How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

When I originally started writing my blog post last week, I was planning on writing about my daughter’s college decision or preparing for a graduation party. Oh, how life can change in a matter of moments.

I Am Going to Be Alright

I am emotionally and mentally drained. Emotionally, I am drained as I am sad for my kids, for the senior class, for my kindergarten friends. I miss my students already. I miss my colleagues. Mentally, I am drained.

The school staff has spent the past 48 hours figuring out what the best form of virtual learning looks like when we know what is best for our students is being in our building. I am adapting. I am learning quickly, and I am trying to help my colleagues be the best they can be in this time of uncertainty.

I am going to be alright.

My Kids Are Going to Be Alright

After 12½ years of education, the last semester of our daughter’s senior year is going to e-learning and all major events have either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. There are so many lasts the seniors are missing. It is almost like the last pages of this chapter have been ripped out from their story.

Today, I talked to many of them. Many had tears in their eyes. Some shared fear of the unknown. Some just said they already miss the halls, miss their friends, miss the teachers.

Our oldest daughter and the rest of the Class of 2020 are going to be alright.

Then I think about our junior high daughter in her last semester before entering high school. Learning-wise, I am not worried about her, yet my heart aches for her socially. School is about being with her friends. In junior high, she is figuring out who she is, she is learning to find her passion, she is maturing and getting ready for high school.

She is going to be alright.

And then I think about our fifth grader, he loves his teacher. According to our son, his teacher is the best because she makes school fun. He loves being around his friends. He is a sponge for any historical information or current event. He will continue to learn it will just be hard that it is not in his classroom.

He is going to be alright.

My Husband Is Going to Be Alright

I think about my husband. Honestly, his sole focus the last week has been being the principal. He has lived at school. The admin team has met many, many times. They have worked tirelessly to figure out what is best for all of our students during this unprecedented time. You see, as principal, he not only has three of his own kids; he has 332 other kids he loves and worries about.

He is heartbroken. He is going to miss standing by the door each morning greeting students. He is going to miss mentoring the senior class in their final months of high school. He is going to miss his daily lunch picture with our middle daughter.

He is going to be alright.

We Are Going to Be Alright

The end of the school year is going to look different in comparison to the past years. The school setting makes our family better because of the relationships we have built inside the school walls. However, now we have an opportunity to find innovative ways to serve, care, love, and be kind. This unprecedented time in history is going to teach us something.

We are going to be alright.

Actually, we are going to be better on the other side of this storm than we are today.

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What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s one of those questions you’ve probably thought about countless times since you were little. And as you got older, the question started to feel more real, especially when teachers, parents, and even friends started asking.

Young graduates might imagine that discovering your passion happens the way it does in a movie: with a flash of insight and a trumpet blast. But before that flash or any other insight, I was struggling to find myself. I was waiting for the next moment when you know exactly who you are meant to be.

Planning Your Future Is Tough

Like many 18 year olds, I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I also knew that I needed a degree. After four years, I graduated with a degree in journalism, I had a full-time job, and Mitch and I were engaged to be married that next summer, which led to me becoming a mommy, my true passion.

I can say the reality of following your passion isn’t very romantic. It takes time to develop a direction that feels so in-the-bones right that you never want to veer from it. I never really had that moment or feeling.

Now that I am a working mom and have two wonderful children, I find myself in my mid-thirties, growing and changing into an entirely new version of me, long after the world has stopped expecting me to develop further. I’ve experienced a significant growth spurt in the past couple of years (not in height, sadly), which has led me to wonder: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Figuring Out the Next Phase in Life

I’ve been at the same company since graduating from college. I’ve moved around within the company, but now I feel stuck and don’t think I can move up anymore. But this is all I’ve known. Is this my passion? Can I really see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Should I settle?

This job is just a job. I never saw myself in this role. I never wanted this. It’s a good job that pays okay, the people are great, and it allows me the time I need to be a mother. But is it a job or my passion? I consider myself a “boss mom,” but I want more.

I’m playing a waiting game. My husband is currently getting his master’s degree and trying to figure out what career path he wants to follow. He has a vision, he has a passion, he has an understanding of what he wants to do. He is taking the steps he needs to obtain his passion. From the moment he started college, he knew he wanted to help children in difficult situations. He has a purpose. He has a passion.

The Present Is as Bright as the Future

But I sit here struggling to find a passion that will make me money. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does pay the bills. I’ve already obtained my true passion which is, of course, being a mom, but now what? I wait for my husband to finish school and see where his degree takes us, but for me, the world has misrepresented life as to cause people to resist adulthood and then have a crisis thinking their best years are behind them before they’ve reached their thirties?! Is this all there is? By no means!

Life is good right now. I can sit back and enjoy it, but I know that there’s more (far more) to life than this. Further up and further in!

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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Why It’s Difficult to Watch My Grandkids Play Sports

Why It’s Difficult to Watch My Grandkids Play Sports

I’m getting older, that’s a fact. I try to follow the “aging” suggestions my doctor gives me and while I’m not worried about an injury, I do notice I think about it more now than in the past. The injuries I’ve endured are a few bruised fingers and a twisted ankle from playing pickleball. I’ve been fortunate to avoid anything which required an ER visit, casts or crutches, but it’s my grandkids who worry me.

As grandparents, we’ve become permanent bleacher bums for the past 15+ years. From those early years, it was significantly painful to watch Y team soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, tennis and volleyball games. My husband and I have been faithful attendees at hundreds of sporting events. I use the term sporting events loosely, as in many games we watched a granddaughter spend more time picking dandelions than she did chasing the ball.

As Intensity Increases, So Does Caution

As the grandkids grew and learned the various sports, the action got more heated. Fortunately, our grandkids didn’t get hurt when they were young, but some of their friends experienced injuries. I saw the tears and agony in the faces of the child, their parents and even their grandparents.

I recognized I was becoming more and more anxious. I’m sure there is some scientific formula where, mass (speed) + the number of practices + games = the higher probability of an injury. I may have missed that chapter in my high school textbook, so don’t quote me. With two grandkids in college and one in high school still competing, watching their events brings me a thrill, much joy and pride, but with a tinge of wincing and cringing. I don’t tell them this, but it’s true.

Even Safe Sports Can Be Scary

Our oldest grandchild rows crew in college. Sounds like a safe sport, right? Have you ever read any headlines about an accident in a crew race? The boats go in a straight line for heavens sake. However, one look at her calloused and blistered hands make me weak. Then there was the concussion she received while practicing, which was beyond my comprehension. I wonder if the crew team rows with itty bitty life vests in those skinny boats?

Our second grandchild is also a college athlete and plays volleyball. She entered college recovering from ACL surgery she received playing high school basketball. This recovery was very painful for me to watch, and I developed a sympathetic limp watching as she recuperated. By fall, her recovery was great, but the vision of seeing her dive on the court to dig a 45 mph spike delivered by a giant opponent took my breath away. I know I missed some great plays because I had my eyes shut!

The Fear from the Bleachers Is Unrelenting

This winter we have watched our grandson play high school varsity basketball. At 6’3” I’m sure he can take care of himself. I watched him break his pinky finger and I immediately wished the injury would bench him for the rest of the season, but no such luck. He was back in a week with lots of tape on his hand. Two weeks later he was fouled while airborne making a lay up. I watched as he lay crumpled on the court and I feared the worse. Thankfully, it was not a knee, but a sprained ankle. He was out for only one game—hallelujah!

As spring approaches, I remind myself we now have baseball games to watch. I love watching baseball. What could possibly go wrong when your grandson stands in the batters box and the pitcher throws a ball at him from 60 feet away at a speed only cars should be allowed to travel? I won’t tell any of them about my fears. I only tell them I love them and will cheer them on at every event I have an opportunity to attend. Eyes open or eyes closed? I’ll decide that at the time.

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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Thank You, Basketball

Thank You, Basketball

The thrill of the jump ball. The adrenaline rush running onto the court to be the first sub into the game. The final buzzer sounded and the tears of frustration flooded down her face. As I hugged my daughter, encouraging her there was still hope in playing another game, I was flooded with emotions. Basketball, you have taught our daughter many lessons that will go well beyond the court.

You Helped My Daughter Grow

Let me just say this first: basketball you are not my daughter’s favorite sport, but she poured her heart into playing your game. Our daughter with her tiny stature and frame could have quit long ago, but you didn’t let her give up on basketball. You gave her a mental challenge, you showed her she had something to prove, you gave her adversity, and finally you gave her a lesson in learning the importance of individual roles.

Basketball, time-and-time again you stretched our daughter’s mental focus. Yes, there were days she needed to work on her shooting or dribbling, but the games of staring frustration in the face because things didn’t go well taught her to persevere. She would need this skill when you gave her adversity through a knee injury.

You Taught My Daughter Invaluable Lessons

She needed perseverance to rehab her knee, she needed to persevere when she hit the valleys and she also had to overcome her fear of returning to the court. Basketball, our daughter did not step down from this adversity and she became mentally stronger. She wanted to prove to you she would be back on the court. She wanted to prove to you, you did not take away the sport she loves—softball.

Basketball, from the mother’s perspective, the greatest lesson you taught our daughter was how to handle a role. You taught her that every game, every situation and on every team there are roles. You taught her to first understand what her role was and how to embrace this role. There were games where her bench minutes far outweighed court minutes.

She embraced those bench minutes by focusing on encouraging her teammates. There were games she started—she embraced those starts. There were games where her role was to give the starters a one-minute break, and she embraced those minutes. Basketball, you do not realize how important a lesson you taught our daughter. What she learned from you will carry with her in every group project, every student she will teach and every athlete she will coach.

You Helped Me Grow with Her

Basketball, it broke my heart watching my daughter sit on the bench. I hated you when she was injured, but I loved watching her play. I loved watching her encourage her teammates. I loved seeing the smiles the coaches exchanged when our daughter embraced whatever role they had for her.

While I sit here and reflect upon what you have taught our daughter, my heart swells with pride. Basketball, thank you for impacting our daughter’s life. Basketball, it truly does take a village to raise a child and I am forever grateful.

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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When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

School holidays, after school times and summer present challenges for families when parents work. Finding suitable care for children is tricky, particularly when usual arrangements fall through or kids tell you they are too old to be looked after.

When Is the Right Age to Let Kids Stay Home Alone?

It’s no wonder that many parents look forward to the day when you don’t have to pay for child care. But how do you know when the time is right to let your child stay home alone? My son, who is 9-years-old, goes to an after-school program and then goes to full-time daycare during the summer. However, my husband and I are debating putting him in summer camps and forgoing daycare. But then we’ll lose his spot for next year for after-school care. After this summer, is he old enough to walk home by himself and be home alone until we arrive?

There are a lot of factors that need to be ironed out before deciding if he is ready to be left home alone. However, registration is open for summer camps and our daycare provider would like to know if he’s coming back. First the logistics—we needed to get the house ready. We had to install a new keypad garage door opener, so he’s not fumbling with keys. Then, we installed a ring doorbell and a camera inside the house. Lastly, we enabled his iPad to make phone calls only to the people we programmed in. Now that I feel comfortable with the house, I needed to see if Cohen was ready.

Train Your Kids on Being Home Alone

Leaving kids on their own for short periods is good training for independence and problem solving. I would take a five-minute trip to visit to a neighbor, a twenty-minute walk around the block or a quick trip to the supermarket—these were great opportunities to leave Cohen unattended for short periods. He and his younger sister were never home alone together. I know he’s not ready to take on the responsibility of him and his little sister.

As I have said before, Cohen is my good kid. He’s capable of managing problems or unforeseen circumstances, such as a stranger knocking on the door. He isn’t easily flustered by unknown circumstances. We have discussed different scenarios like what he should do in a power failure or what to do if there was a fire. We also discussed what neighboring houses he can go to in case of an emergency. If school is let out early or he has a random day off, he will have someone there to watch him. A couple hours after school is long enough—not the entire day.

Trust Your Kids to Do the Right Things

Leaving children at home on their own involves an element of trust. I feel comfortable that Cohen will behave well and can keep himself safe. We laid out our expectations about his behavior, his activities, his use of digital devices, the food he can eat and who is able to visit—no one! We will be clear with our expectations and let him know that we trust him to do the right thing.

We as parents need to think carefully about many things before leaving our children alone. Putting children in situations they can handle can help teach them independence and responsibility. But asking too much too soon can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. I’m sure when the summer is over and the school year is starting I may feel a little more anxious. But for now, we will practice until we all feel comfortable.

So at what age do you feel comfortable leaving your children home alone?

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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The ‘Pet Effect’ and Its Impact on Your Mental Health

The ‘Pet Effect’ and Its Impact on Your Mental Health

If you’re on the fence about adding a pet to your family, here is something in the ‘plus’ category: Pets can be very good for your mental health and well-being. As a mental health professional for more than 27 years, I’ve seen in my practice as well as my own life, how pets can truly make a difference. Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird or fish, many studies prove the benefits of sharing your home with a pet.

Our little “shorkipoo,” Ollie, has been with our family for three years now. He was a gift to our youngest daughter, but this little guy with a big voice has brought a lot of joy and happiness to our family as well as to friends and our neighborhood. (I think more people know where “Ollie” lives than where we live!)

Pets Improve Our Well Being

Just ask nearly any pet owner and you’ll hear how spending time with an animal helps them relax and alleviate stress. While the phrase “emotional support animal” has become commonplace, the science behind the “pet effect” is beginning to back up the claim that pets improve our well-being.

So how about those studies? For starters, they’ve found that:

  • Service dogs aid treatment for military members and veterans struggling with PTSD
  • Pet ownership benefits those experiencing mental health problems
  • Therapy dogs reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being in college students

A lot of research is also being done on how animals can help children who have conditions like autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and others, be more comfortable and present in the classroom.

According to the Mental Health Foundation of the United Kingdom, “a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation for their owners. In many ways, pets can help us to live mentally healthier lives.” I’ve seen this in my own life. My father lights up when we bring Ollie over for a visit. And when my late mother was ill with cancer, Ollie always put a smile on her face.

So What Is It about Pets that Makes Such a Difference?

Pet ownership creates a sense of responsibility. In turn, that sense of responsibility promotes many positive behaviors with benefits for both our behavioral and physical health. Regular exercise, for example, helps improve mood and well-being. When you take a nice long walk with your dog, you get a physical workout as well as the emotional satisfaction of bonding with and caring for your pet. I walk Ollie at least a couple of times a day, rain or shine, and have him to thank for sticking with my exercise routine!

Pet ownership has social benefits. Walking a pet gets you out of the house and into your community, where you can greet old friends, meet new people and interact with other pet owners. In our case, a walk around the block that should take three minutes can take 30 because every little kid wants to pick up Ollie or pet him.

Caring for a pet requires following a routine and building some structure into your day. While the schedule you follow actually may be one you set up for your pet, just having a regular routine in the first place can be an important accomplishment for many struggling with their mental health.

Stroking a dog, cat or other animal helps reduce stress. In fact, even just the companionship of having a pet around can be a source of comfort and relaxation. When my daughter comes home from school, Ollie is first on the scene, showering her with unconditional love and affection. What better way to decompress from the day?! Pet ownership can also counteract feelings of loneliness and help ward off anxiety, and can establish a sense of pride or achievement. This benefits all of us and can be very important to someone with depression or anxiety.

Volunteer or Visit

If you’re unable to have a pet, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter or visiting a friend with a pet. Many of the benefits of time spent with animals can be realized after even a short time spent together (though the effects tend to be strongest between a pet and its owner). If larger pets are out of the question, think about a guinea pig or fish. Even these more “low-maintenance” pets can help you de-stress and build resiliency.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

David Miers, PhD, LIPC, is the Counseling and Program Development Manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb. 

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

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Do Sequels Improve on the Originals?

Do Sequels Improve on the Originals?

Recently, I took one of my three granddaughters to see the newest Star Wars movie. I had seen the first three installments to the series, but had missed the past two or three. I enjoyed the movies I had seen in the past, and she assured me this one would be great as well.

Catching Up on Sequels You’ve Missed

Before the movie started, we talked about sequels and how sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t. I shared that Jaws one and two were good, but the third movie was not great. She mentioned the Marvel franchise, but I’ve never seen them, so I didn’t have much to contribute. We both liked the Indiana Jones and the Harry Potter sequels. Then we moved to Star Wars.

I told her the last Star Wars movie I saw was in 1983. She gave me the stinky-eye look—how dare I not keep up-to-date! She quickly moved on to explain the story lines I had missed and the characters I had no knowledge of ever existing in the story line. I tried my best to keep up-to-date. My only mistake was to ask if this is the movie with the Baby Yoda. Yep, I was the recipient of another stinky-eye look. Which movie was he in?

Understanding the Common Theme of Sequels

My granddaughter’s unabridged version of the movies I had missed were quite good. Knowing there was a link between the early movies and this latest one made me feel like I could handle the fact I hadn’t seen the entire series.
After the movie, we discussed it and we both gave it a thumbs up. Apparently, this latest movie is to be the last Star Wars movie. My granddaughter assured me there would be a spin-off in theaters soon. We also talked about the concept of sequels. When you’ve got something people like and want, keep it going. Each sequel has a common theme, yet is tweaked enough to make it special and each sequel has enough familiarity to identify with the main story line.

Each Grandkid Is a New Sequel

The sequel concept got me thinking about my own grandkids. Is each grandkid a sequel to the previous child? Does each grandkid learn from the previous one? Do they strive to be better, stronger than the previous grandkid? Like the movie sequel, each one of my grandkids has some common themes which run through them.

DNA would account for some of the common traits. My grandkids don’t look alike, but there are resemblances. Shared family values and beliefs is another common theme in movies and grandkids. All four grandkids grew up in the same church, went to the same day care, were involved in youth sports and eat the same food grandpa cooks.

While each of our precious grandkids are similar, they are each unique in providing their own twist to our family. Our grandson is very tall, his sister is very short and my other two granddaughters are in between the extremes. Are we like Jaws XXIV? No! However, I am thankful for all the similarities and all the differences I see in my grandkids. It makes life interesting and reassuring at the same time. Kind of like seeing the original Luke Skywalker through the years. May the Force be with you!

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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Intentionally Learning to Embrace the Moment

Intentionally Learning to Embrace the Moment

Last week, our two daughters and I were sitting at the kitchen table—all of us working on schoolwork. At one point our middle daughter said, “I have ‘eighth-graditis’.” I looked at her and said, “There is no such thing.” Then our senior daughter chimed in, “I really have senioritis.” I responded to her, “Don’t wish away these last four months. Be intentional about enjoying each day.”

There it was againbe intentional. Since last November, this phrase and word just keeps finding its way into many of my conversations. As I was preparing my heart for what I wanted my word of the year to be, embrace was all over my heart. However, how could I tell my daughters to be intentional and enjoy the moment when I had a hard time focusing on that myself.

Refocusing My Intention

For many years, I believed I was learning about life when I was actually just surviving life. I survived the diaper stages, and I survived the terrible twos and the terrific threes. I survived running between three different youth sports on any given Saturday. I survived sending my first born off to kindergarten. I survived sending my baby off to kindergarten.

Maybe it’s the 40s or that we have a senior, but I don’t just want to survive life—I want to live life. I decided it was the year to reteach myself to embrace the moment. To be where my feet are. However, as January started, I realized to completely understand embrace, I have to understand how to be intentional.

3 Steps to Remaining Intentional in Your Life

Be intentional about time, be intentional about meditation, be intentional of where my feet are planted, and be intentional about not having our calendar dictate each and every day. A couple things had to happen for me to have a growth mindset on this journey:

  1. Create an “accountability family” with different people holding me accountable for something different.
  2. Remind myself that “no” is a complete sentence.
  3. Be intentional close up, not from a far.

These three guiding themes have worked well this far into January. My accountability family have suggested ideas for the months ahead, from being intentional about a 2020 exercise challenge with my work colleagues or having supper with our neighbors.

Understanding Every Day Is Special

The idea of being intentional up close and not from a far came from a conversation with my neighbor when she said, “Why wait until Christmas or Thanksgiving to use your china? My china is in our cupboard for everyday use because everyday is special.” I have taken this to heart. In one such situation, being intentional up close allowed me to give that extra needed hug and smile. But ultimately I experienced the joy of the circumstance in person rather than through an email.

Learning to be intentional has allowed me to embrace the moment. To embrace the conversations around the kitchen table, and to truly embrace watching my kids do what they love to do. But being intentional is also about preparing. Starting with preparing myself to embrace the change that will occur in our house in August when we send our daughter off to college.

In the meantime, I will continue to grow in this area and bring my family along on my “intentionally learning to embrace the moment” journey.

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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New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

Eat healthy, lose weight, exercise—these are some of the things I think about when it comes to New Year Resolutions. But this year, I not only wanted to do these resolutions for me, but I wanted to include my family in some as well.

Resolutions for the Family

When it comes to individual resolutions, for me, they’re easy to give up on because they’re all about me in a world where I’m focused on taking care of everyone else. This year, I wanted to try making resolutions as a group. They can be fun, painless and are sure to benefit my entire household.
While making a family resolution may seem as sensible as herding cats, it’s worth the effort. But setting family resolutions will only work if each member of the family feels invested. And for everyone to feel invested, shared goals need to be recognized and treated equally within the family.

If everyone feels they have a stake, then you have created the foundation for achieving your shared goals. Making goals public to your family and working together to achieve them provides the outside encouragement we all need to keep resolutions.

Focus On Your Health

But if you are the only one in your family that is actively working towards a goal, constantly removing yourself from your other family members’ habits —like eating a salad during family pizza night—will eventually erode your desire to keep your resolutions.

You might stick with eating salads for a while, but that pepperoni pizza will be more tempting when everyone else is enjoying it. We limited our pizza night to once a month. Instead of just eating salads for dinner, we are including a side salad with dinner.

We also decided to go on more family walks—the dog needs exercise too! The children have been joining me at the gym and hopefully we can get outside on the “nicer” winter days. Not only watching their mom get fit, but joining in when they can as well.

Before, I would weekly meal prep for myself, but now we are also planning our meals instead of driving through the fast food lane. We also included the children in the meal planning and prep. We are trying to find healthy ways to eat chicken strips and mac n’ cheese. The kids are excited and willing to try what they made!

Remember to Be Thankful

Lastly, we started a thankful jar. Each week we place a slip of paper in a jar saying what we were thankful for. At the end of each month, we will read these aloud. As part of the thankful jar, we also started sharing more. I feel that it is important to listen to each other.

We were stuck in a rut as soon as we got home—it was homework, dinner, electronics/tv, bath and bed. We rarely talked to each other. It was, “how was your day…fine…” and we’d move on. Now we are really trying to listen and ask questions.

I didn’t want to force my family to do New Year Resolutions, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Everyone was really excited to try, and it was easy to find ways for us to work together and achieve some common goals. Plus, it allows us more time together.

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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Grandma’s Online Ordering: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Grandma’s Online Ordering: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Reflecting on the past holidays is always a fun thing for me to do. We are still lucky enough to have all of our kids and grandkids with us, and enjoy each and every minute at our traditional gatherings, which may someday come to an end.

There were grandmas who told me during early December that their Christmas was being celebrated in January, because their kids and grandkids weren’t able to make it home for December 25. I understand as traditions may sometimes need to be changed, and I’m confident we will all adjust with good cheer when our time comes. Until then, I’ll bask in the joy of our traditions.

I’ve always taken on the task of hosting our extended families. It’s a challenge, but not a problem. It’s buying the presents which sometimes frustrates me.

Lists to Santa Are Long Gone

When our grandkids were young, their parents always told us what they wanted from Santa. Even when they were older, their parents were the elves giving us ideas for presents under the tree. Once a couple of the grandkids went off to college, I’ve begun asking them for ideas. I decided it was probably time the kids get what they want. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t always work. This year being yet another example.

The grandkids send me their ideas by taking a picture of what they want and sending it to me. Sometimes I’m able to decipher the small print and sometimes I can’t. Yes, even enlarging the picture doesn’t always help. One granddaughter sent me a picture of a pair of tennis shoes. I had some trouble finding the link for the Ultraboost Adidas (why would anyone name the style Ultraboost if the shoes are not for racing or basketball?).

The shoe was located, and I had some difficulty finding the correct color, but I persevered and had them ordered. When she opened them during the Holiday, I was pleased they were the correct shoe, but unfortunately, her foot didn’t fit in the shoe. Yep, I had been so excited to find them that I didn’t change the size that automatically came up. They could be returned, but they no longer send a printed receipt with the delivery, so I had to go online to print it for a return.

The Winding Road Online Orders Take

Our grandson also wanted a special pair of high-fashion athletic shoes. These shoes were not carried by any local store and with my history of ordering online, I was very nervous. After hours of figuring out the website and procedure, it was finalized and would be at our front porch in five days. When the package arrived, I was amazed when I saw the route to our home in Lincoln, NE. Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, to Anchorage, AK, to Memphis, TN, to Omaha, NE, to Lincoln, NE.

The tracking and distance was not noted when I ordered the shoes. Had I known the origin, I may have changed my order—or not. I’m guessing the shoes cost $10 plus the tariff. The shoes arrived in perfect shape. When our grandson unwrapped the box, he smiled ear-to-ear. He even cradled the shoes like a baby.

One Order, Two Pairs of Shoes

Our second oldest granddaughter sent me a picture of a pair of UGGs she liked. I thought they looked like my grandfather’s Romeo slippers, but I found the link and went through the process of starting my order. The process was interrupted by our needing to attend our grandson’s basketball game. I am not perfect with the planning of time. I wasn’t worried as I had the information I needed and I could complete the order soon.

The next day, I went back to the site, found the UGGs, filled out the information and pushed the enter key to place the order. Within four days I had her UGGs. Within six days, I had another pair of UGGs. I didn’t realize I had to quit/delete an order. What the heck? The good news is that I wear the same size as my granddaughter. So I unwrapped the second pair of UGGs, which I gave to myself. We all had a great laugh at my purchasing fiasco.

All my time, mistakes and successes couldn’t take anything away from the joy and laughs we shared that day. My takeaway may be to attend a computer class at SCC titled, “Ordering Online!”

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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Scholarships Season is Stressful

Scholarships Season is Stressful

It’s snowing outside, the Christmas lights are shining bright on the tree, and I am sitting in the recliner enjoying my cup of hot cider watching holiday movies. I’m enjoying the silence and reminiscing about the most wonderful time of the year. Then I hear it, “Mom, what does this mean?” “Mom can you proofread this essay?” “Mom, do you remember what year I did this?” Even the daily, “Mom get off my back, I will get it done by the deadline!” It hardly seems like the most wonderful time of the year with all the stress of scholarship writing.

Scholarships Are Stressful

It may be stressful, but this is an important time of the year. As a parent, I thought preparing for graduation would be stressful, however, preparing for graduation seems easy compared to the stress of scholarship writing. Our daughter’s stress definitely comes down to her personality and wanting to be the best version of herself in all of the applications. Still my constant harping, “Do you have that scholarship done?” may be adding to the stress.

The cost of college and writing scholarships is a frequent conversation in our home right now. The other night our daughter was finishing up a semester budgeting project and she commented, “It really takes 20 years to pay off college debt?” Another learning opportunity for my husband and I to talk to her about the cost of college and the implication of debt beyond the college years.

Have the Tough Conversations

We discussed with our daughter how we paid off my college debt in less than eight years by making monthly payments, however, at one point we paid between $1,500 and $1,750 per month for one year to get rid of the debt. Our discussion turned to needs and wants and delaying purchasing gratification but I could not go without saying, “Do you see how important applying for scholarships really is?” In hindsight this was not the most opportune time to make the comment.

Right now, all our daughter sees is the time it takes in her busy schedule to write and apply for scholarships. Yet, for all the stress that may occur and the time preparing scholarships, it really is worth the time for the potential financial rewards. As she continues through the scholarship writing season, I definitely need to trust she will complete the application and quit nagging her each day. Our daughter does have high expectations of herself and I know she will complete all of her applications.

Sit Back & Have Faith

As I sit in my recliner and answer questions throughout the scholarship writing season, I listen as I know I will not be around her next year in college encouraging (nagging) her to meet deadlines. I also remind myself this is all part of me learning to let go of control. Ultimately, this scholarship season is another growing season for me to have faith and continue letting her grow into the adult I have prayed for her to become since the day she was born.

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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Planning a Disney Family Vacation

Planning a Disney Family Vacation

It’s a family vacation to remember. I can already picture it: Me, lounging poolside with a fruity cocktail as my carefree husband applies sunscreen to my back. We laugh, charge another round to the room, and bask in the sight of our happy kids splashing responsibly in the shallow end of the hotel pool. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

If you’re considering a trip to the Most Magical Place On Earth, it’s likely you’re feeling a little stressed and maybe even confused on where to start. With four theme parks, two water parks and a giant shopping district, it’s easy to see why. This was our first big family vacation and the planning felt more in-depth than planning my own wedding.

Where to Start When Planning a Disney Family Vacation

The first step you’ll want to take when you plan a Disney World trip is getting prepared. I started with reaching out to friends and family who’ve recently gone to Disney World. I also reached out to a co-worker who used to work at Disney—she helped out tremendously.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, which I highly recommend if you have the budget, you’ll have an account created on Disney World’s website. This is where you’ll be able to access the My Disney Experience that holds your reservations and links your dining reservations and FastPass+ selections. The preplanning took my co-worker and I a couple of dinners to select and plan. So make sure you decide early on selecting your FastPasses and dining reservations! When you’re at the parks, you’ll be able to use the app to view maps, restaurant menus, your plans and more. It’s a must for any Disney World vacation!

How to Properly Pack for the Family

The next step is packing. Here, it’s all about packing smart from the start—remember, less is more!

I went above and beyond on the Disney clothes beforehand and planned out a new outfit every day we were at the parks. This was not necessary, but it made it feel more special for the kids. I figured that we are probably only going to offer Disney once, so why not! Also, don’t forget to pack ponchos as it rains almost every day in Florida.

While packing don’t forget that snacks, games and movies are a traveling must! Both kids had a backpack full of these items to help with boredom on the plane. Luckily, this was their first airplane experience, so the newness of flying helped a lot! After the major things are complete, try to enjoy your time as a family.

Expectation vs Reality

Without going into every little detail about the trip here were my expectations vs. realty.

  • Expectation: We’ll get an early start first thing in the morning! Let’s do this vacation thing!
  • Reality: Why can’t we sleep in; we are on vacation?
  • Expectation: Let’s go to all four parks starting from when they open and stay until the fireworks at night.
  • Reality: “Mooooooom, can’t we just swim in the pool?”
  • Expectation: Let’s take hundreds of pictures at every location. Everyone is very posed, smiling big and happy.
  • Reality: Nobody really wants to take a picture; they just want to have fun! The smiles are only half smiles and everyone’s thoughts are, “Fine, let’s get this over with.” And of course, there’s always that one person, my five-year-old daughter that just doesn’t want to cooperate, making everyone else annoyed.
  • Expectation: Even if the lines are long, we’ll enjoy the family time together.
  • Reality: “Mooooom, can I have your phone!”
  • Expectation: This is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my children will act perfectly and be happy.
  • Reality: “Mom, my feet hurt, why is this line so long?” And then there was at least one melt down a day!

One Last Piece of Advice

My one big piece of advice when planning a trip to Disney is plan down time. I wanted to visit as much as possible, but my daughter wanted pool time every day. We did see all four theme parks and visited the shopping district, but in reality, we could have spent several days at just one park.

We crammed a lot into a short time. However, Disney World exceeded my expectations. Even though the trip wasn’t always what I had planned, we created memories that will last a lifetime. And it is safe to say, we are all ready to go back!

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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