Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

During the beginning of the pandemic, I challenged my grandkids each month to learn something new. I tried to be a good role model, and l challenged myself as well. The challenge took place mostly during the winter months of our isolation. I remember baking bread, sewing and taking online yoga classes.

It was my intent to bring a smile to their face with my crazy pictures and to laugh at myself. I was successful at creating smiles, but I was not successful at keeping the challenge going. What I discovered was that once the weather improved, I was outside more and walking as much as possible. I kept up with my weekly notes to the kids on our Zoom calls, but I forgot the challenges.

Looking Forward to 2021

I talked to my grandkids the other day, and we were remarking how happy we were to say goodbye to the year 2020 and how much better 2021 would be. We laughed and talked about how they could get back into their athletic schedules and start playing their games again. They have never complained about wearing masks before, but they did mention they looked forward to the time they wouldn’t have to wear a mask. And yes, we also talked about being able to see each other and giving real hugs, not just air hugs or elbow bumps.

I did not want to spoil the positive mood, but I did remind them that the pandemic was not over. We don’t know when they will be able to play competitive sports with grandma watching, when we won’t have to wear masks or when we could give real hugs. We don’t know what 2021 will bring.

Reflecting on 2020

As I heard the air escaped from their mouths, I rallied and asked them what positive things had happened in 2020. Sure there were many negatives, but there had to be some positives. How can we turn the negatives into something positive?

Our grandkids said they had learned from the Black Lives Matter Movement, and no, we aren’t all being treated equally. Another grandchild remarked about climate change and offered suggestions on how we should be living our lives.

Another comment was they had never realized the inequities in our country. The haves and the have nots, whether it be finances, housing or voting privileges, are now on their radar. They volunteered that they had all known about these injustices, but this year was different. This year, they felt it and witnessed it. We also had a long conversation about politics, but I’ll leave those thoughts for another time.

We all agreed what happened in 2020 was mostly negative, but reflecting back on the year, we realized that we learned a lot and will continue to learn. Will 2021 be better? I hope so for my grandkids’ sake. But if we continue to experience problems, we will continue to be positive and learn from the events surrounding our lives. I will also continue to look to my grandchildren to keep me grounded and challenged. I hope to be able to do the same for them. Bring it on 2021!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

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

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When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

Many years ago, I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This book challenged my thoughts on chasing dreams and praying circles around my dreams and goals. It’s this time every year I go back and read my notes and highlights of the book. I spend much time reflecting on what I did and did not accomplish throughout the year. I reflect on the areas I struggled and reflect on those moments that brought joy and growth.

Reflecting on the Past Year

This year like any other year I am doing just that, however, I feel as though I missed something big this year. The stirring on my heart has been different. There are days I am quite envious of my family. I see my husband chase his lifelong goal of obtaining a doctorate of education. I watch our oldest daughter chase an opportunity to serve at a Christian camp in the summer. I see our freshman daughter conscientiously chase her goal of straight As in high school. I relish watching our son chase his goals on the golf course.

Yet, I tell myself to enjoy this moment or that I don’t have the time and resources to chase my goals. I also realize my purpose during this season is to support and encourage all of these dreams my family is chasing. Maybe this is the season of drawing my blueprint and laying the foundation.

I can’t help but think that what I’m chasing is looking different. I look through all of my big dreams that I have been circling in prayer, and I realize that during this stage of life some of those aspirations have gone to the wayside. Some of those aspirations are selfish and some I just do not want to continue chasing anymore.

Chasing a New Purpose

As I define my purpose and change my course, I need to continue laying the foundation to this stirring on my heart that’s bigger than myself. And as I reflect, I can see the blueprints had been started throughout the COVID pause as I learned that busyness is not a way of life. I gradually started taking things off my plate. This realization is going to help me clearly see what’s being placed on my heart.

Here’s to 2021—to chasing this new purpose and to circling this new dream with prayer and mediation. Before I know it, the stirring on my heart will show up in a big way and I will know exactly what my purpose will be. And right now, I need to let my family in on what’s on my heart. And as I said, when the big something shows up, I will have my family ready to encourage me to chase my dream.

I encourage all of you to see what’s stirring in your heart. How are you going to chase the dream in your heart in 2021?

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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Losing a Family Pet

Losing a Family Pet

We lost our Maverick (Mavi) two days after Thanksgiving after almost 15 wonderful years with him. At this point, he was blind and deaf and didn’t have a lot of energy this past year, but he was loved and spent his last days sleeping and wandering around the house every now and then to find people.

Every time I questioned if it was time for him to go, he’d give me a good tail wagging while he rested, letting me know he was happy. His passing was unfortunately the right thing to do, and while the kids don’t know all the details, we’re all completely heartbroken and feeling his loss more than I thought I ever would.

I always knew it would be sad when we said goodbye, but I haven’t lost a pet since I was a kid. And while I’ve hugged friends with a good “there there, now” pat and tried to relate to their grief when they’ve lost dogs, I’ve never understood until now that losing your family dog is losing a part of your family. The pain of wanting them back to hug them one more time, to talk baby talk like we all do to our pets and tell them “You MAKE this family. You’re part of us, we love you so much” one more time is deep and recognizable.

A Great Family Dog

Mavi was the dog that my husband and I got in college. Was it a smart decision to get a dog in college? No but we did and he was perfectly imperfect. He was our “first child.” He was with us when we graduated, got married, moved several times and had kids. He was better with the kids though—definitely more patient.

Like a good dog he humbly partook in childhood play, letting the kids dress him in bonnets and capes and baby clothes and, while obviously mortified, always took one for the team—like he was telling me, “Go ahead. Finish cleaning the kitchen. I got this.” He loved them all so fiercely. I have countless memories of going in to check on a baby only to find him already there, reporting for duty. “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? I got this.”

He was feisty, kind of naughty and playful in his younger years. Mavi would grab stuffed animals especially the ones that made noise, initiating a good tug-of-war. He loved a walk around the neighborhood, even though he had to “water” every tree and—my favorite—running around the living room in a mad dash after a bath. In his older years, he fell into a nice rhythm of rest and companionship. While he could not see or hear, he never failed in finding us and letting us know that even when it was hard, even when he was tired, he was still there for us—fighting age and physical challenges to loyally serve for as long as he could.

A Sad Goodbye

I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night he died, searching Facebook for old photos, looking for all the ones with Mavi. And I realized as he showed up in the background in photos of so many events, so many milestones and holidays and memories, what a constant presence he has been in our family. The grief of his passing also represents the grief of the passing of time, the end of The Maverick Era.

This was also the first real experience of grief for my kids. In a way, Maverick has given my children one of the most cherished gifts they’ll have for life. The delicate, beautiful, deeply important subject of loss and grief that will be part of their future began with him. His loss will be the foundation, the first lesson that paved the way for the rest, and because of how we loved him and how he loved us, that lesson is beautiful.

While we’ve talked a little bit about death with our kids especially after their great grandmother passed away; they were both so young that they hardly remembered. We have addressed some of the questions of what happens after, so what do I tell them? I thought saying the right things about death would be a stressful challenge, but it hasn’t been.

Experiencing Grief

I know people have a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife, whether pets go to heaven and how realistically we should approach these things with kids, but I’ve found the most important thing you can do is talk about it. I didn’t plan exactly what I was going to say, and what came out was sometimes messy, but I didn’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from talking about everything. It’s important to create a safe place where my kids can create their own ideas and beliefs.

It feels so good to talk about all these different ideas—to talk about what happens after death and about the fact that the spirit of love is greater than any proven law in science. We take what we know about death and add what we know about faith and love and that it lives forever and ever. All of these discussions, ideas and memories comforted us so much.

As my friends told me the other day, “This is your opportunity to model grief for them, to show them how we celebrate and love and remember through the pain.” It’s a great privilege to take this pain together as a family and learn from it.

The house feels like something’s missing, and truly, we’ve lost a part of us that can never be replaced. I miss his quiet presence as I work alone while the kids are at school. I would do anything to feel his paws push against me one more time as I sit here on the couch.

We’ll miss you, Maverick Mitchell Connelly. You will forever and always be loved by us.

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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New Holiday Traditions for a New Normal

New Holiday Traditions for a New Normal

Ever since the grandkids were little, we’ve included them in the picture on our Christmas card. We don’t send many cards anymore, but we always try to send them to family members who live out of state and some close friends. Pictures have included cutting down our Christmas tree, decorating our tree, having a snow ball fight, making snow angels and even just standing in front of an evergreen tree in our backyard.

Christmas Cards Over the Years

Family and friends who receive our holiday cards appreciate seeing how we’ve all changed over the years. I always thought we’d like to compare the annual cards to see how the grandkids grew up over the years. People marvel at how grown up our grandkids have become—they’re practically adults.

However, I now realize people are also seeing how the proud grandparents have also changed. Our friends and extended family have not marveled at how mature we are. Thankfully, they aren’t saying, “Dang, you guys look old.” or “When are you moving into a home?” Ok, they wouldn’t ask the last question, but the thought has probably crossed their minds of when we would downsize.

The Holidays Are Different This Year

This year’s holiday card will be much different. I originally thought of the grandkids coming over for a photo, and we could wear masks. They politely reminded me that we’d be getting too close together. I rethought the situation and now our card will be CDC-approved, and we’ll be social distancing and isolating just like we did for Thanksgiving.

My plan now is to ask each grandchild to put on a holiday headpiece, hat or head covering and take a selfie. Grandma and Grandpa will do the same. I’ll collect all of the pictures and plug them into an online site to create our holiday photo card. Knowing my limited technical capabilities, I think it will work out fine, but I’ll still cross my fingers.

I’m ordering most of their gifts online. The grandkids are very patient with me when I share my struggles while ordering online. I’m always asking for a picture of what they want. Deep down inside, I’m sure they’re thinking, “why don’t I just buy it and Grandma, you give me the money?”

But no, they are kind and realize purchasing their gifts is a fun thing for me to do. It seems clothes are the hottest ticket item this year. I think they’ve realized their parents are no longer at their beck and call for these purchases, so grandma’s here to do it. My pleasure!

Looking Forward to 2021 Holidays

I can’t believe I’ve been whining about the pandemic for nine months and not being able to see my grandkids on a normal basis. When we had to cancel Easter, I told everyone we’d celebrate Easter and Thanksgiving at the same time. Boy, was I wrong! Large gatherings probably won’t happen for Christmas this year either. So when we are able to get together in 2021 (I’m staying positive), we’ll be celebrating so many holidays that I won’t know what to serve.

There won’t be a time we can return to the old normal. The old normal is what caused our situation now. We need to focus on the creation of a new normal, and the grandkids are in a perfect situation to achieve an even better normal for all of us.

Children of all ages are curious, creative, more inclusive and more welcoming than ever before. This generation is amazing. My grandkids may not be the scientists who discover a cure for the next pandemic, but they will do their part to make our community, our nation and our world a better place to live.

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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Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

The notecard says “unplug and be thankful.” Life as we knew it changed in March. Our family made a choice to seek simplicity, extend grace and find joy in the quiet. Our family made the commitment to be intentional with our time together. Yet, this fall I faltered and gave into fatigue, gave into the negative. COVID-19 fatigue is real. It was (and still is) hard to be thankful.

There are days that I miss all the family time we encountered in the spring when COVID-19 halted our worlds. And honestly, I don’t want to lose those spring memories of how intentional our family was. Now, each day brings about feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed. I could keep going on, however, I want to make a conscious effort to escape those feelings.

Therefore, I decided November was all about being intentional each new day. I want to be intentional about focusing on what I can appreciate this year instead of seeing the negative. I need to go back to the notecard, “unplug and be thankful.”

Being Intentional

When I focus on this mindset while not living my life on autopilot, I can see and appreciate how intentional my family is being right now. And seeing how intentional my family is during this time has been good for my soul and makes the feelings of being overwhelmed or exhausted melt away.

My husband and kids have made a conscious choice to be intentional. My husband has journaled every night since March reflecting upon his day. He has also been intentional about pursuing a doctorate degree in education even on those hard days. Our middle daughter has been intentional on healthy habits such as limiting her soda intake and a daily pushup routine. Our son has diligently been following his pushup routine while also finding time to read each day.

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue Each Day

Nonetheless, being intentional is a choice. I long for simplicity. I long for love and being thankful. I long for grace. I long for a serving heart without compromising my own health. The choice is mine to make. The choice to unplug from the negativity and be thankful. The choice to not live my life on autopilot. The choice starts each morning with reading my notecard and ends each night with observing my family choosing to be intentional.

Those closest to me have been executing what I subconsciously have been telling myself I need to improve on. Their intentional natures will help me fight the negativity, fatigue and appreciate the good around me. And there is no better time to start being thankful than today.

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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Introducing Kids to Investing

Introducing Kids to Investing

Investing in your future is one of the best lessons you can instill in a child. Yes, I’m talking stock market, here. It’s never too early or too late, for that matter, to learn all about the stock market. It can be a fun process and you can even use play money.

Let me just start out by saying, I, myself just recently learned about investments. Me being in my 30’s, I never really understood the stock market, bonds, investments, or financial planning. I never had finances to finance. But now that I have two kids, I thought I should invest not only in my future but theirs.

So, where do you begin?

Be Sure to Ask Questions

I met with a financial advisor to explain the ins and outs of stocks and bonds. And then I realized that’s the answer, explain the nuts and bolts of investing to my children, and maybe even have them start looking into what things they like (e.g., toys, games, actual costs of things). Let’s face it, as kids we never learned the actual cost of certain things. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized how expensive it is just to have lights on in a house.

But why is investing a good idea? For me, it helps meet my financial goals. Even though I am years away from retiring, I still need to think about my future and my kids’ future, i.e. cars, college. So, I decided to introduce the concept of financial goals in ways that my kids could relate to. I introduced the concept of investing and growing their money so they have a better chance of reaching that big goal.

Learn the Basics Together

My kids have been doing chores/odd jobs for over a year now and they receive money each week. When we head to the store, I remind them to bring their money so they can buy a candy bar or random toy they think they need! This has the added benefit of teaching kids the value of a dollar; it tends to have greater meaning. It makes them think about if they really “need” that item.

Together, the kids and I learned this investment thing. Together we learned the importance of researching a stock so we better understand the associated risk. After a lot of consideration, together we picked and now follow stocks from our favorite companies and talk about how we can “invest” money by buying the company’s stock to own their very own piece. What kid wouldn’t love the idea of owning part of Disney? Together, we follow the stock price online each day and track its progress. I explained that if the company makes money, so do they. But if the company loses money, they do, too.

Don’t Forget to Set Goals

Giving my kids a reason to set a financial goal is important. This gives them an incentive and a concrete reason to save. My kids love the idea of doing something as grown-up as investing. We love doing it together. And if they see how much money can grow over time, they’re usually excited to save.

I enjoy teaching my children life skills that are necessary! It’s up to us as parents to teach our children money skills to build a healthy financial future. How and why it’s important to invest money should be right at the top. Getting my kids interested in investing early on by taking the time to explain concepts like stocks, savings, returns, risks and rewards will only help strengthen their financial skills for a lifetime. Thus, in return has helped me invest in our future.

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 Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The world has become a very different place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s only natural to experience different and possibly heightened emotions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with anxiety, mental health or substance use. The report in June 2020 shows a considerable rise compared to the same time period last year.

This statistic is important because it provides a glimpse into what people are feeling related to the pandemic and the changes it has brought to society. Along with depression and anxiety, people are feeling grief. There are different types of grief. The grief we feel when we lose a loved one is what we think of most often, but there’s also grief over how the world and our lives have changed. Another kind of grief, called anticipatory grief, happens when we’re uncertain what the future holds.

What Can You Do?

Understand the Stages of Grief

This will help determine if what we’re feeling is coming from one of these stages. Everyone goes through these stages differently and in no particular order. Kessler and Ross identified five stages of grief. Recently, Kessler added a sixth stage.

Here are some examples of how we might move through these stages related to the pandemic:

  1. Denial – “The pandemic is not going to impact me.”
  2. Anger – “You’re making me stay home. I can’t do the things I want to do.”
  3. Bargaining – “If I stay home for two weeks, all will be fine, right?”
  4. Depression/Sadness – “When will this end? There is no end in sight.”
  5. Acceptance – “This is real and I must accept it and find a way to move forward.”
  6. Finding Meaning – “What can I learn as a result of this?”

Find a Balance in Your Thinking

It’s easy to get pulled into negative thinking which can lead to negative feelings. One thing you can do to take control is actively practice positive thinking and even write positive daily messages in a journal.

Think About What You Can and Cannot Control

You can control the things you do – like following the advice of experts. You can wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance to keep yourself and others safe. You can learn new ways to connect virtually. You can’t control what others are doing. You can only control what you’re doing and lead by example.

Have Empathy

You will encounter people who are irritable and may catch you off guard if you’re used to them being kind. Remember the world we live in right now and show them empathy. They’re going through tough times, too. Offer support and encouragement.

Build Connectedness

This is key. Research shows the more connected we are to family, friends and the community, the less violent we’ll be toward others and ourselves, and the fewer mental health and substance use issues we’ll have.

Understand When to Seek Help

You may just need to reach out and talk to a friend, or you may need to seek help from a professional. Grief can sometimes lead to depression.

Know the symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts (call 1-800-273-8255 or go to nearest emergency department if experiencing this symptom)
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Anyone experiencing symptoms for two or more weeks should seek professional guidance to determine if they’re experiencing depression. Bryan Medical Center offers free confidential online depression screenings.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

Dr. Dave Miers, PhD, is the director of Bryan Behavioral Health Services. This includes mental health treatment and counseling, psychiatric evaluations including medication management, and substance use evaluations and treatment.

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

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Catching Memories with My Grandkids

Catching Memories with My Grandkids

During the pandemic, I have become relatively efficient with the process of Zoom calls. With the necessary isolation, I appreciate the ability to see friend’s faces and their expressions and hear their voices. I was on a Zoom chat with grandkids last week, and when I thought the conversation was slowing down, I brought up an event we all had in common.

On that particular day, we laughed as we recalled our trip to western Nebraska and the Black Hills. We rented a van which could accommodate all six of us and yes, with four grandkids we made frequent stops.

The Dreamcatcher

During one particular stop, one of the grandkids noticed a dreamcatcher laying on the pavement of a parking lot. They picked up the dream catcher, and we discussed the significance it had to Indigenous Peoples. Since there was no one in the parking lot, we took the Dreamcatcher as a remembrance or a good luck charm, which would connect us to the past and to the future.

During our Zoom conversation, I brought up the dreamcatcher and surprisingly we all remembered the event differently. One grandkid recalled we were at a gas station while another thought we were at a tourist rest area. Yet another grandchild thought we were on our way to Mount Rushmore, and another was sure we were returning from a zip lining excursion.

I thought it was very interesting how we all recalled a specific point in our lives just a little differently. Even though we were all there actively participating, we all had a different memory seeing common events through our own personal lens. I wondered if we all tend to adjust our memories over the years. Maybe it’s similar to “this is what I wanted to have happen” type of memory.

Remembering Memories Together

Who knows why we adjust our memories? Do we do it on purpose or in my case because I’m old? Does it really matter? As long as no one recalls getting the dreamcatcher from a friendly buffalo, I think we’re OK. Please note I have nothing against buffalos!

What truly matters is we all have many common memories of our times together. Memories of laughing, sharing family time and feeling loved. Next time we all gather, whenever that happens, we can talk about zip lining together, learning how to drive a four wheeler, visiting beaches and whale watching in California. We’ve had so many amazing experiences which has created many great memories with our grandkids!

We are reminded of the dreamcatcher at least once a year. “Our” dreamcatcher was turned into a Christmas ornament. Each year, our grandchildren help decorate our tree and the dreamcatcher still brings joy to us, even though the kids fight to see who gets to place it on the tree. The memories just keep coming whether we all agree on them or not, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is we continue to catch the dreams and enjoy our time together.

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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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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