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Category Archives: cousin camp

Cousin Camp 2011, Part 3: water creatures

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As you may recall, in part 1 and part 2 of this Cousin Camp recap, I lovingly detailed how this year Cousin Camp was all about learning and creating a safe haven for the kids to interact and nurture these important family bonds. Sadly, a mere three hours into camp my plans were thwarted when a gang of nieces and nephews badgered me into allowing them to tube down the river near our house. This was not exactly uncharted territory. Indeed, three years ago we went tubing down the river (again as a result of badgering) and it was fabulous until an alleged snapping turtle attack and one nephew ended up at urgent care. This year I declared “NO tubing!” and cited the aforementioned incidents as the reasons why. They quickly poked holes in my argument. The snapping turtle incident was just a sighting they said (despite the fact that just weeks before I overheard an older cousin telling a younger cousin about “the time a snapping turtle leapt into their raft at cousin camp and attacked them”… I knew this was a fabrication, the younger cousin did not). And, they continued, the urgent care trip wasn’t a result of the tubing, it was the result of wading in river mud up to their knees. I could hardly argue with these points. And shortly I found myself saying yes to the tubing.

By the time the tubing had become a reality the eldest boy cousins had decided they wanted to tube down the river, under the highway. This meant going through a very long, very dark tunnel. I tested their preparedness with a slew of questions: “What will you do if a snapping turtle jumps into the tube?”, “What will you do if one of you begins panicking when your flashlight inevitably runs out of batteries?”, “What will you do when the alien zombie who lives in the tunnel emerges from the murky depths and attempts to steal your tube?”, “What will you tell your parents when you wind up at urgent care as the result of the alien zombie attack” (obvious answer: that Aunt Courtney had absolutely nothing to do with this horrible idea and that they alone are to blame). They passed this test with a reasonable amount of flying colors and I sent them down river. While their fellow cousins eagerly watched for signs of them emerging from the dark, foreboding tunnel, I lapsed into a mental freak-out imagining all the scenarios, including the alien zombie, coming true and trying to decide how long I would wait until I would have to walk up river, through the dark tunnel, to fetch them.

As luck would have it, there were no snapping turtles, no punctured rafts, no malfunctioning flashlights and, surprisingly, no alien zombies. While it took a ridiculous amount of time for them to float through the tunnel, they did eventually emerge:

The other children enjoyed a far more pleasant (for me) tubing experience. One where I could see them the entire time, where there was no dark tunnel to navigate, and where they were connected to a rope so we could pull them back to us:

Later that evening we headed out for our usual camp twilight games. With the sun slowly setting in the sky we played Sharks and Minnows across the soccer field. The kids have gotten wicked fast over the years and I no longer stand a chance in this game. Despite my determination and crazy-fast speed in my flip-flops, I was unable to get past the first round. It seems Pia was kept safe through several rounds by keeping her bike helmet on. That or her older cousins went easy on her and the other little ones. Hard to say.

I have one final Cousin Camp installation which I may or may not get to before Cousin Camp 2012. We shall see. Stay tuned.

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Cousin Camp 2011, part 2: the kids take over

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If it were up to the kids, Cousin Camp would consist of only two things:

1. Epic games of four-square (epic in terms of length and intensity, and also in some other way as the kids kept using “epic” as some sort of new slang term)

2. Marathon crayfish-catching sessions

But since it isn’t up to them (or at least I still like to pretend that I am the one running this thing) I asked the 7 eldest cousins to teach classes as part of College for Cousins. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these classes, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised by how much thought and planning went into them.

Cousin #1 and Cousin #6 taught Fencing 101, in which they gave a short history of the sport and then demonstrated how to parry and lunge. Jim had made lovely dowel rod foils for this class, but apparently wood is not the material of choice for fencing foils as they all broke by the end of the course. I audited this particular course and found it to be very educational. Plus, the instructors told me I had excellent lunging form. So I am quite proud. I am also extremely annoyed that I have no great photos of this class. Indeed, the class was so well done that we were taking video most of the time and as a result, have few stills. sniff.

Cousin #2 taught Friendship Bracelets 203, which proved to be an absolute hoot. Did you know that 15-year-old boys don’t know how to braid? Shocking! So thanks to Cousin Camp 2011 and the eldest girl cousin, these boys now know this valuable skill.

Cousin #3 taught Tennis Ups and Downs 101. There didn’t seem to be much planning for this course as the instructor brought all of 3 tennis balls with which to teach. But despite the apparent lack of planning much fun was had by the students as they got to practice serving into the vacant yard next door (formerly known as Robin’s house, which she refused to buy – yes, I too question her commitment to this friendship –  and now appears to have been bought by some other phantom owner). I foolishly offered $10 to the first person who could hit the maple tree trunk in said vacant lot and within minutes two cousins had accomplished this goal. Sigh. The instructor switched things up a bit for the class of little kids and taught, literally, ups and downs. Please note the appropriate footwear and spot-on tennis stance of these cousins.

Cousin #4 taught Intro to Volleyball where she demonstrated how to set, serve and bump a volleyball. Again I was impressed with the thought behind and the framework of the class. I think the kids actually learned something here. I mean other than the obvious: that volleyball is like torture to uninitiated wrists.

Cousins #5 and #7 taught separate art classes. Cousin #5 chose Drawing Cartoons 304. Again, I was amazed at the thought that went into the planning (it appears that I think my nieces and nephews are slackers as I was continually amazed by what they presented). He had the kids choose a sport item (a tennis ball, a football, a bat, etc) and then add a face to it (happy, sad, guilty, angry, etc). He had examples of each face that the kids could copy. One cousin drew a fencing foil with a guilty face after breaking a wooden foil in the class before. The ballerina drew a happy ballet shoe. The volleyball instructor drew a nervous volleyball about to be spiked. Funny stuff. Cousin #7, an expert in this field, taught Intro to Painting Monkeys. He taught the kids step-by-step, from ears on down to the banana held in a foot.

Still more Cousin Camp recap to come! Stay tuned for the next episode where Aunt Courtney is forced against her better judgement to allow rafting down a river and under a highway. The things I do…

Cousin Camp 2011, part 1

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I have been sorely out of touch of late on our little blog. I attribute this to three reasons. 1) It is hot (actually, that is just the past few days, but in the past few days I have sweated enough for several lifetimes), 2) I have been sewing like a mad woman (pictures of projects will appear at some point if the heat ever ceases) and 3) I have been preparing for the annual event that is Cousin Camp.  This year we had 12 kids here for the weekend and our theme was College for Cousins. Our plan was to run camp like a pretend college, with 12 course offerings, student IDs, entrance exams, and uniforms. When the cousins arrived at camp they were each ceremoniously taken aside for their entrance exam. The exam consisted of 5 questions about our family (“what is John’s middle name?”, “which of your aunts and uncles went to UW?”, “what is the name of your cousin’s dog?”, etc.). Once they passed the test they were handed their “uniform” (their annual cousin camp t-shirt) and had to head over to get their pictures taken for their student ID. Once everyone had been registered for college we all headed inside for the traditional cousin camp lunch, a peanut butter bar with various types of peanut butter sandwiches (pb and banana, pb and nutella, pb and potato chips…).

The college theme was chosen as a sneaky way to avoid doing much prep work as we placed the bulk of that on other family members. We asked the grandparents and a few aunts and uncles to teach ‘classes’ at camp in whatever subject they wanted (well, sort of whatever they wanted… I tried to force my brother to teach cross stitch but he wouldn’t, I asked my etiquette-minded sister-in-law to teach table manners and she agreed). So, after lunch we had our first round of 20-minute classes, with our 12 campers broken up into 3 classes of 4 kids each.

My sister taught Silver Polishing 101 (really a sneaky way to get a tea set polished while presenting it as a learning opportunity)…

…and got shining results:

My brother (the one who refused to teach cross stitch) taught Intro to Bike Repair and showed the kids how to fix a leaky tire:

And my sister-in-law taught the kids some much needed table manners, as well as how to set the table:

Once a kid ‘passed’ a class they got one of the circles on the back of their shirt filled in with a symbol of the professor’s choosing (a bike wheel, a fork, etc):

The next two rounds of classes were taught by the eldest cousins. More on that tomorrow! I must now retreat to the coolness of the basement.