pastor or counselor has given you to make sure the vacations keep going in a positive direction. (Sometimes a change in location can cause some to revert to old negative behavior patterns.) Your offspring will probably start to treasure these times unless they’re currently teenagers. But if so, have no fear—eventually they grow out of it.


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