Our holiday celebration was a bit delayed this year. Well, not necessarily delayed. We celebrated in California. But we didn't leave for our celebration with my family in Florida until January 1, and it was a pretty extended trip. We had almost 2 weeks of family and friend fun in Florida before we headed back to real life and the awful, awful reality of makeup schoolwork. (New math. Shudder.)
The first stop in our Florida week o' fun was to Naples. We had plans to spend a few days with some other families who have become a part of our extended family… Glennon and her husband and kids, the Livesays who live in Haiti, and the Goodfellows who live in Peru. Despite living pretty scattered across the map from one another, we stay in touch via voxer and try to get together once a year.
On our first day there, the husbands all took the children on an airboat ride through the Everglades. I understand they were alligators involved. My friends and I spent the day chatting at the beach, and then went out to eat for a peaceful, kid free dinner. It was amazing.
The next day we all met at the beach, where our giant families played together like they had been friends their whole lives. Everyone had a friend (or 4) their own age and they had a blast while we chatted and solved the world's problems.
There was also a lot of racing. A whole lot of smack-talk and racing.
This is what we looked like in the elevator. And it wasn’t even all of us.
I think we terrorized the hotel just a bit with the amount of children we collectively brought, but we had a blast.
Each night our families took over the pool and swam until their fingers turned to prunes. It was so much fun watching our kids connect. I love this little framily community we have built.
After our time in Naples, we headed to Kissimmee to visit with my own family. Both of my sisters have little girls that are the same age as my own, so there was lots of singing and dancing and My Little Ponies.
One day the boys had enough of the house of little girls and went for a little jungle cruise of their own.
We also did our annual trek to the Disney safari lodge where we pretend to be guests and engage in all the free activities. Which ends up not being very free at all when we eat dinner there, so I think we're even.
I also took an aerial yoga with my sister and some of my high school friends. We were all former cheerleaders/showchoir members and we were dying laughing as our 40-something selves tried to relive our limber youth.
My nephews are nearly full grown men, and it was so great to hang with them. Austin's boyfriend paid a visit as well, and he fit right in with our goofy antics. Here’s a video where my whole family makes fun of my mispronunciation of the Rodeo Restaurant. Mocking is our love language.
And here’s a picture I took of the boys, who declared that it was a photo just for the black people, and then all made the “black power” sign. Someone asked me once on facebook where the line was on joking about race. I’m not sure, to be honest, but my crazy family is often way past that line.
I am going to talk about a couple elephants in the room now, because there was a theme that was emerging over our time in Florida. As you can probably note from the age of my nephews, my sister became a mom a bit earlier than she planned. And as you can probably guess, the fact that I grew up in a very conservative evangelical family, and the fact that my nephew has a boyfriend, may not be how the elders in this family envisioned things would go, either. Meanwhile, my sister has another young adult from our family living with her, under circumstances that aren't ideal. And there was something really redemptive happening: this unforeseen and untraditionally formed family seemed to be exactly as it should be. While there are many aspects of the formation of our family that didn’t go as planned (including my own), everything totally fits. Our family feels . . . not perfect. No family is perfect. But it feels right.
This was so evident in the next part of our trip, when we traveled to West Palm Beach to witness the wedding of the daughter of our dear friends Troy and Tara Livesay. Like my sister, Tara started motherhood a bit earlier than she’d planned, and her own daughter had done the same this past year. When Tara learned her college-aged daughter was going to be a mom, she was naturally upset. This wasn’t part of the plan. And yet, over the last year, as Paige had her baby and Tara fell in love with both the baby and his father, I watched such a redemptive thing happen. And then, the wedding . . . where everyone pulled together and celebrated the forming of this new family. A family unplanned, but so in love with one another. Something that was once an upsetting idea, now a celebration.
At the reception I couldn’t help looking around the room at all of the different family constellations. Many people felt like family. Many had been formed by adoption, or unplanned pregnancies, or even through an adoption reunion. And yet, these families felt exactly right, and full of love.
Sometimes family takes a different shape than we plan, and sometimes family isn’t about biology at all.
I’m thankful for the family we’ve formed and found.