Posted in Blog

Fall Bucket List Printable

It’s officially Fall! That means it’s time to pull out my Fall bucket list and add it to our family command center.

Our Fall Bucket List

I had to make a few tweaks to it this year, with COVID limiting some of our activities. I don’t see us going to any of the local Fall festivals this year (if they’re even open). But even without some of our Fall traditions, there’s still plenty to do. We did sneak in apple picking last weekend, so we’ve already started “falling into fun.”

If you’d like to make your own Fall bucket list, feel free to download and use my fill-in-the-blank template below.

Why do I bother making these lists? It’s simple really.

We typically only get 52 weekends a year. Divide that by four, and that means about 13 weekends of each season per year. Our boys are still young, 5 and 7 years old, but they are growing up quickly. I want to take advantage of our time together and fill our weekends with as much fun as possible. Having a list means that when I’m looking for something for us to do as a family, I have a pre-planned idea of the things we enjoy doing annually. They become our family traditions and the memories the kids will take with them after they leave home. It’s the type of intentional planning that fully embodies my reflect, plan, live attitude.

Posted in Blog

Visiting Shenandoah National Park

One of the items on our family’s Fall bucket list was to view Fall foliage. The best place I know of in our area is to travel to Shenandoah National Park and travel down Skyline Drive along the Appalachian mountains. Alone the 35 mph road, there are multiple scenic overlooks and stopping points to look at the views, take a hike, or go camping. It is a busy place, especially during Fall weekends.

Before we went, of course, I had to scope things out. For my future reference and others who may consider a similar trip, here’s what worked for us.

  1. If you have the luxury of being flexible with the date you go, check the weather in advance. We wanted to work in a hike, so I didn’t want to be doing that in the pouring rain.
  2. Go early to avoid lines. Since we were going on a weekend, we got up EARLY and ended up at the park before 9am. We entered right away without waiting. As a bonus, we approached the mountains as the sun was ascending, which cast a beautiful glow among the yellow and golden leaves. We even caught sight of a vibrant rainbow in the early morning light as the fog was burning off.
  3. Buy a park pass in advance. You can shorten your time in line even further by buying a park pass in advance. Don’t forget that 4th graders get free admission to all National Parks! And, because of the pandemic, 5th graders can also get the pass that lasts until Aug 2021.
  4. Have snacks available. There are four entrances to Skyline Drive, and we came in from the North most entrance at Front Royal, VA. A few miles from the entrance is The Apple House, a restaurant famous for its apple butter donuts. These donuts are now a new family favorite (and we obtained another check on our Fall bucket list by trying a new food). These were a well-earned snack after our trail hike.
  5. Plan your must-see stops along the way. There are a number of great overlooks or places to stop and hike. The National Park Service website has a great list of hiking trails sorted by location that provides an easy-to-read key on important information about each hike. You’ll notice when you’re on Skyline Drive that there are mileposts along the road that note the location, so it will be easy to spot when your planned location is coming up. Front Royal, where we entered, is mile marker 0 and it continues South to mile marker 105. We hiked to the Fort Windham Rocks because we wanted an easy, short hike that didn’t have a high elevation. We had a great time, and now we can say we’ve hiked part of the Application Trail!
  6. Decide what you want to do for lunch or dinner. We knew we wanted to stop for food, but because of the pandemic, we didn’t want a sit-down restaurant. I scouted a few options that we ended up skipping this time around because the kids fell asleep, but I would certainly try Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen or Burgers N Things (currently closed Sundays).

One of these years, I’ll book a weekend away for us in the mountains to enjoy the sites for more than a couple of hours. But, this year, it was just what we needed. We had a great time out together and everyone seemed to enjoy the long-ish car ride, since it’s such a novelty these days to be out on the roads.

Posted in Blog

Reflections On How Time Is Perceived

I’m currently reading Laura Vandercam’s book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. Of course, with that title, I couldn’t pass it up. Plus, I’ve been following Laura on her Best of Both Worlds podcast for some time. I like what she has to say.

My October book recommendations post will surely rate this book highly. But, even now, when I’m only halfway through it, it’s made me reevaluate about how I’m using my time. It’s a concept I circle back to regularly in my life, and I guess we all should revisit the idea from time to time. Am I spending time on pursuits that I value, bring joy, and make this one life we are living better for me and others?

I remember going through this reflective exercise after my older son was born. I have always been a list-maker who only feels accomplished as plans are executed. Babies and toddlers don’t follow plans. Ha! Nope, not at all. I had to shift my mindset. My goals were no longer to spend the weekends getting dishes done, laundry washed and folded, etc. as fast as possible so I could relax. My focus was on spending time with my little guy. Now the chores still needed to happen, so when my son was old enough, he helped. Sure, it made the whole endeavor take three times longer, but my perception of how I was supposed to be spending my time changed, so it didn’t matter.

I went through this exercise again right before I started this blog. It had been a daydream of mine for years to start a blog, but I never began. Oh sure, there were tons of reasons. I didn’t know how to start. No one cares what I have to say. I didn’t have the time. These were “reasons” and fears that I could overcome. After going through a time tracking exercise, I realized I did have the time to blog. I Googled a bit to figure out how to do it, picked a path, made a loose plan on what to write about, and started writing. I hope others read it, but I’ll write nonetheless.

I’m starting to get that itch again that I want to experience more in life. There are things I want to do with the kids before they are too big. There are places I want to explore around where we live that we never go to because we live here and “we can go any time.” Well, “any time” needs to happen. And as much as I want someone else to plan all of these adventures for me so I just have to show up, that’s not going to occur. I need to make the plans for any activity our family deems safe at the moment and just do it.

To begin, of course, I made a list. Then, we talked about it as a family. (What?! You don’t spend family meals planning out a bucket list of experiences!? Ha!)

I aim for the stars. “Let’s go to the Grand Canyon!”

The kids don’t know what they don’t know and ask for the familiar. It’s evidence that we’ve made some fun memories in the past that they want to repeat. “Let’s go back to the trampoline park!”

My husband likes to relive favorites with the boys. “Let’s watch the Marvel movies together.”

I think the best way to start making these happen is to consider adding them to our seasonal bucket lists posted on our command center. Every time I make the next season’s list, I’ll try to add at least one or two items from our family bucket list so they actually get the attention they deserve and start to happen.

This is my kind of thought exercise! I’m not trying to get more productive so I’m getting 6 hours of work completed in 4 hours instead. I’m thinking about how I want to spend time with my family and get more joy out of life. This is my true priority.