I love lists, or at least the idea of lists. By nature, I’m a little too free-spirited to really use a list, but there are small, neglected Perfect Country recesses in my brain that nudge at my Fun Country self and ask if they can play. I entertain these thoughts occasionally and go through phases of thinking about all that I would like to get done in a day, a week, a month – you name it, and then writing it all down. Of course it goes without saying that the best part of writing a list is crossing things off of said lists, because finishing something always feels good. In fact, sometimes when I’m feeling discouraged I write backwards lists – things that I have recently accomplished and then proceed to cross them all off. Don’t knock backwards list writing till you’ve tried it! It gives me that little boost of “you can do this” and I begin to tackle the next seemingly impossible task – even if it’s just slaying the dreaded Laundry Monster one more time.
Never mind that I often go to the grocery store with a beautifully written list, neatly categorized, only to forget the two things that were absolutely essential for that evening’s dinner, despite that they were written out in my best Getty-Dubay script. I can only pretend to be from Perfect Country for so long.
There is one list, however, that I am using with some success. It’s enjoyable and non-restrictive to create, so even a Fun Country girl like me can have success with it. It’s our family wish list. We started it this summer when we were planning, or rather, weren’t planning any major holidays or vacations. I had seen a friend’s summer list posted on facebook and decided to try it out. I wanted a way to show that even though we weren’t doing a really big, exciting event like going to Disneyland or driving across the country to visit relatives, that we were still going to have a memorable summer. We got a big sheet of bristol board, a sharpie marker and started to dream together about all the things that we would like to do as a family over the summer. Instead of having a bummer of a summer, we made some sweet memories and look back on all we did with great fondness.
We liked it so much we did it again in the fall, and again for Christmas. The kids are already talking about what they want to put on the spring list.
I thought this idea was too good to be true the first time I saw it. It’s totally effective, but simple. Here’s the low-down on how we make it work for us.
1) We keep it seasonal. It’s less daunting to think of activities and things we would like to do together for a period of 2 – 3 months, rather than a whole year.
2) We call it a wish list – not a must do list. This helps when someone expresses interest in doing something that probably can’t happen because of time or finances, but we write it down anyway because it’s a great idea and a little dreaming is always good. It also keeps me from feeling like I have to cram 37 activities into the last 2 weeks of a season– it’s meant to be fun and flexible.
3) We have a “Yes, lets!” response to ideas: Everyone is allowed to express their ideas of what they think a good family activity would be. Voicing disapproval regarding someone else’s idea in strictly verboten! (There are just some German words everyone should know!) We want our kids to learn that life isn’t all about them. Every activity suggested might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but it’s important to me that we show respect for the different way God’s wired each person in our family, and attempt to do things that are meaningful to each one. Learning to respect others opinions and ideas, even with something as simple as a wish list is an important thing for us.
4) We keep it visible. We do our lists on bristol/poster board and post it with our calendar on the wall. It’s a good reminder for me that I need to make time on our schedule for the things that we put on the list. Unlike the grocery lists that get forgotten the moment they disappear into my purse, it’s there to remind me of things that our family wants to do and become together on a daily basis. We love checking things off that list.
5) We leave space to add more memories. Life can be unpredictable – we might not get to go skiing like we had wished at the beginning of the season, but maybe we will get invited to an impromptu New Year’s party that we hadn’t planned on. We add it to the list after the fact and check it off, because it grows thankfulness for the good things that have happened, even if they were different than the original plan…I believe this gets referred to as Plan B around these parts – and it’s a good thing!
When we wrote our first list this summer I didn’t expect it to grow into this quarterly event that our family looks forward to so much. But it’s working – we are planning and goal setting together, we are defining who we are as a family and making time for those things that the kids have told us are important to them. I think we are having more great “Team Loewen” moments because of it, and it reminds us to be thankful for all the good things, big and small, that God blesses us with!