A Christmas Miracle in the Making for 2023

A Christmas Miracle in the Making for 2023

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

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

A Plan Is Formed

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

The Big Reveal

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

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

Real Christmas Miracles

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

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

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

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

So, yes, there is a Santa Claus.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

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

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One Way to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

One Way to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

The start of a new year—an opportunity to start fresh, set goals and resolutions, and on and on and on. Somewhere, someone has already given up on their resolutions just reading this never-ending laundry list. Here are my recommendations for creating a New Year’s resolution that will actually stick.

Making Resolutions in the New Year

I usually find something to define my year—a word, a song verse or even a vision board. But this time, as I try to type out my intentions for 2023, the delete key on my keyboard is getting plenty of use. I’ll write a line, press the delete key, type another word, and hit delete again and again.

I keep thinking this is the year of better health in all dimensions—physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. I want to be better at listening, taking in less caffeine, consistently journaling, meal prepping more often, and spreading more kindness, joy, and grace. I just want to be better in every aspect.

Do Your Goals Need to Be SMART?

The teacher in me shouts, “Goals need to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound,” and “Just be better” is certainly not specific or easily measurable.

But being better is relevant and attainable. As we raise our children, being better is definitely relevant. Not being better than someone else, but making ourselves better. We can all aspire to “just be better”.

How to “Just Be Better” in 2023

But how am I going to be better this year? I’m going to create micro goals around my health and use the three-layer goal-setting method instead of the SMART system. Here’s what that looks like for me:

  • For the first 10 days of January, I’ll get better in two areas (maybe journaling and meal prepping).
  • On days 11-20, I’ll add another area (like taking in less caffeine) and be better in a total of three areas.
  • In the last 11 days of January, I’ll add another, more challenging area (like extending more grace) for a total of four areas.

These micro goals will lay a foundation in my first month and make achieving a vague goal—like better health—more likely. Plus, these layers will allow me to focus when it’s incredibly easy to get off track in the snowy winter months. No excuses, just plenty of sticky notes to remind me to be a better person than yesterday.

So, if you’re like me and not sure how to set goals this year, just choose to be better.

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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Grieving During the Holidays

Grieving During the Holidays

The grief bubbles up unbidden. I never know when or where it will surface, but inevitably it comes when I least want it. My mom contracted COVID-19 six months ago. She nearly died of complications from the virus. The anticipatory grief I experienced was different from the residual grief I feel now — grief over the many losses that came as a result of Mom’s sudden change in health.

As a hospital chaplain, I regularly interact with patients, family members, and staff who are experiencing dying, death, and grief. The process of grieving often strips away the surface layers of a person’s life, revealing new depth and meaning, as well as flaws. And most people don’t like that last bit.

Giving Ourselves Grace

We struggle with imperfection, just like we struggle with loss and injustice and the profound sense of “missing” that grief brings. I think the holidays often highlight those feelings. We want to feel a thrill of hope and joyful anticipation of good to come. Instead, we might be wondering if we are biologically related to the Grinch. The simple answer? No, we are just grieving.

I have found it helpful to be honest with myself about loss this year. Instead of “shoulding” on myself — thinking I should feel this or that emotion, then working to replace what I really feel with said emotion — I take a step back from the emotion. I name it for what it is and then ask myself, “What is this connected to in your life?” Often, the source was a memory that needed to be acknowledged before I could accept the loss and let go of the grief.

Experiencing New Joy

Letting go of grief doesn’t mean getting over the loss. Rather, thinking about the loss no longer causes pain. There is now room for new experiences and the making of happy memories even while remembering the past. Through the years, people have shared the following strategies that have helped them balance the two:

  • Remember and acknowledge your loved one in meaningful ways.
  • Take good care of yourself by eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, getting moderate exercise and choosing activities that nourish your soul.
  • Limit social gatherings to what brings you joy and helps lift your spirits.
  • Limit the extraneous stuff — decorations, cards, gifts, shopping — and delegate tasks that seem overwhelming or too emotional. Family and friends are often eager to help with these things.
  • Start a new tradition or new variation on an old tradition. For instance, if you always opened presents after church on Christmas Eve, try having a family brunch and opening presents on Christmas morning.

Connecting with Others

Every person’s experience of grief is different. Sometimes, it can feel as though grief has isolated us from the support of our family, friends or faith community. If you or someone you care about is struggling with grief and loss, resources are available to help you reconnect. Please reach out.

Grief and Loss Resources

Here are a few resources you may want to consider:

Trisha Wiscombe

Trisha Wiscombe

Chaplain, Bryan Pastoral Care

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Past & Presents: A Holiday Gift to Remember

Past & Presents: A Holiday Gift to Remember

Nearly five years later, I can still vividly see my mom at her quilting machine. Perfectly piecing together different colors of fabric and swiftly moving them through the sewing machine. I can remember seeing my aunts’ watery eyes glisten when they opened a quilt handcrafted by mom. I think of a wintry weekend when I asked mom to sew 11 different quilts to give away, and without hesitation, we were piecing and quilting away.

A Mother’s Love Language

Yet, when I think about mom’s quilts, I think of her precious time. Mom had an impeccable eye for detail, and each quilt had its own story. That’s why she poured so many hours into her craft. I think about all the conversations that were had and prayers that were said while she quilted away.

I always thought my mom’s love language was gifting. However, I now realize her true languages were quality time and acts of service. These two languages just happened to be given away in the form of quilts.

Remembering Gammy

One day, in a long overdue conversation with my middle daughter, Addi, I sensed sadness and heartache. She was missing her Gammy.

As we remembered mom, quilts naturally took center stage. I was going through a “mind catalog” of the innumerable quilts mom carefully crafted. Addi mentioned her favorite Gammy quilt was the one with the Minky material. I reminisced about the baby doll quilts mom would make when our daughters were little. I also thought of our wedding quilt, the one stored away for no hands to touch.

One Gift Greater Than Quilts

Then, my mind turned to my mom’s mother, her sisters, her best friend, my mother-in-law, her quilting circle, and anyone who spent even an hour creating with her. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, this moment wasn’t just about mom. It was about sharing this heartfelt conversation and uninterrupted time with Addi.

This Christmas season, just like many others, all I want is a quilt from my mother. While I’ll never receive a quilt made from my mom’s hands again, this conversation with Addi showed me the true gift from mom’s quilts is the time we give away to spend with the ones we love.

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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Toys, Cash or Bust

Toys, Cash or Bust

It’s November 1 and the Walmart toy catalog has arrived. You look and see that things have already been circled and an entire page has a large circle around every toy. This is what happens every year. The toys wanted are circled with my kids’ names next to them, so I of course know who wants what under the tree. But this year, my daughter was the only one with things circled. Why? Because my son only wants an Xbox. A $500 gift. But he knows “Santa” won’t get him an Xbox because that’s too expensive, so he is asking everyone for cash.

Should Kids Get Cash for Christmas?

But cash for Christmas perhaps you’re thinking: What? Are your kids too good for toys now? Or maybe you’re stuck on the idea that giving someone money is so impassive and unsentimental. Of course, the last thing I want to do is disappoint my kids, but I want to make sure they’re old enough to appreciate getting cold, hard cash instead of traditional gifts.

If you are like most families, your kids have enough stuff. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s about setting the stage, letting the gift-giver know the reasoning behind the request and what the money will be used for. There are lots of opinions about the good and bad of giving money as a gift–or, gasp, asking for money as a gift. And when done incorrectly, yes, it can come off as rude and selfish.

However, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider foregoing traditional gifts and asking for money instead. Cohen doesn’t play with toys. He is at that age where it’s either soccer or video games. He is trying to save money for an Xbox. I realized the older the kids, the more expensive the gifts. He doesn’t want the traditional gift, nor does he need it, so he’s asking grandpa, grandpa, aunts and uncles for money. Sure, he could use another pair of pants so if his grandma wants to go shopping, I will suggest that option.

Gifting Money is Practical & Useful

But, for now, I am tactfully encouraging my family members to give money. I am proposing ways to make it fun for them to give cash.

There are a few ways you can do this. If Cohen wanted to use the money for sports or other lessons, I would invite his family members to recitals or games. I want them to see the joy he gets from the activity and know the part they played in helping create that joy.

After Cohen saves enough for him to accomplish his dream of owning an Xbox, I plan to send family members a video or some pictures. I want them to see Cohen embracing and enjoying what their monetary gift helped achieve.

So rather it be a Barbie for Collyns, yes, her gifts are still easy to buy or cash for Cohen, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding giving cash as gifts. The truth is no one in my family needs 37 gifts. Getting off the gift-giving merry-go-round starts with a frank discussion with friends and family.

The great thing about gifting money is it’s practical and useful. Secondly, it will save everyone time from lining up at those shopping malls, and lastly, Cohen will actually love getting cash especially if you present it in a creative way. I already started pinning ideas on how to give cash as a gift on Pinterest.

Believe it or not, the gift of cash will be the best present he’ll receive this Christmas!

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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Continuing My Mom’s Tradition of Giving

Continuing My Mom’s Tradition of Giving

Generosity. As defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: characterized by a noble or kindly spirit; having an abundance.

As we begin this holiday season, this third season without my mom, I can feel the presence of my mom working through my hands and my heart.

Appreciating What My Mom Did for Us

Growing up, did my mom go overboard during the Christmas season? Absolutely. Did she go overboard with the gifts? Absolutely. Did she go overboard with food? Oh goodness, absolutely. Did she go overboard in the generosity department? Absolutely. And, this is why I am grateful. You see, I may not have appreciated my mom’s gift prior to being an adult, but she was extremely generous with the giving of her time and quilting.

One Christmas mom quilted 13 quilts for every person in our family. The prior Christmas she created 11 different quilts for a family of 12. She also created one special quilt to be given to each aunt on my dad’s side for 11 consecutive years. Before her illness, she also found time to spend with her sisters and mom making quilts. Generosity in the purest form.

How Quilting Keeps Me Connected to My Mom

It took me well into my adult life to fully appreciate the detail, the time, and the love it took to make a single quilt. My mom tried to teach me multiple times to quilt…I just did not have the patience. I did however become a pro at pressing material. Mom also sat down with both of our girls to teach them the basics of sewing.

Unbeknownst to us, this was all part of a bigger plan that would show up years later. I am far from being the master quilter, but I am trying. With the help of a dear friend, who loves to quilt and shows an exuberant amount of patience, I jumped the fear hurdle. I am not sure if it was the daunting idea of such a huge project, but I pulled out my mom’s sewing machine and her material to make a quilt book for a little girl who is incredibly special to our family.

Making Quilts of My Own

Just as my mom gave of her time to make beautiful quilts, I know it is not about the quilt itself. I realize it is all about the quality time I am spending with my daughter and friend. It is about the imperfect sewing lines that make this project special. It is about the smile I envision on Nicklyn’s face when she plays with her quiet book as I make each cut, sew each piece or even use the seam ripper. It is about the love in my hands and the joy in my heart, knowing I am creating something special, which is exactly what my mom did each new year.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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Celebrating 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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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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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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Adventure is Out There

Adventure is Out There

It was over 13 years ago when my husband and I wrote down a family goal of providing our children with the gift of travel. Our goal then, as it is today, is to provide as many opportunities as we can to see the wonders our great nation has to offer. While it may still seem like a far fetched goal, we plan and plot out our trips in hopes of traveling to as many of the continental states as possible before our children graduate high school.

When it comes to trips and vacations, spontaneous and unplanned are two words that hardly find their way into my vocabulary. For me, every vacation or getaway is planned – and planned meticulously. For my husband and eldest daughter, “adventure is out there” is more their style.

“Yes, let’s go.”

For the extended, activity-free, Easter weekend, we planned a college visit for our daughter in Western Nebraska and then a third trip back to the Black Hills. However, when my husband spontaneously suggested we drive to Yellowstone rather than go to Mount Rushmore, immediately our daughter said, “yes, let’s go.”

In an uncharacteristic fashion, I quickly agreed. I was actually excited for the spontaneous 1,700 mile detour from our original plan. Already 6 hours from home and another 10 hours from Yellowstone, we began our “quick trip” to one of our national treasures. Yet, I knew this would be an adventure our kids would not forget as nothing was planned, including where we would stay each night. We vowed to get as far as we could, find a hotel, explore the area quickly, and then continue the next day.

This spontaneous road trip provided many moments for our family to create memories. From waiting patiently for Old Faithful, to taking pictures in front of each new state sign, the memories we created will make for great conversations for years to come. Even picking out the state collectibles became an adventure.

Our two daughters collect one small item from each of the states we visit. One collects stickers, and the other collects keychains. Naturally, our son decided he wanted to start collecting something to remember our travels. In typical 10-year-old boy humor, he started with the ridiculous idea of collecting moose’s poop, but soon realized he would not be able to find that in every state. For the next 30 minutes, he browsed postcards, snow globes, patches, magnets, playing cards and finally decided upon lapel pins, which is perfect for him. For the next hour after his purchase, he figured out all of the states he has visited, and how many pins he would have to buy so he would be caught up on his states.

Our Family Adventure

When the weekend was all said and done, we traveled 2,100 miles in the course of 75 hours. Yes, sometimes the confines of the pickup truck felt quite cramped with all five of us having our earbuds in at various points in the journey. Yet ultimately, we all loved the trip! The spontaneity of changing our original plans allowed us to create new family memories. We added two more states to our visited state’s list, and it was a great reminder for all of us to enjoy the moment. For myself, someone who plans out virtually everything, it was an awesome opportunity for me to not worry about the next stop and to embrace the fact that “adventure is out there.”

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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Returning Gifts Online: Tips for Senior Citizens

Returning Gifts Online: Tips for Senior Citizens

When your grandkids are older, you no longer ask their parents what they’d like for Christmas and birthdays; you go straight to the source. Maybe they’ll tell you what they really want, but are afraid to ask for it from their parents. Perhaps I’m still waiting for the day when they say, “Nothing, Grandma. Just to connect more with you.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

When I asked the grandkids what they wanted for Christmas, I immediately received a string of texts from them with the picture, website and description of the item they wanted.

They were all so patient with me and explained everything in more detail. Unfortunately, everything I asked was already in a previous text. Multiple messages later, I can just hear them telling their friends, “Oh my gosh! My grandma is so slow!”

I did my best this year to follow everyone’s suggestions. I found the website, and did my best to pick out the perfect size, perfect color and perfect gift. I felt so proud knowing I made the appropriate online orders for everyone this holiday season.

I try to set a limit to the amount of money I spend on each grandkid, equal amounts for everyone. It isn’t always perfect, but I make it darn close. I work on making sure each grandkid has at least four presents under the tree. A pair of sneakers can be over $100, so I have to be careful. Sometimes I can find a sale and include three sweaters in one package. The kids understand and acknowledge my efforts with joyous laughter…or is it mockery?

All the gifts arrived at our home in time for me to wrap and add them to the bounty of gifts beneath the tree. Christmas morning came and our family had a great celebration. This year, I went two for two in the gift department. Two grandkids didn’t have to return a thing! Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, two grandkids weren’t so lucky. I had to google how to return these gifts. Turns out returning gifts online is a little more complicated – even more so when you’re a senior citizen. Let me tell you, it’s tough.

Here are some tips I found:

  1. Don’t open the box.
  2. Keep all the gift receipts.
  3. Check the return policy.
  4. Have or bring your ID.

I bought two polo shirts from Macy’s online. They were on sale. Yippee! They didn’t fit. Bummer. I think I’ll get reimbursed, but I bought a replacement shirt at Von Maur in the right size just in case. So much for a two-for-one.

As for the Adidas tennis shoes I bought online: Even though I ordered the requested size, they were the wrong size. I ordered new ones and returned the old. So far, so good. However, the second pair was also the wrong size! Now I can’t find the second order number or the email. I think I’m ready to hit my own personal delete button. Okay, maybe it’s not all that bad, but I’m out of my league. Tomorrow, I’m heading to the actual Adidas Store.

After all this, I have some of my own tips to add to my Google list for grandparents:

  1. Keep track of your orders and texts from your grandkids.
  2. Print off your email confirmations, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.
  3. When in doubt, blame the grandkids. I think this is the best tip of all. I did nothing wrong, it’s all their fault.
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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