Arranging the Pieces… Summer brings old and new adventures together

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By Tabitha Bozeman

Summer is the season of swimming, popsicles and a tripled grocery bill. The kids are out of school and every parent’s challenge is to keep them busy, educated, entertained, un-sunburned and from devouring two weeks’ worth of snacks in two days. 

To accomplish these goals, my husband and I team up every summer. He is officially out of school for summer, but there are always some extracurricular and professional developments that pop up. I teach all summer, so making sure our girls have something to do is always an exercise in scheduling, intentional downtime and creativity.

In addition to our usual family-brainstormed Summer Bucket List, this year  we created a Gadsden/Etowah County-specific Summer Scavenger Hunt. It includes activities such as “Find three Stars,” “Find the oldest memorial at three different cemeteries and pick up any litter while there” and “Take pictures of a goose, an egret and a heron.” We will also be on the lookout for three different boat docks, three different city halls, three Mexican restaurants, three trains and so on. Why three categories? For us, it is because we have three girls. Each of them must identify a different example. But that number can be adjusted, of course.

For our bucket list, there were new activities and old favorites to add for this year. I’m most excited about the swan and duck-shaped paddle boats, which brings me to a discussion I recently  had with a friend about if it is “paddle boat” or “pedal boat.” It turns out that both are correct. I have always said “paddle” because the part of the boat that moves in the water is, in fact, a paddle like the big steam-powered paddle river boat we used to have in Gadsden. It is also correct to call these “pedal” boats because of the action of the boat’s user. As I discussed this matter with a third person, she pointed out that “pipe cleaners” are now called “fuzzy sticks.” It’s just another instance of the description shifting from the structure or purpose of the items to the use or identifying characteristics people engage with or see. Language is always evolving.

Back to the topic at hand. I think I am more excited about the paddle boats than my children are, but after they try the boats, I think they’ll enjoy them as much as I remember enjoying them as a child. Big thanks goes to the City of Gadsden for this new entry on our Summer Bucket List!

We also have mini-golf, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, Noccalula Falls Park and Mars Ice on our list. We’ll more than likely visit many of the places on our list more than once.

These are easy and obvious activities for our area, so why create the list (which comes complete with adorable graphics, if I do say so myself)?

The summer goes by so quickly, and our schedules can go from “nothing to do” to “can’t stop and breathe” so fast that it can be hard at the end of the summer (especially for kids) to feel like they had opportunities to enjoy the summer things they think about and wait for all year long. Making these lists with them helps them focus on the fun they will have and gives them something tangible to measure throughout this ever-shorter holiday season. It also allows me to intentionally balance a full-time teaching schedule with their summer break, working in fun mini activities in addition to any longer vacations we have.

Something else these lists do is force us to re-examine our hometown and acknowledge all the positive, fun and exciting things there are here. It is so easy to become blind to what we see every day, when – as my husband and I talked about the other day – there are many sights and sounds and activities that we’d think are really cool if we were visiting from out of town: public artworks, live music, art museums, libraries, petting zoos, paddle boats, waterfall hikes, fishing, swimming, mini-golf, a children’s museum and so much more right here in our own front yard!

We are kicking off our bucket list this week by roasting marshmallows in our backyard, and maybe have the sundae bar/family movie night the girls enjoy. I’d love to hear what plans you have for making the most of your summer. If you are interested in a copy of the Summer Bucket List and Summer Scavenger Hunt for Gadsden/Etowah County we created, let me know and I will happily email it to you. Stay hydrated, stay cool and have fun this summer!

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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