Breaking Through to My Grandkids

Breaking Through to My Grandkids

For many reasons, communicating with teenaged grandkids can be difficult. I know I’m a lucky grandma because my grandkids live near me in Lincoln. However, I still don’t get a chance to see them as often as I would like, and even though I can see my grandkids every day, I may not be communicating very well. As my grandkids continue to get older and become more independent, I’m finding that I need to adjust my expectations to stay in touch.

Feeling Out of the Loop

I always thought of myself as adaptable, but adjusting to less communication with my grandkids was not something I ever anticipated.

My grandkids’ lives are different than they were in elementary and middle school. Now, they’re on their phones, they drive, they work, they study, they’re in sports, and sometimes they even have a “special” friend. I am not complaining! All my grandkids are growing into hard-working, young adults and they make me proud each and every day. However, maintaining quality conversations amongst all these distractions is hard.

I assumed my grandkids would always want to see their grandma and tell her what was going on in their lives. I still think my grandkids want to see me and talk to me, but I’m now competing for other things that need their attention like school, work and friends. I get it. These are life skills, which will turn them into wonderful, caring adults but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

In the Good Ol’ Days

As I write this blog, I’m reflecting back on my days as a teenager and my relationship with my grandparents. (Hmm, maybe I should have reflected on this before I started writing this blog!)

My greatest memories of my grandparents were when I was in elementary school. I would help my maternal grandmother work in her garden and she’d let me eat peas right out of the pods. I’m sure I made a dent in her yield! I remember visiting my paternal grandparents’ farm and learning how to collect eggs from the chicken coup. Collecting eggs, while avoiding the chicken poop, was always a challenge.

When I grew up and started high school, there were movies to see and friends to meet at the swimming pool or on the ice pond for skating. And, yes, I even did some studying. Come to think of it, maybe things aren’t so different?

Turning the Corner

There is something different now: technology. The phones, the texting, the instant communication has made it easier than ever to stay within arm’s length. So, maybe I don’t have it so bad after all? My grandkids don’t usually initiate a text, but they always respond when I send one.

This blog is certainly not ending as I intended. I think I’m ending it with my first, and maybe only, New Year’s resolution, albeit a little late. From now on, I’ll text each grandkid at least three times a week, but rather than telling them what I’m doing, or asking them questions about their day, I will just send them a positive statement. Something like what my grandparents said to me:

  • I’m grateful for you.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I love being your grandma.
  • I believe in you.
  • You are important.
  • You make me proud.

I’m not going to feel sorry for myself that I can’t speak to my grandkids as much as I want. I feel loved, needed and eager to show my grandkids how much I love them. Some things may have changed, but luckily some things will always be the same.

So, forget the Debbie Downer form of me in the first part of this blog. Focus on the positives, love your grandkids, and remember, you’ll need to change just as much as 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.

Five Tips for a Successful Snow Day

Five Tips for a Successful Snow Day

Snow days — I love them and I hate them — despite the sheer joy at hearing the early morning news about a snow day. According to our three kids, I was “that” mom today. You know “that” mom who makes all of her children do their chores. “That” mom who makes her children do their homework. “That” mom who is crabby all day long.

Snow Day Expectations

My kids and I had different expectations of what our snow day should look like. Each of them had their day planned out from playing video games to staying curled up in blankets to watching movies. My expectations were a little different.

According to my children, I was the ONLY mom in the entire state requiring kids to do chores and homework all day long on a snow day. One would have thought I asked all three kids to write a dissertation. For about two hours “that” mom surfaced and so did frustration, arguing, tears and disappointment.

In the midst of the two hours here are just a few of our interactions:

  • Our oldest: “Mom, I am tired of doing laundry! That is all I have done since your surgery.”
  • Middle daughter: “Mom, you have unrealistic expectations. I don’t understand what I even have to do.”
  • Our youngest: “I hate homework. Why are you making me complete the entire week of assignments? I still have two days before my spelling test.”
  • Our oldest daughter: “Please everyone just quit arguing.”

Facing My Disappointment

Knowing how busy the rest of our week was going to be due to schedule changes, I knew we finally had a day to get ahead on chores and homework. My kids couldn’t see my vision for the day and I made it known that I was disappointed. I was not only disappointed in how we were treating each other, but also that my kids were not helping out around the house.

I felt guilty that I did not extend any grace to my kids. I was disappointed in myself for not recognizing their need to just have a lazy day. Our kids are pushed to do so much during the school day, especially our teenagers who are feeling the pressure to keep good grades and be involved in organizations. Today, what I failed to see is that all three kids are stressed either with their schedules and homework. They just wanted a day to relax. If adults need a break sometimes, kids definitely need one too.

Tips for Surviving A Snow Day

After everyone calmed down and completed their homework, everyone was able to enjoy watching movies for playing videos games. However, I decided to write down a few tips in the hopes that the next snow day does not escalate to tears and unrealistic expectations.

  • Give up on productivity: Our kids do need some down time, especially our son who just loves being home. He finds his peace and needs his quiet time at home.
  • Let the kids be kids: I need to encourage our kids to be more childlike, even our teenagers, particularly on snow days.
  • Extend some grace: I definitely can do better on this, knowing our kids have had virtually every chore added to their lists, as I am recovering from a surgery. I just needed to breathe and extend some grace.
  • Turn the technology off
  • Set better expectations: If anything does need to be accomplished I will set better expectations. For example as a family we will sort, wash and fold three loads of laundry.

A snow day can throw a wrench into any schedule. With the help of the tips above, hopefully the next snow day can be a little more relaxing and childlike before “that” mom comes out.

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.

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

I have never been more excited and sad to register Collyns for kindergarten. It’s only January but I already filled out the necessary paperwork and made her appointment for her kindergarten physical. August 13 can’t get here soon enough! My last baby will be in school come the fall. Yes, I am sad. Yes, I will cry. But, that means no more full-time daycare! Now I feel like there is a light at the end of this daycare tunnel. Read More

How to Promote Healthy Screen Time for Your Kids

How to Promote Healthy Screen Time for Your Kids

Today’s children are growing up immersed in digital media. In the past couple years, we have seen an explosion of social media, different devices and ways for kids to interact with technology.

The concept of screen time is also changing. Kids used to spend their screen time watching TV. Now with computers children and teens are not really watching as much TV, although they are watching shows on their computers. And of course they’re watching YouTube! They’re also on Instagram and Snapchat. Plus, a lot of their schoolwork and homework is done on the computer.

All of this changes how we look at screen time.

Changing Times and a New Way to Look at Screen Time

In the past, the recommendation was two hours of screen time a day, and that was pretty straightforward. Nowadays, if we set a two-hour limit a lot of kids would hit that before lunchtime because they’re doing homework on screens in their classrooms. So we have to look at screen time differently. Rather than a specific number of hours per day, we need to look at what types of media children are using and the value of the interaction.

Think of Screen Time like the Food Pyramid

There are things we should have sparingly and there are things that should fill more of our plate.

At the top of the pyramid, the fats and sweets of screen time use, is mindless watching. This is where a child sits in front of the TV (or on an iPad or computer) and watches cartoons. This is fine when parents need to make dinner, or the child needs a break to watch their favorite show. It’s just not something you want to do all the time.

Below that on the food pyramid I think of watching shows with your child. This is better because you’re able to engage with your child. Instead of your child just sitting there, you can enjoy the show with them. You can ask, “What would you do if that happened to you?” Or, “What do you think she’s going to do next?” This creates a conversation and encourages your child to think about different things while watching something fun.

Below that, and even better, are educational games where your child can either learn something or solve puzzles. This engages your child’s mind. So when you’re breaking up screen time, you can allow more time for activities versus mindless show watching.

Guidelines for Screen Time by Your Child’s Age

Under 18 months

Use screens as sparingly as possible. Sometimes younger children will be exposed to screens when older siblings are watching TV or are on the computer. I would try to be aware of this and prevent it from happening as much as possible.

Around age 2

You can start to introduce screen time. I encourage parents to be very consistent and thoughtful about what types of digital media your children are exposed to. Giving a child a cell phone at a restaurant to help them wait until the food arrives, that’s fine. I worry more when kids are at home and instead of playing with a parent, sibling or toy, they’re in front of a TV or tablet.

Early Tweens and Older Children

Starting in the early tween years (and even around age 8), I would definitely have a very close eye on your child’s screen time use. This is where children develop a lot of habits they might have for the rest of their life in terms of screen time and the way they interact with others online.

For older kids, there’s Instagram, Snapchat and a million other social media platforms. Being very careful about how much time you allow your child to have on these platforms is critical. It’s also important to make sure they aren’t replacing all of their interaction with their friends and peers with online interaction.

Guidelines for parents:

  • Know your child’s passwords
  • Be able to look at their phone/device at any time
  • All devices should sleep, meaning charge somewhere other than the bedroom so notifications don’t disrupt sleep
  • Children should use their screens in public places in the house, the family room or kitchen table

Setting guidelines gives your child some autonomy and also protects them from some of the dangers that exist with social media.

Be a Role Model

The other thing I share with parents is being a role model for your child. So if I as a parent tell my children to get off their screens, but then I’m getting notifications and looking at my phone at the dinner table, or pulling my phone out when we’re having family time, I’m not modeling what I want my children to do.

It’s very important to have time where we say no phones, and we put them in a basket or a different room, and sit down for dinner or a nice conversation without anyone getting notifications or hearing text message dings. We have to model self-control as parents and say, “Okay, I’m going to put my phone on silent so we can talk, relax, watch this show together, read books or go play outside.” This shows your child what’s important to you.

Set Family Rules for Screen Time

Whatever you decide for your family, I encourage you to sit down and talk about it together, write it on a piece of paper, put it on the fridge and say, “This is our plan for screen time.” It shows your children that screen time is important for all of us.

Setting rules for everyone, and modeling that behavior as parents, reinforces that while screens are useful and have a lot to offer us, there are more important ways to interact and more important things to do than be consumed with our screens all the time.

Join our Facebook Group

Phil Boucher, MD is a pediatrician with Lincoln Pediatric Group. You’re invited to join his Facebook group for parents called “Present and Productive Parents.”

Join today, start learning and connecting with other parents.

Phil Boucher, MD

Phil Boucher, MD

Pediatrician with Lincoln Pediatric Group.

Returning Gifts Online: Tips for Senior Citizens

Returning Gifts Online: Tips for Senior Citizens

When your grandkids are older, you no longer ask their parents what they’d like for Christmas and birthdays; you go straight to the source. Maybe they’ll tell you what they really want, but are afraid to ask for it from their parents. Perhaps I’m still waiting for the day when they say, “Nothing, Grandma. Just to connect more with you.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

When I asked the grandkids what they wanted for Christmas, I immediately received a string of texts from them with the picture, website and description of the item they wanted.

They were all so patient with me and explained everything in more detail. Unfortunately, everything I asked was already in a previous text. Multiple messages later, I can just hear them telling their friends, “Oh my gosh! My grandma is so slow!”

I did my best this year to follow everyone’s suggestions. I found the website, and did my best to pick out the perfect size, perfect color and perfect gift. I felt so proud knowing I made the appropriate online orders for everyone this holiday season.

I try to set a limit to the amount of money I spend on each grandkid, equal amounts for everyone. It isn’t always perfect, but I make it darn close. I work on making sure each grandkid has at least four presents under the tree. A pair of sneakers can be over $100, so I have to be careful. Sometimes I can find a sale and include three sweaters in one package. The kids understand and acknowledge my efforts with joyous laughter…or is it mockery?

All the gifts arrived at our home in time for me to wrap and add them to the bounty of gifts beneath the tree. Christmas morning came and our family had a great celebration. This year, I went two for two in the gift department. Two grandkids didn’t have to return a thing! Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, two grandkids weren’t so lucky. I had to google how to return these gifts. Turns out returning gifts online is a little more complicated – even more so when you’re a senior citizen. Let me tell you, it’s tough.

Here are some tips I found:

  1. Don’t open the box.
  2. Keep all the gift receipts.
  3. Check the return policy.
  4. Have or bring your ID.

I bought two polo shirts from Macy’s online. They were on sale. Yippee! They didn’t fit. Bummer. I think I’ll get reimbursed, but I bought a replacement shirt at Von Maur in the right size just in case. So much for a two-for-one.

As for the Adidas tennis shoes I bought online: Even though I ordered the requested size, they were the wrong size. I ordered new ones and returned the old. So far, so good. However, the second pair was also the wrong size! Now I can’t find the second order number or the email. I think I’m ready to hit my own personal delete button. Okay, maybe it’s not all that bad, but I’m out of my league. Tomorrow, I’m heading to the actual Adidas Store.

After all this, I have some of my own tips to add to my Google list for grandparents:

  1. Keep track of your orders and texts from your grandkids.
  2. Print off your email confirmations, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.
  3. When in doubt, blame the grandkids. I think this is the best tip of all. I did nothing wrong, it’s all their fault.
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.

How Small Changes Make a Big Difference

How Small Changes Make a Big Difference

We have a wall hanging that says “And I think to myself what a wonderful world.” My plan is to hang up pictures representing all of our family adventures and vacations around this sign. I think it’s the perfect focal point to display the wonderful places we have traveled.

However, I’ve been too busy to hang the rest of the pictures up, and often times when I’m home, the last thing I want to do is spend my time hanging pictures. Read More

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I know it’s not Mother’s Day, but it is a time to reflect on the relationships you have in your life and be thankful for them.

A mother-daughter relationship is one of the most significant bonds in my life. It’s amazing, complex and trying at times – but so fulfilling and beautiful! Growing up, and still to this day, my mother’s my best friend. Sure, I was a daddy’s girl, but I knew my mother was always and is still there for me. I was lucky to see and share in the relationship between my mother and grandmother, experience the bond my mother and I have, and now cherish the relationship Collyns and I started. The memories I have with my grandma are precious to me, and I want Collyns to experience that bond between a grandmother, mother and daughter.

Why Mother-Daughter Bonds are Special

When Mitch and I decided to have children, I wanted a girl. I actually wanted all girls. After we had our son, I realized how special a protective older brother is. Then, I got pregnant with our second child, and I knew right away it was a girl. I was excited that I got to share in the same experience my mother and grandmother had as well as the relationship between my mother and me.

I get a lot of questions when it comes to my mother being my best friend. Especially, how we deal with our own mother-daughter issues and struggles. I’m definitely not an expert and don’t have all the answers, but I love sharing my thoughts and experiences.

I found that at every stage in the relationship has challenged from toddler through adulthood. A mother-daughter relationship is the first time we learn about trust, separation and connection, and putting another’s needs ahead of your own. What’s most important to us is open communication and lots of love and understanding!

My mother and I share a lot of common interests. We both like sports – especially the Huskers – going to concerts, traveling and shopping. The saying holds true for me, “I am my mother’s daughter.” She is my number one go-to-gal when it comes to not doing these things alone!

Growing a Bond With My Own Daughter

Throughout my life, I’ve made time for my mother. We’ve always been close, and she’s the main reason I’ve stayed in Nebraska. Every day I call or text her at least once, most of the time it’s a lot more. My husband rolls his eyes every time I say, “Hold on, I need to call my mom.” No matter what my week consists of, I always find time to see her at least once! Recently, we’ve included my daughter Collyns – we love having a girls day!

To sum it all up, I love my mom unconditionally, we have mutual respect, healthy boundaries, honesty and open communication, and that’s why it’s one of the best relationships I’ll ever experience. Hopefully my daughter and I will continue to grow in our special bond we share as mother and daughter.

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!

4 Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season

4 Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season

I vividly remember how special my parents made the Christmas season, especially Christmas Eve. We had supper, went to midnight mass and then around 1:30 in the morning, we opened presents. Somehow mom managed to keep all the gifts hidden, and while we opened presents she had a story for each one. One year, she even managed to convince my brother and I that we got a karaoke machine. Read More

I Want My Mommy

I Want My Mommy

Some children say goodbye and hop right into the classroom without a backwards glance. Others have a hard time leaving the protective arms of the parent. Sometimes, it’s the parent who has a hard time letting go. Read More

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