4 Ways to Bond One-on-One with Your Kids

4 Ways to Bond 1-on-1 TimeTuesday mornings are my Chick Fil A breakfast dates with Evelyn, my 12-year-old. We started going in February for their free mystery breakfast offerings and we’ve kept it up ever since. This month, with our eldest working 2 hours away at a camp and our 15-year-old in Europe with a friend for 12 days, I’ve enjoyed even more one-on-one time with Evelyn, but we’ve still kept that Tuesday morning date going. There is something about the ritual and our corner booth that makes it a special time for the two of us.

Even if you’re the parent of an only child, once your kid reaches a certain age, you may not be seeing much of them in a “hanging out” sort of way. And with busy schedules, it often takes planning and purposefulness to capture meaningful parent/child interactions. Here are 4 ways that have worked for me:

1. Get physical. Sharing a sport or physical activity can be a memory-making experience, even if it feels ordinary at the time. You could bike, play tennis, go golfing, run a 5k race.

2. Play a game. When you play games you laugh together, think together and shed the worries and stresses of life. You bond. The beauty is, there are games for every type of person. If your kid says he isn’t into games, you may not have found one that suits his personality. Check out boardgaming.com for game reviews and suggestions.

3. Go out to eat. Removing yourselves from the distractions of home allows you both to focus on each other better (although you might want to suggest that you both put your cell phones face down on the table or in a purse or pocket). Make a list together of places you want to try, and work from that whenever the opportunity arises.

4. Tackle a quest. Evelyn likes to quilt. I like to quilt. And while we do spend time working on our own projects in tandem (one of us at the sewing machine, the other ironing or cutting fabric), that shared interest recently afforded us the chance to go on a quest to visit a number of quilt stores in our area in what is called a “Shop Hop” complete with free patterns, raffles and discounts. You may not want to Shop Hop, but I’ll bet you can turn a shared interest into a quest of sorts. Try to use all of the LEGOs in your house in one huge project, test out recipes for your favorite dessert in search of the ultimate version, or see how many characters you can collect in Pokemon Go. You get the idea – a big shared project can equal a great time to bond.

Have you paid attention to how often you interact one-on-one with your kids? Are you due for a date or outing with each of them? Try one of the four methods above with your child this summer while your schedules are more open.CoursePromoImage


If you’re looking for more ideas to engage in bonding with your family that you can use this summer, sign up for my online video course “Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists”.

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.

The One Where We Sat on the Roof and Ate Ice Cream

In July I dared readers to step out and conquer a bucket list goal that required them to let go. To be wildly free. Something like dancing in the rain.

For me that expression of whimsical freedom came in the form of sitting out on my roof eating ice cream sandwiches with my kids – a daring bit of fun that always appealed to me, while at the same time sort of freaking me out. I put it on my bucket list long ago in hopes that one day I would get the courage to do it.

In response to the dare, I pledged to take my kids out on our roof for an ice cream treat by the end of July… And I did it (just barely before the end of the month)!

July Life Dare Accomplished2It was a sultry evening, thick with late July heat and humidity, but overcast enough that the roof wasn’t too hot to sit on, with a gentle breeze that stirred the warm air around.

I opened the window screen in my office, placed a stepstool under the window, and hoisted myself into the opening, one leg outside, straddling the ledge. Somehow climbing the rest of the way out became a sort of human origami act, me folding myself in half to duck out the window, while testing different bent configurations of my limbs in an effort to fit through without falling. I tried and got stuck. Tried again. And finally managed to squeeze through and pull my other leg over the ledge.

It seemed like it should have been easier, especially when each of my three girls popped out the window behind me with brisk efficiency. In my defense, having an ice cream sandwich in one hand did add a challenge to the process. That and a fear of heights.

Once outside all four of us lined up along the low roof above our garage, eating, chatting and people watching. I kept waiting for passers-by to spot us, but no one looked up in our direction. Perhaps it didn’t occur to them to expect anyone to be up where we were. But it seemed strange to me to see our neighbors pass by close enough to hear their conversation and yet not have them notice us. I’m used to the vantage from our driveway where we sometimes sit. There we share greetings with most who walk by.

As it was, it was a relatively quiet night. Very few cars, a handful of bikers, and a small number of walkers. The emptiness along our street wasn’t surprising though, since our little city tends to empty out in late July as swim, baseball and softball seasons end, and families finally take their vacations.

After devouring our ice creams we sat there for a bit longer, enjoying the night and the view. One of my girls suggested bringing a game out to play. But that went beyond my comfort zone. I guess I hid my anxiety at being up high a little too well.

I’m glad we did it, though. That simple act – eating ice cream sandwiches on the roof – whimsical as it was, made for a memorable evening. I can see us doing that again next summer and the one after.

Just don’t expect to see me walking around out there. I’ll be the one on the end, back pressed firmly against the house.

August Bucket List Life Dare: Seize the Summer Moment

It’s August. Our school district is clamoring for my attention again with registration forms in the mail and orientation reminders in my inbox. As much as I want to ignore it and pretend my mornings will forever be blissfully quiet with kids sleeping late, summer is winding down. School will be starting again. Soon. And that feeling that we haven’t done everything we wanted to for the summer niggles at me.

August 2015 BLL Dare_ Seize the Summer Moment (1)You too? I have some good news for both you and me: it’s not over yet. Even as we shop for school supplies, we can still complete something we had planned this summer that we haven’t gotten around to. And even better, we have a natural deadline to spur us on – the first day of school.

So that’s the theme for this month’s bucket list life dare: Seize the Summer Moment. Think back to the first day of summer. What did you envision the three months of June, July and August 2015 to look like? What did you hope you and your kids would be able to do or create or see or learn or visit or encounter?

Hopefully you can say your summer lived up to much of your vision. And maybe you were pleasantly surprised by experiences you hadn’t dreamed of ahead of time. But there are probably one or two things that you couldn’t fit in or just plain forgot about. That’s what this dare is about. Pick one or two things, preferably bucket list goals – things that you have never experienced before, that you still want to get in before summer ends. Then make them happen in August (or by Labor Day, if you want to give yourself until the official end of summer).

My goal is to take my kids to Magic Waters, a water park we have never tried. We pass it every summer on our way to my in-laws’ summer home, but since we go out there to boat and fish and swim, it never made sense to hit the water park. This year we were fortunate enough to be given passes to Magic Waters. But first summer school and its rigorous homework prevented us. Then vacation away, appointments, work and other obligations made it hard to get out there. Now we have no reason not to go – we just need to make it happen. And I can’t wait for the fun we’ll have when we do!

How about you? What is one new adventure you want to still squeeze into your summer? Take the August Bucket List Life Dare and make it happen.

New Monthly Blog Feature: The Bucket List Life Dare

JuneDareImageIt’s one thing to dream about and discuss our bucket lists. But we hit a whole new level of life experience when we take action, any action. Which is why I am introducing a new monthly feature here on my blog: the Bucket List Life Dare.

This week my family celebrates two transitions: my middle daughter Katherine graduated from 8th grade and is now a high schooler, while my youngest daughter Evelyn officially finished elementary school. If there is one phrase I have heard more than any other in the past two days it’s “time sure does fly.” And indeed it felt that way Monday during the junior high Moving On ceremony as I sat near the mom of one of Katherine’s preschool classmates and we reminisced about our girls as four-year-olds.

It made me realize that life will never slow down for us to do the things we want to do. If nothing else, the pace of life where I live in American suburbia is accelerating. I have learned I can’t wait for the moment to be just right to live out my bucket list dreams. And I have learned I don’t have to know the whole path toward realizing them. I simply need to find, and take, the first step.

The Bucket List Life Dare is about first steps. Or next steps, depending on where you are in your chosen bucket list journey. At the beginning of each month I will issue an invitation to a simple challenge. To join in, follow the instructions for that month’s challenge and chime in below in the comments about what you did.

It is my hope when next June arrives we aren’t blown away so much by the passage of time, but by how much happened in the span of a single year. Are you in?

Here is the first Bucket List Life Dare: Be a tourist in your own region. Tell us one thing your city, state or region is known for that you have never experienced. It could be a food you’ve never tried, a place you’ve never visited, a festival you’ve never attended or some other regional specialty or attraction. Then, if possible, plan a time to do/see/eat it this month.

To complete the dare, tell us in the comments your local live-like-a-tourist goal (and when you plan to check it off). Or Tweet out your response using the hashtag #BucketListLifeDare. Once you fulfill the month’s dare, come back and tell us what it was like. If you blog about your experience, I’d love to have you share a link in the comments.

My #BucketListLifeDare for this month: take my family to Eataly, the Italian Food Marketplace in Chicago. It is on my bucket list already and this month I want to check it off. Stay tuned to hear how that turns out for us.