I’ve been a mom for over a decade now. But each year, summer still seems to slip through my hands like sand through one of those sandbox toys my husband runs over while mowing the lawn. There is roughly one month left to make the most of these endless hot, unstructured days. I’ve challenged myself to step up my game—the result, a list of family activities that will capitalize on our last weeks of freedom while helping to lead this domestic church from hullabaloo to greater holiness. Join us as we
1. MEMORIZE A WHOLE BIBLE PASSAGE
This sounds REALLY hard, especially if you’re Catholic! But remember you have a whole month. My family and I are presently working on the Magnificat, (Luke 1, 46-55) which I highly recommend, but you can go with a shorter one depending on the age of your kids. Surprisingly, the younger they are, the quicker they seem to memorize the thing, much to this old lady’s embarrassment. Print out the passage, so everyone has a copy and recite at the end of daily family prayer. This just requires consistency. Before long, you’ll all feel like Biblical scholars.
2. GO ON A MINI PILGRIMAGE TO ANOTHER PARISH CHURCH
Pick a church you’ve never visited and go to mass. If you love your parish and don’t want to miss out on your pastor’s Sunday sermon, good for you, but visit for a daily mass. If you’re feeling especially brave, pick one that’s more than 20 minutes away. Call the parish office to find out the times and ask if there is anyone who would be willing to talk to the kids about the history of the church or the parish’s patron saint. It doesn’t have to be a cathedral, just a new place where they experience the holy liturgy in a new setting. Give yourself time to walk around and appreciate the architecture, the altar or the stained-glass windows.
3. PREPARE A WHOLE MEAL TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
This can sound a lot more fun than it actually is. But I’ve learned that the key to make it run smoothly is to delegate and set aside plenty of time. Another veteran mom told me that it never works if you have more than one kid in the kitchen “helping” at a time. Even the nicest kids will jockey for position. “It’s my turn to stir! I can’t see! He put his foot on MY stool!!!” Don’t fall into this trap. Give each child a particular task from start to finish. “Joey, you’re great with making lists. You take a look at this recipe and decide what we need from the store. Sally, can you get all the ingredients out of the fridge and pantry? Little Knucklehead, you can help me season the chicken.” And don’t forget, you need taste testers. Who wants to taste the spicy Hungarian goulash???? No takers? This is a fun way to get the kids involved while encouraging some family unity. p.s. Don’t leave dad out. Lighting the grille does not count! Just be sure to carve out plenty of time and BE PATIENT. It’s when we are rushing that this activity has the potential to blow up. Set aside time on a slower day, preferably Saturday or Sunday. If things tailspin, invoke St. Lawrence, the patron saint of cooks.
4. DESIGNATE A TOTAL MEDIA-FREE DAY FOR THE LORD
And that means you, mom! Ok, this isn’t as much of a doing as a not doing. No texting, emails, computer games, social media, TV, movies, Netflix. Unplug for the day. The WHOLE day. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about it. Designate the day for God. Spend it in nature. Yes, your backyard counts. Too hot? Go old school and play board games, read to your kids, go swimming, take in a minor-league baseball game, head to the library and leisurely peruse the shelves. Spend time together without relying on the crutch of technology.
5. CHOOSE A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY AND TAKE PART
This can require a little research if you’re not tapped into your parish community. Also, how do you involve a two-year-old in a charitable endeavor? Sometimes just witnessing your dedication is enough for the little ones. My husband always reminisces about what an impact it was to see his dad’s involvement with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It’s a great example to see parents roll up their sleeves and help. Visit an area nursing home and talk with some of the residents. Ask if you can read to them? If your kids are extroverts, have them perform their Bible passage or a song. Help a priest with mass at a nursing care facility. Often residents need to be wheeled to and from the chapel. Pass out song sheets. Participate along with them. And if that is all too much effort, make “blessing bags.” Our kids do it at their school around the major holidays. You fill gallon-sized Ziplock bags with essential items that are helpful to the homeless. Items include granola bars and other hearty snacks, trial-sized toiletries, water bottles, socks, wet wipes, gum, mints, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand lotion, etc. If you’re feeling creative, include your family’s Bible passage you are committing to memory. Keep them in a cool place in your car and hand them out to those who are on the street corners. Finally, seize the moment to talk to your children about the dignity of every human being.
6. AND ABOVE ALL, PRAY TOGETHER!
Say the rosary as a family once a week. If you can’t swing that, start with a decade. ALWAYS set aside time for morning and evening family prayer. It’s our custom that each family member offers at least one prayer of thanksgiving and one intercessory prayer for a loved one. Usually, it’s a whole lot more than one! Sit back and marvel at your kids’ prayers. I only wish I’d been writing them down over the years. What a beautiful way to worship while growing in intimacy with your whole family.
God be with you in your quest to make your last summer hurrah just a bit more holy!