We knew this trip wouldn't be relaxing. Eleven cousins (10 of them 8 and under), a total of twenty of us staying in a three bedroom condo, all of our families wired to three different time zones. Yep, of rest there was very little, but that was one of the last priorities. Being together and having a good time was the goal. Ben's family is scattered all over the U.S.: Colorado, California, Conneticut, and Washington. Getting all together is a hurculean effort and the last time we were all in one place (minus a few babies) was three years ago. My sister-in-law's dad kindly opened up his vacation condo in Arizona to us so we could fly in for some sun and family bonding. We all packed up our kids, carseats, bags, snacks, and cameras for the trip.
Here we are at the airport. This mama refused to pay baggage charges and managed to squirrel away all the kids' stuff in carry ons.
We were the first to arrive in Arizona, at about 1 A.M. and the rest of the family arrived the next day. At first the cousins all looked at each other a bit stand-offishly (is that a word?) as it had been so long but by the end, they were buddying around happily.
We had days of passing around the babies, sharing snacks, downing pots of coffee, laughing and catching up at the park as we watched the kids play. There is just a sweet something about being together.
Here is Papa cuddling with Theo.
We did a lot of swimming. There were many water wings in the pool and towels drying on the porch afterwards. Kids and water, great recipe for exhaustion.
Nana brought a load of coloring goodies and the cousins circled around the table, creating art. Little cars, whoopee cushions, and sticky hands. It was all shared.
Taylor and Ruby stuck to each other like glue. They are the only two girls so far and were happy peas in a pod.
Josiah plays on his dad's phone.
There is always, always music in this family. I remember the first Christmas that we hosted at our home and my jaw dropping at all the instruments that were hauled in, including amps and microphones. We didn't have that much this time, but there is always a guitar and mandolin, at least.
My amazing sister-in-law, Meghan, was the one who was the organizational genius behind the getaway, and she even rocked the 15 passenger van all over Phoenix. What a girl! I just got to sit in the front to chat with her and tossed back granola bars to the masses once in a while.
Cousin Levi was the cousin of all cousins. What a guy. He hauled around and entertained little guys the whole week. Tymen told me, "Levi is the biggest cousin in the world! I hug him, Mama." We are hoping we can get him to come visit some time.
Papa cuddled babies and was a great sport about all the chaos and then grabbed a ten minute nap once or twice.
Yep, they all have the same grin. Family genetics run strong between all the siblings.
The classic grandparent and grandkids shot...and of course, there always has to be a crier. Nine boys, two girls.
We spent a long and happy day the the Phoenix Children's Museum. A forest of noodles, a maze, a shopping center, drums, art, a bicycle alley. There was something for everyone.
The two Meghans. Once there was a half hearted attempt to give them different nicknames but it didn't really work. Now they just both respond to "Meghan!!"
How little Josiah giggled and giggled at the machine that would suck in scarves, run them through the tubes and spit them out. Then he showed Tymen what to do.
Meals were a massive undertaking as this crew could eat. Pasta night! Taco night! Sausage night! Moms circled around filling up kids' cups and plates, dads juggled the littles at the table and everyone pitched in to clean up.
We found this awesome park with trains and a merry-go-round and an awesome playground. Here is Jude and then Cade with his pretty Mom.
Josiah loved for his daddy to give him great big pushes.
Then, while the kids played, the adults sat around on benches to chat, and cuddle the little ones who were getting cranky.
The ladies managed a great afternoon out while the guys held down the fort. This may or may not be the face Meghan pulled after sitting on a cactus. Having the girls pulls prickles from your bottom....that's family love, people.
Sisters. Sara and Meghan.
We found a funky little coffee shop.
The morning before we left, I asked everyone if we could do a few photos. I wanted to get a headshot of all the kids and some of each family. Everyone was tired by this point but really great sports about it. Thanks for indulging your shutter happy auntie, guys!
Taylor and Joshie.
Levi, Cade, Judah, Josiah, and Seth. No, their sixth child is NOT a cactus....just needed a photo to fill the space :) . Seth looks a little pensive after his dad gave him a "haircut" while mom was out with the girls.
Then there was our supermen and super girl. Apparently, their mother forgot about her own "no logos" guideline for family pictures.
Nana and Papa and Meghan. Meghan is a super auntie, loving up kids galore.
Taylor and Jake while we waited for the rest of their family for a moment. They are pretty crazy about each other.
Mike and Sara with their little army.
I think our family was the least co-operative....but, there we are!
The whole she-bang of us.
See that rainbow on the hill behind our condos? That's a bit of a picture of the goodness of getting together.
And at the end, we were all pretty pooped out. But....we'll do it again...just as soon as we are able.
We love you, Family!