What I Learned on My Grandson’s Recent Ski Trip

What I Learned on My Grandson’s Recent Ski Trip

As our grandkids grow older, our ski trips are changing.

Our Memories on the Slopes

Years ago, when our kids were in elementary and junior high (yes, back in the old days when it was called junior high), we would take our daughters skiing in Colorado during winter break. We’d go after Christmas and return ready to start second semester.

We loved going but had to make sure we traveled within our budget. We took our own food and found the cheapest skiing sites and places to stay. We usually rented a house that was owned by someone we knew. Sometimes, those deals backfired when the plumbing froze—leaving us without toilets. Still, we always had a fun time in Colorado as we laughed, skied and rolled in the snow.

My Grandson’s Big Ski Adventure

This year, the week before UNL’s second semester began, our grandson went skiing with friends. They had a great plan of where they were staying, where they were going to ski and even bought their lift tickets online in advance so they weren’t left out, literally, in the cold.

This particular week was brutally cold in Nebraska, but the boys were on a mission. Nothing was stopping them, especially knowing they had classes the following week.

And nothing did stop them until after they passed through Denver on their way to the slopes. Avalanches on the highways forced them to reroute several times. After driving several hundred miles around the avalanche, they finally made it to their destination, Winter Park.

Supporting from Afar

We didn’t send food with our grandson and his friends, but we tried to help in other ways. We packed my husbands ski pants, ski gloves, hat and a dozen hand warmers. I’m sure his mom sent some of those items as well, but we thought just in case, we wanted to take care of him. We certainly did not say we wanted to take care of him. Heaven forbid. Our grandson is independent and proud but also knows we are always there when he needs us.

I should have sent money with our grandson, though. We later heard the lift tickets were $200 a day. Had we known the cost, we would have purchased a half-day pass. It’s my goal to keep our monetary gifts even across all four of our grandkids.

Staying Connected & Setting Goals

He regularly connected with his parents, especially since our grandson was driving their Suburban. He did keep in contact with us, but only to send pictures of their experience. This was his first big trip with friends, and I’m sure they all worked together to accomplish their goals of having fun and not getting hurt. Maybe they didn’t have a goal of not getting hurt, but I sure hope so.

Planning Future Trips

Almost a week later, we received the news that the boys made it back to Lincoln safe and sound. No broken bones, only great stories. Best of all, no frozen waterlines, so they didn’t have to put their waste in plastic garbage bags. On the drive home to Nebraska, our grandson and his friends decided to go on another trip together next year—this time, at a much warmer destination!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

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

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Should Parents Actually Spend So Much on Youth Sports?

Should Parents Actually Spend So Much on Youth Sports?

My 12-year-old, Cohen, is supposed to be practicing juggling his soccer ball. Instead, he’s playing catch with the dog. “Juggle,” I yell. “I’m not paying all this money for soccer if you’re not going to practice.”

A Love, Hate Relationship with Practice

Don’t get me wrong, Cohen loves to play soccer. However, he hates to practice at home, especially his juggling. Sometimes I feel like a drill sergeant when he loafs around instead of concentrating on his skill building, especially when it seems my hard-earned money is being thrown away.

One Costly Invite to Las Vegas

My son plays club soccer all year. It is expensive. He has practice at least twice a week, more during the warmer months. Recently, he got invited to participate in an invitation-only team camp through his club. I am very proud of him, but this training is in Las Vegas, and it’s not paid for. That’s an extra cost that we weren’t planning to spend right after the holidays. So, I asked myself, “Is it worth it?”

Are Parents Over-Investing in Youth Activities?

I feel that parents today are far more likely to invest in after-school activities for kids than any generation before. I know you can spend as much or as little as you like. My daughter plays rec basketball. She likes playing the sport but only for fun. It’s cheap and she enjoys the 12 weeks of practices and games.

Cohen, however, has never missed a game or practice except when he broke his collarbone. But what if tomorrow he wakes up and says that he doesn’t want to continue? I’ve already invested considerable time, money and effort in soccer. I might not want to let him quit.

A friend of mine had a daughter in dance from the time she was three years old. She spent thousands of dollars on instruction, costumes and travel to competitions. When her daughter turned 13, she abruptly decided she no longer wanted to continue. Another friend hated practicing the violin and her parents let her quit. Now she regrets it and wishes that her parents had made her keep going.

The End Goal: A College Scholarship

Many parents want to give their children every advantage they possibly can. We’ve discussed what high school Cohen would like to attend based on the soccer programs at each school. But, as we think towards the future, our goal with all this training and money is hopefully to land him a scholarship to college.

Making Time to Be a Kid

Not that I think Cohen would quit soccer anytime soon. But I want him to have unstructured time to play and develop other interests. I don’t want him to invest all his time on one thing. Some people say that kids should be required to try many kinds of activities to help them develop interests. Some parents impose activities on their children that they would have liked to be involved in when they were young. Maybe Cohen will enjoy them, but maybe not. I continue to ask him if he’d like to try other things. But even though he plays video games and participates in his church’s youth group, soccer is his priority.

My Reflection on Overcommitment

Is this too much for a 12-year-old? At his age, I was in three different basketball leagues, traveling to games and always playing. I don’t regret it. I even played a little in high school. However, my mom also made me try dance, volleyball, gymnastics and swim team. I, too, was a busy child. But if he likes it and wants to continue, I am here to support his dream. If he does decide to quit one day, I know the skills he learned in training will help him become a better person. Through this sport, he has learned patience, toughness, competitiveness and so much more.

His Legacy Beyond Soccer

As parents, we are role models on how to handle stress and how to balance our time. I hope I am showing Cohen that just because he is busy doesn’t mean he can’t take the time to slow down and enjoy the gift of family unity—it’s the greatest gift of 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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Summer Planning for Tweens & Teens: How to Keep Them Busy

Summer Planning for Tweens & Teens: How to Keep Them Busy

Summer break can’t come soon enough. We’re all desperate to decompress from the wild pace of the school year and enjoy a little downtime. But for parents of preteen or teenage kids who are past the age for camp and too young to find summer jobs, there’s a slight problem. What do we do with them all summer long?

Summer Activity Ideas From My Tween

When I mentioned summer plans to my 12-year-old, he told me, “I don’t want to go to camp. I just want time to hang out.” That’s when my parental anxiety set in. I knew in my heart that my middle-schooler was too old to go to that wonderful day camp that kept him busy and active, but I also knew that letting him “hang out” all day would mean too many unproductive hours in front of the TV, computer or his phone.

Plus, I can’t leave him home alone for extended periods of time, and he’s definitely not ready to plan his own day-to-day schedule. If he did, it’d be unlimited gaming, never-ending TV show binging, and meal times full of artificial colors and flavors. But at least the dog would love having him around!

Last Year’s Summer Camp Disaster

Having him at home with nothing to do over the summer isn’t a good option. I know from experience. In the summer of 2021, my son’s favorite program wasn’t available, and he hated the new summer camp that I signed him up for. So halfway through, I pulled him from that camp. By then, all other camps were full, so he stayed home. I tried to keep him busy with chores and other activities, but it wasn’t possible to keep that up all summer. The worst part is that the summer camp he loved is back this year, but he aged out!

Alternative Summer Programs for Preteens

After he turns 13, he wants to officiate youth soccer games. But until then, I thought he might just get his wish of staying home and doing the bare minimum. Until I discovered some alternatives.

More and more recreation centers, schools, museums and colleges are catering to this age group with classes and programs. I even found a volunteer center that is looking for preteens and teens to lend a hand. And it’s never too early to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit—like mowing lawns or reffing soccer.

This age group may be beyond the general day camp approach, but there are so many creative programs out there that match our kids’ special interests. Just don’t be surprised if a single program doesn’t fill your preteen’s entire day. The camps my son wants to attend are only a few hours a day. They’re also expensive. We can’t afford to have him attend all summer long, but a couple weeks here and there may just work.

Advice for Parents About Summer Camp Enrollment

By being resourceful, I found a number of activities to make this an active, engaging summer for my son, while still reserving a little time to “hang out”. The best tip I can give parents who are interested in summer programs for their preteens? Start planning now. Many programs require advance registration, and popular ones fill up quickly.

My next step is to plan my busy work life around drop-offs and pick-ups. I’ll get the most out of my lunch breaks and set up a carpool schedule with his friends. By the end of the summer, I may feel like a taxi driver—always on the go. So much for decompressing!

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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What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Quit Sports

What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Quit Sports

My daughter, Collyns, is almost nine years old. All her life, she has hated sports. She tried gymnastics but didn’t enjoy it. She loves to swim but not in the winter. She doesn’t have a competitive bone in her body. She’s my “free spirit,” the complete opposite of my son. But recently, she expressed interest in playing basketball. So, I signed her up for a recreational league.

Now, we’re halfway through the season, and she doesn’t want to go to practice or play in the games. There are only six girls on the team, so I think that she needs to stick to her commitment and play.

Deciding When to Let My Kid Quit Sports

At some point in life, many parents find themselves in a similar situation. What do you do when your kid isn’t enjoying sports? Do you push them to keep with it? Or do you let them quit? Unfortunately, there isn’t a cut-and-dry answer on how hard to push your children to try new things, including sports.

On one hand, I want to teach her important life skills, like perseverance, following through on commitments, and tolerating discomfort. These values will hopefully build her confidence when she faces challenging situations in the future. Plus, she seems to enjoy being on the court, exercising, and socializing with her friends. Sure, she has no idea what she’s doing, but she’s slowly learning.

On the other hand, I don’t want to force her to continue with an activity that’s maybe doing more harm than good. If it was harming her physically or emotionally, there wouldn’t be any debate.

Starting the Conversation

I needed to know why she wanted to quit before making my decision. I asked if she was being bullied by her coach or teammates or if her body was hurting. No. I asked her what was making her change her mind. She told me she was frustrated about her skill level. She enjoys dribbling and shooting the ball but not playing the game.

I told her that her feelings were valid and that I would think about letting her quit. I took a couple days to reflect and discuss it with her father. He didn’t want this to become a bigger issue, but I didn’t want her to quit. I knew she was just frustrated and needed to learn to try and solve problems before throwing in the towel.

Coming to a Final Decision

A few days later, I sat down with her and let her know my decision. I explained that earlier this year, she agreed to play the full season, and I think she should honor that. Together, we came up with three ways to possibly make basketball better.

  1. Practice — We realized that one practice a week wasn’t enough to build her skills, so we started to run drills at home.
  2. Attitude — She told me that I needed to be more positive, less competitive soccer mom. During games, I needed to watch my tone and give her words of encouragement. Unlike my son, she wanted to learn what she did well after a game, instead of hearing how she could improve.
  3. Enjoyment — Lastly, I encouraged her to go out and have fun. The score doesn’t matter.

I don’t want to give up on my free spirit child. If the end of the season comes and she still isn’t happy, I’ll help her find something that’s a better fit—like an individual sport instead of a team one. I’ll always push her to try new things and praise her for her efforts. That’s the best way to find a winner.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Helping Our Kids Understand They Can Do Hard Things

Helping Our Kids Understand They Can Do Hard Things

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

Doing the Hard Things

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

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

Have We Made Things Too Easy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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Lessons Learned from Injury

Lessons Learned from Injury

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

Going from Manager to Mom

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

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

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

What My Daughter’s Injury Taught Us

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

This injury forced her to:

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

Her injury has encouraged me by:

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

How to Be a Good Leader

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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The Truth About Knee Pain

The Truth About Knee Pain

If you’re experiencing knee pain, you’re not alone. Knee pain is quite common and the reasons behind why we experience it can vary. Here’s what you need to know about knee pain and some ways to treat it.

What Are the Causes of Knee Pain?

As an orthopedic surgeon, I see many people with knee pain. This pain can be caused by many things: age, sports injury, or overuse—even genetics. Most commonly, we see knee osteoarthritis, which is essentially the breaking down, wear and tear, of your knee joint. Our knees are covered in cartilage, which allows them to move and glide smoothly. When that cartilage surface starts to wear and break down (as most things do over time), the knee starts to hurt. We call that break down of the cartilage osteoarthritis. It’s a basic part of aging, and almost no one can escape it!

Why is Osteoarthritis So Painful?

It’s painful for many reasons. As already noted, osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of your joints. This causes inflammation, and in turn, inflammation causes pain. The pain also comes from losing the cushioning in our knees; we start to see more “bone on bone” wear. This simply means that the bones rub against one another because that natural cushioning cartilage is worn away. This creates friction and more swelling, and it leads to more pain.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Knee Arthritis?

Symptoms vary from person to person, but the most telling sign is pain – especially with activity such as bending or flexing your knee. Consider these symptoms that you may experience with knee arthritis:

  • Is it hard to get from a sitting to a standing position?
  • Do you have trouble kneeling down, does your knee become more painful, or is it downright difficult to get off the ground once you’re kneeling?
  • Is your knee swollen – even if you didn’t have any injuries or falls?
  • Do you have pain at night? Do you have trouble falling asleep due to knee pain?

Who Is Most Likely to Get Knee Arthritis?

Knee pain and arthritis are rather universal, especially as we get older. Our knees do a lot of the heavy lifting in life. Those with knee pain might have very physical jobs, or could be athletes or just very active. They may be seeing pain from a previous injury when they were younger. Traumatic injuries are another cause of ongoing knee pain. Really, everyone is at risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee at some point in their lives.

Is My Knee Pain Due to Arthritis, and What Can I Do About It?

How we treat knee pain and arthritis depends largely on the extent of the damage to your knee and how the pain is affecting your overall quality of life. Of course, we try to take care of it through less aggressive, non-surgical approaches. There are various treatment options to consider before moving to something like joint replacement.

Treatment options include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – These include aspirin, Ibuprofen, Aleve, or prescription anti-inflammatories.
  • Activity modification – Your doctor and/or physical therapist can work with you to ensure you aren’t doing things to aggravate the pain and inflammation.
  • Weight loss – Carrying extra weight is bad for your knees, so there will be some people for whom weight loss can be very effective in easing pain.
  • Steroid injections in the knee – These also help with inflammation and pain.
  • Viscosupplementation (or hyaluronate acid injection) – Another type of injection that eases inflammation by adding a sort of “fluid film” and padding into the joint, decreasing friction between the bones.

Next steps: What Can I Do About My Knee Pain?

If you’re experiencing knee pain, there are steps you can take to relieve your pain. The first step would be to talk to your health care provider and get an evaluation of your knee to determine the cause of the pain and possible treatment options.

The bottom line is you don’t have to live with knee pain. I encourage you to get an evaluation, find out your treatment options, and get back to enjoying life!

Brad Webb, DO

Brad Webb, DO

Brad Webb, DO, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, fellowship-trained in adult reconstruction and total joints.

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Enjoying Summer Days with My Kids

Enjoying Summer Days with My Kids

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

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

Supporting My Kids in Sports

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

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

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

Making Dinner for My Family

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

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

My Role as a Mom

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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Keeping the Door Open to New Opportunities

Keeping the Door Open to New Opportunities

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

Coaching High School Softball

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

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

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

Being Open to Opportunities

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

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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Introducing Kids to Investing

Introducing Kids to Investing

Investing in your future is one of the best lessons you can instill in a child. Yes, I’m talking stock market, here. It’s never too early or too late, for that matter, to learn all about the stock market. It can be a fun process and you can even use play money.

Let me just start out by saying, I, myself just recently learned about investments. Me being in my 30’s, I never really understood the stock market, bonds, investments, or financial planning. I never had finances to finance. But now that I have two kids, I thought I should invest not only in my future but theirs.

So, where do you begin?

Be Sure to Ask Questions

I met with a financial advisor to explain the ins and outs of stocks and bonds. And then I realized that’s the answer, explain the nuts and bolts of investing to my children, and maybe even have them start looking into what things they like (e.g., toys, games, actual costs of things). Let’s face it, as kids we never learned the actual cost of certain things. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized how expensive it is just to have lights on in a house.

But why is investing a good idea? For me, it helps meet my financial goals. Even though I am years away from retiring, I still need to think about my future and my kids’ future, i.e. cars, college. So, I decided to introduce the concept of financial goals in ways that my kids could relate to. I introduced the concept of investing and growing their money so they have a better chance of reaching that big goal.

Learn the Basics Together

My kids have been doing chores/odd jobs for over a year now and they receive money each week. When we head to the store, I remind them to bring their money so they can buy a candy bar or random toy they think they need! This has the added benefit of teaching kids the value of a dollar; it tends to have greater meaning. It makes them think about if they really “need” that item.

Together, the kids and I learned this investment thing. Together we learned the importance of researching a stock so we better understand the associated risk. After a lot of consideration, together we picked and now follow stocks from our favorite companies and talk about how we can “invest” money by buying the company’s stock to own their very own piece. What kid wouldn’t love the idea of owning part of Disney? Together, we follow the stock price online each day and track its progress. I explained that if the company makes money, so do they. But if the company loses money, they do, too.

Don’t Forget to Set Goals

Giving my kids a reason to set a financial goal is important. This gives them an incentive and a concrete reason to save. My kids love the idea of doing something as grown-up as investing. We love doing it together. And if they see how much money can grow over time, they’re usually excited to save.

I enjoy teaching my children life skills that are necessary! It’s up to us as parents to teach our children money skills to build a healthy financial future. How and why it’s important to invest money should be right at the top. Getting my kids interested in investing early on by taking the time to explain concepts like stocks, savings, returns, risks and rewards will only help strengthen their financial skills for a lifetime. Thus, in return has helped me invest in our future.

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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The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The world has become a very different place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s only natural to experience different and possibly heightened emotions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with anxiety, mental health or substance use. The report in June 2020 shows a considerable rise compared to the same time period last year.

This statistic is important because it provides a glimpse into what people are feeling related to the pandemic and the changes it has brought to society. Along with depression and anxiety, people are feeling grief. There are different types of grief. The grief we feel when we lose a loved one is what we think of most often, but there’s also grief over how the world and our lives have changed. Another kind of grief, called anticipatory grief, happens when we’re uncertain what the future holds.

What Can You Do?

Understand the Stages of Grief

This will help determine if what we’re feeling is coming from one of these stages. Everyone goes through these stages differently and in no particular order. Kessler and Ross identified five stages of grief. Recently, Kessler added a sixth stage.

Here are some examples of how we might move through these stages related to the pandemic:

  1. Denial – “The pandemic is not going to impact me.”
  2. Anger – “You’re making me stay home. I can’t do the things I want to do.”
  3. Bargaining – “If I stay home for two weeks, all will be fine, right?”
  4. Depression/Sadness – “When will this end? There is no end in sight.”
  5. Acceptance – “This is real and I must accept it and find a way to move forward.”
  6. Finding Meaning – “What can I learn as a result of this?”

Find a Balance in Your Thinking

It’s easy to get pulled into negative thinking which can lead to negative feelings. One thing you can do to take control is actively practice positive thinking and even write positive daily messages in a journal.

Think About What You Can and Cannot Control

You can control the things you do – like following the advice of experts. You can wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance to keep yourself and others safe. You can learn new ways to connect virtually. You can’t control what others are doing. You can only control what you’re doing and lead by example.

Have Empathy

You will encounter people who are irritable and may catch you off guard if you’re used to them being kind. Remember the world we live in right now and show them empathy. They’re going through tough times, too. Offer support and encouragement.

Build Connectedness

This is key. Research shows the more connected we are to family, friends and the community, the less violent we’ll be toward others and ourselves, and the fewer mental health and substance use issues we’ll have.

Understand When to Seek Help

You may just need to reach out and talk to a friend, or you may need to seek help from a professional. Grief can sometimes lead to depression.

Know the symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts (call 1-800-273-8255 or go to nearest emergency department if experiencing this symptom)
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Anyone experiencing symptoms for two or more weeks should seek professional guidance to determine if they’re experiencing depression. Bryan Medical Center offers free confidential online depression screenings.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

Dr. Dave Miers, PhD, is the director of Bryan Behavioral Health Services. This includes mental health treatment and counseling, psychiatric evaluations including medication management, and substance use evaluations and treatment.

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

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5 Ways to Keep Cool & Safe When Exercising Outside

5 Ways to Keep Cool & Safe When Exercising Outside

It’s hot out there, but summer weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising, gardening or enjoying other activities outside – in fact, getting out in nature helps with stress levels! But it’s important to be prepared and proactive to avoid heat-related problems.

The more physically fit you are, the better you’ll be able to adapt. If you have medical conditions, please check with your health care provider before you begin exercising in the heat. Then, use these guidelines to help ensure that when you do go out, you’re being smart and safe.

Hot Weather Guidelines

Take It Easy at First

If you’re used to working out at the gym or are not used to hot temps, decrease your usual intensity, frequency and/or duration to allow yourself to acclimate. Monitor your heart rate and your feeling of exertion. For example, if you normally walk for 60 minutes, start with 30 minutes, at a slower pace than you’re used to. It can take up to two weeks of repeated activity in the heat to acclimate.

I know, it’s hard! I have known many athletes over the years and even those who are quite fit are surprised at what heat will do to a workout! Be aware of the “feels like” temperature as opposed to the actual temperature; humidity levels also make a difference.

Drink Plenty of Fluids, Preferably Water

At a minimum, drink 12 ounces before exercise, 12 ounces every 30 minutes during exercise, and 12-16 ounces after exercise. Drink more if you feel that you have lost a lot of fluid due to sweating during your exercise. It’s also helpful to monitor your urine output. If it’s dark yellow and/or low in volume you need to rehydrate.

But Don’t Drink Too Much!

Drinking too much water, called over-hydration, can lead to low blood sodium. To stay hydrated but not overly so, here is a general rule: Drink before, during and after exercise and other physical activities. At other times of the day, drink when thirsty.

Wear Loose, Light Clothing in Fabrics That Evaporate and Wick Sweat Away

Try clothes such as DryMax, CoolMax and others. Avoid dark colors, because they absorb heat (darker colors also attract mosquitoes). Wear a light-colored hat to help limit direct sun exposure.

Use Sunscreen, and Try To Reapply at Two-Hour Intervals Even if the Labels Have Sweatproof and Waterproof Claims

Sunburn increases the risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer. Another good way to decrease sun exposure is to a wear wide-brimmed hat, avoid the midday sun and heat (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), rise early, or make sure your route/trail for exercise is shaded. Or, consider a swim!

What If You Start to Feel Sick?

Pay attention to the heat. Listen to your body. If you start to feel faint and/or sick, stop immediately. Sit down in the shade and drink water. If possible, it’s also a good idea to have a healthy, hydrating snack, such as fruit. Energy bars or crackers are not ideal as they slow hydration.

Here are some of the most common heat-related illnesses and how to handle them:

Cramps

If you get heat cramps, usually occurring in your legs, stop the activity, move to a cool spot, place a chilled cloth around your neck, and sip water or a sports drink – water is usually better. Since sweat helps your body cool itself, if possible sit in a breeze or in front of a fan.

Heat Exhaustion

Signs include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, a fast and weak pulse and possibly fainting. Seek medical help if symptoms are extreme or if they last longer than an hour.

Heat Stroke

This is the most serious, potentially fatal, heat-related condition. Symptoms include high body temperature (104 F or higher), absence of sweating with hot, flushed or red/dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, seizure, coma, and if untreated, death.

Sometimes these things come on quickly with little warning. If you suspect that you or others are suffering heat stroke, call 911 immediately. If possible, move to a shady area, drink and spray cool water on the person, avoid alcohol or caffeine (in tea and soft drinks), apply ice packs under the armpits and groin, and fan until help arrives.

Any Amount of Exercise You Get Has Health Benefits

Having said all of this, always remember that even a 20-minute workout has positive health benefits! Don’t sweat it (no pun intended!) when the weather is not giving you your best day out. It’s the number of days you exercise that matters most, not the length of time of any given exercise session.

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy is a certified exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning coach.

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