How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

When I originally started writing my blog post last week, I was planning on writing about my daughter’s college decision or preparing for a graduation party. Oh, how life can change in a matter of moments.

I Am Going to Be Alright

I am emotionally and mentally drained. Emotionally, I am drained as I am sad for my kids, for the senior class, for my kindergarten friends. I miss my students already. I miss my colleagues. Mentally, I am drained.

The school staff has spent the past 48 hours figuring out what the best form of virtual learning looks like when we know what is best for our students is being in our building. I am adapting. I am learning quickly, and I am trying to help my colleagues be the best they can be in this time of uncertainty.

I am going to be alright.

My Kids Are Going to Be Alright

After 12½ years of education, the last semester of our daughter’s senior year is going to e-learning and all major events have either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. There are so many lasts the seniors are missing. It is almost like the last pages of this chapter have been ripped out from their story.

Today, I talked to many of them. Many had tears in their eyes. Some shared fear of the unknown. Some just said they already miss the halls, miss their friends, miss the teachers.

Our oldest daughter and the rest of the Class of 2020 are going to be alright.

Then I think about our junior high daughter in her last semester before entering high school. Learning-wise, I am not worried about her, yet my heart aches for her socially. School is about being with her friends. In junior high, she is figuring out who she is, she is learning to find her passion, she is maturing and getting ready for high school.

She is going to be alright.

And then I think about our fifth grader, he loves his teacher. According to our son, his teacher is the best because she makes school fun. He loves being around his friends. He is a sponge for any historical information or current event. He will continue to learn it will just be hard that it is not in his classroom.

He is going to be alright.

My Husband Is Going to Be Alright

I think about my husband. Honestly, his sole focus the last week has been being the principal. He has lived at school. The admin team has met many, many times. They have worked tirelessly to figure out what is best for all of our students during this unprecedented time. You see, as principal, he not only has three of his own kids; he has 332 other kids he loves and worries about.

He is heartbroken. He is going to miss standing by the door each morning greeting students. He is going to miss mentoring the senior class in their final months of high school. He is going to miss his daily lunch picture with our middle daughter.

He is going to be alright.

We Are Going to Be Alright

The end of the school year is going to look different in comparison to the past years. The school setting makes our family better because of the relationships we have built inside the school walls. However, now we have an opportunity to find innovative ways to serve, care, love, and be kind. This unprecedented time in history is going to teach us something.

We are going to be alright.

Actually, we are going to be better on the other side of this storm than we are today.

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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What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s one of those questions you’ve probably thought about countless times since you were little. And as you got older, the question started to feel more real, especially when teachers, parents, and even friends started asking.

Young graduates might imagine that discovering your passion happens the way it does in a movie: with a flash of insight and a trumpet blast. But before that flash or any other insight, I was struggling to find myself. I was waiting for the next moment when you know exactly who you are meant to be.

Planning Your Future Is Tough

Like many 18 year olds, I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I also knew that I needed a degree. After four years, I graduated with a degree in journalism, I had a full-time job, and Mitch and I were engaged to be married that next summer, which led to me becoming a mommy, my true passion.

I can say the reality of following your passion isn’t very romantic. It takes time to develop a direction that feels so in-the-bones right that you never want to veer from it. I never really had that moment or feeling.

Now that I am a working mom and have two wonderful children, I find myself in my mid-thirties, growing and changing into an entirely new version of me, long after the world has stopped expecting me to develop further. I’ve experienced a significant growth spurt in the past couple of years (not in height, sadly), which has led me to wonder: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Figuring Out the Next Phase in Life

I’ve been at the same company since graduating from college. I’ve moved around within the company, but now I feel stuck and don’t think I can move up anymore. But this is all I’ve known. Is this my passion? Can I really see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Should I settle?

This job is just a job. I never saw myself in this role. I never wanted this. It’s a good job that pays okay, the people are great, and it allows me the time I need to be a mother. But is it a job or my passion? I consider myself a “boss mom,” but I want more.

I’m playing a waiting game. My husband is currently getting his master’s degree and trying to figure out what career path he wants to follow. He has a vision, he has a passion, he has an understanding of what he wants to do. He is taking the steps he needs to obtain his passion. From the moment he started college, he knew he wanted to help children in difficult situations. He has a purpose. He has a passion.

The Present Is as Bright as the Future

But I sit here struggling to find a passion that will make me money. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does pay the bills. I’ve already obtained my true passion which is, of course, being a mom, but now what? I wait for my husband to finish school and see where his degree takes us, but for me, the world has misrepresented life as to cause people to resist adulthood and then have a crisis thinking their best years are behind them before they’ve reached their thirties?! Is this all there is? By no means!

Life is good right now. I can sit back and enjoy it, but I know that there’s more (far more) to life than this. Further up and further in!

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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Thank You, Basketball

Thank You, Basketball

The thrill of the jump ball. The adrenaline rush running onto the court to be the first sub into the game. The final buzzer sounded and the tears of frustration flooded down her face. As I hugged my daughter, encouraging her there was still hope in playing another game, I was flooded with emotions. Basketball, you have taught our daughter many lessons that will go well beyond the court.

You Helped My Daughter Grow

Let me just say this first: basketball you are not my daughter’s favorite sport, but she poured her heart into playing your game. Our daughter with her tiny stature and frame could have quit long ago, but you didn’t let her give up on basketball. You gave her a mental challenge, you showed her she had something to prove, you gave her adversity, and finally you gave her a lesson in learning the importance of individual roles.

Basketball, time-and-time again you stretched our daughter’s mental focus. Yes, there were days she needed to work on her shooting or dribbling, but the games of staring frustration in the face because things didn’t go well taught her to persevere. She would need this skill when you gave her adversity through a knee injury.

You Taught My Daughter Invaluable Lessons

She needed perseverance to rehab her knee, she needed to persevere when she hit the valleys and she also had to overcome her fear of returning to the court. Basketball, our daughter did not step down from this adversity and she became mentally stronger. She wanted to prove to you she would be back on the court. She wanted to prove to you, you did not take away the sport she loves—softball.

Basketball, from the mother’s perspective, the greatest lesson you taught our daughter was how to handle a role. You taught her that every game, every situation and on every team there are roles. You taught her to first understand what her role was and how to embrace this role. There were games where her bench minutes far outweighed court minutes.

She embraced those bench minutes by focusing on encouraging her teammates. There were games she started—she embraced those starts. There were games where her role was to give the starters a one-minute break, and she embraced those minutes. Basketball, you do not realize how important a lesson you taught our daughter. What she learned from you will carry with her in every group project, every student she will teach and every athlete she will coach.

You Helped Me Grow with Her

Basketball, it broke my heart watching my daughter sit on the bench. I hated you when she was injured, but I loved watching her play. I loved watching her encourage her teammates. I loved seeing the smiles the coaches exchanged when our daughter embraced whatever role they had for her.

While I sit here and reflect upon what you have taught our daughter, my heart swells with pride. Basketball, thank you for impacting our daughter’s life. Basketball, it truly does take a village to raise a child and I am forever grateful.

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 it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

School holidays, after school times and summer present challenges for families when parents work. Finding suitable care for children is tricky, particularly when usual arrangements fall through or kids tell you they are too old to be looked after.

When Is the Right Age to Let Kids Stay Home Alone?

It’s no wonder that many parents look forward to the day when you don’t have to pay for child care. But how do you know when the time is right to let your child stay home alone? My son, who is 9-years-old, goes to an after-school program and then goes to full-time daycare during the summer. However, my husband and I are debating putting him in summer camps and forgoing daycare. But then we’ll lose his spot for next year for after-school care. After this summer, is he old enough to walk home by himself and be home alone until we arrive?

There are a lot of factors that need to be ironed out before deciding if he is ready to be left home alone. However, registration is open for summer camps and our daycare provider would like to know if he’s coming back. First the logistics—we needed to get the house ready. We had to install a new keypad garage door opener, so he’s not fumbling with keys. Then, we installed a ring doorbell and a camera inside the house. Lastly, we enabled his iPad to make phone calls only to the people we programmed in. Now that I feel comfortable with the house, I needed to see if Cohen was ready.

Train Your Kids on Being Home Alone

Leaving kids on their own for short periods is good training for independence and problem solving. I would take a five-minute trip to visit to a neighbor, a twenty-minute walk around the block or a quick trip to the supermarket—these were great opportunities to leave Cohen unattended for short periods. He and his younger sister were never home alone together. I know he’s not ready to take on the responsibility of him and his little sister.

As I have said before, Cohen is my good kid. He’s capable of managing problems or unforeseen circumstances, such as a stranger knocking on the door. He isn’t easily flustered by unknown circumstances. We have discussed different scenarios like what he should do in a power failure or what to do if there was a fire. We also discussed what neighboring houses he can go to in case of an emergency. If school is let out early or he has a random day off, he will have someone there to watch him. A couple hours after school is long enough—not the entire day.

Trust Your Kids to Do the Right Things

Leaving children at home on their own involves an element of trust. I feel comfortable that Cohen will behave well and can keep himself safe. We laid out our expectations about his behavior, his activities, his use of digital devices, the food he can eat and who is able to visit—no one! We will be clear with our expectations and let him know that we trust him to do the right thing.

We as parents need to think carefully about many things before leaving our children alone. Putting children in situations they can handle can help teach them independence and responsibility. But asking too much too soon can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. I’m sure when the summer is over and the school year is starting I may feel a little more anxious. But for now, we will practice until we all feel comfortable.

So at what age do you feel comfortable leaving your children home alone?

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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Intentionally Learning to Embrace the Moment

Intentionally Learning to Embrace the Moment

Last week, our two daughters and I were sitting at the kitchen table—all of us working on schoolwork. At one point our middle daughter said, “I have ‘eighth-graditis’.” I looked at her and said, “There is no such thing.” Then our senior daughter chimed in, “I really have senioritis.” I responded to her, “Don’t wish away these last four months. Be intentional about enjoying each day.”

There it was againbe intentional. Since last November, this phrase and word just keeps finding its way into many of my conversations. As I was preparing my heart for what I wanted my word of the year to be, embrace was all over my heart. However, how could I tell my daughters to be intentional and enjoy the moment when I had a hard time focusing on that myself.

Refocusing My Intention

For many years, I believed I was learning about life when I was actually just surviving life. I survived the diaper stages, and I survived the terrible twos and the terrific threes. I survived running between three different youth sports on any given Saturday. I survived sending my first born off to kindergarten. I survived sending my baby off to kindergarten.

Maybe it’s the 40s or that we have a senior, but I don’t just want to survive life—I want to live life. I decided it was the year to reteach myself to embrace the moment. To be where my feet are. However, as January started, I realized to completely understand embrace, I have to understand how to be intentional.

3 Steps to Remaining Intentional in Your Life

Be intentional about time, be intentional about meditation, be intentional of where my feet are planted, and be intentional about not having our calendar dictate each and every day. A couple things had to happen for me to have a growth mindset on this journey:

  1. Create an “accountability family” with different people holding me accountable for something different.
  2. Remind myself that “no” is a complete sentence.
  3. Be intentional close up, not from a far.

These three guiding themes have worked well this far into January. My accountability family have suggested ideas for the months ahead, from being intentional about a 2020 exercise challenge with my work colleagues or having supper with our neighbors.

Understanding Every Day Is Special

The idea of being intentional up close and not from a far came from a conversation with my neighbor when she said, “Why wait until Christmas or Thanksgiving to use your china? My china is in our cupboard for everyday use because everyday is special.” I have taken this to heart. In one such situation, being intentional up close allowed me to give that extra needed hug and smile. But ultimately I experienced the joy of the circumstance in person rather than through an email.

Learning to be intentional has allowed me to embrace the moment. To embrace the conversations around the kitchen table, and to truly embrace watching my kids do what they love to do. But being intentional is also about preparing. Starting with preparing myself to embrace the change that will occur in our house in August when we send our daughter off to college.

In the meantime, I will continue to grow in this area and bring my family along on my “intentionally learning to embrace the moment” journey.

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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New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

Eat healthy, lose weight, exercise—these are some of the things I think about when it comes to New Year Resolutions. But this year, I not only wanted to do these resolutions for me, but I wanted to include my family in some as well.

Resolutions for the Family

When it comes to individual resolutions, for me, they’re easy to give up on because they’re all about me in a world where I’m focused on taking care of everyone else. This year, I wanted to try making resolutions as a group. They can be fun, painless and are sure to benefit my entire household.
While making a family resolution may seem as sensible as herding cats, it’s worth the effort. But setting family resolutions will only work if each member of the family feels invested. And for everyone to feel invested, shared goals need to be recognized and treated equally within the family.

If everyone feels they have a stake, then you have created the foundation for achieving your shared goals. Making goals public to your family and working together to achieve them provides the outside encouragement we all need to keep resolutions.

Focus On Your Health

But if you are the only one in your family that is actively working towards a goal, constantly removing yourself from your other family members’ habits —like eating a salad during family pizza night—will eventually erode your desire to keep your resolutions.

You might stick with eating salads for a while, but that pepperoni pizza will be more tempting when everyone else is enjoying it. We limited our pizza night to once a month. Instead of just eating salads for dinner, we are including a side salad with dinner.

We also decided to go on more family walks—the dog needs exercise too! The children have been joining me at the gym and hopefully we can get outside on the “nicer” winter days. Not only watching their mom get fit, but joining in when they can as well.

Before, I would weekly meal prep for myself, but now we are also planning our meals instead of driving through the fast food lane. We also included the children in the meal planning and prep. We are trying to find healthy ways to eat chicken strips and mac n’ cheese. The kids are excited and willing to try what they made!

Remember to Be Thankful

Lastly, we started a thankful jar. Each week we place a slip of paper in a jar saying what we were thankful for. At the end of each month, we will read these aloud. As part of the thankful jar, we also started sharing more. I feel that it is important to listen to each other.

We were stuck in a rut as soon as we got home—it was homework, dinner, electronics/tv, bath and bed. We rarely talked to each other. It was, “how was your day…fine…” and we’d move on. Now we are really trying to listen and ask questions.

I didn’t want to force my family to do New Year Resolutions, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Everyone was really excited to try, and it was easy to find ways for us to work together and achieve some common goals. Plus, it allows us more time together.

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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Scholarships Season is Stressful

Scholarships Season is Stressful

It’s snowing outside, the Christmas lights are shining bright on the tree, and I am sitting in the recliner enjoying my cup of hot cider watching holiday movies. I’m enjoying the silence and reminiscing about the most wonderful time of the year. Then I hear it, “Mom, what does this mean?” “Mom can you proofread this essay?” “Mom, do you remember what year I did this?” Even the daily, “Mom get off my back, I will get it done by the deadline!” It hardly seems like the most wonderful time of the year with all the stress of scholarship writing.

Scholarships Are Stressful

It may be stressful, but this is an important time of the year. As a parent, I thought preparing for graduation would be stressful, however, preparing for graduation seems easy compared to the stress of scholarship writing. Our daughter’s stress definitely comes down to her personality and wanting to be the best version of herself in all of the applications. Still my constant harping, “Do you have that scholarship done?” may be adding to the stress.

The cost of college and writing scholarships is a frequent conversation in our home right now. The other night our daughter was finishing up a semester budgeting project and she commented, “It really takes 20 years to pay off college debt?” Another learning opportunity for my husband and I to talk to her about the cost of college and the implication of debt beyond the college years.

Have the Tough Conversations

We discussed with our daughter how we paid off my college debt in less than eight years by making monthly payments, however, at one point we paid between $1,500 and $1,750 per month for one year to get rid of the debt. Our discussion turned to needs and wants and delaying purchasing gratification but I could not go without saying, “Do you see how important applying for scholarships really is?” In hindsight this was not the most opportune time to make the comment.

Right now, all our daughter sees is the time it takes in her busy schedule to write and apply for scholarships. Yet, for all the stress that may occur and the time preparing scholarships, it really is worth the time for the potential financial rewards. As she continues through the scholarship writing season, I definitely need to trust she will complete the application and quit nagging her each day. Our daughter does have high expectations of herself and I know she will complete all of her applications.

Sit Back & Have Faith

As I sit in my recliner and answer questions throughout the scholarship writing season, I listen as I know I will not be around her next year in college encouraging (nagging) her to meet deadlines. I also remind myself this is all part of me learning to let go of control. Ultimately, this scholarship season is another growing season for me to have faith and continue letting her grow into the adult I have prayed for her to become since the day she was born.

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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Planning a Disney Family Vacation

Planning a Disney Family Vacation

It’s a family vacation to remember. I can already picture it: Me, lounging poolside with a fruity cocktail as my carefree husband applies sunscreen to my back. We laugh, charge another round to the room, and bask in the sight of our happy kids splashing responsibly in the shallow end of the hotel pool. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

If you’re considering a trip to the Most Magical Place On Earth, it’s likely you’re feeling a little stressed and maybe even confused on where to start. With four theme parks, two water parks and a giant shopping district, it’s easy to see why. This was our first big family vacation and the planning felt more in-depth than planning my own wedding.

Where to Start When Planning a Disney Family Vacation

The first step you’ll want to take when you plan a Disney World trip is getting prepared. I started with reaching out to friends and family who’ve recently gone to Disney World. I also reached out to a co-worker who used to work at Disney—she helped out tremendously.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, which I highly recommend if you have the budget, you’ll have an account created on Disney World’s website. This is where you’ll be able to access the My Disney Experience that holds your reservations and links your dining reservations and FastPass+ selections. The preplanning took my co-worker and I a couple of dinners to select and plan. So make sure you decide early on selecting your FastPasses and dining reservations! When you’re at the parks, you’ll be able to use the app to view maps, restaurant menus, your plans and more. It’s a must for any Disney World vacation!

How to Properly Pack for the Family

The next step is packing. Here, it’s all about packing smart from the start—remember, less is more!

I went above and beyond on the Disney clothes beforehand and planned out a new outfit every day we were at the parks. This was not necessary, but it made it feel more special for the kids. I figured that we are probably only going to offer Disney once, so why not! Also, don’t forget to pack ponchos as it rains almost every day in Florida.

While packing don’t forget that snacks, games and movies are a traveling must! Both kids had a backpack full of these items to help with boredom on the plane. Luckily, this was their first airplane experience, so the newness of flying helped a lot! After the major things are complete, try to enjoy your time as a family.

Expectation vs Reality

Without going into every little detail about the trip here were my expectations vs. realty.

  • Expectation: We’ll get an early start first thing in the morning! Let’s do this vacation thing!
  • Reality: Why can’t we sleep in; we are on vacation?
  • Expectation: Let’s go to all four parks starting from when they open and stay until the fireworks at night.
  • Reality: “Mooooooom, can’t we just swim in the pool?”
  • Expectation: Let’s take hundreds of pictures at every location. Everyone is very posed, smiling big and happy.
  • Reality: Nobody really wants to take a picture; they just want to have fun! The smiles are only half smiles and everyone’s thoughts are, “Fine, let’s get this over with.” And of course, there’s always that one person, my five-year-old daughter that just doesn’t want to cooperate, making everyone else annoyed.
  • Expectation: Even if the lines are long, we’ll enjoy the family time together.
  • Reality: “Mooooom, can I have your phone!”
  • Expectation: This is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my children will act perfectly and be happy.
  • Reality: “Mom, my feet hurt, why is this line so long?” And then there was at least one melt down a day!

One Last Piece of Advice

My one big piece of advice when planning a trip to Disney is plan down time. I wanted to visit as much as possible, but my daughter wanted pool time every day. We did see all four theme parks and visited the shopping district, but in reality, we could have spent several days at just one park.

We crammed a lot into a short time. However, Disney World exceeded my expectations. Even though the trip wasn’t always what I had planned, we created memories that will last a lifetime. And it is safe to say, we are all ready to go back!

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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Becoming More Intentional in Life

Becoming More Intentional in Life

During many of my leadership lessons, my students and I often discuss how important creativity is. In most instances, students believe creativity is a skill they have lost. So, I recently began teaching a leadership unit focused solely on creativity.

I started planning many activities around not only embracing the creativity each student has, but challenging each student to further enhance their creativity as well. I have activities planned from seeing the world through shapes, doodling, researching personality traits, inspiring others, taking a gratitude walk and spending ten minutes in complete silence.

The Importance of Being Intentional

The whole purpose of the unit is being intentional in finding ways to enhance one’s creativity. As I started thinking, the word “intentional” kept creeping up in my mind. I decided I needed to take the challenge along with my students to be more intentional.

With the busyness of the winter season at both home and school, I decided I would model intentionality by spending 15 minutes in stillness for the next 30 days. I suggested to my students that they all pick out a notebook to write or doodle in. The ultimate goal of the project is to connect to our inner creativity.

Practicing What You Preach

I wanted something more than a doodle book, therefore I started searching for something as a visible reminder to be intentional about my time of quietness. The idea came to me quite quickly. Six years ago, I kept a little gratitude book that I carried with me at all times. I was intentional in writing down the little blessings, and I also added meaningful pictures and inspiring Bible verses.

Due to the number of times we looked through it, the pages were torn and the edges were bent. However, the book was filled with love. I made this little gratitude book for two years, but I stopped making my little gratitude books. Looking back, I realized the busyness of life just took over. It also just seemed natural to have pictures on my laptop and on an external hard drive. I told myself I would print them out someday. Someday turned into some month which ultimately turned into never.

Make a Visual Record of What You’ve Learned

The visual reminder of my intentionality is simple—create a little gratitude book. During those 15 minutes of intentional stillness, I am going to record in words and pictures the joys in my life. My little book with those torn pages and bent edges will be moments of joy and moments I do not want to forget.

Ultimately, I hope modeling intentionality for the next 30 days with a visible end product to share with my senior students will encourage them to unlock their creativity. These quiet moments, however, will go beyond enhancing my creativity skills. These moments will allow me to pause, reflect and be thankful for all of my blessings.

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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Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Just the phrase “parent-teacher conference” makes me anxious. However, this last experience was a positive one. Typically, parent-teacher conferences happen either right before or right after report cards. And with grades in the picture, the stakes are raised.

That means it’s worthwhile to make the most of the short time you have to meet with the teacher, and it’s also reasonable to expect that the teacher is prepared to discuss your child in a meaningful way.

Some have been more successful than others, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the preparation beforehand that makes the difference.

Worry Leads to Joy

Like most parent-teacher conferences I worry, as the last few experiences haven’t been positive. Going into this year, I was expecting the typical: Cohen’s reading isn’t grade level, he’s getting upset very easily, he’s becoming anxious, he’s needing to go the office, and so on. Those have been his critiques for the past three years.

But boy was I surprised during this year’s conference. Cohen’s teacher had nothing but good things to say about him. The way she described him and her attitude towards him gave me goosebumps. You could see her overall joy when talking about Cohen. She talked about his wonderful personality, his willingness to help, and his compassion towards others. She made the executive decision to stop the score sheet he had to bring home every day because he continuously got a perfect score. She was shocked that he needed to do those sheets for the last three years.

Sure, she addressed his reading and his anxiety when taking tests, but she was proud of his determination and his willingness to participate despite his lack of confidence when it comes to reading. Lastly, she hoped her son, who is 6 months old, will have Cohen’s characteristics when he’s that age. This comment brought tears to my eyes. I have never left a conference feeling so proud and excited for him like I have in this class with this teacher!

It’s All in the Preparation

This last conference made me realize that there are different ways to prepare. I’d like to offer a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child’s parent-teacher conference.

I purposely choose the last conference of the night. That way if we go long, I’m not holding up anyone else. If I can, I don’t bring my children. That way I can bring up things that I want to say that I wouldn’t say in front my child and vice versa.

As hard as it is, I try and come with an open mind. As a parent, I have to remind myself of this often, but my children’s grades and behavior are not a reflection of who I am as a person. They have free will and will make mistakes and decisions that I don’t approve of, but It doesn’t make me a bad parent.

Ask the Teacher Questions

I also bring specific questions or concerns and not the typical, “So how’s my kid doing in your class?” Since we only have a few minutes to talk, I’d like to know right away which areas are of concern.

If your child is unhappy in school, you may be the emotional dump at home who hears about all the things that went wrong during the day. That’s what I hear from Cohen most days. I don’t get to witness my children having fun with their friends at lunch or answering a question that stumped everyone else in the class. I learned that we needed to focus and build on these little victories together.

Lastly, tell the teacher what works well at home and what you need help with. I often feel like I’m on my own once my children get home, but teachers often have tips that may help studying and getting organized at home go more smoothly too.

Now that I know a few tricks of the trade, I am less anxious for these conferences. I feel that Cohen is growing and learning in third grade. I love that his teacher was so open and honest with me, and I’m glad she is willing to work with him and for him. I trust in her and am so happy she is teaching my child because Cohen is starting hate school a little less.

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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Traveling Through Life with My Squad

Traveling Through Life with My Squad

The group text message went like this:

“Okay squad…I am 95% sure I want a tat. Who also needs one? I need my squad for moral support to get me through the door.”

“I am definitely out for the tattoo, but can be there for moral support.”

“I am in!!! I want one with my Dad’s handwriting.”

“I might consider it!”

“I will support. But out on the ink for me.”

I am an introvert and a private person. Being around crowds is very overwhelming to me, my anxiety rises and I tend to find myself conversing with only a few people whom I feel comfortable with. This may come as a surprise to some since I am surrounded by students, adults and other colleagues all the time in my career.

Forming My Squad

Believe me, throughout the many stages of life, I have tried to include everyone in everything. But I also realize that due to my introvertedness, it may be hard to get to know me and I can come off as unfriendly at times. And having people think I am unfriendly causes me additional stress. This is why my circle of friends is so important to me, especially during this stage of life.

Ten years ago our squad had one thing in common: our daughters’ softball team. Eventually, at the games, we started sitting by each other, sharing snacks, and learning about each other’s likes and dislikes. Over the course of ten years we have celebrated new additions to families, mourned the deaths of parents, shared hysterectomy stories and gone on family vacations.

Friends Through Thick & Thin

So naturally, I turned to my squad to find the courage to get a tattoo (or talk me out of it). Yet, what I appreciate about our squad is that there is definitely always a gathering place, we show constant support for all of our kids, we can laugh to “make it all better,” and we respect the silence that helps bond and grow all relationships.

Every stage of life brings new adventures, challenges, stories and milestones. While we travel through each of these stages, the best part is having a squad by your side for the journey.

There are those friends that come into our life journey for a short distance or even get out at the first stop sign. While others are there for the long haul and walk your journey with you. The softball moms could’ve sensed my closed nature and quickly jumped out at the first stop sign and given up on me long, long ago. But they didn’t—they all stayed in the vehicle, and I am incredibly thankful to be on this ride together.

Enjoying Every Bit of the Ride

This year is special. This year is hard. This year four of us have high school seniors. Two moms have kids who have already graduated, two moms are experiencing graduation for the first time, and another smiles and cries along with us and is trying to figure out how she will do this next year. Senior year is hard not only for the child, but also for the parents. We have spent our entire parenting years preparing our kids for their next journey, but we want to hold onto them and keep them in our homes just a little longer.

Yet, if it was not for our daughters, we would not be the friends or better yet, the family we are today. Each of us has our own joys, frustrations and insecurities, but we also bring our own perspectives and insight about life and the journey we are on. In the end, we all know we are still loved and we will be there for each stop along the way.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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I Share Too Much

I Share Too Much

“I know you, and I haven’t even met you.”

Lately, several bloggers I follow have written about issues of privacy and what they are willing to reveal about themselves in their blogs. I am an over-sharer, especially with friends. I reveal everything in real life, but I am more hesitant online and I try to retain some vagueness.

What You See Is What You Get

When I started writing for this blog, it was an exercise in public writing. I have, over the last several years, been open about my flaws, struggles and family issues. I’ve willingly allowed the blog to become a collection of personal essays. I try to be protective of the people in my life, but write about aspects of our lives together. I regard very few things as sacred—I am an open book.

I assume that I am not unique and that my experiences and feelings have been felt by many other humans. Commenters have said that they admire my openness and honesty, but it is less about those virtues than the fact that I like to live my life the easiest way possible. I want to be the “What You See is What You Get” version of myself online, because it’s easier. People who know me offline are rarely surprised by anything that I post. Recently, however, I think I overshared. There’s such a fine line between presenting the authentic you and sharing too much.

The Downside to Oversharing

In a recent blog, I discussed how important communication is with your spouse, as every married couple knows! However, my husband and I have been so busy, our communication has been lacking, resulting in built up anger and frustration. Lately, we’ve been having arguments and they never get resolved. We yell and go to bed angry and never talk about it, or at least it doesn’t get brought up for a good couple of weeks.

Well, the past fight had been eating away at me and I overshared with a bunch of friends and on social media. I divulged deep and embarrassing details from our marriage. At the time it made me feel better to talk about my feelings, but I realized after I shared these intimate details that I needed to talk to my husband instead of my friends. When these details came up at a group outing with my husband, I knew he was hurt.

Knowing When Enough Is Enough

In today’s world, communication that used to entail my best friend through a private pipeline is now something posted, tweeted and pinned. I decided I probably should make time to be a spouse, parent, take a shower, and occasionally talk to my husband. If I would have just talked to him in the first place — not during the argument, but set a time to talk — my oversharing may not have happened.

The beauty of blogging, and the thing that sets blogging apart from other forms of Internet marketing, is that it is personal and relational. Thus, I pride myself in being real and authentic, and to tell stories that other women can relate to. I just need to make sure that I strike that balance between sharing without oversharing and letting everyone see the real me, flaws and all.

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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