Epic Roadtrip Stop #3: St. George & Cousins Weeks

Cousins Week Begins

Image and text by Gabrielle.

On Sunday afternoon, we dropped the kids off at Cousins Week, and we picked them up yesterday afternoon (Thursday, if you’re keeping track).

What is Cousins Week? It’s an annual tradition, hosted by my sister, Sara and her husband, Steve. All cousins age 8 or older are invited. They go to Sara & Steve’s house in St. George, and have this sort of kid-paradise vacation. There’s a ton of swimming in the backyard pool (which is essential because St. George is crazy hot), the kids can stay up as late as they want, they can eat dessert for breakfast if they want, and they get a break from their typical schedules.

On each day there’s an adventure or two with the aunts or uncles or Grandma. Things like tubing in the Virgin River at Zion. Or cliff diving in the Sand Hollow Reservoir. Or rock climbing. Or hiking the narrows. Or seeing a musical at Tuacahn. Or visiting the sand dunes at night. Or tie dying t-shirts.

But mostly, it’s swimming and sugar. In fact, there’s a whole freezer dedicated to popsicles, and a whole drawer dedicated to candy — the kids call it the Drawer of Wonders and talk about it with hushed, sacred tones. : ) When they need a break from the sun or the pool, they watch movies and look up favorite videos on YouTube. Though the adults are right there, ready to help, it’s definitely a very kid-centered week.

My kids LOVE cousins week. There are a lot of cousins in my family, and the cousins live, and have lived, all over the place. So this is an amazing time for them to get to know each other with no distractions. Oscar starts talking about the next cousins week as soon as the current one is over. It might be his favorite thing in the world.

Betty turned 8 in May, so this was her first year. I was so worried about her getting sunburned. She burns so easily! But she made it through with skin intact and she had a fabulous time. When cousins get to college age they sort of graduate from cousins week. They might make an appearance if they can get to St. George, but they usually have jobs or summer semester or study abroad programs that keep them away.

Cousins Week typically starts with a BBQ for the families — even the parents and the kids under 8. And it ends with a “talent show” on Thursday afternoon, again, for the whole family. I put talent show in quotes, because it’s very silly. The cousins don’t really perform their traditional talents, but instead do lip syncs and make crazy videos and do funny skits — the kids put together their talent show performances during the week.

After the talent show, we search the house for missing flip flops and track down random socks, then pack everyone up and head out. The kids are happy and exhausted. Ready for a break from their cousins, but already looking forward to next year.

Some of my siblings drop off their kids and then head home — even if they live hours away — then return on Thursday for the talent show and pick up. But we live far enough away, that Ben Blair and I always stay in St. George during cousins week. We check in to a hotel or stay at a friend’s house, then we hang out with the kids that aren’t old enough to go — when Cousins’s week started, Olive, Oscar, Betty & June weren’t old enough yet, but now it’s just June! We might visit my dad’s grave, or hang out with friends from my high school days, or go to dinner with my siblings or my Mom.

On this trip, my sister-in-law, Erin, had June over to the house to play with her two youngest, which was amazing! I was able to have solid work days and tried to catch up on as much email as possible.

Now, I think that is probably more than you ever wanted to know about Cousins Week. Hah! But I’d love to hear: Did you grow up close to your cousins? And are your kids growing up close to their cousins? Has your family ever tried something like Cousins Week? Would you ever be the host of something like Cousins Week? I don’t think I could it, but my Sara & Steve seem to love it!

P.S. — We don’t really do family reunions on the Stanley side of the the family. Between Alt Summit conferences and Cousins Week, we seem to get our fill of one another’s company. How does your family handle reunions?


26 thoughts on “Epic Roadtrip Stop #3: St. George & Cousins Weeks”

  1. I love this tradition. In my family, we have cottages on Lake Ontario in New York, and my dad would bring us there every summer. Every few years we’d have a proper family reunion, but most summers it was just a random gathering of whoever happened to be there at the same time. I have a large family on my dad’s side (30 first cousins), and I did grow up very close to them as a result of these summers, especially the ones who were able to get there every year. It’s a very special place to me, and my cousins are some of my best friends.

    Thankfully, my uncle has kept up the cottages and still makes them available to all of the extended family. About 5 years ago, we started going again, for a week every summer. My kids are now playing in the same place where I once did, now playing games and getting to know their cousins (first and second!). Getting their fill of bonfires, catching fireflies, skiing, singing, and lots and lots of yard games. They love it almost as much as I once did.

  2. On my dad’s side we have been getting together every other year for a reunion since 1991. In all that time, I’ve completely missed one and had to leave another just after I got there, I’ve been to all the rest. Some of my cousins can say the same thing. We have a horseshoe tournament and some card game tournaments. There is crafts and some activities for the kids. Other than that it is an opportunity to hang out with each other – we pick a location where we are the only ones there, not a public park, visit, catch up, reminisce.

    On my mom’s side, it’s smaller, she only has one brother. There are difficulties between my uncle and his children, so larger family gatherings no longer happen. However the last 2 summers, some of the cousins have gotten together as adults to hang out and let our kids run around and get to know their cousins.

    Both are very special and like I said, I don’t miss them.

  3. Is this an LDS thing? A lovely woman I worked for years ago was LDS and they did this but called it “Grandparent Camp.” All the kids went and stayed with their grandparents for a week and did all kinds of fun activities. I love this idea so much! We weren’t close to my extended family when I grew up (either geographically or mentally) so this wouldn’t have worked. And my poor kids don’t have any first cousins. I have 4 children though-so I am instituting this when I have grandchildren! (and no pressure, but I hope there are a lot of them ;) )

    1. I’m not aware of it being an LDS thing — I certainly didn’t do anything like this when I was growing up. But it would make sense — it’s not super unusual for LDS families to have several kids, which can make for lots of cousins.

  4. I love the sound of Cousins Week! I grew up in the same city as my cousin, who is only three months younger, and she and I were inseparable. We would tell people we were twins, and would sleep in the same bed during sleepovers. We are still close to this day and write actual letters back and forth to one another! Having a close cousin is so nice, since I was an only child until I was 14, and she was an only child until she was 10. We understood each other and our families and were welcomed by aunts and uncles. This week makes me smile!

  5. What a totally fabulous time for all of you! I keep smiling and chuckling, just
    reading about it. So proud of your amazing mom! and her amazing daughters and
    all the great men etc.

  6. Caitlin Mallery

    I am totally inspired to do this with my kids when they get a little older. They already have 11 cousins, with lots more to come (my husband and I both have several unmarried siblings). This makes me super excited for summers to come! I would totally host the unwashed masses of cousins!

  7. I love this!! We have a cousin swap every year. There are 3 sisters and we all have 3 children close in age so every summer we swap around the kids so everyone gets to hang with the cousins closest in age. We are spread out over several states so it is a great fun way for the cousins to see each other. (But I am thankful I don’t have all the cousins at one time!!)

  8. My parents call it “cousin camp” and have my nephews from DC fly out to Oregon for 2 weeks every summer. We live 5 minutes away, so the 4 big kids are together pretty much the whole time. This year they did lots of traveling (Oregon coast for 6 days, and down to Crater Lake and southern Oregon for a few days), so I was a sad Auntie who didn’t get to see my nephews nearly enough.

    I think it’s great to get the cousins together, especially when we’re spread far apart. One is in Sweden, 3 in DC, and 4 here in Oregon. It’s only every 2-3 years that everyone is together!

  9. Cousins’ week sounds amazing!

    I’m so impressed with your ability to take on this epic road trip with so many kids and would love to hear more about the logistics. For example, What did your exchange students do during cousins week? How do you handle food (when the kids aren’t raiding the candy drawer). Do people get car sick?

  10. How fun! Sounds like heaven (assuming nobody gets sunburn or in terrible fights with each other!). I would see my cousins every year or 2, or 3 growing up. I only have 5 cousins and our family was always the one that lived far away (think a continent away!). Our first baby is on the way now and she will be the first grandchild on both sides… so no cousins. I’m guessing it will remain this way for a looonnnngg time.

  11. I would totally do this at our house. Especially once their +8.

    We see my brother and his family about once a year when we get together. The kids love it. I was just saying to my mom that in a few years it would be fun to have the girls come out and spend like a month with us. (They are 5 and almost 7 right now.) Add in my nieces and nephews on my husband’s side and it would be a ton of fun. Plus, all the Grandparents live right here so they could help. ;)

    I was very close to many of my cousins growing up. It’s something I worry my kids won’t have living so far apart. So we try to find ways to help them connect. I imagine once they are older and social media is in play it will be hard to stop them!

  12. I was very close to all the cousins on both sides of my family and have so many wonderful memories of playing with them. My own children look forward every year to a week in Hilton Head Island where my parents have a house. We all meet there — 17 of us in all — building memories. Sometimes it’s a tad on the crazy side, but the kids always, always have a good time. It’s amazing to me that they can see their cousins once a year (my sisters and I live scattered all over the country) yet pick right up from the last summer and are such good friends.

  13. What a great tradition! I really like it. Alas, my 3 kids have only 1 cousin and it’s highly likely that number will not grow. It’s hard for me to even think about that considering I have 16 cousins. Big difference. I grew up pretty close to my cousins. Some more than others. In fact, I’m going to see one of them tomorrow! Thank you for sharing this! I love this idea!

  14. What a fun tradition! I lived a few hours away from my cousins growing up but I have really fond memories of spending the summers with them in my pre-teen years. My boys only have three boy cousins and they love spending time together too. We just went to the beach yesterday with them and have decided to do it on an annual basis (they live a few hours away from the beach). So it’s funny timing to read this post today.

  15. We do something similar, but call it cousin camp. It began when I was a child, with all of the cousins on my dad’s side of the family. I am the oldest of 21 cousins, and we used to get together every summer at my grandparent’s cabin near Flaming Gorge. It was a great time for the cousins (and all the moms and my grandma) to get away and have a fun time together.

    We actually loved it so much that we are still getting together, but now the 21 cousins are almost all married with children of their own, so with all the spouses and the 40+ great-grandchildren, we are too big to go to the cabin. Instead, we all gather at my grandmother’s home and spend an epic three days together every August. We play games, watch movies outside and just have a great time catching up with each other. It’s a wonderful time for my kids to spend time with cousins they love and to connect in a fun way with their great-grandma (who is so very amazing!!) I really hope we continue to get together for years to come…

  16. I love this idea!! Right now I’m the only one in my family who I married with kids but were hoping that changes soon with my little sister (she gets home from a mission in less than a month and there’s a certain boy we all, even him (!), hope she marries). When hey start having kid I’d love to do something like that or maybe switch off every other year with her.

    My mom only had one brother and we used to see them at weekly Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house. I still feel close to them even though we moved too far away for that when I got older. I love having that special bond with my cousins.

  17. Growing up, all of my cousins lived in Ireland while my parents raised us in the USA. I only saw my cousins every few years when we would go back and stay on my grandparent’s farm in Ireland. We squeezed as much family time as possible into those weeks. I cried every time we had to leave our Irish family…and would cry for months and months afterwards wanting to go back. As an adult I have made sure my children know their first cousins, who all live within an hour’s drive, and their wonderful Irish second cousins and aunts and uncles.

  18. I married into a family with a wonderful family reunion tradition. For the past 21 summers they have rented an old hotel in a small town in Wisconsin right on a lake and we take it over for a week, filling rooms and even spilling out into tents on the lawn. It’s a week full of tournaments (jarts, bags, and scrabble), games (trivia!), and lots of fun with cousins. Every night different teams cook dinner – you are responsible for everything on your night and then get to hang out for the rest of it. I feel very lucky to be welcomed into the family. In fact, I went to my first one with my then-boyfriend when we had only been dating about three weeks! He knew how great his family was and it was the ultimate test – if I liked them and they liked me I was in. This year was my 6th year and I brought our baby for the first time!

  19. What a fun tradition!
    I grew up with lots of cousins around me as most of my Dad’s family lived in the same country town when I was a kid. In fact, most of my cousins lived on the same block! My grandparents owned pretty much a whole block and my Dad’s younger brothers all built their houses there around our family business. Although for some reason we lived a few streets away ;)
    Growing up like this my cousins have all stayed pretty close even if they have all moved to different parts of Australia (or America in my case).
    We don’t have family reunions as such but we do get together every year for Christmas. It gets a little harder as everyone gets older and moves away (I’ve missed the last 3 years) but for the most part the majority of my Dad’s family makes it to the O’Hara Family Christmas. We have pretty much the same food every year and there’s always a game of cricket. The cricket game is a tradition that we never miss :)
    On the flipside though, I don’t have any cousins on my Mum’s side. I always found that weird as a kid. Fifteen on one side and none on the other!

  20. This is such a great way to bring the family together. Last year was the first time I can ever remember my family doing a family reunion type thing…and most of the family couldn’t make it. Still, it was a lot of fun seeing family members that I haven’t been around in years. My cousin is getting married in October, so that will be a wedding/family reunion that I’m really looking forward to!

  21. Inspired by your family’s cousins week, we started our own last year! This July was our second annual cousins week–my husband and I planned the activities, and everyone stayed at my in-law’s. We had s’mores, a piñata, treasure hunt, water balloon fight, etc. Thanks for the inspiration!

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