One evening I made brownies after the kids were long in bed. I have a sweet tooth, and John and I had decided to enjoy warm fudge brownies fresh out of the oven while we watched a movie. Before we went to bed I sealed the brownie pan with tin foil and hid it in the top shelf of the pantry, so the kids wouldn’t find it and beg for brownies for breakfast. I should have known better. The next morning M came downstairs as usual and sat on the couch with his toys and juice. I watched as he sniffed the air, looked at me, and said, “I smell chocolate.” The next thing I knew he was walking to the kitchen, climbing on the counter, and opening the pantry door. He reached up and pulled down the pan of brownies. How in the world had he smelled them all the way from the living room?
M pays attention to all the little things in life. He sees and smells everything. It might be my t-shirt or the back of a stranger’s hand or the muffins baking in the oven. No matter how awkward or inappropriate, this attention to detail has made for some really unexpected moments, and some equally beautiful moments.
Like when we were walking through the woods and he stooped to pick up a rock that was shaped like a heart, or noticed the falling tree was bent over like the arch of a rainbow. Or how delighted he is that the back of a CD makes the colors of a rainbow and that my wedding ring will splash light over the wall when the sun hits it just right. M sees all these small, beautiful, seemingly insignificant things, and he loves them.
I get too wrapped up in the big things a lot of the time. I forget to stop and appreciate the little things. I worry about bills, or school decisions, and I miss the beauty that is happening right in my living room or at my kitchen table or right outside my window. I think about later today and tomorrow and ten years from now so much that my focus isn’t on the right now. I don’t see the things that are right in front of me in plain sight. I look past them to the “what-ifs.” But we get just one trip around the world, and we don’t want to waste it.
Can I confess something to you? A few weeks ago I wasn’t excited about summer break at all. The thought of my kids out of school for nearly three months had me panicking before the last day of school even arrived. I started thinking about my own to-do list: the manuscript I need to finish, the two new projects I’m working on, and the speaking, traveling, and writing that is filling up my calendar. But then I remembered last summer.
Last summer my daughter was covered in bandages from a big surgery that kicked off our summer break. Then two weeks later I had my own major surgery and was laid up until the very end of summer break. When the kids started school and I looked back over our twelve weeks I felt cheated – summer felt wasted. We hadn’t been able to do all the fun things I wanted to do because half our family was recovering from very serious surgeries. This year is different. This year it might not be surgeries that eat up our summer break – it might be my to-do list.
I think back to that sobering truth that we only get one trip around the world. And most of us only get eighteen summers with our children home with us. So I made a different to-do list. Our family summer bucket list. And with that one simple act, my perspective shifted and I am now so looking forward to this summer with my kids at home.
Taking my cues from my son, I kept our bucket list fairly simple because it’s the little things that bring joy and delight and beauty to our lives. I also kept it reasonable (36 activities + 12 weeks of summer = 3 activities per week.) No need to go from doing nothing to doing everything and ruining summer by adding too much stress and pressure!
Last, I made a scrapbook to go with our bucket list. I can take a single photo while we’re enjoying each activity then tape it on the page and jot down a silly, fun, or sweet memory from that specific activity. When summer ends we’ll have a special scrapbook to look back on all the memories we made together as a family.
If you want to join our family, I made these two resources: our summer bucket list + the family summer scrapbook template available to you too – click here to download yours for free!!