Summer was always a magical time when I was a kid. I remember lazy days of riding my banana seat bike around the neighborhood searching for frogs in the mud and sneaking off to the local candy store. The freedom I experienced as a kid isn’t the same for my own kids. Neighborhoods don’t feel as safe as they used to. But I can still give my boys the magical feeling I experienced.
Despite some people talking about going back to school already, I’m embracing everything summer here!
My Top 10 Favorite Things About Summer
1. Watermelon: Well, it’s not just watermelon but all of the amazing fruits that come into season — blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe. The moment they come into season, I’m literally fill up my fridge to the brim. But watermelon is the most fun to eat. I loved biting into it with the juices dripping down my arms. Of course, as a kid you had to eat around all of those black seeds “way back when,” but then you also got to have watermelon seed spitting contests.
2. Bike Rides: There’s nothing like being able to go on a bike ride with the family. This year, my youngest son was finally big enough to get kicked out the baby bucket seat we had for him and moved him to an attached bike trailer that he “pedals” when he’s feeling like contributing to the ride. As enthusiastic as my kids are about getting out for a ride, their legs never seem to go as long as they wish. But they’ll get there when they’re older!
3. 4th of July: This is my favorite holiday only second to Christmas. For me, 4th of July is about embracing our American heritage and celebrating with our community of friends (including all of our lovely expat friends from across the pond and beyond). There may be things I want to change about the U.S., but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it just the same. For my boys, the sense of community has defined 4th of July as well. Okay, it also includes a lot of glow-in-the-dark sticks, swords and bracelets, but that’s really just an added bonus.
4. Fireworks: Wait, you say. Didn’t you just mention 4th of July? Well, if you live in Chicago, fireworks have absolutely nothing to do with the 4th of July. Navy Pier hosts fireworks two times a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. When I was living downtown, even when I couldn’t see them I would hear the booming like clockwork. Those sounds would transport me to the excitement of the fireworks even when I was stuck inside rocking my newborn. Now my boys are just as excited about seeing the dazzling fireworks as I am and have their own personal favorite ones.
5. Backyard BBQs: For those of you who don’t live with four seasons, perhaps you have backyard BBQs all year round. But for those of us fighting our way through the Polar Vortex, the moment it gets warm, we get outside! Really it’s just an excuse to hang out with friends and let the kids play. But is there really anything better than a relaxed evening with friends?
6. The Color Green: Speaking of the outdoors, summer in Chicagoland is an explosion of green. The decades-old elms, oaks and maples create a ceiling of color along the streets. Last year, our lawn was a lush carpet of green (and I didn’t even water once!) Want to see the blanket of green in my backyard? Check out the video I made for a post about Summer’s FunSuckers. Of course, all of this green also means tons of bugs and mosquitoes, but we’ve got them under control.
7. Outdoor Concerts: We are fortunate enough to live near some pretty amazing outdoor concert venues. As a teen, I lived in upstate New York near the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I got to see the New York City Ballet, Yo-Yo Ma and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all perform on the same stage. Not at the same time, silly! Chicago has Rivinia. Over the years, I’ve gotten to see James Taylor, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chris Botti (one of my favorite jazz artists) play. And that’s not even talking about all of the local events put on by our town. My boys are a bit too rambunctious to make it through a concert… but perhaps next summer they’ll be ready.
8. The Beach: I didn’t grow up with a beach nearby. But I am sure thankful to be so close to Lake Michigan now. Last year we were banned from playing at the beach because of my son’s allergies. He’s horribly allergic to mold and sand can breed it because of the water table. But we got the green light this year and am happy to pop down there for a quick afternoon of making sand castles and splashing in the water.
9. Bonfires: Oh my goodness how I love a good fire. Having a roaring fire in the fireplace during the winter is heavenly. But having an outside bonfire is absolutely define. As a teen, my family would build a fire down at the lakeside near our lake house. We would talk the night away. And when we had guests, it was even better because then we got to hear their entertaining stories as well. From my boys perspective, bonfires mean only one thing…. s’mores!
10. Fireflies: When I was a little girl, my parents would let us stay up late to capture fireflies. We would get an empty glass jar (kids were allowed to play with glass back then) and poke holes in the metal top. (Kids were allowed to play with metal back then, too.) My brother and I would try to collect as many fireflies as we could. I always wished I could keep them and read by their light at night. We would let them go, but there was always one that didn’t fly away. Now my kids use these fun plastic nature explorer kits from Backyard Safari. But either way, the magic of those fireflies still remain.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT SUMMER?