This may be a low-key summer for our family, vacation-wise.
We have a family wedding in St. Louis next month, and a week's worth of reunions/birthday parties/events surrounding it, but no other major trips planned. We're staggering our vacations so our kids don't have to go to camp every week, and we've got a couple of home-improvement projects planned.
Instead, we're going to try to focus on mini-adventures that just scream "summer" - things we've always wanted to do here but never have, or short trips (that don't cost a lot) that we don't have time for during the school year.
I got the idea the first weekend after school let out, when we went to see a movie -- Kung Fu Panda II -- with some friends.
I still hadn't settled into summer mode, but afterward we walked across the parking lot to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. My kids hadn't been there in awhile - we tend to frequent (frequently) local frozen custard stands - so they were excited by the Dilly Bars, snowstorms (I mean blizzards, sorry counter lady who kept correcting me) and dipped cones.
The restaurant was freezing, so we sat outside. As our children ran around the picnic tables, giggling in between bites/drips, we all felt that first thrill of the freedom that comes with no homework -- as much a relief for parents as it is for kids.
"Movies and ice cream - their first adventure of the summer," my friend remarked.
I have memories of long, lazy summers growing up, playing softball in the field across from our house, having mini-garage sales with the neighborhood kids where we'd all buy each other's junk, playing around the poplar trees in our backyard. We didn't take a lot of vacations, aside from a week in the Ozarks when I was 8. Later, we visited Chicago quite a bit while my brothers were at Northwestern, and went to Colorado when my niece was born, and there was a trip to Washington, D.C., when I was 16. That's about it.
But we had fun going to parish picnics, taking Sunday drives, watching outdoor musicals at the Muny Opera or baseball at Busch Stadium, having cookouts with relatives, playing with sparklers in the front yard on the Fourth of July while my dad and uncles shot off (slightly illegal) fireworks.
I've tried in past years to have my kids keep a diary of their summer activities, so when school started again they'd feel like it didn't just fly by. And so that someday, they'll have memories of long, lazy summers, too.
In reality, I still need to do that for myself.
We've already had several mini-adventures, which I'll write about in coming days. But I'm also taking suggestions.
What are some of your favorite summer adventures?
Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues, social services and the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Her column appears in the paper every other Tuesday. Leave a comment below, contact Julie at 351-5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jawurth.
Photo from Dairy Queen's website