Toys, Cash or Bust

Toys, Cash or Bust

It’s November 1 and the Walmart toy catalog has arrived. You look and see that things have already been circled and an entire page has a large circle around every toy. This is what happens every year. The toys wanted are circled with my kids’ names next to them, so I of course know who wants what under the tree. But this year, my daughter was the only one with things circled. Why? Because my son only wants an Xbox. A $500 gift. But he knows “Santa” won’t get him an Xbox because that’s too expensive, so he is asking everyone for cash.

Should Kids Get Cash for Christmas?

But cash for Christmas perhaps you’re thinking: What? Are your kids too good for toys now? Or maybe you’re stuck on the idea that giving someone money is so impassive and unsentimental. Of course, the last thing I want to do is disappoint my kids, but I want to make sure they’re old enough to appreciate getting cold, hard cash instead of traditional gifts.

If you are like most families, your kids have enough stuff. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s about setting the stage, letting the gift-giver know the reasoning behind the request and what the money will be used for. There are lots of opinions about the good and bad of giving money as a gift–or, gasp, asking for money as a gift. And when done incorrectly, yes, it can come off as rude and selfish.

However, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider foregoing traditional gifts and asking for money instead. Cohen doesn’t play with toys. He is at that age where it’s either soccer or video games. He is trying to save money for an Xbox. I realized the older the kids, the more expensive the gifts. He doesn’t want the traditional gift, nor does he need it, so he’s asking grandpa, grandpa, aunts and uncles for money. Sure, he could use another pair of pants so if his grandma wants to go shopping, I will suggest that option.

Gifting Money is Practical & Useful

But, for now, I am tactfully encouraging my family members to give money. I am proposing ways to make it fun for them to give cash.

There are a few ways you can do this. If Cohen wanted to use the money for sports or other lessons, I would invite his family members to recitals or games. I want them to see the joy he gets from the activity and know the part they played in helping create that joy.

After Cohen saves enough for him to accomplish his dream of owning an Xbox, I plan to send family members a video or some pictures. I want them to see Cohen embracing and enjoying what their monetary gift helped achieve.

So rather it be a Barbie for Collyns, yes, her gifts are still easy to buy or cash for Cohen, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding giving cash as gifts. The truth is no one in my family needs 37 gifts. Getting off the gift-giving merry-go-round starts with a frank discussion with friends and family.

The great thing about gifting money is it’s practical and useful. Secondly, it will save everyone time from lining up at those shopping malls, and lastly, Cohen will actually love getting cash especially if you present it in a creative way. I already started pinning ideas on how to give cash as a gift on Pinterest.

Believe it or not, the gift of cash will be the best present he’ll receive this Christmas!

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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Beyond the Softball Diamond: Life’s Best Pep Talks

Beyond the Softball Diamond: Life’s Best Pep Talks

Most of you know I am a high school softball coach. I also get the privilege of coaching my daughter, our starting shortstop. There are many opportunities for me to not only teach skills and techniques about the sport but also about life beyond the softball diamond. I decided to share snippets from my pep talks. Even though these are examples for softball, I believe these pep talks can be applied to all areas of life.

Even the Coach Needs Pep Talks

As I prepared for each practice or game talk, I always whispered these two statements to myself:

  • “Lead with joy, and you can’t go wrong.”
  • “You picked twelve outsiders nobody would’ve chosen, and you changed the world. Well, the moral of the story is everybody’s got a purpose.” —Casting Crowns

Quit Looking for Easy

Challenge yourself each and every practice. Get better. This is not a “have to be here” sport—this is a “get to be here” sport. It’s a privilege to play for your high school. It’s a privilege to play the sport you love. Don’t look for easy. I cannot remember anyone ever telling me that they were glad it was an easy road. Get after it. Get better.

Preparation Is Key

Knowing your roles are important. Every role is important every single day—even throughout practice. Being a great practice partner is a role for everyone. Your partner benefits from being challenged. You benefit from being challenged. You should never walk away at the end of practice and think “I had a perfect practice.” Challenge yourself, challenge your partner. Preparation is key to building glowing confidence.

Be Humble & Patient

Keep moving forward, and know that all this hard work you’re putting in will produce results. We just don’t know when we’ll enjoy the results. We need to work hard and never settle. Be patient as we focus on the micro goals. Also, remember there is noise all around us about rankings, records, etc. How are you going to respond to the noise? Be humble when teachers, parents and families congratulate you on a great game, but never settle. We are going to keep moving forward. Focus on what’s important: preparing for the next game.

You Can Only Control Two Things

Your effort and your attitude. Both of these show what is in your heart. Play for a purpose greater than you—maybe it’s the person to the left of you on the field or the person to your right. Just know you do not play this game to advance yourself personally. You play it because you love it. I challenge you to play for someone else.

Know Where You Are

Your head needs to be where your feet are. You can’t be thinking about the next out, the last pitch or the error you made in the second inning. You must be present. The key is to be here and now for every moment. You must take care of business and not take anyone for granted. Be here every pitch. Be in the box every at-bat. Be in the moment every time you run on and off the field. Be here when people are talking to you. Trust yourself and this will all turn out okay.

Work Through Negative Thoughts

We all have bad innings, bad at-bats and bad games. But how do you respond? Do you let negative thoughts fester? Do you put those inopportune plays on repeat in your mind? I need each of you to respond with positive thoughts. Figure out how to think those positive thoughts. For me, I talk to my mom in heaven. It just takes one swing, one diving catch, one tag on a runner stealing a base to change the momentum of your game. We need to wire our brains to listen to positive thoughts. Challenge yourself to let go of negative thoughts, and focus on what will go well.

When you need a little motivation or a little encouragement, my hope is you can take one of these snippets and find inspiration.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

One quarter down and Cohen is doing great in middle school. He takes pride in his schoolwork, and really enjoys most of his classes, but hates it. He dreads going every day!

I am not worried about his grades; he is getting all A’s. Even though he says middle school is much harder than elementary he is doing great. He really enjoyed his Spanish class first quarter and has taught me several words. Even though I took 4 years of it in high school, I can’t speak a word! Now he is in a healthy living class and recently learned how to make omelets. Like I said, he likes his classes but hates school.

Struggling to Make Friends

He hasn’t found “his people”. As a parent, it is so hard to watch your child struggle to make friends. Cohen is kind, loving, social and so friendly, I don’t understand why he can’t find his core group of friends. I know it’s not a lack of social skills but maybe he’s just in an environment where people don’t have the same ideas or interests as him, and he’s just having a real challenge finding his group of people. He hates his pod. A pod is where his locker is located. Don’t get me wrong, he has a couple of friends at school, but he never sees them. His middle school is so big he doesn’t have his two friends in any of his classes or near his pod.

His “happy place” is the soccer field. There he has his teammates, who he considers his best friends. He would rather hang out with them than anyone in school. However, they all go to different schools, so he doesn’t see them every day or have those friendly faces in school.

But I do think is it important for him to find a group of friends or just a couple of core friends in school. I want to make school better for him.

Putting Yourself Out There

So, I think it’s time for him to explore and maybe join an after-school activity. There are plenty of clubs and school-sponsored events he can try out. This may be the perfect way to discover his other passions and interests besides soccer —some he may not have even known he has! It’s also a great way for him to learn something new. And fingers crossed, he may even make a friend along the way.

Obviously, having a locker in a pod is new. He tells me that he’s always in a hurry because he doesn’t want to be late so maybe he seems unapproachable. So, I told him to just smile more. It seems like such a simple thing to do but a smile can start a lot of friendships. I know it’s hard for him because he is in a place where he is not making friends, no matter how hard he tries, so a smile may seem difficult to do. However, not smiling can make you even more of an outsider.

Now I’m not talking about walking around with a grin all day because people will think he’s just weird. But I’m talking about lightening up and putting positive energy out there. I told him to laugh at his classmates’ jokes (if they aren’t funny, jokes) and smile at people when he walks by. If his exterior cracks and he lets people in a little, then he may have a much better chance of making friends.

As parents, we often want to immediately jump into problem-solving mode whenever our child is having an issue. But it’s a better idea to slow down and just listen to what they have to say, first. Giving kids the space to open up and feel heard lets them know that it’s okay to talk about emotions — and that you’re a good person to turn to whenever they need help.

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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Avoiding the Comparison Trap

Avoiding the Comparison Trap

As I was scrolling through social media today, I stopped on one post and thought to myself, “I sure wish I had it all put together, like she has.” Her make-up is perfect. Look at her perfectly sculpted abs. Her outfit is impeccable. Her home looks immaculate and the yard is perfectly manicured.

Thanks to social media today, it is very easy to fall into the comparison trap in every aspect of our lives. What I can tell you, when we fall into the comparison trap and believe we do not measure up, it leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Seriously, my friends, this is what brings us down rather than uplifting each one of us. The tendency is to keep comparing and truly losing site of what is purposeful, important and meaningful.

Four simple steps to prevent us from falling into the comparison trap:

Invest In Yourself

This doesn’t necessarily mean spending money, but it does mean spending time on YOU. Find something to personally grow in and go out and experience life. This can be as simple as sitting on the deck and reading a book. It can be as grandiose as illustrating a children’s book. It can be anything in between, however, the most important part of this is spending the time on YOU.

Allow Yourself to be Real

I have a playlist called “Do Not Listen to at School”. I wear leggings. I do not wash dishes every single day. I want a tattoo. Being your authentic self is much easier said than done, especially when in most instances you are seen only as your professional self. Practice mindfulness, know your values, face your fears, and by all means, it is okay to share your emotions. Allowing yourself to be real and authentic is challenging because it means slowing down, it means you may have to be selfish, and it means rewiring your brain to not always play it safe.

Surround Yourself with Authentic People

Proximity is powerful. That being said, you are a product of the five people you spend a majority of your time with. Outside of your family look at your inner circle of friends. Do they allow you to be authentic? Are they authentic around you? It does go both ways. Think about it, the quality of life is a reflection of your peer group. Find a group that makes you laugh, shares your values, inspires you to be a better person, but ultimately loves you for your true authentic self.

Make Kindness Purposeful In Your Life

Be intentional. In a world where kindness seems to be lacking, actions and words matter. The key is being intentional, about being kind and authentic (that word, it pops up again) about kindness. Purposeful kindness opens the door for others. If purposeful kindness is inspiring others through handwritten notes, go do it! If purposeful kindness for you is hugs, go do it!

The comparison trap is easy to fall into, however, if we practice the above suggestions we will live a more purposeful life. Yet most importantly we will model to our children how important it is to be our authentic selves.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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I Need to Be More Empathetic

I Need to Be More Empathetic

Growing up I was close to my mom. She was and still is my best friend. I could talk to her about anything. I felt comfortable going to her for advice. Now that I have children, I have strived to have continuous open conversations with them.

The Need to Be More Empathetic

However, I realized that I was becoming the parent that gave hugs but not advice. Recently, Cohen came home from a friend’s house abruptly. I could tell something was wrong and I went to chat with him. I found myself comforting him but asked him if he wanted to talk to his dad instead of me. In those situations, I never know what to say and I am scared to say the wrong thing. When my child is truly in distress because they feel hurt, disappointed, worried or angry, they desperately need their parent. I am glad he feels comfortable with Mitch but I need to strive to do better. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to see them feeling negatively, so my first instinct is to tell them not to feel the way they do. I suck at empathy. I give hugs and kiss boo-boos but I realized that if I don’t show empathy this results in my child feeling ashamed of how they feel, compounding the hurt.

Moreover, the knowledge that their mom does not try to understand them. I don’t want them to feel alone. Basically, this teaches them that opening up, to me, about how they feel makes them feel worse. And this is something, I fear and do not want! It doesn’t help that my husband just got his master’s in counseling, so I know he is more knowledgeable and gives better advice.

During their chats, I try to occupy our daughter. My husband always fills me in on the situation, but I want Cohen to feel comfortable talking with me. In essence, the sympathy requires no emotional investment on my part because I become the powerful saver and rescuer, which makes me feel better but not Cohen. It is the easy way out. So, I have work to do. I am not an empathic person but I need to do better for my kids so they can talk to me.

Examples of How to Honor Feelings

That’s when I hit the google button and asked for examples of what I should say to honor his feelings instead of dismissing them. A few examples below:

  • That’s a big worry. I get it.
  • You are upset. I would be too.
  • You have every right to feel disappointed. I felt like that when I was your age.
  • You are mad. I understand. You have every right.
  • It hurts to see someone do something you want to be able to do but can’t yet.
  • You are mad. I’m sure you have a good reason. I want to hear about it.

So, when either of my children are hurting, I am going to try and give them a solid dose of empathy, so they feel understood and connected to me. When Mitch does this, they immediately feel better and they want his help in problem-solving. In many cases, the empathy is all they need to feel better. Simply knowing we understand allows them to feel secure and forge ahead.

Having an empathic response requires me to shift from how I feel about the situation to how my child feels. It’s me remembering how it feels to be the worst one at something or picked on so I can relate to my child. It’s selfless and it puts my child first, emotionally. Empathy creates a rugged work ethic and resilience. Hopefully, my children will learn empathy through their father, and now my ways, and will thrive on adversity instead of breaking down when negative things happen.

For now, I plan to continue to work on having empathy so I can stay close to my children. I need to remember to empathize is to empower, so the reward will be priceless.

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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How to Block Out Negative Noise & Focus on the Positive

How to Block Out Negative Noise & Focus on the Positive

Last week, during one of my leadership lessons, I asked my students to share their thoughts on how to “work hard and ignore the noise.” I shared that our brains are processing millions and millions of pieces of information each day, however, we pay attention to a minuscule portion. We unknowingly allow toxic noise to influence our thoughts and behaviors. I continued with as we grow into leaders, we must train our brains to block out the noises and focus on what goes well each day.

Focusing on what we do well and letting go of the noise is difficult. I even have to be reminded to not let the noise seep into my thoughts and take over what goes well each day.

How To Block Out Negative Noise

Below are the strategies I share with my family to block out the negative noise, and train our thoughts to focus on the positive.

1. Surround yourself with positive people

Some people who enter our lives thrive on attention and drama. We need to seek out people who encourage us, lift us up and believe in us.

2. Be aware of our own thoughts

Listen to inspiring, uplifting music. Read inspirational blogs, tape a few positive quotes on your mirrors or desks. I believe the most powerful activity you can do is to create a list each day of the things you did well. I guarantee this is going to be hard at first, however, it will help you focus on positive thoughts.

3. Hit the mute on social media and go outside

Create space in your day and just go outside and be with nature. Take a walk, relax on the deck, sit on your front porch and just let your thoughts focus on the good. Focus on what you are thankful for – make this a time of gratitude. This exercise will definitely give your brain – and heart – the needed positive self-talk.

4. Realize everything does NOT need a response.

I see an exuberant amount of unkind responses on social media and I just shake my head. Not everything needs a comment or a response. Especially an unkind response or comment. The same rules can be applied to real life. In most instances, you will feel better if you do not allow comments to filter into your space. Just let it go.

It is hard to navigate the negative noise, we must work at it constantly. Once we train our brains to focus on the positive thoughts, we will be creating the best versions of ourselves.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Remaining Positive During an Injury

Remaining Positive During an Injury

We all hate to see it. The play is over, and players in the pile get up, but one player doesn’t. Sometimes you see the injury as it happens. Sometimes it is a mystery. Either way, nothing quiets a crowd like a sports injury. It does not matter whether it occurs in pre-school T-ball or the Super Bowl.

Youth sports injuries are an unfortunate, but inevitable part of any young athlete’s playing journey. The severity ranges from out-for-one-game to out-for-the-season or even out-for-the-year.

My Son’s Soccer Injury

This is a topic near and dear to me, and for all the moms out there. I am sure I am not alone. It recently happened to my son. It wasn’t during a game, but he broke his collarbone while running, well falling, at conditioning for soccer.

However, we initially didn’t think it was broken. Cohen was in pain for a couple of days, we continued to ice it and gave him Tylenol. He could move his arm and shoulder, so we thought it was just a bruised collarbone. He even went swimming 3 days after the fall. The next week he had his annual physical with his doctor before the start of the new school year. The doctor noticed his collarbone and wanted him to get x-rays. Sure enough, Cohen had a small break. He was issued a brace and the orthopedic doctor said no contact sports for at least 6 weeks.

Tears immediately followed as Cohen knew the fall soccer season was about to begin. It was so difficult as a parent to not only watch your son in physical pain but now emotional pain and blame yourself for not seeking treatment sooner. He was playing 3 days a week and now, nothing. Not to mention, he was starting middle school now, having to wear a brace and not being able to participate in PE, his favorite subject in school.

Managing Pain and Emotions

His dad and I knew we needed to talk with him about his frustrations and empathize with his feelings. We had to support him as he worked hard to return to soccer, even as we helped distract him from the injury by encouraging him to pursue other interests he could still participate in while on injured reserve.

We had him still attend practice and he sat on the bench at games and helped the assistant coach take stats. Which I believe, helped him see the game in a different way. He realized he is still part of the team and I feel that he stepped up into a leadership role, even on the bench. One of the hardest parts of being injured was him not feeling like he was part of the team. Staying closely involved helped with that.

The obvious first step, which we didn’t do, is to get a definitive diagnosis if your child is suffering from an injury and not to wait. It will be better for you and for your athlete if you know exactly what you are dealing with. When will it heal? Will they need surgery? All these uncertainties add to anxiety. Luckily for Cohen, it is healing correctly just slowly. If he continues to listen to the doctor, get plenty of rest and restrain his arm/shoulder movement he’ll be back on the field sooner. Until then, he does footwork drills, passes and shoots, and is anxiously awaiting the okay to start playing.

An injury to an athlete is devastating; however, it does not have to signal the end of sports if the doctor agrees. Cohen will heal and get back into the game. And I continuously tell him that hurrying this process is not a good idea, take the required time to heal and think long-term. A couple missed scrimmages in practice and one missed game out of many will not hinder their long-term success.

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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How I’m Developing Healthier Eating Habits

How I’m Developing Healthier Eating Habits

I have shared that I loathe cooking and baking of any sort with you all before, however, I do value nutrition. I seek out blogs, conversations and articles about healthy cooking, providing healthy snacks and connecting with food. I recently listened to a sports nutritionist and she made my mind start spinning.

With the school year and fall sports season fast approaching, I want to make sure I have quick nutritious snacks and healthy meal options available for our entire family.

Where I Struggle with Making Healthy Meals

I realize my downfall in providing nutritious meals and snacks occurs in multiple different areas.

  1. First is definitely the busyness of life.
  2. Having picky eaters.
  3. I have no patience or confidence in the kitchen.
  4. I do not create a fully developed grocery list.
  5. Not using the items in our pantry.

How I’m Making Changes to My Family’s Habits

With the above challenges, I am still determined to listen to the advice of the sports nutritionist and make a few changes in our habits.

  1. Create a better developed grocery list. This will help eliminate spontaneous grocery shopping, eating out and also require me to meal plan.
  2. Use the foods in our pantry and the refrigerator, especially the fresh foods.
  3. Encourage and support my family as they continue to decrease their caffeine and sugar intake. This is really eye-opening to me as our daughter is connecting eating habits not only to athletic performance but also to academic performance.
  4. The most difficult change for me will be setting aside time on Sunday to prepare lunches and suppers for the week. I am going to start small and not become overly ambitious.
  5. Revamp my snack storage in my classroom to include healthier choices to fuel energy rather than processed foods.

I wish I had a magic switch. As I sit here and blog, I just want to jump to the end result. I want the healthy eating challenges to be easy. I discuss with my kids and students it is a process to become better at anything. There are many, many times I have tried to make all of the changes above and I absolutely fail. Here is to me recommitting to healthy eating goals. In all reality, this is not just about me, it is about my family and encouraging a healthy lifestyle through healthy eating habits.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Taking Family Vacations

Taking Family Vacations

The kids are out of school, and we’ve banked up just enough vacation time for this exact moment. After a few years of travel being limited, it’s time for a summer trip!

Do you recall that one summer vacation or that one family trip as a child that was etched into your mind as one of your best memories ever? Every year as a kid my family would always go on a family vacation. It usually centered around Nebraska Football but nonetheless, it was a family vacation. I knew I wanted my children to make the same kind of memories. So, when my husband and I started a family, I knew family vacations were a must.

In the early years, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together so our vacations were shoestring budget worthy – but we made memories. We began small with a weekend getaway over spring break to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It was perfect for a young family and consisted of a free visit to Cabela’s, which was kind of like a zoo.

As the kids got older, the vacations changed. We saved enough money…well that is with the help of the grandparents, to make a trip to Disney World. Like they say, “It’s the most magical place on earth,” and it truly was special.

Then COVID-19 grounded us for a while but last fall we finally brought back family vacations. We made it to Estes Park, Colorado for a week which included hiking, shopping, horseback riding and a quick trip to the Denver Broncos Stadium.

This last month we went to Branson, Missouri. And when I say we, there were eight of us. This vacation was extra special, not only did my parents come but my brother and niece joined us. This trip was filled with mini golf, a ropes course, roller coasters, the Titanic Museum and our all-time favorite Wonder Works.

Now here’s the thing. Our vacations aren’t perfect. There is always chaos. At any given moment, someone needed an attitude adjustment. We spilled stuff. The photos didn’t turn out great. We forgot to pack important things. We were crammed into one car for what seemed like forever. We got lost. We were hot and sweaty – or freezing. But all those things made the memories!

Between the numerous amounts of putt-putting, sitting around the pool, horseback riding, trying to spot a bear or a moose around the edge of the mountains, and talking about life – those are the little things and the big things everyone will remember.

On top of the memories and bonds that are built, it’s healthy to get out of the normal routine of life. Life at home is filled with responsibilities. Between our jobs, errands to run and responsibilities to be kept, vacations are filled with joy and are usually worry-free. They allow us time to breathe fresher air, see bigger cities, ride down a river and learn a little history. They also give us the opportunity to explore together. They provide the backdrop for shared memories between grandparents, parents and kids, which cultivates a closer family bond. Vacations provide opportunities to learn about the world we live in, cultures different from our own, and the benefits of being open-minded.

If you have been putting your vacation off, take a moment to think of the importance of family vacations so you can regenerate and reconnect with your loved ones.

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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Facing My Travel Fears

Facing My Travel Fears

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel. There has always been this deep desire in my heart to travel. For some reason, hopping on an airplane is exhilarating and all part of the adventure. Once upon a time, I even tried to convince my dad into investing in a new business venture for me – travel blogging. He didn’t quite like the idea, as he didn’t know how he was benefiting from the investment – I guess who could blame him! However, I need to let you all in on a little secret, airports terrify me. Let me say that again airports terrify me, not the flights – airports.

I’m Scared of Airports

Travel day brings an elevated level of stress. Every time I step into an airport, I immediately enter a time warp back to when I was 13 years old. My siblings and I were surprised with a trip to Walt Disney World. As we were making our way to our connecting flight in Atlanta, I took a wrong turn and ended up on a tram in the wrong direction of my family. As the tram was pulling away, I noticed my family wasn’t on the tram and I could see my dad’s face through the tram’s windows. With the help of a guardian angel at the next tram stop, I sprinted in the right direction trying to find my family (I have NO sense of direction) and there my dad was sprinting towards the tram stop.

Here I am 30-plus years after this traumatizing event for a junior high student and travel anxiety for me is still incredibly REAL. My family will attest to this anxiety and in all reality, they do not help in combating this fear. It is incredibly difficult to experience new places with such a fear of airports, but I can honestly say that the excitement doesn’t start until I am waiting at the gate.

Trying to Ease my Travel Anxiety

My anxiety starts creeping up a few days before the flights with insomnia. For how prepared to fly I believe I am the list below seeps into my mind.

  • Worry about proper documentation
  • The security lines
  • Crowds and chaos
  • Other anxious people running around

At the airports, I am very irritable and have an overall tense feeling until I reach the boarding gate and walk down the passenger bridge to the airplane. I constantly remind myself to not give in to the anxiety of airports, however, that is easier said than done.

I am currently blogging from an airport, waiting for my next flight. I just returned from a family vacation, where we had two international flights. In a few short hours, I will go through the entire airport process for a domestic flight to a leadership conference. To combat some anxiety (or at least try) I have signed up for travel alerts on the Carriers app, I have another book to read, I have calming music downloaded, and a journal to record my thoughts. However, probably the most important way to relieve anxiety is to not get caught up in the chaos around me.

Adventure is out there, and it is always waiting for me just beyond the boarding gate – however, I must conquer the airport process first.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Mothering in Tough Economic Times

Mothering in Tough Economic Times

With gas prices, grocery prices, rent/property taxes skyrocketing, how are you managing? I sit here thinking about how things will be six months from now and it scares me to no end. Everything is so expensive, and it just keeps going up!

Motherhood is tough. It’s tough even in the best of times but throw in this current economic climate and moms need ways to cope.

Despite the uncertainty and turbulence of life as we’ve known it right now, I hope you are enjoying the longer stretches of daylight and warmer weather as I am. Taking time to notice things with our five senses is a great way to slow down and come back to ourselves when we are caught up in emotions and anxiety.

Yes, our tanking economy yields plenty of opportunities for mothers to break down, not a lot can be done about that. But what is important is that we have the resilience to snap back.

How I’m Saving Money

Some things I am currently doing to help are the little things that save us money.

With gas prices skyrocketing, I honestly have been getting gas when it’s half or fuller. I do it at 6 a.m. at Sam’s Club before work and I pump it super slow. I track my mileage and check my tire pressure often. I use an app for money back at the pump and I continue to get the oil changed on time.

When it comes to food, a big thing I’ve been doing is buying meats in bulk and snack items when on sale. I meal plan before shopping then buy only what we need or what we will use if it’s cheaper. However, since it is summer, I have become the pantry police and must cut my kid’s snacking habits. Also, I just planted our garden and plan to can some goods in the fall. I will be ready for an apocalypse if need be. When it comes to fruits, I freeze what I can to keep my kids from eating them all in one sitting. Lastly, I highly recommend investing in a deep freeze if you don’t already have one. When we do buy in bulk everything fits in there.

When it comes to other bills, I do the laundry and run the dishwasher at night, we close vents off in rooms we don’t use especially during the day. Also, I check the exhaust vents and ducts inside and outside. This saves on time, and electricity and the appliances last longer. We invested in blackout thermal curtains. The difference has been huge for us in the summer and winter months on heating and air.

Staying Resilient During Tough Times

Mothers rarely get a break, and we’re hard on ourselves. Add economic hardship to the mix, and it can be easy to spiral downward to a very dark place. When you have resilience, you can stop that spiral and even reverse it.

Our children count on us to teach them the life skills they’re going to need and resilience in uncertain times is one of the most important.

My goal is to provide a happy, healthy home for them. I shouldn’t feel bad that I can’t buy them the newest iPhone. The importance of the basics has never been clearer.

The most important lesson to keep firmly in mind – and that I share with my kids and repeat to myself – is the hard times won’t last forever. They never do because change is life’s only constant. It’s that knowledge that lies at the heart of resilience itself.

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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Making Summer Memories

Making Summer Memories

Summer has always been my season. Growing up I spent my time riding bikes, and swimming, but most evenings were spent at the softball fields. Nostalgia sweeps over me with the small summer moments of eating vegetables straight from the garden with my dad, picking peonies with my neighbor lady and roller skating on our sidewalks.

Now 40+ years later, I am reminded of those simple moments quite often, and I still love everything about the summer — even the summer heat!

For most of us, the school year is over which translates to summer sun and summer activities. As summer begins, whatever your plans may be I encourage you to make the most of each opportunity. We all have those memories that are brought up around the supper tables, go and create those memories. However, do not forget the sweet summer moments that remind us we do not always have to be elaborate in our plans to make lasting memories.

What I’m Looking Forward to This Summer

While I am looking forward to the norms of the summer, I am sharing a few of my favorite simple things of the summer.

  • Deck sitting, especially under the stars and lights, where the quiet encompasses me.
  • Walking 18,000 steps following my son on his golf outings.
  • Sun brewed iced tea, three to five hours in the bright sun brings a mellower taste to my favorite beverage.
  • Corn on the cob and what is even better, grilled corn on the cob. Our friends introduced this to our family and even our kids love it.
  • Tomato sandwiches – you know the BLTs without the LTs, these are absolutely delicious in the summer. On a side note, I refuse to eat these in the other seasons as the tomatoes are not fresh.
  • Kohlrabi is another favorite garden pick which was introduced by my dad.
  • Walking sheep with my kids.
  • Family Farmer’s Market adventures, what could be better in the summer? Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh flowers and great conversations.

The first signs of summer are upon our family, with the most obvious being that I’m unfazed by time and days of the week. Still I am excited to create a full summer of memories while being intentional about the simple things of summer.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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