Last week we held a cousin camp with seven grandchidlren ages 4 to 13. Enough children for everyone to have a playmate.
The first day I said, “Those dolls in the bedroom need to be dressed for donation.” For the next couple of hours the girls combed the dolls’ hair and tried on outfits. “This is kinda fun,” Sophie, 12, declared.
Daisy, 9, picked out fabric to make blankets that coordinated with the outfits they wore. Every day, she also gathered dirty clothes and towels and kept the washing machine and dryer humming.
“I like doing laundry here. It’s fun.” she said holding a neatly folded stack of towels.
Every day, Eli, 13, nudged awake Sam, almost 10. “Come on, let’s go for a walk.”
The third day, Sam groaned, “Not today.”
“Come on. It’s more fun with you.”
“Okay.” Sam never refused again.
Chefs varied, “I’ll fix dinner, “ said Sophie, *** looking at the row of boxes of Hamburger Helper mixes and mac and cheese.
Caroline, 11, asked, “Do you have any chocolate chips? I want to make cookies.”
“I do,” I pulled out the chocolate chips. She climbed on the counter, examined the cupboard and found the ingredients. The cousins scarfed up the cookies. I helped clean the kitchen. Usually the cousins loaded, unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned counters.
One afternoon, Henry, 7, helped prepare snack bags. As he counted M&Ms he cheefully said, “This is fun. I like doing this.”
We mandated they memorize Bible verses and read books. Henry discovered The DogMan books and sat up late reading. Sophie finished reading the Hunger Games series and Caroline began reading it.
“Hurry up and read more,” Sophie urged her, “I want to gossip about the book with you.” Caroline, a voracious reader, zoomed through the book and had a good book gossip.
Henry, 7, and Katie, 4, gossiped about “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which expanded to “Twelve Days of Thanksgiving” and “Twelve Days of Halloween.”
Through the week the noise level in our house soared. One day I looked at the loudest child and said, “Okay, for the next hour, you whisper.” That child made even a whisper sound loud.
One night a child prayed, “Help us not to fight. And if we hit that it won’t hurt too much.”
I am not sure when they fought. Mostly they played including organizing business schemes in the sewing room. Several declared, “I’m the boss.” Even little Katie stood on the chair with a big grin and sweetly announced, “I am the boss. You have to do what I say.”
They ignored her as she had them. The big girls learned how to thread the machine, snarl the bobbin thread and call me when everything failed. Oh yes, and they made little stuffed creatures and blankets.
Sam and Henry spent hours sorting and asembling our Legos or their transformer parts. Forget the instructions books, they preferred to make their own contraptions. When Sam found an electric circuit kit he told me, “I think I know how to do it. Can I?” I nodded and within minutes he had the lights shining.
Eli mowed the lawn, picked blueberries and with Grandpa and Sam changed the oil filter. We often heard, “It is fun here.” It probably helped that we had a stair-step crew of cousins, a cupboard full of toys, overflowing bookshelves and a grandpa who hoisted the ladder so they could fly toy airplanes off the roof.
The last day one asked, “what are you going to do after we leave?”
I thought about quiet days with afternoon naps and said, “What we always do, putter around.” Mentally I added, “and plan another cousin camp.”