Spring Break Adventure: The Donut Challenge

The Donut ChallengeIt’s Spring Break here. While many families have left town to head South (for the warmth), North (for skiing), or just about anywhere else to simply get away and explore somewhere new, most of my family is home. Our youngest needed to have her tonsils removed and Spring Break allows just enough time for her to recover without missing any school. On Friday she had surgery and since then we’ve been chilling around the house, watching movies and catching up on projects that have been waiting for our attention, while Evelyn chills on the couch or in her room.

Notice I said most of our family is home. Our eldest was lucky enough to accompany her grandmother on a trip to New Jersey to help watch her cousins. That leaves Katherine here to spend her break watching her sister get over tonsil surgery. Relaxing? Yes. Interesting? That depends on what we find to do besides watching an endless stream of movies.

Which led Katherine and I to create The Donut Challenge. We have heard of various donut shops and bakeries in the area, but somehow we’ve only managed to try one non-chain donut shop in all the years we lived here. It’s time to change that. We’re setting out to try donuts from seven shops in Naperville and the surrounding suburbs over the next seven days. Katherine devised a rating system that critiques each shop’s donuts on a variety of characteristics, from presentation, to texture, to flavor variety and more. And to make comparisons simpler, we plan to sample a simple glazed donut at each location (if available). By the end of Spring Break, hopefully we’ll have narrowed it down to our favorite, without putting on too many pounds.DONUT Challenge List

Here are the places we will be visiting on The Donut Challenge:

DeEtta’s Bakery in Naperville

Stan’s Donuts and Coffee in Oak Brook, IL

Honey Fluff Donuts in Countryside, IL

Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery in Downers Grove, IL

Glaze Donuts in Naperville, IL

Dimples Donuts in Naperville, IL

Sylvia’s Bakery in Darien, IL

My goal is to report back on our findings each day. So stay tuned…

Do you have a favorite donut shop? What makes it most appealing to you?

 

Road Trip Planning Help

Help Road Trip PlanningPlanning to head out on a road trip with your family soon? If you’re like me, the days leading up to your departure will be filled with trying to remember everything that needs to be done – stop the mail and newspaper, arrange for pet sitters or house sitters, double-check hotel reservations, check that the car is in good shape. And that doesn’t include packing. I always climb into our car for long trips with a sense of dread, as in “what have I forgotten.” Because all it takes is leaving behind one key item to throw a trip out of whack. On the flip side though, sometimes bringing along just the right item can turn the miles on the road from humdrum to delightfully memorable.

So for your sake and mine, I put together a list of Family Road Trip Must-Haves. These are the top 10 things I’ve found to make a positive impact on our trips. They’re the essentials I want to remember for every trip. Some of them might seem obvious (snacks!), but believe me, in the thick of preparation when mom is juggling packing lists for multiple family members, along with all those other duties, even the obvious can get overlooked. Some of the items I only discovered or only became available after years of traveling with kids (portable hotspots, anyone?). And others we learned to pack the hard way (cleanup supplies!).

I hope this list helps you as you get ready to head out of town. While you’re at it, I’d encourage you to also download the free 18 Summer & Family Vacations chart. It’s a simple way to plan and record how your family spends free time together. It allows you to see at a glance how you’re doing and what you want to pursue to maximize the years you have as your children are growing.

How about you? What is on your list of top things to bring on a family road trip?

I always enjoy hearing what other families can’t do without. I often learn how I can improve the experience for my crew.

Planning What You’ll Ask When You Meet Someone Famous

My bucket list includes meeting a handful of people I admire – comedians, authors, actors. And my goal in meeting them isn’t just to stand in a line for their autograph. I’d like to get even a few seconds to have a real conversation with them. Except given the chance, I don’t know what I’d say or ask. Which, I’m learning, needs to change. Because having a specific question could be the key to that meaningful conversation (and might intrMeetFamousoduce a surprising connection between you and that person). That’s what happened for a writer friend of mine, Sara Marchessault.

Before I share Sara’s story with you, you must know this about her: she is an avid journal-keeper. And not just someone who writes in a journal every day, but
an intentional, creative journal writer who uses her skill and interest in journaling to help other people every day. Check out her website to learn more about Sara. Sign up for her newsletter for periodic journaling prompts sent to your inbox. Most of all: pick up a copy of her book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling.

Now, here’s Sara’s bucket list story of how meeting someone famous intersected with her life’s passion:

Do you have a list in your head, or maybe written down somewhere, of people you would really like to meet?

When I was a kid I really wanted to meet Pope John Paul II. I think seeing his photo in catechism every week made me want to see what he would be like in person.

I have since modified my list to people who are much more accessible than the Pope. Elizabeth Gilbert is on my list. So is Ann Patchett.SaraMLizG

In April 2015 I met Ann Patchett, right here in Tallahassee at the Word of South Festival.

And [in April 2016] I got to meet Elizabeth Gilbert. There we are in the photo [to the right].

I was giddy like a middle schooler in the 90s about to meet NKOTB.

She was in town as part of Opening Nights and when I was invited to the meet and greet reception before the event (thanks to my oldest friend, Betsy) I knew I was going to get to ask her the question I really wanted to ask.

It was great. There were maybe 25 people there and it was easy to get a few minutes to talk with her. And my burning question was….

Where did you get the idea for Tomorrow Morning’s name?

Tomorrow Morning is a character in her book The Signature of All Things.

And guess where she found his name?

In an old journal.

Let me say that again….in an old journal!

How freaking cool is that?

Here is a real life example of what can happen when one person engages in a regular practice of keeping a record of life. What was probably at least a hundred years later, inspiration is found in the pages and a voice from the past is heard anew.

She found the name in a journal. It was a name that a teacher had given to a boy who appeared at the school, wanting to learn. And she, Elizabeth Gilbert, loved it and wanted it to be in her book.

As Elizabeth Gilbert shared later that evening, “life meeting life.” But instead of face-to-face, it was through pages composed long ago.

You just never know what will happen with your writing.

What I do know is that the practice of actually writing is sacred.

It’s also therapeutic, healing, clarifying, and can guide you to find the meaning and purpose in your daily actions.

It can ground you to your life experience and help you be the leader in your life.

It can even become your legacy.

Beyond-Pen-Paper_ebook_2-188x300Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times.

In the comments tell us, who have you always wanted to meet and what do you plan to ask them when you do?

What Could You Give Up to Have More of What You Want?

I tried giving up sugar once. I drank my tea and coffee black, skipped carbonated drinks, avoided desserts. And I read labels, checking for insidious ingredients like corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. But the prevalence of sugar in the foods we consumed became so overwhelming and my desire for sweets so strong, I gave up giving it up.no-symbol-39767_640

I admire my friends who go cold turkey off sugar and caffeine and carbohydrates and a variety of unhealthy edibles. I’d love to know what it feels like and how my body functions without those in my system. But I’ve never be able to do it. I’ve never wanted it enough to battle through the headaches and malaise that seem to hit every time I try to eliminate such foods.

On the other hand, I don’t have a problem spending days away from social media. I can skip FaceBook, ignore Twitter and never glance at Instagram without a thought.

I say all of this because we are on the threshold of the season of Lent. A 40-day period in which many will practice self-denial. A flurry of “I’m giving up” proclamations will go out on social media tomorrow. And the question, which comes up for me every year is, “will I participate? And if so, how?”

You don’t have to be Catholic or Lutheran or from any other liturgical tradition that follows the Church calendar to practice giving something up (although the spiritual side of the practice that accompanies the tradition may be, in some respects, the most powerful aspect of it). In fact, you may have a faith background that practices denial at another time of year. But why not join those who are sacrificing a personal comfort or indulgence over the next forty days? Test your own self-restraint. See what life is like without the presence of something.

In many ways, a challenge like this fits in well with bucket list living. Think about something you’ve always wanted to try doing without. It could be chocolate, sugar, or another food. Or it may be social media, television watching, or sleeping late. Could this be your time to try giving it up?

Or, for a more powerful motivation, consider it this way: what has been missing from or lacking in your life recently? Time with your kids? Laughter? Sleep? Exercise? What could you give up in order to gain that missing piece?

Let the next 40 days be your invitation to tackle a “giving up” bucket list goal. I look forward to celebrating the results in April!

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.