Sunday, August 17, 2014

Keeping Distant Family Close

Up, Up with Updikes! I helped to plan our biannual extended Updike reunion.  30 of 45 cousins were there - pretty good. Uncle Jim (my dad's cousin) hosted us all up around Lake Valencia, Colorado near where my great grandpa Updike summered. 

Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents.  In my life, these were important titles and people.  I grew up with a reunion each year--for both sides of the family.

In my superbig Mormon family, this was no small thing, as there are 45 grandchildren on one side, and 52(?) on the other side, with fifteen sets of aunts and uncles.  I know and love them all.  

They have played important roles in my life spiritually.  I began reading the Book of Mormon at age seven in response to a challenge from my uncle.  My Aunt Nancy taught me to thrift shop (a favourite, handy hobby). On my mission for my Church in Sydney, Australia, when faced with a tough challenge of faith or disobedient missionary leadership (it happens, unfortunately), I would often imagine what my cousins David, Jordan, Ben, Russell or Lisle would have done in a similar situation.  Now I am inspired by strong marriages despite difficult challenges or the mothers among my cousins who seemingly effortlessly teach tiny children to be reverent in Sacrament meeting.

I want Gideon and this unborn baby girl to have the same experience - very much.  Besides, it's just fun to have life-long friends and mentors who never go away.

Living in England when everyone else is in the United States and an ocean and painful hours of jet lag away makes that tough.  But this summer was the first that we were able to swing reunions for both sides.  Perhaps next year, we can have them all in one place so it's not quite so difficult to cross an ocean and a continent to see everyone.  Maybe just an ocean?

Truman might be in the favourite cousin running.  Always entertaining.

Gideon getting to know his great-grandpa.

Four generations.  Grandma Toler passed away the week before we were already scheduled to come out, and Lance (aka Bishop Toler) was able to conduct the funeral.

Bishop Toler gave a fine talk and conducted a wonderful, moving service in tribute to his grandma.

Hiking at Mesa Verde on the first full day of the extended Updike reunion.

Gideon was a total trooper.

I don't know who was more scared to go through this tunnel out of Balcony House - me at six months pregnant or Gideon.

Cliff Palace - always wanted to see this in person.

Silverton, Colorado where we spent a day of the extended Updike reunion.

Hay ride courtesy of Uncle Jim.

Let the games begin!  Rook, chess, Cover your Assets, Settlers of Catan--but especially Rook--are great Updike past times.

Scenes from our car trip between one reunion and the other.  For those who have never seen red rock, it is breathtaking.
After a long day of travel, including six hours across the dessert between Durango, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, and a two-legged flight to Fresno, Gideon was still excited to see Grandpa--and his dog.
After another car ride from Fresno to the beach, Gideon was excited to spend time with Levi - another in the favourite cousin running.
Mom and Dad Toler took us all sailing the first full day of the Toler reunion.  Amazing.  Lance even saw a whale!

Gideon seems to enjoy sailing as much as his mamma.

The first of many sea lions.  First time I had seen them in their natural habitat.

The original five Toler siblings.
That night we ate at a farmer's market at Avilla Beach and danced to the street performers.

When close to Mexico, eat Mexican food!  We miss it here in the UK.

Wish I could have videoed his dancing.

Lance loves his sisters.  I needed their approval before Lance could propose.

Family pictures on the beach.

One of the professional shots by Stephanie Ryan Photography - more to come!

Perhaps the professional version will be our Christmas pic?
These two cousins - of Lance's adopted Korean sisters - are besties.  So cute!

digging in the sand with Grandpa.
What to do when you soil yourself so badly that you need to be stripped and mamma forgot extra clothes? Borrow your cousin's jacket and rock it.  Everyone always thinks I'm a girl, anyway!

finding sand crabs

Crossing the ocean inlet to get to the tide pools.  Good thing I was wearing my Sunday dress that could be easily hiked.

Gideon loved the tide pools. 

Tammy has perma favourite aunt status on the Toler side. 

Aunt Jacquie has made many of Gideon's blankets, burp clothes, and a beautiful quilt.  After using them his entire little life, it was great to see Gideon actually interact with this wonderful Aunt.

Avilla Beach was a wonderful choice for a reunion - cooler than many other beaches, not overly crowded, and peaceful.
So fun to watch Gideon interacting with cousins he won't see till next year. 

Stopping by a petting zoo on the way back to Fresno.
The last leg of the journey--the seven hour cross-Atlantic flight, and the last of 10 flights, was the most difficult.  Thank goodness Lance was there to make it easier. 

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