Here's the lowdown. My Grandma and Grandpa B have nine children-my mom is the oldest. My grandpa and grandma aren't with us anymore but they left a legacy of love. Those nine children gave them 44 grandchildren (one of those is me), and those grandchildren have had 49 great-grandchildren, with 4 more on the way in the next 3 months, and many more to come.
Here's a beautiful picture of my grandma and grandpa. I remember visiting their big farm house complete with Molly the pony, dogs, cats and kittens, orchards full of cherries, plums, peaches and apples (depending on what month you visited) and always plenty of chocolate chip cookies in the cookie jar...and of course a ton of cousins to play with.
Here's a much earlier reunion photo...it must have been in the mid-1970's. It was all just getting started then.
All of those grandchildren above plus a bunch more added later look like this now:
And the great-grandchildren:
A reunion is planned every 3 years and I can tell you that we all look forward so much to it (especially in this family-and most especially my husband Jeff who couldn't love this family more and most likely only married me to be a part of it all?). For the last three reunions we have rented out an old Bible camp near where my grandparents lived...it couldn't be more perfect because it has just about everything a group this size needs: a cafeteria, pool, large dorm-type sleeping quarters, a mini-golf course, a playground, a volleyball court, a gym area with pool and ping-pong tables, a campfire area, and a big gym for the very competitive basketball tournament. It's right on Lake Ontario so there's boating and fishing also. The place is big enough to give everyone their own privacy, and allow for babies to nap, toddlers to roam and older kids to keep busy on their own.
Here's a little peek at the reunion directory my very talented cousin Ellen put together:
Yes, it takes a lot of organizing...but it's worth every minute. Everyone participates in some way shape or form in the planning and execution of all the meals and events, planning, finances, hosting etc. This year's theme was Family Olympics and Ellen kept track (no small feat) of each family's participation and successes in all the events planned.
I felt like a photographer failure this year-I just couldn't get around fast enough. I came home with about 350 photos in my camera but I told Jeff I would have been happy with double that. But I always say-there is a fine line between always being behind the camera shooting away, and actually enjoying the moment-and I did more enjoying the moment this year, using my big fat midriff as an excuse to take it easy.
The first night we had my Aunt Janie's (mother of 10-two girls and EIGHT boys) surprise birthday dinner at an old roller rink in town.
The highlight of this evening for me was watching my 74 year old father on roller skates, helping my little nephew Cormac and my Patrick learn to skate.
As much fun as the kids have at all these events, you can trust me when I tell you that the grown-up grandchildren have just as much fun if not more. I took many photos of the sweet little great-grandchildren learning to skate, but missed a few of the 40+ crowd group of "men" body slamming (is it called "checking" to make it sound nicer?) each other into the sides of the roller rink also.
On Day Two, one of the activities planned for the kids after Mass was to make a banner for our Marine cousin Matt, who is in Afghanistan. We wanted him to know he was missed and we were all thinking of him.
We followed a BBQ lunch/photo taking session with a volleyball tournament:
Isaac had some younger-cousin-hero-worship going on and enjoyed every bit of it all. Those are just the nicest little boys, honestly.
That's my Patrick with his best buddy Joe-Joe.
My family's picture.
The volleyball tournament.
My sister Katie who knows what she is doing thank goodness because I am, pregnant or not, so terrible at volleyball that I refuse to attempt to even play.
Four of us expecting cousins. Right to left, Jill is due in 2 weeks (yes TWO weeks and she has 3 children, the oldest is that cute little Joe-Joe who is four!), Seana is due with her second October 26, I am due August 18th, and Heather is due with her second in the beginning of October.
The next day the kid's races and adult 5K take place bright and early, right after breakfast. Patrick has been waiting for his race for weeks and weeks, practicing and planning-he smiled the entire time running.
They all attacked cousin Joe afterwards.
Isaac and his buddies once again.
The winner of the very competitive 5K-my cousin Mark. (Don't you love the very official toilet paper finish line? We aren't fancy here.)
Abbey placed first for the girls, fourth overall. She's in great shape from crew, but also her younger brother Matt told her that he was going to beat her easily, which made her mad, which made her run faster just to prove herself. If that's not the "only girl in a family of four boys syndrome" I don't know what is. Matt finished sixth overall and did a great job of spurring her on.
Next up-fishing derby and a quick ride on my brother's boat.
A view of the camp where the reunion was held.
One of the highlights of the reunion (not sure if that is true for everyone!) is the basketball tournament. The teams are divided by family loyalty-we've got the Emborsky Team (the family with all the boys), the Beilein Team (that's blood cousins), and the in-laws, officially called the Out-Laws. My husband Jeff of course plays for the Out-Laws and my Isaac was officially allowed to play this year, after he proved himself in a little try-out. My uncle John who is the University of Michigan's men's basketball coach (in other words, he knows what he is doing), officiated the tournament.
Isaac was on fire with his 3-point shot, and I was proud of him. When he asked if he could play in the tournament months ago (because Jeff talks about this for MONTHS, let me tell you) Jeff said he had to wait and see, and put in some practice time. I gave him a little lecture about how these games were taken pretty seriously and how none of these guys wanted to feel nervous about playing someone much younger and smaller than they are. (I think the average height is probably 6'4" in this game!) I told him he had to be ready and willing to be really aggressive and not one bit nervous or shy about it.
Well he proved himself all right, shooting 3 pointers left and right, and gaining the respect, I believe, of my very athletic cousins. He was awarded MVP by Uncle John and couldn't have been happier. Jeff couldn't have been happier either, since the Out-Laws won. I will endure endless Beilein Basketball Tournament talk for the next 3 years till it starts all over again.
The last evening of the reunion was the talent show, closing ceremony and fireworks display -which rivaled any fireworks display I've ever seen.
My cousin John and Jeff, the reunion pros and partners in crime.
My Dad on the left and Uncle Jim and Uncle Tom.
The older crowd of great grandkids, who I'm sure all of us parents felt like we hardly saw all weekend. My kids only see their second cousins once every three years, but I told them in the beginning to get over the awkward stage (which I feared would be worse in the teenage years) as fast as possible, because they'll regret it later if they didn't. It took them all about 3 minutes to catch up and start having fun together.
The talent show:
These four came up with their own Beilein-themed lyrics to a popular song and made everyone laugh and cry at the same time.
This act was "guess the animal" charades. Couldn't be cuter if they tried.
Andrew did a card trick, and chose his cousin Joe Joe as his helper-"because he smiles all the time". He stole the show with his giggle let me tell you. Andrew's trick went off without a hitch, in spite of the fact that he put his act together 2 minutes before the show began.
Patrick decided to do his own tricks. His somersault was supposed to be the highlight, but he forgot all about it and improvised instead.
A humorous skit.
Some good old-fashioned singing. (That's my brother Andy, my niece Lucy and Abbey...and Andy's little son Abe, dancing to his daddy's guitar playing.)
The McGauley quartet. The cutest patriotic act ever to be seen.
Awards left and right.
We drove our exhausted selves home the next morning, and I'm going through major Beilein family reunion withdrawal....we all are here. I have to recover quickly though, because next weekend my brother gets married and after that I will have weeks to this new baby comes and oh boy I'm not ready, and then there's back-to-school (college!) prep, and lots and lots of loose ends to tie up around the house (like that bathroom) before I'm in newborn mode.
But I'll tell you, there is nothing like witnessing the product of my grandparents love...love meaning sacrifice, time, attention, gosh darn hard work they put into their family to spur me on when I feel overwhelmed. Five going on six kids? Trust me, that's nothing in this family. I remember asking my Grandma once, when I felt so busy with just two, "Grandma, how did you do this with nine children?" And she said, "Well they weren't all born at once!" What she meant of course, is that she figured it out as she went along, and she just DID it. She worked hard, day and night, non-stop. She had good old-fashioned common-sense values, her faith was strong, and standing beside her husband, she gave her time to her family. We all have their example to live up to, and I'm so grateful for it.
PS. More on the Beilein Reunion professionally written by my wonderful and talented cousin Ellen.