Teach Your Children Well: Skills Goals

Teach your children wellWhen I was young my parents bought a piano – not because they were eager to play (Mom played some), but because they had a goal. And it wasn’t the goal you would expect. They didn’t desire for their children to become master pianists. Instead, the goal was simply for all of us to learn how to read music. We had to take lessons long enough to have learned to play with both hands – treble and bass clef – with decent proficiency. After that it was up to us to decide whether we continued.

Their desire to impart that skill made an impression on me. It made me conscious as a parent about what skills I wanted to invest in seeing my children master, that might fall outside the scope of an academic environment or basic life skills. Reading music is one. Downhill skiing is another – in spite of the fact that we live in a very flat part of the country (after all, it’s a sport you can enjoy into adulthood that is much easier to master at a younger age). Basic hand and machine sewing is a third.

This summer my husband had yet another specific skill on his radar for sharing with our youngest daughter: water skiing. A few summers ago, to her dad’s delight, Bethany, our 17-year-old, became confident at water skiing. But then Katherine, who is much more cautious, decided it wasn’t her thing at all and refused to try. Which left Evelyn. After years of daredevil tubing (“look, no hands!” she’d mouth at me while waving wildly as her tube bounced over the boat’s wake), it made sense that water skiing would suit her. She is ready to give it a go. So Mike has made a priority of finding a time where the two of them can get out on his parents’ boat (along with my sister-in-law & brother-in-law, to drive or spot) so she can learn to ski. That is his summer bucket list goal for Evelyn.

Have you ever thought about what skills you want your children to master that might take extra planning and effort? What knowledge or ability could serve them well in life? Are you proficient at something that others marvel over, that you could teach your kids? Or is there a skill you wish you had gained as a kid, but didn’t and don’t want your kids to miss out on? Consider keeping a list of these skills goals and actively providing opportunities for your kids to learn them.


Want to bring your family closer by creating family bucket lists? I can teach you how. Check out my book in e-book or paperback or take my online course, now only $15!

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



June 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: 10 New Things to Try

June 2016 Bucket List Life DareHere we are, at the gate to the garden of summer adventures, ready to open the door. You have the key in your hand. Will you do it? Or will you pass on by and leave it unopened, unexplored, sticking instead to the safety of the familiar?

This month’s dare is about taking the key to adventure and putting it in the lock so you just have to turn the knob to enter into adventure when you’re ready. Here’s what that looks like: create a list of ten new things you want to try this summer. Get out a piece of paper or open up a blank document. Write down the numbers 1-10, then fill in the slots with experiences you want to have in the next three months.

You list could include local shops you want to check out, foods you want to grill, sports you want to try, bike paths you want to travel, road trips you want to take. Make it an eclectic collection or go with a theme. Work hard to come up with ten ideas that are doable – not too far or too expensive or too time consuming. Although don’t pitch the ideas that are distant, pricey or long-term. Those should go on your master Bucket List. This list is just a mini version limited to the scope of the June through August of this year.

Invite your kids to come up with their own lists. Ask your spouse to create one too. Spend time in the next week as a family comparing lists.

If you stick with a list of 10 New Things to Try, you could easily check them all off by going after one each week. Or use your list as an outline for how you’ll spend days off, if you take a vacation.

Here’s my list:

1. Visit a new-to-me cupcake shop in the suburbs.

2. Go zip lining (they have this at the camp my daughter is working at this summer, so my goal is to do this on one of our visits to see her).

3. Make homemade tiramisu using the recipe we learned in Tuscany.

4. Pick one of my Pinterest “Crafts to Try” board ideas and do it.

5. Eat at a Naperville restaurant we’ve never been to.

6. Volunteer at a Naper Nights concert.

7. Put my daughter on a plane to Europe with a friend (already planned, but every list has to have a “gimme”).

8. Take my husband to a comedy club.

9. Check out a new-to-me festival.

10. Go to a vintage baseball game.

Once you have a list written, you won’t have to wonder about what to do when you’re looking for adventure. Just pick something from your list and go!

Are you game to take this month’s dare? Share in the comments an idea or two from your list.

Nesting and Bucket List Experiences

What does a crafter do in advance of a bucket list experience? Create something!

Nesting & Bucket List ExperiencesI realized that this has been happening a bunch in my life lately, so I thought I’d share a little about it with the thought that it might inspire you. When you’re preparing for a bigger event in life, like a long-awaited trip, a move, or a graduation, there’s often this nesting impulse that takes hold. I would say it’s true for moms, but since I’ve seen my husband go there more than once (I can almost guarantee that a part of our house will be gutted and revamped in one way or another just a few days before we expect a bunch of guests), I’m thinking it’s an even broader phenomenon than that. In anticipation of seeming disorder or the unfamiliar, we crave control. Indeed, a study of nesting in pregnant women found a desire for control to be at work. We arrange, rearrange, organize and create to satisfy our need to have control.

For me, that means jumping into a new crafting project. Only five days before we left for Italy I found myself dashing out to the fabric store to buy some UltraIMG_2281 Fluffy fabric to make a neck pillow. I had come across more than one recommendation for taking one to make the long flight more bearable, while compiling my packing list. Which reminded me of a tutorial I’d recently seen for making one. And the urge struck.

I have to say that I was pretty relaxed about getting ready for our trip once I had the pillow stitched up. It did allow me to sleep better on the plane – well worth the mad scramble. Plus I can send it along with Katherine, my fifteen-year-old, when she heads out on her bucket list trip later this summer.

Now I’m in the midst preparing for another momentous occasion: sending our eldest daughter Bethany off to work as a lifeguard at camp for the. entire. summer. (Eek!) We’ve been shopping for a list of necessities – sport sandals, polarized sunglasses, sunscreen… And in the midst of the shopping and preparing, I found myself digging out scraps of fabric for another project. This time, I dove into making reusable snack bags for her to take to camp to carry munchies (when you’re buying Costco-sized boxes of Goldfish crackers, you start to wondSnackBagser about this kind of thing. I’m sure a whole bag will end up in the guard house at some point, but it’s nice to know she can take just handfuls of them along now and then too). I’d been inspired by another tutorial I’d seen and thought they’d be a fun gift to send her off with. Never mind that I gave them to her as they came off the sewing machine instead of wrapping them up with a bow.

Who knows what crafting urge will strike when it’s time to get Katherine ready. Maybe the already-made pillow will suffice. But I’m not counting on it. That nesting instinct can be pretty fierce. The psychology behind nesting before a big event explains why I do this. Understanding this urge allows me to give myself space to be that way. It allows me to be kind to myself and see the good that comes from something that otherwise looks like “distraction.”

How about you? Do you find yourself launching into projects – cleaning, organizing, cooking, crafting –  before a big event? Does it help knowing why you get this way?

 



Deciding When to Splurge on a Bucket List Experience

Deciding When to SplurgeThe nine days my husband and I recently spent in Italy were filled with dream-come-true events. Just being in that country and seeing the sights I’d heard so much about would have been enough. But the extra tours (and a class) that I booked, along with some first-class travel and hotels brought the trip up to the level of truly memorable.

In previous posts, I talked about how I saved money on airfare and lodging using points and miles. I’ve always been thrifty, so I knew any bucket list trip I took would be done on limited funds (we are saving to put three girls through college, after all). As I showed in those posts, bucket list travels don’t have to be overly expensive. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t occasionally splurge when it comes to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It may be that those splurges end up being (to borrow from the well-known MasterCard commercial) priceless.

Don’t know when to splurge and when to save your pennies for another bucket list experience? Here are some criteria that worked for me:

  • Does this option represent the quintessence of my bucket list experience? One of the tours I booked for us involved having lunch and wine on the terrace of a vineyard in Chianti overlooking the Tuscan hills. You can’t get much better than that for experiencChianti Vineyarding the essence of Tuscany. Both the food & scenery were amazing.
  • Does it afford me an inside or behind-the-scenes look at something I have admired from afar for a long time? We happened into the chance to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which gave us a perspective many don’t often gain and definitely became a memorable part of our trip (confession: we actually didn’t have to pay to climb, thanks to some generous fellow travelers, but having the opportunity made me realize why it might be worth shelling out money for options like that in the future).
  • Will I continue benefitting from it afterwards? We took a cooking class in Florence, which gave us know-how and recipes we’ll use for making meals at home. Also, I booked this because my husband loves to cook and learning to cook Italian dishes in Italy –  what’s not to love about that?In Tavolo Cooking Class
  • Is the incremental cost minimal compared to the benefit? We were able to book a first class train compartment on one leg of our trip at the same price as second class, thanks to an available discount. It was so worth it for the privacy and comfort, even for a three-hour trip. Again, having experienced it, I’m going to keep my eye out even more for upgrade options like that, if they come at little to no extra cost.
  • How does it fit the rest of my adventure? Will this particular splurge improve the rest? I booked two nights at the Park Hyatt Milan (can you say “Five-Star Luxury”?) for the end of our trip. And while I used a credit card benefit to get them, I might consider splurging on better accommodations similar to that in the future. The rest, relaxation, comfort and pampering we experienced there allowed us to return home more refreshed.IMG_2584
  • Is my bucket list experience itself a splurge? Maybe you’ve always wanted to fly first class or stay in a penthouse suite. Then saving up to make those happen, even if you have to pay full price (although on the first class flight I would argue that there are plenty of ways around it), would make your decision for you.
  • Do I have exclusive access through connections, or just being at the right place at the right time? This reason alone may not be worth the splurge, but combined with the above factors, could sway your decision.

Some splurges are obvious – ones that match a favorite hobby or interest or are somehow otherwise so perfectly suited to you or your family members. Others, aren’t so clear – but don’t blow them off. Give it some thought using the considerations I’ve listed above.

I spent years saving my pennies and skipping add-ons when it comes to our family’s experiences. Only recently did I discover how the occasional splurges can elevate an experience and add value well beyond the monetary cost. Hopefully the tips I’ve shared here will help you not miss out on special opportunities in your bucket list adventures when it comes to considering pricier options.