Let’s Talk About Santa

Let’s Talk About Santa

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a question that has haunted me each of the past few Christmases: Will this be the year my kids stop believing in Santa? If they ask, how do I tell them the truth? And how do I tell them the true meaning of Santa? The holidays are a magical time of year, but for parents, the Santa issue can pose a real dilemma.

The Questions Have Already Started

My son is 10 and in 5th grade. For the last two years, he has questioned the realness of Santa. And of course, there are those kids who try and spoil it for everyone and make him wonder. Even though I know it’s natural, I’m not ready for my wide-eyed, innocent, trusting baby to be a logical, thoughtful, questioning human. I don’t want the days of his implicit trust in me to be a thing of the past.

I know the magic of being a kid can only last so long. But this year, I am trying to hold on for one more moment. But inevitably, I will have to tell him that Santa Claus is not really one single, human with a big belly, a white beard, flying reindeer, and an arsenal of magical tools without which Christmas would not happen. On the plus side, I might not have to do elf on a shelf anymore.

My son continues to ask me if Santa is real and my response, “If Santa weren’t real, who bought you these gifts?” He never assumes it’s me because he thinks that I’m cheap. Plus, he knows I would never create the mess the elves make so it can’t be mom or dad.

But this made me realize that maybe we shouldn’t be telling our kids about Santa from the beginning. If I could do it all over again, I would have been honest about Santa. It may sound strange, but I truly think it’s possible to believe in Santa without believing he’s real.

One Way to Keep the Magic Alive

I would have explained to them that, no, Santa isn’t a real person like me and you. He doesn’t really live at the North Pole with a bunch of cute little elves and reindeer, and he doesn’t really fly around the world in one night jumping down chimneys and delivering gifts. But I’d also tell them that this is a magical story that a lot of people love to pretend is real when it’s Christmas time. However, this idea of Santa may be the way I break the news to Cohen.

Another mom shared this letter, and if Cohen asks again this year, I believe this is how I will respond, maybe not in a letter but with similar words.

Dear (Child),

You asked a really good question. “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one single Santa.

We are the people who fill your stocking and choose the presents under the tree—just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them and you will probably do for your kids someday.

This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends and in God.

You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and happiness. We are on his team and now you are, too.

Letting Our Kids Make Their Own Story

So, whether your kids are on the cusp of seeking out the truth about Santa, or whether you’ve got a few more years of childlike innocence to capitalize on, hold this mom’s words in your heart. You can empower your kids to spread love, joy and peace, and the true meaning of Santa.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing isn’t whether Santa is real or not; it’s all about the space you create around the story. Ultimately, the way you deal with Santa in your home is a very personal choice and something you have to decide for yourself.

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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A Progressive Grandma, That’s Me!

A Progressive Grandma, That’s Me!

I’ve always thought I was a progressive grandma. I have tried to model an accepting, caring, giving type of behavior. For years, I included the grandkids in my time volunteering with the Food Bank, Malone Center and Vacation Bible School. The grandkids stuck with me through thick and thin as we worked during rain storms, heat waves, and freezing weather during their summer and winter breaks. I wanted to make sure they knew there were people in the community who were in need and model for them ways to assist all Lincolnites. All four of them were troopers and I loved watching their growth for giving. I felt, and still feel, it was the best way I could be a good role model.

Changing with the Times

I recently sent the grandkids a picture of me volunteering at the Lincoln Food Bank filling bags of food for their Door Dash deliveries. They were amazed at the changes made within the past couple of years. Door Dash drivers deliver to seniors unable to leave their homes. How creative and amazing!

While we were discussing the changes made in the past several years, they all agreed things are vastly different from those “old” days and are thankful people are adjusting with the times. I silently wondered if they were referring to my ability to change with the times. I smiled and agreed we needed to keep up and adjust when needed. Internally, I thought, what the heck is going on?? We ended our FaceTime throwing kisses to the camera and looking forward to our next gathering.

Finding Where I Fit Today

I’ve always thought of myself as the hip grandma. Then I realized no one in the world uses the word hip anymore, What the heck, where was my mind taking me? My mind began to search for a place of reference so I could capture the moment. What was going on? Where was I in the whole scheme of things? What did the grandkids really think of me during this time of social media and internet overload?

The next thing which came to mind was the Progressive TV commercials that challenge young people not to be like their parents. What? I then gasped and wondered if my grandkids were worried about becoming their grandparents. I took a deep breath and realized they didn’t think they were becoming me, but they were teasing me in their own way. There were things they thought I was doing which were funny to them, but they were certainly not behaviors they were going to follow.

Continuing to Share in My Own Way

Live, Laugh and Love. Yes, I have a towel in our hall bath with those words embroidered on it. I thought it was fun and meaningful. I love including emojis in my texts to the grandkids. So what if I include a lot of hearts and smiley faces? I think they are cute. Confetti flowing in the text when someone achieves a goal is supportive and celebratory, isn’t it?

I asked my grandkids if I was acting old and causing them grief when I did some of these things. They laughed—notice no emoji—and shared that they appreciated my correspondence, and loved seeing my views. There was no ill will, just a great deal of teasing back and forth. We all agreed I was several steps behind their parents and multiple steps behind them, but I was not a loser. Our way of communicating is unique, and they agreed they would continue working with me to ease into a new method of connecting with each of them. Kind of a new way to Live, Laugh and Learn together, even if I am donating the towel to charity.

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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When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

At what age should your child be allowed to get a cell phone? Talk about a loaded question, especially if you’re a parent arguing this point with your child who is upset that they are the only kid in school without a phone. Nowadays, the internet told me that the average age kids get a phone is between 12 and 13. With that in mind, parents are the best judge of whether their children are ready for a cell phone, and the lessons they teach about that readiness can begin at a young age.

When Is the Right Time to Get Your Child a Phone?

Just last week, I had eight of Cohen’s soccer buddies over and many of them had phones, some even had nicer phones than me. I was so surprised. And now, it’s the top item on Cohen’s Christmas list.

Allowing your children to have a cell phone is an extremely personal decision for every parent and family. Almost every expert, non-expert, friend and family member has an opinion on the subject and of course they are happy to share it with you.

Thanks to the well-publicized use of cell phones for safety reasons and school emergencies, parents understandably want their children to have access to the life-saving devices. And I’ll admit, recently, there have been a couple instances where it would have been beneficial for my 10-year-old son to have a phone. Practice ended early and he had to wait for me to pick him up.

Determine The Function the Phone Serves

Not only is a phone on the top of his wish list but, of course, he wants a smartphone. He wants all the bells and whistles like his friends have. BUT does a cell phone or smartphone meet a need, not just for your child but for you and the family as well? I got a phone when I started driving but then again that was 20 years ago and a different time.

When I do go back to work, my son will be home alone for an hour or two after school and a phone would be nice. But for now, he can call me on the Ring doorbell, our Alexa, or through the kid’s Facebook Messenger App. All of these have worked for us so far but then again, he has to be home to use these devices.

My husband and I have discussed at length that Cohen may get a prepaid cell phone that can text and call so we both can stay in touch. He may not necessarily need a smartphone with apps and internet access. I fully expect pushback on this! Many prepaid cell phones are pretty cool these days—they look cool, they take pictures, play music—and have other different features but it’s not a smartphone.

Bottom Line: His first phone probably just needs to be able to text and call.

Set Some Ground Rules

This is still a conversation that continues in our household. My husband of course said, “You can’t just hand the kid a cell phone or smartphone and say, “Have fun! Make good choices!”

His General Rule: It’s much easier to start out strict and loosen up as Cohen proves he is responsible than it is to start out loose and then try to reign him in. Make phone ownership healthy for him and in return, easy on yourself.

I admit that I am probably on my phone way too much at home. I am trying to be in the present but my phone is always next to me and on and I know my children see that. Modeling appropriate cell phone use, limiting access, implementing parental control settings, and teaching Cohen about the dangers of cyberbullying will also take place as soon as that phone is in Cohen’s possession.

So yes, come Christmas, Cohen will most likely be getting a phone. But with the phone comes a cell phone contract that stipulates appropriate phone use, grades, chores, behavior, etc., all laid out with all the consequences. Sign on the dotted line.

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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Small Changes to Make the World Better

Small Changes to Make the World Better

During the pandemic, I tried lots of new things. I enrolled in many online lessons to stay active during lockdown. I also used these diversions to provide some levity to my grandkids’ lives. I didn’t expect them to take on my new challenges or learn new skills, but I wanted to provide a humorous moment and make them smile when they looked at my picture and read about my experience.

Doing Everything to Stay Busy

I took online tap dancing lessons. I tried new techniques for baking bread and crazy desserts. I exercised with YouTube Zumba, weight lifting, using dumbbells and yoga. Every new activity I experimented with taught me new skills and took up some of my “down” time. I have not continued with all of those newly acquired skills, but I have with a few. One of the new lessons I have continued to act on is one of learning about climate change and how I can support climate action in our community and country.

During the pandemic, I joined a committee at our church called the Climate Action Team. Through our monthly zoom classes, I learned about climate change in Nebraska, the United States and the world. The country has been divided for some time over many issues, even climate change. It’s become so divisive the term climate change is often in question. Do we call it a climate crisis? Extreme weather? Global warming? Climate variability?

Asking for My Grandkids’ Opinions

I contacted my grandkids and asked what they thought about climate change. I asked nicely, knowing they are working and studying all of the time. Our zoom conversation went well, according to Grandma’s standards. They were all attentive and didn’t leave the conversation. Not all of the grandkids were always actively involved, but they did give me their attention.

One of the major discussions revolved around why people don’t believe in what’s happening in the world. For them, summers are hot and winters are cold. They’ve always worn shorts in the summer and winter, so what’s new? They all commented on the increase in our national weather patterns. The number of hurricanes, floods and droughts all happening at the same time. A couple of them did admit they hadn’t paid any attention to what was going on in past year’s weather patterns, but they did know the past year has been devastating. Although none of them had been personally impacted by these weather changes, they all knew at least one or two friends who have experienced a traumatic weather event. It did cause them to pause and reflect how these changes could impact them personally.

I then asked the grandkids what we could do as a group or as individuals. They each came up with some good ideas, including not using plastic bottles, walking when possible rather than driving everywhere, and doing a better job of recycling. All great ideas!

Making Simple Changes

I left my Grandma Zoom discussion with a couple of challenges. I asked them to continue to learn about these changes and take action to get more involved. I asked them to hope for the future of our earth so their grandchildren will not have to worry about the climate in their lifetime.

I closed with a reminder that when listening to a denier, find commonalities first. This is a good strategy in all areas of life.

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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Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is there really a “right time” to get pregnant? As it turns out, everyone you ask will likely give you a different answer. It’s a question just about every person considers once they enter adulthood. The answer will not only be different for different people but may change during your life.

When a couple gets married, they are almost always faced with the inevitable pester from friends and family: So when are you having kids? The older you are, the more pressing the question seems to be. Ticktock, ticktock.

There’s No Right Age to Have Kids

It may be that in your twenties, having kids later feels right… but once you’re in your mid-30s, you still aren’t sure. Or you may decide at 30 that now is the right time. Of course, the optimal time for a woman to get pregnant is when she’s ready—physically, emotionally, mentally and financially—and this time varies greatly from woman to woman. For my husband and me, we jumped at having kids right away. We were in our mid-twenties and still newlyweds. Every couple’s first year of marriage can be exciting for many reasons – whether they decide to travel to a far-flung destination together or buy their first home, but for us, we knew we wanted kids.

Neither my husband nor I were well established in our careers – we still aren’t. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my husband is still in school. We had little money and neither of us knew what we were doing. I know that nobody really knows what they are doing when it comes to having kids but I question how we survived. Were we really ready and the answer was no, but would I change it? No.

Surviving the First Few Years of Parenthood

I look back on those early years and think, “How did we do it?” Those first several years are rough. We’d been together for 5 years but only married 1 before we had Cohen. We were so young that most of our friends were still going out, but we were now raising a family. Unfortunately, we lost track of some friends because of how different our lives were at that time.

Now we are in our thirties and our oldest is 10 and youngest is 7. Most of our close friends are having babies. They ask for advice and the baby stage seems like such a long time ago. My children are almost old enough to babysit. It feels like we are again in different stages of our lives. But now I understand what my friends are going through and can make a better effort to help and stay in touch.

However, since we are the “young” parents we will continue to be in different stages of our lives compared to most of our friends. But, when we are in our early fifties, our children will be grown and out of the house. Fingers crossed we’ll have more money and be able to travel. And it’s weird to think but we could be grandparents.

When You Have Kids Is Your Choice

All in all, experts and moms agree that there’s really no right answer to the question of “when is the best age to get pregnant?” Biologically, the answer is probably the early 20s, but innumerable factors must be considered, many of which differ by individual. Your best plan of action is to do what feels right for you—whatever that may be.

If you and your spouse want to have a baby right after getting married, go for it. Don’t worry about what people will think, it’s up to you and your other half. There’s no right or wrong time to have a baby and you’ll never be 100% ready. Being married for longer doesn’t make you better or more ready to be parents, or stronger as a couple. If it’s what you both want then do it. Anyone who is currently pregnant, get ready for the most emotional, stressful, uncertain and amazing ride of your life. Every day is different but every day is so amazing. Just enjoy it.

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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Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Today I started the day out in a rush. I hit my snooze button for an extra 30 minutes. I took a little longer to put makeup on, brush my teeth and walk out the door. Little did I know a handful of colored circles with wobbly lines would change my day.

Needing to Slow Down

Once I arrived at school it seemed as if I had left my checklist completely unattended the day before and there were already six new items to check off before the warning bell rang. To start the day, there was a tech issue in the Spanish classroom and I explained in my best Spanish, “Yo estoy rapido en la mañana!” All the students looked at me with a look of confusion. The actual Spanish teacher explained, “I was in a hurry this morning.”

My day started out in a rush and feeling behind. I kept reminding myself I needed that extra sleep and time this morning just to prepare myself for the day. I kept focusing on the big picture of the day. I wanted to control what needed to be checked off on my list and became very frustrated when I remembered things to keep adding to this list. At one point in the morning, my daughter kindly asked, “Mom, do you need me to help you today? You seem so rushed.”

It’s the Little Things that Matter

And before I knew it, I was abruptly reminded at about 8:30, 9:15, 10:20 and then again at 11:10, that the little things are what bring us joy. Two text messages, a reminder that a “to do” list is overrated, a “this is so cool” comment from a seventh-grader, and the excited “oohs” from kindergarteners.

Yes, four times I was reminded to look at the simple, little things. I don’t think I was intentionally ignoring the small moments of joy, I just think I wasn’t “seeing” those moments. The fourth reminder came from my little kindergartener friends. They showed me joy is right in front of me, they showed me simplicity brings joy. In my small time frame with kindergarteners today, I brought joy to them by showing them how to color little circles with wobbly lines using technology. Yet, they reminded me of my life word — joy.

“Your Gift is Joy”

Later on in the day, I was teaching my Intro to Business students a lesson on leadership and a quote from my mom popped up on one of the slides, which I had forgotten I had typed. My mom told me prior to her passing away, “Shelly your gift is joy, share it daily with your students.” It took me everything to hold back tears.

My day needed to start out in a hurry, because I needed to be reminded of the joy the simple/little things bring us in life. Some days I get caught up looking at the big picture, looking at the big goal, I forget it is about the small things that we do that allow us to have the greatest impact on those around us. I am thankful for those wobbly colored circles as they reminded me that my greatest gift is the joy I share with 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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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

I’m a huge fan of routine, and so are my kids. I’m not the most organized of moms, and I’m certainly not a very organized housewife. However, I do believe that my kids need routine, and so do I. Their routine is good for me. During the summer, our routine went out the window. So now that school is upon us, it’s a great time to start getting back into our groove. I’m sharing my routine in hopes of helping other working moms get the most out of their routine on school days.

If you’re a working mom, your morning routine can either help you start off your day on the right foot, or it can be an obstacle that you must overcome. It can be a struggle each and every day. My tips and tricks will hopefully help you create a smoother morning routine. And the school year is the perfect time to get a fresh start in how you schedule your day and manage your time.

How to Get Started

Remember how last year you said you’d start adjusting bedtimes before the night before school started? Well, during the summer months, we decided to keep the kid’s bedtime routine the same. They rarely stayed up late, and they continued to get up at the same time. This made for an easier adjustment for heading back to school. Small adjustments are what I can handle with everything I have going on.

During the school year, I have to get us ready and out of the house by 8 a.m. for drop off at school. Without a routine, getting two young kids – ages 10 and 7, my hubby and the dog out of the house feels like I’m herding cats. Can you relate, mamas?

Granted, the first few weeks of school this year, I’m still working from home, so I’ll share how that makes things a bit different. For starters, I’m not an early bird. I’ll sleep in as late as I possibly can while still being on time. However, many moms I know wake up early. That way, they get in a power hour before anyone else is up. It makes a huge difference in how productive they are, and it allows them to be available later in the day to help with school work. Since I’m not an early riser, one of the things that helps in our house is to use the night before. We do as much the night before so that the morning is simply smoother.

Tips for Your Morning Routine

Lay out clothes night before. Each night both of our kids lay out what they’ll wear the next day, and I can provide input if necessary (e.g., look nicer for picture day or if it’s going to be 100 degrees, no long sleeve shirts, etc.) If I have morning meetings or a presentation, I also choose what I’ll wear the night before for the next day. I want to avoid this stress in the morning.

Put stuff out and together. For example, the lunch boxes go on the counter with containers ready. That way, if you need extra help from your significant other if something comes up, you don’t have to explain where things are or what to use. Some moms I know prep sandwiches, although I don’t do that. I don’t generally cut up fruit until the morning because it can get mushy, but even washing and drying fruit the night before will shave off time in the morning.

Put items that need to go with you by the door or always in the same place. This goes for water bottles, backpacks, folders, car keys, masks, etc. Have a consistent home for these items so you’re not looking for them in the morning and wasting precious time. Who has an extra 10 minutes to look for car keys or kids’ shoes? This goes for your stuff, that of your significant other and your kids.

Have breakfast options in mind. We try hard to not have breakfast be the same all the time, and yet, this can be one of the hardest meals of the day creatively speaking. We generally give the kids some options when they wake up so that we can get breakfast going. Have breakfast-on-the-go options. Let’s face it—you’ll have days, especially in the first few weeks of school, when you’re running late. Whatever the reason, I recognize that sometimes our kids will be eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes we’ll have bagels that are easily mobile.

Be Flexible & Relax

See how you’re feeling and make any adjustments to set yourself up for success for the day. For example, if you’re tired, give yourself more time and be gentle with yourself. If you’re stressed, it might be time for some deep breaths. It takes only a few moments of your day and makes a big impact. I do this before I even get out of bed as I’m turning off my alarm.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to feel more grounded, consider meditating. I’m talking minutes here, not hours. Or you can extend it for however long you like. Make sure you don’t throw off your schedule, though. If you have the time, get in that workout. I usually get in some exercise a few times a week. In the warmer months, I work out early since I usually head outside for my exercise.

Decide what you want from your morning routine. Consider what you want your morning routine to include and generally look like. If you do better when you have a few minutes alone, plan your wake-up time with this in mind. Want a moment of yoga or meditation? Perhaps you want a few minutes to enjoy your coffee before you get everything going. Only you know what you need.

Hopefully, these tips will help decrease stress and start the day off with more smiles for all! Now the afternoon routine is a completely different battle especially with all the after-school activities the kids are involved in. That takes a daily calendar on the fridge, a hope and prayer to get us to our bedtime routine on time.

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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Welcoming a New Puppy

Welcoming a New Puppy

From a puppy’s point of view, puppyhood is a time of unapologetic energy, lots of exciting places to explore, new people and animals to meet, and tons of fun and adventurous times ahead.

From a puppy parent’s viewpoint, it’s a cute and cuddly time filled with this innocent and needy “baby” that craves lots of love and attention. However, it can also be a time of whining, howling, screaming, sleepless nights, sharp teeth, torn and chewed items, soiled floors, endless training and constant puppy monitoring.

Making the Decision

Bringing home a new puppy is a fantastic experience. After our last dog died, my husband and kids started asking for a new dog. My husband felt that our kids were at a great age for the extra responsibility. And I will say, our house felt empty after Maverick passed away. But I knew if we got a new dog, the responsibility of training the new puppy would fall on my shoulders, since I was still working from home. I was nervous and not sure I wanted more on my plate.

So before we decided to bring home a sweet little pup, we had a long, long discussion. I did my research. I knew if we were going to get a new dog, it was going to be a boxer. So, I took to the internet, I read blogs, watched training videos, bought supplies, found a vet and prepared our home for a puppy.

Within months of our first conversation, we added this delightful little ball of fur and fun to our family. Here we are with a 12-week-old boxer puppy named Maya.

A Puppy Is Like a Newborn

Yet, every puppy is a handful. The truth is this: the first dog or puppy you raise in your adulthood home with your children is an entirely different experience from the perfect, golden illusion you hold onto so dearly from your childhood.

Some people say having a puppy is like having a newborn, and they are right! You must have a thought-out and planned routine: feeding, taking your new pet out to potty, playtime and bedtime.

I realized quickly that patience was key! Maya wasn’t born knowing the expectations of the human world. We have to teach her. Don’t want the dog to eat your shoes? Then don’t leave them on the floor where she has easy access to them. No matter whether you want to teach your pup to sit when greeting people or to stay off the furniture, it’s all about repetition and consistency.

Training a Puppy

After four weeks, we’re now in a routine! Dogs love routines. We crate train her so while we’re gone and while we sleep, she’s in her kennel.

However, she really, really likes her potty break between 4 and 5 a.m. Luckily, it’s back to bed until the kids get up and take her outside and feed her breakfast before school. During school, it’s me and her taking on the world. Her day is full of naps, chew toys and many, many potty breaks while I work.

Let’s discuss what it means to have a potty trained puppy. Oh wait, she isn’t fully trained but getting there! Remember, puppies are babies, and we need to remember they can’t hold it as long as adult dogs. If we aren’t diligent, they’ll go on the floor in the beginning. Yes, we as pet parents have to help them succeed. The golden rule: You get the behavior you reward. Praise and a reward whether it’s a favorite toy or treat.

Even though we go outside for potty breaks every two hours or less, I also make sure she gets plenty of exercise. The more she gets during the day, the better she sleeps at night. The guideline I try to follow: five minutes of exercise for each month in age, twice a day.

It’s Hard But Worth It

With a new puppy, our day looks a little different. Luckily, we still don’t do much on the weekends, and the days are getting warmer. Maya enjoys her time outside except she hates wet grass. Just like a new baby, Maya and I are learning together.

So remember, if you’re thinking about getting a new puppy, in the beginning it’s about soiled carpets, crate training techniques and hard work, but think about the adventures you’ll go on together and the times you’ll share together at home snuggled on the couch.

However, it’s more to say to anyone who just brought home a new dog or puppy, “Hey, I’ve been there and I know it’s maybe more frustrating than you thought it would be, but you’ll soon get to a place where it doesn’t feel like you want to tear your hair out every day.”

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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Celebrating Easter Over Zoom

Celebrating Easter Over Zoom

I don’t need to tell you that this is the second Easter of the pandemic. It’s funny how I’m starting to keep track of events by connecting them to COVID-19.

Many of our friends have received their second vaccine, but we’re just starting to talk about getting together in person. There still is much fear and hesitancy in our lives. What new Coronavirus variant is coming next, and will our vaccines effectively fight it? We continue to trust science and do our best.

Another Easter During COVID

Getting together with our grandchildren is still up and down, mainly because they now live in other towns and are working part-time jobs and going to school. This is the second Easter Sunday we were alone in our home watching church on TV.

The only difference this year was I now know how to set up Zoom meetings and FaceTime which has helped! Decorating Easter cookies has always been a big tradition in our family. This year, I was determined to at least keep that tradition alive and decorate Easter cookies together with our grandkids via Zoom.

We agreed to Zoom on Sunday afternoon. I had sent them the necessary cookies, frosting, food coloring and sprinkles earlier in the week. I was sure they would all be eager and ready to go. Word came to me that two of the grandkids would have to work. That was OK, as I’m realizing I can no longer be in charge of these growing grandkids who have their own schedules and lives. We were still scheduled for our call at 3 p.m. that day, though.

Easter via Zoom

I sent Zoom invitations for our session with the link via email. I’m sure I’m doing too many steps to accomplish this gathering, but they have yet to correct me if I should be doing it a different way. Bless their hearts!

Zoom time came, and I was anxiously waiting for the meeting room to fill up with two granddaughters. I waited patiently, hoping I hadn’t messed up the set-up. To my surprise, there were three granddaughters joining me and they were together in person and staring me in the “face”.

They secretly had gathered in one spot even though they live in separate places, had their cookies out and were ready to start frosting them. It was a wonderful surprise. They asked where my cookies and frosting were, and I realized I had sent all the cookies to them, leaving none for me to decorate. We had a good laugh at my expense!

Decorating Cookies with the Grandkids

The kids began the usual contests seeing who could spread on the most frosting on one cookie, who could add the most sprinkles and who could be the most creative in their cookie design. Although the competition was not as fierce as it has been in the past, it was in real time and provided a bit of normalcy and many smiles.

As the girls frosted their cookies, they talked about school, their dreams, jobs and sports. It was so heartwarming to see them and hear them laugh together. Our time together brought tears to my eyes. My laptop camera doesn’t pick up on tears, so I was OK.

If this pandemic has taught me anything over the past year, it’s to work hard to keep your family traditions going but also know the traditions may need to be adjusted. Life will continue, and it’s my job to keep a touch of tradition included in my grandkids’ lives. If we’re remote again next Easter, maybe we can figure out how to find Easter eggs via Zoom. I hope I’m up for the challenge!

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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When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

I think it goes without saying that things are a bit out of the ordinary right now. Our day-to-day life looks nothing like it used to, and it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like a couple months from now.

Wondering if Life Should Go Back to Normal

So while we all want life “back to normal,” we can’t rush it. We’re in this for the long haul, and we likely won’t ever return to life as we knew it—at least not for quite some time.

As we reach the end of another month in quarantine, there’s a lot of talk about re-opening our state (and country) and about getting things back to normal. Maybe it’s strange, but I’m not sure I want things to go back to normal.

I know a lot of hard things are happening right now. Some of us are very sick or worried about family and friends who are. Some have even lost someone special. Even those of us in good health are worried about jobs, paying bills, our children’s education and more. We’re grieving special things that didn’t get to happen: weddings, the school play, concerts, prom and graduation. As I share my thoughts, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about any of the very real dangers, stress and trauma we’re experiencing. And I know my experience might not be your experience.

The Positives of the Quarantine

All my life, everyone (including myself) whines about how busy they are. We complain about our overscheduled children (even though we’re the ones who overschedule them!) and how quickly the years go by. We work too hard, don’t get enough sleep and struggle just to catch a much-needed breath once in a while.

And so, the universe gave us a gift.

This quarantine made everyone take a step back and see what a more uncomplicated life might look like. In most cases, we’re working less and connecting more. We have stopped idolizing movie stars and athletes and instead spend time glorifying the first responders, teachers and frontline “essential” workers that have kept our country running. (We know you’re working more, and we thank you!)

We’re eating family dinner, playing board games together, taking family walks and going on bike rides. Not to mention my home life is a lot happier. While I work from home, instead of a 15-minute break to go talk with co-workers, I wash dishes, finish laundry, sweep or start dinner. I don’t feel rushed after work. I go to soccer practice but don’t have to hurry home to get household chores done. I enjoy having my kitchen for lunches and the copious amounts of coffee on hand. Plus, the bathroom is less than 10 feet away. My work clothes consist of sweatpants and T-shirts, and I wear a lot less makeup.

The New Normal

But, I do see things going back to normal. Our family went on a mini spring break vacation, and it was nice to feel normal again. And now, soccer practice and swim lessons have begun, so my calendar that was once empty is now filling up again like normal. However, when the country “reopens,” I hope the slower pace will somewhat continue. Let’s stop working ourselves to death. And can we make overscheduling our kids a thing of the past? Let’s continue to value family time over the twenty activities we could be doing.

I want our new normal to continue to have the positive memes and uplifting quotes, and in general, I want people to continue just being nice human beings!

Oh, I know the negative is still there if you look for it.

Still, I’m not sure I want the world to go back to normal. When things do finally get back to normal, I hope it’s a whole new normal.

At a minimum, however, one thing is a clear: normal as we knew it is gone. We need to adjust to our “new normal.” After all, normal is relative.

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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Learning How to Use New Electronics to Stay Connected

Learning How to Use New Electronics to Stay Connected

We’ve been having problems with our cell phone and laptop lately. The electronic “fix it” stores could no longer help us as our devices were so old. How old were they? They were so old that I still used the chisel on my clay tablet.

Getting Help From Our Granddaughter

We decided to ask our techie granddaughter for help and guidance. She spent several hours looking at all of our devices, and even attempted to resurrect our dying tools. After her electronic examination, she proceeded to say a prayer for each of the digital devices and began gathering them together. I asked what she was doing and the reply was she taking them to the crematorium.

Funny, I was just getting used to the old phone and laptop and frequently learned something new, whether it was a new tab or feature, of which I had never been aware. OK, our granddaughter really didn’t take them for cremation, but she strongly urged us to look into new electronic devices. My husband and I remembered we haven’t taken a trip in 1.5 years so we finally decided we could afford purchasing a new phone and new laptop.

New devices were purchased knowing there will be another learning curve, and we hope our grandkids don’t shun us in our hour of need. Our geeky granddaughter helped us transfer all of the data and even showed me more tips I will forget. I knew how to send messages, but never had the ability to choose and display a GIF. I always envied people who could message their heads in different shapes. I still don’t know how to do it, but I know I have the option.

Using Our New Electronics

Our new electronics have also made it possible for us to watch our grandkids play their volleyball and baseball games streamed online. I believe we had the option with our old laptops, but the consistency of our viewing was limited. Now, we have all the ability to watch the games and be there virtually cheering in spirit. A bonus was when one of the grandkids instructed us how to mirror or cast the live stream game to our TV. Grandkids are so smart!

Now, the COVID-19 game days are very exciting. We first verify there is actually a game and the start time on the school’s webpage. If I was watching in person, I would wear my school gear, yell, cheer and jump up and down. Watching online, I wear my gear, yell, cheer and pace around the room. I also hum the fight song. I don’t recall all the lyrics, but all fight songs include the words, “GO. FIGHT. WIN.” so I’m happy.

Watching our grandkid’s games live streamed is nice, but of course, it’s a poor substitute for in-person viewing. After a year like 2020, we’ve had no choice. We’re thankful for the ability to watch any game. We’re also truly thankful for each of our grandkids who helped make this electronic process possible to us and provide us with the wins. It truly takes a village to be our grandkids. And yes, I’ll look up the words to the fight songs and sing my heart out during future games.

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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Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

One year ago this month, our world changed. My profession, like so many others, was sent home abruptly as different sectors in the world started shutting down. Everything about that time brought fear, uncertainty and disappointment. Some of these feelings still ring true today. Yet, this time also gave me something that I’m actually missing today…time.

Juggling A Busy Week

I thoroughly enjoyed not having commitments every single night of the week. This week, I have longed for those unexpected days that were given to me a year ago. This week, the supper table conversations have turned into drive-through conversations. This week, the conversations with my husband have turned into 10-minute lunch meetings just to plan out the evenings (those of you whose spouses are school administrators probably understand this). The introvert in me has wanted my husband to take me for evening drives just so I could stare out the window and listen to the complete silence.

In a world where busyness is valued and the norm, I took it upon myself to relinquish some responsibilities. However, it seems that all of the commitments I did keep on my plate needed my attention this week. Don’t take this the wrong way—I’m grateful the world is returning to a new normal. Yet, I’m so thankful that I realized how precious family time is and I’m missing that this week. The stress of the busyness just hit me and I need to refocus. Refocus on what I value. Refocus on being mindful. Actually, refocus and listen to myself.

Spending Time to Refocus

This morning, I told one of my students, “control what you can control, which is your attitude and effort.” In this conversation, I realized I wasn’t listening to myself. I was letting my negative attitude about no free time control how I was actually using my time. Honestly, two things were happening this week—I wasn’t allowing myself to recharge and I was allowing too many distractions to happen.

To help combat these issues, I need to go back to the basics of time management. I need to plan ahead. This would be the reason why there have been many drive-through conversations this week as I didn’t plan ahead and grocery shop. I need to prioritize my to-do list by making micro-goals. I need to set aside time where my door is shut and my phone is in another room, which will help eliminate distractions. And finally, I need to quit multitasking.

If there is one thing I appreciate from COVID-19, it taught me the value of time. It just so happens that the past few weeks, I let the busyness of life get to me. I need to refocus on the big picture, set micro-goals and limit distractions. In doing so, I will ultimately free up the time I so long for.

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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