Summer Mini-Bucket List

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Ah, Summer!  I love your long days, relaxed pace, and the opportunities you provide to do most of my living outdoors.  With your arrival, my schedule loosens up, travel adventures commence, and I can reconnect with my family over campfires and hikes in the woods.  You are the long-awaited, extended vacation of my overly-ordered, hectic year.

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Each summer I make a list of fun goals I’d like to accomplish and activities I’d like to experience during the season.  Having a bit of a plan protects me from waking up one morning in September, realizing that summer has slipped away and I missed its unique opportunities because I was too caught up in the minutiae of living.  This summer, my bucket list touches on a few bigger, long term goals but is mostly light-hearted and fun.  I can’t wait to get started.

Summer 2016 Mini-Bucket List

  1. Visit a historical site I’ve never been to beforePoplar Forest (Thomas Jefferson’s vacation home) and Fort Ticonderoga are possibilities based on vacation plans.
  2. Spend a day with each of my children doing whatever their hearts desire.  I have a feeling there’s a lot of fishing in my future.
  3. Offer three different invites for dinner on the patio to friends we would like to get to know better.  I’ve been convicted of my stinginess with my time and this is a small way for me to practice generosity and hospitality.
  4. Try a new homemade ice cream recipe. Strawberry, maybe? Or peach? Or salted caramel?
  5. Go to a major league baseball game.  It’s been a few years and the Phillies are actually playing pretty well so far this season.
  6. Take a road trip.  Is it cheating to put this on my list when I already have the road trips planned?  My husband and I will be driving the Blue ridge Parkway at the end of June and in August the family will cruise to the Adirondacks.
  7. Enjoy some time in my kayak.  My husband bought me a kayak two years ago and I have yet to use it.  It’s about time I took the opportunity to enjoy a float down the Conestoga.
  8. Swim in a lake.  I haven’t done this in years and I think the Adirondacks will be the perfect place to jump in.
  9. Participate in a service project with my family.  I’m not sure what form this activity will take but it should be a great bonding experience for us that also benefits others.
  10. Read or listen to 12 books.  That’s about 4 books a month.  Piece of cake!  I want to keeping plugging away at the Popsugar Reading Challenge and also read some books just for the fun of it.  It is summer, after all, and summer reading should never be a chore.
  11. Walk 108 miles (3 miles, 3 times a week for 12 weeks).   My health and well-being are worth this little bit of time investment.  Besides, I often listen to books when I walk – more story time for me.
  12. Sit on the porch or patio late in the evening with Jay as many nights as possible, listening to nature’s music and talking over our little and big dreams. 

Welcome, Summer!  Stay as long as you like.

Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish this summer? 

A Little Yule Cheer: Day 21 (Christmas Card Outtakes)

Ever since my youngest child joined our family, my husband and I have been exploiting our children to create adorable Christmas cards.  When Aaron was four months old, we dressed the kids up as  Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.  We used an old Crate and Barrel magazine rack for the manger and pillow cases for costumes.  The card was a huge hit and a tradition was born.  Through the years the kids have been angels, shepherds with cardboard sheep, lions and lambs, Santas, and the reindeer you see below.  They’ve held candles, played in the snow, and spelled the word Joy with cardboard letters painted gold.

Now that the kids are older (my daughter is 19 and my sons are 16 and 14), we’ve pretty much given up doing creative family Christmas cards.  The last time I asked the kids what theme they wanted to do, my middle son suggested a recreation of that first manger scene complete with my youngest son, who is now 5’7″ and 170 lbs., playing the role of baby Jesus.  That went over like a lead balloon as you can probably guess.  With that, our card tradition has come to an end.

I wish I could say that I miss creating all those Christmas cards, but I really don’t.  They were a lot of work, mostly because getting three children to look at a camera at the same time and smile is difficult  under normal circumstances.  Add props like a lit candle or uncomfortable costumes and it becomes an impossible task.  Photos sessions always ended with someone in tears (usually me and at least one child) and an oath that we were never, ever, doing this again (which we always did).

Somehow, we always managed to put a card together before Christmas and as much as I don’t miss doing it, I’m so glad we made the effort.  Our family and friends have enjoyed the cards and w e now have a wonderful collection of images of our children across the past 14 Christmases.  The funny thing is, when I look through the photos, I love the ones that didn’t make the cut the best because that is where each child’s personality really shines through.  Sweet Julia, who has always been a pleaser, wanting to do exactly what we asked of her and who the boys could get to laugh at the drop of a hat.  Mark ,who was always half annoyed that he had to participate and who could never keep his eyes open when the flash went off.   And Aaron, who has the most expressive face of anyone ever and who couldn’t sit still for 5 seconds.

The photos below are from our 2007 Christmas card.  The kids are 11, 8, 6.  You’ll notice they are signing in some of the photos.  I found that it helped them to smile if they sang Christmas carols.  None of the photos below made it to the cover of the Christmas card that year but I love every single one of them.  They are the perfect example of what our Christmas card process was normally like and are beautiful reminders for me of who my children were at that time.

Christmas Reindeer of 2007

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Thank you for allowing me to revel in some Christmas nostalgia and for joining me.

A Little Yule Cheer: Day 1 (Walk Off The Earth)

For the next 25 days, I’ll be using this cozy spot to have some fun with the Christmas season.  I have no idea what I’ll be posting; the only requirement for a topic is that it must be light-hearted and merry.  Check back daily for a refreshing dose of Yule Cheer…

Things I Like

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A little while ago, WordPress highlighted a niche blog called Things We Like.  The author, Jessica Gross, writes lists of things she likes to help her feel better when she’s “in a funk”.  She also encourages others to submit their lists for publication on her blog.  What a great idea!  I’m adopting the concept as inspiration for a semi-regular post here because lists like this encourage me to practice thankfulness.

Thankfulness is good.

It settles me squarely in a place of worship.  It enables me to be mindful of the small moments that make up the substance of my life.  And, it softens my attitude when living feels like too much work.  Now is as good a time as any to start, don’t you think?

Things I Like

  • Opening the windows wide after months of air conditioning
  • Industrious bumble bees with pollen-laden legs
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The colors of the sky at the western horizon immediately before darkness settles in for the night
  • Just-picked Gala apples from Cherry Hill Orchard
  • Watching my sons play football
  • Driving the Audi A6
  • Lazy Sundays
  • Clean, cool sheets
  • Falling to sleep to the sound of crickets

What is bringing you joy at the moment?