Life Lessons Beyond the Cap & Gown

Life Lessons Beyond the Cap & Gown

Three of our four grandkids have received their bachelor’s degree. This past weekend, one of those three received her master’s degree.

Reflections on Aging at Graduation

I keep telling myself, “I’m too young for this. Stop the clock of life. Time is moving too quickly!” Every one of my college graduates still look like they are 12 years old. To the graduates, I probably look like I’m 100 years old. I guess that’s the way life goes.

From High School Principal to Proud Grandma

For our granddaughter’s master’s degree ceremony, the commencement speech was a blur to me. I kept my eyes glued on her, bursting with pride, as she walked down the aisle and found her seat.

In my high school principal days, my eyes would’ve been watching for every stupid little thing like beach balls or air horns. But today, there were no beach balls or air horns. I began to relax, and I thought how funny it was that my old job was still part of my personality.

Memories of High School Graduations

I remember going to many high school graduations as the principal. Usually, I made transitional comments to keep the event flowing and sent positive thoughts to graduates and their parents. With such large graduating classes, our high school graduations lasted well over an hour. I certainly didn’t want to keep the ceremony going any longer than needed. Everyone was always excited and ready to celebrate.

A Grandparent’s Advice for Post-Grad Success

At the end of my granddaughter’s graduation, I wanted to give a speech, but I didn’t think she wanted to hear one from her grandma. Instead, I shared advice throughout the day. I told her:

  • Keep learning. Don’t think your education is over. Learn about the people around you, learn from the people around you and learn about yourself.
  • Look for the good in everything every day. There is too much negativity in today’s world, too many people upset with each other and sad stories you’ll hear. Look for the all the positives around you. When you don’t see any positives, look at things from a different perspective.
  • Make the world a better place. There will always be anger between countries, between politicians and even between family. Some of these issues may affect you, while you may not even know about others. When the situation does affect you, listen intently and learn. Do your best to understand and make it better.
  • Have fun and laugh hard.

Times Change, Lessons Stay the Same

On our drive back from Indiana, I tried to recall what I told my daughters in the 80’s at their graduations. It was something like, “Enjoy your life, work hard and help others in need.” That advice wasn’t much different than what I was telling my four grandkids now. So, while times may have changed, some things will always remain the same.

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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The Summer of Yes: Prioritizing Family Over Work

The Summer of Yes: Prioritizing Family Over Work

It happens every single school year: the last day. Our children are anticipating summer more than ever, but I just want to put off summer for a few more days. Just a few more days to hear the chattiness of the juniors outside my door. Just a few more days to prolong our youngest from officially being in high school. Just a few more days before we officially have a senior in our home again.

Embracing “This Moment”

Then I am reminded of my favorite verse from Esther 4:14, “Perhaps you were created for such a moment as this.”

This moment. A moment where an entire wave of emotions engulf me. With a deep breath to prevent tears from filling in my eyes, I smile. I know our kids are ready for their next chapter. And at this moment, I decide this summer is the summer of “yes.”

Breaking Free From Work

Why yes? I am a self-proclaimed workaholic. I got it from my dad. My career is my comfort zone. I will probably be planning for my classes in the Fall of 2023 the Monday following our last day of school. It’s what I know. It’s what I excel at. It’s my purpose. It’s my why.

But this summer, I want to put myself and family first. This summer is a change agent to focus on the moment. A summer to just be.

My Strategies to Live More in the Present

But how am I going to make myself play rather than work? I have a few things to focus on more in the moment:

  1. Appreciate the sunrise and sunset
  2. Walk
  3. Sing made up songs
  4. Read
  5. Cook
  6. Smile
  7. Let go of the “to do’s”
  8. Take the scenic route

July will come. August will be here and the start of a new school year will begin in moments. I know I will undoubtedly be overcome with emotions. Those juniors outside my classroom door will be seniors. However, my hope is that I will be prepared for that moment, because I decided to say “yes” rather than work this summer.

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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How Strict Is Too Strict?

How Strict Is Too Strict?

You’re either strict or you’re not, with very little consideration for the large grey area in between. If you could place these two descriptions on a parenting scale, you might see “strict” at the same end as authoritarian and “non-strict” at the same end as permissive.

Transitioning From a Strict Parenting Style

I am a strict parent, but there are several reasons why I decided to re-evaluate my parenting style. Every parent wants the best for their child, and it’s this desire to keep kids safe and healthy that fuels my rule-setting and need for control. But changing the parenting style that my family was already adjusted to was not an easy task. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting for both parents and children as we navigate the transition.

Why My Parenting Style Needed to Change

I realized that I needed to lighten up my parenting style when “the good child,” Cohen asked for something and I immediately said no. He has never done anything to make me question his intent or actions. But I work in the media and think the worst of every possible situation. So, when he asked me if he could walk to Scheels after school with his friends, there was no discussion. It was a flat, hard no. Later, I started wondering if I was being unreasonable, too strict. He is 12 years old, and my gut said, “No, that’s way too young to walk.” There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have let him go, but at what age do I give a little and stop being the strict parent?

Our Conversation with the “Good Cop”

Before my immediate no, I should have asked questions and allowed him to justify why he should go, but he asked me over the phone while I was at work, so I was short with him. I ended the conversation with, “We will discuss this at home with dad.” It wasn’t his favorite response, but usually dad is more lenient and open to his ideas.

When we arrived home, we talked. Dad was, of course, okay with the idea, but I still had some reservations. I hated the idea of him walking across a busy street to get to the store. I had never met these friends from school he was going with, and none of this sounded like a good idea. But dad thought we needed to trust him.

The Importance of Unified Parenting

It’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers to be on opposite sides of the “firmness fence,” each convinced that the other is doing it wrong or one person needs to give in. This leads to inconsistencies, mixed messages about rules and the undermining of each other’s authority. This can breed dishonesty, deceit and manipulation within children. Therefore, it is particularly important that we as parents are united in our approach to these issues and compromise.

So, with stipulations, we agreed to let him go. He needed to put his phone away while walking. He had to pay attention to cars and traffic. He had to FaceTime me when he arrived at Scheels. And lastly, he needed to be respectful to the employees and other customers in the store. I was still a nervous wreck the entire time I knew he was not at home or with an adult, but we agreed to allow him this independence.

Striving for Best Parenting Practices

The discussion and compromise showed follow-through and consistency, which are vital for heathy parenting. I was proud of the way Mitch and I handled the situation. We didn’t undermine each other. We listened and came together on a united front. This allowed me to be a little less strict. Until Cohen violates our trust, we will continue being negotiable with certain things. I feel like these are some of the elements of best parenting practices.

It’s important to remember that just because you are the stricter parent, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad one. Strict parents create rules and boundaries to protect their children in a way that they believe will help guide them to success. If you’re looking to make changes to your parenting style or parent-child relationship, adopting some elements of easygoing parenting can be helpful. Creating an environment that balances both love and support and boundaries is very beneficial to our entire family.

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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How Our Family Makes Time For Each Other

How Our Family Makes Time For Each Other

It looked like a family reunion, but it was a funeral visitation. I arrived ready to share my condolences with my cousin, expecting an evening of somberness and shared stories. However, my expectations quickly changed. As I wrapped my widowed cousin in a hug, she quietly reminded me, “Tonight is a gathering of love, family and celebration.”

The Healing Power of Family

For the next hour, I shared hugs and visited with my aunts, uncles and cousins—some I have not seen in over five years. The catching up and many stories were a constant reminder of how much love was in that one room amongst my dad’s family. Yet my eyes and heart kept wandering over to my cousin. She was eloquently sharing words of joy, healing and love to all who came to give her condolences. I stood there in awe while soaking up the family conversations.

Strategies for Protecting Family Time

As our conversations winded down and we all went our separate ways, I spent my drive home thinking about the main theme of conversations: creating family and extended family memories.

How often do we truly look for those unscripted moments of sheer joy with our families? How do we go about looking for these moments when life seems to be all about appointments, meetings, sports/activities schedules and our careers?

Below are four simple yet broad strategies for choosing how our family protects our time:

  1. We understand the limitations of our children. Both our junior high son and high school daughter become quite overwhelmed when there are too many “to dos” or practices on their schedules. They both find solace in being at home. Saying “No” and staying home is the ultimate self-care for them.
  2. We set aside one entire week of the summer where we commit to nothing. It’s called our “No Commitment Week, Just Family.”
  3. We teach/encourage our kids not to feel guilty about protecting their mental, physical and emotional health. This is hard as our kids are people pleasers and do not like to disappoint others.
  4. We keep an open mind about “dropping all commitments” and just “going.”

Protecting our family boundaries is not always easy and communicating these boundaries with coaches is not always positive. But with the limited amount of time we have with our kids in our home, these boundaries are becoming more and more important and needed.

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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Stepping In to Make a Wedding Perfect

Stepping In to Make a Wedding Perfect

When I was principal at Lincoln Northstar High School, I was blessed to have so many refugee and immigrant students. I loved hearing their stories and helping their families navigate the United States. But one student—a 15-year-old born in Togo, Africa—became my life-long friend.

Finding His North Star

His name is Vincent. Vincent was intelligent, bilingual in English and French, social and successful in several clubs at Northstar. Vincent’s mother was a single parent to three boys. They didn’t have extended family in Lincoln, but they did well. Over the years, I watched Vincent grow in his career and personal relationships. He met a wonderful young woman, Elizabeth, and introduced her to me at Thanksgiving dinner.

Love in the Time of COVID-19

Then, during the height of the pandemic, Vincent and Elizabeth called me. They wanted to meet with me. When they arrived, Vincent announced they were getting married. Since neither of them were religious, they wondered if I would officiate their wedding. I quickly said yes.

Planning a Pandemic Wedding

They weren’t having their wedding until 2022, which gave me plenty of time to get ordained. I contacted a friend who knew how to get an officiant certificate online. She talked me through the process. Done.

Later, I had to plan the ceremony. Throughout the process, I asked for their input, posed questions to the couple and continued my research. Little by little, everything came together. That’s when I started to get nervous. What if their big day wasn’t perfect? Not a day went by without me thinking of how I could make things better for them.

Up until the rehearsal, I had kept quiet and did what I was told. But that night while everyone scrambled, my principal voice came out. I directed staff that hadn’t worked a wedding before. I reorganized the processional and recessional when the mothers of the couple couldn’t see as they sat on the outside of their rows. Vincent and Elizabeth gave me a thumbs up.

Becoming a Substitute Grandma

The next day, the wedding went off without a hitch. The food and venue were perfect, and the couple looked radiant—their love for each other on full display. I still felt guilty about butting in, but I reminded myself that’s what grandmas do, even substitute grandmas. They work hard to make things perfect, stepping in when something is off. And while I’m not ready to officiate at another wedding, I know I can be a substitute grandma any time I’m needed.

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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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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