An Excerpt From Bucket List Living For Moms (& Your Chance to Win a Kindle)

I am a Mom

You can download this poster & print it for your wall. Look under the “Free” tab at the top of this page.

One of my favorite things to do is bring encouragement to people – especially moms. And we moms need encouragement, don’t we? Because at times motherhood can seem like a fiercely competitive arena. We all want others (our kids) to think of us as great parents, but the bar just seems to be set higher and higher.

The solution? To stop measuring ourselves against the ridiculous and start being the best version of ourselves that we can. Thankfully, I’ve found that it’s lot of fun being an individual and it translates into being a better mom too. It just requires being a student of yourself and taking time regularly to engage in what you love most. This is the theme of my new book. And it’s why I’m so excited to debut it this week. I hope that you’ll find it an encouragement to you.

Read on for a sample of what you’ll find in Bucket List Living For Moms (then chime in to answer the question at the end in the comments below – and if you haven’t yet, enter to win a Kindle):

Become a More Adventurous Parent

Bucket list living as a mom is a great experience. The world that shrunk to the four walls of your home will expand once again as you reach out toward your goals. Your relationship with your kids will take on new dimensions with you being the one to explore and grow on occasion. And the perspective you have gained through parenting will enrich and inform your adventures in unique ways to make them more powerful for you, your family, and those whose paths you cross along the way.

You will be surprised at how many opportunities exist today for you to go after your life dreams. Our culture offers us so much more access to people and resources, particularly via the Internet, that allow us to move forward without even leaving home. This is great news for us moms, who often have to filter time for ourselves and our interests into the minutes available in our busy family lives. And you’ll find this paradox at work: often the more you invest in yourself, the more personal resources (time, finances, energy) become available to you for investing further.

You need to live your bucket list dreams and be true to all of who you are. Your kids need you to be a mom who knows where she is headed and delights to have them along for the journey. The world needs you to pursue what you’ve been made to do. Anything less short-changes us all.

So get ready for the adventure of living out your dreams. As I say in the Bucket List Life Manifesto: “plan to amaze yourself.”

Tell us what adventure would look like to you. What is one new thing you would like to risk trying in the next year?

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Kindle Giveaway & the new Bucket List Living For Moms book

It’s here! I’m so proud to introduce you to my newest book on living the bucket list life, Bucket List Living For Moms: Become a More Adventurous Parent.

  • It’s a guidebook with dozens of questions to help you formulate a meaningful list of what you want to experience and accomplish in your lifetime.
  • It’s an instruction manual for assembling that list into the most inspiring, motivating form for you (digital or physical).
  • It’s a resource for overcoming the challenges of busy family life to reach the goals that matter most to you in ways that increase your bonds with your kids.
  • And it’s a quick read that will get you on the road to living the bucket list life right now, without delay.

Every day this week I hope you’ll stop back by to learn more and chime in on the discussions. I’ll be sharing book excerpts, bucket list creation prompts, the background behind my motivation for writing this book, and asking for your bucket list success stories.

And of course, a great celebration includes gifts (and prizes). My gift to you just for stopping by is a free downloadable poster. I’m also thrilled to be giving away a Kindle prize pack that includes:

To be entered to win simply use the Rafflecopter below to sign up to receive my monthly “Adventures in Bucket List Living” newsletter of tips & inspiration for living the bucket list life as moms and families. Leave a comment, follow me on Twitter, or share about this celebration on Twitter or Pinterest to gain additional entries.

Thanks for joining the celebration!

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It’s a Celebration!

What: Launch of the new book, Bucket List Living For Moms

When: Monday, September 15 – 22

Where: Right here

Who: You!

Motherhood is an intensive role. It shapes us. It defines us. It demands our best – and then some. And unfortunately, if we let it, it can leave us hollowed out as individuals. We forget who we were and barely know who we are besides “mom.”

If that describes where you’re at, then you’ll want to join me here on Monday, September 15th (and all through the week) for the launch of my newest book, Bucket List Living For Moms: Become A More Adventurous Parent.  You’ll have an opportunity to sign up for my monthly newsletter of bucket list living tips & inspiration to be entered in a giveaway. One lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive:

Plus everyone who stops by can download the new free printable inspirational poster for moms. Come back on Monday for the celebration. And invite your friends!

A Crisis Self-Care Plan For Moms

During a recent months-long crisis in our household, I surprised myself with how much strength I had as a mom. I gave myself to caring for my family like never before. But I also stretched myself thin, emotionally and mentally. I went to bed drained more nights than not. In case of emergency

When others reached out with offers of help, I tried to take them. But I often didn’t know how to respond or what exactly I needed. I realized then how unprepared I was to take advantage of opportunities to sustain myself.

I don’t think my situation is that unusual. As moms we can be great nurturers – for everyone but ourselves. This is particularly true in times of crisis, when our family needs us to stay at our best. All of our energy goes toward keeping our family afloat. And while we may know it’s a good idea to take care of ourselves too, we just doesn’t have the wherewithal to figure out what that would look like.

Which is why I suggest we plan for self-care before crisis hits. We need to be students of ourselves to learn what would help us most. Having just gone through it myself, here is what I wish I had created (and how you can create your own):

A Crisis Self-Care Plan

Decide now that you matter enough and it is important enough for you to have a strategy in place for how you will care for yourself. Then create a plan from the following prompts and put it in a safe place, like the back of your daily organizer, or the inside of your medicine cabinet (having it where your husband can see benefits you by giving him a tool for helping you out).

  1. Think of those people in your life who are the most supportive, positive and encouraging. Write down their names. Then, when you need to know that someone has your back, or if you need an upbeat distraction from your difficulties, you’ll know exactly who to call for a chat on the phone or over coffee at Starbucks. This may or may not be who you would call to help with the actual emergency/difficulty.
  2. Consider what most brings you comfort, that could bolster your spirits during the hard times. Maybe you have a favorite place to walk or meditate. Or a comfort food. Write them down on your plan.
  3. In crisis sometimes our need is for escape – to do something entirely different that takes our mind off the present difficulties. Name your ideal escapes. They may be ordinary, like “go to a movie (alone, which can be an adventure, as Shelly Najjar suggests).” Or they could be entirely new ventures. Believe it or not, a time of trial can provide a great motivation to check something off your life list.
  4. Make a list of “quick rechargers” that you can go to when brief opportunities for respite appear. Things like “take a nap,” or “watch an episode of Downton Abbey” Try to come up with ten or more that you can rotate through, should your crisis go on for a while. It’s important that you find time daily for self-care.

Knowing you have this written down, you can approach a crisis with more confidence. Instead of adding regret to the list of emotional burdens you bear, you’ll have concrete answers to offers for help. You’ll know who you want to be with and what you want to do, when you have time for yourself. And those around you can have a better idea of how to direct you toward keeping yourself well when tough times hit.

Photo credit: In case of emergency by waldopepper on Flicker via CC License

Watch for the release of my new book, Bucket List Living For Moms, coming next Monday. There will be giveaways!

The House is Empty. Now what?

It was the start of first grade for my youngest child. I remember standing among the other camera-wielding ‘mamarazzi’ waving to our children as their stubby legs, barely visible below bulging backpacks, stumped their way in a line behind their new teacher into school. We all lingered there, suspended for a few minutes. The swoosh of the closing door had seemingly sucked the energy from the air around us.

Then, bit by bit we moms bade our farewells to each other, grasping for something to define what would come next.

“Off to get laundry going!”

“Gotta run to the grocery store, once I figure out what we’re having for dinner!”Empty Room

Stepping into a silent house myself after the short walk from school felt anti-climatic in the wake of the morning’s hubbub. After 10-plus years of parenting nearly 24/7, I now would have six hours each day to myself. Six glorious hours. Why didn’t I feel more like celebrating?

Looking back, four years later, I understand was happening with me: I was coping with an identity shift.  I had been envisioning what this day would be like, but when it arrived I wasn’t sure. Would the dream I’d held onto of how I would use those six hours become reality? Could I forge a writing career out of six-hour days, while still being a good mother?

Every year hundreds of moms face that same moment when the door of the school closes on their youngest child entering full-day education. Not all of them face the uncertainty of furthering a career dream like I did. Many already have lined up a list of chores and projects that will fill the coming days and weeks. They have their calendars marked with volunteer hours at their children’s schools or in their churches. They plan meet-ups with other moms, the next iteration in mommy gatherings once playdates are no longer a necessary excuse for socializing.

But in between the cleaning and the get-togethers comes that silent house. That space where, if we pause long enough, we’re forced to ask ourselves, “now what?” Now, without children to bathe and feed and entertain, what will I do? Who am I when I am not being a mom? If you haven’t been alone in your own home for six, ten, or even more years, the silence and the question can seem scary.

If right now you’re in that place of entering a house empty of children for a few hours and wondering “now what,” be courageous enough to face the question head on. Don’t bury it under endless mind-numbing activities. Honor yourself enough to consider what you might want your children’s school years to look like for you. Is it  time for you to go back to school yourself? To seek certification in a certain area? To choose a new setting for volunteering? Or dabble in a hobby you’ve been considering?

Go ahead. Ask yourself, “now what?” See what answers surface. You might surprise yourself.

For now, I’m enjoying the writing life. But I’m also continually reviewing my goals and dreams. Because I know all too soon the next transition in my children’s livee will come. And I want to be prepared with a more certain answer for the next “now what?”

**Editor’s Note: Cortney Fries’ article in Chicago Parent gives some great examples of parents who found an answer to the “now what?” in a career change. I hope you’ll check it out! **

Photo credit: img_1213 by reclaimedhome on Flickr via CC License

When You Forget That You’re The Mom

IM5 ConcertSpiky hair, beefy biceps, swift dance moves. They epitomized every girls’ boy band dream. And they were only a few feet away from me, crooning their way down a long stage. My fingers tapped hard at the camera icon on my phone as one of the band members crouched down near the girls in front of me. When he swooped up a smartphone from an outstretched hand to take a few selfies, a giggle escaped my lips.

The air pulsed with excitement and I found myself caught up in the moment, bouncing on the balls of my feet in time to the music. Then one of the singers scooped a preschool-aged girl into his arms. The screams and shrieks of hundreds of teen girls pierced my ears. Suddenly my head throbbed and my feet ached. I backed out of the crowd, nearly stepping on two girls rushing forward, smartphones held high.

“Here, there’s room closer,” I said, shooing them along with a motherly nudge.

As I searched for a place to wait for my daughters, another wave of screams broke out. I scrunched my nose in reaction. A group of middle-aged moms sitting along the top of a wall nearby smiled in sympathy at my grimace. The mom on the end patted an empty spot next to her. I hopped up and breathed a sigh. I had found my tribe again.

Have you ever been there, in one of those moments where you want to full out enjoy something but can’t because you’re a) the mom and b) not young enough to appreciate everything? I think those moments where we’re torn like that can be catalysts to understanding ourselves better. If we know what to do with them. Here are five steps I found that help:

What To Do When You Forget That You’re The Mom:

  1. don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re all little girls and teens inside at times. And frankly, it makes us better mothers, more capable of empathizing with our children.
  2. acknowledge that there’s a need in you. It could be a need to be noticed, to be in the center of the action at a big event, or to recapture something from your youth. Take some time to ferret out what that need is.
  3. connect that desire to a life goal that suits who you are now. Again, this might take a bit of exploration to pin down. Because you’re an adult, it doesn’t mean that everything from your youth is lost to you. But it will look a bit different.
  4. put that goal in writing as something you plan to do one day.  The good news is that unlike in your youth, you have resources and knowledge now that should make more things possible, not less.
  5. tell your goal to another mom friend (or two or three). Go ahead and build momentum around the idea with others who might share your enthusiasm about it.

The (free) IM5 concert I took my girls to a few weeks ago really opened my eyes. I had always poo-pooed the idea of spending lots of money for front row seats at a concert. I couldn’t understand what made people do it. Until I was up close myself and felt the energy and excitement of being in such close proximity (even to “stars” I’d only learned about a few days before). That moment where I forgot that I was a middle-aged mom and became a little gaga over a boy band told me that it would be thrilling to get up close with a band I actually knew and whose lyrics I could sing along with. I never thought I’d say this, but after that I decided to add, “get front row tickets to a concert” to my bucket list.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience that might be trying to tell you something about yourself. What was the experience? What can it teach you?

(Here are my girls checking one off their bucket list:)

Meet a boy band.

Back to School Tips & Inspiration

The August parenting magazines are out. You’ll find lots of tips and inspiration for starting the school year off well. Here are some of the articles I  contributed to this month’s issues:

1408ParentingPlusBecome School Supply Savvy, Orlando Family
By now you’ve probably gotten your kids’ backpacks pretty well stocked. But in case you’re still on the hunt for that last item, you might want to read this. I share some uncommon sources for hard-to-find supplies (tell me: why is it that teachers/schools insist on specific brands and sizes that aren’t on any nearby store shelves?).

School Then & Now, Family Time
Things sure have changed since we moms and dads were in school. But exactly how have they changed? I list a number of tools and practices that are different in our children’s educational lives from when we last sat at a school desk.1408FamilyTimesFLCover

21 Questions to Jump-Start Conversation With Your Kids – Neapolitan Family
If you’re tired of hearing your kids answer “fine” when you ask how their school day went, then you might want to try a different angle. With twenty-one questions to select from, you have plenty of chances to get the dinner conversation humming. Just don’t forget to share your answers too.

Dinner By Design, Family Times
There’s nothing like needing to have dinner on the table while trying to keep the family taxi running on schedule. In this article I offer a method for putting together your own ongoing monthly meal planner.

1408PBParentingFirsthand Savings on Secondhand Goods, PB Parenting
Back to school expenses are among the highest of any outlays for families, so it helps to shop smart. And sometimes that means buying secondhand. I spoke with moms and experts to find out just what makes sense to buy used – and what to look out for when shopping for previously owned items.

Chores Make the GradeWashington Family
Plenty of moms skip having their kids help with housework, thinking it’s more important for them to just focus on schoolwork. But if that’s you, you may be missing out on opportunities to actually improve your child’s academic performance. I share expert insight on how doing chores can help with their scholastic skills. So get ready to hand over the mop and broom, mom!


Growing a Bucket List

MeSUPAs summer draws to a close (only a week and a half until school starts here), I’m fascinated to see what has happened with the bucket lists in our family. We were fortunate to check off a number of goals, and even some long-standing ones. Yet the lists of what we still want to do isn’t any shorter. In fact, I believe every one of our lists grew over the course of the past few months.

Which is awesome! It’s a sign that our family is growing more adventurous. It also reflects a deepening of particular interests.

For example, my middle daughter had the opportunity to ride in both a helicopter and a breezy this summer through the Young Eagles program at a local airport. These were both significant, not because of how long she waited to do them. They’d both only been on her list for less than a year. But they were both daring moves. And she’s a cautious child. Not a thrill-seeker. She prefers quiet to noisBreezye, slow to fast, intimacy to crowds. Yet she put ride in a helicopter on her bucket list. And then did it. And then after that added “fly in a breezy” to the list. And then, after multiple coin flips (go/don’t go) and with sweaty palms, strapped into that open air seat and took off!

Now she wants to attend the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh next July. She plans to fly during as many Young Eagle Saturdays as we’ll take her to. We’ve even had conversations about flight lessons and colleges where you can add courses to get your private pilot’s license.

In short, her aviation-related bucket list has expanded the more she’s checked off. Her interest in flying has deepened.

So if bucket lists in your family, especially among the children, are short or shallow, don’t give up. Get out there and reach just one goal. See what it spurs. Watch how checking things off lists, whether personal lists or a shared family list, expands your aims for the future instead of shrinking what’s left to be done.

Me? I’m thinking about adding “own a stand up paddleboard” to our family’s list. Trying one out was near the top of everyone’s favorite experiences this summer. And if we were to get one, I can see us wanting to expand our family bucket list with a new category of “places we’ve paddleboarded.”

Going After Dreams While Saving For Your Kids’ College

DreamsCollegeSavingsLiving your bucket list dreams has to cost a lot, right? Can only the wealthy afford to check off their goals? Are the rest of us left to fulfill only one or two?

Not really. My family is living out more dreams at a time when it would seem least likely for us to do so.

My oldest child will be a sophomore in high school this fall. Her younger sisters are going in to eighth and fifth grade. College, or to be more specific, paying for college, looms bigger in our minds every year. We’re busy saving up, especially as education costs continue to rise.

Yet we’re also enjoying great experiences living the bucket list life.

FirstCubsGamesmLast week my two oldest daughters went to their first major league baseball game at Wrigley Field. They rode on a coach bus to the city, sat under the overhang between first base & right field, and enjoyed hot dogs Chicago style (or rather, my middle girl did – the one I’d least expect to). It was a breezy summer afternoon, with a slight drizzle, and for once the Cubbies won. My girls’ were in bucket list heaven (minus the beer someone dumped on their feet in the first inning – after all, this is real life).

That same evening I took their younger sister out for dinner and then to meet actor and author, Chris Colfer at our city bookstore. And their dad was on his way to Finland, where so far he’s already played three disc golf courses – adding to his own bucket list accomplishments.

The sum total of what it cost our entire family for all of those experiences? $22.50 ($18 for a hardcover book autographed by Colfer, plus $4.50 for a Chicago style hotdog). Definitely not how little I had expected any one of those to total. Yet there it was!

Now, we happen to live in an awesome smaller city that draws people like Chris Colfer. My daughters got their free tickets and transportation to the Chicago Cubs game through an organization we’ve all volunteered for. A work trip took my husband to Finland. All of us had to simply grab the (virtually free) opportunities that presented themselves.

If you don’t believe you should have a bucket list right now because money is tight, or it’s going to be tight, then you are missing out. Over and over again I have seen how the ideas and goals we’ve put on our bucket lists have become possible without breaking our pocketbook. Saving for college and fulfilling bucket list dreams are not mutually exclusive.

It’s impossible to predict when or how you’ll be able to reach a goal, but that’s half the fun of making a bucket list. Stare down the impossible and dare it to happen. [Tweet this]

After all, getting my kids through college without going into debt is on my bucket list!

Same event, different story

BalloonBurnerMy hair whipped around my face and into my eyes so I could no longer see the crowd gathered round. I held tight to the ropes, turning my back on the cold air. And then came a short blast of burners. Heat rushed past my arms and the nylon envelope of the balloon billowed and began to lift up. Within moments I released the ropes and ran to grab the edge of the basket to keep our pilot on the ground.

Eyes to the Skies 2004

Me and my oldest two girls at the festival in 2004.

It was my first festival working the balloon crew. And I was loving it!

For the past fifteen my family has visited the Lisle Eyes to the Skies Hot Air Balloon Festival. The first few years we rode our bikes in the early morning haze, babies in tow, to watch a field full of balloons inflate. The 6am launches became a family tradition. Some years we headed out for more than one morning’s festivities, during the multi-day event.

Later we feared our move to an adjacent city would dampen our experience of the festival. Instead we were surprised to find our new home on a flight path for balloons launching from the fair grounds. One dawn we were awakened by the familiar sound of the burner blast. I looked out the window above our bed to see a hot air balloon floating over our house. During a more recent festival a beautiful sport balloon touched down in the field behind our house. Other years we’ve sat in our backyard on Fourth of July weekends watching groups of balloons drift in the distance over our fair city.

During the years of attending balloon launches on the festival grounds we have walked among traditional and shape balloons. We have stood inside a cold air inflated envelope (the fabric part of the balloon) for a TV news program. My children have climbed into baskets to gaze up into the balloon, and watched pilots fire the burners as they passed on floats in Fourth of July parades. We’ve witnessed launches and landings and even helped pack an envelope.

It was the same balloon festival that we returned to year after year. Yet every year was different.

From the very beginning, when I learned that the festival took volunteers to help the balloonists inflate and take down, I knew I wanted to be a part. “Work a balloon crew” went on to my bucket list (along with, of course, “ride in a hot air balloon” – never mind that I’m afraid oBalloonInsidef heights).

This year, with our children older and valuing sleep over balloons, my husband and I took the opportunity to join the morning launch crew (the 5:30am shift). And it did not disappoint. We learned a lot. We worked. And we had fun.

It may be another fifteen years before I’m actually airborne in a hot air balloon. But until then, I expect I’ll continue to experience new facets of the sport each year. Because the best bucket list adventures aren’t about the destination. They’re about the journey. SingleBalloon