Let’s Talk About Santa

Let’s Talk About Santa

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a question that has haunted me each of the past few Christmases: Will this be the year my kids stop believing in Santa? If they ask, how do I tell them the truth? And how do I tell them the true meaning of Santa? The holidays are a magical time of year, but for parents, the Santa issue can pose a real dilemma.

The Questions Have Already Started

My son is 10 and in 5th grade. For the last two years, he has questioned the realness of Santa. And of course, there are those kids who try and spoil it for everyone and make him wonder. Even though I know it’s natural, I’m not ready for my wide-eyed, innocent, trusting baby to be a logical, thoughtful, questioning human. I don’t want the days of his implicit trust in me to be a thing of the past.

I know the magic of being a kid can only last so long. But this year, I am trying to hold on for one more moment. But inevitably, I will have to tell him that Santa Claus is not really one single, human with a big belly, a white beard, flying reindeer, and an arsenal of magical tools without which Christmas would not happen. On the plus side, I might not have to do elf on a shelf anymore.

My son continues to ask me if Santa is real and my response, “If Santa weren’t real, who bought you these gifts?” He never assumes it’s me because he thinks that I’m cheap. Plus, he knows I would never create the mess the elves make so it can’t be mom or dad.

But this made me realize that maybe we shouldn’t be telling our kids about Santa from the beginning. If I could do it all over again, I would have been honest about Santa. It may sound strange, but I truly think it’s possible to believe in Santa without believing he’s real.

One Way to Keep the Magic Alive

I would have explained to them that, no, Santa isn’t a real person like me and you. He doesn’t really live at the North Pole with a bunch of cute little elves and reindeer, and he doesn’t really fly around the world in one night jumping down chimneys and delivering gifts. But I’d also tell them that this is a magical story that a lot of people love to pretend is real when it’s Christmas time. However, this idea of Santa may be the way I break the news to Cohen.

Another mom shared this letter, and if Cohen asks again this year, I believe this is how I will respond, maybe not in a letter but with similar words.

Dear (Child),

You asked a really good question. “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one single Santa.

We are the people who fill your stocking and choose the presents under the tree—just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them and you will probably do for your kids someday.

This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends and in God.

You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and happiness. We are on his team and now you are, too.

Letting Our Kids Make Their Own Story

So, whether your kids are on the cusp of seeking out the truth about Santa, or whether you’ve got a few more years of childlike innocence to capitalize on, hold this mom’s words in your heart. You can empower your kids to spread love, joy and peace, and the true meaning of Santa.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing isn’t whether Santa is real or not; it’s all about the space you create around the story. Ultimately, the way you deal with Santa in your home is a very personal choice and something you have to decide for yourself.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

At what age should your child be allowed to get a cell phone? Talk about a loaded question, especially if you’re a parent arguing this point with your child who is upset that they are the only kid in school without a phone. Nowadays, the internet told me that the average age kids get a phone is between 12 and 13. With that in mind, parents are the best judge of whether their children are ready for a cell phone, and the lessons they teach about that readiness can begin at a young age.

When Is the Right Time to Get Your Child a Phone?

Just last week, I had eight of Cohen’s soccer buddies over and many of them had phones, some even had nicer phones than me. I was so surprised. And now, it’s the top item on Cohen’s Christmas list.

Allowing your children to have a cell phone is an extremely personal decision for every parent and family. Almost every expert, non-expert, friend and family member has an opinion on the subject and of course they are happy to share it with you.

Thanks to the well-publicized use of cell phones for safety reasons and school emergencies, parents understandably want their children to have access to the life-saving devices. And I’ll admit, recently, there have been a couple instances where it would have been beneficial for my 10-year-old son to have a phone. Practice ended early and he had to wait for me to pick him up.

Determine The Function the Phone Serves

Not only is a phone on the top of his wish list but, of course, he wants a smartphone. He wants all the bells and whistles like his friends have. BUT does a cell phone or smartphone meet a need, not just for your child but for you and the family as well? I got a phone when I started driving but then again that was 20 years ago and a different time.

When I do go back to work, my son will be home alone for an hour or two after school and a phone would be nice. But for now, he can call me on the Ring doorbell, our Alexa, or through the kid’s Facebook Messenger App. All of these have worked for us so far but then again, he has to be home to use these devices.

My husband and I have discussed at length that Cohen may get a prepaid cell phone that can text and call so we both can stay in touch. He may not necessarily need a smartphone with apps and internet access. I fully expect pushback on this! Many prepaid cell phones are pretty cool these days—they look cool, they take pictures, play music—and have other different features but it’s not a smartphone.

Bottom Line: His first phone probably just needs to be able to text and call.

Set Some Ground Rules

This is still a conversation that continues in our household. My husband of course said, “You can’t just hand the kid a cell phone or smartphone and say, “Have fun! Make good choices!”

His General Rule: It’s much easier to start out strict and loosen up as Cohen proves he is responsible than it is to start out loose and then try to reign him in. Make phone ownership healthy for him and in return, easy on yourself.

I admit that I am probably on my phone way too much at home. I am trying to be in the present but my phone is always next to me and on and I know my children see that. Modeling appropriate cell phone use, limiting access, implementing parental control settings, and teaching Cohen about the dangers of cyberbullying will also take place as soon as that phone is in Cohen’s possession.

So yes, come Christmas, Cohen will most likely be getting a phone. But with the phone comes a cell phone contract that stipulates appropriate phone use, grades, chores, behavior, etc., all laid out with all the consequences. Sign on the dotted line.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is there really a “right time” to get pregnant? As it turns out, everyone you ask will likely give you a different answer. It’s a question just about every person considers once they enter adulthood. The answer will not only be different for different people but may change during your life.

When a couple gets married, they are almost always faced with the inevitable pester from friends and family: So when are you having kids? The older you are, the more pressing the question seems to be. Ticktock, ticktock.

There’s No Right Age to Have Kids

It may be that in your twenties, having kids later feels right… but once you’re in your mid-30s, you still aren’t sure. Or you may decide at 30 that now is the right time. Of course, the optimal time for a woman to get pregnant is when she’s ready—physically, emotionally, mentally and financially—and this time varies greatly from woman to woman. For my husband and me, we jumped at having kids right away. We were in our mid-twenties and still newlyweds. Every couple’s first year of marriage can be exciting for many reasons – whether they decide to travel to a far-flung destination together or buy their first home, but for us, we knew we wanted kids.

Neither my husband nor I were well established in our careers – we still aren’t. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my husband is still in school. We had little money and neither of us knew what we were doing. I know that nobody really knows what they are doing when it comes to having kids but I question how we survived. Were we really ready and the answer was no, but would I change it? No.

Surviving the First Few Years of Parenthood

I look back on those early years and think, “How did we do it?” Those first several years are rough. We’d been together for 5 years but only married 1 before we had Cohen. We were so young that most of our friends were still going out, but we were now raising a family. Unfortunately, we lost track of some friends because of how different our lives were at that time.

Now we are in our thirties and our oldest is 10 and youngest is 7. Most of our close friends are having babies. They ask for advice and the baby stage seems like such a long time ago. My children are almost old enough to babysit. It feels like we are again in different stages of our lives. But now I understand what my friends are going through and can make a better effort to help and stay in touch.

However, since we are the “young” parents we will continue to be in different stages of our lives compared to most of our friends. But, when we are in our early fifties, our children will be grown and out of the house. Fingers crossed we’ll have more money and be able to travel. And it’s weird to think but we could be grandparents.

When You Have Kids Is Your Choice

All in all, experts and moms agree that there’s really no right answer to the question of “when is the best age to get pregnant?” Biologically, the answer is probably the early 20s, but innumerable factors must be considered, many of which differ by individual. Your best plan of action is to do what feels right for you—whatever that may be.

If you and your spouse want to have a baby right after getting married, go for it. Don’t worry about what people will think, it’s up to you and your other half. There’s no right or wrong time to have a baby and you’ll never be 100% ready. Being married for longer doesn’t make you better or more ready to be parents, or stronger as a couple. If it’s what you both want then do it. Anyone who is currently pregnant, get ready for the most emotional, stressful, uncertain and amazing ride of your life. Every day is different but every day is so amazing. Just enjoy it.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

I’m a huge fan of routine, and so are my kids. I’m not the most organized of moms, and I’m certainly not a very organized housewife. However, I do believe that my kids need routine, and so do I. Their routine is good for me. During the summer, our routine went out the window. So now that school is upon us, it’s a great time to start getting back into our groove. I’m sharing my routine in hopes of helping other working moms get the most out of their routine on school days.

If you’re a working mom, your morning routine can either help you start off your day on the right foot, or it can be an obstacle that you must overcome. It can be a struggle each and every day. My tips and tricks will hopefully help you create a smoother morning routine. And the school year is the perfect time to get a fresh start in how you schedule your day and manage your time.

How to Get Started

Remember how last year you said you’d start adjusting bedtimes before the night before school started? Well, during the summer months, we decided to keep the kid’s bedtime routine the same. They rarely stayed up late, and they continued to get up at the same time. This made for an easier adjustment for heading back to school. Small adjustments are what I can handle with everything I have going on.

During the school year, I have to get us ready and out of the house by 8 a.m. for drop off at school. Without a routine, getting two young kids – ages 10 and 7, my hubby and the dog out of the house feels like I’m herding cats. Can you relate, mamas?

Granted, the first few weeks of school this year, I’m still working from home, so I’ll share how that makes things a bit different. For starters, I’m not an early bird. I’ll sleep in as late as I possibly can while still being on time. However, many moms I know wake up early. That way, they get in a power hour before anyone else is up. It makes a huge difference in how productive they are, and it allows them to be available later in the day to help with school work. Since I’m not an early riser, one of the things that helps in our house is to use the night before. We do as much the night before so that the morning is simply smoother.

Tips for Your Morning Routine

Lay out clothes night before. Each night both of our kids lay out what they’ll wear the next day, and I can provide input if necessary (e.g., look nicer for picture day or if it’s going to be 100 degrees, no long sleeve shirts, etc.) If I have morning meetings or a presentation, I also choose what I’ll wear the night before for the next day. I want to avoid this stress in the morning.

Put stuff out and together. For example, the lunch boxes go on the counter with containers ready. That way, if you need extra help from your significant other if something comes up, you don’t have to explain where things are or what to use. Some moms I know prep sandwiches, although I don’t do that. I don’t generally cut up fruit until the morning because it can get mushy, but even washing and drying fruit the night before will shave off time in the morning.

Put items that need to go with you by the door or always in the same place. This goes for water bottles, backpacks, folders, car keys, masks, etc. Have a consistent home for these items so you’re not looking for them in the morning and wasting precious time. Who has an extra 10 minutes to look for car keys or kids’ shoes? This goes for your stuff, that of your significant other and your kids.

Have breakfast options in mind. We try hard to not have breakfast be the same all the time, and yet, this can be one of the hardest meals of the day creatively speaking. We generally give the kids some options when they wake up so that we can get breakfast going. Have breakfast-on-the-go options. Let’s face it—you’ll have days, especially in the first few weeks of school, when you’re running late. Whatever the reason, I recognize that sometimes our kids will be eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes we’ll have bagels that are easily mobile.

Be Flexible & Relax

See how you’re feeling and make any adjustments to set yourself up for success for the day. For example, if you’re tired, give yourself more time and be gentle with yourself. If you’re stressed, it might be time for some deep breaths. It takes only a few moments of your day and makes a big impact. I do this before I even get out of bed as I’m turning off my alarm.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to feel more grounded, consider meditating. I’m talking minutes here, not hours. Or you can extend it for however long you like. Make sure you don’t throw off your schedule, though. If you have the time, get in that workout. I usually get in some exercise a few times a week. In the warmer months, I work out early since I usually head outside for my exercise.

Decide what you want from your morning routine. Consider what you want your morning routine to include and generally look like. If you do better when you have a few minutes alone, plan your wake-up time with this in mind. Want a moment of yoga or meditation? Perhaps you want a few minutes to enjoy your coffee before you get everything going. Only you know what you need.

Hopefully, these tips will help decrease stress and start the day off with more smiles for all! Now the afternoon routine is a completely different battle especially with all the after-school activities the kids are involved in. That takes a daily calendar on the fridge, a hope and prayer to get us to our bedtime routine on time.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Masks at School

Masks at School

I can’t believe it’s less than one month until kids are back in school. Summer break seems to fly by every year. On local parent forums, parents are excited about the planned return to full-time, face-to-face classes next month. Parents are engaging in the normal back-to-school chatter about teacher assignments, band camps, school supplies and one out-of-the-ordinary topic—whether or not to mask their unvaccinated child.

With school quickly approaching, I recently read the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) official back-to-school plan outlining COVID-19 prevention protocols. Last year, I was very impressed with how the schools handled the pandemic, but this year, the kids and I are ready for some normalcy. But how normal?

Changes at Lunch & Recess

I know there are a couple of changes the kids are hoping return to normal like no more “zones” at recess. That was one of the “pandemic rules” my kids hated and that I heard the most about daily. My kids want to play with other kids in their grade and play where they want to play. Kids shouldn’t be restricted to where and who they can play with at recess. Recess is their fun time.

Another change they’re hoping to see is removing the plexiglass from the cafeteria tables. This was a big one for my son. Again, my son wants to sit with his friends and enjoy having a conversation at lunch. Last year, the plexiglass made it difficult to hear each other. Many conversations were had under the table. And I know both of these things were put in for safety reasons, but my kids are ready for food, friends and fun at lunch and recess!

As moms, we always worry about germs—and even more now. My kids don’t wash their hands as much as they should, but I applaud LPS for the amount of time that the teachers and staff allowed kids to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. I felt comfortable sending my kids to school because of the amount of cleaning that was taken place in the building. Even my daughter was excited to pick out the sparkly hand sanitizer and the “squishy” carrier it fit in that attached to her backpack. Hand sanitizer is now a part of the supplies needed for back to school.

Wondering if Masks Will Be Required

Among the protocols LPS is suggesting for the return to school this year is that masks will be strongly recommended for unvaccinated students and required for unvaccinated staff. But masks are not mandatory—at least not yet. My children are still in elementary school, so they’re not vaccinated. Ever since the mask mandate was lifted, my kids no longer wear masks in public. Wearing masks has never been a problem for my kids. They never complained, they followed the rules, and they liked to pick out the masks they wore—unicorns for my daughter and a Denver Broncos mask for my son. Currently, my son wears a mask at his summer camp that he attends every day, which is a requirement. My daughter goes to an in-home daycare and does not wear a mask.

Last year, they were required to wear masks every day, all day! I appreciated the protocols. They never tested positive for COVID-19, and they were not sick once—not even a cold. So having them wear masks this school year would be beneficial. Also, COVID-19 is not going away, and since my children are not vaccinated, I’ll ask my kids to wear them, but my worry is that not all kids will be wearing masks.

If it’s not mandatory and my kids have an option, what will they choose? My son told me that he plans to wear his mask. “No big deal mom, I’m used to it,” he says. However, if my daughter’s friends aren’t wearing one, she probably won’t either. I’m still undecided if they’ll actually wear the masks this upcoming school year. But all of this could change if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. It wouldn’t surprise me if LPS makes masks mandatory for elementary kids.

Are other parents worried their kids won’t wear their masks if it’s not required? What are other parents planning to do? Let me know!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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High Cholesterol in Kids

High Cholesterol in Kids

After celebrating Father’s Day, I realized how lucky I am to have my father in my life. About 15 years ago when I was a freshman in college, my day had a heart attack. He had to undergo a quadruple bypass surgery and wasn’t given very good odds of survival. He is now 67 and doing well.

However, this made me want to know everything about my heath and how to protect my heart. So I made a doctor’s appointment and did different testing. I wanted to be prepared. And now when I visit the doctor, I have to check the box, “heart disease in family.” However, it wasn’t until many years later that I thought about my kids having to check that box, too.

Checking Cholesterol Levels

Kids might not commiserate over their cholesterol levels on the playground like coworkers chatting about weight at a water cooler. Still, now that my children are older I realized that I needed to be aware of how their cholesterol today may affect them much later.

During Cohen’s 10-year wellness visit, the doctor wanted to check his cholesterol. Not because he is overweight but because I checked the box “heart disease in family.” The doctor told me that cholesterol levels in children are linked to three factors: heredity, diet, and obesity.

After his finger prick, Cohen’s levels came back slightly elevated and concerning. He has borderline high cholesterol. Luckily, he didn’t have to do the full test of fasting and blood draw but he will need to be tested every year. This made me think that adults are not the only people affected by high cholesterol.

The doctor handed me a pamphlet, and I took to the internet to see how I could help lower his cholesterol. Activity and healthy foods, that’s what I kept reading on what to do. He is pretty active with soccer, and we also make exercise a part of our family’s everyday routine. We make fitness time into together time. However, one thing I knew we could all probably do better at is eating. Like I said, he isn’t overweight, and we don’t have a family history of obesity, but we needed to change some habits to help lead heart healthy lives.

Changing Eating Habits

Here is what we decided to do. I myself try to lead a healthy lifestyle, but now I make sure to read the nutrition labels and check for cholesterol, as well as saturated and trans fat intake. We try to avoid foods that are high in saturated fats. That means doing things like choosing low-fat dairy products, steering clear of solid fats and choosing a variety of protein.

I decided to pack healthy lunches for school and summer camps and have him forego the junk food in the school cafeteria and choose healthier items instead. He now helps with meal planning. We make it a game or explore new recipes and foods as a family.

I know there’s a lot of pressure on parents to try to overhaul everything in their diet and perhaps set some pretty high standards for a family meal—standards that might be difficult to reach day after day. I think it’s important to set little goals and understand that getting fast food every once in a while is okay.

Embracing a Healthy Lifestyle

We have embraced lifestyle changes for the entire family. Now for dinner, we make one meal for the whole family. Planning meals in advance is a key strategy that helps my family get healthful meals on the table consistently. With busy schedules and everyone on the go, we eat in shifts, but if dinner is already made everyone can at least eat the same thing.

Lastly, and this was the hardest one for my kids, healthy snacks. We encouraged a gradual change that’s attainable. I set snack times instead of having them graze all day. Once snack time is over, the pantry is closed. Most meals and snacks include water. My kids rarely drink pop or juice.

I’m hoping by doing these heart healthy changes most of the time and continuing to get cholesterol checks, my kids will be far less likely to become a heart disease statistic down the road.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Falling Behind in School

Falling Behind in School

Here we are at the end of another school. Cohen finished 4th grade and Collyns completed 1st grade. Cohen excelled this year and continues to work very hard. Collyns however, struggled, but is it because of Covid-19 and remote learning last year?

Everyone is worried about how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting children. And it IS affecting them. Instead of feeling anxiety about the ongoing pandemic, as parents, we’re told to agonize over failing test scores and academic regression.

What’s Happening At School

Collyns is falling behind, they say.

Hurry up. Get going. She’s behind! She has to catch up to where she would be if there hadn’t been a global pandemic! Hurry up! Schools have this timetable and she’s falling behind! SHE’S FALLING BEHIND!

That’s what we’ve been hearing all year. She has had extra help in reading and we continue to work with her at home. But now that summer is upon us what do we do. She will be starting second grade. We believe she will catch up and we shouldn’t be worried. But over the summer so many kids regress and she could fall even further behind come fall.

Should Learning Continue in the Summer?

So, I stressed over it and listened and made the decision to put her in summer school. Starting in June she will attend summer school five days a week for half the day. That way she will get the extra help she needs. But she may hate it! Let’s get something straight. I know there is no ultimate timetable for learning. But the idea that my child is not intellectually where she SHOULD be and if we don’t do something about it now she may be at risk of falling further behind has me concerned. And, I wonder should I be doing everything the school is offering to better her situation in the fall?

Mitch, my husband, and I are not on the same page. He thinks she’s too young and she will learn when she is ready to learn. And if our child isn’t ready today, that doesn’t mean she’ll never be ready. He reassured me that it doesn’t mean one child is smarter than another. It just means their brains develop at different rates. And it’s perfectly normal. I know this and agreed with him. I keep thinking, summer school can only help her. But, what if she’s miserable and that makes home life worse?

Figuring Out What’s Best

Mitch and I agreed to give it a try. If she absolutely hates going then we won’t make her continue. She will just go to her daycare and we will make a better effort at home to help her catch up. The key is to provide her with the opportunities and the circumstances that maximize the likelihood of learning. Not pedantically checking off skills and benchmarks. We want her to enjoy her summer break and continue to learn. We just hope that this summer school will make learning fun. Fingers crossed that to her this is a summer camp, not school.

Yes, their educations have been disrupted by the virus. But a global pandemic will do that. You want to fix the problem, nothing short of ending the crisis ultimately will work. Kids are just that – kids. My children aren’t falling behind. They’re surviving a pandemic. Keep trying to fix the problem and they’ll be fine.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Welcoming a New Puppy

Welcoming a New Puppy

From a puppy’s point of view, puppyhood is a time of unapologetic energy, lots of exciting places to explore, new people and animals to meet, and tons of fun and adventurous times ahead.

From a puppy parent’s viewpoint, it’s a cute and cuddly time filled with this innocent and needy “baby” that craves lots of love and attention. However, it can also be a time of whining, howling, screaming, sleepless nights, sharp teeth, torn and chewed items, soiled floors, endless training and constant puppy monitoring.

Making the Decision

Bringing home a new puppy is a fantastic experience. After our last dog died, my husband and kids started asking for a new dog. My husband felt that our kids were at a great age for the extra responsibility. And I will say, our house felt empty after Maverick passed away. But I knew if we got a new dog, the responsibility of training the new puppy would fall on my shoulders, since I was still working from home. I was nervous and not sure I wanted more on my plate.

So before we decided to bring home a sweet little pup, we had a long, long discussion. I did my research. I knew if we were going to get a new dog, it was going to be a boxer. So, I took to the internet, I read blogs, watched training videos, bought supplies, found a vet and prepared our home for a puppy.

Within months of our first conversation, we added this delightful little ball of fur and fun to our family. Here we are with a 12-week-old boxer puppy named Maya.

A Puppy Is Like a Newborn

Yet, every puppy is a handful. The truth is this: the first dog or puppy you raise in your adulthood home with your children is an entirely different experience from the perfect, golden illusion you hold onto so dearly from your childhood.

Some people say having a puppy is like having a newborn, and they are right! You must have a thought-out and planned routine: feeding, taking your new pet out to potty, playtime and bedtime.

I realized quickly that patience was key! Maya wasn’t born knowing the expectations of the human world. We have to teach her. Don’t want the dog to eat your shoes? Then don’t leave them on the floor where she has easy access to them. No matter whether you want to teach your pup to sit when greeting people or to stay off the furniture, it’s all about repetition and consistency.

Training a Puppy

After four weeks, we’re now in a routine! Dogs love routines. We crate train her so while we’re gone and while we sleep, she’s in her kennel.

However, she really, really likes her potty break between 4 and 5 a.m. Luckily, it’s back to bed until the kids get up and take her outside and feed her breakfast before school. During school, it’s me and her taking on the world. Her day is full of naps, chew toys and many, many potty breaks while I work.

Let’s discuss what it means to have a potty trained puppy. Oh wait, she isn’t fully trained but getting there! Remember, puppies are babies, and we need to remember they can’t hold it as long as adult dogs. If we aren’t diligent, they’ll go on the floor in the beginning. Yes, we as pet parents have to help them succeed. The golden rule: You get the behavior you reward. Praise and a reward whether it’s a favorite toy or treat.

Even though we go outside for potty breaks every two hours or less, I also make sure she gets plenty of exercise. The more she gets during the day, the better she sleeps at night. The guideline I try to follow: five minutes of exercise for each month in age, twice a day.

It’s Hard But Worth It

With a new puppy, our day looks a little different. Luckily, we still don’t do much on the weekends, and the days are getting warmer. Maya enjoys her time outside except she hates wet grass. Just like a new baby, Maya and I are learning together.

So remember, if you’re thinking about getting a new puppy, in the beginning it’s about soiled carpets, crate training techniques and hard work, but think about the adventures you’ll go on together and the times you’ll share together at home snuggled on the couch.

However, it’s more to say to anyone who just brought home a new dog or puppy, “Hey, I’ve been there and I know it’s maybe more frustrating than you thought it would be, but you’ll soon get to a place where it doesn’t feel like you want to tear your hair out every day.”

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

I think it goes without saying that things are a bit out of the ordinary right now. Our day-to-day life looks nothing like it used to, and it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like a couple months from now.

Wondering if Life Should Go Back to Normal

So while we all want life “back to normal,” we can’t rush it. We’re in this for the long haul, and we likely won’t ever return to life as we knew it—at least not for quite some time.

As we reach the end of another month in quarantine, there’s a lot of talk about re-opening our state (and country) and about getting things back to normal. Maybe it’s strange, but I’m not sure I want things to go back to normal.

I know a lot of hard things are happening right now. Some of us are very sick or worried about family and friends who are. Some have even lost someone special. Even those of us in good health are worried about jobs, paying bills, our children’s education and more. We’re grieving special things that didn’t get to happen: weddings, the school play, concerts, prom and graduation. As I share my thoughts, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about any of the very real dangers, stress and trauma we’re experiencing. And I know my experience might not be your experience.

The Positives of the Quarantine

All my life, everyone (including myself) whines about how busy they are. We complain about our overscheduled children (even though we’re the ones who overschedule them!) and how quickly the years go by. We work too hard, don’t get enough sleep and struggle just to catch a much-needed breath once in a while.

And so, the universe gave us a gift.

This quarantine made everyone take a step back and see what a more uncomplicated life might look like. In most cases, we’re working less and connecting more. We have stopped idolizing movie stars and athletes and instead spend time glorifying the first responders, teachers and frontline “essential” workers that have kept our country running. (We know you’re working more, and we thank you!)

We’re eating family dinner, playing board games together, taking family walks and going on bike rides. Not to mention my home life is a lot happier. While I work from home, instead of a 15-minute break to go talk with co-workers, I wash dishes, finish laundry, sweep or start dinner. I don’t feel rushed after work. I go to soccer practice but don’t have to hurry home to get household chores done. I enjoy having my kitchen for lunches and the copious amounts of coffee on hand. Plus, the bathroom is less than 10 feet away. My work clothes consist of sweatpants and T-shirts, and I wear a lot less makeup.

The New Normal

But, I do see things going back to normal. Our family went on a mini spring break vacation, and it was nice to feel normal again. And now, soccer practice and swim lessons have begun, so my calendar that was once empty is now filling up again like normal. However, when the country “reopens,” I hope the slower pace will somewhat continue. Let’s stop working ourselves to death. And can we make overscheduling our kids a thing of the past? Let’s continue to value family time over the twenty activities we could be doing.

I want our new normal to continue to have the positive memes and uplifting quotes, and in general, I want people to continue just being nice human beings!

Oh, I know the negative is still there if you look for it.

Still, I’m not sure I want the world to go back to normal. When things do finally get back to normal, I hope it’s a whole new normal.

At a minimum, however, one thing is a clear: normal as we knew it is gone. We need to adjust to our “new normal.” After all, normal is relative.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Tackling School Drop-Off

Tackling School Drop-Off

Patience. As parents, we need A LOT of it. I blog a lot about household stuff—laundry, chores, how I try to be a good mom—but today this one is about school drop-off.

Since the weather outside is cold, more and more parents are taking their children to school—me included. At the beginning of the school year, the school sent out the best practices for dropping off and picking up children from school. These etiquette measures are simply lost when the snowy weather hits!

Staying Positive During Hectic Mornings

Mornings with my kids can be hectic. I try to preplan the night before but sometimes locating backpacks and library books, making lunches and figuring out what to have for breakfast happens in the mornings. Plus, if you have school-aged kids, this all needs to be done under a timeline AND the kids need to be somewhat presentable, wearing clean clothes and ready for the day. At my house, we have it easy because my kids could walk to school. But with the temperatures and the time crunch, I take them the two blocks to their respective doors. Yes, I said doors—more on that in a second.

If the school parking lot is one of your ‘necessary evils’ each day, the worst thing you can do is add a bad attitude on top of it. You’ll be unhappy and that will translate to your kids—setting the tone for their day. Do what you need to do to keep a clear head and a positive outlook, then try and practice it each day. You have plenty of chances!

Lately, the drop-off line extends to my driveway. Luckily, someone is usually nice enough to let us out so we too can take part in the long line of cars. Then we wait and hope things go smoothly from there. From the start of my morning, I get to show my kids how patience is a virtue. I have to bite my tongue numerous times in the car and show kindness by smiling and waving at other merging cars.

Tackling School Drop-Off

Now onto the different doors. Each grade has different doors to enter through in the morning. Cohen’s door is pretty easy to get to; however, the car line for his drop-off is lengthy. Not to mention, I still have to get Collyns to her door by the time the bell rings. For Cohen, his door is close to a crosswalk. I hope and pray that there are kids that have to cross the street when I am close to his drop-off location. When he hears me unlock the car, he tucks and rolls! It happens so fast I barely get an “I love you” out of my mouth.

Now it’s onto Collyns’ door. Her drop-off location is trickier because it’s the main entrance to the school. Usually there are two lanes for cars. One for parking and the other for passing but due to the ridiculously large amount of snow, there is only one lane. Now, this may be a little harsh but moms, dads and grandparents, your child has been going to school for over five months now, and I promise they know the path from the car to the door of the school. Heck, it’s only a few feet and you can still SEE them. It’s time to let them walk to the door alone. You don’t need to park and get out of the car. Remember, please apply the tuck-and-roll method. There are other cars waiting behind you and people who want to get on with their lives.

I hope this tidbit of information is helpful to you in your future drop-off adventures. And remember to show patience because your kids are watching you. Let’s all unite and make this world a better place one school day at a time!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Rewarding Your Child

Rewarding Your Child

Getting a 100% on a test.

Unloading the dishwasher.

Playing your hardest in a game.

These are all reasons why a parent could reward their child. But is the reward necessary and does it help? Or are the above reasons what is expected of them?

When I was growing up, I never received an allowance for doing chores or was given money for getting good grades. But recently, my children told me about their friends getting rewarded for doing well on a report card. Silly me, I thought that was a kid’s “job” to do well in school. But that got me thinking, “How do you motivate kids?”

Motivating Your Kids

It may be one of the biggest struggles parents and teachers experience. As parents, we remind them to clean their rooms or do their schoolwork. They reply that it’s too hard or boring. We plead with them to do their chores and they whine, procrastinate and even ignore us. So how do we motivate them?

I’ve tried punishment with a timeout or withdrawal of privileges. However, rewards do seem much sweeter than punishments.

When I offer bribes (or threats), this usually leads to the desired behavior I am seeking. For example: as a parent, I want to encourage my kids to clean their rooms, but if I measure room cleaning behavior over a two-week period, I’ll discover that room cleaning is at zero, even with nagging. It just doesn’t happen. But when I implement a reward system to motivate better behavior, I find that room cleaning has increased enormously. It MUST be working!

Eventually, however, my reward system fails because I am tired of rewarding my children for what I think is expected of them.

And when the reward system is taken away, suddenly school achievements drop off and the room cleaning behavior stops. Then the reward system starts again and results improve. It’s a vicious cycle.

Addressing Their Challenges

However, I realized that rewards and punishments ignore what’s going on for my kids struggling with motivation. Instead, I now ask them what their challenges are. Why are they lacking intrinsic motivation? Is the task really boring? Or is there something else going on? When I genuinely understand their challenge, I typically find that it’s not going to be fixed by a goody.

They say things like, “it’s boring”… and a reward isn’t going to remedy that. Rewards don’t make things interesting. They simply shift the focus from the task to the reward. I needed to focus less on behaviors and more on obstacles to desired behaviors. Are they tired? Lonely? Stressed? Is it too hard? Does it seem to lack meaning?

Addressing the obstacles requires me to consider how I might be contributing to the problem and work creatively with my child to find ways around the obstacles. Is the work I’m asking them to do meaningful to them?

I found that giving them a choice leads to an automatic increase in motivation. Or giving them a challenge like, “I bet you can clean up your room is less than 5 minutes” helps with motivation.

Changing the Reward

Finally, I recognized that when my child feels competent, they are going to be more motivated than when they feel incapable. As a parent, my job is to build their sense of mastery so they feel like the things I invite them to do are achievable.

If I MUST offer a reward, I make it unexpected. And assure my child that this isn’t going to be a regular thing.

But I also changed the reward system. A reward is now an investment in our time together, not money. It’s now a trip to the zoo, museum or the movie theater. To me, this is a much better idea than simply getting them the latest game or gadget. I make this a special one-on-one trip with my child and give them the benefit of my attention. Experiential trips make for great rewards and inevitably teach my children that money is not everything, but spending some mindful time together is.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Losing a Family Pet

Losing a Family Pet

We lost our Maverick (Mavi) two days after Thanksgiving after almost 15 wonderful years with him. At this point, he was blind and deaf and didn’t have a lot of energy this past year, but he was loved and spent his last days sleeping and wandering around the house every now and then to find people.

Every time I questioned if it was time for him to go, he’d give me a good tail wagging while he rested, letting me know he was happy. His passing was unfortunately the right thing to do, and while the kids don’t know all the details, we’re all completely heartbroken and feeling his loss more than I thought I ever would.

I always knew it would be sad when we said goodbye, but I haven’t lost a pet since I was a kid. And while I’ve hugged friends with a good “there there, now” pat and tried to relate to their grief when they’ve lost dogs, I’ve never understood until now that losing your family dog is losing a part of your family. The pain of wanting them back to hug them one more time, to talk baby talk like we all do to our pets and tell them “You MAKE this family. You’re part of us, we love you so much” one more time is deep and recognizable.

A Great Family Dog

Mavi was the dog that my husband and I got in college. Was it a smart decision to get a dog in college? No but we did and he was perfectly imperfect. He was our “first child.” He was with us when we graduated, got married, moved several times and had kids. He was better with the kids though—definitely more patient.

Like a good dog he humbly partook in childhood play, letting the kids dress him in bonnets and capes and baby clothes and, while obviously mortified, always took one for the team—like he was telling me, “Go ahead. Finish cleaning the kitchen. I got this.” He loved them all so fiercely. I have countless memories of going in to check on a baby only to find him already there, reporting for duty. “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? I got this.”

He was feisty, kind of naughty and playful in his younger years. Mavi would grab stuffed animals especially the ones that made noise, initiating a good tug-of-war. He loved a walk around the neighborhood, even though he had to “water” every tree and—my favorite—running around the living room in a mad dash after a bath. In his older years, he fell into a nice rhythm of rest and companionship. While he could not see or hear, he never failed in finding us and letting us know that even when it was hard, even when he was tired, he was still there for us—fighting age and physical challenges to loyally serve for as long as he could.

A Sad Goodbye

I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night he died, searching Facebook for old photos, looking for all the ones with Mavi. And I realized as he showed up in the background in photos of so many events, so many milestones and holidays and memories, what a constant presence he has been in our family. The grief of his passing also represents the grief of the passing of time, the end of The Maverick Era.

This was also the first real experience of grief for my kids. In a way, Maverick has given my children one of the most cherished gifts they’ll have for life. The delicate, beautiful, deeply important subject of loss and grief that will be part of their future began with him. His loss will be the foundation, the first lesson that paved the way for the rest, and because of how we loved him and how he loved us, that lesson is beautiful.

While we’ve talked a little bit about death with our kids especially after their great grandmother passed away; they were both so young that they hardly remembered. We have addressed some of the questions of what happens after, so what do I tell them? I thought saying the right things about death would be a stressful challenge, but it hasn’t been.

Experiencing Grief

I know people have a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife, whether pets go to heaven and how realistically we should approach these things with kids, but I’ve found the most important thing you can do is talk about it. I didn’t plan exactly what I was going to say, and what came out was sometimes messy, but I didn’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from talking about everything. It’s important to create a safe place where my kids can create their own ideas and beliefs.

It feels so good to talk about all these different ideas—to talk about what happens after death and about the fact that the spirit of love is greater than any proven law in science. We take what we know about death and add what we know about faith and love and that it lives forever and ever. All of these discussions, ideas and memories comforted us so much.

As my friends told me the other day, “This is your opportunity to model grief for them, to show them how we celebrate and love and remember through the pain.” It’s a great privilege to take this pain together as a family and learn from it.

The house feels like something’s missing, and truly, we’ve lost a part of us that can never be replaced. I miss his quiet presence as I work alone while the kids are at school. I would do anything to feel his paws push against me one more time as I sit here on the couch.

We’ll miss you, Maverick Mitchell Connelly. You will forever and always be loved by us.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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