Why I Didn’t Create an Over-the-Top Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day yesterday was low key at my house. My husband cooked an amazing meal for me on Sunday. I gave him chocolate and each of my girls a little Valentine’s candy on the 14th.

Over-the-top Valentines Compared to the heart-themed-breakfast, love-notes-in-lunch-boxes fusses many of my fellow moms made, it doesn’t sound much like a bucket list celebration, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

Over-the-top celebrations aren’t sustainable for me. And I would argue they aren’t healthy or sustainable for most. They raise the bar and set expectations such that we’re often scrambling to find ways to make the next event memorable, to wow our kids or spouse or friends or social media followers with our creativity and pizzazz, to outdo ourselves. And in the process we cheapen everyday life and rob our kids of anticipation.

Going big has become such a way of life in our culture that I suspect we’re losing the ability to appreciate the ordinary. Our sense of perspective has been skewed by this desire for every milestone or occasion to be bright and amazing. When Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and Easter share the same level of riotous hype in a household, how do kids learn which of those days is most significant?

When teenage girls become accustomed to up-do’s and manicures and professional makeup for homecoming dances, preceded by an elaborate “ask” by their date, then prom must include limousines and multi-hundred-dollar dresses and fancy “after parties.” But what’s left for the day they become engaged? And how can they help but expect the type of wedding that requires an exorbitant price tag when a mere high school dance merited so many frivolous expenses?

We have become so focused on giving our kids everything now, that we are leaving nothing for later. What will your children’s bucket lists look like when they reach their 20s and their 30s? When they are your age, what will they be hoping to do? How will they not be bored in retirement having done it all already?

More importantly, what do your kids bucket lists look like right now? In the wake of the hype and the busyness and the constant need to go big and achieve much, I’m hearing from kids how they just want a day to hang out at home and do nothing. They want a break from it all. Are you brave enough to give it to them? Or do you fear making them feel “left out” by not giving them every over-the-top experience you think their peers are getting?

Break the cycle. Dare to be the parent who invites their kids to enjoy the ordinary and leaves some bucket list experiences for the future. I know a lot of other moms who would appreciate it. And I’m pretty sure in the long run, your kids will too.

1603UdemyDisct Feeling exhausted from trying to match the over-the-top expectations prevalent among parents? Are you still eager to give your kids meaningful experiences that bring your family closer? I can teach you how. Check out my book Family Bucket Lists, or take my online course, Bonding Through Bucket Lists.

Bucket List Bonds: Another Reason the Cubs Win Was Such a Big Deal

I have talked often about the way going after life goals brings connection (it’s the theme of my video course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Bucket Lists). And usually I’m talking about connection in the present tense, with those in your life today. But this past weekend in Chicagoland I witnessed how powerful that bond can be even with those gone from our lives. Like my grandma.

bucketlistbondscubswinGrandma Seman loved sports. When she moved from her home in Hawaii to a suburb near ours a few years after my grandfather died, I got to spend a lot of time with her. On almost every visit to her house, her tv or radio would be tuned in to a Chicago sports game. To this day, I take great comfort in the hollow sound of a ball game on AM radio. Because it brings back those days at Grandma’s house.

While she enjoyed sports year round – football, basketball, and hockey, Grandma’s favorite team by far was the Chicago Cubs. She would sit in her recliner with a crochet project in her lap and give her own play-by-play of the game. She’d exclaim over runs scored and scowl at what she thought were poor calls. And more than anything, she’d talk about the players. Grandma knew each one by name, reputation and background. Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg came up most often. But she could chat just as fluently about Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston and other ball players. And like many Cubs fans before and after her, Grandma suffered disappointment after disappointment.

It’s hardly news that the Cubs finally had their day when they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fight for the National League Pennant on Saturday. All over the Chicago Metro area longtime fans danced for joy, sang “Go, Cubs, Go!” and shot off fireworks. My own daughter shrieked and bounced all around the house (and she’s only waited 17 years, nowhere close to what others have).

My first thought was of Grandma. How thrilled she would have been to see her Cubbies get to the World Series. As she did with other Cubs’ wins, she would have talked like she never had a doubt they’d do it. Grandma always had faith that the Cubs could go far. Seeing them win the National League pennant would have been on her bucket list. Which made it a bittersweet day.

Turns out, a lot of other people were feeling the same way. That win brought back the memories of so many Cubs fans who longed to see their team go to the World Series. Social media lit up with people giving shout-outs to those they wished had been alive for that day. The connection in that moment of a long-awaited dream come true spanned generations and even death.

If you ever wondered about the power of a life goal to bond people together, talk to a Cubs fan about last Saturday. They know that power.

It also explains why Steve Goodman’s song, A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request, has such staying power. Take a look:

Pinch Me Moments: The 2016 Olympics

Pinch Me_ 2016 OlympicsThe 2016 Olympics have begun! If you watched the opening ceremony on Friday, you’ll know that it began with as much flash and regalia as previous Olympics. Famous Brazilian singers, large-scale dance performances, Gizelle taking her final walk as a model. It was spectacular!

Now imagine being one of the Olympic athletes there that evening. You’re clothed in your official Olympic uniform – one that matches all of the other Olympians from your country. You wait for the Parade of Nations to enter a stadium packed with fans and dignitaries. And then, the moment comes: the announcer calls out your country over the loudspeakers and you follow your flag bearer into the stadium. It’s a sea of noise, lights, people. You think, “This is it! I am at the Olympics! I am in the Olympics!”

For all of the first-timers, and even some of the returning athletes, Friday night was a “pinch me” moment. One they had long dreamed of and worked hard for. Bob Costas and the other Olympic broadcasters highlighted this fact again and again. The thought stirs those of us watching. We imagine how awesome that moment must be.

But did you know you don’t have to imagine? You could be having your own pinch me moments. That’s what pursuing your bucket list goals is all about – those moments where you are thinking, is this for real? Pinch me! I can’t believe this is happening!

I experienced that this past spring when our tour bus rounded a curve and out before us spread the green hills of Tuscany, dotted with orange-roofed farmhouses flanked by slender cypress trees. I had imagined that view hundreds of times. I drooled over photos of it in travel magazines and watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun again just for glimpses of the countryside backdrop. And suddenly there it was, right in front of me!

How about you? Are you ready for a pinch me moment? Take time to write down a goal you’ve been imagining coming true, followed by the next step you need to take toward it. Your next step could involve researching options, looking at your calendar, getting a book about it or signing up for a lesson.

Use this Olympic season as a reminder that putting in hard work toward an important goal is worth it. Each time you hear the broadcasters talk about a particular moment being meaningful for an athlete, envision your own meaningful, pinch me moment. Then do the hard work to reach it.

CoursePromoImageWant 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!

Why You Need to Rethink Social Media This Spring Break

We’re a connected society. Ellen DeGeneres’s record-breaking 2014 Oscars Twitter selfie is just one proof. We text, tweet, pin and post our way through our days. We browse, troll and read too. It keeps us in touch and informed. We can be supportive and get support. But there comes a time when social media usage can do more harm than good. And that’s when we are on a break or vacation, in particular, Spring Break.

no cell phonesHere are two reasons why you may want to unplug from online connectivity for that week (which you are probably planning for right now):

– Comparison kills contentment. It doesn’t matter if you’re off on that much-awaited trip to your favorite destination. If you glimpse FaceBook posts from a friend’s getaway that is just as nice or nicer than yours, you may experience a let-down. Even more so if your break is a humdrum one to begin with or your plans have gone awry. In fact, no matter what you plan to do during your time off, hopping on social media may bring you down. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that subjects felt a greater decline in at-the-moment mood and overall life satisfaction the more they checked in on FaceBook. Social comparison plays a big part in that decline. Whether you will be home or away, relaxing or jet-setting, cut your risk of succumbing to the comparison trap by avoiding the urge to network online.

– Playing for an audience is distracting. Admit it, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand if you’re constantly wondering how it will play on social media. Should I tweet a photo of this meal? Update my status from this museum? These thoughts, conscious or unconscious, about how we will appear to others based on how we are spending our vacation can pull us away from engaging fully where we are at. Tell yourself you can review photos and post updates from your time off after the fact. Giving yourself the freedom to disengage from the expectations of the invisible social media audience allows you to satisfy the people right in front of you, especially yourself.

It might be hard to do – staying off of your favorite sites for multiple days. But I think you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Give your whole family the best chance to thoroughly enjoy all that you have planned (or unplanned) for your vacation. By setting up that expectation now, you can make the most of your time in advance (including notifying followers that you will be checking out for a week). And you can plan for no-pressure break that doesn’t have to measure up or appeal to anyone but you and your family.

Does the idea of a week off from social media relieve you or scare you? Have you ever taken time off from your online networks? If so, how did that go? I hope you’ll stop and share your thoughts.



A Month of Thankfulness

Happy November! Have you started counting your blessings yet? You might want to think about getting a head start on it. Because by the time Thanksgiving arrives, we’re so revved up to launch into the holiday season, that Thanksgiving itself gets the short end of the stick. We spend one day watching parades and football games, eating a big family meal, and somewhere in there hopefully reflecting on how fortunate we are.

But after a brief “thank you,” we’re off and  focused on buying, wanting, and consuming (sometimes in the same day). I know many people rue the press of holiday sales into our one official day of grat1311Piedmontitude. I wrote an essay about my feelings on it. You can read it in the November issue of Piedmont Parent.

However, this year, rather than fight mass retailers and Black Friday shopping, I decided to move the thanks up a few weeks to spread it out a bit. It starts today with I have an exercise for you to use with your family. It’s a question for you to pose to them, but in order to get the fullest answers, you’ll need to ask it more than once and allow time for reflection (trust me, I know this from experience). It’s a question that will have your family not only considering how blessed they are, but also noticing the best of what makes your family who they are. And it will show you as a parent which aspects in your family life are having the biggest impact on your kids.

Ask your family this: “What are you most grateful for about being a [insert your last name here]?”

We began yesterday discussing what we’re all grateful for about being Krupickas. The answers were weak, but we’re just getting warmed up – after all, there are still three and a half weeks to go until Thanksgiving.

Mom2MomGratitudeThis month I’m also teaming up with two top-notch mom writers, Christa Melnyk Hines (author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life), and Heidi Smith Luedtke (psychologist & author of Detachment Parenting: 33 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Kids Melt Down) for a 3-week interactive gratitude party on our respective blogs that kicks off right here next Tuesday! Each week one of us will address connections between gratitude and an aspect of parenting. Watch for more details about the tour and how you can enter to win a prize package of all three e-books (and a second set to give to a friend).

I hope you’ll come back next week to join in the fun. And invite your friends! It’s your chance to extend the gratitude too.

And Pinterest users, look for a special post written just for you, tomorrow.