It is becoming hot and humid here and despite a sweet, late spring, cold snap (hello low 70's!) things are going to be unbearable soon. In the south, we (I) see summer much like people in the north must see winter; extreme weather that is challenging, sometimes keeps you inside and is a major deciding factor in your daily schedule.
When I see blog posts and magazine spreads about fireflies and evening picnics outside, I know those are not reflective of our season. The air is still like limp pudding at 10 pm. And where fireflies might be sweet, we have killer mosquitoes. And nothing less than toxic DEET works to bring relief.
Here are 10 things that we do to stay cool and happy in the summer.
1. Eat popsicles for breakfast. No, really. First of all, it is really fun and seems so decadent. But in reality, all I do is keep the freezer stocked with frozen orange juice pops and pass them out each morning. My kids think they are living it up. *see the specks in the popcicle? They are chia seeds - full of omega-3's, protein and fiber!
2. Make friends with a pool owner. Well, this might sound obvious or like I am a jerk. But, you might have many friends who do not even know that you would love to swim in their pool. Offer to watch all the kids, while the other mom does her shopping or takes a nap, and bring watermelon and a fun game or toy and you are in!
3. Move all cooking to the grill. In the summer, if the meal is to be hot, it is cooked outside. Kabobs, pizza, even pancakes and eggs can be cooked on the grill. We have our grill hooked up to the natural gas, so there is never a issue of being out of fuel. We just flip it on and cook on it several times a day. Inside, we make salads galore, gazpacho, veggies and dips, juices and smoothies.
4. Keep a master list of free and cheap summer activities. There are so many summer activities and camps around here that I can not keep track of them. So, I literally keep a list (or file folder) full of them. In the beginning of summer, I rarely need it because we are so jazzed about all that we have going on, but by the end we need some new ideas. I am part of a small home school co op that plans fun things for our kids to do, and we usually continue in the summer. I have schooled friends who do the same thing and even plan their own summer camps. A little bit of organization can make for a fun and action packed summer. Some of our favorites are free bowling, ice skating, free theatre movies, outdoor movies and concerts, flea markets and late afternoon beach trips for a bit of play and dinner before bed.
5. Stock up on sprinklers, water balloons, and kiddie pools. I budget a certain amount of hose time into each week. It is amazing how long my kids love to play outside in the hose. When they were very young, just the idea of being wet was thrilling enough, but now that they are older, their creative games fuel the fun. Kiddie pools become oceans for paper boat battles, dolls have swim parties, complex battles are invented with water balloons and mama can sit on the deck and focus on number 6.
6. Invent your summer 2012 cocktail. I always need to have something I am working on, and a summer cocktail takes on a certain significance for me each summer. Something fun to sip on in the late afternoon before dinner when all is flowing as easily as the water from your hose. For several summers it was freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, Bombay gin, and a sprig of rosemary. Some summers are margarita summers; this might be the year I perfect my sangria. My kids also like fun drinks while they are playing outside. This is the season for curly straws, paper umbrellas, and homemade Orange Julius'.
7. Turn your bathtub into a pool. If you have worn out your welcome at your friends' pools (hopefully it did not have anything to do with number 6) you can always swim in your own bathtub. Bath tubs are great fun when the object of the bath is not to get clean. One of our favorite things to do is to tint the water with food coloring and scent it with essential oils. So, a blue bath with peppermint and big ice cubes becomes an arctic bath. And a green bath with a handful of herb sprigs from the yard is now a swamp bath. Do this at night, turn off the lights and throw glow sticks in the tub. Your kids will be amazed at how beautiful it is - and so will you.
8. Change your rhythm Maybe most families already have a later bedtime in the summer, but you can adjust your rhythm even more. For instance, we tend to go wake up and go to sleep with the sun, which in the summer makes for much longer days. We usually do our outside playing or working in the early morning and late evening. Afternoons are reserved for some downtime, siesta style. So, laying around reading or watching a movie allows the kids to recharge for act two when the sun begins to set.
9. Host indoor movie nights with friends Most of our play dates tend to revolve around the outdoors. However, in the summer, if there is not water involved kids are hot, sweaty and cranky. An alternative idea is to host movie nights. We have done this a few times and it is always great. You can make it super easy and have everyone over after dinner. You, the host, can have popcorn and maybe something a little sweet (this is one of my kids favorite party treats). Kids can watch the movie and then play a bit and all go to bed happy.
10. Freeze things. Turn your freezer into a laboratory. We freeze water into as many shapes as we can and then play with the ice, either outside or in the bathtub. Balloons, milk containers, yogurt containers, and medical gloves make great ice shapes. For extra fun, float items inside. Try flowers, glitter, rocks, cars, plastic animals, ribbons, gold coins, fake jewels, Lego creations and even glow sticks (they are preserved in the freezer even if they have already been activated).