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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ricks

Cope Reunion '22

[Note: I'll probably add more pictures to this post later.]

We packed in two family reunions this week, and covered nearly 2,000 miles of the country.

Last week we left off with the ton of packing to do still on Friday. The boys were vacillating in mood from excitement to wanting to fight each other, peppered with despondency. As we were doing our best to get the packing done, I had to stop for a dissertation meeting for one of my students, trying to get it in before I left. That went for about an hour, and there was a thunderstorm during the entire thing, making me worry that our power would go out in the middle of the thing. Luckily, I made it through and got right back to the packing. The rain was wonderful, because our grass was getting awfully thirsty (as much as it can be in Indiana), and because it gave the boys something else to do: Jesse rode his bike through puddles and Merritt put on his swimsuit and jumped on the wet trampoline.

We survived the bulk of the day, and had almost all of the packing done by bedtime for the boys. We are pleasantly surprised how much less hellish it gets every year thanks to their slowly improving maturity and independence. Still, at bedtime, Carver was devastated to learn that one of his favorite YouTube personalities had died of cancer the day before. He was only in his 20s, and so it was very surprising, and it really hit Carver as he felt like he knew the guy. It was probably made even worse by his exhaustion from the sleepover before, but still very sad for him.

Kira kept on doing last-minute things for packing after the boys were in bed, and Avey kept getting herself ready for the trip, so Hannah and I were alone with the TV, and then we all went to bed far too late.

It was an awful night of sleep, as I have a terrible habit of feeling like I can't fall asleep lest I sleep too late and we never arrive (or something). Anyway, I was in a thick fog, and so was Chesterton, it turns out. It was very foggy outside as we loaded up the van, which I took as a bad omen. Then as I was loading the van, I saw a large bunny rabbit in our neighbor's yard, which I took as a good omen. I hoped maybe the omens would balance each other out and we would have an uneventful drive.

The boys were buzzing around downstairs. Carver was helpful loading and finding things, Merritt kept panicking about finding things that we had already packed (imagining that we were going to leave them behind if he didn't make sure we'd packed them), and Jesse wanted to talk through how our morning was reminding him of Home Alone and the chaos that ensued when they all overslept and nearly missed their flight. Anyway, we eventually got on the road and kept Apollo from sneaking into the van as a stowaway.

Hannah came over a little after we left to help him know that we weren't abandoning him entirely. She's been very good attending to his every need, and giving us updates. She's also taking care of the rats and our plants.

Our drive was very long, but everyone did well. The kids were thrilled by the hotel room. We got a suite so that we could all sleep in the same room, and as the boys divvied up the beds, I ended up on the hideaway bed. That was okay, I figured, because I have a hard time sleeping in hotels anyway, I doubted I would get much rest. We got fast food dinner, but they messed up our order and so we had to shuffle around foods to make sure everyone got something they were willing to eat. Jesse ate my corn dog, I ate Kira's breakfast burrito, and she ate Jesse's grilled cheese. We then went for a brief swim in their pool.

Avey even joined us, and didn't scream in pain with her toe, as long as she took it easy. It was late to bed for us all. I was surprised that I actually did sleep somewhat in that awful bed. In fact, we all slept too long and then were behind schedule to get loaded back up. We thought we'd try out the breakfast at the hotel, and it was incredible, so we all ate there (even Carver).

The hotel was packed because it was the 4th of July weekend, so we had to share a table. One guy there was just watching the kids, and even after he finished his meal, he sat and watched them for a bit and then he said to them he just couldn't help but watch them - he was so impressed by how grown-up they all behaved, and what a good job his parents must be doing. That was a really nice start to our morning, although I'm glad that he caught us at the start of our trip and not on the way home...

The kids were sad to leave the hotel. Merritt even commented that he wished we lived there. Apparently being able to jump between two beds in one room is way better than anything we have at that dump we call a "house."

The driving the second day felt much longer, as we were all so anxious to get there (i.e., get out of the car). We drove through a beautiful part of Idaho along the Snake River that got everyone glad to be alive again (except Carver, who could not have cared any less).

That helped to pass the time as we enjoyed the landscapes and wildlife, and then we finally made it to my dad's house, where Nate (my older brother) and his family had already arrived with my youngest brother (Isaac) coming along.

We got settled in, enjoyed a wonderful dinner, and then let the boys blow off some steam exploring and such. Once they were in bed, we got to chat more with the grownups, and then eventually got to bed.

My dad was up early enough that he fed the boys breakfast before Kira and I were even up. That was nice for us as we got up. We all slowly managed the morning and showers and stuff, tiptoeing around the teenagers who were still dozing in various areas of the house. It was Independence Day, and so we went to the Rexburg parade.

The kids had a good time there. Merritt was especially entertained by a float where some acrobats balanced some chairs on top of each other and then did a handstand on the top one. We got lots of candy, a t-shirt, and some frisbees from various floats.

After a while, Merritt got bored and so he wanted to go to the park across the street.

We crossed over and played at the park while the parade ended, and then we went home to meet my grandma Ricks for lunch at the house. It was a little too quick of a turnaround, as we got everyone fed, but then had to turn around and head to our next appointment before getting to chat very much with the kids' great grandma. We planned to try to visit her again the next morning, and then my siblings and my family all drove to Blackfoot to see our maternal grandmother and [step]grandfather.

That was a nice visit, although strange as we have never visited them away from their home in El Paso. They had moved to Blackfoot almost 2 years ago after more than 60 years at their house in Texas. It had been 7 years since we'd seen them, and so they had never met Merritt. We were glad to get them acquainted, and then we left them to go and visit my aunt and uncle a few minutes away.

That was lots of fun, of course, and the kids couldn't decide whose house they loved more - my dad's or my aunt's. We had a good time catching up - we got close with them while we all lived in El Paso (until we ditched them for the midwest), and they fed us a great meal, complete with cupcakes for a mini birthday celebration for Kira (early). The Utah families drove home for the night, and then we slowly tore the boys away from the house, but we made sure to take two separate walks to soak up as much of Blackfoot as we could (mostly because Merritt had his heart set on a walk).

As we left, we were all so tired that we opted to skip a fireworks show going on. It wouldn't start until 10, and so we had no hope of getting the boys to bed before midnight if we stopped for the show. I could barely keep my eyes open by 9, and so we just went home. Jesse watched some of the neighborhood fireworks to get his fix, and then eventually they all went to bed, as did we shortly after.

We awoke to an empty house as my dad and his wife had gone to an appointment, and Kira (who got up before me) was shocked to find that the boys had slept in. Merritt hadn't woken yet! We got the morning going, because we needed to drive to Utah that day, so we packed up and fed people, and I tried to do some of my actual job. Merritt's exhaustion was really showing, as he lost his mind over a few little things. He was raging about not having his own frisbee from the parade, but I realized we actually did have three, and so he finally was satisfied when we wrote his name on one of them with a marker, making it officially his own. He was obviously tired beyond all reason.

We were all packed by the time my dad and his wife were back, and so then we all went to visit my paternal grandma one more time. My aunt and one of my cousins was also there, and so we had a nice brief visit, including getting some photos and even some singing. We then parted ways and made the 4-hour drive to Kira's mother's house in Utah.

The drive felt especially taxing, and of course I was getting work emails pouring in as I drove, presenting new fires that needed putting out. Kira was kind to read my emails to me while I drove, and then help proofread the replies. We finally made it to Grandma's and got the grand tour of her brand new home (she moved here just this year). The kids really loved it, and dove right into their playing and exploring. I think their favorite part of these trips is exploring new houses (not sure they are that worried about the people inside).

We needed groceries, as we were planning to be there for several days, so I went to one of the stores and got what I could, although the holiday weekend had cleared out some of the items I needed. We then fed ourselves and the kids before the girls all went to another couple of stores for the other items we would need, while I got the boys in bed. Of course, they weren't quite asleep when Kira made it back, and so they came down to get their goodnight hugs.

We had to be up early on Wednesday to pack our lunches for the day, as the plan was to meet the rest of the Copes and their families at a lake for the day. We threw together some sandwiches and such and loaded up the car to drive once more. I drove our kids and Kira drove her mother's car to help take some of our nieces and nephews. We met at Kira's brother's house, and so it was fun to see everybody and catch up a bit. Some of the family we have not seen in several years, and there were even a few nieces we'd never met. We all then drove to the lake and had a good time on kayaks and swimming, and Kira took the kids on a big boat that belongs to her uncle. She water skied, and each of our kids tried out knee boarding! I stayed on the shore to catch up with people and watch over whichever of the kids did not go on the boat with Kira for that particular round.

In the afternoon, we were all done with the heat, so we drove back to Kira's mom's house. Jesse fell asleep on the way, which was probably a good thing. We eventually made it back to our temporary home, unloaded the car, and I got a badly needed shower and got the kids bathed. At bedtime, Jesse was of course not tired because of his nap, so after the other guys were in bed, Avey, Jesse, and I went on a walk around Grandma's neighborhood. We walked down to Costco, which is nearby, and thought we might grab an ice cream, but they had closed just a few minutes before we got there. We went back and tried to get Jesse to bed before going ourselves.

Kira was up early on Thursday as her brain was all fired up. She fed everybody breakfast before I got up, and then we packed up all of our stuff again to head to a park about 40 minutes away. Before we left, I was sent to the store to try to find those water balloon things that let you fill up several at once. We filled them and then headed out. The park was really neat, with a splash pad section, and several things to climb on. The kids played and Kira and I tried to monitor them while also catching up with family in snippets. We had lunch there, and then continued playing, used up all the water balloons, and got good and tired. We then left Kira and Jesse at the park and I took the rest of us back to Grandma's to get out of the heat. I got a barrage of emails from work with several fires to put out, so that was fun. I got those handled, and then showered while the kids entertained themselves on the Switch. Kira brought Jesse and Grandma not too much later. Jesse ate an early dinner, and then Kira and Grandma tried to nap. To keep the noise level down, I took the three older kids to Costco for ice cream. They had a grand old time playing some game that I was too tired to follow.

Avey was wearing a Disneyland shirt, and Jesse asked her about it. It went something like this:

J: "Did you get that shirt at Disneyland?"

A: "No, I haven't been there."

J: "Oh, that's too bad."

A: "I think I got it at Goodwill."

J: "I've always wanted to go to Goodwill."

We found it very funny that he lamented never going to Goodwill rather than Disneyland.

We bought an ice cream for Merritt and headed back to Grandma's, where we fed the boys and did some random chores around the house and some preparation for the events of the following day before going to sleep.

Friday morning I was abruptly awoken by a bloody nose that came out of nowhere as I moved the position of my head. That's what I get for coming back to a dry climate after our humid home of Chesterton. Luckily, it didn't last long. I laid down a little longer and then got up and fed the boys breakfast and helped pack up all of our crap we would need for the day. We then drove to Kira's oldest sister's home where we did a family photo shoot.

Once that was done, it was time for lunch and then a pool party. Merritt was very brave and started jumping off of a rock platform into the deep end, which was very impressive progress for him. He then blew our minds when he started doing front flips off of the same rock:

He spent most of his time doing that, taking turns with his cousins.

We eventually took the kids back to their grandma's house, fed them, and went on our way to join in with the "grown up time" back at Kira's sister's house. That was time set aside for just the adults to get some time to chat without being distracted by the kids. We had a nice chat while Avey babysat, and then we went back to sleep at Kira's mom's far too late.

Saturday was Kira's birthday, and so she had arranged to go with her siblings and mother to the temple, so I was in charge of the kids. I fed them and took them to my brother's house, which is only about a 3-minute drive from Kira's mom's house. My other Utah brother made the drive up to join us also, and even brought some delicious donuts to win us over. We had a nice visit there before Nate and Jackie had to leave to attend the baptism of a friend's baby (Greek Orthodox).

I brought the kids back to make some cards and such for Kira. Merritt drew her a flower, Carver made up a song on the piano and recorded it for her, Jesse wrote her a card and gave her some candy, and Avey drew her a hummingbird.

We loaded up and then went to meet the temple-goers at Kira's oldest sister's house again, where I fed the boys lunch and then we all ate and had Kira's cake.

She opened her presents and was very pleased with them all, but I think what she liked best was being with so many people she loves.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with more pool, but we adults opted not to get in, even though the heat was nearly unbearable. We had some nice chats with other adults and even some of the cousins, and then said our goodbyes as we would not see them again on this trip.

Our plan for tomorrow is to attend church with Kira's mom, and then to spend some time with her. We're also probably going to go visit with my Utah brothers once more, and then drive home on Monday (#ugh).

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