Cousin Camp Memories

Cousin CampI look forward each summer to having all six grandchildren, now ages nine to fifteen, for a cousin reunion, or better known as “Cousin Camp”. All the planning, preparation, prayer, and shopping that goes into our once-a-year tradition has come to an end for another summer. I loved every minute. I cherish the legacy created, the memories made, the traditions established, the pictures captured—along with finding a hair clip or a tee shirt left behind.

Some things never change, but I smiled at the new changes that came with everyone being one year older.

I still fixed at least ten gallons of lemonade, but the new crave was my peach-mango tea. I still made an abundance of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but turkey or ham, with lettuce and tomato, on pita, was the number one choice. It wasn’t as hard this year to find twelve missing shoes, as it was to match the shoes to who they belonged to, since everyone was wearing similar flip-flop sizes and styles now.

Up to now, our crafts have been pretty simple, consisting of stick, staple, glue, cut-out, and color. Pretty easy, huh? Not this year, now they’ve moved on to Pinterest! I suggested they look through the craft ideas together, choose three favorites, and then vote on one. The fun of taking the girls shopping (on a budget) for the items needed, and then making a usable craft together was a new memory for us.

Fixing an overflowing toilet never seems to change, however running out of hot water before the last shower, and the icemaker running out of ice was a new thing this year. They took more showers and drank more water—it comes with age, I guess. I still took at least 100 pictures, but instead of hearing “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,”  it was, “Let me see how I look.” Guess that comes with age also.

This year an empty electrical outlet was always in demand since being tangled in cords, plugs, and chargers were now a part of life. I thought I was really clever in suggesting they each put their initials on their chargers with a Sharpie to easily identify them. They thought that was so smart. I may not know how all their electronics work, but my common sense sure was a hit.

My three grandsons, three granddaughters, and their friends, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodgeball, and volleyball in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch.

Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft, the sound of giggles, and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had. God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from nine to fifteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                           

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them, and others. Pointing out the error of their ways in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a molehill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up, laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter. Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp. My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.                         

Hold hands and stick together. Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself—your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands, and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on….
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Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from eight to fourteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                       

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up and laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.

Hold hands, and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself: your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

Susan Miller signature

An old bench filled with memories

the old bench

One of the sweet memories I have of my daddy many years ago, was sitting beside him on a hand-made, hand-painted bench in our back yard. He made it out of scraps of wood from his wood pile, and it has remained strong and steady for over 40 years. He built it with the skill of a fine carpenter, although he only referred to himself as a handyman around the house.

The weathered green bench sat in mom and dad’s back yard for many years. Anytime I came home to visit, I would watch from the kitchen window when daddy was raking the back yard, and wait for him to take a bench break, then I’d head for my spot next to him.

We would sit together and talk about anything—from the birds and the squirrels scampering around in our wooded back yard, to the rising cost of living, to how hot the weather was, to stories of the years he served in the military and what the Bible says about how to live life. My daddy was a quiet, gentle, soft-spoken man of few words. The bench seemed to spark magic conversation between us.

When mom and dad went home to be with the Lord many years ago, my brother and I sorted through the keepsakes we wanted. I took the bench. It traveled from Florida to Arizona, and sat on the front porch of three homes, and then finally ended up in the back yard, all the more weathered.

This summer, as I walked by the all-but-forgotten-bench, I stopped, and ran my hands across the rough surface. I sat down thinking that it might not hold me, but it held firm. The memories of sitting on it with my daddy, my husband, Bill, my children, and my grandchildren, flooded my heart and emotions.

stripping the paint

“It is time to restore this bench,” I said to myself. I became excited about stripping and sanding it, filling the holes with wood filler, nailing down any loose wood, re-painting it a different color, and adding a cushion for the finishing touch!

Moved to a special place, the old-but-new bench continues to spark conversation magic. I watch my daughter and my grandchildren find a spot to sit next to me, and then we talk about many things….

Five lessons learned from an old bench:

1. Seize the moment to sit awhile with someone you love.
2. Talk about lots of things—important and not so important.
3. Share stories and recall memories.
4. Listen and remember.
5. Never forget that something old can be a treasure, and sometimes, can be restored to new again.

finished bench

Susan Miller