Large, yellow children- and teen-movers on the highways in the early hours of the morning and again in the mid-afternoon can only mean one thing: School is back in session. And though most parents and children believe that signifies summer's end, technically and calendar-speaking, almost six weeks of summertime remain.
Make use of long hours of daylight and warm temperatures to take a couple of extra trips to the beach, a few more visits to a nearby swimming pool, afternoon playtime in the sprinkler, a Saturday afternoon lemonade stand, a lazy Sunday afternoon of fishing or an early evening picnic in the backyard. But in addition to making the most of the summer days left on the calendar, start the new school year off right with goals and plans for stellar academics and thrilling extracurricular activities.
To add to the fun in August, try out some of the following wacky but authentic holidays, or make up a few new ones for your family to celebrate. Make it an awesome August, and enjoy every minute of family time possible.
National Apple Week - Treat new teachers to juicy red apple snacks, then make an apple treat for the whole family to enjoy.
Peel and core 4 pounds of apples. At this point, adapt the slicing and dicing of the apples according to the ages of children helping with the recipe. Older children can slice and dice with sharper knives, while little ones might help by dicing with a plastic knife after an adult has sliced the apples.
Add the diced apples, ½ cup of brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to a crock pot. Toss with a large spoon to combine.
Add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the crock pot, and cook on low for six hours. Enjoy!
Wiggle Your Toes Day - The end of summer as proclaimed by the calendar is the perfect time to celebrate this holiday. Dig your toes into a sandy beach or splash into a puddle after a rainstorm. Wiggle your bare toes in the cool green grass while sitting on a blanket as the stars come out. Wiggle 10 toes per person on the den floor while dancing to a favorite song, or fill small buckets, one per person, with bath bubbles and wiggle toes and soak feet while watching a movie.
Dinosaur Day - Pick out some animated dinosaur movies to watch (or non-animated ones, if kids are older) and have a movie marathon afternoon. "The Land Before Time" series, featuring Littlefoot and his friends, contains over a dozen movies, and several installments of "Ice Age" feature dinosaurs, sloths and wooly mammoths.
For additional fun, make a batch of chocolate pudding. Spread a thin layer of pudding "mud" onto a jelly-roll-style baking sheet and let the kids use clean, plastic dinosaur toys to make footprints in the mud before becoming extinct.
Traffic Light Anniversary - Work together to make this craft project, and use it as a conversation starter for a new school year. Cover an empty shoe box with black construction paper or wrapping paper; wrap the lid and the box separately so that the box may be opened later. Stand the shoe box on one of the short ends and cut a slit at the opposite short end. Using a bowl or large cup as a pattern, trace onto construction paper a red, yellow and green circle. Cut out the shapes and glue them into place on the shoebox to resemble a traffic light.
For the next several days, encourage family members to write notes of things they want to "stop," like staying up too late on school nights or arguing with siblings. Also encourage them to write notes of things they want to 'go' (continue or start), like making good grades, turning in homework on time or beginning a new hobby. At the end of the week, open the box and read each note aloud, then discuss as a family to welcome and invite the best school year yet.
National Smile Week - Make a large smiling snack for an after-school treat. Carefully unroll a sheet of refrigerated pie crust and lay it flat on a slightly greased baking sheet. Use a knife to cut and remove circles in the dough for eyes and a U-shaped smile cut-out. Toss the removed pieces of dough.
Brush melted butter on the pie crust and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is the desired color brown on the bottom.
Break off pieces of the cooled pie crust and dip into warm applesauce (see the recipe for National Apple Week) or into a powdered-sugar glaze made by stirring a small amount of milk into a cup of powdered sugar. While snacking, talk about things that make you smile.
Keep smiling throughout the month of August. Find ways to create enjoyable, happy family activities that will keep you smiling as the days shorten and the temperatures cool, albeit ever so slightly. Be on the lookout for celebratory moments like good grades, the completion of that first big school project, a new coworker or completed chores. Just keep smiling, be happy, and enjoy time with family members in the days ahead.
Statesboro native Julie Bland Lavender is married to David Lavender and enjoys celebrating with children Jeremy, Jenifer, Jeb Daniel and Jessica.