Christmas cousins


After almost two weeks of hacking up a lung, I am finally able to carry on a conversation without coughing for five minutes. I sucked it up for Thanksgiving, but then was out for a few days with a nasty cold. I slept. Watched 8 eps of Gilmore Girls (Season 3). And slept.

I struggled through work. Case in point: I locked my work cell phone in a cabinet and then proceeded to instant message co-w0rkers asking if they’d seen my phone.

I was relieved when Friday rolled around for two reasons: I could sleep without coughing myself awake and I was going out of town.

The out of town part was why I was glad to be over my sickness. I needed to go out of town.

About a month ago, a cousin texted me asking if I would come out West and watch her kids. I replied with an enthusiastic Yes! and details were soon worked out via phone and text.

The plan was for me to come on Friday and stay till Sunday. My cousin’s middle son had a hockey tourney and needed to be schlepped to and from the rink and my cousin and cousin-in-law had set plans to be out of town that weekend. On Tuesday, I reassured my cousin that my cold was over and I could still come. Pointing my car West on Friday after work, I plugged in my iPhone to guide me to the J family house. With my tunes blasting, I made my way over state lines in record time. Well, not really because the roads were a tad icy and it was dark. Although I still managed to pass other cars on 2-lane roads (I forgot how scary that is in the winter….and the dark).

I called my cousin as I was pulling into her town, one I had only visited once back when I was in high school. She guided me into their neighborhood and greeted me at the door. Soon, three kids came running out to say hi and give hugs, and my cousin-in-law and his Movember stache said hello. The J family was about to eat tacos, so I stood in the kitchen and chatted (I ate fast food on my way). The boys’ antics proved they were a bit excited to have me hang with them for the weekend. At the family reunion this past summer, Cousin B’s son was pretending to forget my name and called me “Muggle.” Of course, the J family boys thought it was great and apparently still do — it was my name all weekend — starting on Friday at dinner.

We caught up on how everyone was doing and started talking about the weekend schedule. I went into nanny mode and asked all the questions necessary to survive. My cousin’s oldest and only daughter was by my side to offer any answers to questions I forgot to ask her mom. I haven’t babysat her since she was 5, so it was nice to know she could give directions to the rink, work the TV, and make her own eggs for breakfast.

On Saturday, the boys ran around the house, played Air Hockey, watched Sons of Guns, and talked about what boys talk about. The girl painted her nails after some Pinterest inspiration, talked with me, and Netflixed The Office. When it was time to go to the rink, everyone piled in my car, and the kids directed me through their town. Right on time, we tried to walk as fast as possible over the snowy parking lot in the freezing temps. Halfway to the door, carrying his own hockey bag, Middle Boy said, “Oh no!” All of us stopped mid-shiver and said, “What?!” He was staring at his feet, looked up and said, “I”m wearing my slippers!” Stifling a laugh, the Girl and I told him to keep walking. Middle Boy insisted on going back home to get his shoes. I told him that was not an option. He had two minutes to get inside or else he’d be late. Absolutely mortified, he kept telling me he couldn’t go inside. The Girl, thinking on her feet, said, “What if you switch shoes with Megan?” I looked at my shoes, formerly my running shoes, and said “We can switch.” Middle Boy was pretty sure they would fit, and I told him, “Great. Let’s go inside.” Frozen on the spot he firmly told me, “NO! We have to trade right now!” I protested because of the below zero temperature, but the look on his face told me I wouldn’t win the battle. So, right there in the middle of the parking lot, we traded shoes. I put on his comfy slippers and he pushed his feet into my tiny Mizuno’s. He walked into the rink, found his locker room, and the other kids and I jumped back in the car so I could get my Ugg-like boots and grab Middle Boy his own shoes!

Back at the rink, the shoe fiasco behind us, we found some seats and cheered on Middle Boy on the blue line. The opposing team was filled with boys that looked like men. There were after-whistle hits, an elbowing that only resulted in a 2 minute minor, and a goal that was totally kicked in with a skate. Needless to say, Middle Boy’s team was unfairly matched and the reffing was less than stellar. With the loss, we left the rink, ready to return on Sunday for the next game.

The kids found the couch again and turned on The Office. I ordered two large pizzas (seriously, they were hungry) and baked cut out cookies. The pizza was gone before the boxes were even opened. The Office was back on. Kids came in and out of the kitchen – checking on the cookie progress. I announced that frosting was ready to be frosted on and Little Boy bounced out to help. He wanted to mix frosting colors and put on every single sprinkle imaginable. The cookie swam in frosting that was covered with massive sprinkles of sugar. Middle Boy and Girl came out for cookie frosting and taste-testing. The kids approved and Middle Boy Instagrammed his cookie.

Bed time was strictly enforced. Little Boy had woken up at 5 am! Middle Boy needed to be up at 6:15 (6:20 originally but 6:15 — “5 minutes for the hair.”) Girl and I had stayed up late on Friday watching The Office, so she was tired. Once the boys were in bed, I moved Elfie (Elf on the Shelf) to his new spot for the night. With the remaining baking flour in the canister, I poured it on the counter so Elfie could do some snow angels. Girl came up to help me and gave me the go-ahead to snip the thread tying Elfie’s hands together. He couldn’t do snow angels with his hands tied! Little Boy’s childhood imagination is still strong, and I couldn’t disappoint him. Elfie was an important responsibility of mine.

Sunday morning at 5:35 my alarm buzzed. I rolled out of bed, showered, and got ready. At 6:15, I woke Middle Boy up. I whipped up some eggs for him. He pulled his gear together. We left at 6:40. I put his two sticks in my trunk; he carried his bag out. I checked his feet and reminded him to put on shoes. He said, “Oh, thanks. I almost wore these again!” I rolled my eyes and told him that would not be good.

We talked a bit on the drive to the rink. He was one of the first kids to arrive. And I was rather proud of my timing – getting him there 5 minutes early. I made sure he found the correct locker room and then headed upstairs for a chair. Forcing myself to stay awake, I was scanning through e-mails when I heard Middle Boy come up and say, “Um, I think I forgot my jerseys…” My head jerked up and I said, “Whuuut?” Middle Boy’s expression told me he was not kidding.

Believe me, I double checked.

“I asked you if you packed everything in your bag and you said, ‘yes.'”

“I know. I thought I had it…”

“Oh, Boy. Ok, I’ll go back.”

“Sorry!”

“It’s ok…at least we got here early.”

I made sure I knew where the jerseys were drying at the house and drove there. Back to the house. Girl and Little Boy were still sleeping. After all, it was only 7:15.

When I got back to the rink, Middle Boy’s coach was in the hallway waiting for the jersey. Back upstairs I went to wait for the game to start. That’s when my cousin and cousin-in-law walked in. They drove back early to catch the game. My cousin asked how the kids behaved and how everything went. I raved about the kids and then filled her in on the forgotten jerseys. We watched Middle Boy’s team win their game. He had a solid game and made smart plays on the blue line. My cousin and I went back to the house to wake up the other kids. Girl was watching TV but promised she’d get ready in a snap. Little Boy was playing NHL 13 and wearing his PJs. He asked me, “Did you see Elfie?!” I told him I had. He said, “He’s making a snow angel!”

Upstairs, Little Boy pointed at Elfie and showed his mom. Girl was putting on her shoes and I asked, “Were you up here when Little Boy found Elfie?” Mid-shoe-tie, Girl told me “No, but he came running downstairs and said ‘GIRL, you have to come see Elfie! He moved. He’s in the kitchen and he dumped out the flour and is making a snow angel. And ya know how his hands were tied together? He busted them apart!’ He was really excited about it. It was cute.”

Pleased that I had successfully pulled off Elf on the Shelf, I listened as Little Boy told me all the places he’s found Elfie this year. He was very concerned when his mom almost touched Elfie. I was glad I had played a part in helping prolong his childhood imagination.

I drove everyone, my cousin, Girl, and Little Boy back to the rink. We watched the end of another Pee Wee game and then I said my goodbyes to everyone and hit the road.

Just like that, my weekend with the J family was over. I shook my head at the craziness of the less-than 24 hours I had alone with the kids. Never a dull moment. I can’t believe how old Girl, Middle Boy, and Little Boy are getting. And I’m so glad I had a chance to hang out with them. I remember when their aunts would stay with me when my parents went away on weekends. There’s something really special about a cousin babysitting.

Now, more than ever, I take these chances whenever I can. Opportunities to see cousins and family are rare these days. We no longer have Grandma or Grandma Great (as she was known to cousin’s kids) to visit and pull us together.

So, I’ll take these crazy weekends any time I can get. Even if it means missing shoes, forgotten jerseys, and Christmas elves.

It’s the time spent together at Christmas with cousins. Christmas cousins.

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