The One Word That Saved Our Summer




It’s a word that became another member of our family when my kids were ages four, two and brand new — and I wasn’t really capable of going many places on my own while maintaining sanity.

I was home… A LOT.

There were so many days of mundane, that when we DID do something (anything) new – I made sure they got EXCITED.

“We’re going on an ADVENTURE!” I’d yell from the kitchen into the living room where they were watching their favorite channel. They’d turn to find me whipping out an old cheerleading move to add to the pump-it-up vibe.

“Where, Mommy, Where?!” they’d yell.

“Well, today,” I said, “we are going to pack our special picnic blanket, and YOU are going to help decide what we are going to pack in our special picnic lunch, and we are going to take a walk to the pond and see how many ducks we can count. And guess what? You can put a piece of chocolate in with your lunches, too!”

“YAYYYYYYYYY!!!!” they’d scream, mirroring my attitude.

It wasn’t a vacation. It wasn’t a trip to the zoo. It wasn’t going to a water park. It wasn’t going to a local festival. It wasn’t taking a couple-hours trip in our car.

It was a walk. And a picnic. And a counting-duck event.

But WE made it an adventure.

As the kids got older, we have continued keeping “adventure” as our buzzword.

“Who wants to go on an adventure with Daddy?!” my husband can be found yelling to them right before they rush to get their shoes before even knowing where they were going (but usually anticipating a trip to get some sort of frozen treat.)

These days feel a little like they did when I was a brand new mom of three. While I stayed home out of choice then, … now, we stay close to home more often because well… #2020.

And while so many things have seemingly changed in the world, our desire for adventure hasn’t.

And what has SAVED us in these last couple of months is the Pittsburgh Parks… a place that we felt we could safely go as a family and explore, discover, learn and just “be.”

Ask my kids about Pittsburgh Parks days and they will recall their favorite trail in Riverview Park. They will tell you about our “lunch log” on which we sit to take a break to eat our packed lunches.

They’ll tell you about the bridge that they like to go underneath and get their feet wet. They’ll tell you about the deer of which we came within 15 feet. They’ll tell you about super skinny trees that we marvel at as we wonder HOW they stay standing so strong. They’ll tell you about the duck my son made friends with in Schenley Park. They’ll vie over who wins the award for most-perfect walking stick.

They’ll talk about the memories.

A couple of hours every time.
No need for technology other than to capture our memories or track the trail that we’re on.
An appreciation of nature.
A love of togetherness.
A break for our minds.
A boost for our heart rates.
Time together.

And another reminder that adventures don’t have to be grand… adventures don’t have to cost a lot of money … adventures are simply what we make of them.

As our family has struggled with a bit of mundane…
As all of us have navigated our own mental health struggles…
As we all deal with the stress of uncertainty…
As we all seek to take care of our physical health…

Getting out in nature has been our release. Our ADVENTURE.

And we are forever grateful for it.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy wants you to SAFELY enjoy the mental and physical benefits of being out in nature. To learn more about how the Pittsburgh Parks is aiming to keep you and your family safe during your visit… check out the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website HERE for up-to-date guidelines – and of course – to find a greenspace, trail or park for YOUR next adventure.

Brea Schmidt is a Pittsburgh-based speaker, photographer, and Iris-Award nominated writer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch Follow along with her messages of positivity and perspective on Facebook and Instagram .

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy believes that being outdoors and in the parks are a wonderful outlet if the stress and anxiety of the current situation is weighing heavily on you and your loved ones. Be sure to spend time outdoors to help decompress; explore a new trail, listen to the birds; read a book; play catch with your children. Be sure to follow all physical distancing recommendations from the CDC and avoid surfaces where the virus can live such as handrails and playground equipment. And be sure to wash your hands when you get home.