How Do You Spell Success as a Parent?

spell-successI nearly blew it again. My youngest daughter turned thirteen this past weekend and I almost didn’t have a card for her. As a rule, I don’t buy cards. I’m a crafter and I know I can make a card that I like much better than anything I’d find in the store. And I enjoy making them. But I have a hard time getting down to the business of making cards – it requires pulling out my stamping supplies and finding the creative bandwidth to generate a design.

On my daughter’s birthday, cards arrived in the mail from her grandmother and great aunt, as they do every year. Me? I missed sending my nephew’s birthday card last month. And I hadn’t started yet on my daughter’s card.

I beat myself up about it. I want to be like my mother and my husband’s aunt. I want to be the person who always sends a birthday card. And I’ve always felt like a failure because I’m not.

Then it occurred to me this week: whose priorities am I trying to live by? What do I really want success for me to look like?

I once met a dad who boasted about never missing one of his son’s basketball games from youth league on through high school, despite holding a job that required him to travel. It was impressive. He had committed himself to being there. It fit his definition of success and he fulfilled it. But me? I’ve missed gymnastics meets and soccer games. I haven’t bent over backward to be present for every one of my girls’ sporting events because that isn’t what I feel called to do (not to mention that it’s physically impossible when you have kids in events at the same time in different places). I’ve never considered myself a failure for missing my girls’ meets because perfect attendance was never part of my definition of success.

I realized this week that as much as my bucket list gives me goals to shoot for, I have to pay attention also to those I am not shooting for. I have ask myself, “How do I spell success as a mom? When my girls graduate from high school, what do I want to be able to say I did without (or nearly without) fail? What do I want to be able to check off my parenting bucket list? And what am I not going after?”

My priorities include serving a family meal every night of the week (success!), seeing them off to school every morning (success!), and making them a card for their birthdays (working on it). But my priorities don’t necessarily include being that person that doesn’t miss sending a card to everyone else. That might be a priority for me in another season of life.

I’m ready to stop trying to measure myself against other people’s priorities. I hope to recognize when I’m tempted to feel bad about measuring up against a standard that I haven’t subscribed to. And I’m only including on my parenting bucket list those things that truly matter to memy priorities.

Would you do the same? Think about how you spell success as a parent. Let go of trying to be the mom who throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties if that’s not you. Don’t push yourself to execute the perfect bedtime tuck-in every night if it’s not working. Find the goals that do suit you and pursue those. Put them on your bucket list so you, like the perfect attendance basketball dad, can celebrate your accomplishment when the time comes.



Are You Ever Jealous of Your Kids?

Are you ever jealous of your kids? Where you wish you could be doing what they’re doing? Or could have seen what they’re seeing when you were the same age? Do you look back with regret on opportunities you passed up in your youth and do everything in your power to make sure your kids don’t miss out on the same, all the while still secretly wishing you had the chance to do it yourself?

Are You Ever JealousFor the most part, these are rhetorical questions because I think any middle- or upper-class parent today (and often many with more modest means) experiences jealousy toward their kids’ experiences at some time or another. I know I do.

Just this week I felt a twang of jealousy as I took my twelve-year-old to her first day of Chinese language immersion. I love learning new languages. As a kid, whenever I would hear the nasal tones of spoken French, the rasping gutturals of German, or sonorous up-and-downs of Mandarin, I wished I could speak another tongue. At the park when new kids came along, my best friend and I would pretend in vain to be anything other than the Midwestern born-and-bred girls that we were  by garbling nonsense to one another. But what we hoped would sound like gibberish to them ended up also being gibberish between the two of us.

If only I’d been able to take Chinese language immersion back then… except that in actuality I only lasted through a few months of French in sixth grade. I wasn’t ready for language learning at that age. Not only that, but I did study Spanish from high school through college. While I’m not so adept at speaking it any more, my comprehension of Spanish largely remains. I also studied Russian for several years after college, including six weeks of language study in Moscow. I became fairly proficient in it before letting it lapse (there aren’t many Russian speakers in our corner of Chicagoland). And most recently, I had taught myself basic Italian using Duolingo and Rosetta Stone.

What do I have to be jealous of?

Those thoughts went through my mind as I drove away from dropping my daughter off at class. As quickly as it arose, my jealousy disappeared. But had I not been acting on my desire to learn another language all along and had I not gained those great experiences for myself, the jealousy would have lingered. In fact, as I stopped to consider why I was even the slightest bit jealous, I realized that I need to keep at my language learning. Because that jealousy was telling me that I’m not done with my passion for learning foreign languages. I need to add “learn a fifth language” to my bucket list. Or at least “become more fluent in a foreign language.”

The next time you find yourself feeling jealous of your child, listen to what that reaction is trying to tell you. It’s probably speaking to you of a bucket list desire that you have left unfulfilled. Follow that cue until you’ve isolated what it is that you should add to your bucket list.

Because once you do not only will your jealousy disappear, you’ll also be able to enjoy watching your child’s adventure unfold in a way that best suits them. You’ll find that when you put your own bucket list dreams in motion, you’ll free your child from having to live them out for you while you look on with jealous interest.

Photo by Vashishtha Jogi on Unsplash



Ever Felt Overwhelmed By Life? Me Too!

Me too!Yesterday I expected to have time to run out for groceries after I arrived home from work (I work several days each week in a church office). Except that there was the dentist appointment an hour later that I had forgotten about. Dinner ended up being “”baked potatoes & toppings bar” since I was relying on that grocery run for my original dinner plan. And then there were kids needing to be driven to the library and school issues to be worked out. Ultimately I had to leave my family to clean up after dinner to dash to my home office to meet a magazine article deadline. It was a stressful evening, to say the least.

Can you relate? Modern motherhood is a feat of multi-tasking unrivaled by any other calling. Talking with my friends, I find I’m not alone in feeling harried, hurried and pulled in dozens of directions. And as my stressful evening shows, it requires serious organizational skills.

Part of my problem last night (other than my own tendency to overcommit myself) was that I hadn’t updated my weekly planner. I have a Google calendar, which I love. My whole family shares it and we can see our schedules anytime anywhere. But that doesn’t always mean that we/I look at it all the time. I also have the Paprika app on my phone and iPad for menu planning and recipes. I can’t say enough about how it has revolutionized cooking and meal planning for me. But I don’t look at it every day until it’s time to cook.

What I do look at every morning and throughout the day, is my weekly planner. Because it’s a two-page 8.5” x 11” spread, I can write down my daily appointments and schedule, I copy my menu plan for each day from Paprika, and I track all of my to do lists, deadlines and responsibilities. When my family asks me to buy something, be somewhere or do something for them, I always ask “did you write it down for me?” Because if it’s not in writing (which I can copy or post in my planner), it probably won’t happen.

I can also attribute a large percentage of the bucket list goals I have reached to my weekly planner. I tell people often that it’s a proven fact that writing down your goals increases the odds you’ll reach them. Not only that, but breaking them into smaller steps, which I do regularly, is HUGE when it comes to tackling big (often important) life goals and dreams.

I love my weekly planner and benefit from it so much, I thought other moms could use it too. I launched the 2015 edition last fall. Now this year I’m making a newer, even better edition available.

2016DandilionCoversmallHere’s how the Bucket List Moms Weekly Organizer can help you not only stay on top of busy family life, but also get more done (seriously!) and reach one life goal after another:

  • Get the big picture of what’s coming for you and your family, while you’re sitting down having your morning coffee and can think straight (two-page monthly calendar spread).
  • Remember to set monthly goals for doing the things that matter most and that you enjoy: “date night,” family time and personal goals for yourself.
  • Cut down the overwhelm by focusing on just the upcoming week – and not just your schedule, but also your meal plan, the tasks you need to do as a volunteer or professional, those odd household chores or errands that you’d otherwise forget about. Each with their own slot by day, to further reduce the stress that comes from seeing them all as one mass of stuff to do (trust me, it helps).
  • Find inspiration to care for yourself and the things that set your insides buzzing, through weekly inspirational quotes, bucket list prompts, and space for jotting down your thoughts, dreams and ideas. Keeping them somewhere that you can see them will make you more likely to turn them into reality.
  • Get a sneak peek at upcoming Bucket List Life Dares from now through 2016. Each month you’ll find the dare noted at the start of the month so you can be part of taking the challenge and reaching even more of your bucket list goals.

For the next three weeks I am offering the Bucket List Moms 16-Month Weekly Organizer for a special launch savings of $10 (that’s 37% off the list price of $26.99 for the 15-month planner paperback planner). Plus subscribers to my newsletter will be receiving an exclusive discount code for another 25% off (so sign up now).

Not sure the format will work for you? Download the seven-week sample copy and start using it now. See the difference it makes for you and your family.

Lighthouse Bucket List Adventure: An Interview with Cheryl Lynn Cain

CherylLynnCainI have always admired Cheryl Lynn Cain for being a mom with a passion for making a difference. From hosting refugee families, to organizing a fair trade bazaar, to directing the compassion ministry at her church, Cheryl Lynn is a woman of compassion in action. The same is certainly true for her family bucket list – she steps out to engage in adventures that will make a difference in her children’s approach to the world around them. So I’m thrilled to share with you an interview with Cheryl Lynn about a recent family bucket list adventure she undertook: being a lighthouse keeper.

Tell us a little about your bucket list.

I know some bucket lists tend to be very specific but mine has really one over-arching principle: to experience drastically different lifestyles in order to raise children who have tools for greater compassion, understanding and perspective.  (I know, a little heavy!  LOL.)  I think I got there because living in the suburbs, I noticed how easily my kids can be convinced that everyone lives similar lives.  So whenever I find an opportunity to step into a whole other world, well, I try to take it!    

What made you want to stay in a lighthouse?

Lighthouses have had a certain allure for me.  I find the fact that people gave their whole lives, many times living in isolation, in order to hold out a beacon of hope for weary travelers.  And the job was not sexy at all; a lot of day in and day out chores, a lot of watching and waiting for that one day where it would make all the difference.

How long has this been a dream of yours? 

The idea started when I was researching places to stay in California and discovered that many of their lighthouses were actually hostels that even accommodated families.  So after staying overnight at a lighthouse on the coast of northern California, I thought, there has to be something like that in Michigan.  I think many people don’t realize that Michigan actually has more lighthouses than any other state because of their upper and lower peninsula.  So after a little googling I discovered that many Michigan lighthouses are run by volunteer associations that are always looking for keepers for a variety of stays.  The trick of course was that most require long stays or adults only.  However, Crisp Point Lighthouse, on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula allows families to volunteer.  So it was an easy choice.  However, as if serving as a keeper wasn’t enough of a departure, this lighthouse happened to be 18 miles from a paved road or electricity.  So of course this fit even more perfectly to my bucket list, we have never lived off the grid.

What did your duties as lighthouse keepers entail?

Now lighthouses aren’t quite what they used to be with solar lenses and all, so our duties mainly consisted of keeping in order the visitor center and bathrooms, locking and unlocking the lighthouse and becoming familiar enough with the history to answer questions.  However, the duties did not become nearly as challenging as co-habitating with the dense mosquito community of the north woods.  For all the things I planned for: the headlamps, the propane, bringing our own water and food, even planning for bears, I completely underestimated the bugs of the deep woods.  This definitely turned our service opportunity to a survival exercise.  (Our motto became: the more horrible: the more memorable!)  However, what we discovered is that we actually are survivors.  And honestly, with all the conveniences and ease of our everyday life, it was good to know that with a little help of supplies from the gas station 30 miles away, we can brave the elements and come out stronger for it.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t also emphasize that our civil war with the bugs paled in comparison to the beauty of the U.P., the Taquahemnon Falls, the beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the time travel of Mackinac Island and the serenity and dignity of Crisp Point Light.

What is next on your bucket list?

Our next stop on the bucket list will be the western prairie.  We’ll be heading out to South Dakota in the next few weeks staying in a covered wagon at the Little House on the Prairie homestead in DeSmet, SD and then staying at a working cattle ranch near Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.  We will soon find out if cattle are kinder than mosquitoes and hopefully learn a greater respect for pioneers.

Cheryl Lynn blogs at www.raisingcain.wordpress.com.



July Bucket List Life Dare: Be Wildly Free

Recently I was talking with a group of moms when the topic of dancing in the rain came up.

“I have always wished I could do that,” one mom said. “But I just can’t seem to bring myself to go ahead.”

July 2015 Bucket List Life Dare: Be Wildly FreeEveryone agreed. We all yearned to be so carefree. But we all had to admit that we had never indulged in such a whimsical romp.

I would bet if you stopped to think for a moment, you have at least one bucket list dream of your own that relates to shedding your inhibitions or otherwise breaking free of rules, expectations or constraints.

Now is your chance! This month’s Bucket List Life Dare is to “Be Wildly Free.” If you choose to take this month’s dare, find something on your bucket list that allows you to drop conventions or somehow express your freedom in a way you haven’t before:

– Dance in the rain.

– Eat cake for breakfast or ice cream sundaes for dinner (I have done both!).

– Go up the down escalator.

– Compliment a stranger.

I remember as a young newlywed hearing a pastor’s wife I admired share a story of one summer afternoon when she invited her elementary-school-aged son to join her in having an ice cream treat while sitting out on their garage roof. A neighbor boy came by, spotted them and asked if he could have a treat with them. So she sent him home to ask permission and then allowed him to climb out her window to have ice cream alongside her and her son.

I loved this idea! It was so impetuous and rebellious and such a great memory-making activity. I swore I would one day do it with my kids. But I still haven’t. Now, thanks to this dare (plus a freezer full of popsicles, Klondike bars and ice cream sandwiches), I have no excuse. Think my kids will join me?

If you take this month’s dare and choose to blog about it, link your post back here. Or comment below that you’ll be taking the dare and report back about what you did when you check off your goal. We want to hear about your July dare adventures.