Friday, May 27, 2011

Successful ‘Summer Manifesto’ returns to help us savor simple pleasures

As I was tucking our 5-year-old son into bed a few nights ago, he looked me squarely in the eyes and declared, “Mom, we need to make our summer list. When will we do it?” Before I could answer him, he announced, “We never had balloons on a picnic last year, so we need to put that on our list. And camping should be on the list, too.” He rattled off a few more ideas as I tried to slip out the door.

It surprised me that the boy who can never remember where his dirty socks go should so passionately recall last year’s summer list, which we dubbed our “Summer Manifesto.” What began as simple way to ensure we were making the most of our summer months has already become a fixture in our household. Clearly, our children were invested in last year’s list and already have very specific ideas about ways to spend our time this summer.

After a little family brainstorming, we decided we’ll repeat some of last year’s highlights: having a water gun fight, flying kites, grilling peaches, roasting marshmallows in the our fire pit and going to the lake. We’ll also tackle a few activities that we didn’t manage to accomplish last year. Namely, camping in the back yard and making red popsicles. Along with these activities, we’ve added some new ones to our summer list.

At the top of my husband’s summer priorities is building a playhouse for our children. Though it’s a major undertaking that will require a significant amount of time and energy to complete, he’s anxious to start the project. He’s been gathering supplies reclaimed from various sources and has already been “building the structure in his mind.” While he’s thinking about building the structure, I’m dreaming about what color to paint the shutters on the playhouse and how wide to make the front porch.

Not surprisingly, playhouse chatter has been contagious, and our oldest daughter is already dreaming about a space to host sleepovers and make mud pies. A water balloon fight, an afternoon family hike, and oddly enough, gathering turkey feathers are her other contributions to the summer list.

Of course, we’ve added “balloons on a picnic” for our 5-year-old and “catch things with our butterfly nets.” (He’s hoping to net himself a bird.) Riding bikes, getting the privilege of staying with Grandma and Grandpa (where he wants to take a dip in the city pool) and gathering firewood are our 3-year-old’s contributions to the list.

My own summer aspirations center on learning a few new skills. I hope to make my own chamomile tea, become more adept at succession planting, and learn how to prepare fried zucchini blossoms. I’d also like to hunt for wild mushrooms and can my own applesauce, neither of which I have done before.

Like last year, our list largely involves simple pleasures that we can experience together and that cost very little. By declaring what we hope to do this summer, and posting our list in place where we see it often, we can be intentional with our time and money. Plus, doing things like hiking together and hanging around our back yard fire pit create a vacation-like feeling without us ever having to venture far from home.

Make the most of your summer by taking the time to make your own list, either on your own or with your family. You’ll be surprised to find how quickly you start realigning your priorities so that you can accomplish what’s on your list. And in the process, you’ll make many sweet summer memories.

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