I'm sure there were many folks who thought we were crazy for attempting to host 11 grandchildren for a week in the middle of a pandemic. That's understandable. I was very apprehensive myself. But, I am so very glad we decided to go ahead with our plans. (There was another year when we had to postpone Cousins Camp because of the death of my father. That year we moved it to Thanksgiving Week -- not the best time of year, for sure, but we were just so glad we found a time to keep the tradition going). Now that I can evaluate our 13th annual event, I see some clear winners that emerged from the sparse Clipboard of Fun I was able to devise. For those of you who have decided to host your own Cousins Camp, feel free to use any of these ideas that could work for your group.
Putting in a pool is an expensive undertaking that requires a LOT of maintenance. However, seeing the kids enjoy it so much last week made it worth all the money and effort. The Hartselle City Pool and Point Mallard Aquatic Center in Decatur both canceled their seasons this year. Without the pool, I suppose we could have rented a big blow-up and filled it with water. We definitely needed some way to get a lot of exercise and work off excess energy.
We have accumulated quite a few board games and card sets, but we added a Pickleball Set for the backyard this year. Pickle Ball is a combination of volleyball and tennis but is limited to 4 players. I predict we'll get more use out of this investment in the years to come.
Clear favorites for the week were Monopoly (both the regular and the Toy Story versions), Apples to Apples, and Go Fish. Sometimes we played as a whole group. Other times various groups joined forces. You should have seen 7-year-old Bethany hang in there with the teenagers in Monopoly!
I must give credit here to Pinterest, Hobby Lobby, Amazon and Oriental Trading for the ideas and the materials. I also must confess that all but two of the cousins enjoy crafts -- and those two got to make a quick fishing trip that the others weren't able to make. I tried to select projects that were simple enough for the younger children but with creative possibilities for the older ones.
We knew the parents would be joining us for lunch on the last day, and we knew we wanted to keep the patriotism/4th of July theme in mind.
We worked in teams with the oldest 4 creating a strawberry/blueberry trifle, the middle 4 making pretzel bites with M & Ms, and the youngest 3 making 4th of July magic cookie bars. They seemed to have a great time, and the mess was much less than I had feared. And, just so you know, all hands were (supposedly) thoroughly washed before beginning these recipes.
During a typical Cousins Camp week, Steve is the chief breakfast chef, we go out for one meal a day, and I fix a lot of something very simple for the other meal. In other words, I prepared a huge pot of spaghetti and had cheesy bread for our last supper together. Not spaghetti, cheesy bread, salad, corn on the cob, green beans, etc. etc. And, truthfully, I've learned that what we call "Sandwich Feasts" or "Sandwich Extravaganzas" can be very popular. (Putting a fun name to it makes it seem more like a party, don't you think?) For those, I put out bread, turkey, ham, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, Nutella, honey, assorted individual bags of chips, fruit, and Little Debbies. Everyone makes their own, and all campers are happy. Voila!
Oh! Bryan's in Hartselle, Culver's in Madison, Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, and the Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia were the restaurant choices this year. The Rattlesnake Saloon was chosen because it is essentially in the open air, was on our way home from Shiloh National Military Park, and is "an experience." In the case of the other three, we wore masks in and back out, the serving staff members were wearing masks, and every attempt was made at social distancing.
THEME AND RESOURCES
For the past 7 or 8 years, I have built our plan of activities around a particular theme. We've had fun with zoo animals, underwater sea creatures, space (last year for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing), Hawaii, sports, music, etc.. We've never had Cousins Camp during the week leading up to the 4th of July before, so patriotism was a natural theme this year, and we added history to it -- history of food, US history, family history, etc. etc. Happily, they all seemed to embrace it and enjoy it. Although, several did mention that they would NOT be happy if I ever chose math as the Cousins Camp theme. Ha!
COUSIN OF THE WEEK
Mostly because of ages but also because of similar interests and temperaments, it is natural that each grandchild gravitates toward a few cousins more than the others. We wanted to try to help them expand their interpersonal relationships this year and do something completely new, so we assigned every camper a Cousin of the Week --- specifically someone that they rarely spent a lot of quality time with. A couple of times during the week they were told to "spend the next 30 minutes with your Cousin of the Week (they called it their C.O.W.) playing a game or talking" or they were asked to sit by their C.O.W. at a meal. At the end of the week, they knew they would be given a small amount of money to buy a gift for their C.O.W. based on what they'd learned about him/her during their time together. This idea proved to be a huge hit, and they all want to do the same thing with a different cousin next year.
Bonuses and Serendipities of the Week --
1) Using Luke's wizardry with electronic gadgets and Margaret's choreography skills, they put together a couple of really entertaining music videos. Scroll through my Facebook page to view them. Look particularly at June 30 for "In Summer" and July 1 for a patriotic medley.
2) The Life Group at First Baptist in Hartselle that Steve and I help to lead very generously brought supper for all of us one night -- 7 pizzas, desserts and drinks. We were thrilled!
3) A big "happy" for us was the gender reveal for Grandbaby #15 after we had our lunch together on the 4th of July. The fireworks that were supposed to turn pink didn't exactly do their job, but we had some excitement and learned that we could look forward to another granddaughter. That's a bonus AND a serendipity.
4) Our son Matt put together a series of blog posts based on his observations from having his kids attend Cousins Camp. You might enjoy reading them.
The Trump paper dolls were included for their historical significance. Grandson Nathan bought the Trump t-shirt with his own money before he came to camp. This blog is not intended to make political statements.