15 Things to Do to Make the Most Out of Summer

Summer stepped on stage this last week with its warm temps, sunny skies, and expectations of fun. Already, the pace of life has picked up in my world. We’ve been to 14 graduation celebrations and three weddings in the last three weeks!

Since  4-H camp is on the horizon, too, it got me to thinking about things I want to do this summer that could easily get overlooked in the frenzy of fun. Here’s my summer bucket list:

  1. Watch the sunrise. Yes, I know that means getting up at zero-thirty, but there is really no better way to start the day than to see what God paints for us. Grab some coffee and your Bible and start your day with Him and His handiwork. My father, who worked midnight to eight in the morning for years, used to say most of us missed the best part of the day because we slept through the sunrise.
  2. Catch or watch the fireflies. We have a lot of fireflies in our area and there is something magical about the little flickering creatures. They make me smile.
  3. Check out the newest exhibit at the zoo. I am blessed to live near Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, voted number one zoo in the world by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards (2014). They just built a $73 million African Grasslands exhibit. Along with that, elephants have returned to the zoo after a long absence. I can’t wait to see the new additions at our zoo. What’s going on at your local zoo?
  4. Fly a kite. We have a nice little nylon kite collection. Usually, a couple of times a year, our family goes kite flying and our spirits soar along with the kites.
  5. Spend time in nature. Summer should be a time to reconnect with nature. Douse yourself in bug spray and venture into the wild. Take time to marvel at God’s creation. Not a hiker? Getting your hands in the dirt in your own garden will provide a nature fix, too.
  6. Watch fireworks. Summer wouldn’t be summer without watching an explosion of color against the dark summer sky. Fireworks are amazing!
  7. Sneak out in the middle of the night for pancakes. When our kids are at camp, my husband and I love to do this. It feels so decadent and its’ fun.
  8. Make homemade ice cream. Homemade ice cream tastes like summer. Try new flavors or go back to an old favorite. It doesn’t make a difference as you enjoy every spoonful.
  9. Visit a local farmer’s market. Not only are farmer’s markets fun, they offer the freshest produce for excellent prices and allow you to support your local economy.
  10. Surprise someone with an old fashioned picnic. Wouldn’t your spouse be surprised if you showed up at his work with a picnic basket and a blanket? How about a breakfast picnic with your kids? It just spells summer.
  11. Go stargazing. Usually, we have to go outside of the city to get a good look at the stars. There’s nothing like lying on a blanket and soaking up a night sky.
  12. Create some new summer traditions. When our kids were little, we had Park Day, where we spent the whole day going from city park to city park. Another family did family night once a week with each person in the family determining what low or no-cost activity the whole family would do together. For example, they had sleepovers in the family room. Since my family is older now and scattered this summer, I need to put on my creativity hat and come up with a new tradition.
  13. Be a tourist in your own area. Where can you go within a day’s drive? What could you discover? Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a museum or festival near your home.
  14. Find the best_____________. You fill in the blank with a favorite food. One year, our family decided to find the best pizza, so every time we went out to eat, we tried a different pizza place. You could do the same with bakeries, cupcakes, shakes, or hamburgers. Make a rating scale and set your other “scale” to the side.
  15. Read a book on a beach. Oh, you knew it would be on here somewhere, didn’t you? Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do. Summer wouldn’t summer without it.

Well, that’s my summer bucket list. Do any of those sound fun to you? What’s on your list? Let’s share some ideas to make this the best summer ever.

SUMMER LOVIN’

So, you would think that living in the South, we would bemoan the heat and humidity, chug-a-lug sweetened iced tea, and long for fall weather.

Not in my part of Kentucky this year! We’ve had rain (Yay for the corn farmers!) and amazing temperatures (the s’mores fire felt GOOD this 4th of July!).

   Anniversary 002 - Copy It’s been a special summer in lots of ways. We celebrated my parents’ 50th anniversary. We had pictures made of all ten of us, then had a dinner for them at our house, with my aunts and uncles, and my in-laws, who were also at my parents’ wedding. I always think it’s special to tell people that my husband of 30 years was at the wedding of my parents, who have been married 50 years!

2013-06-28 09.02.08 - CopyWe do not take a “big” vacation every year – it’s just hard to work it around work schedules and finances – but this summer, since we are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a mini-vacation to Mississippi. We spent a few days at the beach, then a few days in Natchez, MS, a city that pre-dates New Orleans. Much of the architecture in Natchez was miraculously spared Sherman’s destructive “march to the sea” which decimated many antebellum homes during the Civil War. It was glorious.

2013-06-30 10.19.37Since we’re in a transition period at our house, with one daughter moving home and one daughter getting ready to leave for college, it was a good time to get away. Sometimes you just have to in order to literally FEEL some relaxation in your body and mind!

2013-07-04 19.49.57 - CopyIndependence Day was another great day, this time with my in-laws. My youngest niece, 13, requested that we just have a simple cookout in the backyard of my husband’s parents, and we’ve decided that she’s the family party-planner from now on! Of course, the weather cooperated, the kids of all ages had a great time, and again, we just RESTED. Even a few of the group that had to leave early came BACK in time for the bonfire and s’mores!

So, that’s my theme, I think, for the summer. You can have all kinds of activities going on – some may be stressful – but through it all, you just have to remember who you’re with, why you’re there, and that God tells us throughout scripture to BE STILL and know that HE is GOD.

And the rest will come.

Happy end of summer, everyone!

Fun on the Farm

My daughter tells me that I was spoiled growing up.

Really? I was raised on a dairy farm. I spent steamy summer days tossing bales, shoveling manure, picking rock, chasing cows, cleaning our skunk-hating dog. And I lived in a creaky old house that we shared with a nation of mice and the occasional bat.

You call that spoiled?

Well, let’s see.

I have four brothers and two sisters, plus a cousin who spent many summers with us, so it was easy to throw together a game of softball, farm-rule style. Our ball field was a football-field sized half gravel, half grassy space between a row of pines and a tractor shed. A county road was behind home plate, and the barn hemmed in the outfield. Hitting a ball into the shed was a ground rule double. Over the shed, well, clearly that was a home run. My brothers and cousin rarely hit singles or made outs. That was my job. Someone had to do it, right?

We also had a grove of trees between the barn and my grandparent’s acreage. (Yep, my grandparents lived on the farm with us. More on that later.) We cleared crooked paths through the woods and played chase (tag) on our bikes. Ninety degree turns, slapping branches, and creeping tree roots added dimension to our fun. Skinned knees and broken bikes were badges of honor. In that same grove, we constructed forts, climbed trees, and played night tag on the bike paths.

Nighttime fun didn’t stop there. After the evening milking, we’d often stay outside and play kick-the-can or starlight-moonlight. And then we’d head inside to down heaping bowls of Schwan’s ice cream. (Their chocolate is the best ever.) Our family alone kept Schwan’s in business.

Now on rainy days, softball and chase weren’t the best options, but no worries, we had a hayloft. A heavy rope hung from the barn roof, right in the center of the loft. Well, naturally, we had to use that rope to swing from one end of the loft to the other, with one little caveat: we had to avoid getting eaten by the piranhas in the middle, aka rope tag. So, our arms got a bit scratched up and our hands suffered a little rope burn. We earned those battle scars.

The loft was also home to forts, music stages, and newborn kittens. Even my strapping brothers loved hunting for the mewling babies. The sooner we found them, the sooner we could tame them.

Oftentimes, to take a break from the grueling work and even harder play, we’d venture over to our grandparent’s house just north of the tractor shed. Now Grandma loved to bake, and she lived to feed us. We’d break her heart if we turned down her peanut butter or molasses cookies served with a glass of farm-fresh whole milk. Her pies had homemade crusts that were to die for. And then there was her bread pudding, date-filled oatmeal cookies, brown sugar fudge—-

Oh, excuse me, I digress.

If by some chance Grandma didn’t have anything homemade ready, she’d throw together brown sugar sandwiches. Yes, you heard me right. Just bread (homemade, of course), butter, and brown sugar. My mouth is watering just thinking about it … but that’s all I dare do.

I can’t forget to mention our day-long bike hikes, and the chicken coup we turned into a playhouse, and playing basketball on the former pigpen’s concrete, and swimming at our friends’ lake, jumping off their homemade raft …

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. My daughter was right. Summers on the farm spoiled me.

Wait till you hear what we did during the winter months!

Summer Fun

My childhood summers were filled with cousins, friends, and the skating rink. Even better, since I grew up five miles from Six Flags over Georgia and I had older cousins, I spent much of my summers there. I wanted to grow up and be one of those girls who wore skates and swept trash at Six Flags. Seemed like the perfect job to me since it combined my two favorite things.

Once we moved to Arkansas, I picked peaches, strawberries and blackberries a few times. Peaches are the worst. The fuzz gets all over you and itches like the dickens. Strawberries and blackberries are hard on the knees and back, plus blackberries have thorns. But I got paid for my labor. So I guess compared to Lorna’s childhood, mine was a breeze. Except for the chicken catching incidents. But I’ve already blogged about that.

And I passed it on to my son. Summer is for fun. Our summer kicked off with VBS and I was the craft lady again. So far, he thinks that’s cool. I dread that age when it will embarrass him.

We swam a lot and he had friends over. I stayed up until 2:00 and 3:00 AM to meet my August book deadline and learned not to agree to any more summer deadlines. My dad and my husband introduced our son to fishing. He’s hooked and I have a big stinky bass in my freezer that has an appointment with a taxidermist.

We went to Springfield, Missouri where I participated in a multi-author book signing at Barnes & Noble and taught at Ozark Romance Authors Conference. We discovered that the Bass Pro Shop Museum is still closed for re-modeling. It’s been closed for at least two years. But the store was open and they had a live alligator, so my son was happy. We planned to go to Silver Dollar City on the way home, but it was raining. For the 4th consecutive summer, I didn’t get to ride a roller coaster and was much more disppointed than my son. He wanted to get home and go fishing.

This week, he’s gone with my parents to visit relatives. There wasn’t room for me in the car. He went willingly and is having so much fun, he’s not even missing us. I’m not happy about that.

For three days, I’m home alone. Think about how much writing I could be doing, but I’m trying to take a break to avoid burnout. I actually cleaned house today and I really hate cleaning. I’m finally taking time to read a book, so next time we discuss books, I’ll have something to contribute. I’m planning to read three before I start writing again.

But this French guy in my head is bugging me, so we’ll see. He was bugging me last year when I was trying to meet a deadline, so he’s going to have to come out pretty soon. Hmm, maybe I’ll spend the rest of my summer with the French guy. Disclaimer: All of my heroes are based on my husband, even the French guy.