splash pads and agua fresca

Labor Day falls at such a bizarre time of year.

While many choose to believe that it signals the end of summer, the days continue to be brutally hot, the fruit flies fully rampant, and the peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, and corn still in their prime ripening stages.

And yet, I’ve already seen fall decor donning the grocery aisle, scarecrows lounging on my neighbors’ front porches, and a few nearby trees verging into gold.

While Jason and I both agree that our food preferences favor the roasts and soups and baked goods of fall; our bike-loving, playground-dependent bodies and our gardening-prone, outdoor-hosting spirits prefer the warmth and wonders of summer.

So here we are: clinging to what has been an altogether way too quick and never fully optimized summer while also already dusting off our oven for loaves of bread and pies.

Perhaps “never fully optimized” is too harsh — perhaps that’s the perfectionism and inherent GO GO GO personality I am trying to overcome making an appearance. We didn’t visit new towns or drive to the mountains. We didn’t lounge on brewery patios or go berry picking.

What did we do then? We rode our bikes to the splash pad and scored invites to as many swimming pools as possible. Because of this, we have no doubt that we will always remember this time as the summer of splash pads and swimming pools.

Here’s how it started…

We randomly stumbled upon a local (free!) splash pad within biking distance of our house during the first week of summer. Looking back at the photo time stamps, our first family visit was on June 9th. We then proceeded to return almost every subsequent Saturday we could.

The splash pad was more than just a diversion for us. It was also a milestone marker.

At first, it served as our go-to activity for Lilia while Arleigh took his morning nap. We spent many weekend mornings apart because of it. But then Arleigh started taking shorter naps and began joining us for small portions of each outing. He couldn’t enjoy the full extent of the course yet, as he didn’t love crawling in the water, but he could sit near the fountains long enough to get soaked.

By the end of summer, he had graduated to full mornings at the splash pad, walking and barreling through the water. In just three months, we saw our baby become a toddler at this very spot. And we saw our ever-sprouting preschooler grow out of all of her swimsuits.

Keeping with the swimsuit theme, this was also the summer of swimming pools.

Now, swimming pools aren’t a novel summer thing, but they are a big deal for us. And they showed up at all the best times.

They showed up at Opa and Lovey’s house in Wichita over Memorial Day Weekend — the official kickoff to summer and our first family road trip destination.

They showed up at Lilia’s first round of swimming lessons, an activity she loved so much that she could often be found crying at the end of class, refusing to get out of the water.

They showed up on our first international trip as a family to Mexico in June, where we spent the entire time either playing at the beach or swimming in the pool of our rented house. We were always in the water, and we have never been happier.

And they showed up on multiple swimming pool outings with friends. Whether it was an invite to a members-only local swimming pool, a backyard gathering soaking in our buddies’ large inflatable pool, or the Fourth of July kiddie pool splash-a-palooza among besties — we were hooked.

Perhaps the best pool-related development in our family over the summer, however, was Jason’s weekly Aquatics for Arthritis class at our rec center’s pool. Say what you will, but his classmates put him through his paces! It’s been such a fun and restorative form of exercise for him.

I’m sure we will remember other things about this summer… like how Arleigh started walking (in Mexico)! The endless back-and-forths up and down the driveway in the kiddie cars. Lilia riding a bike with training wheels for the first time. Arleigh’s first time meeting his Aunt Natalie, Uncle Michael, and Uncle Andrew. The patched-together work and babysitter schedules. The endless amount of magic sand and sparkle silly puddy found in every crevice of our home. The weekly Saturday night meals of hot dogs and french fries with Uncle Alex. Our first church outings as a family and all of the farmers market excursions afterward. All of the corn on the cob Lilia consumed. And Mexico — aaahhhh, Mexico.

I’m sure these things might stick with us when we look back at photos of this time. But I doubt we will ever forget the splash pads and swimming pools that have defined the summer and brought us so much joy.

Agua Fresca

Continuing with the “water” theme… we also dubbed agua fresca our summer sipper of choice. We kicked off the summer (June 6th to be exact) with the tried-and-true watermelon agua fresca and just celebrated Labor Day with a batch of cantaloupe-mint. Both are winners, and both recipes are below. Add a splash of vodka for a summertime spritzer, or use as a soda water flavor enhancer. Or, just drink it plain with a sprig of mint. You can’t go wrong.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

  • 3 c. watermelon, chunked
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime

Cantaloupe Mint Agua Fresca

  • 4 c. cantaloupe, chunked (about half a cantaloupe)
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 12 mint leaves
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender or with an immersion blender.
  2. Strain.
  3. Serve over ice with a garnish of mint.

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