It feels like June has flown by. With July lurking just around the bend, I thought I’d look back at this first month of summer to see how we’re doing at making summer feel like summer. I wrote a little about that here, but I thought I’d expand a little bit more on how we’re trying to do this in small ways for these three months.
Putting big things on the calendar. We’re really great at thinking about all the things we’d like to do around town, but if we don’t actually make a list or purchase tickets or save the date on our calendar then it doesn’t always happen. There are so many great summer activities around town that help us mark the season – and in doing that, they also help us mark time with the girls. During intermission at Circus Flora we talk about acts from previous years and compare them to the current show. On the way to Busch Stadium, F wears the same Cardinals baseball cap (with ladybugs on it) that we bought for E at one of her earliest baseball games. When the girls are older and off doing their own things, I hope the sounds of a baseball stadium or the sight of a big red circus tent will bring back strong memories of their summers spent here.
Picking a weekly (or bi-weekly) tradition, and sticking to it. Sometimes I have to fight off the feeling that because M and I work full time, year round, the kids don’t really get a “true” summertime experience – sleeping-in kind of mornings, lazy days at home, long afternoons in the backyard or at the pool. Even though classes are over, they still have to get up and out the door in the morning, and family time happens in the evenings when we still have to make dinner, get lunches together for the next day, and do all the chores that don’t get done over the course of the day. One thing we’re trying is to break up that morning routine a couple of times a week at the garden. Yes, it’s early, and yes, they’d probably also enjoy the extra sleep, but despite the extra effort it takes to make those morning walks happen, while they are happening we’re in a different mode completely. It feels like summer, and they are watching the season unfold right in front of them.
Getting wet as much as possible. Every year we toss around the idea of purchasing a pool pass until we realize that it doesn’t really make sense – we’d never get enough use out of it. But that doesn’t stop us from getting wet, and we try to beat the heat as much as possible at some of the great public fountains and splash gardens around the city. It’s also a great place to meet up with friends and get soaked together. The fountains at Tower Grove Park are our favorite, just steps away from the farmers’ market and live Saturday morning music from KDHX.
Learning doesn’t stop during the summer. There are so many ways to learn and grow around this city, and most of them are free. Weeknights and weekends can easily fill up with errands and chores, but we’re trying to take the long way home as much as possible – past libraries and laboratories.
Reframe the idea of work. It’s VERY easy to let work be the scapegoat, especially in the summer. I try to watch my words, and not complain about long hours in the office that keep me from lounging poolside with a juicy novel and tall glass of lemonade. Because right behind the complaining lurks guilt, and I’m fighting that word off with all my power. Work is important too, and in the summer there are more opportunities to share that with the girls, so we try our best to do just that.
Party on a weeknight. And the biggest (little) thing we do is our Thursday Night Blues get togethers in our front yard. M came up with the idea a few years ago, and they’ve steadily grown in size. Blues City Deli is located on the opposite corner from our house. It’s a really, really popular lunch spot six days a week, but it’s only open for dinner on Thursday nights when they serve up sandwiches and live blues from 6pm-8pm. The place has a very devoted following, and the crowds spill out of the tiny restaurant onto the sidewalks and street. The front door stays open and the music filters out into the neighborhood. It seemed like an easy and natural way to invite friends and neighbors over to our place – the energy on our block is really nice on those nights.
To be honest, I’m not really a natural host. I love the idea of having people over to hang out, but I’m really more of an introvert who likes the quiet and escape of home. I also get really caught up in the idea that our house doesn’t feel like a house made for entertaining. Which is what made this idea such a good one. The house doesn’t have to be super clean, the vibe stays very casual, and with an open invitation out there, we’re never sure if there will be eight of us in the yard or thirty-eight of us (like last night). We put out a bucket of ice and pull out an assortment of drinks from the fridge, open up a few bags of chips, slice up a watermelon, spray on some bug spray, and relax for a few minutes after a long week at work. The girls start in on the sidewalk chalk designs and F tries to convince us that frisbee is a great sport for our miniature lawn.
And then people show up – a steady stream of them – with lawn chairs on their shoulders and a bag of something to share. We don’t really have to do much hosting – everyone comes ready to meet someone new so the whole evening is filled with introductions and conversations on any number of topics. The kids spill out onto the main sidewalk and outline the rules of some game or another. The bucket of ice stays filled with drinks no matter how many people show up – last night one family walked up with the pitcher from their blender filled with freshly made gazpacho that everyone slurped down from plastic cups because we don’t even think of putting out spoons.
The only early prep I do is make ice cream, a rotating selection of flavors each week. Luckily I made four batches this week because we were cleaned out. Few things give me greater joy than watching kids eating beet ice cream!
Last night the skies opened up midway through our gathering, so we moved everything inside. Perhaps you’ve seen my favorite white couch in my living room? The room where all food is banned? And my lovely marble table and those newly recovered chairs? Within five minutes every surface was draped with children – eating BBQ! and Doritos! and beet ice cream! and watermelon! And you know what? It was all good. Even E commented on how chill I was! (Although I did nix the idea of housewide hide-and-seek.)
After everyone leaves, the four of us put everything away. It’s dark and the rains have stopped for a moment and the sink is full of push pop containers and I’m grateful for this little corner of our neighborhood, and for such funny, intelligent friends, and so glad that it’s finally summer.