A Refreshing Summer Bucket List

It’s that time again!  Our local weather keeps teasing us with hot days that make it clear that summer is just around the corner!  I’m depending on my Summer Bucket List more than ever this year, as my children have reached a whole new level of fighting that I am certain will send me to the loony-bin if I don’t have a clear plan of attack.  That clear plan of attack comes in the form of my Refreshing Summer Bucket List. Continue reading


8 Fun Ways for Kids to Serve!

As Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, it seems so has our Summer.  School starts this week for us and, as a result, we have been busily finishing up our 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items.  We recently completed our “Day of Service” item.  Since I had put a bit of time researching just the right opportunities for my kids (ages 1 through 9) to spread kindness, and it turned out so well, I thought I would share my 8 fun ways for kids to serve!  We didn’t have a chance to do all eight of these ideas, but the ones we did do had some surprising results.

Take cards to the assisted living home.

We have done this a few times now and my kids are getting more comfortable at going up to the residents and delivering their handmade cards.  Sometimes it is difficult for young kids to feel comfortable walking up to strangers, let alone strangers who may have disabilities or ailments that may make children uncomfortable from their lack of understanding.  I admit, when I was a teenager and served in our school Community Service Club, visiting the local retirement home gave me anxiety.  I digress, as this post is not about me and my insecurities.

We usually invite other families to join us so that we can have a card making party and be armed with more cards to give out when we arrive at the assisted living home.  I’ve learned that the best time to arrive is around lunch or dinner time, to deliver cards while they are all gathered for meals.  On times when we have arrived outside of these hours, we have merely placed the cards on the tables for the residents to see when they arrive.  Our cards usually include little notes wishing them a nice day with a drawing and some stickers.  I think it’s fun to include the ages of the kids who are creating the cards, to personalize the experience a little more for the recipient.

Fun ways to serve

Leave “lucky pennies” for children to find.

When I was a little girl, my Mom used to say, “Heads up, pick it up.  Give it away, have luck all day.”  I’ve heard variations on that, but the common thread is that a penny with its head facing up is considered good luck.  But, let’s be honest, a kid doesn’t care what way a penny is facing.  A penny, in their minds, is as good as gold.  My friend and I sent our kids out, with pennies in hand, to go place “lucky pennies” along the pathway where we were eating our lunch picnic during this year’s Day of Service.  As soon as the kids were done eating their lunches, they all ran off to check the status of the pennies they had placed.  Such a fun and simple way to spread joy!

Deliver baked goods to your local fire station.

This one is ALWAYS the highlight of my kids’ Day of Service.  It’s probably because the fire fighters in our town are all too willing to give them a tour of their vehicles, particularly their engine.  What child doesn’t love getting up in a fire engine?  I feel like we’re on the recipient side of this act of service, as they seem to stop everything to teach our children and let them explore.  The best part is, as an adult, I actually learn new stuff about their role in our community every time we go.

 Attach a bag of coins to a vending machine.

After our assisted living home stop, lunch break, and fire station exploration, we headed over to our local hospital to do two more acts of service.  Before heading out for our Day of Service, we had placed a dollar worth of coins into six separate baggies with a note that read, “Spreading random acts of kindness.  Enjoy a treat on us!”  Upon arriving to the hospital, we sought out the vending machines and taped the baggies to the machines with packing tape.  Since we had six bags and there were only two vending machines, we ended up taping four and delivering two to patients waiting in the Emergency Department.

Place coloring books and crayons in hospital waiting areas.

This was our second act of service within the hospital, and the most surprising one to me.  Being that we were two women with eight kids between us, I don’t imagine we appeared dangerous, yet some adults and kids were quick to refuse our offer of crayons and coloring sheets.  I was shocked by a mom who sharply declined our act of kindness and kids who seemed confused by our offer.  In fact, nobody would take any from us.  We ended up placing the items on tables near the waiting families and informing them that they were theirs for the taking, should they change their mind.  Some kids quickly went for the coloring pages once they were laying out.  I suppose many of us have come accustomed to believing that there is always some sort of catch to something being “free.”

The three remaining items for 8 fun ways for kids to serve were not done during our Day of Service, but I had intentions of doing these as well.  Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to do them for one reason or another.

Leave positive messages with sidewalk chalk along walkways.

I really wanted to do this one, but I forgot to buy the sidewalk chalk.  My hope was to have the kids leave smiley faces along sidewalks or perhaps little messages that just said, “Have a good day,” or “You’re beautiful.”  Sidewalk chalk messages and drawings seem to easily catch the attention of others.  How fun would it be to know that others might be lifted up by such a simple message for days to follow?

Return shopping carts to their stalls.

This was another way that I thought my kids would have fun serving.  However, after further thought, I realized that my kids are a bit too young to be gathering shopping carts and pushing them through busy parking lots.  Plus, my kids kept worrying that if we did this task, then we would end up putting the workers who normally do this undertaking out of a job.    I imagine once they’re a little older, they’ll understand that the “shopping cart retrievers” have other responsibilities to ensure job security.  Perhaps then we can give this act of service a go?

Leave a small present or a note of appreciation in your mailbox for your mail carrier.

My Mom used to give the garbage man, the mail carrier, our dry cleaners’ owners, and our gardeners a box of See’s Candies for Christmas, as a sign of our appreciation.  I always thought it such a nice gesture.  While I don’t have the ability to give such generous tokens, I thought it might be nice to drop a note of gratitude or perhaps grab a candy bar and leave it in our mailbox for our mail carrier.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK::  You may notice that I am being very PC in referring to our mail carrier.  This is because I once addressed a card to my BFF that said, “Dear Mailman, Please deliver this card to the best friend in the whole wide world.”  When the card arrived, the mail carrier had left a note on the front of the card, slashing out the word “man” portion of Mailman and putting “woman” instead.  Since then, I’ve tried to be more considerate about the gender of a mail carrier.  Normally, I’m not very PC, but if I’m going to show my appreciation, I certainly want to be sensitive to their feelings.  ::NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

All of these 8 fun ways for kids to serve almost seem too easy.  By the time we had done five of these eight acts of kindness, it seemed like we had hardly done anything at all.  But who is to say how far these acts may go?  They weren’t big at all in the grand scheme of things, but if they changed the outlook of even one person’s day, then I think we’ve had a success.  Heck, I even got a little happy when my daughter delivered a card to an elderly gentleman playing the piano at the assisted living home, and he noticed her name on the card and said that it was also his sister’s name.  Perhaps just triggering the memory of a loved one brought joy to him?  I know remembering my mom can be bittersweet, but each memory is a reminder that she lives on in me.

As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children so many things; at times it feels overwhelming.  However, teaching my children to look beyond themselves is towards the top of my list.  As a Christian woman, my focus is to teach my children of Jesus Christ.  What better way to teach of Him, than to teach them how to be charitable, which is the pure love of Christ?   I hope they remember these days that we set aside every so often to serve, and seek out their own ways to lift others through their daily activities.

A Quitter’s Giveaway

All that talk about me being a quitter in last week’s post reminded me of a quote I found once on Pinterest.  It was a quote from Sonja Foust, an author, that read, “If you don’t like what you’re doing, stop. Sometimes you get it in your head that you want to be a writer or a painter or a weight-lifter or whatever and then when you start doing it, you don’t actually like it that much, but you keep trying because it was your dream, dammit! Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s your dream and you can kill it if you want to.”  Now, on the heels of my emphasis on determination, I thought I would clarify that it is okay to change your mind and stop doing something.  I’m doing a quitter’s giveaway to clarify my point.

Your Dream

So, here’s the deal.  When I started diving into The Power of a Bucket List at age 19, I had a much different list forming.  It had a couple of items that I THOUGHT I dreamed of doing; for instance, sewing.  Making my own clothes sounded fabulous.  I had purchased a sewing machine with high hopes, but they flitted away as a friend of mine taught me how to make pajama bottoms.  It was fun at first, but it slowly became a frustrating task and I found that I was often handing over my pajama bottoms to my friend for her help.  The project made me realize that I do not like sewing.  Using the machine had its perks and I enjoyed the results when things turned out properly, but overall it’s a very meticulous activity that I have little patience for doing.  Plus, it’s not as affordable as I thought it might be, so I couldn’t even justify sewing as being worth my time and money.  I learned that what I really wanted was the ability to sew on a button and fix a hem, when the need arose.  All the really cool creations are best left in the hands of my Step-mom, who is an excellent seamstress, and my daughter, who can get lost in the activity for hours on end.

That being said, I would like to give away my copy of Sew What! Skirts: 16 Simple Styles You Can Make with Fabulous Fabrics.  It was given to me in the days when I longed to sew my own clothes.  I’d like this book to go to someone who finds peace in sewing versus frustration.

I joke that this is a quitter’s giveaway, but I truly don’t consider myself a quitter on this matter.  I think it’s perfectly okay to try something out and realize that it’s not for you.  Isn’t that what all those years of dating were all about?  We can learn new things about ourselves as we grow older.  Many times our experiences lead us to re-prioritize what matters most to us.  Sewing is certainly a great skill to have, but it’s not the type of skill that I want to further develop.  I’d rather put forth the time to become healthier physically, which is saying a lot about how I feel about sewing.

Have you tried something that you thought you would love only to find out that it’s not really your thing?  Or, did you think you wanted to try something but realize that it was more the idea of such an activity than the reality?  I know at one point I contemplated sky-diving, just because it seemed cool.  However, after giving it real consideration, I don’t have the desire at all.  Also, as I mentioned in last week’s post, I thought I wanted to run a full marathon and then admitted to myself that the idea of running that long sounds horrifying.  A half marathon will do nicely.  To enter this quitter’s giveaway, share with me your changed opinion about an activity in the comments below.

Remember, it’s your dream.  You don’t really need to be quite as violent as Sonja’s quote above and “kill it,” but there is truth in her words.  It’s perfectly okay for YOUR DREAM to change to fit the real you, who you’ve come to know, versus a forced idea of what you once thought you wanted to be in life.

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Find a Way, Not an Excuse

It’s no secret, I’m a slave to the Summer Bucket List every year (2013, 2014, 2015).  I don’t know what it is with me, but a bucket list motivates me to make things happen, particularly a Summer Bucket List.  This Summer is no different.  Despite moving across town and still trying to grasp the fact that I have four children, I have stayed on track to complete this year’s list before school starts.  I hadn’t given much thought to my success with the bucket list until I came across this quote I saw by Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.  If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”  What it comes down to, is that I really want to complete the bucket lists.  So I set out with more determination than usual and I find a way, not an excuse.

Find a way, not an excuse

I genuinely have never considered myself a determined person, perhaps because I so often was teased about being a quitter.  Of course the teasing came from solid examples.  As a child, I took up soccer and quit after the second practice because the coach reprimanded me for something and I took it personal and told my mom that I was done.  Not too long after, I started singing lessons.  I went to two lessons before I quit that as well.  My reason for quitting?  The teacher told me that as a singer I would need to cough in a more delicate manner than I was used to doing.  It seemed absurd to live a life with throat clearing versus a solid cough.  I’m laughing as I type this, but it really is true.  That is why I stopped.  I chalked it up to my love for singing being recreational and, decidedly, not professional.  Then, between Jr High and High School, I took up volleyball.  I was not a natural, as I had never done sports before.  In fact, I remember the coach being surprised when I did a successful play.  Then came hell week, and it was, well, hell.  So, I quit.  So you see, I didn’t have the best reputation for seeing things through to the end.  So, it should come as no surprise that I thought very little of my ability to see anything through or “to find away.”  I was always so good at finding an excuse.

Then a remark was made about me while sitting with my siblings, their spouses, and my dad and step-mom over dinner.  My dad was talking about how he plans to have his ashes scattered at the top of Mt Whitney (the highest summit in the contiguous United States).  He wants them scattered there, as he has climbed it 30+ times successfully.  He mentioned that he intended to have some friends of his take the ashes to the top and scatter them.  I was quite hurt that I would not be scattering them myself, even more hurt that my Dad didn’t think I could pull it off.  I get it, I do.  I’m not athletically inclined nor am I even deemed healthy, but still I should be the one scattering my father’s ashes.  Shocked by the news, I remember speaking up and saying, “Hey, wait a minute!”  Then there was some laughter, because well, it’s me.  I really am in no way prepared to undergo such a feat.  Then, my sister-in-law spoke up on my behalf.  She said, “Sara could totally do it.  She can do anything she puts her mind to.”  I was shocked at my back-up.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure she was even right.  It made more sense to think that I couldn’t climb Mt Whitney than that I could.  But here she was defending me and, in that moment, I remember feeling a little more confident that I could succeed at anything if I really wanted to give it a go.

Then, flash forward to the summer of 2012.  I was visiting my BFF up in Los Angeles and we were sitting on a bench in Griffith Park while my older kids played on the playground.  I still lived in Southern California at the time.  I brought up to her that Aaron and I were thinking about moving to Central Oregon.  I explained to her all the reasons why we thought it was best for our family.  Finances being one of those reasons.  She responded, “Well, how long until you guys get your finances okay and move back?”  I informed her that we had no intention of moving our family back to Southern California.  This would be a permanent move.  I wasn’t ready for the disappointment on her face.  Truly, the mood in our day changed and I felt so sad in that very moment.  As though I could somehow ease her pain, and my own, I told her, “It might not happen though.  Aaron still hasn’t gotten a job.”  She sadly said, “It’s going to happen, Sara.  Anytime you’ve set out to do something, it always works out.”  Such a flattering thing to say, but I could not for the life of me figure out where she was getting this impression.  I still don’t really know.

It wasn’t until the second Summer up here in Central Oregon that I started to believe that maybe I do have a bit of determination in me.  It was when I started the Summer 7 months pregnant, had our baby mid-Summer, and then had the Stroke of Luck the following week.  I had already prepared my 70 item bucket list (only 50 items are posted publicly, as 20 items are location specific) before the Summer began and somehow I was determined to complete it regardless of the curve balls that kept seeming to be thrown my way.  This was the Summer that my BFF gave me words of encouragement from over the phone, “Where there’s a will, there’s Sara.”  For the first time, I actually felt like I had some actions to back up her words.  I was determined (to the point of annoyance to some, I’m sure).  Even if it meant being inconvenienced, I was going to find a way, not an excuse.  And, I did.  All 70 items were completed before the first day of school.

Sitting here writing this makes me want to ask my sister-in-law and BFF what gave them the impression in the first place that I could achieve anything I put my mind to, as it seems I gave so little reasons in my life for that to be the case.  But, yet, they saw it in me.  Regardless, how do I implement this determination into other aspects of my life?  Like, exercise perhaps.  No, seriously, how do I?  I don’t know.

Is it as simple as printing my Life Bucket List out and placing it on the fridge the way our seasonal bucket lists are on display?  Making it a constant reminder for me to make things happen?  Because, you see, I already know that the bucket lists are good motivators.  So, while I want to work on being healthier, it doesn’t seem to work to say, “I’m going to exercise so many days a week.”  I will come up with an excuse.  I know I will.  However, if I want to accomplish #22, Run a Half Marathon (side note, the original list I made said that I wanted to run a marathon, until I realized that I really have no desire to run a full marathon.  It actually sounds pretty miserable.), then I’ll begin to work in that direction and a healthier body will follow naturally.  Then, a healthier body will leave me better suited to carry out #7, Climb Mt Whitney, because my sister-in-law believed that I could, and I want to prove her right.

I get that bucket lists don’t work for all.  I’ve even read a post about 7 Reasons Not to Make a Bucket List.  Honestly, I don’t understand how I get so fired up about them.  But, if a bucket list is what makes me find a way, not an excuse, then a bucket list it will be.  I feel like the stated reasons why not to make a bucket list are more based on bucket lists that are too lofty.  Sure, I have some places that I want to travel, but few, if any, are so specific that I risk not attaining my goal due to a jellyfish migration issue.  Many of my bucket list items depend on personal achievements, not trying to one-up somebody else’s passport stamps.

Life Bucket List #39 - Have a Large Family.  Check.
Life Bucket List #39 – Have a Large Family. Check.

What I’m getting at here, is that we should all look at what motivates us in our lives to find a way, not an excuse.  I speak from experience, that it really is a rewarding feeling to know that I am out making stuff happen versus watching the world around me go by.  I like the way I feel when I find a way, not an excuse.  I feel at odds with myself when I find an excuse.  So, here’s to bucket lists, determination, people believing in you when you might not even believe in yourself, and seizing the day!  Go find a way, not an excuse!

Screen Time Guilt

My three-year-old had his annual check-up a few months ago and they handed me a form to fill out about his development.  I knew they would have a question about his amount of screen time and I knew I did not want to answer it honestly.  The question was specifically worded like this, “Do you limit screen time for your child?”  My husband was next to me, as I was filling out the form.  He said, “Nope.”  I said, “Yes, I do.”  Granted, I don’t limit it as much as I should, but if I have to hear twenty billion times a day, “Can I watch TV?” then that means I have taken some measures to limit it.  Of course, we still got “the speech” about too much screen time from our pediatrician, since I fessed up that it was more than 2 hours a day.  I get it.  I really do.  Too much screen time is bad for our children (and ourselves), but I’m tired of the screen time guilt I feel every time I say ‘yes’ to the TV or iPad.  Frankly, I’m tired of the guilt that I feel for every shortcoming I have as a mother.

Here’s the deal.  I’m working on my 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items along with the twenty additional ones I have that are location specific, and we are flying through them.  We’ve been to a rodeo, had a water balloon fight with some 30+ kids, gone on several picnics, gone camping, visited a fish hatchery, attempted letter-boxing (couldn’t find it), gone on a surrey ride as a family, had a lemonade stand and a garage sale, hosted a talent show with friends, drawn sidewalk chalk drawings, played board games, gone to our local outdoor swim facility, eaten snow cones, taken a trip to a local lake, played at a water splash pad, been working on our library’s reading program, gone to the $1 movies at Regal Cinemas (saw Annie, which was really quite enjoyable), gone swimming at a friend’s pool, built an indoor fort, and my daughters are in the middle of writing and illustrating their own stories, among other things.  Yet still, they probably average 4-5 hours of screen time everyday.  Depending on when they wake up, they sometimes get two hours of TV time before I’ve even rolled out of bed.  It’s terrible, I get that.  But I feel like a Cruise Entertainment Director and sometimes I just need my kids to sit and chill and not fight.  So, why must I feel the screen time guilt every time that happens?

Screen Time Guilt

Is there an escape from said guilt?  Because I imagine even if I just let them veg out with a screen for only two hours, I would still feel guilt for those two hours.  I feel guilt every time that I am not 100% engaged with my children.  I’m really good at this whole guilt thing, apparently.  I get that I am going to miss these days.  Actually, my eldest is already old enough that I do miss those days when she was a baby and it was just her, and she was my shopping partner and listening ear when I talked to myself in the stores about the products I planned on buying.  I already miss her chubby little hands that looked like they had been screwed on her arms since she had a huge crease between the two.  I already miss how she would say “Hokey Pokey” instead of Pinocchio.  You see, I get that time flies.  It’s racing faster than I can process.  But sometimes, time drags.  It drags on those days when I just don’t feel well, when my husband works long hours for days on end, or when my children bicker endlessly.  And on those days, which is most days at least one point in the day, screen time sounds lovely.

All that being said, I do turn off the TV and make my kids go fight about what to play with each other.  Even worse, I make them clean up their messes.  Their messes that obviously prove they are not having screen time all day or else the messes wouldn’t be there in the first place, right?  My house is too much of a disaster from children’s items for my kids lives to be entirely dedicated to screens.  Is it odd that the mess gives me a bit of relief as it is an indicator that my children still know how to imagine and create?  Or the paper scraps?  Oh my heavens!  The paper scraps around my house.  I’m convinced there is a forest missing somewhere due to my girls alone, and yet the screen time guilt remains.  You see it doesn’t seem to matter how much I do to keep my kids busy or what they do to keep themselves busy, at the end of the day, I just seem to focus on the hours of screen time they should not have had.

The real reason that screen time guilt hits me, is because I know they’re missing out on stuff, just like I’m missing out on stuff when I spend hours checking (and re checking) social media.  I get that we have less time to engage with one another when I so quickly say ‘yes’ to screen time.  One Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated as I looked around and noticed that every family member, aside from my baby, was on a screen.  That’s not the type of life I want to live either, y’know?  I made everybody get off their screens and talk to each other.  I realize that I don’t do that enough.  And that is where the guilt comes from.

So, dear readers, help me out.  How do I rid myself of screen time guilt for the times that we all just want to veg?  And how do I better moderate the screen time use so that we don’t miss living life to the fullest?  Before I open myself up to judgment, please consider that my baby still takes two naps a day and my three-year-old cannot engage with someone else without screaming at the top of his lungs at some point, whether it be in frustration or happiness.  He is loud.  So, half the time the TV is on as a tool to keep him quiet and the baby sleeping.

My daughter’s annual check-up was just last week and I had to answer the same question.  This time, I told the pediatrician, “She is on a screen more than she should be and less than she wants to be.”  That answer didn’t suffice the doctor either.  I was given “the speech” again.  At the next check-up, I want to answer the question with more honesty and less guilt.  Can I have both without removing all screens from our home?

Envisioning the Potential

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to hangout with some friends at a local park while our kiddos played.  I got to chatting with one friend who enjoys refinishing furniture.  At the time, she was in the middle of working on a family heirloom hutch.  I was sharing with her how impressed I was that she was able to undertake such a task.  I explained how terrible I am at envisioning an object being transformed into something better.  She responded saying, “That surprises me based on the nature of your blog.”  Her comment led me to ask myself, “Why can I envision improving myself, but not envision furniture becoming something better?”  The answer came quickly, “I’m not good at envisioning the potential when the gap between the ‘beginning’ and the ‘end’ is too wide.”

I did my best to explain myself to her.  I told her about 2004 Sara, Present Sara, and Future Sara.  If you had told 2004 Sara that she would have four children, be happily married, have endured severe depression along with the loss of her mom, and would be living in Oregon, she would have scoffed.  Just as, if you were to tell Present Sara that Future Sara will be physically fit and traveling the world, it would fall on deaf ears.  You see, envisioning the potential, when huge strides are involved, is not my forte.  I hope to be physically healthy, but I don’t really see it happening.  Isn’t that terrible?  If I’m honest with myself, it just seems like this unattainable goal.  I can swallow the idea of taking baby steps to being marginally healthier (Hence, the one burger a week goal mentioned in Who Do I Want to Be?), but the idea of being my ideal weight just seems far-fetched at this point.  Perhaps my lack of ability to envision such a Future Sara is what keeps me from becoming her?  I certainly know that my lack of envisioning the promising potential of junky old furniture has prevented me from purchasing such a piece.  This is why my friend’s remark has really left me contemplating my belief in a person being transformed.  I know it’s possible, as I’ve seen it in certain aspects of my life, but that’s only when I look at things in hindsight.  Apparently, I have greater difficulty envisioning the potential of Future Sara.  This brings me to another discussion I had with my husband.

My friend's refinished family heirloom hutch completed.
My friend’s refinished family heirloom hutch.

My husband and I were discussing the opportunities we have to fulfill a greater purpose in our lives than we are now.  Let’s use my lofty Life Bucket List as an example.  There are items on there that require money, a physically fit Future Sara, and some untapped adventure, among other things.  And, if you recall, I have a longer Life Bucket List that has an additional 20 items that I did not make public.  This master list has items that are more spiritual in nature.  So, in discussing this matter with my husband, I brought up my conversation with said friend at the park.  I likened myself to an old junky piece of furniture and a refinished piece of furniture.  I explained to him that I just can’t see how junky-old Present Sara can turn into refinished Future Sara.  He responded wisely, as he often does.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK::  We have an upcoming move that leaves us in need of multiple furniture items.  Seeing as how we know a few people who are savvy at refinishing furniture, we thought we would call upon their talents.  The plan was that we would find a cheap piece, tell said talented friends what we want, and pay them for their services.  Are you proud of me for attempting such a task, as it contradicts everything I have typed thus far?  One of the friends, who plans to help us, mentioned that when searching for a dresser, we need to make sure the drawers slide appropriately.  Apparently, having to fix drawers makes the project more costly and complicated.  It’s not impossible, just more difficult. ::NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

So, my husband explains to me how I have it all wrong.  He informs me that when likening myself to the refinished furniture analogy, I’ve put myself in the equation incorrectly.  I was looking at it as though I had to refinish Present Sara and turn her into refinished Future Sara.  It turns out, I’m not the refinisher AND the junky old furniture piece.  I’m just the furniture piece and our Heavenly Father and Savior are the ones helping to refinish me, according to my husband.  Then he says (and this is why I gave you the COMMERCIAL BREAK above), “All you have to do is slide your drawers, Sara.”  My part in the analogy is to be sturdy and keep those drawers sliding smoothly.  And I believe that wholeheartedly.  His explanation, along with that first conversation in the park, has helped me realize that I can be a refinished Future Sara and I don’t have to go at it alone.

You’ll notice in the COMMERCIAL BREAK that neither my husband nor I are planning to refinish the furniture ourselves.  We recognize that there are others in our midst that have a passion for this hobby.  We’re just going to find the furniture that is sturdy and fits our needs.  In short, we’re getting help, just as we do in our own lives.  We don’t get to a better version of ourselves entirely on our own.  We become someone greater through experiences that strengthen us, people who encourage us, testimonies that build us, opportunities that surprise us, and a loving Heavenly Father who guides us.  Don’t misunderstand me, we have our part as well.  I don’t intend to sit here ideally and wait to be transformed into something grand.  I’m just learning that I don’t have to know exactly how I’ll get from Present Sara to Future Sara, but I do have to believe that it’s possible.

My original purpose for this blog was to share insights I’ve had that have helped me become a better person.  I continue to receive these little pieces of enlightenment in my life that I hope might inspire someone else to believe in themselves more.  Clearly, I have much to learn in the way of envisioning the potential I have to truly be what I hope to become.  I need to have as much faith in myself as my Father in Heaven and Savior do.  Even having as much faith in myself as my husband has in me would be a significant increase from where I’m at now.  This is not easy for me.  The Unlikely Perfectionist speaks to this weakness of mine.  I get overwhelmed by this idea of refinished Future Sara and I panic.  Turning into her is just too hard, so it seems easier to stay as junky-old Present Sara.  I’m still sturdy and sliding my drawers, but I’ve yet to allow the refinishing process make me something even more beautiful.  It’s time to begin.  Having this analogy in my arsenal has already given me greater hope.  I don’t have to do it alone.

Whether you are a person of faith, or not, this analogy applies to us all.  We all can be refinished.  We all have this great potential that is waiting to shine through.  Some of our drawers may be broken and might need more TLC?  Perhaps we’re not as sturdy as we’d like to be?  The refinishing process, whether it be a Higher Being or a higher purpose that helps transform you, can include repairs.  I know I’ve already had quite a few repair jobs done.  I feel emotionally healthy enough to say that I’m sturdy and I’m doing my best to “slide [my] drawers.”  I’m ready to get to the sanding and staining portion?  Is that what you do to refinish furniture?  I don’t even know.  And, thankfully, I don’t have to know.

What I do have to know is that I have great potential and that potential is attainable.  I have to believe that with the help of loved ones, experiences, my faith, and a greater understanding of my worth, I can be refinished.  So, here’s to envisioning the potential I have to be refined.

And, here's to a loving husband who always believes in me.
And, here’s to a loving husband who always believes in me.

50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items

For many, Memorial Day Weekend is the kick-off for Summer.  School does not get out until mid-June for my kiddos, but that’s not stopping us from getting a head start on some summer fun!  This weekend, we’re going on our first camping trip as a family.  So, I’m sure you can expect a camping related post in the near future.  In the meantime, I am so excited to share with you my 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items to do with your kids!

2015 Summer Bucket List

My personal summer bucket list includes the following 50 items along with 20 more items that are specific to the region where I live.  I highly suggest that you take this list and add some of your favorite things to do locally.  Most of these were on my list last year, but I’ve added some new ones and removed the ones that were a bust.  This will be my third Summer using a bucket list and I can’t wait!  My Summers have never been better, since I let a bucket list guide my way.  My love of completing lists keeps me motivated to carry out all these items, and makes it a fantastic Summer for all of us!

  1. Find and Follow a YouTube Tutorial – The possibilities are endless.  I recently just used a YouTube tutorial to create a low-budget Cleopatra costume for my daughter’s Wax Museum Project at school.
  2. Take a Full Moon Walk (6/2, 7/1, 7/31, 8/29)
  3. Do a Day of Service – Last year we spent the morning serving at a church event, then we took cookies to a Fire Station, and homemade cards to a local Retirement Home.  We did this with some friends, which made it that much more fun.
  4. Celebrate a “National” Holiday – National Ice-Cream Day is on Sunday, July 19th, this year.  If you’d prefer National Watermelon Day, you can celebrate on Monday, August 3rd.  Don’t let me hold you back though, celebrate as many as you want by looking through Foodimentary’s National Food Holidays.
  5. Do Letter Boxing – What a fun activity this was to do last year!  I had never done it before.  We did it as a family with my BFF, who was visiting from Southern California.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s like going on a treasure hunt.  I feel like the Letterboxing websitemay be able to describe it better than I can.  We completed two locations.  Not only was it fun to follow the clues to the Letterbox, but it was also nice to see the beautiful sites along the way!

    Letter Boxing
  6. Attend a County Fair
  7. Participate in a Reading Program – Last year we did the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program.  Your local library likely has one available as well.
  8. Have a Water Balloon Fight
  9. Go on a Picnic
  10. Make a Popsicle Stick Puzzle

    Popsicle Stick Puzzle
    Popsicle Stick Puzzle
  11. Have a Family/Friends Game Night – I may have cheated and had our friends play Pictionary with us (#45 on this list) last Summer, so I could kill two birds with one stone.
  12. Host a Minute to Win It Night – My best suggestion is to hit up Pinterest to decide which games you want to do for this one.  We did a few different ones that involved plastic cups so that we could get the most out of the supplies we had available.  We also did two activities that used a tissue box.  One activity was to see who could empty a tissue box faster removing the tissues one-by-one.  Once we had an empty tissue box, we used it for the Junk in the Trunk game.  Some of my most hilarious video footage from the Summer was from this night with friends.
  13. Go Camping
  14. Go on a Bike Ride
  15. Wash the Car
  16. Stargaze
  17. Help in the Yard
  18. Have a Lemonade Stand
  19. Play Glow Stick Horseshoes – We played glow stick horseshoes while we waited for the fireworks to start last Fourth of July.  As I noted last year, I found this cool activity posted by one of Design Dazzle‘s contributors, Jamie from C.R.A.F.T., titled Summer Camp: Glow In The Dark Ring Toss
  20. Do Sidewalk Chalk Drawings
  21. Write and Illustrate a Story
  22. Host a Talent Show – Hands down my favorite Summer Bucket List Item.  I have done this for the past two years.  Every family that participates has to have at least one child and one adult perform in the talent show.  We use my friend’s sound system, and families bring their chairs, some treats to share, and their talent.  We hold it in our backyard and it is such a fun night!  You can learn more about this activity by checking out my post The Power of a Bucket List, which also includes my first Summer Bucket List.
  23. Complete a Jigsaw Puzzle
  24. Get a Manicure and Pedicure
  25. Visit the Coast
  26. Read a Book, Then Watch the Movie – As mentioned in last year’s Free Printable Ultimate Summer Bucket List post,  Andrea’s Notebook is perfect to make your search easier for the right book-movie.  We did Nim’s Island last year, which my kids love.  I’m thinking we’ll do Charlotte’s Web this year.
  27. Build an Indoor Fort
  28. Play a Board Game
  29. Make Play Dough – I have not done this before.  I’m going to try out a no-cook Play Dough recipe I found on Laughing Kids Learn.  This recipe calls for glycerin, which is also found in the Mega Bubbles recipe (#36 on this list).  I had no idea where I could buy glycerin last year.  I ended up finding it at Walmart in the First Aid aisle.
  30. Sleep Wherever You Want Night – A friend of mine does this in her home sometimes.  The kids get to pick where they sleep that night.  Sometimes her kids have chosen to sleep in the closet or in an empty bathtub (ouch).  Kids just love to try something different.
  31. Pick a Craft to Make and Make It! – I am not crafty, so I was happy that my Mother-in-law took this item on with my girls.  They made charms out of clay.  She purchased the kit at Barnes and Noble, but I found the same Make Clay Charms byKlutz for cheaper on Amazon.

    Clay Charms
    Clay Charms
  32. Eat a Snow Cone
  33. Have a BBQ with Friends
  34. Watch Fireworks on July 4th
  35. Attend a Farmer’s Market or Festival
  36. Play with Mega-Bubbles – This one was a blast!  An important thing to note is that the mixture needs to sit for at least one hour before use.  I didn’t see that until after the kids were already geared up to start making bubbles right away.  Take that time into consideration.  Also, the more bubbles you make, the easier the mixture gets to use.  Last year, I used a Homemade Giant Bubble Recipe I found on the website Happy Hooligans.

    Mega Bubbles
    Mega Bubbles
  37. Read a Book in the Shade of a Tree
  38. Play Balloon Ping Pong – All you need are spoons, a balloon, and a table.

    Balloon Ping Pong
    Balloon Ping Pong
  39. Make a Backyard Obstacle Course – MyBFF and I set up this course for my girls to do, but we took our own turn at it.  We each  did the course one at a time and timed each other to see who could get through it the fastest.

    Backyard Obstacle Course
    Backyard Obstacle Course
  40. Go on a Scavenger Hunt – My favorite scavenger hunt to do is one where you have each letter of the alphabet with a blank line following it.  This makes it a little more flexible, plus it helps the younger ones work on the letters of the alphabet.  For instance, we had spent a couple of days with a scavenger hunt list and we had yet to find something that started with an “O.”  We went to watch a movie and during the movie one of my kids spotted an octopus, which gave us our “O” item.  I thought this was a fun way to integrate our activities.  Last year, we did the same type of scavenger hunt on a road trip to help the drive go smoother.
  41. Do a Science Experiment – Last year, I did a couple of science experiments that didn’t prove as exciting as I had hoped.  We did the paper towel/food coloring/water experiment, but it took too long for my kids attention span.  I plan to pull from BuzzFeed’s 24 Kids’ Science Experiments That Adults Can Enjoy, Too for this year’s experiment.

    Science Experiment
    Science Experiment
  42. Write & Mail a Letter to Someone
  43. Play Hide and Go Seek
  44. Go on a Date with Daddy
  45. Play Charades or Pictionary – Pictionary seems to be a crowd favorite at any age.  The best part is that all you need is a Game Word Generator, a large paper pad, and a pen.
  46. Have a “Late-Over” Night – I’m a “No Sleepover Type Mom.”  This is the alternative that I give my kids.  All the fun of a sleepover, but the other kids head home around 10 PM.
  47. Have a Tea Party – I have a friend who has four daughters.  It’s an absolute blast to co-host this one with her every Summer.
  48. Play at a Water Splash Pad
  49. Go to $1 Movie at Regal Cinemas – The 2015 Summer Movie Express includes nine weeks of kids movies offered for $1/person.
  50. Kids Cook Dinner Night

There you have it, Folks!  Please feel free to download the free printable version list of my 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items.  Preparing this post has me pumped up for this coming Summer.  It was fun to remember all the activities we’ve done since I started this tradition two Summers ago.  I can’t wait to see what the Summer of 2015 has in store for us!

Life Bucket List – Watch the Sunrise on Another Continent

Remember that time 5 months ago when I said I would share with you some of my Life Bucket List items that I had already completed?  Well, I’m finally being true to my word.  I’m trying to do the ‘R’ from my post Your Life is an Occasion and Recommit myself to some items I have let go during the last few months.  My blog being only a fraction of the aspects of my life that I’ve left unattended.  So, without further ado, I present to you the experience surrounding the completion of #37 on My Life Bucket List – watch the sunrise on another continent.

Eleven years ago, I worked for a subprime mortgage company as an Executive Assistant.  The company held annual trips as a reward for their top sellers.  To be fair to the rest of us peons, they had a drawing that all of the Executive Assistants could be included in for a chance to join the company on the trip.  This particular year the destination was Barcelona, Spain.  I could hardly believe that I even had a small chance of going on this trip.  Sadly, my name was not drawn.  However, the woman whose name was drawn had gone the year prior and she didn’t think it seemed fair that she should attend two years in a row.  She encouraged the executives to draw another name.  I was in utter shock when my name was drawn.  I can still remember how I practically sprinted to my office phone to call my husband and inform him that we needed to get our passports ASAP so that we could go on our virtually free trip to Barcelona.  The trip included our airfare, our hotel accommodations (at Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz Carlton Hotel), transportation to/from the hotel, massages upon our arrival, free breakfast daily, one excursion of our choosing, a city tour, and two nights of lavish dinner parties.  It was a dream come true.


At the time of our trip, I had already made a Life Bucket List that included my desire to watch the sunrise on another continent.  A trip of this magnitude seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it happen.  Neither my husband nor myself had ever been on another continent so it was a magical experience from beginning to end.  The trip was dripping with so many extravagant experiences that could only have been brought to you by a company that clearly mismanaged their funds, and we soaked up every last bit of it.

On the morning of our second to the last day in Barcelona, we set the alarm so that we could head down to the beach and watch the sunrise.  The last thing I wanted to do was miss it, so I made sure we went down plenty of time in advance.  The problem is, I think we headed down too early.  It felt like that darn sun would never rise.  We were both so tired, as the time change was still messing with us and we were both fighting off colds.  It was a special memory, nonetheless.  Plus, now we can say that we watched the sun rise over the Balearic Sea, which I believe would be considered a portion of the Mediterranean Sea.  I’ll be honest, I’m not savvy with geography.  What I do know for certain though is that we were on a different continent.

Barcelona (1)

The thing about any activity we set out to do, as individuals, is that the outcome may surprise us.  I thought I wanted to watch the sunrise on another continent, but it was really that I wanted to visit another continent.  The sunrise just seemed like a fun way to experience it, but I am not a lover of mornings.  Perhaps I should have chosen to watch a sunset instead.  Sometimes the activities we do turn out better than we anticipated, sometimes worse, and other times different in such a way that it creates a set of unexpected memories.  The latter was the case recently, when my Dad & Step-Mom treated Aaron and I to a magic show at our local stage theater.  It was, well,  I guess I’m not sure what it was.  Amateur?  Impressive?  Corny?  Pathetic?  Delightful?  Can such an event be all those things at once?  By the end of the show, after all the laughing and heckling had subsided between my Step-Mom and myself, I decided that when it wasn’t amazing, it was amusing.  The whole night made for an evening I will never forget nor could I have anticipated.

I enjoy the things I learn about myself when I experience something new.  Whether it be a magic show or another bucket list item, I feel alive when I’m out discovering life for myself.  It reminds me of the Helen Keller quote I shared in Journaling the Journey, “I don’t want to live in a hand-me-down world of others’ experiences.  I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings, about me.”  As for this Life Bucket List item, I learned that sunrises are magnificent, if you’re already awake, and that my heart delights in travel.  As Susan Sontag said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

In Dreams Awake

‘Twas a night in December of 2011, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse, the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that my BFF soon would be there.  The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while I anxiously awaited to start a horrifically cheesy Christmas movie that ABC Family had put out called 12 Dates of Christmas.  Sigh.  I was never good at poetry, so I’ll leave it for Clement Clark Moore.  Seriously though, I really wanted to see this movie and I knew my BFF, who has an equally pathetic love for cheesy rom-coms, was the perfect person to have by my side.  It had everything you would expect of a magoo made-for-TV-movie; discontinuity, plot holes, everybody growing together as people, cheesy lines, and a male lead character saving the world one wayward teenager at a time.  And, sadly, my BFF and I loved every second of it.  We even watched parts of it over again when we realized there were some hidden gems we had missed.  I may have liked it so much that I convinced another friend of mine to watch it with me again this year.  And even though we both laughed at all the corny lines, poor acting, and plot holes, we both found ourselves sighing, as smitten women do, at the tender predictable ending.

Watching the movie a second time, I found myself appreciating the concept of making the most of our lives.  If you didn’t watch the trailer in the link above, the lead actress lives Christmas Eve over and over again until she gets everything just right.  Think of the movie Groundhog Day with less humor and more magoo.  I got caught up in the message of living to our full potential in an effort to create a happier and fuller life.  They drive the message home in one scene when they use Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”  What a beautiful concept, right?  It reignited my desire to make sure my life matched my values, my righteous desires, and my dreams, as that’s how I interpret that quote.  I feel like the message is that we are to be active participants in creating a life that exemplifies who we aspire to be.

I think that’s why I like the idea of bucket lists so much.  They are like the blueprints of my dreams.  I think back to my 30th birthday and my husband’s gift to me.  My Life Bucket List has “Ride a Zamboni” on it.  My guess is that had I not put it out there as a sincere desire it would not have come to pass.  That February night in 2011, I was in dreams awake.  Or even something simpler I did this past week from my Christmas Season Bucket List.  I had on there to take cards to a retirement home.  As much as I genuinely wanted to do it, I could have easily justified not doing it.  The Saturday was cold and rainy and my husband would not be with me to help with the kids.  However, because of the list and having put it out there as something I wanted to do, I made the extra effort to do it.  How glad I am that we did.  It felt so good to brighten the day of so many people.  Plus, it was darling to see the pictures and notes my children created for the residents.  Seeing my children brighten someone else’s day is me living in dreams awake.

But it’s not just about bucket lists.  It’s about making the effort to live your dreams, whether they be small or large.  To live in the moment, to make the most of that moment.  That’s the message that 12 Dates of Christmas and Henry David Thoreau are trying to make, I think.  We have this glorious opportunity to change the world around us for the better merely by making a commitment to ourselves to live to our full potential.

In some ways I’m great at this and in other ways I fail to accomplish my dreams.  Perfect example: I dream of being healthier.  Not thinner, though that would inadvertently happen, but healthier.  I hope that one day I can live in dreams awake with a fit body.  In the meantime, cheeseburgers beat out vegetables every time.  Thankfully, I have not completely given up on myself.  My determination to accomplish my Life Bucket List may be all I need to make this a reality since several items on there require a healthier body.

Each of us has our strengths and our weaknesses.  And while Amy Smart got to live Christmas Eve 12 times over before getting it right, we also have another day to give it our best effort.  So, here’s to embracing our strengths and challenging ourselves on our weaknesses in the hopes of living in dreams awake; our truest life, or rather, to our full potential.

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Free Printable Christmas Season Bucket List

I’m a firm believer in holding off on all things Christmas until Thanksgiving has been fully celebrated and appreciated.  So, here I am, on the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas season!  I decided I would put together a fun little Christmas Season Bucket List, as I’m sure comes as no surprise.  Sadly, I only completed 16 of my 20 items on my Awesome Autumn Bucket List.  The following list is sure to be completed, as it is filled with all the things that our family loves to do every year around this beautiful time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

I like to post bucket lists on our refrigerator for reference!  This means that today the Awesome Autumn Bucket List comes down and this one goes up!  Feel free to download your own copy of this Christmas Season Bucket List!  May it help make your Christmas season merry and bright!

I love this time of year and I’m excited to spread the love and joy that it brings me!


After publishing, I discovered typos in the Printable Christmas Season Bucket List.  In my effort to not take more time away from my infant son who patiently waited while I put this together, I will not be redoing this printable.  I apologize in advance if you decide to print this out and the typos bug you, as they do me.  Alas, my role as a mother takes priority.  Thank you in advance for understanding.

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