When I found out I was expecting my second child in the fall of 2012, I was ecstatic: for our family to grow, for our daughter to have a sibling, and selfishly, for a maternity leave that would sync perfectly with summer.
I’d be able to spend a good amount of time outdoors with my kids. We would go to the pool, play at parks, lounge on the deck, take lots of walks. It would be just like when I was a kid on summer break — except for the fact that I would have two little people to take along with me.
Fast-forward nine months. Our baby girl arrived in early June 2013, and as luck would have it, my leave extended right through Labor Day — I’d be heading back to work the same day many kids would head back to school. It truly was a summer vacation.
I gave myself permission to just be for those first few weeks after her arrival, recovering at home and at the cabin as our family of four settled into a new rhythm. It wasn’t long, though, before I began to feel the itch to get out and enjoy the season. I felt great, our baby was content, and with my husband back to work, our then 2-and-a-half-year-old needed ways to expend her energy.
So with her help, we created our first-ever “Summer of Fun” list and posted it on our refrigerator. The goal wasn’t to always be on the go, but rather to have options for outdoor entertainment that were easily accessible and low pressure.
The list included things like “lie in the grass and watch the clouds,” “visit a splash pad,” and “get ice cream at the Village Scoop.” We included visits to various parks and pools near our home, running through the sprinkler, and going to the farmers’ market.
Our more ambitious additions included a trip to the Minnesota Zoo and participating in the turtle races in Longville, Minn., the locally dubbed turtle-racing capital of the world (where we spend many of our summer weekends).
We crossed all but two items off our list and had a blast that summer, one of my most memorable to date. Even better, when it was time to head back to work, I felt oddly energized despite having a 3-month-old.
Creating a Summer of Fun agenda is now a family tradition, and as our girls grow, our options are expanding and getting more adventurous. This year’s to-dos include bike rides (with the kids on their own bikes!), attempting to water-ski, and hiking in nearby state parks.
We have to be practical about what we can realistically fit in, but in past years we’ve done a pretty good job of making the most of this fleeting season. It’s a reminder that we don’t have to travel halfway around the world for awe-inspiring adventure. Novel experiences are right outside our front door; we just need to be willing to see them and get out there.
This issue of Experience Life is about finding those everyday adventures and stepping outside our comfort zones. Because as behavioral scientist and adventurer Jon Levy puts it in “Seize the Day” , “Life is more interesting and engaging when we say yes to things — even when they make us feel unsettled.”