Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thanksgiving in Nauvoo

We are so, so, so blessed to have made amazing friends in graduate school. Most of them have moved far away (sniff!), but we're lucky enough to still have some of our dear friends within driving distance.

Several months ago Neil and I were discussing what we would do for Thanksgiving this year. Every single Thanksgiving since we were engaged has been spent with one or the other of our families, which has been wonderful and a blessing in and of itself, but this year my parents would be in Utah visiting my sisters and his parents would be in New Jersey, where they are serving their second mission, and I knew that our family would be a rather alarming descent for my grandparents! :-)

We'd been talking with some of our friends about trying to get together this fall, and I had this awesome idea that we should do it for Thanksgiving! Amazingly it worked out for all of us, and so I was totally giddy with joy about the idea of spending the long weekend with these great friends. You know how you're really lucky when you click with the mother of someone your child's age, because then playgroups are really fun, and you're REALLY lucky if both you and your spouse get along with a couple, and it's just like the most magical thing ever if both sets of parents get along AND the kids get along? That's what we're talking about here--but with three families!

We decided to rent a big house in Nauvoo, IL, since it was sort of central for all of us. We had six adults and fourteen kids and I loved every minute of it! The house was really big and we had tons of space--it never felt crowded (loud, yes! Crowded, no). There were three floors and lots of stairs for the kids to thunder down and launch airplanes and make gigantic thankful chains. The giant dining table was almost always covered with crafts and I loved, loved, loved how our kids picked up right where they left off--they were the best of buddies before moving away and it was just so wonderful to see them reunited!

One of my favorite things about planning this trip was that Melanie and Andrea are some of the most organized people I know. Andrea created a Google Doc very early on that we all used to coordinate Thanksgiving meal responsibilities, plus meal assignments for the other days, crafts, games, toys, etc. I actually felt like the weakest link! Every time I would get an email from one of the other girls I would just shake my head and think, oh man, I love people who are organized and on top of things! (We probably sent 30 emails in the 24 hours before we all left...I bet our husbands were glad that we'd stopped CCing them at that point!)

All of this super organization beforehand meant that we actually had an incredibly relaxed weekend and Thanksgiving itself was so low-key and enjoyable! I got up early that morning and ran down to the Mississippi River through the snow and spent awhile looking at the waves and thinking about my pioneer forebears who'd lived in Nauvoo before crossing the plains in the first company to reach Salt Lake in 1847 (I'm a direct descendant of Harriet Page Wheeler Decker Young, who was one of the two women in that company; the other is her daughter Clarissa Decker Young (hence my sister's name Rosalind Clarissa). Harriet's second husband was Lorenzo Young and Clarissa was married to Brigham Young. My son Isaac is named for Harriet's song Isaac Perry Decker, who was one of the three boys in that first company). I actually spent a lot of time while we were in Nauvoo reading up on another of my paternal ancestors, James Henry Rollins, who worked at Newel K. Whitney's store in Kirtland and Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, and whose sisters Mary Elizabeth (for whom my sister Mary Elizabeth and my daughter Juliet Elizabeth are named) and Caroline Rollins saved the pages that later comprised The Book of Commandments and then were included in the Doctrine and Covenants.  I probably drove my kids crazy spouting family history at them as we passed various landmarks but oh well. :-)

When I got back to our house, some people were finishing up breakfast and some people were finishing up their chocolate turkeys! It was so fun to enjoy other families' Thanksgiving traditions--Melanie's kids handmade everyone a darling little label to go with their turkeys. 

Later that morning Andrea & Tyler introduced us to one of their family traditions--making turkey cookies! The kids loved this (can you tell that we were totally not worried about sugar intake that day?!) and the dads loved it too...

I love this next picture--Emma's face is just too funny! She and Neil started playing this really elaborate game right after I took this picture where she would throw "nothing" to him, he would pretend to catch it, then throw it back at her, and she'd pretend to be totally bowled over by it...three-year-olds are awesome.

 It was seriously such a wonderful morning. I LOVED cooking with my friends (actually we mostly sat around talking that morning because we'd already done almost all of the prep work!) and just enjoying the chance to actually be together rather than texting or calling or emailing!

Can you believe I didn't take one single photo of the food? We had a completely amazing spread with two turkeys and about a bajillion different salads and every standard Thanksgiving side you can think of--and everything was DELICIOUS because these two gals and their husbands are all amazing cooks!!

I think after dinner the kids watched a movie, but I honestly can't remember. :-) This may have been before dinner. :-) It's all a happy blur. I know there was lots of late-night talking and board games for the adults!!

 On Friday we were pretty low-key. The girls went to the temple together in the morning and the guys went to the temple together in the evening. This was one of my very favorite parts--we sat together in the Celestial Room for about an hour after our session and just had this wonderful heart-to-heart together. It was a really precious time for me and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have had it!

Later that evening we took the kiddos on a walk/snow adventure; they all came back in totally soaked and we made dinner and then thought hmm, we need to occupy them for another hour or so until the daddies are back to help get these 14 kids into pajamas! So when the guys came back we were all in the middle of this very exciting obstacle course that we'd made up on the spot (after a rousing game of animal charades; I think I was a frog at one point) that had elaborate things like, "run across the basement with a pumpkin between your knees." Totally cheesy but the kids LOVED it; we finished up the night with a rhyming-clue scavenger hunt for popcorn and Rolos (thanks to Melanie's quick thinking on writing clues!)

 The next morning I went on another run and then we went to go tour the historic sites in Old Nauvoo. The kids had a blast, as always--we visited the Family Living Center, the blacksmith's shop, the bakery, and the schoolhouse...
 ...and then decided to go on a wagon ride!
 Nathan and Luke both conked out just minutes into the ride (don't worry, that's not blood on Luke's ear, just an earring inked onto him by some marker-wielding older sister).
 And then after our wagon ride we headed up to the temple to take a few more photos and say our farewells!

I love these two girls, and I LOVE how long they have been friends. My secret hope is that someday they'll be college roomies! I was thinking a lot during this trip about how grateful I am to have friends in my life--even if I don't see them as much as I'd like--who have been around for so long. For instance, Andrea is the one who first got me into a regular workout pattern; we started going to the gym together at 5:45 when we first moved here in 2006! She taught me how to make jam and we've had many a chat about parenting techniques or good bread recipes or the like. I've known Melanie since our BYU days; it was such a fun surprise when they ended up going to the same university for grad school, and she and I have spent many an hour commiserating over grad school life, whether it was while scrubbing her kitchen floor or my 'fridge or sitting at Applebees until the wee hours!

So when I look at my kiddos and these friends I hope they have the same kind of memories. :-)

I love these heroic dads!

And to take us out, two more shots of Abigail and Elise, who literally locked their arms around each other until the moment they finally said goodbye and sadly got into their separate cars. Sweet girls!


Dani said...

Looks like so much fun! Some of my favorite people.:)

Kayli said...

Sounds soooo fun!!!!

Melanie said...

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever. Thank you for putting all of the wonderful memories into words- I was smiling through the whole thing as I remembered the many, many highlights. I loved it all!

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