Matthew’s Summertime In Athens

By: Yvonne Dempsey

In the Veteran’s Museum article in last issue of Athens Now, I introduced everyone to our youngest grandson, Matthew, who is spending his summer vacation with us. His father, our Marine son Joshua, is stationed at Fort Leonard Wood and is extremely busy with his job; Matthew’s mother, Megan, is in nursing school which has her busy and stressed also. In need of someone to watch Matthew, Joshua asked us to help. Of course, we said we’d love to do so, although it has been quite a while since we’ve had a young child in our care for long. So, I thought back to when our boys were 9 years old, and I made a mental list of activities for the summer.

All of you parents, grandparents, and anyone facing long summer days with kids know that it is not always easy to keep them active, entertained, or from just being “bored” (I know you’ve all heard the incessant whining, “I’m bored,” at some point). I was determined not to hear this and vowed to give Matthew a good, fun summer.

Well, as an avid reader, I always took my kids to the library and they participated in the available summer programs. It’s the first thing I thought about for Matthew. He has been enjoying the Athens Library summer program on Tuesday mornings. Matthew has made new friends, painted, built a Lego pirate ship, and has had loads of creative fun. He has already read several library books and is really into “graphic” novels. These are books written and illustrated in comic book format. Many kids love them and so do I because even kids who say that they don’t like to read, or have a problem with reading comprehension, do better having the pictures to help them.

One of the first things Matthew participated in was the kids’ fishing rodeo put on by the Limestone County Sportsman’s Club. As a member, I was thrilled to see so many families out for the event. Lots of huge fish were caught, some almost as big as the ones who caught them. Matthew caught a couple of small fish but had loads of fun with his Paw Paw. He won a door prize (tackle box), ate hotdogs and chips, and at the end of the event, helped me in the Pepsi wagon. He said, “Maw Maw, I’m gonna do this every summer. It was so much fun!” So I guess we know at least one thing we’ll be doing every summer!

Big Spring Park, AKA the Duck Pond, is a place that Matthew has before. I love feeding the ducks as much as he does. He was excited to see some baby ducks and loved having them come right up to him for food. I know we’ll be going back several more times before he leaves. Matthew says that it is “a nice place to just be.” We topped that day off by going to Sonic for a Sour Patch Slush Float, which is another of Matthew’s recommendations. He has had two so far this summer and looks forward to more of them. I, however, choose to pass on it…

Athens offers several great venues for family fun. One enjoyable time we had was at the Friday’s After Five concert last weekend. Matthew was excited to go because he is a fan of food trucks and good music. The band, Juice, was a great one to get the crowd on their feet. After munching on popcorn, Matthew asked if he could get up and dance. I told him to go for it, and he did. He danced for at least an hour and had so much fun. It is heart-warming to see everyone enjoying themselves — regardless of age, race, gender, mobility, ability — all were laughing and having fun together. What a wonderful city we live in! Matthew loved it and recommends that everyone get out and experience it. Check out for info on events such as this.

Because I love museums, especially our Veterans Museum (also highly recommended by Matthew) and I know how kids love nature museums, we decided to take Matthew to Cook’s Museum of Natural science in Decatur. Wow! We had not been to the new one but had only visited the original museum when our kids were younger. We were highly impressed and had such a good time. There is something for everyone. So many exhibits covering everything from outer space (an actual meteorite) to the sea (such as live jellyfish). There are many live sea creatures and land animals; animal and insect exhibits; fun things for kids to do. Matthew loved all of the hands-on exhibits, especially the kinetic sand table where kids can build volcanoes. The rope bridge and tree house were fun, and one of his favorite things was the cave. We built up an appetite, so we got lunch at Nature’s Table eatery located in the museum. Matthew recommends the chicken quesadilla, and the smoothies are delicious. And don’t forget the gift shop with wonderful stuff for every age. Of course, Matthew took notes and made a list of birthday and Christmas gifts he wants…just in case we need it!

Well, so far we’ve gone through June and have all of July for more adventures — some traveling to do, books to read, crafts to make, and whatever else we can think of. For sure, we are going to the 4th of July fireworks show here in Athens, which is always spectacular. Hope y’all are enjoying your summer…we sure are!

By: Yvonne Dempsey