We got back from our road trip the afternoon of July 1 and just gave ourselves enough time to do laundry and pay bills before heading out again the next day to Justin's family's lake house on the Virginia/North Carolina border.
Here's some math:
Justin and I
plus Justin's parents and six of his siblings (Whitney got back from England on Wednesday)
plus Justin's grandparents, our hosts
plus all eight of Justin's cousins, and one girlfriend
plus three uncles and two aunts
added up equals 26 people in or near one house!
Two subsidiaries of the clan camped or slept in a Winnebago, relieving the rest of us who slept inside, but we got really friendly with the sofa beds until enough people left that we got our own bedroom. Various grandchildren of all ages sprawled on sofas and foam pads in the living room.
When I first met Justin's family, I was so overwhelmed that I curled up fetus-like in our bedroom (which of course was usually another sibling's bedroom) for a few hours while Justin was chauffering his brothers around Ithaca. After a couple of Christmases with the entire clan, and of course other occasions, I'm a lot more used to the chaos, which actually isn't that bad considering the number of children involved. It helps that Justin's youngest brother is six and his youngest cousin is five, so everyone's out of diapers, speaking in complete sentences, and capable of being somewhat disciplined, and the average age is higher than it was a few years ago. There were no crises this week, no screaming matches, little whining, even a surprisingly low rate of playful shrieking.
I'm also starting to figure out how I fit into all this. I've always felt welcome in the family, but a little awkward around the kids; I come from a much smaller, quieter family, more bookish and less athletic, so I'm not always at ease around nine-year-olds who are into sports and stuff. But I'm learning how to relate to everyone, which is a combination of time, the establishment of Things to Do with the kids (I'm not into watersports, but I'll take photographs of them, draw pictures, play games, and other more sedentary activities), and their growth and change over the past few years, which is fun to watch. I'm looking forward to seeing them grow up and go to college and get jobs and get married and have kids, not that Justin and I have even done all those things yet.
It was also wonderful just to relax and not do anything. I woke up earlyish the first few days I was there, I'm not sure why, but if Justin wasn't up yet I'd just grab a cup of coffee and go down to the gazebo or the hammock with a book. The kids spent the morning and late afternoon tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and swimming; during "noon break," from twelve to three (they are fair-skinned and prone to sunburn) everyone came in to eat lunch, play games, or do whatever could be done in the shade. Meals were, obviously, a production, but amazingly there was always food and drink and space enough for everyone.
We celebrated our second anniversary (!) with the entire family. Justin's mom wrote "JS squared Happy Anniversary #2" on our as-yet-unwashed car. The kids, of course, wrote "Wash Me."
The great thing is, we get to do this again next month, and Ronel is coming to hang out with his "uncles" too! Only there won't be quite as many people there. I'm rather fond of the chaos now.
4 weeks ago