Summer Bucket List


We all have to start somewhere, but I feel like I need a 12-step program on how not to be boring. It isn’t like I am a dud to be around.  It is just that I generally don’t know where to begin to get out and get moving.  (My friends could tell you that I probably need a 12 step program to make a decision, but that is beside the point.)  I’m just going to push myself to be the one that plans and initiates the activities, not just the one that joins in on the fun.

As a perfectionist, I often find it difficult to aim for do-able instead of perfect.  I try to be the perfect mom, perfect wife, and perfect friend.  And then I fall far short of my goals. So I’m learning that I need to set better expectations for myself in where our life is at and what our budget can handle. So though my list might not be earth shattering-ly amazing, it is something that I think we can actually accomplish.

So without further ado, here are my top commitments/goals for our summer bucket list:

  1. Involve my kids with cooking more
  2. Go to an amusement park
  3. Read more to my kids
  4. Try new restaurants, ice cream parlors, etc.
  5. VBS
  6. Have a date night
  7. And this one is stretching it, but. . . go to the beach!
1.  Involve my kids with cooking

I give props to all you ladies and men that enjoy cooking with your little ones.  Remembering back to all those times at Grandma’s house when we baked cookies, I realize now that she must be a saint.  She didn’t hover, she didn’t complain and she let us decorate to our messy hearts content.  I am in total awe.

That is not me. I don’t know about you, but it stresses me out to have my kids cook with me.  I am afraid of the mess, pressured by the extra time it takes and worried that we will end up with mushy gloop!  So I let them to do the little stir here and there.  They even get to turn off the timer when the muffins are ready to come out of the oven.  Or set the table!  Generous, I know.  But it keeps me sane.  Guess I’m going to have to push myself out of my comfort zone.

My son, the 10 year old, has been asking to learn to make pancakes for a while.  I think that I will teach him how.

Something you might not know about me is that I like to make things from scratch.  So that means he will learn how much baking powder and flour go into the pancakes.  But I might start with a box mix to begin with.  We’ll see.

My girls (7.5 and almost 5) love to get kids cook books from the library.  We can start to pick recipes from those cook books to make together.  I actually did that the other night (guess we started this goal early!).  My little one actually checked out a vegetarian cook book that day and was excited to make something from it.  We make a Zucchini Frittata (or as she called it, an Omelet).  It was really good and she loved helping make it!  The corn bread we made tonight was not such a hit.

Stay tuned for some pancake pics.  And maybe another couple veggie recipes my little one decides are necessary to eat for dinner. (And we aren’t even vegetarian.  I think she just likes the bright colors of the veggies!)

2.  Go to an amusement park

Amusement parks remind me of summer fun. Growing up in southern California we were in driving distance of Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Sea World and Knott’s Berry Farm.  As I got older, I think I went to 2-3 each summer.  I have great memories of being at Disneyland with my cousins.  And I loved showing off the fun attractions to out of town family.

We now live in the San Francisco Bay Area and, sadly, can only say that I’ve been to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom one time.  No Great America, no Gilroy Gardens, no Children’s Fairyland, no Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, no anything else.  In the attempt of getting my kids out to do fun things last fall, I even purchased a great deal on the annual pass for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.  We haven’t gone yet.  It has been sitting there for 8 months without being activated.  Not only do I hate the fact that I feel like I wasted money, but I feel like the biggest stick in the mud for not going when we’ve had the chance.  This summer, I’m going to try to get our family there at least 2-3 times.  Might as well get use out of those annual passes, right?

My kids are asking to go to Disneyland.  And while I want to go, like, yesterday, we need to save the bigger trip for when my husband can take some time off work.  So during Fall Break, I’m hoping to plan a trip.  And maybe we can even hit up LEGOLAND while we are at it.  Got to make the most out of our time while we are down there!

3.  Read more to my kids

Don’t laugh, but my mom used to read to me before bed until I was about 15 years old.  I would rush through my bedtime routine so that I could be ready in time for her to read to me.  While I don’t remember everything she read to me, I do remember her reading The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Those times were special to me because she took time out of her busy day to just be with me, doing something that I enjoyed.

I had been pretty good about reading to my kids before bed until recently.  We used to read just about every night.  We started reading Harry Potter before bed (one of my favorites!).  But for some reason lately, I just can’t get the kids ready for bed in time to be able to read.  I know they are getting older and have later bed times, (my 4 year old actually seems to go to bed later than the other two), but I just can’t read to them at 8:30pm and still have time to finish my mommy chores and actually spend time with my husband before I keel over from exhaustion.

With the new Anne of Green Gables series on Netflix just launching (called “Anne with an E”), I’ve been inspired to re-read one of my all-time favorites.  I’m hoping to share the magic of Anne with my kiddos soon.  But at least this summer, we can finish the 3rd Harry Potter book.  I’m going to make a deliberate focus on getting the kids ready for bed by 7:30-7:45pm.  That way we have at least 15 minutes a night to be together and share in the joys of being transported by the magic books.

4.  Try new restaurants, ice cream parlors, etc.

We have had several new ice cream/Italian ice shops open in town.  I see the coupons that come in the mail and, not so secretly, hope that my kids don’t.  It isn’t that I don’t like ice cream or don’t want to support these new businesses.  I do!  I want to go and enjoy these fun treats as much as my kids do.  Unfortunately for me, I have lots of dietary restrictions that currently prohibit me from partaking in them.  But that is no reason I can’t let me kids or family enjoy them, right?

When it heats up out there (and believe me, since we live in the Far East Bay, it will!), I’ll be taking my kids to a mid-day treat.  This is so far out of my “you must eat a healthy snack which includes fruits and veggies” comfort zone, that I’m a bit nervous even putting this out there!  So even though we try to keep our kids eating as nutritiously as possible, I’m going to let a little bit more sugar be part of their diet.

As for restaurants, my hubby usually likes to stick to what is tried and true.  But, as we only live once, and I’m starting to come out of my food restrictions a bit more, I’ll be on the hunt for local restaurants that can accommodate my needs as well as be something fun and new for the family.

Do your kids get those coupons for a free mini pizza or taco from school or the library for reading programs?  My kids have accrued quite a pile of them in the past couple years.  Since there are no expiration dates on some of them, I’m planning a few low cost meals out since the kids will be eating free!  Yay for being budget conscious!! And double yay for getting rid of some of that paper clutter that is hanging around!!!

5.  VBS

If you aren’t familiar, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School.  It is basically a summer day camp (1/2 day to full day) provided for kids at churches. Depending on the church, it might be available to Preschool thru 6th grade kids and is usually a pretty cost efficient way to occupy their time for a week.  Prices can range from free to, in my opinion, $$.  The kids usually have a blast playing games, singing song, making crafts and learning about Jesus.  I highly recommend it!

So this has made kids’ summer bucket list again this year.  My kids have gone to VBS at one of the local churches here for about 4 years and they love it.  The older kids get to go for a full day and in the afternoons go swimming, bowling and have dance parties.  But the price for this one is a lot more than the ½ day programs, so I make sure to budget it in.  I’m also signing them up for VBS at another church the following week that is way cheaper, so I guess it balances it out.

If you are looking to find fun, inexpensive, kid appropriate activities for your school-aged kids over the summer that might even give you a few minutes to yourself, consider checking for a VBS at a church near you.

6.  Have a date night

Ok, so as I was writing this I had “date night” on my list at the beginning post, but somehow when I got writing bullet point #6 I totally skipped it and went to the beach.  Shows you how high in the priority list my husband and I have had our date nights.  I think the last date night we went on was in December.  It is now May.  For years we averaged 2-3 date nights a year: my birthday, his birthday and our anniversary.  Even though is it highly recommended to set aside time to cultivate the relationship with your spouse, we just couldn’t afford it.  The budget only allowed so much wiggle room for the cost of a baby sitter, in addition to an evening/day out.  We often made it work by seeing a matinee and grabbing a burrito or slice of Costco pizza for dinner instead of something fancy.

But since I plan on keeping my husband around for a good long time, and the fact that I quite like him, we want to make date nights a priority again.  Lucky for us, Grandma and Grandpa moved close by, so we can more easily afford a night out.  I’d like to break out of the 2-3 dates per year rut and increase that to be at least once or twice a month.  Until we can make that a reality, I am setting a goal to have at least one date night this summer with my husband (birthday/anniversary doesn’t count).  And maybe I’ll stay awake during the whole movie this time!  One can always dream.

7.  And this one is stretching it, but. . . go to the beach!

Contrary to popular belief of many who are far from California, it isn’t all just a long strip of beaches.  When I was in college I studied abroad in Germany. So when I told some of my dorm mates that I was from sunny CA, they asked if I lived on the beach and knew any movie stars.  I told them “Oh, yes! And we all wear our bathing suits and run on the beach just like on Bay Watch!”  (Oops!  I totally dated myself.) In any case, I was totally joking, but they believed it!

Growing up not too far from San Diego, I had access to wonderful sandy beaches.  We made sand castles, buried our legs in the sand and played in the relatively warm-ish water.  But beaches up in northern California are different.  They are colder, rockier and attract more sharks than what I grew up with. And most are 2+ hours away from where I live.  So my little ones have never been to the beach.  Having grown up 30 minutes away from some of the best beaches in CA, it is basically sacrilegious!

I know that there are family friendly, sandy beaches out there.  We just have never gone.  Between the fear that my babies would be swept away with the waves and the fact that 2 of my 3 kids get car sick, we haven’t ventured to the beach.  But with my youngest being almost 5, I feel like it isn’t such a safety hazard any more.  So, if we can squeeze it in during our short summer break, I will try to plan a beach trip.

I’m open to suggestions of great beaches in the area if you’ve got any! (Hint, hint!)

So there you go, our summer bucket list! It is just scratching the surface on creating memories for our family and enriching our lives, but it is a start.   I’ll be sharing updates of our adventures over the summer as we cross things off our list.

Want to make some fun happen this summer?  Try starting off with a list of everything you want to do, then whittle it down, if necessary, with what you have the time and means to accomplish. For example, as much as I’d love a trip to Hawaii, I know that we don’t have the in the budget.  But a trip to the beach is much more budget friendly!  What are you putting on your summer bucket list? What do you love to do as a family to make memories together?




  1. Andrea

    May 19, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    What a great list!

  2. Michelle Widman

    May 19, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Hey, we’ll meet you at any Santa Cruz area beach! Let’s plan a day–message me!

    1. Lisa

      May 19, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      Yes! We definitely need to plan that one!

  3. Teresa

    May 20, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Love the list..I’m planning on doing some of these things with my own kids! I would especially love going to the beach…I wish I were closer to one!

    1. Lisa

      May 20, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks! I feel lucky that we are close enough for a day trip, but wish I was closer to the beach too. Lol!

  4. Emily

    May 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    A lot of these are on our summer bucket list too! We should plan some together. This blog is honest and well written Lisa.

    1. Lisa

      May 20, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks Emily! That would be great! Let’s chat and get some plans in place. 🙂

  5. Stephanie Martin

    May 20, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    I love your blog–the colors and setup are so pretty! I love your idea about reading to your kids more. I love reading to my preschooler, but I hope that he will continue to let me read to him well into grade school or middle school (as well as any other kids we have by then!). I’ve read that continuing to read aloud to your grade school age kids is really, really helpful for their brain development, and academic success. Plus it creates such a special bond. Keep writing, I like your work! 🙂

    1. Lisa

      May 20, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Stephanie!

  6. Shelanda Brown

    May 20, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    I enjoyed your article and understand your points. Live life and not let it pass you by.

  7. Amanda

    May 22, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I love making a summer bucket list with my kids even though they’re a little older now! On the last day of summer before school starts we do what we call a “last hurrah” and we look at everything on our bucket list we haven’t done and run and do as many as we can as fast as we can! It ‘s my favorite! Last year we went to a park for 5 minutes, then went played one game of bowling, then went and got a snow cone, came home and did science experiments, had a chalk drawing contest and a 5 minute read a ton. Then we went mini golfing and watched a 5 minute movie in the park on my cell phone. It was the funnest thing we did all summer!

    1. Lisa

      May 22, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      Oh my gosh, I love your “last hurrah” idea!!! We might have to steal it.

  8. leah

    May 31, 2017 at 5:56 am

    I am sooooo thrilled to have found this post…..I am totally with you on the cooking with kids….I am into your list and I think I need to take your post and put into motion here in my little world….thanks for the post and ideas…

    1. Lisa

      May 31, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Leah! I’m glad you found it too!

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