I am a God-loving, husband-adoring, mybabyboys-hugging, mind-reeling, photo-taking, life-documenting, yummyfood-cooking, garden-planting, country-living girl. Writing about life, with boys, in the sticks...
this is life... with boys... in the country...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Fourth of July Picnic

A lot of traditions surround this weekend at the Beach House, but at the center of it all is the picnic, and I know that this tradition dates back to the 1930’s when my grandparents first purchased the property. The extended Swanson Family gathers together on this day to celebrate our country, to praise the Lord, to re-connect, and to remember.  So while all the little parts of our trip to the beach are nice, the picnic is the icing on the cake. 

The day started off a bit dreary and we worried that it may be a wet one… I decided to forgo fashion for comfort and spent most of the morning in winter clothing, straight up to my davy-crocket-ear-warmer-hat (just to give you an idea of how NOT ideal the weather was for a summer-time celebration).

But, one of the first sights I saw when I emerged from the tent was an appropriate sight for our nation’s birthday – a bald eagle, regally sitting on Pyramid Rock.   

  Bald Eagle The rest of the morning was spent preparing as best we could for the day’s events, battling against wind, cold, threatening rain, and children’s toys being thrown (accidentally) into the frigid water. 

Matt rescuing a toy Leah and Cooper

Once everyone started to arrive, the weather improved a bit and the festivities began… starting with the MAKING OF THE HOMEMADE VANILLA ICE CREAM.  So.  So.  So.  GOOD.  

Kids making ice cream 

Generations gathered together from several branches of the Swanson clan – from great-grandparents to grandchildren…

Scott and Riley

…we congregate to visit with some we see weekly, with some we see once a year, and with some we haven’t seen in years. 

Visiting on Grammie's deck

My dad, looking like quite the fisherman, makes clam chowder every year for the event and this year he topped his recipe of years’ past by using clams he’d dug just the day before. 

Daddy Cooper surprised me by being quite the social little guy.  He spent quite a bit of time mixing the ice cream with one of my second cousins and then ventured down to the beach with more extended family that he’d never met.  I suppose that is part of the beauty of these gatherings – the comfort we automatically have because we are family. 

Cooper making Ice Cream   Speaking of family… there we are (thanks, Shaunna!)   


Baby Hank and Baby Kaden celebrated their first Fourths being toted around in the front-packs and in many different people’s arms.

Bart and Hank Matt and Kaden

There is something to appeal to all the ages at the Beach House… catching sand fleas for the little ones…

Taylor, Lilly, Cooper, Gage

… making fun of Uncle Craig’s skull cap for the bigger ones… Phil, Monte, Uncle Craig, Uncle Eric

And if the picnic is the center of this our whole weekend at the Beach House, gathering in a circle together to begin our meal is the center of the picnic.  We stand hand-in-hand as Uncle Kenny welcomes everyone together.  We then count one-by-one to document the number of those in attendance.  Then Uncle Kenny prays, we sing ‘God Bless America’ and this year because it was Sunday, we sang ‘Amazing Grace’.  (I usually sing very quietly so that I can be sure to hear the voices of the Swanson Tenors very loudly over my own squawk.)

Uncle Kenny praying Counting.... counting some more... 

This year we counted up to 85, Uncle Don was number 86 and then 7 more showed up… 93 (right?)It is amazing to me that each year this picnic gathering goes on so strong.

and more...

And then, we eat.  A lot.  At least I do. Everyone brings something to share – from brie cheese and crackers to fried chicken to Alaskan Salmon... and everything in between.  Yum.   

the meal... (Little Lilly Bean didn’t let Leah out of her sight the entire time)Leah and Lilly

And after we finish eating lunch… we eat dessert.  And while I love a lot of different desserts, I do believe that my new favorite is Uncle Kenny’s homemade ice cream on Phil and Kerensa’s cake.  The only bad thing about this dessert is that I don’t have the recipe for either parts.  


But I do think knowing that my little boys’ hands helped prepare part of it, makes it that much sweeter…

Cooper After we eat, the playing resumes.  I’m not sure if it had anything to do with Uncle Eric having police work in his past, but Gage and Cooper loved having him chase them and get them.  Thank goodness he enjoyed it as much as them because it was a constant game throughout the weekend (even up and down the hill, bless his heart!) 

Uncle Eric and Cooper

And part of catching up includes sharing current projects (like my mom’s quilt, shown here)…

Mom showing her latest quilt

… and photo albums from recent and the distant family past…

Looking at photo albums

Everything we do during this time is focused on family, love, connecting, and celebrating. 

Michael and Kjersten Boe and Gager Mike, Sarah, Matt, Boe, Dad, Bart

It used to be that the majority of those attending the picnic would stay for the evening events of campfire and fireworks, but it seems that over the years everyone parts ways in the late afternoon…

…and after the picnic crowd subsided, Gage found himself playing alone on the beach, building a volcano out of a pattern of sand, rocks, sand, rocks… he made this pattern very clear to me when I tried to help him. 

Building a volcano  

The next phase of the day is all about the simplicities that encompass a campfire… sitting in chairs around the campfire, roasting hotdogs, and making S’mores.   

Matt wants Coop's S'more...  more S'mores

Again, “Yeah for Leah!”  I’m so glad this girl was here this year…

Kaden and Leah And finishing off the day with fireworks. 

Sparklers No, the sparklers were not the highlight of the firework display, though the kids had fun with them. 

(Here’s Grammie with a little ‘Grandpa Hamre Frown’ action)…

Grammie and Cooper

We are so fortunate that every year the two neighbors to our right chose to spend around 2 months salary on fireworks.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that for at least 45 minutes we sit with our heads rested back in our seats watching a festival worthy show of fireworks.  Not only that, but we have front row seats to ALL the shows being put on around the bay – 360 degrees of firework spectacular. 

It is amazing.

And this year, as I sat with Kaden sleeping soundly in my arms, my husband goofin’ off in the chair next to me with my brothers, Gage snuggled down in his own little ‘nest’ he made out of his and Cooper’s chairs, and Cooper cuddling on the other side of me with Grammie, I couldn’t help but feel that the beauty of the fireworks on display in all their glory, seriously paled in comparison to the family that surrounded me.   


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