‘Twas an honor

I slapped out a quick post on Friday afternoon but then never got around to posting it. It’s mostly irrelevant now but there is one paragraph I’ll share:

The house is mostly ready. The food is mostly made. In two days, this family gathering that I’ve been planning and preparing for over the last couple months will be over. It always amazes me how much time and work gets poured into an event that is so quickly over.

And now it’s over. The guests have all traveled back to their respective homes, last night—right before I climbed into bed with a toddy of hot chocolate laced with Bailey’s and topped with a marshmallow (thanks, Honey)—there was a flurry of emails with video and picture attachments, and now, this morning, I have a load of towels in the washing machine.

Mostly I am peacefully happy, thrilled to have a fridge filled with leftovers and relieved to get back to my regular routine, but there are twinges of sadness, too. Because late Saturday afternoon I was hit with the realization that I don’t think I’ve had that this much fun in months and months and months. Surrounded by the hubbub of family eating, arguing, talking, playing, singing—in my home—well really, can an experience be any richer?

After such abundance, I can’t help but feel a little forlorn.

It’s always interesting to see how a family grows. It felt like things went in pairs this year.

For starters, there were two pregnant bellies. (Keep your eyes open and see if you can spot them in the pictures.)

There were two year-and-a-half-old baby boys who toddled around everywhere. At one point my son said to me, his voice heavy with longing, “I wish we always had a baby in our house.”

The two little girl cousins were inseparable and absolutely adorable.

But the newest addition to our family were my cousin’s two teenage Haitian step-children. A year after the earthquake their paperwork finally went through and they arrived in the states three months ago. They don’t speak much English, but it was clear to everyone that they are real sweeties—fun-loving, good with kids, and eager to try new things.

So, you all wonder, how did we pass our time together? Oh, let me count the ways!

But before I continue, can I just say, THE WEATHER WAS AMAZING. You know that horrible forecast I was moaning about? The forecast continued to be horrible, calling for lots of dark clouds that would surely dump lots of water on us for most of the weekend. But—get this—it didn’t rain! There was a shower right before everyone showed, a sprinkle during the night on Saturday, and then a blustery storm as everyone was heading out the door, and that. was. it. I was so thrilled with the turn of events that I got anxious when we weren’t sitting outside enjoying the not-rainy weather. (Moral of the story: I get anxious regardless.)

And one more thing: with all the commotion, it’s kind of odd that I would so miss the ones who weren’t able to make it—my uncle’s family, my brother, some cousins—but I did. My brother’s emails and blog posts got shouted out to the group, we all whooped and hollered our encouragements when Kate tried to get her husband to drive down after his track meet (she failed), and there were emails sent to a cousin who just arrived in Alaska.

Number One Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Conversation

We talked.

And talked and talked.

And talked and talked and talked.

We talked about health insurance. We debated the merits of cremation versus burial. We processed the recent suicide of my aunt’s niece. We talked about how we deal with conflict in our marriages. We listened as my mom’s youngest brother reminisced about watching his older sisters come home wearing the forbidden short skirts and his mother, my grandmother, crying after they left the house. My aunt retold the story of her stillbirth; the boy would be 18 this summer.

Number Two Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Foam Finger Rockets

A friend loaned them to us for the occasion and they were the hit of the show. These little buggers made for some serious class-A fun.

Here, take a look at this series of shots.

My daughter sneaks onto the opposing team’s side and snatches up a pile of rockets at the same time that her cousin takes aim.

My daughter takes off running as fast as she can in the little white dress shoes that she insists on wearing.

Her cousin lets fly and nails her in the shoulder.

Defeated, my daughter tosses the booty and retreats.

The kids played with the rockets constantly, and adults couldn’t resist them either. Even I kicked off my flip-flops and ran shrieking around the yard (it wasn’t till afterwards that I discovered my belly was peppered with welts).

Here’s John, always on the defensive.

He still got walloped.

When Nickel was guardian of the rockets, he hauled them all under the deck where he could keep a better lookout.

Smart kid.

But then the other team got frustrated and made him take them out in the open.

There were pile-ups, tears, victorious celebrations, and intense conferences.

Don’t worry, he’s not angry. Just animated.

We never even got around to pulling out the board games.

The Number Three Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Eating

Thanks to a bunch of prep work and a ton of assistance from my mother and brother and sister-in-law, we hardly cooked at all during the weekend and yet still managed to eat like kings.

There were… .

…flaming burgers

…and donuts

…and green smoothies

…and giant salads

…and three kinds of homemade ice cream.

I love it that my family possesses some kick-butt appetites and a willingness to eat anything and everything with gusto and loud appreciation. Feeding them was such a pleasure.

The Number Four Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Singing

We spent Saturday evening sitting around a bonfire at my brother’s house, telling stories, eating s’mores, and singing songs. My Haitian cousin sang a song in French and it was beautiful.

Sunday morning we sat around and sang hymns.

In between the group harmony crooning sessions, guitars strummed and the piano plink-plunked.

The Number Five Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Walks

Saturday morning, some of us walked the three miles to my parents’ new property, and Sunday morning there was another three-mile walk and some bike riding.

On one of the walks, The Baby Nickel pulled a large bouquet of ditch-side weeds out by the roots, and, in his eager haste to deliver them to me, tripped over his pregnant aunty’s foot and face-planted on the asphalt. (A later fall, one I did not witness, left him all bunged up on his torso, and last night when he came downstairs after being tucked into bed, because he was bleeding in bed—he’d picked a scab—and needed a bandaid, my exasperated husband declared that from henceforth, he has a new middle name: Bandaids.)

The Number Six Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Making Art

My crafty cousin brought down a big box of art supplies and set up shop.

It was supposed to be for adults, and adults did linger there, but Miss Beccaboo was totally entranced with a microwave flower drying thingy. I know this because she kept pushing a stool over to the microwave and getting in my way.

The Number Seven Way How We Passed Our Time Together: Other Things

*My dad hilled the potatoes and weeded the onions.

My uncle and husband gave him lots of verbal encouragement and not much else.

*Mountains of dishes got washed.

*Little cousins got toted.

*Sewing lessons were given and taken.

*And many, many pictures were taken (as if you can’t tell by this photo-filled post).

Paparazzi Zoe taking a picture of paparazzi Jennifer taking a picture of
paparazzi Zoe taking a picture of— Okay, I’ll stop now.

Back to those group emails that got volleyed around last night: at the end of one of them my aunt wrote, “If I haven’t told you lately, I love you all very much.”

My feelings exactly.

P.S. I just realized that my cousin, otherwise known as Paparazzi Zoe, posted the entire menu with links! (And with a picture of me closely resembling a horse in full whinny.)


  • Mavis

    A party? And I wasn't invited? And there were homemade doughnuts and the famous Dr. P was there? I'm deeply offended. I would of hopped on a plane for that.

    * Did Dr. P get a new pair of glasses? They look smashing!

    * Does everyone in your family play an instrument?

    *I love men who was dishes.

  • Misha

    This post actually choked me up. All our family lives so far away and I just love how intentionally you celebrated such a precious, beautiful gathering. It's so wonderful to see all the details!!

  • Jennifer Jo


    House parties are MUCH better than rented public places, but this was a small one, just 24 people, and quite a few of them were little kids.

    How we fit them all in: the kids relinquished their beds, grown-ups and pregnant women got beds (or air mattresses), parents brought pack-n-plays. My brother lives 1/2 mile away and had several beds to share. We had space in the clubhouse, if necessary, and we could've used tents, too, but didn't need to.

  • Margo

    how wonderful – love all the photos and stories. Must go look up those finger rockets (do I dare?).

    And I was thinking: this is a neat way to do family reunions, as a house party, instead of renting a firehall for a single meal OR trying to find a cheap enough campground or retreat center. . . but tell me: where does everyone sleep at one of these family weekends? I might have to pick your brain some more to see if this could work for my extended family. . .

  • Anonymous

    Gavin said he was telling Marc that "he was a 'pro thief' in the finger rocket war. A very valuable member of the team."

    Just have to love those little nonresistant Mennonite kids.

    Great post. Captured the weekend to perfection.

    Thanks again JJ.

    Aunt V.

  • judy

    Wow-there are still real families out there –who knew jk–still,looks like so much fun,so many memories made no one else could be this blessed.

  • Zoë

    Horse in full whinny…excellent description!

    And an excellent description of the weekend, too. So fun! Thanks again for all of your hard work!

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