Family times always made for fun

When the children were young and wanted some fun we made as much fun at home as we could. Instead of taking our children someplace we figured out how to have fun at home. We never went to Disney World. We never even took a family trip. When you are a full-time dairy farmer you have responsibilities 365 days a year seven days a week. My husband did hire a replacement to milk when our children graduated from college. We had to be able to get to see those milestones.

When my son received a teepee for his birthday it was an instant opportunity to camp. My husband and son slept in the teepee while our daughter and I took the little orange pup tent that they had received sometime earlier. The teepee survived just fine except that my husband’s feet stuck out the end. The orange nylon tent however succumbed to the heavy dew nearly collapsing on us.

One summer we enjoyed scavenger hunts. The children were just able to read so I had to watch how I worded the clues. It did not matter what I hid for them to find, it was always fun. That activity carried over to the grandchildren. Once I told them about scavenger hunts they wanted to try one.

I planned a scavenger hunt writing clues for them to follow as a group. When I went out to hide them, the children sat inside with strict orders not to peek out of any of the windows. Once I turned them loose the fun was on. They ran from clue to clue taking time to read each of them thoroughly so as not to miss anything. Sometimes I added tricky words to throw them off track so they knew they had to read carefully.

Usually the reward was a treat from the freezer. One of the favorites was the root beer popsicles that I made. Sometimes it was just a glass of lemonade. The real treat was the intergenerational activity itself. They enjoyed the adult attention and had a lot of fun looking for the clues.

The grandchildren enjoyed the activity so much that they asked me to do a scavenger hunt one Easter. Each of them had their own set of clues that time. If you think it wasn’t fun to hide clues for three different hunts at the same time you have another guess coming. All is well that ends well. The children each found their own stash of things without a hitch.

People these days seem to think that children need big rewards. No, children in that respect are no different than they ever were. Attention from the adults in their life often is reward enough. The time you spend with your children and grandchildren means more than anything.

Ask your own children what they remember from their childhood. In fact, think of your own childhood. What are the things that you remember the most? I remember the people who were part of my life. When I think back through the years I remember the visits we had as well as the celebratory meals and picnics. If they went perfectly I probably do not remember them. I remember the occasions when something unusual happened. Maybe this will help those stressed out mothers who want everything to be perfect. Perfect does not spell memorable unless it is a very special occasion.

We had many wonderful picnics at a small cottage near Lake Erie that did not have running water or indoor plumbing. (The owner was a plumber!) A trip across the bridge to the outhouse was not a big deal. There was always plenty of lime to keep it sanitary. I suppose the men had to clean it out each fall, but that did not affect us.

Picnics were impromptu. We never knew what anyone else was bringing. We just packed up what we had and headed out. We never lacked for a variety and we never went hungry. Sometimes it was sandwiches, other times it was hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. In those days the grills were not fancy. They were not gas powered either. We took charcoal along and the men got the fire going so that we could grill. We especially enjoyed it when we grilled because then we could roast marshmallows for dessert.

I do not ever remember making a S’more. We just ate the marshmallows plain. Often we peeled one layer off and roasted the marshmallow again. We broke a stick off a tree, peeled the leaves off, and stuck the marshmallow on the end. I think they have taken all of the fun out of camping with all of the modern inventions. Sticks worked fine for roasting wieners, too.

Near the Fourth of July and again near Labor Day we had sparklers. The sparklers in those days I know had longer sticks and longer parts to sparkle. The adults lit them for us and we ran around the yard twirling and swirling them. When they were close to the end we stuck them in the ground to finish. We never lit off any fireworks of our own. There were not that many open spaces and besides my uncle was the police chief so he had to set a good example since fireworks were illegal.

Fun was just being with the family. I remember my great-grandfather going to the cottage with us. We usually carried a platform rocker out from the porch so that he could be comfortable. I guess old people got old faster in those days. Now that I think about it he was probably my age when we did that! I do not remember my great-grandmother ever going with us. I do remember a couple family picnics in her yard.

Enjoy these hazy, lazy days of summer. All too soon the youngsters will be back in school!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at