I woke up this morning to sunshine, a house full of kids and dogs, and the State Police at the neighbor’s house informing them that their adult daughter had been killed in a car accident overnight. I am literally sick over their loss. You can trust that when she got in that car, it never occurred to her that she wouldn’t see her family again. I can’t undo this tragedy, but in the family’s honor, I will put this out there today: Make memories with your kids, because you just never know when it is going to be your last day.
Whether it’s, “Remember when I fell in the creek?” or “Do you remember that show we went to?” kids should have meaningful memories to hold on to that revolve around their parents love and involvement. Because, sometimes memories are the only thing left.
Let’s make some memories this summer, instead of getting to mid-August and saying, “Summer is over, school is starting, and we didn’t do anything.”
Free: The Bike Trail – with access points in Oil City, Franklin, and Emlenton, the bike trail is a paved path along the river. It can be walked, run, biked, or skated. Dogs on leashes are acceptable. Family fun, free of charge, physical exercise, with the chance to see wildlife, fishermen, and other kids. Teach your kid to ride a bike.
Free: Two Mile Run County Park – take a picnic and some outdoor activities like bikes, or Bocchi, and do the outdoors. For a fee or by buying the season pass, your kids can swim in the lake. Canoes, paddle boats and aqua cycle available for rent – teach your child water safety, boat safety, and how to paddle/steer.
Free: Cook Forest State Park – endless hiking, climb a fire tower, picnic by the river and watch the canoes float down. For a fee, swim in the public pool, rent a canoe, ride Go Karts, play miniature golf. For a fee, visit the Deer Farm.
Free: Go to garage sales. Introduce your children to bargains and antiques.
Free: Get online and look for festivals in our area. Most are free to walk around. On the same sites, look for “Music in the Park” events. Most are free, and you introduce your children to various music genres.
Free: Check out events at the Venango County 4-H Fairgrounds. Some shows are absolutely free to attend, and barrel racing is something everyone should see live at least once.
Free or small charge: Look for “Field days” advertised in papers and online. These are outdoor events for kids that can involve fishing, archery, and even target practice. Many give out prizes.
Free: Go to your local library website – many have arts/crafts events and storytelling. Most libraries have a summer reading program. There are library events weekly.
Small charge: We have many fine museums in this area, such as Debence Music Museum in Franklin. Oil Creek State Park in Titusville has a museum that focuses on the oil days, and does have a train ride that requires buying tickets.
Free: Creek walk. Put your kids in their most disgusting, outgrown tennis shoes and take them to the local creek. Walking in cold water, trying not to slip on mossy rocks while looking for crayfish is a favorite activity of children aged 6 to 10.
Free: Hiking in general. If you google Pennsylvania waterfalls, you can find amazing places to go explore.
Free: Take a drive to Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park near Butler/Kittanning. This large lake has a huge group of sailboats on weekends, lots of picnic spots, and a beach to swim at for a small fee.
Free: Playgrounds. Invite the neighbors, the cousins, or the friends.
Small Fee: Miller Sibley Pool in Franklin, Hasson Heights pool in Oil City. Tickets available for the day, or season passes. Hours of fun at affordable prices.
Free: Car shows. All over the place, all of the time. Introduce your kids to the timeless classics, the muscle cars, and the antiques.
Places to check for activity suggestions: Your local Chamber of Commerce, rest stop pamphlets, pamphlets in the lobby of the local hotels.
Reasonable Fee: Barrow Civic Theatre in Franklin. Check their schedule. From bands, to musicals, to plays to ballet, BCT offers exceptional entertainment at truly reasonable ticket prices. I have never seen a disappointing show yet. Introduce your children to the arts.
More Expensive, but Worth It: Living Treasures off of the I-79 Butler/Kittanning exit. My family has been to the Erie, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus zoos, and we enjoy Living Treasures the most. 80% of the animals can be fed. If not hand fed, then from six feet away through PVC pipe. Your kids will not be likely to forget a towering giraffe bending over to take a carrot from their fingers. Seriously, you can feed the giraffes.
More Expensive, but Worth It: Moonlite Theater near Brookville. An old fashioned outdoor drive in theater. A priceless way to show your kids how it used to be. Imagine putting your kids in their pajamas, taking blankets, and watching a movie under the stars. In addition to the brand new movies, Moonlite is doing throw-back Thursdays this summer – movies like Jaws, and Footloose. What an awesome way to introduce your kids to your favorite oldies. Likewise, Starlite theater on Route 8 near Butler is also available, and offers many screens with many choices.
Home activities: Still have albums and a turn table? Cassettes and a player? Have a dance party with your little ones and introduce them to your old favorites. When mine were small, I had a 45 record collection. I would pick an artist, and play several of their songs. When Prince died recently, my 18 and 13 year olds were well aware of who he was, and could sing along with “Purple Rain.”
Finger paint. Playdough. Color. Pajama day. Movie day. Ice cream for breakfast day. Chalk drawing on the sidewalk. Rearrange their room day. Have a garage sale and let them take the money. Spa day – you sit on the floor, give them a cup or warm water, a comb, and your makeup, and let them have at it. You will look ridiculous, but they will be sooooo happy. Moms, go ahead and paint your little guys’ toenails, no matter what anybody says. They are only little once, and they won’t want you to when they are eight! Dads, when working on a project this summer, take your little girl and let her use the screwdriver. And, when she does it well, tell her how competent she is.
Want to create a cheap play station? Instead of throwing your trash in the trash, make it a store. Take every grocery item box, container, prescription bottle, etc. that is empty, clean it out, tape the top shut where necessary, and throw it all into a box or tub. Go to the toy store or dollar store and get a play cash register and play money. Give the kids all of the above and a few bags…boom! Instant grocery store.
Along the same lines, you know those clothes that are stained, don’t fit, and that you’ll never wear again? Make a dress up box for your kids – men’s and women’s, some old shoes, belts, costume jewelry – your kids will play for hours. While you garage sale, pick up cheap scrubs, doctors coats, graduation robes and Halloween costumes. My kids have been dragons, Harry Potter and a hot mama in the space of an hour!
Let your kids get dirty, and I mean filthy dirty. When you put them in the bathtub, instead of shaking your head at the mess, pat yourself on the back – because a filthy child almost always means that an awesome day was had.
Let them take every pillow, every blanket, and every cushion to make a fort under the dining room table. As a matter of fact, serve them a picnic of “finger foods” underneath. Give them flashlights. Let them sleep there. Why not? When you were six, you would have wanted to as well.
And, finally, as you are taking pictures of your kids during all of these adventures, make sure that someone takes some of you too. It would be a shame if someday, your kids were reminiscing about you, looking at pictures of themselves involved in all of the adventures you set up for them, and there were no pictures of you. Make sure that there are pictures of you.
Have a wonderful summer. A family summer. A kid-friendly summer. A memory filled summer.