Let’s Talk About Santa

Let’s Talk About Santa

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

The Questions Have Already Started

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

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

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

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

One Way to Keep the Magic Alive

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

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

Dear (Child),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letting Our Kids Make Their Own Story

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Helping Our Kids Understand They Can Do Hard Things

Helping Our Kids Understand They Can Do Hard Things

There is a sign above my classroom door: “You Can Do Hard Things”. I see it every time I look up from my desk, walking around my classroom, or standing at the front of the room. The past handful of weeks, this statement has really struck a nerve with me. I find myself gazing at it and really focusing on those five little words. You. Can. Do. Hard. Things.

Doing the Hard Things

My husband definitely is doing the hard things. He balances many roles but the most important is being a dad, husband and principal all while he pursues an EdD. He is doing the hard things, however, the foundation of everything he does stems from one word: love. My husband loves all the roles he has and he understands the big picture.

He believes every student should leave Milford High School with a passion, purpose and one employable job skill. He does the hard things day-in and day-out even when his family does not see it. Yet, he knows he must model it not only for his family but also for the staff and students at Milford High School.

Have We Made Things Too Easy?

I often wonder, in today’s world, if we are lowering our expectations of our teenagers. Or have our teenagers lowered their expectations, knowing they can achieve the lower standard? It is becoming increasingly apparent that failing is not an option anymore. In general, our teenagers are afraid to fail.

So yes! Yes, our teenagers can do hard things. Here’s the deal, we should expect our kids to do hard things. The small hard things that we expect our kids to do today are going to help them develop the discipline needed to do those big hard things in the future. We should have the expectation that our kids can do the hard things asked of them. We can expect our kids to make their beds each day, turn in their homework on time, fail a project, or sit on the bench, but we can expect our kids to try and to ultimately care.

To do this, first though, as a parent, I had to learn to let go of fear. I remember teaching our kids how to ride a bike. At some point, I stepped away and let them ride down the street without me running behind them. Just like letting our kids bike, I had to quit being a band-aid for them. I had to let go of what could go wrong. I had to start thinking about what could go right.

Don’t Be Afraid to Push Your Kids to Do the Hard Things

Next, as parents we have to intentionally train our kids to do hard things. This is a great way to develop perseverance. But not only should we train them, but we also have to have tough, truthful conversations. We cannot sugar coat the demands of life. Life is hard. Growing up is hard. Having truthful conversations will teach our kids that life is always going to throw hard situations at them and that they may fail, they just cannot try. Hard work is part of life and is something that they cannot shy away from.

This parenting gig is hard. Even though we model doing hard things, we love that we can teach our kids to face life’s circumstances with a “what could go right mindset”. And somewhere in the middle of the hard things, our kids are going to find and pursue a passion and ultimately, they are going to realize that those hard things make the deepest impact on others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Determine The Function the Phone Serves

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

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

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

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

Set Some Ground Rules

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

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Lessons Learned from Injury

Lessons Learned from Injury

Two weeks ago our middle daughter broke her hand during a high school softball game. The sport she absolutely loves. That night I instantly knew something was wrong when she pulled herself from the game and said, “Mom, I cannot get my glove on.”

Going from Manager to Mom

As her high school softball coach, my mind went straight to manager mode. My assistant coach and I quickly figured out who to sub and how to rearrange the defense.

As her mom, I quietly panicked looking at the tears in my daughter’s eyes. I encouraged my husband to take our daughter to the ER. Luckily for us, a local nurse happened to be at the game and she calmed our daughter down… me, not so much.

When I phoned my husband after the game, he and our daughter were waiting for a soft cast to be set. I asked how she handled the news and my husband replied, “As best as possible with a broken hand. However, Addi said she will be the best dugout leader possible.”

What My Daughter’s Injury Taught Us

Just then I realized this injury was supposed to happen. All summer we have discussed leadership as a journey not a destination. We discussed in her leadership journey she will find her style of leadership, she will learn that actions speak louder than words, the journey will be lonely at times but ultimately you want to learn to lead someone to the person they can be, not the person they are today.

This injury forced her to:

  • Go outside of her comfort zone
  • Practice servant leadership skills (something that was not her strength)
  • Seek other opportunities to be an active team member

Her injury has encouraged me by:

  • The valuable questions she is asking
  • Watching her action
  • Listening to her words

How to Be a Good Leader

Leadership is not always going to be joys and mountain tops. Leadership is full of adversities or challenges, leadership is full of making difficult decisions. Yet, the leadership journey is full of moments of growth. The one thing I am absolutely positive about, my leadership style is nothing like my daughter’s. Yet, she has my heart. In all reality, this is her journey, not ours. Her dad and I are here to encourage and challenge her to make those around her be the best person they can become.

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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Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Today I started the day out in a rush. I hit my snooze button for an extra 30 minutes. I took a little longer to put makeup on, brush my teeth and walk out the door. Little did I know a handful of colored circles with wobbly lines would change my day.

Needing to Slow Down

Once I arrived at school it seemed as if I had left my checklist completely unattended the day before and there were already six new items to check off before the warning bell rang. To start the day, there was a tech issue in the Spanish classroom and I explained in my best Spanish, “Yo estoy rapido en la mañana!” All the students looked at me with a look of confusion. The actual Spanish teacher explained, “I was in a hurry this morning.”

My day started out in a rush and feeling behind. I kept reminding myself I needed that extra sleep and time this morning just to prepare myself for the day. I kept focusing on the big picture of the day. I wanted to control what needed to be checked off on my list and became very frustrated when I remembered things to keep adding to this list. At one point in the morning, my daughter kindly asked, “Mom, do you need me to help you today? You seem so rushed.”

It’s the Little Things that Matter

And before I knew it, I was abruptly reminded at about 8:30, 9:15, 10:20 and then again at 11:10, that the little things are what bring us joy. Two text messages, a reminder that a “to do” list is overrated, a “this is so cool” comment from a seventh-grader, and the excited “oohs” from kindergarteners.

Yes, four times I was reminded to look at the simple, little things. I don’t think I was intentionally ignoring the small moments of joy, I just think I wasn’t “seeing” those moments. The fourth reminder came from my little kindergartener friends. They showed me joy is right in front of me, they showed me simplicity brings joy. In my small time frame with kindergarteners today, I brought joy to them by showing them how to color little circles with wobbly lines using technology. Yet, they reminded me of my life word — joy.

“Your Gift is Joy”

Later on in the day, I was teaching my Intro to Business students a lesson on leadership and a quote from my mom popped up on one of the slides, which I had forgotten I had typed. My mom told me prior to her passing away, “Shelly your gift is joy, share it daily with your students.” It took me everything to hold back tears.

My day needed to start out in a hurry, because I needed to be reminded of the joy the simple/little things bring us in life. Some days I get caught up looking at the big picture, looking at the big goal, I forget it is about the small things that we do that allow us to have the greatest impact on those around us. I am thankful for those wobbly colored circles as they reminded me that my greatest gift is the joy I share with others.

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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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

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

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

How to Get Started

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

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

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

Tips for Your Morning Routine

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

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

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

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

Be Flexible & Relax

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

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Sending Our Daughter Off to College

Sending Our Daughter Off to College

“Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught to them.” – Jonas Salk

As we walk the path of parenting, I’m sure you’ve read or heard this quote many times. Lately, a version of this quote has been on my heart. My husband and I are preparing to send our oldest daughter back to college. Not only is she going back to college, but she’s also moving into an apartment and we fully recognize she won’t be moving back home next year.

Preparing for the Change

Is my 40-something heart ready for this? I’m not sure. I know, though, that this is the circle of life, and we prepare our children and ourselves for this time. I remember whispering to our three-month old daughter that I would teach her the tools to keep her grounded but when the time came, I would give her the wings of independence.

For nearly 20 years, what we’ve taught her has been deeply rooted in faith, hard work, joy and wanderlust. And now, I must hold up the other end of the deal and let her fly. She’s more than ready, but my heart is still heavy and full of joy.

The Transition at Home

Then I look at our other two children and how much they’ve loved having their sister home this summer. They’ll also have an adjustment period. Our sophomore daughter will no longer have those extra clothes and shoes around the house. She’ll be upgraded to oldest sibling status and her responsibilities will change. She’ll get the opportunity to be the chauffeur for her brother—just like her older sister did for her.

Our junior high son will tell you he’s taking over his sister’s room immediately, but deep down he feels as if his best friend is moving out again. He’s going to miss his older sister taking him places and paying for him. Yet, he’s excited to have more hot water in our home.

Just like one of my best friends, my husband just keeps encouraging me. This is the way it should be. We just have to trust. Our oldest’s wings are ready to fly. Yet, we know she has her roots and will find home for supper, her siblings’ events or a weekend.

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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Masks at School

Masks at School

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

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

Changes at Lunch & Recess

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

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

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

Wondering if Masks Will Be Required

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

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Enjoying Summer Days with My Kids

Enjoying Summer Days with My Kids

Netflix binges. Golf tournaments. Softball games. Cleaning closets. Reading. Extra screen time. Falling down the Twitter rabbit hole. Way too many frozen pizzas. Late nights on the deck.

As I try to blog this month I am quickly halted by writer’s block over and over. It doesn’t matter where I try to sit, where I try to think, there just doesn’t seem to be anything coming to me. In the past week between each new sunrise and the sunset of day, I had been searching for that topic, that connection to a new blog, to no avail. I just keep trying to find what I wanted to share about our summer days.

Supporting My Kids in Sports

Like many days of this summer, I am walking around the golf course following our son. I watched every drive, iron shot, chip or putt. I also watched every calculated play, the high fives, the fist pumps, the moment of frustration, the moments of failure and finally the hand shakes.

I walked off the course telling our son, Zephyr, how proud I was of him as he finished his round with a par. This par followed many double bogeys. We talked about the awesome 40-foot putt that he drained for a birdie. We discussed how to improve on all the failed shots. I told him how impressive it was watching his group problem solve and discuss rules. On this summer day, I needed to be a golf mom.

Yesterday, I was the mom who took our daughter to the softball fields to take grounders and practice hitting off of the tee. In that time frame, we discussed growth mindset—not every play is going to be perfect and there is always another opportunity to get better. We discussed letting go of the fear of failure. We discussed positive self talk. On this day, I needed to be a softball mom.

Making Dinner for My Family

Today, I needed to buy groceries. Summer grocery shopping usually means at least one of our children goes along with me (during the school year, it’s just me). Zephyr came along today, and he is my healthy grocery shopper. He looks for the best fruits and vegetables. He contemplates which sliced cheese we need to purchase. As we walked the aisles having conversations about what he wanted to try to bake or what we needed in our cupboards, I saw our son change from my little one to my teenager. Today, I needed to be a grocery shopper.

On this summer day, I was a mom making supper. It didn’t bother me that the bacon part of BLTs ended up tasting like cardboard (so I have heard). The bread was perfectly toasted, the tomatoes cut, the lettuce shredded, but I did fail miserably at microwaving bacon. Everyone still managed to eat the sandwiches. I may have failed at supper, but our daughter still requested “my go-to appetizer” of fiesta dip with chips. On this day, I needed to be the mom who failed at making supper.

My Role as a Mom

Tonight, I sat at the kitchen table helping my husband look through book orders and I listened to the quiet. Our oldest daughter is still in Texas, our middle daughter is at basketball camp and our son is downstairs. These past summer days, I have been struggling to find out what I wanted to share.

I realized that in between all of the normal things I get to do, there’s a reason for normal. There’s a reason that I get to have so many roles in my life. So next time in between the Netflix binges or the cleaning of the closets, I’m not going to look for the extraordinary. I’ll see what is ordinary because that’s where the lessons occur.

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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High Cholesterol in Kids

High Cholesterol in Kids

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

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

Checking Cholesterol Levels

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

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

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

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

Changing Eating Habits

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

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

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

Embracing a Healthy Lifestyle

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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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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