School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

During my morning walk, I caught myself reminiscing about being in the school building with students and missing everything about it. Not only do I miss teaching, but my kids miss school, their friends and the activities. And, all I can do is plan for and hope that we will be back in school buildings this fall. Without thinking too far in advance, we must experience summer first.

Goodbye School, Hello Summer

The last two months of remote learning is complete, and summer has officially begun. Now our family must conquer summer with three things at the forefront: grace, patience and understanding.

Just the other day, I presented our children with a daily summer to-do list, or as our youngest put it, “a summer contract.” I needed a tremendous amount of grace and patience then, while our kids needed a gigantic dose of understanding. In those moments, each of us wanted to reply without listening or understanding.

At the start of every summer, we always have great intentions to focus on learning something new and traveling, but this summer will end up being different. We do not have any specific plans for the summer, so my husband and I want to spend summer days being more intentional about mental wellness, physical wellness and teaching our kids about our passions.

Finding Our Passions

This summer, my hope is that we are intentional in spending more time as a family and understanding what each of us is truly passionate about. For example, our son is passionate about golf. Our family spends time with him on the golf course encouraging him, yet also trying to learn the sport.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my husband is passionate about photography and wants to teach our kids about pinhole photography. I would like to stretch our kids’ skills in creative writing or podcasting. Once the kids determine their topics, we will jump into the creative process.

Remembering to Set Boundaries

Even more important than learning, we are going to be diligent in supporting mental wellness through physical wellness. We are encouraging a daily running, strength training and yoga. Going beyond the physical wellness, we need to continue to set healthy boundaries with social media.

As our kids will say, we are the only parents in the world that set time limits to encourage unplugging and stepping away from technology. I believe focusing on these areas will continue to foster healthy relationships with our children as we enter a new phase in our household with a college student, a freshman in high school and a sixth grader. This will definitely take grace and patience from all of our family, but this is part of growing and developing these characteristics before they leave our home for the next stage of life.

Our middle daughter put it the best, “Why is it that my parents who are teachers still make us learn throughout the summer?” We encourage our family to spend the summer together, so we all have a deeper understanding of each other’s passions and enhance our patience and grace with each other. School’s out, but our family will continue learning.

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 During a Pandemic

Celebrating During a Pandemic

Here’s a confession: I realize now that when this pandemic started, I was trying to be as optimistic as possible.

Working in the news business, I just thought it was the news story of the day, and we’d all move on the next day. But then events started to get canceled and businesses started to close.

I told myself that it was OK to spend a couple weeks at home because after this, we’d be able to go back to our normal lives. But a couple weeks turned into much longer.

At first it was, “Well, I guess we’ll postpone my daughter’s 6th birthday party. But we’ll still celebrate!”

Then, “Well, at least my son’s birthday in May will still happen.”

And, “Well, our 10-year wedding anniversary is in June; we’ll still get to go on our planned vacation for sure.”

And finally, “Jeez. At least we’ll have the family vacation that’s planned in August.”

It’s safe to say we’re experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Every Day Brings New Emotions

Some days are bad, while other days are meh. But once in a blue moon, there’s an elusive good day that sneaks up and shakes up our pandemic routines…and it can feel weird to experience.

When a lot is uncertain and the world is struggling, having a good day or a celebration felt wrong, or even caused some guilt. But I realized it’s important to give yourself permission to savor those moments of joy, even in the face of a pandemic. In fact, it’s important to find joy during times like these.

We’re dealing with canceled birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations, and we continue to stay inside and practice social distancing. That doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate; we just need to be a little more creative.

Celebrating Our Way

On the day of my daughter’s birthday party, my husband and I hung up streamers and draped a banner with a glittery “six” across the living room window. I woke up early to get her favorite donuts and then we decorated her cake and wrapped presents.

Everything was going according to the plan I had drawn up months earlier, except at 1 p.m., the doorbell wouldn’t ring and guests wouldn’t pour into our house for a birthday party.

Instead, I made sure to set the laptop on the dining room table and email a Zoom link to friends and family, so they could sing “happy birthday” virtually.

Despite the fact that there’s a pandemic, I’m a firm believer that celebrations—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries— still matter even if we have to celebrate a little differently!

Make the Most of Each Day

It’s okay to smile, laugh and celebrate during these times. In the midst of quarantine, love is stronger than ever and we need to continue to feel that kind of love and laughter.

Whether your good day is determined by crossing that one thing off your to-do list or just by being kind to yourself, it’s important to remember that what a “good day” looks like for you might be different than how it looks for someone else, and that’s OK.

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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Being Proud of How We Handle This Time

Being Proud of How We Handle This Time

Here we are weeks and weeks without walking into a school and seeing our secretaries’ smiles, without seeing my colleagues, without a school activity, five weeks without seeing students in the hallways. There are many unknowns: when will we be able to go to church or a restaurant? When can I give a hug to a non-family member? What will the hallways of our school building look like when we can actually go back to school?

Unknowns Continue to Mount

As unknowns continue, my husband and I have challenged ourselves to make sure our daughter feels special and still experiences the last few pages of her high school chapter. All of the prom plans, graduation plans and end of the semester plans we had been preparing for our senior daughter have all changed or are non-existent. Yet, we still planned a prom where she could pose for pictures, dance, sing and just enjoy the evening. When she decided which college to attend, we set up a signing day in our kitchen. We celebrated our girls’ birthdays with two birthday cakes, which for 14 years has only been one cake dedicated to both girls.

The driving force behind making sure our kids—especially our senior—have a memorable quarantine time has been these heart-to-heart questions: “When I look back on this time, what did I do? Would I be proud of how I spent this time?”

Recognizing a Need to Be Happier

After the first week of being home, I soon realized how much time we now had on our hands. There were a few days I was not necessarily the best version of myself when the stress and fear of the unknown got to me. I quickly realized the importance of finding the positives in each day.

I started asking myself, Am I proud of how I’m spending this time? and made steps to improve. We all know our weaknesses, and mine is definitely cooking. So I decided to open up a recipe book and starting making new and old recipes. The time I now spend in the kitchen lends itself to hours of conversations at the supper table. Prior to this time, a family supper for 20 minutes one night a week was normal; now, suppers together every night of the week is something we all look forward to.

What Am I Proud Of?

Am I proud of our family time? I am also taking time each day to spend individually with my three kids. From golfing with our son, to biking or playing catch with our daughters, I value this time immensely. My husband is finding the time to teach the kids how to build shelves and teach the entire family about pinhole photography.

Am I proud of my individual growth? Beyond all of the family time, I also enrolled in a writing class to develop confidence in my writing skills. This class provides me with a dedicated time and space each day to not only write, but also to reflect, unplug, and meditate.

The unknowns about this time are substantial, and it’s hard to think about all of the things we are missing. However, I want to focus on the family time and appreciate the special moments we create for our family. So, the question becomes, “When you look back on this time, will you be proud?” I definitely am.

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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Living Through COVID-19 Together

Living Through COVID-19 Together

Yesterday was hard. Actually, the last few weeks have been hard. I, like most women, feel like I am failing—as a wife, employee, teacher and most importantly, as a mother. My stress levels and anxiety are through the roof, and I just feel sad. Sad for my kids who don’t get to finish the school year with their friends and teachers. Sad for my son who doesn’t get to play soccer this spring. And sad for both of my kids whose birthdays will be spent in quarantine.

Recognizing Our Situation

I know that I have it better than so many others and shouldn’t feel this way. This gives me an overwhelming sense of guilt. So many tears have been shed.

That said, while this situation is certainly unprecedented and stressful for all, I recognize that in my case, my family comes at it from a point of privilege. Right now, our jobs are secure. We have health insurance and the internet and a fridge full of food. We are currently healthy and crossing our fingers we all stay that way. So while adjusting to working from home while simultaneously becoming teachers for our kids has been incredibly tricky, we know there are many, many people out there dealing with much worse. So I definitely don’t have all the answers. But here is what we’ve learned so far…

Managing Schedules Is Different

First, we are taking all of this one day at a time. My husband and I check in each night, lay out our work schedules for the following day, and come up with a plan of attack. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. But we have simply agreed to do our best and adjust as we can. However, I am a planner. I like structure, and none of this has been on my calendar. So, as much as my calendar is empty, I am now entering work zoom meetings, school zoom meetings, zoom workouts and scheduling zoom playdates.

As far as the kids’ education, as soon as schools started to close, social media blew up with advice from parents and teachers everywhere about structure and schedules and how to keep your kids on track. It was, in a word, overwhelming. I am a lot of things, but cut out to be a grade-school teacher? Nope. Going from kindergarten math to third grade math was mind-numbing. Also, how do you create structure at home while both parents are attempting to work full-time just a few feet away? With some serious flexibility, that’s how.

So while we do have a school schedule for the kids and tag-team supervision, we are also letting them sleep in, stay in their pajamas, and stay up later than usual. We are also relying heavily on technology. Yes, we have Chromebooks, but sometimes, science class is a video. And some days, we just throw up our hands and let them play Nintendo all day.

Managing Our Lives is Just as Important

We also recognized quickly that before our kids’ education and our busy jobs, we needed to take care of not just our physical health but our mental health. So we’ve been paying extra attention to our sleep and nutrition, practicing self-care and carving out time to exercise. We’ve also allowed each other “me” time, even if it’s just going for a drive alone.

Finally, we are doing our best to look at the positive and take the opportunity for family time. So while it is stressful, we are trying to incorporate as much fun as we can to create family memories. We are taking daily walks, playing Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land in the driveway with chalk, coloring together, having dance parties and introducing the kids to old Disney movies.

Along with the rest of the world, we just have to wait and see what happens. But we are remembering to breathe, to give ourselves some grace and to remember that our family is alright.

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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COVID-19: Coping with Stress, Social Distancing and the New Normal

COVID-19: Coping with Stress, Social Distancing and the New Normal

We certainly live in stressful, uncertain times right now. Events, schools, jobs, services and life’s milestones, are all coming to a standstill.

As someone who has worked in mental health for 23 years, I want to assure you that some level of anxiety and stress is normal. In fact, some stress is good because it alerts us to threats and motivates us to take care of ourselves.

And, I urge you not to neglect your emotional well-being and self-care during these times. If gatherings, support groups, exercise classes or other outlets you usually rely on are off limits, try phone calls, social media and texting to stay in touch with those you care about.

Here are some other strategies to help while we are safely social distancing:

Strategies for Adults

  1. Practice relaxing and breathing. Take breaks during the day, practice relaxation skills and take deep breaths. As the old Johnny Mercer song goes, accentuate the positive!
  2. Stay positive. Start a journal and write about positive things going on in your life.
  3. Stay Connected. Check in with people through text, phone, email or social media.
  4. Keep in touch, especially with those you trust with your feelings, and share with them your thoughts, concerns and needs.
  5. Have some fun! Watch a movie, go for a walk, play games.
  6. Avoid too much exposure to news and information. You can watch a bit of news each day to stay informed, but don’t get absorbed by it. It can weigh you down.
  7. Take care of yourself physically. Exercise, eat healthy foods and get plenty of sleep.

Strategies to Help Young People in Your Life

  1. Talk and answer questions. Have daily discussions and ask your children if they have questions or concerns. Go over the facts with them.
  2. Reassure children that they are safe. Our community is taking extra care to ensure that we are practicing social distancing and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of this virus.
  3. Be a good role model. Practice good coping skills such as those above. Share the healthy ways you deal with stress.
  4. Limit media exposure.
  5. Keep structure in their lives. Work with your child to set a daily routine.

We’re in this Together

Try to remember: We’re all in this together, and hopefully soon, the “old normal” will return. Perhaps, we will even see our lives with new clarity and hope for a better future.

You can find more information in my podcast “Staying Sane During Social Distancing”.

If you find yourself anxious or if life seems overwhelming and this it’s impactive your daily life, or if you think you are having symptoms of depression, please take our free, online mental health screening.

Additionally, the Bryan Medical Center Bryan West Campus mental health emergency room is available 24/7 to determine if hospitalization is appropriate.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

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

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

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How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

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

I Am Going to Be Alright

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

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

I am going to be alright.

My Kids Are Going to Be Alright

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

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

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

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

She is going to be alright.

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

He is going to be alright.

My Husband Is Going to Be Alright

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

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

He is going to be alright.

We Are Going to Be Alright

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

We are going to be alright.

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

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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What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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

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

Planning Your Future Is Tough

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

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

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

Figuring Out the Next Phase in Life

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

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

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

The Present Is as Bright as the Future

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Thank You, Basketball

Thank You, Basketball

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

You Helped My Daughter Grow

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

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

You Taught My Daughter Invaluable Lessons

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

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

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

You Helped Me Grow with Her

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

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

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

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

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

Train Your Kids on Being Home Alone

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

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

Trust Your Kids to Do the Right Things

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Intentionally Learning to Embrace the Moment

Intentionally Learning to Embrace the Moment

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

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

Refocusing My Intention

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

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

3 Steps to Remaining Intentional in Your Life

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

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

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

Understanding Every Day Is Special

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

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

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

Resolutions for the Family

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

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

Focus On Your Health

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

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

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

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

Remember to Be Thankful

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Scholarships Season is Stressful

Scholarships Season is Stressful

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

Scholarships Are Stressful

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

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

Have the Tough Conversations

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

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

Sit Back & Have Faith

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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