Learning About Life Through Travel

Learning About Life Through Travel

I’ve listened to Matthew McConaughey’s audiobook Greenlights three times since I bought it in March. He starts out his memoir by discussing his approach to life and explained that he remembered more of his life than he forgot through reading his journals. This had me pondering what I wrote in my journals. This line caught my attention and I read it multiple times:

“I live life forward but I learn about life backwards.”

I don’t necessarily know why I wrote this as the writing around it did not go together. However, I do think there is some truth to this—learning about life backwards. Looking back, dots started connecting a long time ago to the trip my husband and I are on now.

Connecting the Dots

The dots to what this passage is teaching me started connecting three years ago after my mom passed away. I took my kids on the trip of a lifetime to all of my mom’s favorite places on the East Coast she dreamed about going to. It was nearly two weeks of learning and experiencing life in seven different states. Our family took the trip—mom never got to take the trip—but we did.

The dots continued connecting last May. After the end of the unprecedented school year, my husband took a five-day trip of self reflection. Even though I was completely nervous to send him on a trip of unknown roads across Nebraska, he needed this trip. He needed to reconnect with his purpose in life and look at life through his camera lens. I may have been scared for him, but I encouraged him and he chose to take the trip.

In November, the dots continued to connect. Our oldest daughter applied and accepted a summer position at a Christian camp in Texas. This is one experience we told her she could not turn down. She was excited about this opportunity but as time drew closer, nervousness crept in. We hugged her and gave her all of our love. Yet, she is the one who chose to get in her car and drive to this amazing experience.

Choosing to Take the Trip

Now here we are in May—one year after my husband’s trip. A trip to Jamaica with our friends, one we have planned since January. Through all of the unknowns and thoughts of “will we even be able to go?”, we passed our travel authorizations, took our COVID tests and took the trip. We chose to take the trip.

When we choose to take the trip, we live life forward and we experience life. Yet, when we look backward, we learn why choosing the trip is so important. Self-discovery, pursuit of passions but most of all, for me it’s the need to fill my bucket. As a mom and an introvert, I get emptied out quite quickly, and I needed the time of laughter and tranquillity.

When I choose to take the trip, life teaches me what I need to know at that moment. I just learn about life looking back. Next time life gives you a trip no matter how short or how long, choose to take it.

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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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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Learning the Importance of Teamwork

Learning the Importance of Teamwork

Few of us ever work alone in our lives. We brainstorm and discuss new ideas, we collaborate, and in some instances, we ask for help. For many of us, we welcome working with others; yet there are also times where we would rather scream, “just let me do it alone.”

Trust me, I know the importance of teamwork and being able to collaborate with my peers. I know the importance of being able to formally collaborate and communicate in the virtual world. Yet, I also know the importance of an individual’s high expectations.

Working on Group Projects

All three of our children are at three different ages of school—college, high school and elementary—and they usually start out excited about group projects, but before long, they’re wishing they would have completed the assignment individually.

In most instances, I can’t blame them. It’s those dreaded thoughts of, “I’m going to end up doing all the work” or “this is going to be a disaster” or “I don’t want to fail this project because my partner didn’t contribute.”

For instance, our college age daughter was assigned a lab group for the entire semester, but one week into college one group member dropped the class. Halfway through the semester, another member rarely showed up to class. She often found herself collaborating on the reports with one other member while hoping the third member would somehow complete the portion he was assigned before the due date. Our daughter eventually felt it was necessary to email the professor to communicate the group dynamics and responsibilities.

Tips for Group Work

The maturity level of our college student is vastly different from our other two. Therefore, I must encourage the younger two to work through the challenges of group work and create a positive experience. Here are a few tips that I shared with my children:

  1. What is your expectation?
  2. Ask the group member(s) their expectation.
  3. Define the roles in the group.
  4. Create a timeline or follow the given timeline.
  5. Determine how your group will communicate information.

Group dynamics are always a challenge as are the expectations. Some members may strive for an “A,” while others just want to complete the assignment. However, having a discussion with the above simple tips allows our children to work through group projects and find the positives, while also encouraging them to not lower their expectations.

With each group project, our children develop a little more confidence in relinquishing responsibilities and trusting the other group members. And even though most times we may want to work alone, working with others is imperative as very few of us actually work alone in our daily lives.

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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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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Keeping the Door Open to New Opportunities

Keeping the Door Open to New Opportunities

There are days where doors open for opportunities, and there are days where the doors are closed. Sometimes we slam the doors shut in hopes they never open again. And then there are those days where we shut the door only to walk away not noticing the door slightly creaks open.

Coaching High School Softball

Five years ago, I slammed a door shut on coaching high school athletics. I was ready to have more time for my family especially since my husband is a principal. Now, I am embarking on an adventure that five years ago I tried to slam the door on. However, unbeknownst to me when I turned my back to walk away, the door slightly opened.

After one year of not coaching, I was approached to join the high school softball staff. I was already at every softball game supporting our oldest daughter playing the sport, so I thought maybe it was a natural coaching move. Yet, deep down there was a desire to be back on the diamond. I walked through the door knowing I would have to be a student of the game and there would be challenges, but I just love this sport.

After four years of being an assistant softball coach, the door nudges open a little further, and the opportunity arose for a promotion to head coach. For the longest time, I kept pushing the door shut. Yet, the encouragement from my family gathered enough courage for me to step through the door and overtook the fear of being a head coach.

Being Open to Opportunities

I think life is this way. Just when I thought I slammed the door shut on coaching high school, it eventually opened again. This time though, I will be walking through the door with more confidence, more knowledge, and more of a desire to make this world a better place.

On the other side of this door is the opportunity to lead a program, to build servant-leaders while developing softball skills, and to leave an impact. Is it scary? Absolutely. Will there be joy? Yes. Will there be defeat? Yes. However, I’m glad I walked through the door, rather than standing on the other side and slamming it shut once again.

Where are you standing right now? Are you in the hallway looking at the door, or are you standing in the threshold? Are you slamming the door shut, or are you charging your way through the door with confidence? I encourage you—if there’s a passion in your heart and you have the courage, walk through the door and don’t keep slamming it shut.

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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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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Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

One year ago this month, our world changed. My profession, like so many others, was sent home abruptly as different sectors in the world started shutting down. Everything about that time brought fear, uncertainty and disappointment. Some of these feelings still ring true today. Yet, this time also gave me something that I’m actually missing today…time.

Juggling A Busy Week

I thoroughly enjoyed not having commitments every single night of the week. This week, I have longed for those unexpected days that were given to me a year ago. This week, the supper table conversations have turned into drive-through conversations. This week, the conversations with my husband have turned into 10-minute lunch meetings just to plan out the evenings (those of you whose spouses are school administrators probably understand this). The introvert in me has wanted my husband to take me for evening drives just so I could stare out the window and listen to the complete silence.

In a world where busyness is valued and the norm, I took it upon myself to relinquish some responsibilities. However, it seems that all of the commitments I did keep on my plate needed my attention this week. Don’t take this the wrong way—I’m grateful the world is returning to a new normal. Yet, I’m so thankful that I realized how precious family time is and I’m missing that this week. The stress of the busyness just hit me and I need to refocus. Refocus on what I value. Refocus on being mindful. Actually, refocus and listen to myself.

Spending Time to Refocus

This morning, I told one of my students, “control what you can control, which is your attitude and effort.” In this conversation, I realized I wasn’t listening to myself. I was letting my negative attitude about no free time control how I was actually using my time. Honestly, two things were happening this week—I wasn’t allowing myself to recharge and I was allowing too many distractions to happen.

To help combat these issues, I need to go back to the basics of time management. I need to plan ahead. This would be the reason why there have been many drive-through conversations this week as I didn’t plan ahead and grocery shop. I need to prioritize my to-do list by making micro-goals. I need to set aside time where my door is shut and my phone is in another room, which will help eliminate distractions. And finally, I need to quit multitasking.

If there is one thing I appreciate from COVID-19, it taught me the value of time. It just so happens that the past few weeks, I let the busyness of life get to me. I need to refocus on the big picture, set micro-goals and limit distractions. In doing so, I will ultimately free up the time I so long for.

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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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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Encouraging Your Child to Pursue Their Passions

Encouraging Your Child to Pursue Their Passions

Being a parent is amazing. It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s tiring. It’s scary. It’s rewarding. The list could actually never end.

For me, one of the most rewarding moments as a parent is watching our kids pursue their passions. Maybe it’s the career and technical education teacher in me, but watching our kids find something they truly care about and dive into learning a new skill fills my heart with joy.

Learning How to Cook

Over a year ago, my mother-in-law taught our son how to make an omelet and ever since then, he has practiced perfecting his omelet-making skills. I didn’t think anything of it other than we now have a master omelet maker in our home.

This all changed about two months ago. Our son came home one day itching to learn how to dice vegetables. This is absolutely not in my wheelhouse. Thankfully, a dear friend of mine is also our culinary arts teacher at school, and knife skills are her expertise. She started teaching our son all about knife skills like slicing, dicing and chopping. Watching our son develop these skills each day is impressive, and I’m definitely enjoying having someone who likes to cook in our home.

Our son began writing a new story this past weekend as he decided he wanted to start a small business. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from parenting, it’s to not only provide our kids with many learning opportunities, but also foster an environment where failure is a learning opportunity. I couldn’t help but think what a great experience starting a business would provide for our son.

Starting His Small Business

As we began our discussions, my son had already decided on a business name, he looked at logos and designs for potential ideas, he knew the service he wanted to provide, he assessed his time commitment and he even typed up a mission statement for his company. Our son had weighed the pros and cons of this venture before even talking to us.

The teacher in me went into full teaching mode as my son and I discussed potential competition, pricing, how to create an order form, creating business spreadsheets and even packaging his products. He jumped in with both feet, excited and prepared. When he received an email from his first customer, the excitement in his eyes said it all.

Taking Risks

Here’s the deal about this entire experience. If I hadn’t realized long ago that parenting also encourages taking risks and not being afraid of failure, I would’ve talked my son out of this adventure. I liked staying in my safe zone, yet I learned this isn’t where learning takes place.

But I couldn’t discourage our son from taking a risk, knowing that he’s embarking on a great learning experience. Could he fail? Absolutely. But he’s going to learn more about customer relations, providing a service, marketing and accounting beyond anything I could ever imagine. This is the beauty of learning technical skills and creating experiences for our children.

As I started out my blog with all of the things parenting can be, it’s absolutely exciting and rewarding watching our children pursue their own passions.

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.

You may also like

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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When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

Many years ago, I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This book challenged my thoughts on chasing dreams and praying circles around my dreams and goals. It’s this time every year I go back and read my notes and highlights of the book. I spend much time reflecting on what I did and did not accomplish throughout the year. I reflect on the areas I struggled and reflect on those moments that brought joy and growth.

Reflecting on the Past Year

This year like any other year I am doing just that, however, I feel as though I missed something big this year. The stirring on my heart has been different. There are days I am quite envious of my family. I see my husband chase his lifelong goal of obtaining a doctorate of education. I watch our oldest daughter chase an opportunity to serve at a Christian camp in the summer. I see our freshman daughter conscientiously chase her goal of straight As in high school. I relish watching our son chase his goals on the golf course.

Yet, I tell myself to enjoy this moment or that I don’t have the time and resources to chase my goals. I also realize my purpose during this season is to support and encourage all of these dreams my family is chasing. Maybe this is the season of drawing my blueprint and laying the foundation.

I can’t help but think that what I’m chasing is looking different. I look through all of my big dreams that I have been circling in prayer, and I realize that during this stage of life some of those aspirations have gone to the wayside. Some of those aspirations are selfish and some I just do not want to continue chasing anymore.

Chasing a New Purpose

As I define my purpose and change my course, I need to continue laying the foundation to this stirring on my heart that’s bigger than myself. And as I reflect, I can see the blueprints had been started throughout the COVID pause as I learned that busyness is not a way of life. I gradually started taking things off my plate. This realization is going to help me clearly see what’s being placed on my heart.

Here’s to 2021—to chasing this new purpose and to circling this new dream with prayer and mediation. Before I know it, the stirring on my heart will show up in a big way and I will know exactly what my purpose will be. And right now, I need to let my family in on what’s on my heart. And as I said, when the big something shows up, I will have my family ready to encourage me to chase my dream.

I encourage all of you to see what’s stirring in your heart. How are you going to chase the dream in your heart in 2021?

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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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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