How we are being intentional in building the family life and lifestyle we want OR Why you should have a family planning retreat OR How to use stickers and flip charts to plan your next family travel destination!

The last couple of years, as we have embarked on our entrepreneurial journey, we have become more intentional in all aspects of our lives, including parenting and family relationships. Quality family time has always been a priority for us, and frankly is one of the reasons we left the “9-5 gainfully employed” life! As we have continually defined and refined what “success” looks like for us, we have desired to not only spend quality time, but plan together as a family for what we want to do and become together. That led us to planning and holding a family planning retreat recently.

While it would have been fun to get away for a weekend and make our planning retreat a mini vacation, that didn’t work for us at this time and we didn’t want to delay our planning session. So we held it at home, in our dining room, on a Saturday. But we made arrangements to clear our calendars, scheduled and set up in advance, prepped the kids with teasers about how great it would be, and even splurged on store-bought sugar treats, which really shocked and pleased my kids.

Family planning retreat setup

With inspiration from several entrepreneurial families (thank you to Family Without Limits, EntreFamily, and Flipped Lifestyle) we decided as a couple what we wanted to accomplish in our planning session, including the key questions to discuss at this time. I drafted an agenda and we counseled about the roles we would play in the planning retreat. Because of my background in facilitation and strategic planning, this was really more my thing than Ben’s but he was very supportive.

Because our children are old enough (11 and almost 8) to be active participants and we are quite transparent with them about our work and plans, this was designed to truly be a group effort. We absolutely want our children to be involved in designing what we do and are as a family, but as parents we also always reserve the right to make final decisions. Part of our family culture (we hope at least!) is that our children are top priority and what they think and how they feel matters. And frankly, part of the context for our family planning retreat centered around the idea that our time with our children living at home is limited. With the years remaining before they leave the nest, we want to make sure we focus on what matters now. On what matters most.

Our goal is to be deliberate and intentional in building the family life we choose. We don’t want to look back in 7 years as our oldest leaves home and wish we had thought about what we wanted to do and be together.  So that was the intent of our family planning retreat.

We started with a prayer and ended with specific next steps and assignments. In between, we worked on developing our family vision, and beginning to outline a plan for how to achieve it. Separately, we as Dad and Mom have the responsibility for the companion piece of financing and supporting the family lifestyle we desire, and we’re working on that. But that’s a separate process. J In our family planning session, we discussed questions like:

  • What do we need or want to know and believe?
  • What do we need or want to do?
  • What do we need or want to become?

And I used a technique I’d learned years ago in my former life that worked well with the kids too: everyone puts their ideas on individual sticky notes, up where they fit on large flip chart papers.

Brainstorming family vision and plan

Because the store-bought animal cookies ran out and energy waned after a couple of hours, we had to take a break. While it did end up being a little difficult to corral everyone back together, the break ended up being necessary as well as helpful, because it allowed me time to process what we had already discussed and use that to tweak the final part of our planning session.

As we had talked about learning and doing and becoming (before the break), there was definitely a recurring theme of wanting to travel more together as a family. This surfaced not just as an end in itself, but over and over as a means to accomplish other desired outcomes, such as gratitude and humility through service and diverse experiences, and gaining rich educational experiences onsite in places that strengthen faith and teach timeless truths. (The kids were amazed when I told them that history repeats itself!)

I had anticipated there would be some interest around travel, so before the planning retreat I had even made a rough calendar outline of the next ten years with known milestones marked, and space to sketch in travel opportunities and priorities. During the break, I was able to do an impromptu preparation for a prioritization exercise (how’s that for alliteration… and can you tell I’ve facilitated meetings and planning sessions a few times?)

prioritizing family travel destinations

Everyone brainstormed places they want to visit, and in most cases shared why (though we were sold already, having spent time studying history together and dreaming of being there in person). Then I gave each of us six color-coded dots (Ryan had 6 blue ones, Dad had 6 brown ones, etc.) that we could place on the destinations to show our personal priorities. The dots could be distributed however each person wished- one on each of six destinations, all six on one destination, or any combination in between.  It was fun… and revealed an amazing unanimity. Five destinations received 21 of the 24 possible dots. So we know how to prioritize for major travel in the next few years- hooray! And we’re all super excited and united in those priorities.

Of course, travel is just one piece of the family plan we are developing, and I may share more as it progresses. As we used to say in the corporate world, I’m sure it will be a “living document” that evolves as we do. But for now, this session helped us identify some priorities for our family, and was a uniting and validating experience in and of itself. Frankly, some concerns our children had prior to the planning session were dispelled by the things we discussed and decided together that day. Win!

Intentional time together as a family is never wasted. And that was certainly evidenced for us in our family planning retreat. We have a lot t work on to execute the plan, and we may repeat this process every 6-12 months. It was a great kickoff to being really deliberate about what we want to accomplish and become as a family, driven by our values and priorities. We recommend it!

How do you plan together as a family? I’d love to hear your processes and ideas, so please comment below. Was this useful? If so, I’d really appreciate you sharing on Facebook.

Why I’m living deliberately by spending money and making memories now, not waiting for tomorrow

Are you ever surprised when you look back and realize how you’ve completely shifted your mindset on something? Did you used to have a stronghold on one position and somehow, remarkably, over time did an “about-face?”

That has happened with me, and, interestingly, it’s because of my work with Legacy Tale.

Now I spend money. Shocker, huh?!?

I used to be a saver. Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in saving money for a variety of reasons. However, I’ve decided it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And when it means delaying making memories with loved ones, I’ve changed my tune.

My severe attitude to frugality and saving money meant that I was always waiting for a future day to do the things I want to with my family… to go on vacations, to make memories, to do the activities we’ve dreamed together. I thought we had to wait until we had “enough” money or had reached a certain milestone, or met some other defined or undefined arbitrary rule.

But my work with Legacy Tale- helping good people recall the past and reflect on the present- has taught me many things, not the least of which is that NOW is the time to make memories. And if that means spending money, I’m all for it. To be clear, I’m NOT talking about going into debt. But, for my family at least, I am talking about significantly re- prioritizing and rethinking what’s important.

Fun at the beach... argh! Make memories now. You make memories. We make them last.

Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.

~Chinese Proverb

We never know when the time will be past. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We do know that the people we love are here with us now. So now is the time to make time for them. I’ve battled with enough regrets in my life to know I don’t want to lose opportunities with my loved ones that will have lasting value… even eternal impact.

I realize, of course, that grand memories can be and are made without spending a dime, and I’m absolutely in favor of that, too. But sometimes we have to travel to be with loved ones that live far away. Or choosing to experience a new place together opens our eyes to experience each other in new and better ways. And getting away from routine on a vacation large or small can be the recipe for truly quality time without everyday demands and distractions. So go. Do. Enjoy. Live!

That’s how I’ve been changed by Legacy Tale.

My family will only be at this stage and these ages for a short time. I want to drink in every experience and every moment of this while I can. Maybe in the future I won’t have to pinch pennies when I grocery shop and it will be more comfortable to spend money. And I’ll be able to reach some of the “bigger” dreams that practicality still puts out of reach even with my shifted mindset.

But regardless, I am confident I will never regret a penny- or a moment- I spend making memories with those I love more than life itself.

I may always wish I had more money in my bank account. But I’m determined I won’t wish away this precious time with my family. I will seize every opportunity to spend time with them in ways that strengthen our relationships, that build our faith and love, and help us craft our family legacy. And if that means spending money even when finances are tight, then so be it.

Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put off experiences and opportunities for another day when some arbitrary goal or milestone of income or savings has been reached.

Live deliberately. Live now.

Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.

~Thomas P. Murphy

Enjoy life- and your children- right now!

I found a new blog I love: The Things I Love Most!

This post is such a sweet reminder of what’s truly important.

Enjoy Life With Your Children - "The Last Time" Printable

Ironically, I found and read this post early one morning with my sleeping 7-year-old snuggled up tight against me in bed; she had come in (again) sometime in the night. Pain was shooting through my arm from another night of holding her tight.

When the interrupted sleep gets “old,” I try to remember these days are numbered and enjoy the cuddles! Someday I may not miss the sleepless nights of motherhood, but I absolutely will miss the thrill of small arms holding me tight, coming to me for security and love.

How do you choose to enjoy life now? What do you do- in the midst of motherhood or other challenges- to remember to savor the moments and find joy?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences!

Remember the Alamo!

Remember the Alamo!

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We will. We absolutely will. It was a solemn, almost sacred experience, made more so by our study that helped us feel personally connected to real characters who fought and died… and to a mother and baby who lived.

“I can’t believe we’re on an airplane!”

We will also always remember this first airplane ride for Ryan & Rebecca (at least the first one they remember). She earned beaming smiles from all the passengers with a delighted squeal as the plane took off: “We’re flying!!!”

There were also the very cool geology and history lessons at Longhorn Cavern. And fun memIMG_20160108_094948671ories with our Camelbak water bottle and a new dog friend at Barton Creek. Then we were awed by the magnificence and history of the Texas Capitol Building. Plus delectable dining and our first food truck experience in Austin. We are really missing Torchy’s Tacos. (I’m drooling thinking about it… seriously.)

 

NASA was the place to be to aid Rebecca in her longtime quest to go to the moon. (She considered being the first person on Mars, but decided that six months of travel just to get there, and a total mission time of three years, was too long to be away from family. Good call, my dear.) Wow, there is so much to learn there. Talk about STEM education! The only problem is that I may need to adjust my planned curriculum for the next several weeks to incorporate more time for the study of space!

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We stayed busy with more fun and outdoor education in The Woodlands and George Mitchell Nature Preserve outside of Houston. Did you know a bayou is a creek?!? Unfortunately, the alligators didn’t want to show themselves in this weather, so we’ll have to go back for another visit. Darn. 😉

Then of course, time with two of our siblings and their families was so delightful. When they come to visit out west, all of the family is together and we don’t really connect directly. So this was absolutely wonderful to spend one-on-one time with them.

This trip was chock-full of good things. I posted many of them on Instagram, so follow along for lots of pictures.

What an amazing time we had in Texas, with hands-on, personalized learning experiences we could never get in a classroom or at home. We made wonderful memories, learned a ton, and had priceless time with far-away family. This trip absolutely reinforced my love of this entrepreneurial family lifestyle. Work anywhere. School everywhere. Play and learn and live life together! Hooray for Texas!

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I think traveling suits me. I feel energized and refreshed and ready to plan the next trip. Here’s to entrepreneurial family life!

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.

2016- and Texas- here we come!

I just finished the syllabus for January 2016- whew!! It’s always such a relief to get that ready for our next session of school. I plan one month at a time, doing a separate syllabus for my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. When I first started almost a year ago, the hours it took me were counted in the dozens.

I take this teaching job very seriously, by the way… 🙂

This time, I spent less than 10 hours- woohoo!! I am getting faster! And I’m building systems and processes that work, thank goodness.

It might have helped, too, that this coming month includes a week of hands-on-learning in… Texas! Yep, we get to learn about U.S. and Texas history, Davy Crockett, and visit the Alamo in person. And we get one step closer to Rebecca’s longtime dream of going to the moon with lots of amazing education experiences at NASA’s Houston Space Center. Plus we’re having lunch and doing science with the alligators. Not to mention that we will be with family in Houston and Austin. History, culture, science, technology, engineering, and quality family time all wrapped together… sounds good to me.

One of the things we’re doing to prepare is reading this awesome book. I love reading aloud to my children! And thankfully, even though they are both fantastic readers who devour books on their own, they still love cuddling up with me and a good book. Historical fiction may just be my favorite. Life is good.

We are – and try to be- House Upon a Rock!