Our main purpose for our Trip out West was to see my immediate family and Dallas's immediate family. Dallas's parents live in Casper, WY, which is a very expensive place to fly into and my parents planned for our family reunion to be near Rexburg, ID (another very expensive place to fly into.) Thus our trip extended to California, then Utah, and so on. After visiting Dallas's sister in Utah, we drove north to Rexburg, ID. Mom had rented a huge lodge/house for all of us right outside of Ashton, ID (about 45 minutes from Rexburg.) My youngest brother, Bradley was attending BYUI for the Summer term and we wanted to make sure he could join us for as much of the reunion as possible. I love that mom always thinks of each of us and tries so hard to accommodate our needs. Before meeting up in Ashton, Dallas and I wanted to stop by the Rexburg temple. I hadn't been back to Rexburg in years. I attended BYU in Utah, but had several friends whom attended BYUI so I visited campus a few times during my college years. I was quite impressed with how greatly campus had transformed and all the improvements made in Rexburg.
Daxton was SUPER mad at us for wanting to take a family picture together, but I did end up snapping my favorite picture of our summer trip...Daxton running into his daddy's arms in front of the temple.
The lodge mom and dad found was pretty awesome. It was called Fall River ranch and located about 20 minutes outside of Ashton. It was extremely rural with no cell reception and right on the river. It really was a great place for all of us. Each family had their own room/s with private bathrooms. I was a little nervous about the fast river and Daxton, but he was super good about listening and we made sure to always keep a close eye on him.
The beautiful drive, house, and one of the many patios.
I have to admit that I was pretty taken with how gorgeous this part of the country was. Maybe because I hadn't seen pine trees in so long, but I kept fawning over the different vegetation and MOUNTAINS.
I'm not kidding when I say we have the most amazing family. I hope that most people feel the same about their own families. It's been so fun with each consecutive year to have more and more grandkids added to the mix. We are a pretty affectionate family, always lots of hugging, kissing, and wrestling. It was pretty funny getting these pictures ready and realizing how true that is. Just count how many times you see a hugging, snuggling, or kissing picture!
I love the picture of Will and Nora hugging below and of course Grandpa with Emma and Nora.
Erik was pretty awesome and designed reunion shirts for all of us. They were based off of our only dog growing up, a Pomeranian named Sunshine. One said "Happy Trails Buckaroo" and the other said "Eres Mi Sol" meaning you are my sunshine. They were both pretty amazing and I loved that each family was given both kinds. Obviously they were a big hit with the kids and Daxton still wears his all the time.
Some of the fun activities we did during the family reunion included swimming and throwing rocks into the river. Erik and Stuart did a pretty good job at damming up some of the water with large rocks so there was a calmer pool for kids to wade in.
(Notice all the hugging??)
We also loved being able to relax out on the large patio which included a built in hot tub. I love the pictures below especially all the love pics, but notice the sweetness of Olive touching her Uncle Stuart's cheek...priceless!
This is pretty much what it looked like most days of the reunion...kids swimming in the hot tub and chasing each other around the grounds. Olive and Daxton fell right into step and were immediately best buds like the week before in California. I love the picture below (top, right) where she is literally hanging onto his ankles while he's running away. They were so funny together!
Each day we had some kind of activity planned. We also had one family in charge of dinner, devotional, and games that night. It was a pretty packed reunion which made it that much more fun! One of the days we made the hour drive over to Jackson Hole, WY. We all wanted to go on the Alpine Slide, which we could even take Daxton and Olive on. It was a little unnerving riding the lift up the mountain, but each of the kids were super brave.
Once we were on the top of the mountain, we each grabbed a sled and made our way to the start of the slide. I love the pic of all of us lined up holding our sleds.
Going down the mountain was super fun. Daxton was a little nervous at first, but Daddy had a good hold on him. I love Heather and Olive following closely behind. If I recall she was even yelling taunting remarks for good measure :)
The kids went down the slide a few times, thanks to Grandpa! After the Alpine slide, we drove over to the Jackson Hole Gondola. It was massive and able to carry all of us plus more to the top of the giant mountain.
Waiting in line to get tickets for the gondola...notice more hugging and kissing??
So many loves!
I especially love the picture of Grandma getting big hugs from some of her grandkids.
The Gondola had large windows covering all the walls. We were a bit obnoxious on the ride up, squealing every time the gondola swayed back and forth. But we all had tons of fun being silly.
When we got to the top, we were NOT prepared for the drastic drop in temperature and wind. You can tell Daxton's Florida blood was not happy about being so cold.
Clockwise starting at top left: Bryan and Heather's family, Erik and Heather's family, Stuart and Angelica, Richard and Leisha's family, Dallas and Grandma trying to warm up Daxton, and Dallas, Daxton, and I.
Of course we had to do some jumping pictures!
Just look at that stunning back drop...
Another one of our fun adventures included spending the day at Bear World, about five minutes out of Rexburg. We all had so much watching for bears out our car windows. It reminded me of the Lion Country Safari in Florida, just with tons of bears. Daxton absolutely loved it. One of the bears even started pawing at Erik's van. It stayed next to their van for quite awhile before walking away.
There was a small carnival at the end of the Bear tour, which was pretty funny. It included a few rides and a petting zoo. The rides were limitless, so the kids went on them over and over and over...
Another day we spent the morning hiking to a gorgeous waterfall and then the afternoon tubing down the river. It was a pretty awesome day being out in nature and letting the kids explore. I was really impressed with the size of the falls. They were absolutely stunning.
After a gorgeous hike to the waterfall, we all drove down to the entrance to the river. I was a bit worried about taking a two year old on a three hour long float down the river. If he hated it, there was nothing we could do. But I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. He rested on Dallas's chest for a good portion of the float, especially at the beginning when he was more nervous. For the most part it was a pretty relaxing adventure, except for the frigid ice-cold water temperatures.
It was a pretty awesome feeling as we were all linked together in our tubes as one big family. The older kids had fun falling out of their tubes every so often. The big scare came when we saw massive cement columns standing out of the water. It looked like they were the only remaining posts from an old bridge. We all had to brake up as we rushed down through the columns, but Richard and Leisha were tied together with rope and got caught on each side of the column. It was pretty scary since she had Sadie and Nora in the raft with her. Stuart immediate hopped off his tube and fought up stream to help Richard unhook the rope, but the rest of us were washed downstream too quickly and also holding children to be of any help. All turned out ok though, even with our shaky dismount trying to get out of the fast moving river with several tubes and babies. All part of the memories!
Some other fun highlights from our week family reunion...
Without the humidity of south Florida to keep them in check, his hair got a bit out of control. Heather even french braided it one night!
Our nightly games were also a hit!
We had an ice cream game, obstacle course, "Do You Love Your Neighbor", an amazing dance party, and even fear factor. Each family also did a devotional covering where their names originated. The main theme for our family reunion was "Who Am I" and Richard did an incredible job of sharing family history stories from each line of our ancestry. He covered each conversion and other interesting stories and even made books for each of us to take home.
On Sunday we all woke up early for family pictures and then went to the local ward for church. We had a fun last day together playing games and roasting marshmallows over the campfire. It was seriously such an incredible reunion!
The most generous and loving people I know...
Mom and Dad
Katrina and Natalie
Sadie and Max
This was Daxton's reaction to family pictures...
At least Will cranked out a smile!
Ellis and Emma
Will and Rulon
Nora (with Liam's pinwheel) and Lincoln
Olive at least gave a smile before pouting over family pictures.
Bryan and Heather's family
Stuart and Angelica
Richard and Leisha's family
Erik and Heather's family
Dallas and I's family
My youngest brother, Bradley was a total trooper for mom, even posing for his own glamour shot.
Our whole family, both in heaven and earth.
I love that mom brought a pinwheel and a butterfly to represent our angels; beautiful Mara and sweet Liam.
I love my family so much and feel so blessed to be sealed to them for eternity. We are so very grateful for the love, compassion, and generosity Mom and Dad continue to show us. This year the reunion felt so much more important to me, maybe because we live on the other side of the country now. It was so good to see everyone and especially to see Daxton play and build friendships with his cousins.
Thank you so very much, Mom and Dad, for arranging this incredible reunion. We love you both so very much and are continually humbled by your examples and strength. We miss you every day.