Oh my has July been insane! The first week of this month Vaughan, Kai and I made a quick trip to Vegas for business and his side of the family's reunion. So fun and luckily we flew so the traveling was somewhat easier and more relaxing. We got home on Wednesday then left for Bear Hollow Creek on Saturday morning. I've never heard of Bear Hollow before but it's about a 2 hour drive north of Pleasant Grove and in the middle of nowhere. While on our way east we passed by this huge man-made lake with insanely beautiful houses and we were like "dang, i wish the family reunion was there!" hahaha and "maybe in our next life". then my dad called to see where we were at and we were a little lost. he then said, "did you see that man-made lake when you got onto the highway? that's the place" ahhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we were freaking out! there were two homes right next to each other for all of our families. the lake was right there with a boat, canoes, paddle boards and a mini beach. so many fish to catch, a volleyball court, fire pits, hot tubs, theater room, giant swings, bikes to ride and spikeball. it seriously was a dream.
Kai and Vaughan played in the water all day Saturday like the maori boys they are. We had that floatie chest and arm life jacket thingy for Kai and he honestly would just walk right into the water until he couldn't walk anymore and then just float and smile at the sun hahaha we were right there with him but he loves floating in the water so much so we obviously let him enjoy it and soak it all in. As you can imagine he was pretty smashed after going hard all day in the lake so by 6:30pm we put him down for the night, set up the monitor and went outside to play volleyball, eat and even go out in the boat and surf. Seriously the best of both worlds being able to have Kai experience all this and have fun and then know that he is safe and resting while being able to spend time with my husband and my family.
Sunday we had a family devotional in this incredible "sacred grove" area behind the houses. It was so cool learning more about my ancestors and what they went through to join the gospel and the sacrifices they made to get to America. It was also so special for family members to stand up and share their unique and diverse testimonies. Not everyone is active LDS but we all have respect for one another to be able to share that spiritual side of us. For the rest of the day we decided not to swim or do any activities on the lake. We ate, played spikeball, went on a mellow bike ride and just really soaked up the relationships and conversations with everyone there.
Monday was the 4th and as such my aunty had American flag bandanas for everyone hahaha it was s'cute. My mom even got Kai a festive swim suit that she asked for him to wear with a giant flag on it. We went boating basically all day, all three of us for Kai's first time. He just sat and watched everyone tube or surf. The rhythm of the boat put him in a tonic. After boating, pictures, more lake time, volleyball and dinner, we put Kai down for the rest of the night. It was starting to get dark so Vaughan and the rest of the family went out by the dock and the beach to get fireworks started. At about 10:30pm I was editing pictures and talking with my cousin when someone ran in and yelled fire. I went out the door and saw huge flames in the hill about 60 feet away from me and everyone else. At that point it was no where near the house that Kai was sleeping in. All the adults were running around yelling, trying to find the fire extinguishers, getting water and towels to try and put out the fire. It was chaos. Embers were floating through the air as I saw some of the smaller children crying, yelling for their parents and terrified. My first thought was to get them distracted and out of the situation. With all of the older kids and parents working on the fire, and the fire still nowhere near the house Kai was in, I felt like it was my role to comfort the little ones. I quickly brought them into the house and sat them on the couches. They were screaming and balling. I asked them if we could say a prayer and they said yes. We all said a prayer together and once it was done the children were no longer crying. One little girl, Penny, who was hysterical before said that she felt better and that she felt brave. All the kids then chimed in saying that they were brave. Vaughan's laptop was right on the couch so I hurried and put a movie on for them to watch to hopefully distract them from what was going on outside. After only a couple of minutes between saying the prayer and getting the kids settled, I then ran to the house Kai was at. The fire was still nowhere close so I went in the room and saw that he was still sleeping. Our bags had already been mostly packed and the room opened up to the driveway which had our car about 10 feet away. So with kai asleep, the adults putting out the fire and the kids safe I decided to quickly grab our bags and throw them in the car. Just as I finished I heard Kai talking so I grabbed him out of his crib and ran out to the car.
As I got onto the driveway Vaughan ran over to us in bare feet. He said that the firetruck was on their way and ordered everyone to evacuate immediately. I gave Kai to Vaughan to put into his carseat and ran into the main house to check on the kids. At that point the parents had already grabbed them and put them in their cars to go. I ran back to the car and as we were all driving out as the fire trucks were coming in. At that point the whole entire mountain side was up if flames. It didn't even seem real. Sirens were going off as we all drove about a mile north. We then parked our cars and checked on everyone. We said a huge family prayer and then just waited, trying to figure out what went wrong. When I went to check on the little kids, Penny was in her parents car and using her Dad's phone to read scriptures. Most of the other ones were already asleep. We waited for about 2 hours. Neighbors came by and offered us bottled water. The police came to questions everyone and get our accounts of what happened. The property owners came and made sure we all were okay. Kai was having a blast being awake that late and playing on the ipad haha and Vaughan still didn't have his shoes.
From everyone who had witnessed it they gathered what had happened. The younger men were in charge of lighting the fireworks. On the Grand Finale they each had their own and they secured each firework in the sand on the beach, facing the water. All of the sudden there was an explosion in one of the fireworks before it actually went off. It hit one of my cousin's (luckily no injury) and the rest of the explosion randomized and shot into the hill. The flames erupted almost immediately. Vaughan was actually running up and down the hill with no shoes trying to put it out along with the rest of the men while the women got towels and buckets and water. They almost had it too, but then in a matter of seconds it erupted again and started traveling up faster. Vaughan said that while he was on the hill he heard someone say to pray. So he did. When he was done he looked out across the flames and saw the men circled up doing the same. Just then he noticed that the winds had begun to change, and that it was now blockading the fire rather than fueling it. That's when him and the rest on the hill got the message to evacuate. He then came to find me and Kai.
When we were allowed to come back to the house a couple hours later we examined the firework area again. That's where we learned that it was a specific faulty firework that had cause the explosion. The sand beneath it was literally black. At 1am we all gathered into the family room. The only damage that had been done was the mountain. The fireman were actually incredibly impressed by the men in our family and the sufficiency they had while taming the fire before they got there. No one was injured. Everyone and their belongings and the homes were completely safe. We then said another family prayer, kneeling in gratitude. The tears finally came to me as I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost so strongly. I knew that we had been protected that night. Heavenly Father and His angels were with us. I even had the thought that those angels may have been our ancestors and future family, doing the Lord's work to keep us safe.
An hour later after everyone was settled, Kai was still bouncing off the walls and showed no signs of falling back asleep. We were to leave early in the morning anyway for Vaughan's work so we decided to leave right then. We got home around 4am. Now looking back on it, it all seems like a dream. I'm just so grateful that those who were traumatized by it have now had time to heal. And laugh, even. The theme of our family reunion was Deep Roots Strong Branches. My aunty who organized all of it later posted on Instagram with the hashtag: Deep Roots Singed Branches hahaha so i'm just so grateful that this crazy adventure united us rather than splitting us apart. The reunion was still amazing and we were exactly where we needed to be, no matter what happened, with family.