Let’s Play an Instrument

Let’s Play an Instrument

I played sports growing up. I never showed any interest in learning to play an instrument, maybe it’s because my brother “played” the saxophone for less than a year. So, I wasn’t sure what to say when my fourth grader said, “I want to play the violin.”

I forced a smile on my face. You know. You’re supposed to support your kids when they want to try something new. I’m trying my best. I was surprised he wanted to play. Cohen doesn’t like to do much but play soccer, watch videos and play video games. But he insisted he wanted to learn to play, and all the child experts say it’s a good idea for kids to learn how to play an instrument. So I agreed.

The Beginnings of Violin Lessons

Free strings lessons are offered at our elementary school, beginning in fourth grade. So, we leased his first violin—a half-sized violin made for smaller hands. He had class once a week during school and practiced every day.

I’ll warn you now, as soon as you make the first payment on your child’s instrument, you will become insufferable. You will turn into an overbearing ogre who harbors some vague notion of propelling your young prodigy onto the stage of Carnegie Hall. You will make this happen through sheer willpower (i.e., screaming and threats); you will convince yourself this motivational tactic is not crazy behavior.

Learning to Play Songs

Every beginner violin player starts out by learning “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” You will get tired of listening to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for 15 minutes every day.

You will say, “I bet this is how Lindsey Stirling started!” and “Good job! Your playing sounds a bit less like 30 cats in a fight today!”

“EEEEEEEEEE. EEEEE. EEEEE….RRRRRRR,” went his violin.

“Great job,” I said giving him a thumbs up.

So, even though he practiced at school, Cohen, being the video watcher that he is, of course YouTubed how to play the violin. So, instead of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” I heard “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“EEEE. EEEEEEEE. RRRRRRR. EEEEE.”

“Great.” I put another smile on my face. I mean, he was learning. Down the line I imagine it’ll sound better.

Practice Makes Perfect

Cohen’s music teacher must be a saint. She gives kids a solid foundation. She works some crazy magic and makes 60 intermediate-beginner strings, woodwinds and brass musicians sound like the Boston Pops Orchestra….at least by the spring concert, I hope. You may need to strain your ears a bit to hear it during the early fall concert.

In the beginning, Cohen didn’t mind practicing. However, he would get tired of playing the same songs over and over, and I frankly got tired of listening. However, I paid for a violin, so he was going to play that violin. Even if he played while he was kicking and screaming!

Supporting Your Musician

Then one sunny day, without being asked Cohen picked up his violin and began playing on his own. Maybe it’s a sonata. Or maybe he’s noodling through a rough version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” or the Sunday Night Football theme. I didn’t say a word. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I just kept doing the laundry and enjoyed the music.

Whether the lessons are initiated by me, his father, his music teacher or by Cohen himself, he is much more likely to be enthusiastic about them if those lessons are supported at home by my participation. I noticed that when music is a family value, kids learn to value it. Whether Cohen sits first chair in Carnegie Hall or he stops playing the violin after one year, music will stick with him throughout his life.

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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Discussing Politics with Grandma

Discussing Politics with Grandma

The world certainly is in an interesting place. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming election, I find my emotions all over the place.

There are times when I want to cry, and I do cry. There are times when I want to scream, and I do scream. There are times when I want to stay informed and I read. There are times when I can no longer watch the news, and I turn the TV off. There is no one answer for helping me cope and no one answer that will solve all of the problems. Everyone sees the world from their own perspective and responds accordingly.

My Stand on Politics

I’m a liberal, my friends are liberals, and most of my family members are liberals. I know not everyone agrees with what I believe. I also know I need to listen and learn from everyone, not just from those who think like me. Hopefully I can listen and share my perspectives on issues.

Our four grandchildren are young adults and certainly have minds of their own. They make good choices. I should say that I think they make good choices. It’s good odds none of them would tell me if they made a bad decision or if I made a decision they disagreed with. After all, I’m the one who buys them presents throughout the year.

Wondering What My Grandkids Think

I don’t always agree with my grandkids, but usually keep my thoughts to myself. I have, however, been curious to know their thoughts on the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and the upcoming election. I know these three issues are not directly related, but are happening at the same time and have direct impact on each other. It’s like the perfect storm and oh so 2020!

Some of my grandkid’s sporting seasons have been cut short because of the coronavirus spread. Yep, college kids who think they are untouchable. Fortunately, none of my grandkids got the virus, but it is around them and has impacted them in a way they never anticipated. Playing sports and organizing sporting events is their life. Not being able to follow their dreams has been difficult. Speaking of which, not being able to watch them participate is equally devastating on me!

I’ve always been a proud yard sign person. I like thanking essential workers and sending positive messages such as You Are Not Alone. It wasn’t until our Black Lives Matter sign was stolen from our front yard that I held my breath. I talked to the grandkids about the theft. They all wondered why I had just assumed it was a young person who carried out the dirty deed. Interesting point.

Encouraging My Grandkids to Vote

The elections are around the corner. I will make gentle suggestions to the grandkids, but this year I just wanted to make sure they had all registered to vote and applied for an absentee ballot. My suggestions were more like pointed questions, “ Have you registered?” “Here is the link to register,” “Have you applied for an absentee ballot?” I went another step and sent them postage stamps for their mail-in ballots. But I didn’t tell them which candidate should receive their vote.

There is no one answer for everyone and no answer that will solve all of the problems. There is also no one way to share my views with my grandkids. There will always be problems, and they will need to figure it out on their own.

I did hear a grandma recently say, “We may not think our grandkids are listening, but they are listening.”

I’m betting on my grandkids and future great grandkids to help bring us together for a future which is bright and full of hope.

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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Teaching Grandkids about Death and Life Transitions

Teaching Grandkids about Death and Life Transitions

The world certainly is in an interesting place. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, I find my emotions all over the place. There are times when I want to cry, and I do cry. There are times when I want to scream, and I do scream. There are times when I want to keep informed and watch the news. Then I find I can no longer watch the news, and I turn the TV off.

This past month, I was a part of yet another emotional, life-altering time. After years of fighting a hereditary illness, my brother-in-law passed away. Any time a family member dies, it is difficult. He had to spend months isolated in the hospital and care facilities before coming home on hospice, which was difficult for the entire family. My brother-in-law kept his humor until the very end, and we were thankful he could be home and converse with us.

A Funeral During COVID-19

Funerals for close family members are difficult no matter when they happen in your life. Funerals during a pandemic provide another layer of expectations and plans, still knowing we’ll do the best we can. My sister had an amazing attitude and decided to have a graveside service and a family-only reception in our backyard. Masks were required at both sites, and social distancing was suggested.

I told my sister I would take care of the reception, and she should not have to worry about anything. I worked on the details and soon realized I couldn’t do everything myself, so I did the next best thing and asked my grandkids for help. Fortunately, they said yes and we began dividing up the responsibilities. We ordered or purchased tables, chairs, food, tablecloths, drinks, flowers, vases, and hand sanitizer. We were off to a good start.

Getting Help From the Grandkids

The day of the service came, and we set up the backyard in the early morning. The grandkids took my instructions well and even felt confident enough to let me know they had a better idea. We did the best we could and guessed where the sun would be in a couple hours.

Following the service, all of us raced home to check on our set up. We quickly moved three tables out of the sun, and put flowers, hand sanitizers and box lunches on the tables, just before the rest of the family arrived. The graveside service and reception went off without a hitch. I thanked the grandkids profusely for their assistance in the reception.

Understanding Life’s Transitions

What I realized is they wanted and needed to take part in the process. It had been 15 years since the last family member died, and I wondered how my grandkids would react. They found that keeping busy and giving back to our family was important. They saw it as giving back to their special uncle.

I know their mothers will be the ones carrying out future funerals plans, but this experience helped the grandkids understand the transitions life will bring. They realized these funeral receptions are a time for family to share stories, memories and to laugh with one another. Our grandkids have now experienced the transition, and this tradition is in good hands!

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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Drinking In Front of My Kids

Drinking In Front of My Kids

With football season less than a month away (fingers crossed) and the potential for e-learning, there seems to be more alcohol in our household.

Let’s be honest, my children are the reason I drink; therefore, I can drink in front of my children. In fact, given the last several months, my glass of wine may be the reason we’re all still alive today.

Set Boundaries

I don’t judge people with kids who drink but the subject of alcohol when it comes to kids is still a touchy subject. For some, drinking in front of younger kids is an extreme no-no, whereas others might consider a glass or two to be fine when having dinner with family.

Some of my friends can’t imagine drinking an adult beverage in front of their kids. I’ve seen parents sneak a sip when their kids aren’t looking, or wait for when their kids go to sleep, and the coast is clear. However, recently in my mom’s group, this topic was brought up in discussion and I believe that hiding your drinking or waiting till your kids are in bed sends the message that drinking is wrong.

We all know that a glass of wine here and there is not bad for you. It can actually be good for your health. If you think that drinking in front of your children is considered “bad parenting,” I just want you to think about this question, “Is there a right and wrong way to do it?”

Kids Learn By Your Actions

If we, as parents, don’t teach them how to drink, then who will? Their friends? Their friends’ parents? Television? Or maybe behind the bleachers at a football game with a kid who stole his dad’s vodka bottle? When I was growing up there was very little alcohol in my household. I never knew what drinking responsibly really meant. Teaching kids how to drink responsibly is a valuable lesson.

So even now, when my kids ask about what mommy’s drinking, I know my kids are watching and learning from my behavior and I serve as their primary role model. Alcohol is not the problem but rather the abuse of alcohol is. So, when my kids see me drinking alcohol, they know that I am an adult and I am drinking responsibly.

Some days, the day stretches out so long that without the effervescent light at the end of the tunnel, we may not make it through the day. I am in no way advocating getting truly drunk in front of your little ones, but having a drink isn’t shameful or it doesn’t need to be done behind closed doors.

Show Them What Responsibility Looks Like

When my kids leave to go to a friend’s house or one day out on their own, I want them to be prepared. My child’s success depends a great deal on what they learn and see at home.

My husband and I teach them these things by drinking responsibly, by finding a designated driver when we’ve had one too many, and by not reliving our college days with old school friends. Drinking in front of your kids is not “bad parenting,” its “responsible parenting.”

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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Should We Play Sports During COVID-19?

Should We Play Sports During COVID-19?

My grandson plays baseball. I think he’s very talented, but I’m the grandma and am always partial. Last spring, schools and all sporting activities were canceled. It was a necessary and wise decision, and we never second guessed it. He never complained.

Attending my Grandson’s Baseball Games

I love watching baseball, even though I only watch games when my grandson plays. Maybe I should say that I love watching him play. I also need to clarify there are times when my grandson has played baseball when it was difficult for me to watch. This feeling has nothing to do with whether or not he played. It has nothing to do with whether his team won or lost.

It does, however, have everything to do with the outdoor temperature and conditions. Did you know the baseball season begins in March in Nebraska when outdoor temperatures can be very cold? It was the norm for me to wear my winter coat, stocking cap, gloves and boots to watch one of his baseball games, and I always brought along a blanket. After sitting still for two hours, your feet go numb but the blanket provides some relief. The good news was the season moves quickly, and soon you were in T-shirts and shorts. Gotta love Nebraska weather!

Changes to the Baseball Season

This summer, my grandson had committed to playing on a select team, which started mid July. The coaches made many adjustments to comply with the guidelines. They followed a short two-week schedule with limited travel, and they only played one team, repeatedly. It appeared they had thought through the whole process carefully.

Our Return to the Stadium

Even so, the first game we attended was weird. During COVID-19, we’ve tried to self isolate as much as possible. I’ve only been outside for walks, and I’ve gone to the grocery and drug stores. So when we walked into the stadium with our masks on, it was thrilling. I felt like I was a kid in a candy store for the very first time. I looked around and realized I really was outside and in a new environment. It truly was amazing. We found seats away from others in order to physically distance ourselves. The ballpark was helpful by closing off every other row in the stands.

However, not all fans were wearing masks. We were outside so I did not give my usual scowl, but I kept my distance from them. I quickly noticed the players didn’t wear masks. WHAT??!! Grandma antenna went up! I immediately wanted to run a mask to the dugout but knew better.

The game seemed normal. Sometimes a player hit the ball, ran the bases, scored and made outs.

My Take on the Situation

I was outside and it felt good, but I found I was very distracted. That’s nothing new, but I would see someone in the stands who wasn’t socially distancing and stare. Everything seemed to be a distraction. Hearing kids laugh, watching them run up and down the stadium steps, watching them eat, watching them run after the foul balls was fun.

The highlight was watching and cheering for my grandson when he threw the ball for an out and got three hits. I yelled and it felt wonderful. I hadn’t yelled for months, except indoors at my husband. I cheered and I clapped more than I had in the past five months. It felt great. I also realized once I started clapping, I did not want to stop. All the fans around me stopped clapping and I wanted to continue. It felt good; it was a release.

Playing and Celebrating Sports Safely

After the game, there were lots of cheers because of our 11-4 win! We greeted and celebrated your grandson as he walked toward his family. We wanted to give him a big hug, but knowing he came from a group of young men who were not socially distancing, we knew it wasn’t a smart idea. But a virtual hug is warranted. Virtual hugs suck, but are better than nothing!

Even during COVID-19, I still love baseball. I had never viewed it as a release for Grandma, but more of an opportunity to watch my grandson. I have a brand new appreciation for the sport and its ability to relieve my stress. So I say, PLAY BALL, as long as you follow the CDC guidelines and no one gets the virus!

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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Sending Our Daughter Off to College

Sending Our Daughter Off to College

I remember it quite vividly. It was the second Sunday in cold, cold January, and I was sitting on the couch sobbing uncontrollably on my mom’s shoulder. I didn’t want to go back to college. I had a rough first semester of college and was about to embark on a new adventure as I transferred to a different college. However, I. Did. Not. Want. To. Go.

Encouraging Words from Mom

I was scared. I was nervous. I was fearful. I was anxious. Yet, most importantly, I was loved. My mom let me sob for half an hour and then she said, “It’s time for you to go. I am more than confident you will find friends, and this new college will be for you. I have raised you well for this adventure.”

And with that, I was off in my car driving 35 minutes to my new college, with tears still in my eyes and what my mom said to me on my heart.

A New Stage of Parenting

Fast forward 22 years, and within the next three weeks we’ll be sending our daughter off to college. Many days I’m ready to send her off, and then there are those days when a memory pops up on Facebook or Instagram and I wish she was little again.

This parenting thing is hard. It was hard when they were babies. It was hard when they were toddlers, and don’t even get me started with those middle school years. Now, we’re embarking on a new stage of parenting—letting go and watching our oldest fly. Parenting is hard, but we have to trust we did our absolute best in each stage.

I think about the 18 years of parenting our oldest: how challenging she was as a baby, how I adored her rolls upon rolls, how she started potty training herself at 18 months, how she developed a passion for softball, how stubborn she is if she believes she’s right, how she developed an unmatched work ethic, how it took a village to help raise our daughter, and how she never forgets to tell us she loves us each night before bed.

Ready for the Next Chapter

Now it comes down to three weeks. Three weeks of her being in our home before her next chapter begins. I know I’m not ready for her to be gone physically from home, but my heart and mind are ready for her next stage. I know my husband and I have done everything possible to raise her into the young woman she is today and for this next chapter.

It will be the chapter where we get to see her fly. The chapter where we get to watch her and encourage her to make life decisions. The chapter where we get to see her create her own adventures. The chapter where we must trust and have the faith that we’ve done our absolute best in raising our daughter.

You see, my mom and dad pushed me out the door that cold, cold January day because it was time for me to leave home. They were ready to watch me fly. Now, life has come full circle. In three weeks, we will “push” our daughter out of the door. Our daughter is anxious. She is excited. She is hopeful. She is full of joy. She is ready. Most importantly, she is loved and we are ready to watch her fly.

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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Back to School…I Hope

Back to School…I Hope

In the next few weeks before school starts, people will decide what’s best for their family – whether that’s home schooling, distance learning or going back to in-person learning. This is a hot topic that hits every parent hard, and there are lots of opinions and emotions involved.

Before you talk to your friend, your neighbor, your sibling or your coworker who has made a different choice, I suggest you check your tone. And if you don’t have anything nice to say during this uncertain time, just don’t say anything.

Concerns About the 2020-2021 School Year

I didn’t like any of the options in the survey for Lincoln Public Schools regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 school session. My husband and I have full-time jobs, normally in an office, and can’t stay home some mornings, afternoons and every other week to help with distance learning. Nor do I feel that my children benefited from virtual learning. I know LPS will have a solid plan in place that will address everyone’s issues. Most of my concerns were addressed when I watched the public forums and after I read the notes from the board meetings.

I reached out to my son’s previous teacher, and she is excited to get back. Yes, there are more requirements to stay safe, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to give my children the best “normal” routine through all of this.

But if I’m being completely honest, none of the changes from the schools make me feel completely confident that my child will be safe from contracting COVID-19. I’m well aware of my kids’ hygiene habits and other kids’ hygiene habits in general, so even with the extra precautions in place, I’m not sure how effective the changes will be.

Why I Want the Kids Back at School

However, the longer we remain in quarantine, the longer my husband and I realize that this is a pretty indefinite situation until some medical solutions are found. And our child’s mental well-being could not wait the one, two or three years it would take to find those solutions.

We had some conversations and agreed it’s in everyone’s best interest to hopefully send the kids back to school full time, if available. This was decided based on what we know about the status and future of the virus and what we know about our children, plus the fact that I was drowning trying to keep up with professional work, housework, teaching and mommying.

All summer long, we crossed our fingers and toes that school would be open without varying times or days. My son, who will be in 4th grade, is very excited to return to school. Hopefully, it will be full time. Otherwise, I am not sure what we will do for daycare or how we will get virtual classes scheduled. If they go back to school full time, I’ll be able to concentrate on my job and give it my full attention during the day, and then focus on the kids in the evenings.

Making the Best Decision for Your Family

I know that this decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Just like with all of our parenting decisions, we’re constantly evaluating how they are working for our family and ready to make the necessary changes if this plan stops working for us. So if I feel like it’s no longer safe for them to go to school because of COVID-19, I will keep them home, but for now, sending them back is our plan.

I know our decision will have some negative responses from family or friends, which seem to be driven by worries about the infection risk. Many people are highly doubtful that children can prevent sharing bugs and carrying them out into the community, and lots of people have picked up on teachers’ concerns about whether schools have had enough time to prepare a safe environment.

It seems likely that people’s responses are driven by understandable fear and uncertainty, but if you’re a parent run ragged by nine weeks of homeschooling while attempting to hold down a job, other people’s judgement is likely to be the last thing you need. So check your tone before you comment on other people’s situations.

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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Renovations 17 Years in the Making

Renovations 17 Years in the Making

My husband had to talk me into purchasing our home 17 years ago because I didn’t want to have to do any remodeling. All I could see was update after update that would need to be completed. However, I really wanted to live in a house rather than an apartment, so I began to imagine what our home could look like after these updates. The good news was my husband taught industrial technology, had a construction job in high school and had the tools to make these imaginary images in my mind come true.

Renovation Prep May Not Involve Everyone

My husband tells me I’m unrealistic when it comes to home renovation ideas. He tells me to quit watching the home improvement shows. He often reminds me to quit looking through Pinterest for ideas. For 17 years, I’ve wanted to renovate our kitchen. Actually, I only want to demo a wall and replace it. The wall only houses the oven and stove top, so it’s not too big of a deal. I not-so-patiently wait for the day we decide to tackle the yellow and brown kitchen wall. But during the meantime, my husband has tackled many projects on the infamous “honey-do renovation spreadsheet.”

We’ve held onto the old wood for seven years in hopes of creating a shiplap wall in our kitchen. Two weeks ago, my husband started refurbishing the wood. My excitement was building. After much debating, planning and finding consecutive free days, we started the demo of the kitchen wall. But when I say “we,” I actually mean my husband. I quickly learned in the first hour of prepping that this was not going to be a task that involved both of us.

Putting His Skills to the Test

Two not-so-brilliant suggestions and a handful of tears later, I was off to wash and fold laundry. I left the renovation to my husband. This I know to be true about my husband: he does not like doing any home renovations because of my unrealistic timeline expectations. Still, I found myself standing outside of the plastic watching my husband as he demolished the wall and strategically planned how to rebuild it.

And, no matter how frustrated I was, I could not help but be amazed as I watched my husband in his element. He meticulously cut the drywall to save the adjacent walls. He was careful to collect all of the nails, so they would not be left on the floor. He intensely studied the measurements to ensure my ideas would work. And he even prepared me for a longer renovation timeline due to unforeseen issues.

17 Years of Waiting Will Be Worth It

There are days I struggle with patience because I’ve waited years for this one renovation project to start. I will definitely have to adjust my expectations of how fast this project will take to complete. However, as I continue to wait for the moment my husband will holler to help make a decision or to sweep the floor, I realize I’m lucky that my husband has pretty amazing craftsmanship.

We’ll have to live in chaos longer than I would like, and we’ll have to make meals without our oven or stove for the next month. We’ll have more renovation frustration ahead of us, yet at the end of it, our home will have another project completed by my husband’s hands.

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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Talking to Kids About Divorce

Talking to Kids About Divorce

Di-vorce – the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

But what does that mean to a child?

I’d like to start off by saying my husband and I are not getting a divorce! I repeat, Mitch and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and we are NOT getting a divorce.

However, the topic of divorce recently came up in our household, and both of our children were made aware of what the term divorce meant and why we were talking about it.

Tell Them What Divorce Is

While every family has to do what’s right for them (and for their kids) in approaching this topic, we had it a little easier since we weren’t talking about us. But no matter the situation, our priorities were to make sure our kids understood what divorce is, let them ask any questions and reiterate the importance of family.

We wanted to tell our children together, even though they’re at different ages. We felt that they could gain support from each other, which they did— more so my daughter looked up to her brother for understanding. And by doing so, no one felt excluded or that there were secrets because everyone heard the same thing.

Don’t Try to Avoid What’s Happening

Before I get to individual advice points, there was a piece of advice we got that calmed my nerves a great deal. The actual “telling” of the situation to the kids was important, but how we acted moving forward was bigger. At the end of the day, words are words, and they never speak as loudly as actions. We wanted to let them know that we’re still one big family, but things were going to look a little differently for holidays, birthdays and special family occasions.

There were two initial things we explained to our children: who was getting the divorce and the reasons why. The reasons why sounded a bit blunt, but we wanted to be honest. The explanation for it was as accurate as possible without confusing them or being too detailed.

Embrace Their Questions

When we told the children about the split, it led to many more questions. The questions were very practical. They wanted to know things like: Where will each of them be living? Will they still see them? Can they still talk to them? Will they still get presents from them on birthdays and Christmas?

It also provoked some insecurities from them about mommy and daddy’s relationship. Will you and dad split up? If you fight or disagree, is that the start of you both separating too? This led to more conversations about relationships, conflict, resolving conflict, love, marriage, and other issues they wondered about. But in the end, this discussion made us closer as a family.

Whatever you decide to tell your children initially, my guess is that the majority of your discussions with them will be about your own family. We made sure to reassure them that mommy and daddy have a secure and stable relationship and that no matter what, everyone is here for them! Again, making them realize the importance of family does not diminish after a divorce. Our family is strong, and our extended family is still strong—and we are committed to helping them maintain those ties.

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 COVIDuation 2020

Celebrating COVIDuation 2020

How do you celebrate graduation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? You find a way to come together with love, laughter and flexibility. No matter the state of the world, this motto has been with me since the mid 1980s when I was teaching and started taking part in high school graduation ceremonies.

It was always important for me to reassure the graduates it was truly their day and to enjoy it. But I would also add that graduation was perhaps more important for their families. My intent being, “please don’t display any behavior that would embarrass your mother!” One of the more memorable graduations was when seniors handed me a marble during our handshake. It certainly tested my flexibility, literally and figuratively.

Organizing Our Own Graduation

I have two grandchildren graduating this year. Our entire family has supported the CDC guidelines with social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and we were supportive of Lincoln Public Schools canceling graduation ceremonies. It was always a challenge trying to organize 600+ graduates in a normal year, let alone in a year of a pandemic.

I’ve seen news stories of several high schools having creative graduation ceremonies in a race car stadium or on their football field. Our family decided to get creative too. Each grandchild and their family decided to do something special to recognize their unique graduation day. We were fortunate to be included.

Our granddaughter decided she wanted something simple. She and her mother called to let us know they would stop over, so I could see the graduate in her cap and gown. I thought it was a sweet gesture and appreciated her including us.

As a surprise, I decided to wear my doctorate cap and gown, which I would wear for graduation ceremonies before I retired. I quickly made a sign and a pretend diploma, and we were ready for their arrival. We topped off the day with a social distance supper for five at their home. It was a perfect graduation and party.

woman wearing graduation cap and gown with cloth mask

Our grandson was also scheduled to graduate in May. He wasn’t as excited to make plans, so his mom took over. His mom had seen pictures of our granddaughter’s earlier graduation and liked the cap and gown idea. I agreed to participate in the graduation, but we agreed to not tell my grandson the plan. We didn’t want him to run away. Knowing I had more time to organize, I made a few adjustments.

Making the Day Our Own

First, I decided to prepare a short and sweet speech. Next, I enlisted the assistance of my husband to be the musician. What is a graduation without music, even if it’s just a kazoo? A diploma was made and we were ready to go to our grandson’s house.

As we drove, I kept thinking of other aspects I could quickly add to the ceremony. This was either going to turn out very well, or he was going to run away. Now, I knew he wasn’t going to run away, but I didn’t want to embarrass him so much he wouldn’t have a good laugh.

We walked into their home, and I told him to put on his cap and gown and I put on mine. He looked at me like I was crazy, yet he played along. My husband organized the four family members in the back yard where the ceremony would be held.

The graduate and I (as the principal) walked the processional to the kazoo sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.” I gave a quick speech, handed him a pretend diploma, and then we recessed to the school fight song and cheers of family members and the neighbors who were grilling out next door.

A Day They’ll Never Forget

I reminded both of our 2020 graduates that their graduation will be one they’ll never forget. It certainly will be a graduation I’ll never forget. I know there will eventually be a new normal and a new routine for almost everything, including graduations. Both our granddaughter’s and grandson’s graduations may be the new normal with plenty of love and laughter, and no marbles. It was perfect.

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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School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

During my morning walk, I caught myself reminiscing about being in the school building with students and missing everything about it. Not only do I miss teaching, but my kids miss school, their friends and the activities. And, all I can do is plan for and hope that we will be back in school buildings this fall. Without thinking too far in advance, we must experience summer first.

Goodbye School, Hello Summer

The last two months of remote learning is complete, and summer has officially begun. Now our family must conquer summer with three things at the forefront: grace, patience and understanding.

Just the other day, I presented our children with a daily summer to-do list, or as our youngest put it, “a summer contract.” I needed a tremendous amount of grace and patience then, while our kids needed a gigantic dose of understanding. In those moments, each of us wanted to reply without listening or understanding.

At the start of every summer, we always have great intentions to focus on learning something new and traveling, but this summer will end up being different. We do not have any specific plans for the summer, so my husband and I want to spend summer days being more intentional about mental wellness, physical wellness and teaching our kids about our passions.

Finding Our Passions

This summer, my hope is that we are intentional in spending more time as a family and understanding what each of us is truly passionate about. For example, our son is passionate about golf. Our family spends time with him on the golf course encouraging him, yet also trying to learn the sport.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my husband is passionate about photography and wants to teach our kids about pinhole photography. I would like to stretch our kids’ skills in creative writing or podcasting. Once the kids determine their topics, we will jump into the creative process.

Remembering to Set Boundaries

Even more important than learning, we are going to be diligent in supporting mental wellness through physical wellness. We are encouraging a daily running, strength training and yoga. Going beyond the physical wellness, we need to continue to set healthy boundaries with social media.

As our kids will say, we are the only parents in the world that set time limits to encourage unplugging and stepping away from technology. I believe focusing on these areas will continue to foster healthy relationships with our children as we enter a new phase in our household with a college student, a freshman in high school and a sixth grader. This will definitely take grace and patience from all of our family, but this is part of growing and developing these characteristics before they leave our home for the next stage of life.

Our middle daughter put it the best, “Why is it that my parents who are teachers still make us learn throughout the summer?” We encourage our family to spend the summer together, so we all have a deeper understanding of each other’s passions and enhance our patience and grace with each other. School’s out, but our family will continue learning.

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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Celebrating During a Pandemic

Celebrating During a Pandemic

Here’s a confession: I realize now that when this pandemic started, I was trying to be as optimistic as possible.

Working in the news business, I just thought it was the news story of the day, and we’d all move on the next day. But then events started to get canceled and businesses started to close.

I told myself that it was OK to spend a couple weeks at home because after this, we’d be able to go back to our normal lives. But a couple weeks turned into much longer.

At first it was, “Well, I guess we’ll postpone my daughter’s 6th birthday party. But we’ll still celebrate!”

Then, “Well, at least my son’s birthday in May will still happen.”

And, “Well, our 10-year wedding anniversary is in June; we’ll still get to go on our planned vacation for sure.”

And finally, “Jeez. At least we’ll have the family vacation that’s planned in August.”

It’s safe to say we’re experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Every Day Brings New Emotions

Some days are bad, while other days are meh. But once in a blue moon, there’s an elusive good day that sneaks up and shakes up our pandemic routines…and it can feel weird to experience.

When a lot is uncertain and the world is struggling, having a good day or a celebration felt wrong, or even caused some guilt. But I realized it’s important to give yourself permission to savor those moments of joy, even in the face of a pandemic. In fact, it’s important to find joy during times like these.

We’re dealing with canceled birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations, and we continue to stay inside and practice social distancing. That doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate; we just need to be a little more creative.

Celebrating Our Way

On the day of my daughter’s birthday party, my husband and I hung up streamers and draped a banner with a glittery “six” across the living room window. I woke up early to get her favorite donuts and then we decorated her cake and wrapped presents.

Everything was going according to the plan I had drawn up months earlier, except at 1 p.m., the doorbell wouldn’t ring and guests wouldn’t pour into our house for a birthday party.

Instead, I made sure to set the laptop on the dining room table and email a Zoom link to friends and family, so they could sing “happy birthday” virtually.

Despite the fact that there’s a pandemic, I’m a firm believer that celebrations—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries— still matter even if we have to celebrate a little differently!

Make the Most of Each Day

It’s okay to smile, laugh and celebrate during these times. In the midst of quarantine, love is stronger than ever and we need to continue to feel that kind of love and laughter.

Whether your good day is determined by crossing that one thing off your to-do list or just by being kind to yourself, it’s important to remember that what a “good day” looks like for you might be different than how it looks for someone else, and that’s OK.

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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