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On Nini Camp

Heeeere comes Nini Camp 2024! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this tradition of ours, I take each of my grandkids for a week during the summer (my grandma name is Nini.)  We mostly play, and we definitely deepen relationships. Lincoln is my last opportunity to keep Nini Camp going for awhile, since the others have had the audacity to grow up on me. He’s 10 now, and I absolutely love how excited he still is to come.

(That’s his excited face …)

I will get Lexi for a few days in July, and given that she’s 20 now it’s amazing and wonderful that she still wants to do this.

So, what does Nini Camp look like? For me, the nuts and bolts are basically this:

1)        Pick a theme for the week. This year it’s gratitude (last year was self control, the year before kindness) and I will do my best to develop our time together around being thankful.

2)        The week before camp, I send them an “assignment” to complete each day. This has a two-fold result: the lead-in is super fun, and if they complete them all they get money. Good deal, right? This year I’m doing a gratitude scavenger hunt … yesterday was Lincoln’s first assignment and he didn’t do it. (Darn kid, now I need to figure out how to let him catch up without letting him off the hook completely.)

3)        Each day they are here, they get some kind of little gift and a note from me. Sometimes they’re nice gifts, sometimes they’re goofy, and I definitely don’t spend much money! It’s fun coming up with them.

4)        We are a game-playing, serious puzzling family! Each day we spend time playing at least one game, and we work on a puzzle together. Sometimes the kid picks the game, sometimes I pick … if I never have to play Go Fish or Candyland again that’s fine by me! These days we rotate among Quiddler, Phase 10, Canasta and Uno, to name a few.

5)        REST TIME. Every day. This is nonnegotiable because I need it … we usually go to the library the first day so they have something to occupy them for an hour, since they’ve been bold enough to stop taking naps …

6)        We also go to the grocery store the first day, and they can pick things like cereal and snacks. They can give suggestions for dinners, but I do what I want and they survive.

7)        There’s usually a “Papa project.” This year, he and Lincoln will build a storage bench for his treehouse, in years past they’ve done everything from painting picture frames to reviving an old piece of furniture for their room.

8)        We do something special each day. Again, I spend very little money on these things (other than going out to dinner one night). Some things I’ll do with Lincoln are going to his favorite park, probably some sort of museum visit and … I’m still working on this piece!

That’s the guts of it. I work pretty hard to tailor each camp to the personality and age of the kid – the longer I do this the easier it gets. Its never the same twice, and it’s such a lovely way to get to know them on a deeper level.

Having said all of that, if you decide to do something like this with the special kiddos in your life, do whatever you want! What I do is no magic formula, that’s for sure – it’s just the pattern I’ve adopted over the years.

An important side note: These guys get to do stuff here that they don’t at home, but I’m always careful to stick to the important rules and regs from home. Respecting the parents matters so much. (They also have two daily jobs while they’re here: make your bed and bus your dishes. And whatever else I tell them to do 😊)

I love the traditions we’ve developed, and the memories we make are priceless. I’m missing my Army boy for sure, and my 16yo granddaughter has a BIG life and a job so we are having some coffee dates this year.

I plan, but I hold those plans loosely. The success of the week sometimes depends on my flexibility!

So there you have it, my recipe for Nini Camp. Lincoln comes next week, and I’m mostly ready – he helped me plan this year because he prefers plans over surprises. We won’t spend much time outside, because these days heat wipes me out. We will have various rousing games for sure, including a game date with all 3 great grandparents on Thursday. It will be loud here and the energy level will far exceed the norm. And I will be exhausted when it’s over.

Watch for my updates to get a glimpse into the fun!



PS – watch for appearances of Creepy Baby and Nini toast next week …

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  1. JK Stenger JK Stenger

    Haha. That’s great. Thank you for sharing this and bringing home a real spirit of family love. I enjoy your posts as they are sprinkled with humor and a good sense of not taking yourself too seriously. You and ‘Grandpa’ will be a treasure house of good memories for all these kids later on.
    God bless you.

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