A Christmas Miracle in the Making for 2023

A Christmas Miracle in the Making for 2023

Our family had a wonderful holiday, and my grown grandkids are once again believers in Santa Claus.

I’ve tried multiple times to get my grandkids together to go on a quick trip around Christmas. In the past, when the grandkids were on holiday vacation, we took several trips to Disney World and California. It was an adventure. The weather and airlines were always perfect. We haven’t been able to recreate that magic lately. College and work schedules won’t cooperate, but that doesn’t stop me from researching places they’d find enjoyable.

A Plan Is Formed

This year, I wanted to provide my grandkids with a meaningful experience. I often volunteer with my church to build homes in Guatemala, so I made a donation to the cause in my grandkids’ names. Secretly, I also hoped they could join me in Guatemala to build the home.

The Big Reveal

After opening our gifts on Christmas, I showed my four grandchildren a video of a Guatemalan family thanking Constru Casa for the contributions and efforts made by our church to build their family a new home. When the grandkids saw the video, they were a little confused. They knew I had visited Guatemala several times to help build homes, but they had no idea why I was showing them the video.

It was then that I revealed to them that I had sent Constru Casa funds for a new home—that the building would have a plaque next to the front door with their names on it. I’ve never seen them so quiet. I also told them I was planning to help with the build, and I would pay for their trips and time to join me if they could.

Real Christmas Miracles

Tears of joy sprang to their eyes. My grandkids, who are always talking, had nothing to say. I loved it! Very rarely do they get overcome with emotion. I know it may never happen again.

I explained that the dates for the build hadn’t been set yet, that the real Christmas miracle—getting time off and actually making it happen—was still to come. I understood if they couldn’t plan around school and work without a solid timeframe. But they want to get their hands dirty, so I’m starting my investigation.

When will the build take place? Will I be able to build? Will any of my grandkids be able to join me?

This story isn’t over. It will be continued when I have more information. For now, I’m excited by the possibility. We’re giving back and helping to make a family’s life better. I know that my grandkids, whether they join in person or vicariously, will have this project to be proud of forever.

So, yes, there is a Santa Claus.

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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Toys, Cash or Bust

Toys, Cash or Bust

It’s November 1 and the Walmart toy catalog has arrived. You look and see that things have already been circled and an entire page has a large circle around every toy. This is what happens every year. The toys wanted are circled with my kids’ names next to them, so I of course know who wants what under the tree. But this year, my daughter was the only one with things circled. Why? Because my son only wants an Xbox. A $500 gift. But he knows “Santa” won’t get him an Xbox because that’s too expensive, so he is asking everyone for cash.

Should Kids Get Cash for Christmas?

But cash for Christmas perhaps you’re thinking: What? Are your kids too good for toys now? Or maybe you’re stuck on the idea that giving someone money is so impassive and unsentimental. Of course, the last thing I want to do is disappoint my kids, but I want to make sure they’re old enough to appreciate getting cold, hard cash instead of traditional gifts.

If you are like most families, your kids have enough stuff. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s about setting the stage, letting the gift-giver know the reasoning behind the request and what the money will be used for. There are lots of opinions about the good and bad of giving money as a gift–or, gasp, asking for money as a gift. And when done incorrectly, yes, it can come off as rude and selfish.

However, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider foregoing traditional gifts and asking for money instead. Cohen doesn’t play with toys. He is at that age where it’s either soccer or video games. He is trying to save money for an Xbox. I realized the older the kids, the more expensive the gifts. He doesn’t want the traditional gift, nor does he need it, so he’s asking grandpa, grandpa, aunts and uncles for money. Sure, he could use another pair of pants so if his grandma wants to go shopping, I will suggest that option.

Gifting Money is Practical & Useful

But, for now, I am tactfully encouraging my family members to give money. I am proposing ways to make it fun for them to give cash.

There are a few ways you can do this. If Cohen wanted to use the money for sports or other lessons, I would invite his family members to recitals or games. I want them to see the joy he gets from the activity and know the part they played in helping create that joy.

After Cohen saves enough for him to accomplish his dream of owning an Xbox, I plan to send family members a video or some pictures. I want them to see Cohen embracing and enjoying what their monetary gift helped achieve.

So rather it be a Barbie for Collyns, yes, her gifts are still easy to buy or cash for Cohen, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding giving cash as gifts. The truth is no one in my family needs 37 gifts. Getting off the gift-giving merry-go-round starts with a frank discussion with friends and family.

The great thing about gifting money is it’s practical and useful. Secondly, it will save everyone time from lining up at those shopping malls, and lastly, Cohen will actually love getting cash especially if you present it in a creative way. I already started pinning ideas on how to give cash as a gift on Pinterest.

Believe it or not, the gift of cash will be the best present he’ll receive this Christmas!

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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Grandmas Will Always Be There

Grandmas Will Always Be There

A couple of weeks ago, we traveled to Denver, Colorado. Other than visiting grandkids in Kansas City, we have stuck close to home. Whether our concern was because of COVID-19 or not wanting to spend too much money, I don’t know, but that was our decision. We probably would have continued to stay put forever had it not been for our granddaughter playing volleyball for Butler University in Indianapolis. A couple of weeks ago, the Butler Bulldogs played in a tournament at Denver University in Denver. We decided to make the trip to be able to see her play in person.

We had so much fun seeing her play and cheering her on. Woof Woof!! They are the Bulldogs and that is the parent cheer! I’ll do anything to fit in. She’s having a great time playing and studying in a brand new environment. She feels very lucky, and she’s happy! Bonus.

Spending Time in Colorado

We’ll take any excuse to connect with them and find out what each of them is doing. I took pictures of her playing with my phone and I sent them to all of the grandkids. I also decided to send postcards so they can get a surprise in their mailbox, which they assure me makes them smile. I went to Colorado prepared for the postal communication with those very important postcard stamps. The problem was I couldn’t find any postcards at Denver University. Zero. That was OK as we were extending our trip from Denver to see the mountains for a few days.

We stopped in Breckenridge and explored the main street. Tourists were back exploring the many tourist stores. I knew I would find postcards in multiple places. I was thinking a postcard with a bear on it or a picture of a major hiking trail. What the heck? I couldn’t find any postcards at the usual locations. I walked up and down the Breckenridge strip. Yes, I visited all the stores on the main drag.

Nothing. Not one postcard.

Why are there No Postcards?

I remember the good old days when postcards were even displayed outside the store with these scenic pictures luring others to visit a specific site. I remember pictures of historically significant museums and historical sites. But what? Nothing? No postcards in Breckenridge, CO?

OK, I get it, I’m old-fashioned which is appropriate as I’m officially old. I get the vast changes in how we communicate. I can, and do, pick up my cell phone to take pictures and send them to all family members in a matter of seconds. OK, almost. Full disclosure, I can send one picture at a time, not multiple pictures. I somehow think my taking the time to write a personal note is meaningful to them. I also need to be realistic and recognize not all people are as excited to receive a note, or a written thank you from someone near and dear to your heart.

I put a great deal of thought into my postcard dilemma and have come to a couple of conclusions. I will continue to look for postcards of locations and meaningful times where I can share my thoughts, my experiences and journeys with those I love. I will also continue to write notes to the grandkids where I share those same thoughts, without pictures. The cards show my handwriting and I pray the grandkids can still read my cursive, which I don’t think they learn at Lincoln Public Schools anymore. Once again cell phone texting wins the race .

When I asked the grandkids what they thought about my mailing them a card once a week. They all answered, how much they appreciate the notes I send them. I think they appreciate getting something in their mailboxes that isn’t a bill. Also, I frequently include a $20 bill. It can’t hurt!! Thank goodness the grandkids do not request Venmo and still like cash. Because they know they’d never see any money out of my nonexistent Venmo account. Life’s journeys just keep moving forward, postcards or no postcards. Grandmas or no grandmas. OK, we’ll make sure Grandmas will always be there!!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

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

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I Need to Be More Empathetic

I Need to Be More Empathetic

Growing up I was close to my mom. She was and still is my best friend. I could talk to her about anything. I felt comfortable going to her for advice. Now that I have children, I have strived to have continuous open conversations with them.

The Need to Be More Empathetic

However, I realized that I was becoming the parent that gave hugs but not advice. Recently, Cohen came home from a friend’s house abruptly. I could tell something was wrong and I went to chat with him. I found myself comforting him but asked him if he wanted to talk to his dad instead of me. In those situations, I never know what to say and I am scared to say the wrong thing. When my child is truly in distress because they feel hurt, disappointed, worried or angry, they desperately need their parent. I am glad he feels comfortable with Mitch but I need to strive to do better. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to see them feeling negatively, so my first instinct is to tell them not to feel the way they do. I suck at empathy. I give hugs and kiss boo-boos but I realized that if I don’t show empathy this results in my child feeling ashamed of how they feel, compounding the hurt.

Moreover, the knowledge that their mom does not try to understand them. I don’t want them to feel alone. Basically, this teaches them that opening up, to me, about how they feel makes them feel worse. And this is something, I fear and do not want! It doesn’t help that my husband just got his master’s in counseling, so I know he is more knowledgeable and gives better advice.

During their chats, I try to occupy our daughter. My husband always fills me in on the situation, but I want Cohen to feel comfortable talking with me. In essence, the sympathy requires no emotional investment on my part because I become the powerful saver and rescuer, which makes me feel better but not Cohen. It is the easy way out. So, I have work to do. I am not an empathic person but I need to do better for my kids so they can talk to me.

Examples of How to Honor Feelings

That’s when I hit the google button and asked for examples of what I should say to honor his feelings instead of dismissing them. A few examples below:

  • That’s a big worry. I get it.
  • You are upset. I would be too.
  • You have every right to feel disappointed. I felt like that when I was your age.
  • You are mad. I understand. You have every right.
  • It hurts to see someone do something you want to be able to do but can’t yet.
  • You are mad. I’m sure you have a good reason. I want to hear about it.

So, when either of my children are hurting, I am going to try and give them a solid dose of empathy, so they feel understood and connected to me. When Mitch does this, they immediately feel better and they want his help in problem-solving. In many cases, the empathy is all they need to feel better. Simply knowing we understand allows them to feel secure and forge ahead.

Having an empathic response requires me to shift from how I feel about the situation to how my child feels. It’s me remembering how it feels to be the worst one at something or picked on so I can relate to my child. It’s selfless and it puts my child first, emotionally. Empathy creates a rugged work ethic and resilience. Hopefully, my children will learn empathy through their father, and now my ways, and will thrive on adversity instead of breaking down when negative things happen.

For now, I plan to continue to work on having empathy so I can stay close to my children. I need to remember to empathize is to empower, so the reward will be priceless.

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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Remaining Positive During an Injury

Remaining Positive During an Injury

We all hate to see it. The play is over, and players in the pile get up, but one player doesn’t. Sometimes you see the injury as it happens. Sometimes it is a mystery. Either way, nothing quiets a crowd like a sports injury. It does not matter whether it occurs in pre-school T-ball or the Super Bowl.

Youth sports injuries are an unfortunate, but inevitable part of any young athlete’s playing journey. The severity ranges from out-for-one-game to out-for-the-season or even out-for-the-year.

My Son’s Soccer Injury

This is a topic near and dear to me, and for all the moms out there. I am sure I am not alone. It recently happened to my son. It wasn’t during a game, but he broke his collarbone while running, well falling, at conditioning for soccer.

However, we initially didn’t think it was broken. Cohen was in pain for a couple of days, we continued to ice it and gave him Tylenol. He could move his arm and shoulder, so we thought it was just a bruised collarbone. He even went swimming 3 days after the fall. The next week he had his annual physical with his doctor before the start of the new school year. The doctor noticed his collarbone and wanted him to get x-rays. Sure enough, Cohen had a small break. He was issued a brace and the orthopedic doctor said no contact sports for at least 6 weeks.

Tears immediately followed as Cohen knew the fall soccer season was about to begin. It was so difficult as a parent to not only watch your son in physical pain but now emotional pain and blame yourself for not seeking treatment sooner. He was playing 3 days a week and now, nothing. Not to mention, he was starting middle school now, having to wear a brace and not being able to participate in PE, his favorite subject in school.

Managing Pain and Emotions

His dad and I knew we needed to talk with him about his frustrations and empathize with his feelings. We had to support him as he worked hard to return to soccer, even as we helped distract him from the injury by encouraging him to pursue other interests he could still participate in while on injured reserve.

We had him still attend practice and he sat on the bench at games and helped the assistant coach take stats. Which I believe, helped him see the game in a different way. He realized he is still part of the team and I feel that he stepped up into a leadership role, even on the bench. One of the hardest parts of being injured was him not feeling like he was part of the team. Staying closely involved helped with that.

The obvious first step, which we didn’t do, is to get a definitive diagnosis if your child is suffering from an injury and not to wait. It will be better for you and for your athlete if you know exactly what you are dealing with. When will it heal? Will they need surgery? All these uncertainties add to anxiety. Luckily for Cohen, it is healing correctly just slowly. If he continues to listen to the doctor, get plenty of rest and restrain his arm/shoulder movement he’ll be back on the field sooner. Until then, he does footwork drills, passes and shoots, and is anxiously awaiting the okay to start playing.

An injury to an athlete is devastating; however, it does not have to signal the end of sports if the doctor agrees. Cohen will heal and get back into the game. And I continuously tell him that hurrying this process is not a good idea, take the required time to heal and think long-term. A couple missed scrimmages in practice and one missed game out of many will not hinder their long-term success.

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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Taking Family Vacations

Taking Family Vacations

The kids are out of school, and we’ve banked up just enough vacation time for this exact moment. After a few years of travel being limited, it’s time for a summer trip!

Do you recall that one summer vacation or that one family trip as a child that was etched into your mind as one of your best memories ever? Every year as a kid my family would always go on a family vacation. It usually centered around Nebraska Football but nonetheless, it was a family vacation. I knew I wanted my children to make the same kind of memories. So, when my husband and I started a family, I knew family vacations were a must.

In the early years, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together so our vacations were shoestring budget worthy – but we made memories. We began small with a weekend getaway over spring break to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It was perfect for a young family and consisted of a free visit to Cabela’s, which was kind of like a zoo.

As the kids got older, the vacations changed. We saved enough money…well that is with the help of the grandparents, to make a trip to Disney World. Like they say, “It’s the most magical place on earth,” and it truly was special.

Then COVID-19 grounded us for a while but last fall we finally brought back family vacations. We made it to Estes Park, Colorado for a week which included hiking, shopping, horseback riding and a quick trip to the Denver Broncos Stadium.

This last month we went to Branson, Missouri. And when I say we, there were eight of us. This vacation was extra special, not only did my parents come but my brother and niece joined us. This trip was filled with mini golf, a ropes course, roller coasters, the Titanic Museum and our all-time favorite Wonder Works.

Now here’s the thing. Our vacations aren’t perfect. There is always chaos. At any given moment, someone needed an attitude adjustment. We spilled stuff. The photos didn’t turn out great. We forgot to pack important things. We were crammed into one car for what seemed like forever. We got lost. We were hot and sweaty – or freezing. But all those things made the memories!

Between the numerous amounts of putt-putting, sitting around the pool, horseback riding, trying to spot a bear or a moose around the edge of the mountains, and talking about life – those are the little things and the big things everyone will remember.

On top of the memories and bonds that are built, it’s healthy to get out of the normal routine of life. Life at home is filled with responsibilities. Between our jobs, errands to run and responsibilities to be kept, vacations are filled with joy and are usually worry-free. They allow us time to breathe fresher air, see bigger cities, ride down a river and learn a little history. They also give us the opportunity to explore together. They provide the backdrop for shared memories between grandparents, parents and kids, which cultivates a closer family bond. Vacations provide opportunities to learn about the world we live in, cultures different from our own, and the benefits of being open-minded.

If you have been putting your vacation off, take a moment to think of the importance of family vacations so you can regenerate and reconnect with your loved ones.

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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Bringing Nebraska to My Grandkids

Bringing Nebraska to My Grandkids

My husband, John, and I read the paper online every day. It’s not a perfect method as it adds more screen time for each of us and we actually prefer holding a paper in our hands. Print media is fondly remembered, but the online option was a decision we made and we’ve adjusted to the change.

On May 25, 2022, I read a local view on the opinion page entitled, Who do we want to keep? The opinion piece was written by a retired mother who lives in Lincoln and her daughter who now works and lives in Colorado. The premise was how some state officials are proposing keeping young professionals in Lincoln, since so many are leaving Nebraska. I thought it was a well-written piece and it made me think. Those pieces are worth my time and effort to read and digest. A couple of days later, I looked at the comments posted online referring to the article. Wow! I read some very differing views of the article. I was surprised about the varying degrees of responses until John informed me all opinion pieces are either loved or hated and readers love to share their two cents about the previous comment. Our divisions in this country don’t allow for much middle ground to allow compromise.

Talking to my Grandkids About Their Plans

Back to me thinking about the article part. After graduating from college, one of our daughters lived in Kansas and the other in Colorado. I truly put pressure on them to return to Nebraska because of my belief in the LPS school system. I truly believed, and still believe, Lincoln has an outstanding school system and I wanted to make sure the education of my grandchildren was the best it could be. Eventually, both daughters and their families made their way back to Lincoln. Three of our four grandchildren left Nebraska to attend schools in other states. Our fourth grandchild is going to school in Nebraska. The opinion piece made me wonder if the three granddaughters might someday return to Nebraska.

Their responses were varied and interesting but they all agreed they would probably not return to Nebraska to live. I asked them why. All three of the girls indicated they liked the opportunities and experiences they have had in the big city. They loved the diversity they experienced in college with foreign students and individuals who didn’t look like themselves. Each granddaughter individually stated they loved having people they knew really listen to their thoughts and dreams. They didn’t always agree with each other, but there was respect. Each granddaughter expressed the opportunity to learn about other cultures and shared fun experiences about trips to different areas of their respective communities, cultural events, markets and churches. Lastly, they felt they were truly accepted by others in their communities.

I told them their comments were well thought out, but I couldn’t imagine everything was perfect and every day was a kumbaya celebration. They laughed and agreed each of their lives wasn’t perfect, but for the most part they were all happy and wouldn’t change a thing.

Bringing Nebraska to Them

It’s important to note, each of our granddaughters are new to their real working world, living in apartments and enjoying their lives. Their opinions may change once they look for homes and begin contemplating their futures. Certainly marriage, children and working opportunities will all play a role in their decisions. However, when older generations, trying vainly to hold onto power, make decisions for, instead of with younger generations the prospects on attracting and retaining the next, young future Nebraskans, does not appear to be promising.

I told my grandkids if they choose not to return to Nebraska to live, I’ll bring Nebraska to them and split my time between here and whichever state they decide to live in. I’ll bring Nebraska to them!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

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

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Getting Ready for Middle School

Getting Ready for Middle School

Middle school. Just saying the words brings me thoughts of puberty and pimples. Of insecurity and awkwardness, including bad hair and braces. Really, middle school years, I believe may be the most challenging and confusing time in one’s life.

However, the idea of changing schools for middle school is new to me. I went to a private school that was Kindergarten through 8th grade, so I never had to transition to middle school. Recently, Cohen and I had information night at his new middle school. We took a tour, met some of the staff, asked questions, and learned about expectations and procedures. He had so many questions that I tried to answer but again I didn’t go to middle school, so this is new to the both of us. Cohen says he is ready, but I am not.

Since he is my oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, he’s excited about meeting new people, having new experiences and gaining more independence. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching him grow. I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. I’ve heard lots of stories about kids making bad choices, giving in to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriateness and trying to do grown-up things far too soon. I’m sure he’s aware of these things as well.

Part of me wants to think he is too smart and too good to fall into those traps. But then there is the real me, that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

Yes, I have taught him basic values and morals, but now, more than ever is the time to help him apply it all. I believe middle school is the ideal time to mentor him in how to practically work out the character qualities that he learned as a boy. He is so sweet, loving, kind and innocent – and I don’t want that to change.

Because he is our first child, it may seem like the other parents are giving freedoms and privileges that I will not; I may be stricter, but I hope to stand my ground and not feel pressured to do the same. I know my son better than anyone, and I can make the call when the time is right to do these so-called more grown-up things.

And perhaps my greatest job during these years is to study my son and determine just where he is on that spectrum of growth and development, mentally and physically, and parent him accordingly. Not according to a number (grade or age). I do not want to parent him according to what his friends are doing. I want to do the very best thing for him, in the stage he is currently in.

For me, hitting the middle school years is like getting to half-time of an important game: I may be ahead now, but the game’s not over. I need to towel-off, get a big drink of water and then gear up for the second half. This is something that I want to finish strong.

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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You Are Loved, You Have a Purpose, You are an Inspiration

You Are Loved, You Have a Purpose, You are an Inspiration

Dear Reader:

You have been on my heart lately. I am often curious as to who actually reads my blogs. Each new month, I write, I delete, I rewrite, with the vision of you, my audience, in my heart as I prepare to share our stories. And while each month I share a small piece of my heart, this month has a different approach.

I am sure you have felt a wide range of emotions today. Maybe your day has been overflowing with blessings and joys. Maybe your day has been one stressful situation followed by another. Maybe you are completely exhausted. Maybe you are overwhelmed with grief. Maybe you are feeling inspired. Maybe you are filled with anticipation.

A Message to Readers

My dear reader, it doesn’t matter the stage of life you are in: the 20-something college student, the working parent, the single parent, the grandparent, the stay-at-home parent, or whatever the role, each day brings both joys and doubts. Each decade brings you new joys, new trials and tribulations, and new stories. And my hope is that each one of you can take away one small nugget of inspiration each new month.

You are Loved. You have a Purpose. You are an Inspiration. While it may be difficult for many to truly communicate their purpose, I do believe we all want our lives to leave an impact, to create a positive change. Your purpose doesn’t come out of the blue, it comes from all of the meaningful places and connections you have already been to. These moments are part of your story and your story is inspiring. Trust me, whether you realize it or not, I am inspired by you, my audience.

To the single parent, you inspire me in more ways than you will ever know. I have a high regard for your ability to wear the parent hat, the goofy hat, the nurse hat, the hard hat, the teacher hat, and the list goes on and on AND you do it with dignity and grace.

To the working parent, you have my heart. It is difficult to maintain a home while giving of yourself to your career. While there may be days of complete exhaustion, you still muster every ounce of time and give to those around you — you inspire me.

To the grandparent, oh I just love you all. Your selfless demeanor, and the giving of your time are so greatly appreciated. Yet, the best part is your willingness to share the many stories and experiences you have lived. You have a purpose and are loved.

To the 20-something adult, you are loved. It may seem as if life is constantly bringing about change, or figuring out how to make ends meet each month, or even deciding what you want to do with your life — live your best life. From my experience, the 20s were ridiculously challenging, but I also experienced the best moments of my life during this decade. You inspire me, even now well into middle-age.

To friends, you are important as ever. It does not matter if you are a lifelong friend or a later in life friend, you make life more enjoyable. Friends are beautiful people who listen, who uplift, who strengthen, who even can calm overreactions. You have a purpose and you inspire me.

A Standing Ovation

One of my favorite quotes from Auggie Pullman in the movie Wonder is, “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

I may not be able to give each one of you a standing ovation, but I want you to know:

You are LOVED.

You have a PURPOSE.

You are an INSPIRATION.

Sincerely,

Shelly

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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Is it a Tantrum or a Meltdown, and How can I Best Respond?

Is it a Tantrum or a Meltdown, and How can I Best Respond?

My daughter turned eight over the weekend. We had a small slumber party with her closest friends. But the day before the party, I threatened to cancel it altogether.

It’s not just toddlers that have tantrums, even older kids can lose their cool. This happens to Collyns at least once or twice a week.

She has strong feelings that take over her entire body. This happens when she is angry, hurt or frustrated. Sometimes for no reason, sometimes over homework, most of the time when it comes to cleaning up her messes. Usually, I try to ignore the tantrum but that rarely works. Then it’s timeout in her room which makes the tantrum louder and more destructive. So now we are trying something different.

Tantrums Vs. Meltdowns

After doing a little research, I found out that tantrums and meltdowns are different and handling them requires different approaches. They are both overwhelming for her and us as parents. I then reached out to her pediatrician, and she made me realize that learning how to deal with her anger without choosing destructive responses is critical. And understanding the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown helps us properly guide her through these intense times. As parents, our support and guidance matter greatly.

The doctor said that Collyns is most likely having a tantrum. She explained that “tantrums are a normal reaction or outburst to feeling anger or frustration, a cry for attention or an inability to communicate, within a child’s scope of awareness and control, and goal-oriented.”

The reason she said Collyns was having a tantrum and not a meltdown is because meltdowns are most common among children with sensory processing disorders, autism or other medical issues who are easily overstimulated or lack the ability to cope with emotional triggers such as fear or anxiety. Meltdowns are an instinctive survival reaction to being overstimulated or feeling distressed, and are not goal-oriented, meaning they are not affected by a reward system. Meltdowns are long-lasting; and children may never grow out of them like they do tantrums.

The doctor then continued to explain that once the reactive part of her brain has been triggered, the reasoning part of the brain is temporarily ‘offline’. So, explaining or rationalizing with her doesn’t work – the conflict is just likely to escalate. Which it does 99% of the time! So, in short, we have been dealing with her tantrums all wrong.

Learning to Deal With Tantrums

Being alone when she’s very upset doesn’t teach her what she needs to learn either. So, instead of sending her off into her room to calm down when she starts to lose it, we now stay with her and try to just restore a sense of safety. We found that if she feels safe, she can have a big cry, show you all those tears and fears she’s been stuffing down, and let them go. That helps her be more emotionally regulated in general. When having a tantrum, she needs to borrow my strength and calm. I remind myself to keep breathing, not to take anything she says or does personally, and of how much I love her.

Collyns is most certainly over-reacting. She stores up her feelings and waits for a safe place to discharge them and releases. She has a big “backpack” of pent-up emotion that needs to be released; she reacts to provocations that seem slight to me by having big meltdowns. So, while I may not see the reason for such a big reaction, I now see it as a chance to help her work through some feelings that she hasn’t been able to manage.

So now when she loses it, I try to stay calm, comfort her, and realize it’s the perfect time to turn a tantrum into a learning experience.

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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Talking to my Grandkids About Ukraine

Talking to my Grandkids About Ukraine

Every day, for over a month, I have been anxious to get more information about the war in Ukraine. Every day provides a change in the situation as Russia continues to cause uncertainty in Ukraine and around the world. Some news broadcasters believe the Russian aggression against their neighbors will continue to spread until Russia takes over the land they possessed before the USSR fell apart. While not all United States citizens are on the same page, it is the most unifying event we’ve had in years. As usual, I wondered where my grandchildren were in their understanding and support of Ukraine. I need to keep reminding myself, they are not retired and have school and work to occupy their minds. Here are a couple of their questions and a summary of our shared thoughts.

Asking Questions about Ukraine

“Can Putin just do this and get away with it?” My granddaughter isn’t the only one asking this question. Everyone around the world has a similar question. Putin’s bully behavior is nothing new, but it is getting us closer to another world war. Our discussion about another world war made them think about the Nazis. When they were in high school, WWII was studied but they never had a reason to make connections to events that were happening in their lives, in real-time. The comparison of Putin’s actions in Ukraine and his threat of nuclear bombs gave them pause.

Another question thrown to the group was, “How is this affecting us?” One grandkid quickly responded with, “When was the last time you filled your car up with gas?” We all giggled a little, but soon realized the connectedness of the world in which we live. My grandson is studying business and commented how all the stock markets around the world have plunged.

A granddaughter commented on the amount of humanitarian aid countries from all over the world are offering to Ukraine. “The aid is amazing and I’m sure greatly appreciated, but I wonder if, in the grand scale, it will be enough.” They wondered how they could help. They are all strapped for money so giving a monetary amount is not an option. I asked if there were any rallies, marches or prayer vigils they could lend their voices to. They agreed to look into it. I also reminded them to be welcoming to refugees, all refugees. My comment was followed with a, “Duh, grandma!!” Yep, my bad.

Staying Connected in Uncertain Times

I brought our conversation to a close with my most recent contact with a refugee from Ukraine. After I retired from education, I keep in contact with school kids by volunteering my time to TeamMates and the North Star ELL programs. It was pre-pandemic when I was linked with a North Star freshman who had arrived from Ukraine one week earlier. It was my charge to assist her in adapting to conversational English. Yullia could not speak a word of English and I, obviously could not speak Ukrainian. Soon, I realized we were teaching each other many things. We would walk around the building. I would point at an object (i.e., door) say the word, and Yuliia would translate it into Ukrainian on the app on her phone. We spent the entire year learning together and by its end, Yuliia no longer needed my assistance. She was amazing.

Telling the grandkids this story brought back many wonderful memories. I reminded all four of them there are many ways to connect with people and events around the world, but most importantly, they need to keep connected with me!

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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Finding Balance in a Busy Schedule

Finding Balance in a Busy Schedule

Do you ever just want to quit? Your heart is overwhelmed, the busyness is all-consuming. There are definitely seasons like this and for some, it happens more than others. Some of us can stop and look at the flowers, for others we stop, pick the flowers, run home, cut the stems at an angle and then arrange them in a vase.

Pause for a minute.

My parents rushed us from our weekend basketball tournaments to dropping my sibling off at volleyball practice, while I needed to get to my piano lesson before participating in both our late-night basketball games. My parents’ vehicle looks like a disaster from fast food wrappers to water bottles. Don’t forget our backpacks as my siblings and I try to catch up on homework in between activities.

If we believe our hearts are overwhelmed and busyness is consuming us…what about our own teenagers?

Overscheduled

Most days, if not all, I see teenagers (mine included) rushing from one activity to the next, overextending themselves in pursuit of social, academic, athletic and leadership opportunities. And, why? Because of grades; because of college; because they are told they have to; because they are told if they do not participate in year-round sports they will not find success; because their friends are doing it; because ______ (fill in the blank).

It is no wonder our teenagers are stressed both physically and mentally.

When I look back at the start of the global pandemic, everything just stopped. We were forced to declutter our lives. And honestly, some of those moments during the pandemic I hold closest to my heart. Our family spent time together completing puzzles, watching birds, gardening (or at least trying to garden) and even cooking. As we navigate into the new normal, it seems as if society is reverting back to rushing around from activity to activity. Our teenagers feel the pressure from all different angles to maintain their hectic schedules with no downtime.

Finding Balance

With our own overscheduled children, healthy conversations about commitments and truly understanding their passions helps create a healthy balance. Around our home, we also extend grace. If our kids want to sleep in, we let them sleep in. Their growing bodies need it. We protect two weeks of our summer where there can only be family commitments — no academic, athletic or social commitments. We talk about strategies to combat stress, especially when busy days occur.

As parents, we often step back and reflect on our own lives. My challenge is for parents to truly step back and reflect on the commitments they are asking of their children. Are the commitments we are asking of our children truly bringing them joy and providing the time to discover who they are?

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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