A Favorite Educator’s Legacy Lives Beyond Retirement

A Favorite Educator’s Legacy Lives Beyond Retirement

As a high school student, I never really paid attention to the duties of the superintendent. I knew he lead our school and made important decisions, yet, I never fully comprehended what his daily duties included. However, I did make sure to pay attention when he would make the occasional “snow day” call.

What I did know was each day—whether it was before school started, during lunch or during passing periods—he would say, “Hi Shel…,” followed by some reference to how the day was going, and then the conversation would usually turn to softball. What I now realize is he valued relationships and making connections with students every day.

From a Happy Face at School to Family

Fast forward 22 years and I am part of this superintendent’s family. Being part of an educational family, I have learned a great deal of the actual duties of a superintendent through conversations at dinner, at the fair or visiting their place frequently. Through all the stories he does share, there is always one constant shared throughout: he cares.

At the end of this month, my father-in-law will retire after 40-plus years in education. And while I could make a never-ending list of him advocating for education or dedicating numerous hours to coaching, what I am forever grateful for is our children watched their Papa Mo dedicate a majority of his life to something he was passionate about. This was evident in his daily interactions with students and staff.

His Work Made an Impact on Many

His legacy will forever have an impact on our kids, especially our oldest, as her future educational goals include becoming a family and consumer science teacher. Our daughter shared an essay she wrote for class and below are highlighted points she eloquently states as to why her Papa Mo is her hero:

[His] dedication to education and helping make other people better in all he does…Awarding diplomas at graduation, his proudest moment every school year, showed his hard work and dedication to the school and students he served.

[He] always finds time to attend mine, along with my cousins and siblings, sporting and school events. Not a week goes by without seeing him in the crowd.

[He] puts in hours of time working on the farm to provide his grandchildren with the experiences of 4-H.

Continuing His Legacy into the Next Generation

Looking at my father-in-law through my daughter’s eyes ultimately displays he cares. She sees it and the rest of our family sees it. If there is anyone I want our daughter to model her educational career after, it is my father-in-law. We all know his career in education was lined with important decisions, stress and time-commitments. However, what he valued and displayed the most was that he cared, and this is what I want our daughter to know when she is a teacher—to carry on her hero’s legacy and to show her students and athletes that she cares.

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.

Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ah, summer—the sun is hot, school is out, energy is high, and let’s face it, for parents this can be a challenging time. Not only does your routine change, but it’s also difficult to keep your kids reading.

Does “summer school work” sound like a chore to your kids? It’s a constant struggle for me to convince my children to do anything other than watch TV or play outside. The question I faced was, “How can I make reading or any other school work be just as exciting as any other summer activity?”

How to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Before school was out for the summer, I made a plan. I wanted to continue helping Cohen read throughout the summer. I heard of the summer slide, which is a term teachers use to describe the learning loss between grades over the summer, and I didn’t want that for Cohen. He had made such great progress throughout the year and was nearing a third grade level that I didn’t want him to fall farther behind.

Find Programs that Have Worked Previously

I looked into several reading programs being offered during the summer months, but they were ridiculously expensive! Plus, the times the classes were offered were not convenient for working parents, so that was a little frustrating! I realized I would need to make it a priority.

Make a Plan

I made a plan to go to the library once a week and have my kids pick out books they wanted to read. I also signed Cohen up for the library summer reading program, which is free! Then, we went to Barnes and Noble and signed up for that summer reading program. Lastly, I wanted him to continue with his frequency folder and have him read the same passage every day. I thought I had a great plan in place.

But life gets in the way. My plans for him to read continues to be pushed aside for the different activities planned in the evenings that Cohen wants to do. My son didn’t view reading as a fun activity and I realized I needed to make it a priority and encourage summer reading. It was time to get creative!

Set Goals

It was time to set some summer reading goals. I had Cohen help me set our goals and create a chart together when he finished his frequency passage. Cohen and I made a “Reading Hall of Fame” bulletin board. After every book he finished, we take a picture and I post it to the board.

Make Reading a Family Event

My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall, so I am trying to make reading this summer a family affair. During the warm weather months, it can be hard for busy, on-the-move families to fit reading in. So we started to set aside some time to read before bedtime. Every family member grabs some books, we turn off all electrics, and read for 20 minutes. We’re also trying to listen to more audio books—while at the library, I found some fun family reads on CD.

Make it Fun

Lastly, his teacher gave me this idea before summer vacation—twice a month during the summer we have a “Cookie and Bookie” where we read a story or two together, he reads one page then I read the other, and when finished we discuss what we read. Then, of course, we bake cookies together!

Granted, these are no substitutes for cracking the books. And I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing the summer slide, but I am trying to make reading a priority this summer so Cohen won’t be far behind when he enters 3rd grade this fall.

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!

Lessons Learned Before Her Senior Year

Lessons Learned Before Her Senior Year

I remember everything as if it happened yesterday. I was holding back tears as much as I could and once I turned my back, the tears started streaming. That’s where we left her, lined up with all her new classmates with a smile beaming from ear-to-ear, ready for her first day of kindergarten. As I was wiping my tears, another mom caught me and said, “Don’t blink. Before you know it she will be in high school.”

As I blinked, it happened. The next time our daughter walks through the high school doors she will be writing her last chapter of high school. I have prayed every night that we have prepared her for the decisions she will be making throughout her senior year and beyond.

While this mom’s heart is struggling between being sad and being excited at what the next year will bring, I was still curious to my daughter’s thoughts. The other night I asked her and her boyfriend if they were ready to be seniors. Without a beat, both of them said, “No, not really.” My daughter continued, “We just finished school and I don’t think I am really ready to be a senior.”

Yet, in the past few months I have observed situations where I know she is more than ready, even though she may not think she is.

Giving Back to Others

Her interactions with the younger students does not go without mentioning. When a little girl comes up to her, our daughter stops what she is doing and listens attentively. Whether they ask for a picture, a hug, or a high five, she is always willing to stop and share a smile. Time is just so valuable and many people are not willing to give theirs away, but our daughter shares her time generously.

Staring Adversity in the Face

I remember the first time she faced adversity with a broken finger during a softball season, she learned a completely new position. Now she’s in the midst of facing adversity again as she recovers from a knee surgery. She is determined, has persevered, and has displayed that a positive attitude will move mountains. She has also worked through those moments of being defeated with grace and understanding. She is demonstrating true grit and realizes this is all part of her journey.

Tackling Tough Conversations

She started to have real questions about savings/checking accounts. She is curious about budgeting and how she will handle her finances in college.

Balancing Act

For the first two years of high school, I asked multiple times if she should quit something to find balance. However, I have seen her successfully implement a community service project, perform at her highest level in athletics, maintain a 4.0, stay active in her faith, and present to various organizations. She has balanced all of it and has done it far better than I could have imagined.

Staying True to Values & Beliefs

She is not losing sight of her goals and staying true to her dreams. She does not give into peer pressure. She shares her gifts. She shows the world her authentic self. She laughs loud and she laughs often. She is studying information and making decisions that are in the best interest of helping her reach her goals. All of these characteristics will help her continue to lead and lead well.

When you’re told, “Don’t blink, your children grow up too fast,” listen because it is unbelievably true. Now that our daughter is embarking on this next chapter of high school, my husband and I have to trust everything we have taught has prepared her to start making the upcoming life decisions.

I do not want her to grow up because I want her to stay little forever, as most moms do. However, I am grateful for the memories etched in my mind and heart—memories I am now able to share with her, to encourage her, and to make sure she knows she is ready for the title of high school senior.

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.

My Husband’s “Me” Time

My Husband’s “Me” Time

My husband’s job includes weird hours – some nights, weekends and overnight trips. Recently, he started a night class for graduate school. When he isn’t at work or school, he uses about 50% of that time for himself (i.e., playing sports). I know it’s important for him to keep himself sane and healthy, but I wish he wanted to spend more time with us. I am feeling pretty lonely.

I LOVE being home with the kids but I still want him to have a parenting role beyond a provider. I know it’s wrong for me to feel resentful, especially since I take time for myself, but recently we got into an argument about how he spends his time.

After nine years of marriage, I realize that no marriage is ever 50/50. There will always be one partner that does more on any given day. Forget about it being fair because that doesn’t exist.

“Me” Time or Family Time

My marriage benefits when we both have time for ourselves, either to pursue our own interests or just relax. Personal time allows us to maintain our individual identities, provides opportunities to do things we like to do, and allows us to feel like we have some control over our lives. Alone time can actually help to keep our relationship fresh and less stressful. However, this past weekend, I was angry that my husband wanted to spend his “me” time playing softball.

I spend several hours a week at the gym, so why was it so difficult for me to see that he needs time, too? It wasn’t the game that made me upset, it was the fact that he didn’t want to spend time with me and his family.

Getting on the Same Page

I came to the conclusion that personal time needs for each person varies from couple to couple. What’s most important is that we agree on how much time we want to spend together and apart. The problem that I had with softball was that my husband never communicated to me that he needed that time for himself. If it were handled correctly, we’d each feel like we are getting our fair share. I was feeling that work and school should be included in his “me” time because those times are when I’m home by myself with the kids. However, he thought that that time should not be included. It was a communication breakdown. We both needed to take a step back and realize how the other person was feeling.

During these times, perceptions are more important than the actual number of hours. Even if we spend very little time together or apart, the relationship is fine if that’s what we both want. If either of us has different perspectives, however, the amount of time together or apart can be a source of conflict. He was feeling suffocated, while I was feeling insecure and isolated.

Dedicating Time to Each Other

We often have different ideas as to how much time should be dedicated to each other and ourselves. I tend to want more couple time, usually because I regard it as important for bolstering my marriage and making sure there’s solidarity as a couple. My husband, on the other hand, tends to prefer more time on his own. Now that we know where each other stands and realize what we both need, and our communication is open and honest, my husband spending a couple hours a week at softball seems like an okay trade to me.

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!

Grandmas Get Pimples

Grandmas Get Pimples

One day last week, I woke up with a sore in the corner of my lips. I didn’t think much about it but the next morning it was bigger, redder and hurt just a tad. It wasn’t time to call the doctor, but I wanted to keep my eye on it.

What started as a stressful week worrying about my skin ended in a lovely moment with my granddaughter.

Do I have a cold sore?

My husband always struggled with cold sores so when my spot first appeared I asked what he thought. He didn’t think it was a cold sore. Skeptically, I asked him if you spread cold sores by kissing. He laughed at my question and went out the door to play golf. The love and support were overwhelming! I could never complete with golf.

On the third day, the center of my sore was getting dark and hard. Even though the spot was only the size of a pinprick, I decided to apply Campho Phenique cold sore cream and burn it to death. By the fourth day, there was no change.

I tried to occupy my time by running errands. I ran over to my daughter’s house to drop off a book. My daughter wasn’t home so my granddaughter came to greet me. She gave me a big hug and then looked at me. She started to laugh hysterically.

Did I have food in my teeth, or something hanging from my nostril? It took about two seconds of laughter before she squealed, “Oh, my gosh, Grandma. You’ve got a zit on your face!” A zit at my age? How could that be?

A lesson in skincare

My granddaughter had bad acne between 8th and 11th grade. It caused her a lot of grief and she made many trips to the dermatologist. After multiple trial and errors, they finally found a plan that worked and she no longer gets as anxious over the situation. Bottom line, she’s an expert and knows what a zit looks like and how to contain it.

I had her look at my lips so she could be 100% sure it was a pimple. Tears were streaming down her face from laughing. She’d never heard of a grandma having a zit. The bump was definitely a zit and not a cold sore and it was in the corner of my mouth.

I was shocked. I hadn’t had a pimple in at least 45 years. I’m struggling with age spots and dry, blotchy skin, but now I need to add zits to the list?

My hysterical granddaughter knew exactly what to do. First, she gave me a hug. Second, she quickly found a tube of Clearasil and gave me application instructions. Clean the area, then gently dab the Clearasil to the pimple. She told me it would be gone in two days. I thanked her for the advice, although I really did remember how to get rid of pimples. Unfortunately, my routine for getting rid of pimples always started with popping them. I didn’t tell her that.

Returning the favor

After our session, she gave me a high five and said, “You’ve always been there to give me advice and I’m glad I can now return the favor.” Wow! She really is growing up. I know I will always need technology advice, but this was different. Getting sentimental over a zit is another new experience for me. As we hugged goodbye, her final comment to me was, “At least you’re not going to prom tonight!”

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Adventure is Out There

Adventure is Out There

It was over 13 years ago when my husband and I wrote down a family goal of providing our children with the gift of travel. Our goal then, as it is today, is to provide as many opportunities as we can to see the wonders our great nation has to offer. While it may still seem like a far fetched goal, we plan and plot out our trips in hopes of traveling to as many of the continental states as possible before our children graduate high school.

When it comes to trips and vacations, spontaneous and unplanned are two words that hardly find their way into my vocabulary. For me, every vacation or getaway is planned – and planned meticulously. For my husband and eldest daughter, “adventure is out there” is more their style.

“Yes, let’s go.”

For the extended, activity-free, Easter weekend, we planned a college visit for our daughter in Western Nebraska and then a third trip back to the Black Hills. However, when my husband spontaneously suggested we drive to Yellowstone rather than go to Mount Rushmore, immediately our daughter said, “yes, let’s go.”

In an uncharacteristic fashion, I quickly agreed. I was actually excited for the spontaneous 1,700 mile detour from our original plan. Already 6 hours from home and another 10 hours from Yellowstone, we began our “quick trip” to one of our national treasures. Yet, I knew this would be an adventure our kids would not forget as nothing was planned, including where we would stay each night. We vowed to get as far as we could, find a hotel, explore the area quickly, and then continue the next day.

This spontaneous road trip provided many moments for our family to create memories. From waiting patiently for Old Faithful, to taking pictures in front of each new state sign, the memories we created will make for great conversations for years to come. Even picking out the state collectibles became an adventure.

Our two daughters collect one small item from each of the states we visit. One collects stickers, and the other collects keychains. Naturally, our son decided he wanted to start collecting something to remember our travels. In typical 10-year-old boy humor, he started with the ridiculous idea of collecting moose’s poop, but soon realized he would not be able to find that in every state. For the next 30 minutes, he browsed postcards, snow globes, patches, magnets, playing cards and finally decided upon lapel pins, which is perfect for him. For the next hour after his purchase, he figured out all of the states he has visited, and how many pins he would have to buy so he would be caught up on his states.

Our Family Adventure

When the weekend was all said and done, we traveled 2,100 miles in the course of 75 hours. Yes, sometimes the confines of the pickup truck felt quite cramped with all five of us having our earbuds in at various points in the journey. Yet ultimately, we all loved the trip! The spontaneity of changing our original plans allowed us to create new family memories. We added two more states to our visited state’s list, and it was a great reminder for all of us to enjoy the moment. For myself, someone who plans out virtually everything, it was an awesome opportunity for me to not worry about the next stop and to embrace the fact that “adventure is out there.”

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.

Navigating the Potholes of Life

Navigating the Potholes of Life

The end of winter and the beginning of spring always seems to bring challenges and surprises. We live in Lincoln, NE, and we know the weather is always changing. I find myself having bags of clothes ready to grab and go. Baseball starts early, and the rain added an umbrella to my usual bag of “layers,” which I pack to watch our grandson play. What I wasn’t ready for was the large amounts of rain received in parts of our state. I wasn’t ready for towns being flooded and the need for those families to relocate. I wasn’t ready for the need to help families affected by the flooding.

The Nebraska Floods

We saw videos on TV and pictures online. It was devastating, and I was at a loss of what I could do to help those affected by the floods. We donated money to the cause and supplies to help those in need. We hope our donations get to flood victims and are confident they will be used.

Then, Lincoln was put under a mandatory water restriction. That directly affected us. John and I wanted to do whatever we could to support our community and follow the law. My husband was a little concerned I didn’t flush the toilet all the time. He got over it. In the past, we never used plastic water bottles because of recycling concerns. We got over it. Bonus, we didn’t have to water our lawn because it was already under water.

We were pleased that within a few short days, the restrictions went from mandatory to voluntary to no restrictions. Being the hippie aged person I am, I was ready for the long haul, but because I’m not too much of a hippie, I was pleased to get back to normal. Full showers are a luxury no matter what your age is.

Did I say normal? What is normal? Normal winter weather produces weather-related challenges – like POTHOLES!

Dodging the Potholes

Every year our community has potholes, but this winter weather has put a few extra dents or dips in our roads. The other day, I found myself driving while straddling two lanes of the street in an effort to avoid the devastating potholes. I’ve heard horror stories about people losing their tire covers, denting their wheels or worse after they hit a huge hole.

Immediately, I went into grandma mode. If I was experiencing this, what were my grandkids experiencing during their driving excursions? I had visions of their car wheels coming off when they hit a pothole. In my mind, I saw them in a hospital bed because their car was stuck in a ten-foot hole. Grandmas can wish the best for their grandkids, but we can also fear the worst.

I realized I can get emotional and worry too much about my grandkids, who are no longer babies and don’t need to be babied. I also realized that potholes are a fact of life. The potholes in the streets of Lincoln will get fixed.

I then began thinking of the potholes in the lives of young adults. These potholes are also everywhere. The potholes of life may include risky behavior, not planning for the future, addictions – the list could go on and on. Successfully driving on the streets is also a road map for navigating through the potholes in life. The lessons might include be aware of your surroundings, anticipate what might be coming around the next curve, keep your eyes on the road and feel free to straddle the road of life.

Then I took a deep breath. I decided to take my own advice and not needlessly worry about my grandkids. Then, I took another deep breath and realized being a grandma includes loving, caring for, and yes, even worrying about the grandkids. Potholes will always be there.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

5 Things I Want My Teenage Daughter to Know

5 Things I Want My Teenage Daughter to Know

The winter weather finally gave way to spring: the birds are chirping, the cranes found a home in Nebraska for a few weeks and the track is full of students running and jumping. However, spring also means something else for our household — birthdays. In the next month, we’ll officially have two teenagers in our home. I can say “officially” because our younger daughter has thought she’s a teenager since about eight years old.

Things I Want My Teenage Daughter to Know

Another teenager in our home. It seems like yesterday you were scooting your chubby little self across the floor with your curls bouncing up and down. Even though physically you’re my “mini-me,” our personality traits could not be more opposite. However, this is what makes you, YOU. Most days your procrastination and ability to get out of chores has me clenching my teeth. Yet, some days I’m insanely jealous of your strong-willed personality. Your fierce passion for certain things in life will move mountains someday.

But for now, here are a few things I need you to know:

There Will Be Limitless Questions

Where are you going? Who will be there? What did you do tonight? Are you sure you studied enough? Did you get your project done? Why are you doing this at 5:30 a.m. when it is due at 8:00 a.m.? Be grateful we’re asking too many questions. We’re not being strict or nosey. It’s okay for us to set boundaries and limits.

Value Your Friendships

I’ve always said you don’t need to be friends with everyone, but you do need to be kind to everyone. Those teenagers who become your friends, love them and love them hard. Make sure this circle of friends encourages, challenges and has each other’s backs. Reflecting on my teenage years, I’m glad I had a few friends that I trusted who made high school a memorable experience.

Challenge Yourself

Find something that’s challenging and work hard at learning and growing. Many times, I stayed within my comfort zone in high school, being afraid to fail. Failing and retrying leads to one of the most important things you can develop which is a strong work ethic. What will become quickly apparent to many is not trying, being afraid to fail and always walking the paved path.

Chase A Dream

Write your dreams down, visit those dreams often and chase them with an unrelenting passion. When you’re twenty, thirty or forty the lion inside you will thank you.

Save

Learn this skill now. This is one skill I am thankful I learned early during my teenage years. Fund your savings account. Invest in stocks. Start a mutual fund. Contribute to the investments with half of whatever you earn. This will not only help you to prepare for your future but will teach you good spending habits.

Becoming an Adult is Hard

As you embark on your teenage years there will be many times where it may seem difficult, frustrating, but also exciting. However, in the grand scheme of things these years are so simple. You know these years will fly by as you have witnessed with your sister. But ultimately, be the best version of you.

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.

Where Did All My Friends Go? Maintaining Friendships After Parenthood

Where Did All My Friends Go? Maintaining Friendships After Parenthood

Our lives change when we have kids. When did welcoming your little miracle into the world segue into a funeral for your friendships?

Somewhere between all-nighters and ‘should I breastfeed or use formula?’, I stopped thinking about the friends I made over the years.

Or maybe I’m just too tired.

Whatever it is, it’s a problem.

Recently, my friend from college, whom I haven’t seen in a while even though we live in the same city and both have children, asked me my thoughts on balancing relationships outside my family. Weeks go by where I don’t see or talk to any of my friends, and I feel guilty. The catch-22 is that if I make time for my friends, I then feel guilty that I’m not spending time with my family.

Practices, Play Dates and Parties, Oh My!

We all want the best for our children and that means spending quality time together. However, I want to be a well-rounded individual and role model for my children to live a good, full life – one that involves friends.

But as busy parents, fitting in exercise, grocery shopping, laundry or just having some downtime is a struggle. My children’s activities and friendships can consume my time. I spend hours in the stands during soccer practice, waiting during dance class or juggling play dates, parties and practices with our children and their friends. This leaves my own friendships out of the equation.

I’ve also decided that as a working parent my children take priority when I get home from work or have free time on the weekends. I again neglect my friendships with the hope that I can pick them back up when our children are older.

Finding the Time for Friends

Saturday mornings are my ‘me time’. I get to workout and have brunch with some of the women I see at boot camp. I value this time. I suggest that if you have a parenting partner, negotiate who will be off-duty and when. There should be an even split. Use your respective time however you want, but be sure to include seeing your friends!

Now that my kids are slightly older, we’ve been trying to do activities that involve other families. When we head to the bowling alley, trampoline park or children’s museum, the kids get to enjoy playing with other kids and the adults enjoy spending time with other adults.

I need to take advantage of this time to make friends with fellow parents and nurture my existing friendships with other moms and dads. I want to put down social media and reach out to the friends I’ve been neglecting.

As I said, I am a working parent with a job outside the home. I like to take advantage of free time where my kids are already in childcare and invite a work friend out to lunch, meet a friend who works nearby or have a little lunch date with my husband. This helps with maintaining friendships without the help of your children.

Striking a Balance

Being a good friend may present some challenges. I’m still trying to make time for friends, but I know I’ll reap the rewards in the long run. I’m starting to see that as my children get older, my friendships are changing, and I am continuing to develop new friends.

Ultimately, striking a balance between the time I spend with my children and my adult friends will contribute to a full, healthy life.

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!

How to Get Ready for Prom

How to Get Ready for Prom

I remember it like it was yesterday: the curled pigtails, the little white dress, the big smile, the small basket of flowers. Our daughter looked like a princess walking down the aisle with the other flower girl and ring bearer. I remember saying to my husband, “Before we know it, she will be going to her high school prom.”

Even though she’ll always be my little girl, that time has come, and she is looking forward to one of the highlights of her junior year—prom.

A Prom Mom’s Prep List

I’m very well-versed in this prom stuff. This will be the twentieth prom my husband and I will attend together—three as high school sweethearts and seventeen as prom/class sponsors. But it’s my first year as a “prom mom,” and I am learning that a lot goes into preparing for the day and that it can be an expensive night.

In the midst of all of the craziness that goes into the night, I want to make sure we help make our daughter’s first prom a great high school experience. With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Start preparing early.

I didn’t want our daughter to procrastinate on finding a dress. We started shopping the summer before prom because there was an off-season dress sale. We had no intention of buying a dress that day. My daughter wanted to peruse and find a style she liked. Luckily, she found something she liked and didn’t feel rushed to make a decision. Often when we rush, we end up spending more money.

Along with buying and altering the dress early, I encouraged our daughter to schedule her nail and hair appointments ahead of time to help eliminate unnecessary anxiety.

Lesson 2: Create a budget that works for your family and communicate this budget with your teenager.

We told our daughter she has a certain amount of dollars allocated to prom. We were willing to pay for the dress, shoes, hair stylist and corsage. She will be responsible for all other expenses. Communicating the budget to our daughter has been an integral part of this experience. By giving her a spending limit, she was conscientious about staying under budget.

A helpful tip: buy your prom dress in the off-season to save money.

Lesson 3: Don’t forget the details.

Prom is right around the corner, and we’re starting to have conversations about our expectations for the evening. We’ll be setting a curfew and discussing what it means to make wise choices. I want her to know the importance of making wise choices to ensure she has a memorable yet safe experience.

Also, many adults will have a part in making this day a memorable experience, and I’m encouraging our daughter to be diligent in thanking them.

My Little Girl

Life moves pretty fast. After our daughter’s hair and makeup are done, and she puts on her navy dress, she’ll be ready to dance the evening away. I’ll probably smile and envision my little princess with her curly pigtails once again.

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.

Why I Decided Not to Spank My Kids

Why I Decided Not to Spank My Kids

Spanking is a topic that can break a room in half in a matter of seconds. For this exact reason I have been cautious, thoughtful and patient about when I would approach it.

As a child, I received my fair share of spankings and remember hearing rumors of a paddle being used on naughty children in the school principal’s office. Before I had children of my own, I was not against spankings and I even thought I would eventually resort to spanking my own kids as a disciplinary tactic.

When Timeouts Don’t Work

Cohen, my “good child” was easy. If he got in trouble a timeout would do the trick. Still at the age of eight a simple “go to your room” calms him down. But Collyns, my sweet but stubborn daughter who never experienced the “terrible twos,” is now becoming a terror at the age of five. She screams, throws tantrums, chucks objects and slams doors. Timeouts in her room are not working. Now the thought of giving her a spanking seems like an option. I’ve been close to swatting her behind, but my temper can be short.

I’ve found that giving myself an opportunity to calm down helps me parent with a level-head and use these frustrating situations to teach life lessons. Timeouts in her room aren’t working, so she is now getting a timeout on the bottom step. On the step she has nothing to play with or throw. Her new timeout location has become a lot less fun than her room full of toys.

What Am I Teaching My Kids?

I like to be practical and real. Spanking, screaming and threatening changes my child’s response immediately. For those reasons, I understand those forms of discipline, but if I scream and spank, what have I just taught my child? They learn that when someone is doing something wrong and you don’t like what they are doing you yell and hit them. Cut to my child at school and her friend takes her toy. She thinks “I don’t like what you are doing, and it is wrong,” so she hits her friend. Spanking would be my child’s version of hitting.

We’ve gone through phases where my kids resort to physical aggression to relieve their frustrations. As a toddler, my son was a biter. He would bite when he became frustrated. When reprimanding my children for this undesirable aggression, I didn’t want to correct him through physical aggression. At the time I thought this would send him mixed messages and seemed unfair.

The World We Live In

I work in television and I know we live in a world where physical violence and abuse is a topic frequently in the media, on TV and in our communities. I do my best to shield my children from these violent influences or at least explain what they see or hear. We teach our children to respect one another, their friends and teachers, and to know that physical aggression is not acceptable. I do not spank my children and expect that they will never hit me or someone else.

Discipline techniques are a personal decision, but for me and my family, spankings are not our choice.

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!

Breaking Through to My Grandkids

Breaking Through to My Grandkids

For many reasons, communicating with teenaged grandkids can be difficult. I know I’m a lucky grandma because my grandkids live near me in Lincoln. However, I still don’t get a chance to see them as often as I would like, and even though I can see my grandkids every day, I may not be communicating very well. As my grandkids continue to get older and become more independent, I’m finding that I need to adjust my expectations to stay in touch.

Feeling Out of the Loop

I always thought of myself as adaptable, but adjusting to less communication with my grandkids was not something I ever anticipated.

My grandkids’ lives are different than they were in elementary and middle school. Now, they’re on their phones, they drive, they work, they study, they’re in sports, and sometimes they even have a “special” friend. I am not complaining! All my grandkids are growing into hard-working, young adults and they make me proud each and every day. However, maintaining quality conversations amongst all these distractions is hard.

I assumed my grandkids would always want to see their grandma and tell her what was going on in their lives. I still think my grandkids want to see me and talk to me, but I’m now competing for other things that need their attention like school, work and friends. I get it. These are life skills, which will turn them into wonderful, caring adults but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

In the Good Ol’ Days

As I write this blog, I’m reflecting back on my days as a teenager and my relationship with my grandparents. (Hmm, maybe I should have reflected on this before I started writing this blog!)

My greatest memories of my grandparents were when I was in elementary school. I would help my maternal grandmother work in her garden and she’d let me eat peas right out of the pods. I’m sure I made a dent in her yield! I remember visiting my paternal grandparents’ farm and learning how to collect eggs from the chicken coup. Collecting eggs, while avoiding the chicken poop, was always a challenge.

When I grew up and started high school, there were movies to see and friends to meet at the swimming pool or on the ice pond for skating. And, yes, I even did some studying. Come to think of it, maybe things aren’t so different?

Turning the Corner

There is something different now: technology. The phones, the texting, the instant communication has made it easier than ever to stay within arm’s length. So, maybe I don’t have it so bad after all? My grandkids don’t usually initiate a text, but they always respond when I send one.

This blog is certainly not ending as I intended. I think I’m ending it with my first, and maybe only, New Year’s resolution, albeit a little late. From now on, I’ll text each grandkid at least three times a week, but rather than telling them what I’m doing, or asking them questions about their day, I will just send them a positive statement. Something like what my grandparents said to me:

  • I’m grateful for you.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I love being your grandma.
  • I believe in you.
  • You are important.
  • You make me proud.

I’m not going to feel sorry for myself that I can’t speak to my grandkids as much as I want. I feel loved, needed and eager to show my grandkids how much I love them. Some things may have changed, but luckily some things will always be the same.

So, forget the Debbie Downer form of me in the first part of this blog. Focus on the positives, love your grandkids, and remember, you’ll need to change just as much as them!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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