Originally Published in the Greenwood Daily Journal June 23, 2012
When the days get longer and most definitely warmer, you have to get creative on how you wile away the hours. We have washed the cars, watered the flowers, played in the sprinklers to stay cool and entertained. We have also done countless science experiments, observed the water creatures in the pond and taken morning hikes in the woods. If you can do it in the confines of our property lines, then we have done it.
But at some point during the week we want to venture out and do something which is why I am a fan of the day trip. I have said this before. Places are much less crowded during the week and it’s a great time for the boys and I to spend time together, just the three of us.
On more mild summer days we are content to do any outdoor activity. On the real scorchers though, it is definitely a pool day. We don’t have one, yet, but now that the boys are older I have no qualms about taking them to a busy public pool. Being the cool mom that I am I put aside all of my issues with public pools to do this for them. You don’t want to hear my laundry list of issues with public pools. Then you will really think I am strange!
We have been to all of the pools within an hours drive of our house. I don’t mind the drive because it makes a day of it and the boys don’t seem to mind either. We certainly have our favorite locations and ones we will never go back to. Even one that we pulled up and after waiting in a long rowdy line to get in we turned around and left. If my kids get a feeling while in line that they aren’t going to enjoy themselves then that’s all I need to know.
Two of my favorites we have hit twice so far this swimming season. As a matter of fact I bought passes to both. After 2 trips it pays for itself. I pack a cooler full of snacks and drinks and a bag of what we really need to get by and we hit the road. Both locations have a concession stand and as tempting as it is we avoid it by coming prepared with snacks that cover the following categories: sweet, salty and crunchy and protein.
I like to bring frozen grapes in little sandwich bags for us to eat later in the day. They stay very cold and in most cases are still a bit frozen. I know that is an old one, and better for older children than younger, but my kids love it. I also like to bring little cups of humus and pretzels for my nine year old and I because it’s our favorite snack and carrots and ranch dip for my older less adventurous son. Then I fluctuate from a straightforward ham and Swiss tortilla roll up to a chicken salad to leftover diced chicken and avocado for our main item.
I have a compact but well insulated cooler that does a great job of keeping out food and drinks cold and most pools these days recognize the parents plight of trying to find a picnic location but setting aside an area designated as such. I appreciate this. Best of all, good locations don’t make you leave the confines of the seating area and exit to dine. Many have a fenced grassy area adjacent to the pool to eat. Away from the water is all I ask. No one wants to soak in a pool filled with goldfish crackers.
Splash Island in Plainfield is a great facility that boasts a newly expanded swimming area and my favorite- the lazy river. With plenty of seating and a zero entry pool for the little ones there is plenty to do there. We also enjoy the marked lane swimming so my older can show off for a live audience. Diving boards, fun slides and splash pads round out the fun there. The facility is very nice and I recommend a visit for the day.
By and large our favorite is the Monon Aquatic Center in Carmel. I know what you may be thinking, Carmel seems far. But it only took 45 minutes to get there and when you stay for the day that’s not too bad. With plenty of seating, beautiful park like atmosphere and walking trails there are plenty of things to do in and around the pool. There is a separate pool for tots under 48 inches , 2 zero entry pools and a diving board and plunge dive area that my youngest can not get enough of. He does have the cannon ball that he is trying to perfect, after all. By far the highlight is the Flow Rider simulated surfing ride. There is always a bit of a wait to get on, like any attraction, but once on your kids will have the time of their lives! This is open to any child over 52 inches and if I can do it then anyone can!
|Yes, his hair is awful. BUT, he is 13 and knows everything. BONUS: he hates it now and realizes it was a mistake|
When we get tired of wraps and sandwiches for our pool fare I like to make a simple pasta salad. You would be amazed at the hunger your kids work up after frolicking in the water all day. I prefer to keep it simple and serve it in individual 4 cup Gladware containers. That way they can put the lid back on and have more later if they want to. This isn’t much of a recipe, but when you see what you can buy at a deli counter and how much it is or better yet, how old it is, you will think twice about buying what you can easily make yourself.
So put your issues with pools aside like I did and look around online for areas that boast a family friendly water park to visit. You will learn a bit about the area and maybe meet a few new people while you are there. Make sure to come prepared with sunscreen and towels, which is all you really need anyway. Well, a stocked cooler helps too.
Pepperoni Pizza Pasta Salad
1 lb box of tube shaped pasta, I use whole wheat
1/2 lb of pepperoni from the deli counter, cubed into small pieces
1 8oz package of mozzarella cheese, diced into small pieces
1 bottle of your favorite Italian dressing or olive oil based dressing
1 C of grape tomatoes, sliced
Italian seasonings for sprinkling: 1tsp each of oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in salted water until just al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. You don’t want the pasta to be mushy. Add to a large lidded bowl. Then add the meat and cheese. Next, add your desired amount of dressing. Some like a more dressed pasta salad. Do what works for you. Add the tomatoes and toss to combine. Finish off with the seasonings and toss. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 2 hours to let the flavors combine.