Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

The holiday season is always a busy and delightful one. I enjoy opening up our home to family members, their children and grandkids. Our grandkids are growing older, so several of them are seriously dating others, and we do our best to accommodate everyone. Almost 30 guests will be attending Thanksgiving and Christmas with us this year. Even though I’m thrilled, I also realize my time with each grandkid gets shorter every year.

A Successful Thanksgiving

I’m beginning to adjust to hosting 25-30 people for the holidays. Fortunately, Thanksgiving went well, and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. It was quick for everyone, though, because the girls needed to get back to Kansas City and my sister and her family had another event to attend.

Planning for Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’ll be a quick turnaround to Christmas. I still marvel at how I did everything when I was working full-time at Lincoln Public School. Where did I find the time and the energy? I have plenty of time now, but the energy is limited. I always try to plan some type of prep work to do each day, making sure my baby steps will get me ready before December 25th.

My Struggles With Gift-Giving

Unlike previous years, my grandkids have been really on top of getting their gifts ideas to me early. They are more aware of the sales taking place now and will do what they can to get the gifts they want and need. This year, they all want clothes for work. I’ve already ordered dress shirts, sweaters, pants, jeans and shoes. From sneakers to dress shoes to Birkenstocks, everyone in my family is getting a new pair of shoes.

Even though the kids have done a great job texting me their wishlists, I worry that I won’t order their requested items correctly. Somehow, I always manage to get the wrong size, color or number of shoes. One time, I ordered what I thought was one pair of tennis shoes, but I received two. All turned out well because the second pair fit me. Bonus!

The other thing that usually throws me off is trying to find the gift receipt for the orders. Why don’t they send a printed receipt on the package anymore? I’m all for saving and recycling paper, but what the heck?

Lastly, John and I create traditional Christmas gift tags on each person’s presents, which takes additional time. We always think it’s funny to make up a name for who the gift is from. We sit down at our laptops and ask Google for ideas. As an example, we’d search for people who always wear tennis shoes and use their name to indicate that’s who gave our family the gift. The person could be famous or not, but it provides a clue to what the gift might be. It also provides a good laugh for everyone. Even Santa. Ho Ho Ho.

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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What to Do When Children Don’t Want Your Heirlooms

What to Do When Children Don’t Want Your Heirlooms

John and I are tired of taking care of the yard, trimming, planting, spraying for weeds and yes, even killing garter snakes. It’s not that we don’t want to do it, but it seems to be taking us more and more time to accomplish our tasks. We take care of all the cleaning, cooking, hosting holidays for 25+ people, while continuing to be social with friends, book clubs, church events and volunteering in the community.

Our Downsizing Dilemma

We’re not ready to downsize, but many of our friends have already done so. They love it and keep urging us to do the same. The thought of moving is a bit overwhelming. What would we need to get rid of? Do we want to go through two large store rooms and determine what to keep and what to toss? Or would our children and grandchildren want to take some of the treasures that we received from our grandparents?

It wasn’t long ago when we were all together and I asked everyone to let me know if there were any items that they wanted. My request went over like a lead balloon. One daughter asked for my grandmother’s bureau, and one of our grandkids asked for an antique pie pantry. That was it. No one was interested in old photo albums, my grandfather’s WWI pictures and helmet, a 1948 antique car and a 1910 pool table or 160 acres of CRP land. These were important to us, why not them?

Rehoming Family Valuables

I’m not trying to brag and say we have more possessions than other grandparents. In fact, other grandparents probably have many more valuable heirlooms. What I am saying is, “What do we do now?” I could have a sale or donate our possessions to refugees or the local Habitat store. Maybe if Antique Roadshow came to Lincoln I could take something in to show. But somehow, I wish some of our things could stay in the family. Our daughters have full houses with no room for more “stuff”. Our grandchildren are still in apartments and have no idea when or if they will make a move to another location or own a home.

Finding Meaning in Letting Go

We still use our good china, but only three times a year. The china seems to be replaced by take-out boxes. As we all age, this will be a growing issue for us baby boomers. Why would we think our children and grandchildren would somehow see the value in things that, in their minds, have no meaning?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset about some of these things. I realize there are major costs to maintaining some of these family items, especially with the antique car and acres of land. I’m only trying to think of what my next move will be. Perhaps, I need to make a goal for myself to sell or give things away when I’m not under pressure to do so. What’s ours may not be theirs, but they will be someone’s. I hope to find satisfaction with that!

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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How I Embraced Being Present This Summer

How I Embraced Being Present This Summer

It’s that time of year again—back to school. This summer felt like it lasted a second. I blinked and it’s gone. I feel like we just had an end of the school year party and now here we go again.

Cherishing Summer Moments With My Kids

I don’t know who enjoys summer vacation more—me or my kids. I cherished these last three months. I took time to be present in my kids’ lives. Yes, I still worked my full-time job outside the home, but having my son home most days gave me reason to leave for lunch or clock out early.

How to Prioritize Presence Over Everything

As much as I love my career, being 100% present with my kids takes center stage. I’m still on a journey to fully understand what being present means and how it can make a difference in my interactions and relationships.

I realized it all comes down to the choices I decide to make. I must select my daily priorities and give them the most attention. So, this summer I focused on three things.

1. Cut Back on Technology

As much as I love technology, and I use it as a part of my job, I still limit my technology intake. Here are my strict guidelines:

  • After 5 PM, I don’t check email and turn off notifications because those pings are distracting.
  • I put my phone away when I am with my family, so that I won’t look at anything when they are speaking with me.

2. Limit Social Media Time

I use social media for business, and I’ve almost completely cut back on social media personally. I realized I was seeing my life from my phone and was missing the in-person moments.

Social media is designed to make you engage more, to be curious about what friends are doing and saying and to check who is liking and praising you. Suddenly my minutes, hours and soon days were filled with seeing what everyone else was doing. My fear of missing out was real.

But guess what? When I fed into FOMO, I started missing out on real-life moments with the people who matter the most. So now, I take quick pictures here and there so I have them, but I want to be present in my life.

3. Start to Be Mindful

Being “mindful” and “mindfulness” have become big buzz words in my house. When you’re mindful, you’re present and aware of what’s around you. As a result, you’re able to recognize someone else’s feelings.

I’ve started meditating. Now I use all my senses when someone is talking with me. I can tell when someone close to me says one thing but their body and tone of voice say something else. This is very beneficial to my children and spouse. I am more aware of their feelings and the underlying meaning of their words.

Embracing the Back-to-School Transition

So, I am sad the summer is ending, and my days are becoming consumed with work, chores, schoolwork and kids’ activities. But, I am going to try and live in the moment.

A Note to New Mothers

However, I know this advice seems impossible for new moms. You’re probably exhausted and feeling defeated. I feel you. I know that you want some of these moments to end and that you don’t want to live in this moment forever. And you will get through it. But now that my kids are older and they sleep through the night, I truly understand why I need time to slow down.

Hold your children close and breathe them in. Today becomes tomorrow at an alarming rate. Cherish the small, insignificant moments because one day they will act as breadcrumbs, leading you back to a time, a place and a life once lived. It’s easy to get caught up in our never-ending laundry list that we overlook what truly matters. For now, I am present in my life and for my family.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Why I Worry About My Granddaughters Living Together

Why I Worry About My Granddaughters Living Together

All three of our granddaughters are in Kansas City living together. I’m not worried about how it will work out, but I wonder if they do. Okay, maybe I’m a little worried.

Unforgettable Camping Mishaps & Playful Adventures

When they were young, all four grandkids stayed over night at our house, sometimes two to three times a week. It was great. They built forts, dressed up in costumes, put on plays and even slept outside in a tent. They played pool, did acrobatics in the basement and put holes in the walls when their somersaults and other antics went sideways. Most of all, they enjoyed each others company.

They always shared with each other and never fought who they slept with. They were resourceful. Yet I always felt this pressure to make sure they were entertained, having fun, laughing and learning. It was rarely hard.

Except when John and I took them camping near Mt. Rushmore. One of the grandkids got diarrhea in the middle of the night. That experience was not so much fun for either my grandchild or me, but of course John and the others slept through the whole thing.

Reuniting Under One Roof

Fifteen years later, the granddaughters are back together in an apartment sharing rent and other resources. I wonder what changes they will face.

Exploring the Challenges Ahead

John and I visited them last week in KC and everything was perfect. Their apartment is on the ninth floor of a downtown apartment building in Kansas City, Missouri, across the street from the main library. The view is amazing. The area feels safe and is very clean.

The girls have figured out how to pay for the rent and utilities. Maybe that’s a no-brainer for them, but it will be interesting to see how they figure everything else out. Because now if someone puts a hole in the wall, they need to pay for it or fix it themselves. Grandpa won’t be there to do the work for them. If they get diarrhea or wet the bed? They need to change it themselves.

And what about resolving issues that may arise? Two girls sleep in separate bedrooms and the third sleeps on a mattress on the living room floor, so what happens when they come home late and wake up my granddaughter in the common space?

I fear they’ll get upset with one another, speak negatively and never recover. I only want my girls to remain close through this temporary joint living arrangement.

A Grandmother’s Wish for Everlasting Connection

None of them have asked for my advice, and I doubt they will ever complain to me about the others. I’ve never been in control of my grandkids and never will be, so I can only hope they keep and grow their bond during this time and see how they can continue to maintain their relationships with each other for years to come. And more importantly, keep connected to me!

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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Many Memories Worth Sharing

Many Memories Worth Sharing

I don’t know if my daughter thought I was going to die soon, but I do know she gave my husband and I the gift of Storyworth, a keepsake book to record our lives so that we could pass down our memories and heritage to our family. Below is the experience we had writing our story.

How the Storyworth Process Works

We were sent a new prompt every Monday with questions about how we grew up, what our relationship with our grandparents were like, what songs we listened to in our youth, what our favorite stories with our siblings were and many more. They arrived each week for a year.

So, for 365 days, John and I responded to our prompts, never once sharing our questions or discussing what we were writing.

Two Different Writing Styles

I never talk about myself too much. I’d rather shine the spotlight on someone else. So writing a “Nancy” book plucked me out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been a terrific storyteller either, so my goal was to just answer my prompt in one day. As a result, my writing turned out short, to-the-point, and never played favorites with family members. But I included pictures, hoping the Kodak moments would be the highlight.

My husband, on the other hand, didn’t answer every question, but he took his time when he did respond to them. He thought about funny examples and adjusted the question to fit his humorous story.

Everyone’s a Critic, Even Our Grandkids

Our grandchildren read our books. They complimented our writing, thanking us for giving them stories about our lives growing up. They admitted that they weren’t as enthralled with our tales as they were when they read Harry Potter, but I’m not sure that’s true.

They talked at length about my husband’s stories. Everyone laughed and politely teased him about his experiences. His stories were wonderful, memorable and touching to all of us. We all felt closer to him.

Reflections from a Newfound Writer

I appreciated the opportunity to share stories that my grandkids may have never heard otherwise. I’m not getting any younger and often forget what I did yesterday or the major themes in a book I just finished.

Part of me wishes I had a do-over with my book. I’m not disappointed in what I wrote, exactly, but perhaps I didn’t give it the time I should have devoted to the project. I learned that I need to continue to look for ways to share my life and experiences with my grandkids.

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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Ready or Knot: Becoming the Mother of the Bride

Ready or Knot: Becoming the Mother of the Bride

When I started blogging for CapitalMOM in 2017, our oldest was a freshman in high school. She was just starting to grow into the young woman that we all prayed she would be one day. Now, six and half years later, she video called us to show off her engagement ring.

From Baby to Bride

Right before my eyes our little baby with rolls who hated to sleep in her crib grew into a determined, outgoing and beautiful young lady. I could swear it was her four-year-old voice that said, “we are getting married!”

Love, Laughter and Panic Attacks

I tried to keep back my tears. I locked this moment with all its joy, excitement and happiness into my heart. But suddenly I realized, “I’m the mother of the bride.” Cue the elevated heart rate and panic. “Mother of the bride?” I thought, “I’m not ready for our oldest to get married.”

My Wedding Planning Commitments

For the next 30 minutes, thoughts hammered around in my brain as I sat in complete silence. I mentally made a list of everything I wanted to honor during this wedding planning process:

  1. This event will not overshadow our middle daughter’s senior year or her graduation. She deserves a present family as she approaches all of her lasts of high school.
  2. Keep the planning process moving forward without being pushy.
  3. Listen and offer guidance, but know that all decisions and the day ultimately belong to our daughter and her fiancé.
  4. Be supportive and a beacon of encouragement.
  5. Create a spreadsheet with the budget, email confirmations, deposits and guest list.
  6. Love her through the smiles, the tears, the joy and the stress.

Welcoming Her New Chapter in Life

I know we have raised our daughter to be the best possible version of herself. I know she has found the young man she wants to grow old with, so I must be willing to let go and let her start her life with her husband. Our relationship will change. She won’t need me the same way as she has in the past. Even though I’ll be consumed by a variety of emotions on her wedding day, this mother of the bride is going to enjoy it all.

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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Life Lessons Beyond the Cap & Gown

Life Lessons Beyond the Cap & Gown

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

Reflections on Aging at Graduation

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

From High School Principal to Proud Grandma

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

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

Memories of High School Graduations

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

A Grandparent’s Advice for Post-Grad Success

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

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

Times Change, Lessons Stay the Same

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

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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The Summer of Yes: Prioritizing Family Over Work

The Summer of Yes: Prioritizing Family Over Work

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

Embracing “This Moment”

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

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

Breaking Free From Work

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

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

My Strategies to Live More in the Present

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

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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How Strict Is Too Strict?

How Strict Is Too Strict?

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

Transitioning From a Strict Parenting Style

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

Why My Parenting Style Needed to Change

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

Our Conversation with the “Good Cop”

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

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

The Importance of Unified Parenting

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

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

Striving for Best Parenting Practices

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How Our Family Makes Time For Each Other

How Our Family Makes Time For Each Other

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

The Healing Power of Family

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

Strategies for Protecting Family Time

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

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

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

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Stepping In to Make a Wedding Perfect

Stepping In to Make a Wedding Perfect

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

Finding His North Star

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

Love in the Time of COVID-19

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

Planning a Pandemic Wedding

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

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

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

Becoming a Substitute Grandma

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

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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A Christmas Miracle in the Making for 2023

A Christmas Miracle in the Making for 2023

Our family had a wonderful holiday, and my grown grandkids are once again believers in Santa Claus.

I’ve tried multiple times to get my grandkids together to go on a quick trip around Christmas. In the past, when the grandkids were on holiday vacation, we took several trips to Disney World and California. It was an adventure. The weather and airlines were always perfect. We haven’t been able to recreate that magic lately. College and work schedules won’t cooperate, but that doesn’t stop me from researching places they’d find enjoyable.

A Plan Is Formed

This year, I wanted to provide my grandkids with a meaningful experience. I often volunteer with my church to build homes in Guatemala, so I made a donation to the cause in my grandkids’ names. Secretly, I also hoped they could join me in Guatemala to build the home.

The Big Reveal

After opening our gifts on Christmas, I showed my four grandchildren a video of a Guatemalan family thanking Constru Casa for the contributions and efforts made by our church to build their family a new home. When the grandkids saw the video, they were a little confused. They knew I had visited Guatemala several times to help build homes, but they had no idea why I was showing them the video.

It was then that I revealed to them that I had sent Constru Casa funds for a new home—that the building would have a plaque next to the front door with their names on it. I’ve never seen them so quiet. I also told them I was planning to help with the build, and I would pay for their trips and time to join me if they could.

Real Christmas Miracles

Tears of joy sprang to their eyes. My grandkids, who are always talking, had nothing to say. I loved it! Very rarely do they get overcome with emotion. I know it may never happen again.

I explained that the dates for the build hadn’t been set yet, that the real Christmas miracle—getting time off and actually making it happen—was still to come. I understood if they couldn’t plan around school and work without a solid timeframe. But they want to get their hands dirty, so I’m starting my investigation.

When will the build take place? Will I be able to build? Will any of my grandkids be able to join me?

This story isn’t over. It will be continued when I have more information. For now, I’m excited by the possibility. We’re giving back and helping to make a family’s life better. I know that my grandkids, whether they join in person or vicariously, will have this project to be proud of forever.

So, yes, there is a Santa Claus.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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