A Summer Fun To-Do List



I've said it already, but I'll say it again, I feel like this year it's more important than ever to make good use of the summer.  I don't know about you, but the last three months have really worn me down.  it feels like the world is alternately going insane or falling apart.  For every disappointment and stress that I've felt, I'm sure my kids have had their own version of it, despite how hard I've tried to shield them from things.

So I want summer to be a break from all that.  I want to try not to allow the things that we can't do to discourage me from doing the things we can do.  I want all the summer memories, and maybe the fact that some of the memories will be different will just make it stand out more for my kids.

So these are a few of the things I'm working into my summer planner.

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Teaching Games

As homeschool students, maybe it's even more important for me to put some effort into teaching them childhood games that remember - where else are they going to get them?  These are a few on my list:

Trampoline Games - You know "crack the egg", "pop the popcorn", "fly high".  Basically torturing an unsuspecting child in the middle by seeing how high you can launch them.  Any others I'm missing?

H.O.R.S.E. - We have a basketball hoop, and it needs more use.  Is there a more fun way to practice spelling?  I remember as a kid sometimes playing E.N.C.Y.C.L.O.P.E.D.I.A. instead of H.O.R.S.E. to make the game last longer!

Catch - Like serious catch, with baseball glove and ball.  I want my kids to be comfortable with the basics of sports, even though I'm about the least sporty person you'll ever meet.  I'm sure it won't take much for my kids to surpass me, but I want them to learn.

Hand Clapping Games - If you are a girl, I'm sure you remember doing hand-clapping games as a kid, right?  I need to brush off that knowledge and teach my kids some (especially my girls - seems like that was mostly a girl thing in my memory anyway?).

I found this article with a bunch more old-school game ideas, so I might add a few more as we go!



Crafts And Activities

I am not the most crafty mom either (ie. not crafty at all), but these activities looked doable, and like they would keep my kids busy for quite a while.


Spray Bottle Sidewalk Paint - I found this recipe here.  There is also a similar squirt-chalk recipe, and I already got cheap squirt bottles to use at Dollar General!

Tic Tac Toe Rocks - On Pinterest I saw smooth rocks painted colorfully with tic-tac-toe symbols on it, along with a little wooden tic-tac-toe board.  Sure you could play tic-tac-toe on paper, but I thought it might be fun to break out the paint and make a board like that with the kids.

Homemade Bouncy Balls - This recipe looked really interesting - they are not like true bouncy balls, but this would be an interesting science experiment to try this summer.

Ice Cream Playdough - This ice cream/frosting play dough recipe looks exciting.  It looks like really ice cream!  And it's edible, so if Georgie tries to eat it I won't have to worry.

Puffy Paint Ice Cream Cones - My kids would have so much fun with this puffy paint picture project.

Homemade Bubbles  - I saw this fun idea for homemade bubbles in a drink dispenser - this would honestly keep my kids busy all day!

Glow Sticks In The Kiddie Pool - Every summer I get a kiddie pool, which is always a winner for any hot days we have at home - but I really like the idea of putting some glow stick in the water once it starts to get dark!

Make Bird Feeders - I'm thinking the toilet-paper-roll variety.  You know, you roll them in peanut butter and bird seed and tie a string through it.  Keeping it simple.

Treasure Hunt - I found these cute treasure hunt printables, and I think it would be fun to buy some candy and make the kids search for it one day.  It would be super simple and cheap, but I know my kids, they'll probably talk about it for the rest of the summer.

Origami "Fortune Teller" With Boredom Busters - There are directions to make one here, and this boredom buster list gave me some ideas.  This would be our go-to for the inevitable "I'm bored".  The rule might be that my kids have to do whatever they get, even if it's a chore!

Reading Challenge - We are doing our library's reading challenge, but I also challenged my big kids that they would get a little prize for each set of five books that they read.  They've been working hard to get their prizes!

Bible Memory Verse Challenge - This one is still in the works, but I'm thinking of coming up with a chart, and for each set of five verses that they memorize, they'll earn some special treat or prize.  I have memory verse cards they can work off of, and some fun Bible memory verse apps I found.




Out Of The House

I still am trying to plan a few days to get out of the house, even though we are kind of limited on where we can go.  These were a few ideas.

Nature Hikes - We are lucky enough to live down the road from a state park, so we are going to work in regular nature hikes.  my kids love hiking in the summer especially and looking at all the mountain plants and flowers!  Gwen requested we bring notebooks next time for recording our observations, so that's what we will do.

Play In A Creek - I know a little picnic spot with a creek, but we haven't been there in ages.  I'm putting a day for wading in the creek on our calendar.

Drive In Movie - This is a "maybe", but even though our theaters are all still closed, I heard that some drive-in theaters are open.  Maybe this is the year to give it a try?

Swimming - I really want to try to go swimming at least once this summer (aside from the fact that pools are requiring masks only while walking to the pool, but not at any other time...honestly, what is even the point? These mask rules are so often nonsensical.)

Park Days - I had grand plans for a million park days this summer, but I think we're going to trim down and only go every couple weeks.  Maybe I'm just turning into a home body with all the weirdness out there?  But the kids are park-deprived, so we will definitely make an effort to visit a few of our favorites!

Historical Sites - There are a couple historical sites in our state that I really wanted to visit in the spring, then everything shut down.  We are going to try to make a day trip or weekend trip out of them this summer instead!  Possibly in August, so we can count them as days for next school year.

Fishing - I should also mention that we plan to squeeze a few more fishing days in this summer!  We just don't know where yet.  Maybe someday we'll actually catch a fish.

Stargazing - We finally got our big telescope set up, and we are ready to schedule a summer star-gazing night!  We go somewhere away from all houses, usually with candy or Sonic slushes in tow, and see what we can see.



At Home

Porch Camping - We do this every year, and it's always a highlight.  Derek will set up our tent on the porch, complete with air mattresses and sleeping bags, and we all sleep out there at least one night.  We usually leave it up a couple extra days too, and the kids play or read out there.

Trampoline Sleepover - Derek suggested that he might string some battery-operated lights on the net around our trampoline, and I was thinking we could let the kids have a sleepover out there (one of us will sleep out there with them).  Will we sleep well?  Probably not, but it will be a fun memory!

Campfire - If our fire ban ever gets lifted, a campfire is the first thing on our to-do-list!  With marshmallows and smores and Rolos, of course.

Regular Game Nights - I want to schedule a weekly or bi-weekly game night, where we play a board game together as a family (with possible the little ones being on our "teams", since they get distracted).

Regular Movie Nights - We want to start introducing the kids to some of our childhood favorites!  We watched Pollyanna the other night, and a John Wayne movie is next one the list.  For movie night we pile in the living room with pillows and blankets, and have cheap pizza and candy while we watch together.



Food Treats

Firework Fruit Kabobs - I was going to make some variety of a red/white/blue fruit Kabob for the 4th of July.

Special Kid Drinks - My first variation is koolaid ice cubes in Sprite, and it made the kids' day!  But I think even lemonade or infused water in the drink dispenser would be a refreshing summer touch.

Popsicles - We might possibly make some homemade popsicles, or I might make my life easy and just give them an otter-pop on every hot afternoon.

Spaghetti Salad and Broccoli Salad - Every summer I try to make one or both of these salads a few times - they are our traditional summer foods in my family.

Mocktails - This is more for me and Derek, but in the summer I like to try new fruity non-alcoholic drink recipes after the kids go to bed!

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That is my full summer list!  I rarely get to every single thing I have planned for the summer, but just having it written out on our calendar motivates me to at least try to make some of these ideas happen. (You can read more about the mechanics of my summer planning here.) It's taken me some time to get organized since we've been back from vacation, so this morning I'm working on mapping out when I want to do all this.  We still have two months of summer fun ahead of us!

Do you plan any activities to make summer feel special?




The Kickoff To Summer



Despite today feeling decidedly fall-like outside, Summer has actually begun!  The start to summer has looked different this year for all of us.  Usually the kickoff to Summer is the library used book sale, which didn't happen this year, and another major annual event, our local homeschool conference which I've enjoyed for the past three years, was also cancelled.  But we've still managed to have some fun and get in the summer spirit anyway!  Here's what we've been up to.



A Bad AirBnB Experience

Alright, you have to allow me to tell this story before I get to the fun stuff.  The last week of May we took off for a road trip to the Gulf Coast!  Coronavirus tensions were higher then, even though it was just a few weeks ago, so we packed up all our food and activities in the van, and planned to drive with as few stops at possible.  I figured when we got there we'd check into our AirBnB and just keep to ourselves and enjoy the beach.

I decided to book an AirBnB since when we were planning our trip it was still questionable whether hotels were open or not.  I figured it would be nice to have a whole house to ourselves anyway.  

We arrived at the house at maybe !0:00 PM local time, and basically got the kids settled and went right to bed.  When we woke up the next day, we started looking around...and realized the house was not really clean.  I guess since you pay a cleaning fee on the AirBnB website, I always just assume they hire a cleaning lady, and I also assumed they'd be extra thorough in cleaning since they had just allowed rentals again after the virus shutdown.  And the "recent reviews" said it was "sparkling clean".

Well.  The host basically admitted to me that all they did was steam mop the floors and clean the bathroom.  There was clutter on top of the cabinets and in all the closets, the closet door was hanging by a hinge and a light fixture was broken, there was dead flies and dust on all the windowsills, thick grime in the dishwasher, grease splattered in the microwave.  Dust on all the shelves.  At first we thought we could maybe do a quick dust job ourselves, but the more we looked around, the more grime we found.  So I requested a refund (only got a partial one), and we decided to look for a hotel instead.  The host was rude about it.  

Here's the kicker guys.  I was going to leave a review to let other people know that the place was not actually clean, but then I realized that your review is not published on AirBnB until or unless the host decides to review you as a guest.  So basically I could write a negative review, and the host could just decide not to publish it.  Which explains why all the available reviews claimed "sparkling clean" when it was clearly not sparkling clean.

Let's just say I don't trust AirBnb anymore.

Update: Did a little more research, and it looks like only the HOST will not be able to see your comments until after they review you?  If so, that's much better.  The wording in the AirBnB emails is confusing.

A Lovely Gulf Coast Vacation Anyway

Once we left the nasty AirBnB, (and once I got antibiotics for an ear/throat infection that developed while we were down there - another long story), we actually had a really wonderful trip!  We enjoyed a really nice hotel in Houston for a great last-minute deal, saw a movie at one of the theaters that was open in Houston, went back to a hotel in Galveston as soon as one opened up, and spent a ton of time at the beach.  I even finally figured out how to handle my curly hair in the humidity on this trip (the trick is to not try to straighten it, and just not care at all).  It was so fun and refreshing to go somewhere that felt almost normal, and I was sorry to go home.  I'll share more pictures and all the details in another post soon.



A Birthday Fishing Trip And Date

One thing that is not cancelled is birthdays!  And mine is in June.  We threw around a few ideas for things to do on my birthday, and we finally settled on going fishing.  I love going fishing, and feel like I could really get into it if we had more time/resources.  As it is now, we almost never catch anything because 1) the fishing is not that amazing in our state unless you have a boat, and 2) we have a bunch of noisy little kids with us every time.  But I think the experience of getting outside and enjoying nature is what makes it fun.  







We still really want to catch a fish sometime though.  I think we are going to try another state park soon that has a smaller pond with fish in it.  The fish in this lake were out the in the deeper water where our lines wouldn't reach.  We saw them jumping a couple times.  Or maybe we should just invest in a pair of waders so we can get out there further.  We will catch a fish someday.

Derek also took me on a birthday date!  We went mini-golfing, and then got take-out and ate it in a park while the sun was going down. It was lovely!



Back To Church And Playgrounds

Another great development is that our church was finally allowed to reopen.  It's different than normal, but it's just so good to be with other believers and worship together in person again.  Online church is fine in a pinch, but I strongly believe it's not a substitute for meeting with other Christians in person.  There's a reason the Bible says not to forsake the gathering together with other believers.  Anyway, that's been a nice bit of pseudo-normalcy lately.

Playgrounds also opened this month, so we've been taking advantage!

Nature Hikes

It's been interesting and kind of fun to me to see how everything being closed has allowed people to get back out into nature a little more.  During the little kids' nap time the other day, I took the big three on a nature hike, and there was so many people on the trail!  But I love how even when nature is a bit more crowded than usual, there is still so much space for peace and quiet and exploring.  Seriously guys, try to get outside more.  Also, state parks are hidden gems.





Summer Planning

Every year I pull out a calendar and a list of things we want to do during the summer, and I start plugging things in.  I have a process, because I want to make sure all of the things we most want to do during the warm months actually happen!  I wrote all about my planning process (including some ideas for stuff to do this year) on Rooted Family if you're interested.

Anyway, I have my list of ideas gathered (it took a little more research this year than normal), and sitting down to plug my ideas into the calendar is on the to-do list today.  I really believe that simple little bits of fun can really make the summer memorable.  I started freezing koolaid ice cubes this week so I could make the kids colorful summer drinks (just add Sprite), and it turned out really well.


The kids were so excited when I ave them the drinks.  The girls adorably clinked their glasses together and said "Cheers!"  And Wyatt actually wrote me a card to thank me for the summer treat.  That whole "the way to a boy's heart is through his stomach" thing is a cliche for a reason.  They made my day.



That's pretty much everything we've been up to lately!  Keep an eye out for a vacation post, coming up soon!  

And don't forget to read my post on planning an epic summer on Rooted, especially if you are discouraged about the summer not feeling normal.  You can still make it memory-filled, even in this weird time.


Shouts And Whispers



9:32 AM.  Some spunky spider threaded a silvery strand from the porch railing to the chair last night, and I'm sitting here looking at it as I try to figure out what I exactly want to write today. The wind is picking up, and I keep watching the thread in the sunlight, thinking surely it will break in the gusts.  But it hasn't.  Spider silk is strong stuff.

I didn't start this trying to draw an analogy here, but its kind of like the country right now isn't it?  Some days the events in the news are so crazy, it feels like the entire American civilization is hanging by a thread.  Maybe one day the last gust of wind, the last crazy event, will break it.  I hope our traditions and values, the things we used to all unite around as nation, will be like that thread, strong enough to string our country together amidst all this chaos, but if not...well, it's a good thing that we believers in Christ don't have to place our hope in men, isn't it?

I'd like to insert something I wrote on Instagram a couple weeks ago, for posterity or for any of you who don't follow me over there.  This is the bottom line to me:

I had some things I wanted to share this week, but all that is on hold for now, as Instagram was dominated yesterday by black squares. I don’t like getting involved in these things online, but this morning all my thoughts and feelings and discouragements coalesced and clarified. So against my initial instinct to swear off social media and just pray and cocoon with my kids (which still might be what I end up doing), I have a few things to say..First, to those putting your hope in social media campaigns, or conversations, or human organizations, or a political party, or violence, to spur on whatever change you think needs to happen, I think you will be disappointed..I like how someone else (@stopandconsider on Instagram) put it: “The spiritual oppression that all men are under is sin, and from that all the physical vestiges of oppression find their power. The only way that is changed is by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for sinful men to reconcile them to God.”.
The solution to ALL our sin, the sins hidden inside us as well as the sins of murder and theft and racism that dominate the news, is CHRIST, crucified to pay the penalty of death that WE deserved. He is risen to conquer death, heal our souls, and give us victory over that sin..
HE is the One who sets us free, changes hard hearts, and brings peace to our sinful souls and broken world. If you don’t know that peace and reconciliation with God - I pray, I beg you, to seek and find that Truth...And one more thing - if we as Christians are trying to participate in this conversation on racism, rule of law, etc, and we leave out the Gospel, I’m sorry but we are doing it wrong. I’ve been personally convicted of this. What eternal good are we doing if we aren’t taking care to point others to Christ through this tragic situation? What lasting change can be made if we don’t preach the Gospel of Christ, which has the true power to change hearts and save eternal souls?.
It’s time to turn our eyes back to Him, our only true Hope amidst the chaos.

The events of the last few weeks have kind of been the last gust of wind for me, to turn my eyes back to what really matters.  These verses in 2 Timothy have been swirling in my brain through the turmoil our nation is facing - reminding me that this is my duty, this is my call:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching...But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2,5

Paul was writing this to Timothy, who was a young pastor.  But when I read those verses to apply them personally, I am reminded to keep my mind on the gospel, and my energy focused on my kids. There are so many voices shouting on social media right now, it's hard to hear anyone, and the limitations of trying to speak the truth online become ever more apparent...but I can preach the Word to my kids.  I can be faithful in my efforts to convince, exhort, rebuke, and train them.  I can show them how to be watchful in all things by showing them what God's Word says about what is happening in the world, I can present examples of how to endure afflictions while giving thanks to God, I can do the work of an evangelist by pointing them to Jesus's atoning work on the cross always.  This is I can fulfill my ministry, the most important one, which has always been to shine the light of Christ in my home to my children, to write the Truth on their hearts.




(A couple photos from my birthday fishing trip last weekend.)

So maybe that's why I have been quiet on social media and my blog lately, because I have been mulling over how I can do better at this.  How I can lead their hearts to Jesus, pray for them better, train them in righteousness, and prepare them to stand firm amidst the persecution they will no doubt face someday.  

I feel more urgency for this than I used to.  I don't want to waste too much time shouting into the noise on social media, when my greatest impact will be whispering truth into the hearts of my children.

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Anyway, I meant for this to be a light, catch-up post, but I guess I needed to get that off my chest first.  You all know I like to have fun, and sharing it all on here is part of the fun for me, so those posts are coming too!  Thanks for hanging around while I sorted through my thoughts over the last month.

And oh yeah, it's summer.  The sun is shining on my legs, and I can practically feel the Vitamin D being manufactured, boosting my mood.  The birds chirp from the trees all around, the table umbrella is spinning as the breeze picks up, and I hear some shouting from inside the house that I should probably go attend to.  Before I close my laptop, I look up again, and that silvery thread connecting the chair and the railing is still dancing in the wind.


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