The planned theme of this month’s newsletter was making summer memories with your family – you know, the things you do for fun, relaxation, and family bonding during the slower paced months of summer. As we talked with women and solicited ideas for the newsletter, it became apparent that this is a challenge for many families. Between families with preschool children for whom the summer brings no respite in schedule, large families who are busy with many activities, and the “average” pastor’s family who is heavily involved in the ministry of the local church, devoting time and energy to “fun” in not necessarily a high priority. Depending on your personality, the need for fun as a way to “recharge your batteries” may be at any point on a range of “absolutely essential” to “nonessential.” But nearly all of us want to develop closer ties and take advantage of the spiritual and relational opportunities that family fellowship presents.
So, we’ve included ideas on ways to have family fellowship, whether your style is adventure, low-key times together, or simply being busy as a family like Danelle Nelson’s family. The important thing to remember is that we are all at different stages of life with our families, and different points in our spiritual journey. Beware comparing your summer ambitions with others! The Devil would like nothing better than to trip us up in focusing on our faults and ourselves. Let’s humbly learn from one another and see our summer as a chance to enjoy our family as He intended.
For His glory,
Sandy Hopler and Carol Young
Amy Drage, Columbia, MO:
We go to lots of fun places each summer because of my husband’s job with LT. One favorite summer event is hiking the mountains in Colorado. We invite a few others, take lots of water, and head out for the morning. Not only do we bring back beautiful pictures and memories, but we also get lots of talking done along the way.
Another great memory-builder is when Dad takes the kids backpacking. John takes one of them each Friday with their gear on their backs. They hike for about an hour and then set up camp, have a great meal, and lots of fun together. The children who didn’t go backpacking get to go to garage sales with me on Saturday mornings. They love that also, especially when we find some unusual gadget that they can make into something new and inventive.
This summer we’re taking time after breakfast to work on memorizing Psalm 139. The kids are especially good at memorizing because they’re so young. It’s beautiful to hear young children quote chapters from the Bible. Even four year olds can memorize long sections. It’s a real bonding time for our family.
The kids also enjoy the library’s summer reading program. They have fun prizes that motivate the children to read on their own, or to the other children. It motivates all of us to read more and spend more time at the library.
Christine Custer, Clemson, South Carolina:
Our family has a tradition of "switch bed night" on Friday evenings. The children may sleep in someone else's bed, on the couch, or in a sleeping bag somewhere in the house. This is especially fun on warm summer days when they can set up the tent or place their sleeping bags on the deck or screened-in porch.
The brightness of summer evenings often makes it difficult for the children to calm down before bed. These evenings are a perfect time to read a classic aloud. My all-time favorite is "Anne of Green Gables" because it is so descriptive. The "Little House on the Prairie" series are also great read aloud books too.
You might try learning sign language. Check out a sign language video tape from the library and learn together.
Simple paper-mache’ piñatas are fairly easy to make and require a number of days to complete—a perfect summer project! One year each child made and painted a globe piñata (formed around an inflated balloon) and we saved them for their next birthday party.
Have a mini progressive dinner with one other family. One family hosts the meal at their house and the other family hosts dessert and entertainment/games at their house.
Or make sock or paper bag puppets. Have puppet shows acting out original plays or familiar stories.
Kelly Lewis, Lewis Center, Ohio
When my kids were younger, I found that they did better if they had a little structure to their days. I would make a long list with creative things to do for when they got bored. For example, have a lemonade stand, build a tent with blankets in the basement, make a movie with the video camera, do a puppet show, run through the sprinkler, etc. I think sometimes they get restless and just need a jumpstart to spark their imagination. They would refer to it often. Also, I would have fun incentives for them. I would make lists of goals they could accomplish such as doing 25 sit ups, memorizing verses, doing a special chore, working on multiplication facts, etc. They would earn points for each thing they achieved and then get prizes.
I’ve also done "scavenger hunt lunches." I write clues and hide parts of their lunches around the house and send them to find them all.
With our older kids, we have "DB's" - discipleship breakfasts. I'll take them out one at a time, we'll get into the Word, pick out an area they can be working on, find out what I can be praying for them, ask them if there's anything bugging them that they’d like to talk about, etc.
In general, we try to keep our schedule light so we can kick back and enjoy each other.
Carol Young, Clemson, South Carolina
Because of the distance from our relatives, long car trips have been part of our children’s lives as long as they can remember. When they were younger, they received several surprises on the 10-hour drives. The items were inexpensive (often from yard sales) and passed the time well. Some items were flannel design sets, chenille stems (sold in craft stores and can be bent and twisted into jewelry, cages, and all sorts of things), vinyl cling sets, storybooks, travel versions of games, Polly Pockets, long-lasting candies (think Sugar Daddy suckers!), and Magic Slates. As the kids got older, they enjoyed Mad-Lib books, Adventure in Odyssey tapes, cartoon books, I SPY books, card games, and having their own “theater-size” box of candy to trade with the others.
Quick ideas: hide peanuts in the shell throughout the yard for a peanut hunt; eat lunch under a tree, by a pond, or anywhere other than your kitchen table, or serve a huge strawberry shortcake as the main course for dinner.
Try something different for your family. Go to a rodeo, tour a cave, try canoeing, watch a touring dance troupe or choir from another country, rent a speed boat, go to an observatory or planetarium, attend a college or professional sporting event, participate in events or festivals sponsored by internationals, or go horseback riding.
Family Fun magazine is a great resource for games, crafts, recipes, and activities.
Remember to acknowledge your children’s growing maturity with activities that entrust responsibility too. Set the ground rules and give proper instruction, then let them light a wood fire to cook over, use real tools, create their own recipes, whittle with their own pocketknife, use real bow and arrows, or help them start a business.
Danelle Nelson, Woodstock, Georgia
I received a call last night from Carol Young asking me to write about the fun, relaxing things we do in the summer. Knowing our busy family, I was pretty sure she had the wrong number, but I promised I’d give it a shot!
Our day began with Matthew, our 19-year old son, packing his lunch for work. (He works for his brother Scott’s painting company in the summers to pay for school, 12 hour days, six days a week.) Stephanie, our l7 year old was also leaving early for work. Steve was leaving to put some finishing touches on his message for Sunday, the missions conference coming up next week, and plans for the Ukraine missions trip in July.
Julie, our 21-year-old daughter, is getting married June 28th in our backyard and since we made Whitney’s dress last year for her wedding, it has become a tradition in our family to sew the wedding dress. So Whitney, Julie, and I sewed and ripped apart and laughed and had a ball. In the meantime, Grace (15) and Merry (13) were mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, and trying on their dresses for alterations. Later in the afternoon the girls worked on the favors for the shower Whitney and my good friend Joanne were holding for Julie. Julie was doing wedding things while I was on the phone trying to set up a time for the girls to sell donuts in front of Wal-Mart to make money to go to Ukraine. Whew! Some “fun” day!
That evening the girls went on a shopping trip together and I sat down to write this article about how fun and relaxing our summers are—yeah, right! I couldn’t help but sit there and laugh! Try as I might, I’m afraid it simply isn’t who we are. Most days are just like this one. That’s not to say I don’t think we need to work on this, but it gets much harder to do when the kids are older, have jobs, and get married. The truth is we do a lot together – and in many ways there is nothing more relaxing and more fulfilling than working side by side together. Fun is sometimes all about our attitude and not “doing” events.