Everyday Summer Celebrations

By Christine Bailey

“I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

~ Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

We’re meant to live in seasons, and each season is a gift. If spring is the season of discovery and awakening, summer is about delight, freedom, rejuvenation, play. Yet I’m the first one guilty of just trying to survive summer. I don’t live in New England or Michigan where summer is warm and balmy in the daytime and cool in the evenings, but I did grow up in New Jersey, where summer smelled of chlorine and popsicles from the Good Humor Truck at the community pool. My summers felt like cool grass underfoot, cozy sweatpants and sweatshirts after swimming all day, and chilled pruny skin. After I grew up, I lived 11 years in Texas where people hibernate inside in the summer.

Now, we’re in Tennessee and this is the first summer on our farm. Farm life means summer is a season of work – we face intense heat and humidity exerting our bodies outside for long hours and hustling to farmer’s markets. Still, I’ve been doing my best to soak up those simple joys of summer and make it enjoyable and magical for all of us, as this season should be.

Wherever we live, we can celebrate this last month of summer in some creative ways. Here are a few ideas:

Everyday Family Summer Celebrations

Easy Breezy Dinner

Why heat up the house with an oven in the summer? Change up your dinner routine with a hearty “snack plate” filled with an array of colorful summer foods. Just get out a big serving tray and pile everything on it in groups, put it in the middle of the table, and let everyone serve themselves. It’s so different from how we usually eat that our kids love being able to grab what they want and put it on their plates. Here are some ideas of what to include on your snack plate:

  • Seasonal summer produce:
    • Watermelon (make sure to squeeze some fresh lime juice over it – gamechanger!)
    • Cherries
    • Blueberries
    • Blackberries
    • Cucumbers
    • Peaches
    • Radishes
    • Summer Squash
    • Peas
    • Zucchini
    • Tomatoes
  • Regular hummus, or change it up with summery beet hummus or roasted eggplant hummus
  • Rice crackers or slices of bread or baguette
  • Soft cheese to spread, or cheese slices.
  • Dried fruit such as figs, apricots, or dates.
  • Rolled-up slices of deli turkey with basil leaves inside.
  • Cherry tomatoes.

After dinner, send the kids outside with popsicles for dessert!

Backyard Wonderland

  • It’s not hard or expensive to make your backyard a magical and entertaining place for kids to play all summer. With just a few simple touches, even the smallest outdoor space can be transformed.
  • Twinkle lights. String them from trees, poles, or whatever you have in your yard. It’s changed our summer evenings and has given every day a “celebration” feel.
  • On a day when my girls especially needed to be occupied, I pulled out some string and fabric scraps, and we made a super easy fabric garland (no sewing required!) and hung it from our apple tree. It immediately spruced up the yard, and they love to play under it. The garland also became a backdrop for a summer birthday party.
  • Don’t be afraid of mud. Take a trip to a thrift store or raid your kitchen cabinets and make this easy mud kitchen, and then just spray them down with the hose when they’re done. Summer is for getting dirty!
  • The value of a cheap, blow-up kiddie pool cannot be overstated. Add a waterslide or tarp, a sprinkler to make a fountain over the pool, and you’ve got a little backyard water park. We love letting our girls splash in the pool under the twinkle lights and stars before bed. Afterward, get some bath soap and suds them up at the end, and their bath is done too. And how about this genius idea? At night, wipe down the kiddie pool and turn it into an outdoor lounge area. Then you get a date night in the backyard – bonus!

Stories, Stories, Stories

When kids aren’t consumed with all the school assignments and activities, they can be immersed in a world of stories purely for enjoyment more than during the school year. Take advantage of this time and read and/or listen to as many stories as possible over the summer. Here are some of our favorite ways:

  • Visit your cool, air-conditioned, local library on a particularly scorching summer afternoon. Most kids’ libraries have areas with toys and puzzles in addition to all the books waiting to be discovered. Along with a mound of children’s books, I usually take home a lighthearted summer read for myself from the Juvenile Literature section.
  • Set your kids up outside on a blanket or inside under a blanket fort with some delightful children’s podcasts. Our current favorites are Sparkle Stories and April Eight, and both release free stories every week through iTunes.

Change Things Up

Whatever you would do inside in other seasons, do outside instead. Read your bedtime stories on the porch with a flashlight. Give your kids a bath in the backyard. Take your laptop or iPad outside for a movie, or project a movie onto a bedsheet. Let them fall asleep on a blanket on the grass next to a campfire.

Because it’s summer. Because in this season, you can. Because we only have so many summers left with our children at home. And everyday life is a gift worth celebrating.