Saving Summer

Jay Wennington

Summer begins

Tomorrow is the kids last day of school.

I’ve been looking forward to summer all year… and now that it’s almost here reality is kicking in.

It’s easy to look forward to lazy afternoons at the beach, roasting marshmallows and sleeping in.

I’d conveniently forgotten about the loss of daily rhythms and the freedom of 35 hours each week that were mine.  I’m about to enter a season of family life 24/7 and I’m trying not to panic.

Don’t get me wrong: I have fantastic kids.  I really like them.  It’s not that I want to push them away, it’s just that a major part of my healing journey has taken place in those quiet spaces between 8:00am and 3:00pm, when I have the house to myself.  What happens when that’s gone?

Dreading the bucket list

I’ve also been dragging my feet on our annual bucket list tradition: I’m not sure I’m willing to give it up, but I know it needs a re-vamp of some sort.  I’m absolutely a list-person – obsessively so.  I LOVE checking off boxes (and crossing them out & giving myself gold stars…!!)  But this year the whole idea of a bucket list is rubbing me the wrong way.  I just quit my job: how many trips to the museums, zoos, swimming pools and trips can we afford?  I crashed and burned out a mere four months ago – I’m doing WAYY better now, but I’d still put myself at about 50-60% of my former capacity – how busy can I really afford to be?  And if I’m honest, I’ve always hated the fact that bucket lists by definition are never finished.  I feel this urgency to cross everything off before fall, and it never happens.  It bugs me that “read a book” gets equal list-space with “go on a road trip” and I feel this guilt when one person’s easy-to-accomplish contributions all get checked off while another person’s contributions are neglected.  But can I give up the time-honoured tradition of summer bucket lists?

I’ve tried re-vamping our list: maybe if we add in restful activities, some easy crafts or people we want to get together with, I’ll feel like I can keep checking things off, even when nothing more exciting than turning on the sprinkler in the backyard occurs.

Or is that just compounding the problem by adding more to an already full to-do list?

How can I save my sanity this summer if I’m overwhelmed before it even starts?

The Hands Free Philosophy

I’m not the only one in this space: there’s a handful of parents thrilled to have their kids home, but a whole lot more worrying about whether they’re doing enough, or too much.  Looking for activities to stave off summer boredom and packing as much as they can into every spare moment, any work-life balance thrown out the window in pursuit of the Great Canadian Summer.

I recently heard a podcast that I just LOVED, where Jen Hatmaker interviews Rachel Macy Stafford from Hands Free Mama on her breath-of-fresh-air summer philosophy.  “Hands Free” is a lifestyle Rachel has developed to, as she puts it, “Letting go to grasp what really matters.”  You can read her summer manifesto here – trust me, it’s a good one!

It inspired me to rewrite my bucket list.  There’s nothing to check off, anymore, just reminders of what’s important to me in the next two months.  Here’s my take:

This year’s Summer Bucket List

Stay healthy.  

I’ve taken huge strides since four months ago, and I don’t want to lose that momentum.  I know my current practice of running to a podcast or long bike rides will have to look different with the kids home, but I don’t have to quit.  Maybe I run circles in a local park where they can play while I get my miles in, or maybe they hop on their bikes and come along with me.  Maybe running won’t always work, but we can swim, bike, hike, or do any number of less-conventional exercise together.  I just want to make sure I keep it up, somehow.

Practice rest.  

My default is to stay busy.  In summers especially, I like to be going somewhere, doing something, and not wasting a single minute!  That’s not going to fly this year.  I need a different rhythm – one that enjoys all that summer brings but lives out of abundance, not exhaustion.  I want a daily practice of downtime, where screens are turned off, journals or books are pulled out and we can just press pause on it all.  We’re embracing “quiet times” around here, and in our first pilot tests, it’s a big hit – and not just with me!

Embrace adventure.  

I can’t spend the summer exercising and sleeping; it may be healthy, but it’s not… me.  I still want to climb a mountain, visit the zoo, head out on a road trip and be in a canoe.  I just want adventure as part of my summer, not a daily goal or even main thing.

Pay attention.  

I want to watch storms roll in, count fireflies and catch a glimpse of northern lights.  I want to notice myself: how I’m feeling, if I need to slow down or am sad or need help.  I want to be present with others and notice what they’re enjoying, what’s tough, when we need to step back or keep going.  I want to pay attention.

Jelleke Vanooteghem

Show up.  

In the crazy of “getting things done” by the time there was fun things to do, unless I was required to be there, I used every excuse to rest instead.  But I’ve lost that ability to jump in (even when I don’t know what I’m doing) and just enjoy the ride.  This summer I want to read for fun, not to hide, and forget about my size when I don my bathing suit and actually jump in the lake.  I want to stop feeling inadequate and remember what it’s like to laugh at myself, happy just because I tried.  I want to show up.


Steve Halama

Breathe grace.

Grace to love my family without neglecting myself.

Grace to continue this healing journey I’ve come so far on already.

Grace to live the adventures yet embrace the routines.

Grace to not accomplish everything (anything?) on that bucket list.

Grace to ask for the help I need, and offer what I can freely give.

In the end, I want to look back at summer with gratefulness.  I want us to come out of summer rejuvenated instead of exhausted.  I want us to like each other more by the time school starts again.

This year’s bucket list

So when we sit down this evening to talk through summer plans, I’m still going to ask the kids what one thing they want to do before the summer is over.  But it might be just one thing each.  Beyond that, this is what will be gracing our fridge this summer (and if you want one, too, click the link for a printable summer list!):

What’s on your list?







Peiheng Yang








  1. I love this post! When you have a list of to-do’s, something drives you to complete each item and before you know it, you’re exhausted and dreading tomorrow. Your NEW “bucket list” is much more full of joy, rest, and light! Congratulations on solving the problem!!

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