Family Reunion Payback Pockets

Payback pockets are a fun way to pay back family members for the difference they have made in your life.  Payback pockets are a fun way to “pay back” your family for the difference they have made in your life-  way of showing appreciation and a way  of saying thanks.

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Our Payback pockets were labeled in fun way using money terms such as Steve’s Sawbucks, Ann’s Ante and Lynn’s Loot.

Writing Station

Set up a writing “station” and stock it with stationary, stickers, markers and colored paper.  Having fun stickers and stationary encourages family members to write notes. 

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You don’t need to set aside any time for note writing during your reunion.  Family members will find their own time  to write  whether it’s during some reunion downtime or during an activity they may not wish to participate in.

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The little ones in our family had fun writing notes, well, actually drawing pictures, and they loved using the markers and stickers.

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The reunion planners used the pockets as a way of delivering special treats and surprises during our reunion.  One day each Big Six received crackers, chocolate and marshmallows for S’mores around the campfire.  Another day  bouquet of lollypops was delivered to each pocket.

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The Jumping, Running, Throwing Fun of an Obstacle Course

I’m not writing this blog for you, I’m writing it for me.  Every time I need to create an obstacle course I have to rethink every type of course we’ve done in the past.  Next time I have to make an obstacle course I’m just going to search for this blog,hopefully you’ll get some good ideas too.

Kids love obstacle courses and they’re pretty easy to create just using the things you have around your house or party area. 

The easiest way to create a course is to assign each person one obstacle or if it is for a family reunion, assign several families to each bring an obstacle.  You  can do this with little or no advance notice using just the things you have in the course area.

If you have a committee that is putting the course together spend some time brainstorming ideas for your course layout. If you will be at a campground you may be able to take advantage of a water hazard, large rocks and logs.

Eight to ten challenges is a good number for most people.  Here’s some tried and true obstacles that have proved to be fun  over the years.

Jumping Obstacles

Bales of straw or hay make a fun obstacle.  Other jumping obstacles can be logs, laundry baskets or rolled up sleeping bags.  Instead of jumping you can crawl under or over a row of chairs.

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Running Obstacles

Lay a ladder on the ground and children run through the ladder making sure they step in the hole between each rung on the ladder.

Every obstacle course needs a tire challenge of some sort.  When runners reach the tires, they have to run through them, placing one foot in each of the tires. The more tires you have the harder it becomes.

Swinging Obstacles

Everybody likes a good old rope swing and it’s a fun addition to any obstacle course. If you aren’t near a natural water hazard fill up a kiddy wading pool to provide an extra challenge. Several big knots tied in the rope’s end makes it easier to grab.

Balancing Obstacles

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Using logs, 2x4s or wooden planks makes for a fun balancing portion of your course.

Throwing Obstacles

Throw beanbags into a bucket or basket.  If you have access to a basketball hoop, require participants to make a basket before moving to the next challenge.  If football is your sport of choice throw a ball through a goal post made of PVC pipe.

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Silly Obstacles

Purchase some old couch cushions from the thrift store, mattress or foam pad and set out for participants to run through. This challenge will really slow runners down- just be sure to tell them there is no jumping allowed.

And don’t forget cones (good for zig zagging) and hula hoops (good substitute for tires).

A stopwatch (or the stopwatch on your cellphone) is essential for keeping track of their course times.  You can keep times individually or run your obstacle course as a team relay event.

Setting up an obstacle course is a wonderful way for adults and children to get some fun physical activity. Kids will do it as  part of an organized activity but when the “official” activity is over they’ll continue to play and be entertained making their own kind of fun.

Unusual Family Reunion Souvenirs

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An Alternative to the Family Reunion T Shirt

Don’t get me wrong- I love family reunion t-shirts but when we planned our “Survivor “ family reunion I wanted to find an unusual reunion souvenir for family members to take home with them as a remembrance of our fun reunion.  We had done t-shirts for years and years and I was looking for something that would be different.

Then I remembered that one of my students, Lizzy, had given all my music students that sang at the Olympics a wooden Utah pin.  I was so impressed with the detail of the pins that I asked her about them and was surprised to find that her family had a business that made cool laser products.


CountryLazer Cutting and Engraving

The name of Lizzy’s families’ business is CountryLazer and they are Utah’s leading supplier of custom laser cutting & engraving wood, acrylic, glass, mat, leather, and other products.  They have been creating customized gifts and laser engraved products for over 30 years.

CountryLazer would be happy to help you with your family reunion design.  They try to keep pricing around 1- 2 dollars- less expensive then the traditional t-shirt. 


I love their cute pioneer wagon kit that could be assembled at  your heritage reunion and would serve as a reunion  craft and memento.


CountryLazer has a wide variety of designs for name tags, hat pins, wooden boxes, toys, awards, plaques, picture frames, scouting memorabilia, and Christmas gifts.


Design Your Own Family Reunion Souvenir

They will also work with you to create a completely unique product that shows your individual style or your company’s commitment to excellence. They can engrave your logo, graphic, or custom message on almost any material to make your product look more personal and professional.


So if you’re looking for a new way to remember your family reunion check out

Aunt MO

We do not remember days; we remember moments.  ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand

Shoe Box Floats for Your Family Reunion

It seems everyone is making “shoebox floats” for their Mardi Graw celebrations and it got me thinking- how about a shoebox parade as a family reunion activity.  


A shoe box float is just a shoe box flipped over with the lid attached to the back to form a backdrop.  These boxes are then decorated like a parade float.


To decorative your shoe box float gather objects such as glitter, buttons, costume jewelry, feathers, sequins, tissue paper, scrap paper, small shells or rocks, tinsel, foil, markers, paint, crayons, photos, pipe cleaners, buttons, dolls or action figures, or small toys.

Place the large part of the shoebox upside down and attach the lid of the shoebox at one end. Paint the boxes, or cover with paper and decorate.


Choose a theme for your shoebox float parade.  At a family reunion, you could ask participants to decorate their float to represent themselves- a great “getting to know you” activity or assign each family an ancestor to research  and then decorate their float to represent that ancestor.


Rules you might want to consider for your shoebox float parade:

1. Do not place the shoebox on a piece of cardboard larger than the shoebox.

2. Do not create a diorama float using the inside of the box.

3. Float dimensions: The shoebox float must be made of a cardboard shoebox no larger than 13” x 9”. A completed decorated float should not exceed 15 inches in height..

Of course, you’ll want to give out a few awards for the “Most Beautiful”, “Most Creative Use of Materials”, “Judges Choice” and Most Unique floats.

I found a great website for step by step instructions for shoebox floats that might  be helpful.

When planning your 2012 family reunion consider a shoebox float parade and see just how creative your family can be.

Aunt MO

Taking Family Reunion Photos

Family reunions are a great time to take a family photo. We have very few family group photos that look perfect- maybe we don’t even have one perfect picture. It’s so hard to get everyone looking in the same direction, smiling and not squinting. It seems that if you get the children looking at the camera their parents are looking at the children but no matter how difficult a family reunion photo may be to take, you’ve just got to do it- old family photographs are a treasured part of any family history and it won’t be long until the pictures you take today become a cherished part of your family memories.


Becoming our Family Reunion Photographer

You can always hire a professional photographer but unfortunately for us, most photographers don’t like to travel to the locations we have our reunions and so we are left with “Do-it-yourself” family reunion pictures. Here’s some things we’ve learned over the years.

Take Photos at the Beginning of Your Reunion

Take pictures earlier in the day and at the first of your reunion.  Children haven’t gotten dirty, or sunburned and no one has spilled their food or drink.  If you’re camping, take pictures the first day before everyone’s hair has gone flat and make up has worn off.

Get the Light Right

The middle of the day is a difficult time for pictures- The light is harsh and unflattering. Because it’s coming from overhead you will get a lot of light on top of people’s heads, but their faces are not going to be lit. For shady locations it won’t matter as much, but for photos out in the open, before 10 AM or after 2 PM is better, if that fits in your reunion schedule.


Choose a Spot Free of Distractions

A tall row of shrubbery or a colored wall makes ideal backdrops. People say, “I’ll just photo shop that.” But think of the time and headache you’ll save if you just “clean it up” before you take the photo.

Try Something New

Try taking your shot from atop a ladder, bench or table. If you shoot from an elevated position, it’s easier to get everyone’s face, even if people are standing behind one another.

Small Family Groups

Various small groupings of family members can be very nice to have for the future.  You can consider having an all girls picture, all boys picture, and an all children picture etc.  Try making your pictures “action” shots- besides making interesting  pictures they’re a lot more fun to shoot.

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Grandma will want to have a picture of her and Grandpa with all the grandkids for their Christmas photo card.


Family Photo Boards and Frames

A fun, new photo trend is photo boards. Cut holes in a piece of plywood to accommodate old frames and let family members pose in family groupings. The effect is that of family photos hanging on a wall. You may want to put wallpaper on your plywood “wall” or paint stripes or dots and hang decorations to give it a more “homey” look.


Putting hands or props outside the frames give a fun 3D effect.


Hand held frames can also be fun remembrances of your reunion. Have a variety of frames available and let family members organize their own family groupings.


Set aside some time for photos of family members in their reunion theme costumes. It’s usually easier to take smaller family groupings and helps with identifying family members.


My Favorite Family Reunion Photo Tip

is to use paper plates to help in identifying family members. Give everyone a paper plate with a number on it. Take a “paper plate” picture then remove the plates and take another picture. After printing the two pictures you can list family names using the numbers on the paper plates- #1- Jane Moyer, #2 Clint Holmes etc. Hint: Don’t let anyone move after you’ve taken the first photo with the paper plates.


Use  Digital Camera

And finally, use a digital camera! You may delete more images than you keep but going digital allows you to snap as many pictures as you want and then do simple editing later and print only the best photos for keepsakes.

When it’s all said and done, the only thing you have left of your family reunion are the memories you’ve made and the pictures you’ve taken so- “Say Cheese”!

Aunt MO

Make a Family Reunion Box


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I have a family reunion box.  I started the box because I got tired of  getting to the family reunion and finding out that I had forgotten to bring things like tape or scissors. 

It seems like my friends and family with trailers have everything stashed behind their trailer doors but I don’t have a trailer- I have a family reunion “box”.

Here’s what I’ve stashed inside my family reunion box: Gloves, rain ponchos,  first aid, tarp, all sizes of rope and string, plastic table cloths, collapsible shovel, plastic ware, serving spoons, can opener and rags.

I always keep things like balls of every size (including wiffle and volleyballs), horseshoes, marshmallow blow sticks, Frisbees, blindfolds, dice, huge checkers set, crayons and coloring books just in case we need some extra fun at our reunion.

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Inside the family reunion box I have a smaller box with lots of compartments where I keep things like tape, scissors, pens and pencils, markers, over the counter pain medicine, reflector tape, bug spray, sun screen, wet wipes, crayons, thumb tacks, toothpaste, new toothbrush, string, nails, extra lantern supplies, matches and batteries.

I usually have what we need at our family reunion in my box- except for this year- someone needed a stapler.  I didn’t have a stapler in my box this year but you can bet I will next year!


A Delicious Idea From My Nephew, Brayden, for Your Family Reunion

Sometimes I get in a rut- I forget that some people don’t pack up and head for the mountains when they plan a family reunion or family gathering- instead they head for the BEACH!  And it was to the beach we went for a fun family party with my brother and his family. 

We packed up the surf boards, sunscreen and mashed potatoes- yes, MASHED POTATOES!  “Potatoes in a bag” is a fun and easy tradition Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa have implemented in their family and would be a yummy idea for your family reunion no matter what location  you choose.

Most of the prep for “Potatoes in a bag”  was done at home.  Everyone measured 1/2 cup potato flakes in a plastic baggie and added their favorite “mix-ins” to give their bag of potatoes their own special flavor.


At the beach, Uncle Brett heated up the water in his portable heater.  When the water was hot we added 1 cup to our bag of potatoes and squished it up in the bag until it was well mixed and creamy.  The potatoes were delish!  The beach was chilly  and wet, and the hot potatoes were a welcome treat.

Directions: Mix 1/2 cup of potato flakes with 1 cup boiling water.  Stir until blended. Add your favorite mix-ins: salt, dry ranch Salad dressing, dry onion soup mix, Butter Buds, dried parsley flakes, beef jerky pieces, diced cheese stick and a beef stick. For thinner potatoes, add more water; for thicker, add more flakes.


If you’ve done eggs in a bag at your family reunion I think you’ll have fun with this idea.  Set out all the ingredients and mix-ins and let your family create their own delicious mashed potatoes.  Your bigger eaters may want to use 1 cup of potato flakes with 2 cups of water.

Thanks, Brayden, for a delicious family reunion idea!

Aunt MO

NOTE: Whenever you add boiling water to your baggie, always use heavy-duty or freezer zip lock bags. Although there have been no claims of injury or illness, Ziploc® states their baggies are not intended to be used at high temperatures, so use at your own risk.

S’mores in a Non-Traditional Way

I couldn’t believe that my brother gave my Mom the assignment to do S’mores for our Wells family reunion.  Not that there is anything wrong with my Mom, she makes delicious S’mores, but we were having our family reunion at a condo in Park City, Utah and Park City is known for it’s amazing skiing not fire pits and marshmallow sticks.

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But I wasn’t in charge of the family reunion this year and I decided that I shouldn’t say anything and so I just kept my mouth shut and waited to see what would happen.  (My brothers are laughing as they read this.)

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When I saw how my Mom set everything up I was very impressed.  We  got out the barbeque grill and then she arranged all the S’more making supplies on a plastic covered card table. 

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We used wood skewers for making Shiskabobs.

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Mom thought of everything- marshmallows, chocolate and crackers.  She even remembered the “Peeps” for roasted Peeps.

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So thanks to my Mom’s organization and creative thinking, the Wells family had S’mores at our family reunion.

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The lesson I learned from my Mom, and my brother too, is that even though tradition is a great thing, don’t hesitate to think “outside the box” and try old traditions in a new way.

And while your eating your S’mores try listening to the S’more song- Catchy S’more Song for  a little “non-traditional” fun.

Aunt MO

Silver Dollar Game for Your Independence Day Party


We have a Independence Day tradition in our family- Whenever we get together for a family or reunion or party around Independence Day we play the “Silver Dollar” game. The Silver Dollar game is a game my Mom invented to encourage us to remember our American history and important United States facts.

Mom would ask a US history question and the first one to get the answer right would get a sliver dollar. Mom has a fun way off tossing the silver dollar to the winner- I’m not sure how to describe,  it  but basically she just tosses it to the family member that has the correct answer to the question.


Plan to play the Silver Dollar game at your Independence Day family reunion or party. Don’t have Silver Dollars? How about using 50 states quarters, red, white and blue taffy, or patriotic pencils?

Warning: If you’re family is competitive, like mine is, you may have to assign someone to be the judge and determine who is the first to raise their hand and watch out- even if you do get the answer right someone may just reach out and snatch your prize right out of the air, Oh well, it’s just part of the game and family fun!


Below are a list of questions you can use for your Silver Dollar game:

1. What is the title of the National Anthem? 

Answer: The Star Spangled Banner

2.  Which rights is guaranteed by the first amendment

Answer: Freedom of Religion

3.  What is the title of the head of a city government

Answer: Mayor

4.  Who has the ability to declare war? 

Answer: The Congress

5.  How many full terms may a Senator serve? 

Answer: No term limits for Senators

6.  How many full terms can a President serve?

Answer: 2

7.  How many years is a full term for a Representative? 

Answer: 2

8.  Which amendment sets the minimum voting age to 18? 

Answer: 26th

9.  Who becomes President if both the President and Vice President die?  

Answer: The Speaker of the House

10.  On July 4th, 1776 we declared Independence from whom? 

Answer: Great Britain

11.  How many branches of government do we have?

Answer: 3

12.  Which is part of the Judicial branch at the federal level?  

Answer: The Supreme Court

13.  Who elects the President of the United States? 

Answer: The Electoral College

14.  How many states are there? 

Answer: 50

15.  How many stripes are there on the American Flag? 

Answer: 13

16.  Who was the President of the United States during the civil war? 

Answer: Abraham Lincoln

17. What is the introduction to the Constitution called?
Answer: The Preamble

18. Who is the President of the United States?

Answer:  Barack H. Obama

19.  Who is the current Vice President of the United States? 

Answer: Joe Biden

20.  Why did the Pilgrims come to America? 

Answer: to find religious freedom

21.  How many total Senators are there? 

Answer: 100

22.  The Constitution has how many Amendments? 

Answer: 27

23. Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?
Answer: Thomas Jefferson

24.  According to the Constitution, a person must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to become President. Name one of these requirements.

Answer: Must be a natural born citizen of the United States; must be at least 35 years old by the time he/she will serve; must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

25. How many Presidents have been impeached

Answer: 2 Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

26.  What is the Official Language of the United States? 

Answer: None

27.  Who was the first Vice President of the United States? 

Answer: John Adams

28.  Who said "Give me liberty or give me death?" 

Answer: Patrick Henry

29.  How many Presidents were assassinated while in office? 

Answer: 4 Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy.

30. Is it ever appropriate to fly the flag upside down?

Answer: Yes, but only in an emergency. "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

Glow in the Dark Whiffle (Wiffle) Ball for Your Family Reunion

My family loves playing Wiffle Ball. My brothers and I have played Wiffle Ball since we were just little kids living in Brigham City, Utah. Wiffle Ball is a fun game that is played like baseball but the balls and bats are made out of plastic. We were always sad when the sun went down and we had to go inside but no more- now you can play Glow in the Dark Wiffle Ball and the darker the better.


We have played Glow-in-the Dark whiffle ball at several family reunions and it’s been a “hit” every time- literally. Here’s how to organize a Glow-in-the-Dark Wiffle Ball game for your family reunion or party.


You will need:

2- 8 inch glow in the dark bracelets for everyone plus a few extras to stuff into the whiffle ball.

1- 22 inch glow in the dark necklace for each player

Light sticks- I like to use the emergency light sticks because they are bigger and brighter and more durable. You will use these sticks to mark the bases, pitching mound and home plate. Use a paper plate, carpet sample or rubber squares to mark the bases and set the light sticks in the middle.

Regular wiffle ball bats and balls- you don’t need to do anything with the bat. We have put glow in the dark tape on the bat and painted it with glow-in-the dark paint but you really don’t need it. cc You can also purchase a glow-in-the-dark bat and balls but it’s really not necessary.

You can use multi-colored glow bracelets and necklaces or use just two colors so that you can easily distinguish between the two teams during the game.



Before the game snap 3 or 4 glow bracelets and stuff them inside the whiffle ball. Keep a few extra glow bracelets on hand because the bracelets will fall out of the whiffle ball during the game but that is just part of the fun.

Set out the bases as you would for a regular baseball game.

Divide the players into 2 equal teams. 9 players a team is the traditional standard, but for a glow-in-the-dark wiffle ball game the more the merrier.

Decide which team will take the offensive first. The offensive team will be batting and running the bases, while the defensive team will be pitching and trying to tag the offense with the ball.

Pitch the ball if you’re on defense. Pitching a wiffle ball will take some getting used to because of the way a wiffle ball moves through the air and when it’s full of glow stick it is even crazier.

Once the batter hits the wiffle ball, you’ll want to try to tag them with the ball to get an "out." When you get 3 outs, switch to offense.


Switch places every 3 outs. You won’t necessarily want to play for 9 innings; everyone will want a turn to bat so it will depend on how large your teams are and how long you want the game to last.

The team with the most runs at the end of the Wiffle ball game is the winner. 

Planning a glow-in-the-dark wiffle ball game for your family reunion takes some preparation but it’s a fun and unusual game that everyone enjoys and is an interesting change from traditional night time family reunion activities.

Be aware when searching for Wiffle ball products, some people spell “Whiffle” ball with an “h” and some without- “Wiffle” ball.

You can purchase all of glow items mentioned in this article at the family reunion helper store along with other fun glow in the dark items.