Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Today I started the day out in a rush. I hit my snooze button for an extra 30 minutes. I took a little longer to put makeup on, brush my teeth and walk out the door. Little did I know a handful of colored circles with wobbly lines would change my day.

Needing to Slow Down

Once I arrived at school it seemed as if I had left my checklist completely unattended the day before and there were already six new items to check off before the warning bell rang. To start the day, there was a tech issue in the Spanish classroom and I explained in my best Spanish, “Yo estoy rapido en la mañana!” All the students looked at me with a look of confusion. The actual Spanish teacher explained, “I was in a hurry this morning.”

My day started out in a rush and feeling behind. I kept reminding myself I needed that extra sleep and time this morning just to prepare myself for the day. I kept focusing on the big picture of the day. I wanted to control what needed to be checked off on my list and became very frustrated when I remembered things to keep adding to this list. At one point in the morning, my daughter kindly asked, “Mom, do you need me to help you today? You seem so rushed.”

It’s the Little Things that Matter

And before I knew it, I was abruptly reminded at about 8:30, 9:15, 10:20 and then again at 11:10, that the little things are what bring us joy. Two text messages, a reminder that a “to do” list is overrated, a “this is so cool” comment from a seventh-grader, and the excited “oohs” from kindergarteners.

Yes, four times I was reminded to look at the simple, little things. I don’t think I was intentionally ignoring the small moments of joy, I just think I wasn’t “seeing” those moments. The fourth reminder came from my little kindergartener friends. They showed me joy is right in front of me, they showed me simplicity brings joy. In my small time frame with kindergarteners today, I brought joy to them by showing them how to color little circles with wobbly lines using technology. Yet, they reminded me of my life word — joy.

“Your Gift is Joy”

Later on in the day, I was teaching my Intro to Business students a lesson on leadership and a quote from my mom popped up on one of the slides, which I had forgotten I had typed. My mom told me prior to her passing away, “Shelly your gift is joy, share it daily with your students.” It took me everything to hold back tears.

My day needed to start out in a hurry, because I needed to be reminded of the joy the simple/little things bring us in life. Some days I get caught up looking at the big picture, looking at the big goal, I forget it is about the small things that we do that allow us to have the greatest impact on those around us. I am thankful for those wobbly colored circles as they reminded me that my greatest gift is the joy I share with others.

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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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

I’m a huge fan of routine, and so are my kids. I’m not the most organized of moms, and I’m certainly not a very organized housewife. However, I do believe that my kids need routine, and so do I. Their routine is good for me. During the summer, our routine went out the window. So now that school is upon us, it’s a great time to start getting back into our groove. I’m sharing my routine in hopes of helping other working moms get the most out of their routine on school days.

If you’re a working mom, your morning routine can either help you start off your day on the right foot, or it can be an obstacle that you must overcome. It can be a struggle each and every day. My tips and tricks will hopefully help you create a smoother morning routine. And the school year is the perfect time to get a fresh start in how you schedule your day and manage your time.

How to Get Started

Remember how last year you said you’d start adjusting bedtimes before the night before school started? Well, during the summer months, we decided to keep the kid’s bedtime routine the same. They rarely stayed up late, and they continued to get up at the same time. This made for an easier adjustment for heading back to school. Small adjustments are what I can handle with everything I have going on.

During the school year, I have to get us ready and out of the house by 8 a.m. for drop off at school. Without a routine, getting two young kids – ages 10 and 7, my hubby and the dog out of the house feels like I’m herding cats. Can you relate, mamas?

Granted, the first few weeks of school this year, I’m still working from home, so I’ll share how that makes things a bit different. For starters, I’m not an early bird. I’ll sleep in as late as I possibly can while still being on time. However, many moms I know wake up early. That way, they get in a power hour before anyone else is up. It makes a huge difference in how productive they are, and it allows them to be available later in the day to help with school work. Since I’m not an early riser, one of the things that helps in our house is to use the night before. We do as much the night before so that the morning is simply smoother.

Tips for Your Morning Routine

Lay out clothes night before. Each night both of our kids lay out what they’ll wear the next day, and I can provide input if necessary (e.g., look nicer for picture day or if it’s going to be 100 degrees, no long sleeve shirts, etc.) If I have morning meetings or a presentation, I also choose what I’ll wear the night before for the next day. I want to avoid this stress in the morning.

Put stuff out and together. For example, the lunch boxes go on the counter with containers ready. That way, if you need extra help from your significant other if something comes up, you don’t have to explain where things are or what to use. Some moms I know prep sandwiches, although I don’t do that. I don’t generally cut up fruit until the morning because it can get mushy, but even washing and drying fruit the night before will shave off time in the morning.

Put items that need to go with you by the door or always in the same place. This goes for water bottles, backpacks, folders, car keys, masks, etc. Have a consistent home for these items so you’re not looking for them in the morning and wasting precious time. Who has an extra 10 minutes to look for car keys or kids’ shoes? This goes for your stuff, that of your significant other and your kids.

Have breakfast options in mind. We try hard to not have breakfast be the same all the time, and yet, this can be one of the hardest meals of the day creatively speaking. We generally give the kids some options when they wake up so that we can get breakfast going. Have breakfast-on-the-go options. Let’s face it—you’ll have days, especially in the first few weeks of school, when you’re running late. Whatever the reason, I recognize that sometimes our kids will be eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes we’ll have bagels that are easily mobile.

Be Flexible & Relax

See how you’re feeling and make any adjustments to set yourself up for success for the day. For example, if you’re tired, give yourself more time and be gentle with yourself. If you’re stressed, it might be time for some deep breaths. It takes only a few moments of your day and makes a big impact. I do this before I even get out of bed as I’m turning off my alarm.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to feel more grounded, consider meditating. I’m talking minutes here, not hours. Or you can extend it for however long you like. Make sure you don’t throw off your schedule, though. If you have the time, get in that workout. I usually get in some exercise a few times a week. In the warmer months, I work out early since I usually head outside for my exercise.

Decide what you want from your morning routine. Consider what you want your morning routine to include and generally look like. If you do better when you have a few minutes alone, plan your wake-up time with this in mind. Want a moment of yoga or meditation? Perhaps you want a few minutes to enjoy your coffee before you get everything going. Only you know what you need.

Hopefully, these tips will help decrease stress and start the day off with more smiles for all! Now the afternoon routine is a completely different battle especially with all the after-school activities the kids are involved in. That takes a daily calendar on the fridge, a hope and prayer to get us to our bedtime routine on time.

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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Welcoming a New Puppy

Welcoming a New Puppy

From a puppy’s point of view, puppyhood is a time of unapologetic energy, lots of exciting places to explore, new people and animals to meet, and tons of fun and adventurous times ahead.

From a puppy parent’s viewpoint, it’s a cute and cuddly time filled with this innocent and needy “baby” that craves lots of love and attention. However, it can also be a time of whining, howling, screaming, sleepless nights, sharp teeth, torn and chewed items, soiled floors, endless training and constant puppy monitoring.

Making the Decision

Bringing home a new puppy is a fantastic experience. After our last dog died, my husband and kids started asking for a new dog. My husband felt that our kids were at a great age for the extra responsibility. And I will say, our house felt empty after Maverick passed away. But I knew if we got a new dog, the responsibility of training the new puppy would fall on my shoulders, since I was still working from home. I was nervous and not sure I wanted more on my plate.

So before we decided to bring home a sweet little pup, we had a long, long discussion. I did my research. I knew if we were going to get a new dog, it was going to be a boxer. So, I took to the internet, I read blogs, watched training videos, bought supplies, found a vet and prepared our home for a puppy.

Within months of our first conversation, we added this delightful little ball of fur and fun to our family. Here we are with a 12-week-old boxer puppy named Maya.

A Puppy Is Like a Newborn

Yet, every puppy is a handful. The truth is this: the first dog or puppy you raise in your adulthood home with your children is an entirely different experience from the perfect, golden illusion you hold onto so dearly from your childhood.

Some people say having a puppy is like having a newborn, and they are right! You must have a thought-out and planned routine: feeding, taking your new pet out to potty, playtime and bedtime.

I realized quickly that patience was key! Maya wasn’t born knowing the expectations of the human world. We have to teach her. Don’t want the dog to eat your shoes? Then don’t leave them on the floor where she has easy access to them. No matter whether you want to teach your pup to sit when greeting people or to stay off the furniture, it’s all about repetition and consistency.

Training a Puppy

After four weeks, we’re now in a routine! Dogs love routines. We crate train her so while we’re gone and while we sleep, she’s in her kennel.

However, she really, really likes her potty break between 4 and 5 a.m. Luckily, it’s back to bed until the kids get up and take her outside and feed her breakfast before school. During school, it’s me and her taking on the world. Her day is full of naps, chew toys and many, many potty breaks while I work.

Let’s discuss what it means to have a potty trained puppy. Oh wait, she isn’t fully trained but getting there! Remember, puppies are babies, and we need to remember they can’t hold it as long as adult dogs. If we aren’t diligent, they’ll go on the floor in the beginning. Yes, we as pet parents have to help them succeed. The golden rule: You get the behavior you reward. Praise and a reward whether it’s a favorite toy or treat.

Even though we go outside for potty breaks every two hours or less, I also make sure she gets plenty of exercise. The more she gets during the day, the better she sleeps at night. The guideline I try to follow: five minutes of exercise for each month in age, twice a day.

It’s Hard But Worth It

With a new puppy, our day looks a little different. Luckily, we still don’t do much on the weekends, and the days are getting warmer. Maya enjoys her time outside except she hates wet grass. Just like a new baby, Maya and I are learning together.

So remember, if you’re thinking about getting a new puppy, in the beginning it’s about soiled carpets, crate training techniques and hard work, but think about the adventures you’ll go on together and the times you’ll share together at home snuggled on the couch.

However, it’s more to say to anyone who just brought home a new dog or puppy, “Hey, I’ve been there and I know it’s maybe more frustrating than you thought it would be, but you’ll soon get to a place where it doesn’t feel like you want to tear your hair out every day.”

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Celebrating Easter Over Zoom

Celebrating Easter Over Zoom

I don’t need to tell you that this is the second Easter of the pandemic. It’s funny how I’m starting to keep track of events by connecting them to COVID-19.

Many of our friends have received their second vaccine, but we’re just starting to talk about getting together in person. There still is much fear and hesitancy in our lives. What new Coronavirus variant is coming next, and will our vaccines effectively fight it? We continue to trust science and do our best.

Another Easter During COVID

Getting together with our grandchildren is still up and down, mainly because they now live in other towns and are working part-time jobs and going to school. This is the second Easter Sunday we were alone in our home watching church on TV.

The only difference this year was I now know how to set up Zoom meetings and FaceTime which has helped! Decorating Easter cookies has always been a big tradition in our family. This year, I was determined to at least keep that tradition alive and decorate Easter cookies together with our grandkids via Zoom.

We agreed to Zoom on Sunday afternoon. I had sent them the necessary cookies, frosting, food coloring and sprinkles earlier in the week. I was sure they would all be eager and ready to go. Word came to me that two of the grandkids would have to work. That was OK, as I’m realizing I can no longer be in charge of these growing grandkids who have their own schedules and lives. We were still scheduled for our call at 3 p.m. that day, though.

Easter via Zoom

I sent Zoom invitations for our session with the link via email. I’m sure I’m doing too many steps to accomplish this gathering, but they have yet to correct me if I should be doing it a different way. Bless their hearts!

Zoom time came, and I was anxiously waiting for the meeting room to fill up with two granddaughters. I waited patiently, hoping I hadn’t messed up the set-up. To my surprise, there were three granddaughters joining me and they were together in person and staring me in the “face”.

They secretly had gathered in one spot even though they live in separate places, had their cookies out and were ready to start frosting them. It was a wonderful surprise. They asked where my cookies and frosting were, and I realized I had sent all the cookies to them, leaving none for me to decorate. We had a good laugh at my expense!

Decorating Cookies with the Grandkids

The kids began the usual contests seeing who could spread on the most frosting on one cookie, who could add the most sprinkles and who could be the most creative in their cookie design. Although the competition was not as fierce as it has been in the past, it was in real time and provided a bit of normalcy and many smiles.

As the girls frosted their cookies, they talked about school, their dreams, jobs and sports. It was so heartwarming to see them and hear them laugh together. Our time together brought tears to my eyes. My laptop camera doesn’t pick up on tears, so I was OK.

If this pandemic has taught me anything over the past year, it’s to work hard to keep your family traditions going but also know the traditions may need to be adjusted. Life will continue, and it’s my job to keep a touch of tradition included in my grandkids’ lives. If we’re remote again next Easter, maybe we can figure out how to find Easter eggs via Zoom. I hope I’m up for the challenge!

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 Should Life Go Back to Normal?

When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

I think it goes without saying that things are a bit out of the ordinary right now. Our day-to-day life looks nothing like it used to, and it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like a couple months from now.

Wondering if Life Should Go Back to Normal

So while we all want life “back to normal,” we can’t rush it. We’re in this for the long haul, and we likely won’t ever return to life as we knew it—at least not for quite some time.

As we reach the end of another month in quarantine, there’s a lot of talk about re-opening our state (and country) and about getting things back to normal. Maybe it’s strange, but I’m not sure I want things to go back to normal.

I know a lot of hard things are happening right now. Some of us are very sick or worried about family and friends who are. Some have even lost someone special. Even those of us in good health are worried about jobs, paying bills, our children’s education and more. We’re grieving special things that didn’t get to happen: weddings, the school play, concerts, prom and graduation. As I share my thoughts, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about any of the very real dangers, stress and trauma we’re experiencing. And I know my experience might not be your experience.

The Positives of the Quarantine

All my life, everyone (including myself) whines about how busy they are. We complain about our overscheduled children (even though we’re the ones who overschedule them!) and how quickly the years go by. We work too hard, don’t get enough sleep and struggle just to catch a much-needed breath once in a while.

And so, the universe gave us a gift.

This quarantine made everyone take a step back and see what a more uncomplicated life might look like. In most cases, we’re working less and connecting more. We have stopped idolizing movie stars and athletes and instead spend time glorifying the first responders, teachers and frontline “essential” workers that have kept our country running. (We know you’re working more, and we thank you!)

We’re eating family dinner, playing board games together, taking family walks and going on bike rides. Not to mention my home life is a lot happier. While I work from home, instead of a 15-minute break to go talk with co-workers, I wash dishes, finish laundry, sweep or start dinner. I don’t feel rushed after work. I go to soccer practice but don’t have to hurry home to get household chores done. I enjoy having my kitchen for lunches and the copious amounts of coffee on hand. Plus, the bathroom is less than 10 feet away. My work clothes consist of sweatpants and T-shirts, and I wear a lot less makeup.

The New Normal

But, I do see things going back to normal. Our family went on a mini spring break vacation, and it was nice to feel normal again. And now, soccer practice and swim lessons have begun, so my calendar that was once empty is now filling up again like normal. However, when the country “reopens,” I hope the slower pace will somewhat continue. Let’s stop working ourselves to death. And can we make overscheduling our kids a thing of the past? Let’s continue to value family time over the twenty activities we could be doing.

I want our new normal to continue to have the positive memes and uplifting quotes, and in general, I want people to continue just being nice human beings!

Oh, I know the negative is still there if you look for it.

Still, I’m not sure I want the world to go back to normal. When things do finally get back to normal, I hope it’s a whole new normal.

At a minimum, however, one thing is a clear: normal as we knew it is gone. We need to adjust to our “new normal.” After all, normal is relative.

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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Learning How to Use New Electronics to Stay Connected

Learning How to Use New Electronics to Stay Connected

We’ve been having problems with our cell phone and laptop lately. The electronic “fix it” stores could no longer help us as our devices were so old. How old were they? They were so old that I still used the chisel on my clay tablet.

Getting Help From Our Granddaughter

We decided to ask our techie granddaughter for help and guidance. She spent several hours looking at all of our devices, and even attempted to resurrect our dying tools. After her electronic examination, she proceeded to say a prayer for each of the digital devices and began gathering them together. I asked what she was doing and the reply was she taking them to the crematorium.

Funny, I was just getting used to the old phone and laptop and frequently learned something new, whether it was a new tab or feature, of which I had never been aware. OK, our granddaughter really didn’t take them for cremation, but she strongly urged us to look into new electronic devices. My husband and I remembered we haven’t taken a trip in 1.5 years so we finally decided we could afford purchasing a new phone and new laptop.

New devices were purchased knowing there will be another learning curve, and we hope our grandkids don’t shun us in our hour of need. Our geeky granddaughter helped us transfer all of the data and even showed me more tips I will forget. I knew how to send messages, but never had the ability to choose and display a GIF. I always envied people who could message their heads in different shapes. I still don’t know how to do it, but I know I have the option.

Using Our New Electronics

Our new electronics have also made it possible for us to watch our grandkids play their volleyball and baseball games streamed online. I believe we had the option with our old laptops, but the consistency of our viewing was limited. Now, we have all the ability to watch the games and be there virtually cheering in spirit. A bonus was when one of the grandkids instructed us how to mirror or cast the live stream game to our TV. Grandkids are so smart!

Now, the COVID-19 game days are very exciting. We first verify there is actually a game and the start time on the school’s webpage. If I was watching in person, I would wear my school gear, yell, cheer and jump up and down. Watching online, I wear my gear, yell, cheer and pace around the room. I also hum the fight song. I don’t recall all the lyrics, but all fight songs include the words, “GO. FIGHT. WIN.” so I’m happy.

Watching our grandkid’s games live streamed is nice, but of course, it’s a poor substitute for in-person viewing. After a year like 2020, we’ve had no choice. We’re thankful for the ability to watch any game. We’re also truly thankful for each of our grandkids who helped make this electronic process possible to us and provide us with the wins. It truly takes a village to be our grandkids. And yes, I’ll look up the words to the fight songs and sing my heart out during future games.

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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Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

One year ago this month, our world changed. My profession, like so many others, was sent home abruptly as different sectors in the world started shutting down. Everything about that time brought fear, uncertainty and disappointment. Some of these feelings still ring true today. Yet, this time also gave me something that I’m actually missing today…time.

Juggling A Busy Week

I thoroughly enjoyed not having commitments every single night of the week. This week, I have longed for those unexpected days that were given to me a year ago. This week, the supper table conversations have turned into drive-through conversations. This week, the conversations with my husband have turned into 10-minute lunch meetings just to plan out the evenings (those of you whose spouses are school administrators probably understand this). The introvert in me has wanted my husband to take me for evening drives just so I could stare out the window and listen to the complete silence.

In a world where busyness is valued and the norm, I took it upon myself to relinquish some responsibilities. However, it seems that all of the commitments I did keep on my plate needed my attention this week. Don’t take this the wrong way—I’m grateful the world is returning to a new normal. Yet, I’m so thankful that I realized how precious family time is and I’m missing that this week. The stress of the busyness just hit me and I need to refocus. Refocus on what I value. Refocus on being mindful. Actually, refocus and listen to myself.

Spending Time to Refocus

This morning, I told one of my students, “control what you can control, which is your attitude and effort.” In this conversation, I realized I wasn’t listening to myself. I was letting my negative attitude about no free time control how I was actually using my time. Honestly, two things were happening this week—I wasn’t allowing myself to recharge and I was allowing too many distractions to happen.

To help combat these issues, I need to go back to the basics of time management. I need to plan ahead. This would be the reason why there have been many drive-through conversations this week as I didn’t plan ahead and grocery shop. I need to prioritize my to-do list by making micro-goals. I need to set aside time where my door is shut and my phone is in another room, which will help eliminate distractions. And finally, I need to quit multitasking.

If there is one thing I appreciate from COVID-19, it taught me the value of time. It just so happens that the past few weeks, I let the busyness of life get to me. I need to refocus on the big picture, set micro-goals and limit distractions. In doing so, I will ultimately free up the time I so long for.

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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Valentine’s Day Throughout the Years

Valentine’s Day Throughout the Years

Valentine’s Day has always been special in our house. My mother’s birthday was on February 14th, so growing up my sister and I always had plenty of cake and presents in our house to celebrate both events.

I remember giving out valentines to all my classmates in elementary school. Of course, the valentines were homemade with love, but knowing me, not a lot of care. A red paper heart, a doily cut up for bling, my signature and that was about it. You had to give cards to everyone in your room, even if you were not best buddies. I’m sure that’s still the case, unless kids no longer exchange Valentine’s Day cards because some can’t afford the expense, not to speak of the COVID-19 restrictions.

How Our Family Celebrates Valentine’s Day

Keeping our family tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day has continued each year with the grandkids. When they were younger, we would make our cards and decorate homemade heart sugar cookies. We’d laugh to see how much frosting and sprinkles we could get on each cookie and then vote who was the winner.

As with Christmas cookies, not all of the cookies actually made it home, which was a good thing. I never wanted their parents to know how much sugar they actually consumed. Each February, the five of us would share our love for each other, while remembering my mom, their Nana’s, birthday.

Valentine’s Day This Year

This year will be a bit different. Since we won’t be able to get together in person, I did ask each of the grandkids what they wanted for Valentine’s Day. One requested Valentine’s Day M&Ms. I wasn’t sure if the request was for one or two bags. At our house, we historically have a bowl of M&Ms. They evidently are missing the “grab and go” routine when they would stop by our house. I was never sure if they were coming over to see us or just needed a sugar fix. A bag of M&Ms is doable, or maybe I should make it two.

Another grandchild, our entrepreneur the family, requested I purchase several of the magnets she’s designed and is selling online. Wow, what a great idea and grandma will follow up. We have lots of magnets on our refrigerator, and I know I will love them all.

Yet another granddaughter asked for us to take care of her student loans, tongue in cheek I hope. I hate she’s having to think about that problem. I also hate higher education costs being so terribly expensive. I did tell her I had a magic wand and would get right to it. I have no idea what that comment means, but I do know she is aware I have no magic wand. Our grandson was silent, but I know he’s thinking and will let me know soon.

I love our holiday traditions and am pleased we have found ways to adjust. I love knowing these traditions started with my mother teaching our daughters about baking cookies, special treats and little gifts which coincided with celebrating her birthday. Happy Valentine’s Day to the grandkids and Happy Birthday to their Great Grandmother.

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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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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