Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

The start of the school year is a hectic time, as getting back into a routine is tough and tiredness sets in. Anxiety and stress also become more prevalent as busy schedules, homework and less time at home takes a toll on our household.

On top of all of this, we have a senior making decisions regarding her career choice, colleges and taking dual credit classes, which adds another layer of stress. And we also have two other children who have realized this is the last year their older sister will be home every night, which has added another unforeseen layer of stress.

It’s those evenings before big projects or quizzes are due that seem to be the most stressful. My husband often tells me, “You are dealing with our stressed out daughter because she is exactly like you!”

Focusing on Where Stress Stems From

I am a firm believer in parents being a positive role model in their children’s lives. Yet, I am wired as an, “always on the go, something has to be done, worry about it until I get sick” person. I love to travel, but I have a panic attack at every airport until I am through TSA.

These are qualities I definitely don’t want my children to be like at any stage of life. All of this changed when my father had a heart attack this past summer and ended up in a 6.5-hour quadruple bypass surgery. The doctors talked about how diet and stress played a huge part in his episode. I made a conscious effort from that point on to really focus on triggers that cause stress in my life.

Ways to Help Kids Handle Stress

As I continue to grow in this area, these are techniques I am sharing with not only our senior daughter, but our other two children as well:

  1. Get and use a planner. Our kids are very good about purchasing a planner, but about half way through the year the planner becomes nonexistent. We need to keep discussing with our kids the importance of writing down due dates and activities.
  2. Do not procrastinate and prioritize tasks. That’s it. Make time for things when you can and don’t leave them until the last minute.
  3. Encourage more time to relax. I need to encourage them to put down homework and set aside activities so they can just hang out and relax.
  4. Get sleep. The average hours of sleep for our teenage daughter last school year was 5-6 hours per night. A stressed out mind and body will lead to sleep deprivation. Encouraging her to go to bed earlier and getting a better night’s rest will allow her to approach stressful situations more calmly.

Ways to Help Yourself Handle Stress

As a parent, strategies I am working on are:

  1. Avoid the constant reminders or nagging. If I am constantly on their case about getting homework done or prioritizing tasks, I am diminishing their responsibilities. Plus, I’m sure they get frustrated with the constant reminders. I can encourage them to set small goals, which will ultimately help them develop better time management skills and learn not to procrastinate.
  2. Set limits on technology. This will allow our children to understand that they don’t have to be connected to social media all of the time and to learn to be present in the moment.

Even though the start of the year is an adjustment for us and stress seems to escalate, there are strategies that our entire family can do to combat stress. Modeling and practicing these positive strategies towards stress will hopefully teach my children to handle their stress in various circumstances, especially when it comes to school and busy schedules.

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.

Older Siblings: I Hate You, Will You Be My Best Friend?

Older Siblings: I Hate You, Will You Be My Best Friend?

I have a brother, Matt, who is four years older than me. I am the baby of the family and I call him “the prodigal son.” Needless to say, growing up with Matt wasn’t always the best of times. He was the mean, older brother who chased me around the house with a hammer. He called me names, made fun of me and brought me to tears on several occasions. Our childhood relationship was not what I would call a friendship.

It wasn’t until he went off to the military and I started high school that I realized I needed him in my life. It took him leaving for basic training, then fighting in two wars for me to understand that we both needed to grow up and see what we have and what we were missing out on. Now, I can’t imagine my life without him and I consider him a friend!

Will My Kids Turn Out The Same?

Fast-forward a couple years, I find out I am pregnant with a boy—I cried. I didn’t want my nonexistent second child to grow up resenting their older brother like I did! Sure, I knew one day my children would have several fights, many arguments and words would be thrown around that they didn’t mean, but I never wanted them to regret their relationship with each other.

Cohen and Collyns are three years apart and Collyns worships her older brother! And boy am I glad that he is her world. She looks up to him and will do whatever he asks/tells her to do. I believe there are different levels to every brother and sister relationship. I think every relationship evolves over time and changes throughout a lifetime.

Helping Our Oldest Be a Better Big Sibling

I question if every parent should teach their older son or daughter how to be a good sibling. As the oldest, Cohen’s job is to mold the mind of his younger sister, to help her reach her maximum potential and be almost as awesome as he is! My husband being the oldest in his family, with two younger sisters and myself being the baby, decided we needed to offer some suggestions to Cohen to help him be the best big brother.

1. Know when to help each other cheat. When someone accidentally spills food on the floor, don’t rat each other out, help clean up.

2. Play together, but know when you need space. This is self-explanatory. Forts in the basement built with blankets are the first step to building lifelong bonds. But it’s not necessary for you to play babies and Barbies 24/7.

3. Look out for each other. When you see her doing something you know isn’t right, try to fix it before she gets into trouble. One day you’ll need her to have your back.

4. Let her imitate. We know it drives you crazy when Collyns repeats everything you say, imitates your gestures and your tone of voice, but know that she is imitating you because she wants to be you. It’s your job to set a good example.

Seeing How Deep Their Bond Goes

Even though some days Cohen says, “I hate having a sister” but in the same breath, “will you be my best friend?”, deep down I know Cohen actually likes her. I didn’t realize their bond until she started kindergarten. At the open house he took her hand and showed her her classroom, explained to her how the lunchroom worked, planned their walk to after-school daycare and got her excited to go to a new school. He could tell she was nervous and he tried to ease her nerves. He is protective and helpful when it comes to his little sister.

Even though it took my brother and I more than 15 years to realize how strong and great it is to have a sibling, I wouldn’t change our bond. He has my back and he always did; I just didn’t realize it at the time. I am so glad Collyns has a big brother and that Cohen is her best friend. I hope their bond continues to strengthen over the years.

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!

Seeing a Father’s Love For His Daughter

Seeing a Father’s Love For His Daughter

As I was watching my husband take our daughter’s senior pictures, I realized I am at a crossroads of jealousy and admiration. Jealous of the bond between my husband and our oldest daughter. He witnessed every first in her life: the first time she rolled over, her first word, her first step, her first day in daycare, her first elementary field trip, her first homecoming dance.

Our daughter wants to travel with her dad. She looks for him to get a hug after every softball game. She chooses me when she needs to shop or has forgotten something. She doesn’t even like me going to physical therapy because I talk too much.

He’s Always There for Her

Yet I admire the bond because it’s nothing unique or extraordinary. He has just showed up. He showed up when I returned to work after maternity leave. He showed up when she was a terrible sleeper and would only sleep when he rocked her in her car seat for hours upon hours. He showed up when she wanted to refurbish an old piano bench. He showed up when she wanted to play softball and the team needed a coach. He showed up when she needed a shoulder to cry on after she did terrible on a test. He shows up when our daughter is approaching curfew to make sure she is home safe and sound.

Just by showing up he has taught her many life lessons. What I have noticed the most are the lessons to love, to be adventurous and to radiate confidence.

He’s an Incredible Model of Support

We all see how my husband has modeled love to his family and his profession. He does not miss any of our children’s events. Even when he cannot physically be there, he shows up virtually and sends text messages before and after to show his support. Our daughter sees the value and the importance of showing up, as she has commented: “I don’t want to miss anything of my kids’, just like you, Mom and Dad.”

“Go on the adventure. Try it. Let’s do this.” From $100 adventure days to trying new foods to traveling, my husband has instilled a sense of adventure in our daughter. It’s both of them that now drive our family’s traveling experiences. Even when my husband takes her up a 700-foot tower just to see the views or try Pickled Wrinkles, he is encouraging her to appreciate life beyond our little town. I pray no one ever takes away the sense of wonder, the sense of curiosity and the sense of adventure he has taught her.

He’s Helped Bolster Her Confidence

Even though our daughter does not have the confidence to decide where or what she wants to eat, that is completely overshadowed by the confidence she radiates in other circumstances. When our daughter wanted to learn how to play softball, my husband was there to play catch with her each day and to coach her. Now when she steps in the batter’s box or centerfield, you can see the confidence in her eyes. When she wanted to learn about photography, he spent hours helping her develop this skill. Now when she is behind the lens, you can see her smiles knowing she just took the perfect picture.

He is always there. Always. He is determined to not miss anything as she begins the last of all of her high school activities: the last softball game, the last One-Act performance, the last track meet and the last time she walks down the senior hall. As our daughter walks across the stage to receive her diploma, I am sure there will be a hug and a tear shed between dad and daughter. I am sure at that moment I will have a few tears. However, those tears will be of joy and admiration, as I have had a front row seat watching the bond of a father and daughter grow, just because her father showed up.

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.

What Happened to Cuddling?

What Happened to Cuddling?

I know I can’t be the only mom out there that has zero sex drive. I recently reached out to other moms and this topic was one of the most discussed.

For me it’s not just my sex drive, it’s cuddle time that is also nonexistent. Anytime my husband rubs my back in bed he expects more. It’s like the line in a Brad Paisley song, “When you say a backrub means only a backrub, then you swat my hand when I try.” What happened to just cuddling or showing affection? This could be a main reason to my low sex drive—that and kids. Let’s face it, moms are tired!

However, I definitely think it has to do with your relationship with your partner. I never feel like having sex if my husband doesn’t show me affection and “creating moments” in the normal moments of life. Let me explain.

The Importance of Moments

Wrapping his arms around me while doing the dishes, grabbing me and randomly dancing, kissing me tenderly on the forehead – this is creating a moment. I want to feel desired just like the old days.

But telling him to be more affectionate never works. If anything that drives him farther away. Since I have to order him to be affectionate, it was evident that he didn’t want to. Begging for kisses and hugs feels lousy, even if he complies. Not only did I feel needy and undignified doing it, but it pushed him further away as well.

Turning Toward My Husband’s Needs

I considered that he may not be feeling loved either, even if you are being affectionate with him. Fortunately, rather than telling him what he should do, I tried to naturally restore the romance by being my best self again.

When I started acting like he is smart, capable and strong, that went a long way toward bringing back the make out sessions, snuggling, and yes, even sex.

I realized we became robotic when it came to sex—everything was the same every time. After some communication on how I was feeling, we decided to change things up. He was feeling the same way and was willing to try. After trying different things and having it more often than once a month, it increased my sex drive and helped us become more affectionate throughout the day.

Remembering to Let Myself Have Fun

Granted, it’s not always easy when the kids are sick, you’ve worked a 12-hour day and the mortgage is late. But if you can’t remember what you like to do and let yourself do it, you’re not showing much affection for yourself.

Fretting is not going to make him more affectionate. But dancing the Macarena at the grocery store? It definitely could. After all, you were all smiles and laughter when he first put the moves on you.

Let’s all yell this song loud and proud, “Girls just wanna have fun!” The more you appreciate yourself, the more he will see you for you, and give you what you really want: fun, cuddle time, and yes, even sex!

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!

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.

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