Summer happiness: seven fun things to do on the cheap - MetroFamily Magazine
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Summer happiness: seven fun things to do on the cheap

by Callie Collins

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Oklahoma City family fun happens in the trenches of parenthood.

I know those trenches well and you probably do too. They're full of grass clippings this time of  year, muddy from too many water balloon fights and our kids find the earthworms, then no one wants your spaghetti for dinner. 

We're right here, watching it all happen, soaking it all in, mopping it all up.

Mom bloggers everywhere are talking about the essential life questions this week, it seems. Summer brings a looser schedule for some, routines change and we're all looking for the next big grin, you know, the snapshot smile, watermelon-dripping-off-your-elbows joy. 

Are you as happy as your child?, the internet queries. Is your child as happy as he or she should be?, it nags. 

Happiness and what that means for parents as individuals is a huge question mark. There are so many layers, changed views and definitions that just aren't applicable to everyone. Child care is a huge issue. Time, money, what's possible and we're doing as individuals through it all adds up to a lot of social media fodder.

How we feel away from our children and how spend our time when we're with them is constantly scrutinized. There's the stay-at-home set, the working mom set, the work-from-home set. They all have pros and cons. I've read their debates in the internet's collective comments section for the past decade and I've come to one conclusion: I can only speak for myself. 

What works at my house might not work at yours but here's what makes us happy. Happiness isn't exactly free but none of these activities actually cost much:

  • Fruit pizza: You remember this stuff, right? '90s-era sugar cookie dough that you roll out, bake and slather with whipped topping? What I don't remember is anyone mentioning the sugar content or paying any attention at all to that little printed in bold type about eating raw cookie dough. We're doing that this July 4 and my kids are decorating it with cut fruit. If they eat the unbaked cookie dough, I'm looking the other way this time. 
  • Park equipment: My baby is 18 months and "outside" is his most often-repeated word, along with "down." What he really wants is to go on his baby scooter (mom of the year here, yes, we have a baby scooter) or go swing at the park. The park, in fact, is one of the few totally free venues at which my three sons are happy and self-entertained despite the age difference. 
  • Snow cones: More than ice cream, more than Popsicles, they just really like snow cones. Simple joy. It's worth $4 and a change of clothes per child just to see them enjoy mango syrup on shaved ice. Click here for MetroFamily's list of the Best Snow Cones in OKC.
  • Water play: Summer sizzles and water is wet are the two most obvious statements I can make. Play in the sprinklers. Fill up water balloons. Find the wading pool. Bring out the water pistols that we keep tucked away in closets, bulky as they are, all year long for this purpose. It's just not summer until someone gets soaked and then dries off under the afternoon sun, no need for beach towels. Let the games begin. The water games. 
  • Reading: When I asked Sam, age 9, what he most enjoys about summer, he said "Studying." I said "Huh?" He clarified: "Studying what I want to study. Like, if I want to read about rocks and how they formed under the earth millions of years ago, I can do that. No one is going to tell me what I have to read." True. Click here for a list of local summer reading programs.
  • Summer movies: We have a new tradition of watching a movie together on Thursday nights. Isaac, 4, repeatedly asks if it's Thursday. Every day. You can read more about our own version of #ThrowbackThursday movie night here.
  • Time together: Sam said it. Time. Just time. Sometimes, we play board games or take a walk. Other than that, it's hard to quantify where exactly our time goes in the summer and there is nothing wrong with that. If kids spell love "time," I want them to have plenty of it. Not having to rush for a while, for now, is a good thing. They just want to chill. 

Are we happy? Yes, with the above. 

Any other definitions, I'll leave to sociologists and philosophers and bloggers who ponder and parent from an armchair while their kids play on the iPad.

It's all good. This is summer. 

If you're looking for more ways to keep the summer a happy one, get ideas from MetroFamily's 100 Days of Summer Fun and find our summer guides here. We're at like Day 40 right now and still going strong.

I smell burned sugar which means one of my kids is trying to make s'mores in the microwave, so peace out. Isn't that the true essence of summer anyway? Find your happiness. Mine tastes like marshmallow and chocolate this time of year, just a little scorched. 

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