Rewarding Your Child

Rewarding Your Child

Getting a 100% on a test.

Unloading the dishwasher.

Playing your hardest in a game.

These are all reasons why a parent could reward their child. But is the reward necessary and does it help? Or are the above reasons what is expected of them?

When I was growing up, I never received an allowance for doing chores or was given money for getting good grades. But recently, my children told me about their friends getting rewarded for doing well on a report card. Silly me, I thought that was a kid’s “job” to do well in school. But that got me thinking, “How do you motivate kids?”

Motivating Your Kids

It may be one of the biggest struggles parents and teachers experience. As parents, we remind them to clean their rooms or do their schoolwork. They reply that it’s too hard or boring. We plead with them to do their chores and they whine, procrastinate and even ignore us. So how do we motivate them?

I’ve tried punishment with a timeout or withdrawal of privileges. However, rewards do seem much sweeter than punishments.

When I offer bribes (or threats), this usually leads to the desired behavior I am seeking. For example: as a parent, I want to encourage my kids to clean their rooms, but if I measure room cleaning behavior over a two-week period, I’ll discover that room cleaning is at zero, even with nagging. It just doesn’t happen. But when I implement a reward system to motivate better behavior, I find that room cleaning has increased enormously. It MUST be working!

Eventually, however, my reward system fails because I am tired of rewarding my children for what I think is expected of them.

And when the reward system is taken away, suddenly school achievements drop off and the room cleaning behavior stops. Then the reward system starts again and results improve. It’s a vicious cycle.

Addressing Their Challenges

However, I realized that rewards and punishments ignore what’s going on for my kids struggling with motivation. Instead, I now ask them what their challenges are. Why are they lacking intrinsic motivation? Is the task really boring? Or is there something else going on? When I genuinely understand their challenge, I typically find that it’s not going to be fixed by a goody.

They say things like, “it’s boring”… and a reward isn’t going to remedy that. Rewards don’t make things interesting. They simply shift the focus from the task to the reward. I needed to focus less on behaviors and more on obstacles to desired behaviors. Are they tired? Lonely? Stressed? Is it too hard? Does it seem to lack meaning?

Addressing the obstacles requires me to consider how I might be contributing to the problem and work creatively with my child to find ways around the obstacles. Is the work I’m asking them to do meaningful to them?

I found that giving them a choice leads to an automatic increase in motivation. Or giving them a challenge like, “I bet you can clean up your room is less than 5 minutes” helps with motivation.

Changing the Reward

Finally, I recognized that when my child feels competent, they are going to be more motivated than when they feel incapable. As a parent, my job is to build their sense of mastery so they feel like the things I invite them to do are achievable.

If I MUST offer a reward, I make it unexpected. And assure my child that this isn’t going to be a regular thing.

But I also changed the reward system. A reward is now an investment in our time together, not money. It’s now a trip to the zoo, museum or the movie theater. To me, this is a much better idea than simply getting them the latest game or gadget. I make this a special one-on-one trip with my child and give them the benefit of my attention. Experiential trips make for great rewards and inevitably teach my children that money is not everything, but spending some mindful time together is.

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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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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Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

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

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

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

Being Intentional

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

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

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue Each Day

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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Introducing Kids to Investing

Introducing Kids to Investing

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

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

So, where do you begin?

Be Sure to Ask Questions

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

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

Learn the Basics Together

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

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

Don’t Forget to Set Goals

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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My Child Has No Friends

My Child Has No Friends

We’d all like our kids to thrive in academics, the arts, sports and overall at being a good person. Here’s another item to add to our wish list for their success: friendship. I want to see my children happy, engaged and interacting with their peers.

Is My Child Missing Out?

Last year, my son had a best friend. However, he moved away this past summer. Even though Cohen is involved in sports, Boy Scouts and band, he still doesn’t seem to have friends. There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood, but when I ask him if he wants to play outside with them he says no. He never gets calls for play dates, and he attends only a few birthday parties a year.

So what’s a parent to do when they realize that their child, for whatever reason, is having a difficult time making friends? I feel that my child is missing out or being shunned for one reason or another. As his mother, iI find this very upsetting, to say the least. No parent wants to see their child hurt and left out of the fun. However, he doesn’t seem bothered by this at all.

Encouraging Your Child to Build Friendships

There are very few things more frustrating than watching your child struggle to make friends. We’ve tried following his interests and he is enjoying the activities he’s involved with, but doesn’t seem to have friends. I know it’s important to remember that it will take time for Cohen to develop good social skills.

I encourage Cohen to seek out the kids at school who are shy and tell him to ask them questions that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no”. I hope this helps him build relationships with others who might also be looking for a friend.

My husband, who is better at this than I am, taught Cohen about empathy. He told Cohen to focus on what others are saying and then discuss how that feels after the conversation is over, thus helping build relationships. I, myself, have a hard time showing empathy. But as a parent, I am very aware that my children learn from my behavior. I feel it’s important to be consciously aware of how I interact with others when my children are watching.

Realizing Everything Will Be Okay

Again, Cohen has not expressed that he has been bullied or that he has concerns about his friendships. I have reached out to his teachers, and they’ve shared that he gets along with mostly everyone in class and has a great group of friends that he plays with at recess.

Sometimes, I think what I perceive as no friendships or not enough friendships isn’t what Cohen is experiencing. I need to realize that I shouldn’t panic if things seem a little shaky. He has many opportunities to learn and gain new skills and friendships.

As long as I continue to pay attention and keep things in perspective, it will be okay. All I see, hear and experience as a parent in these early years is information I can act upon, but there is no need to panic and overreact!

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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Drinking In Front of My Kids

Drinking In Front of My Kids

With football season less than a month away (fingers crossed) and the potential for e-learning, there seems to be more alcohol in our household.

Let’s be honest, my children are the reason I drink; therefore, I can drink in front of my children. In fact, given the last several months, my glass of wine may be the reason we’re all still alive today.

Set Boundaries

I don’t judge people with kids who drink but the subject of alcohol when it comes to kids is still a touchy subject. For some, drinking in front of younger kids is an extreme no-no, whereas others might consider a glass or two to be fine when having dinner with family.

Some of my friends can’t imagine drinking an adult beverage in front of their kids. I’ve seen parents sneak a sip when their kids aren’t looking, or wait for when their kids go to sleep, and the coast is clear. However, recently in my mom’s group, this topic was brought up in discussion and I believe that hiding your drinking or waiting till your kids are in bed sends the message that drinking is wrong.

We all know that a glass of wine here and there is not bad for you. It can actually be good for your health. If you think that drinking in front of your children is considered “bad parenting,” I just want you to think about this question, “Is there a right and wrong way to do it?”

Kids Learn By Your Actions

If we, as parents, don’t teach them how to drink, then who will? Their friends? Their friends’ parents? Television? Or maybe behind the bleachers at a football game with a kid who stole his dad’s vodka bottle? When I was growing up there was very little alcohol in my household. I never knew what drinking responsibly really meant. Teaching kids how to drink responsibly is a valuable lesson.

So even now, when my kids ask about what mommy’s drinking, I know my kids are watching and learning from my behavior and I serve as their primary role model. Alcohol is not the problem but rather the abuse of alcohol is. So, when my kids see me drinking alcohol, they know that I am an adult and I am drinking responsibly.

Some days, the day stretches out so long that without the effervescent light at the end of the tunnel, we may not make it through the day. I am in no way advocating getting truly drunk in front of your little ones, but having a drink isn’t shameful or it doesn’t need to be done behind closed doors.

Show Them What Responsibility Looks Like

When my kids leave to go to a friend’s house or one day out on their own, I want them to be prepared. My child’s success depends a great deal on what they learn and see at home.

My husband and I teach them these things by drinking responsibly, by finding a designated driver when we’ve had one too many, and by not reliving our college days with old school friends. Drinking in front of your kids is not “bad parenting,” its “responsible parenting.”

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Sending Our Daughter Off to College

Sending Our Daughter Off to College

I remember it quite vividly. It was the second Sunday in cold, cold January, and I was sitting on the couch sobbing uncontrollably on my mom’s shoulder. I didn’t want to go back to college. I had a rough first semester of college and was about to embark on a new adventure as I transferred to a different college. However, I. Did. Not. Want. To. Go.

Encouraging Words from Mom

I was scared. I was nervous. I was fearful. I was anxious. Yet, most importantly, I was loved. My mom let me sob for half an hour and then she said, “It’s time for you to go. I am more than confident you will find friends, and this new college will be for you. I have raised you well for this adventure.”

And with that, I was off in my car driving 35 minutes to my new college, with tears still in my eyes and what my mom said to me on my heart.

A New Stage of Parenting

Fast forward 22 years, and within the next three weeks we’ll be sending our daughter off to college. Many days I’m ready to send her off, and then there are those days when a memory pops up on Facebook or Instagram and I wish she was little again.

This parenting thing is hard. It was hard when they were babies. It was hard when they were toddlers, and don’t even get me started with those middle school years. Now, we’re embarking on a new stage of parenting—letting go and watching our oldest fly. Parenting is hard, but we have to trust we did our absolute best in each stage.

I think about the 18 years of parenting our oldest: how challenging she was as a baby, how I adored her rolls upon rolls, how she started potty training herself at 18 months, how she developed a passion for softball, how stubborn she is if she believes she’s right, how she developed an unmatched work ethic, how it took a village to help raise our daughter, and how she never forgets to tell us she loves us each night before bed.

Ready for the Next Chapter

Now it comes down to three weeks. Three weeks of her being in our home before her next chapter begins. I know I’m not ready for her to be gone physically from home, but my heart and mind are ready for her next stage. I know my husband and I have done everything possible to raise her into the young woman she is today and for this next chapter.

It will be the chapter where we get to see her fly. The chapter where we get to watch her and encourage her to make life decisions. The chapter where we get to see her create her own adventures. The chapter where we must trust and have the faith that we’ve done our absolute best in raising our daughter.

You see, my mom and dad pushed me out the door that cold, cold January day because it was time for me to leave home. They were ready to watch me fly. Now, life has come full circle. In three weeks, we will “push” our daughter out of the door. Our daughter is anxious. She is excited. She is hopeful. She is full of joy. She is ready. Most importantly, she is loved and we are ready to watch her fly.

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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Back to School…I Hope

Back to School…I Hope

In the next few weeks before school starts, people will decide what’s best for their family – whether that’s home schooling, distance learning or going back to in-person learning. This is a hot topic that hits every parent hard, and there are lots of opinions and emotions involved.

Before you talk to your friend, your neighbor, your sibling or your coworker who has made a different choice, I suggest you check your tone. And if you don’t have anything nice to say during this uncertain time, just don’t say anything.

Concerns About the 2020-2021 School Year

I didn’t like any of the options in the survey for Lincoln Public Schools regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 school session. My husband and I have full-time jobs, normally in an office, and can’t stay home some mornings, afternoons and every other week to help with distance learning. Nor do I feel that my children benefited from virtual learning. I know LPS will have a solid plan in place that will address everyone’s issues. Most of my concerns were addressed when I watched the public forums and after I read the notes from the board meetings.

I reached out to my son’s previous teacher, and she is excited to get back. Yes, there are more requirements to stay safe, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to give my children the best “normal” routine through all of this.

But if I’m being completely honest, none of the changes from the schools make me feel completely confident that my child will be safe from contracting COVID-19. I’m well aware of my kids’ hygiene habits and other kids’ hygiene habits in general, so even with the extra precautions in place, I’m not sure how effective the changes will be.

Why I Want the Kids Back at School

However, the longer we remain in quarantine, the longer my husband and I realize that this is a pretty indefinite situation until some medical solutions are found. And our child’s mental well-being could not wait the one, two or three years it would take to find those solutions.

We had some conversations and agreed it’s in everyone’s best interest to hopefully send the kids back to school full time, if available. This was decided based on what we know about the status and future of the virus and what we know about our children, plus the fact that I was drowning trying to keep up with professional work, housework, teaching and mommying.

All summer long, we crossed our fingers and toes that school would be open without varying times or days. My son, who will be in 4th grade, is very excited to return to school. Hopefully, it will be full time. Otherwise, I am not sure what we will do for daycare or how we will get virtual classes scheduled. If they go back to school full time, I’ll be able to concentrate on my job and give it my full attention during the day, and then focus on the kids in the evenings.

Making the Best Decision for Your Family

I know that this decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Just like with all of our parenting decisions, we’re constantly evaluating how they are working for our family and ready to make the necessary changes if this plan stops working for us. So if I feel like it’s no longer safe for them to go to school because of COVID-19, I will keep them home, but for now, sending them back is our plan.

I know our decision will have some negative responses from family or friends, which seem to be driven by worries about the infection risk. Many people are highly doubtful that children can prevent sharing bugs and carrying them out into the community, and lots of people have picked up on teachers’ concerns about whether schools have had enough time to prepare a safe environment.

It seems likely that people’s responses are driven by understandable fear and uncertainty, but if you’re a parent run ragged by nine weeks of homeschooling while attempting to hold down a job, other people’s judgement is likely to be the last thing you need. So check your tone before you comment on other people’s situations.

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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Renovations 17 Years in the Making

Renovations 17 Years in the Making

My husband had to talk me into purchasing our home 17 years ago because I didn’t want to have to do any remodeling. All I could see was update after update that would need to be completed. However, I really wanted to live in a house rather than an apartment, so I began to imagine what our home could look like after these updates. The good news was my husband taught industrial technology, had a construction job in high school and had the tools to make these imaginary images in my mind come true.

Renovation Prep May Not Involve Everyone

My husband tells me I’m unrealistic when it comes to home renovation ideas. He tells me to quit watching the home improvement shows. He often reminds me to quit looking through Pinterest for ideas. For 17 years, I’ve wanted to renovate our kitchen. Actually, I only want to demo a wall and replace it. The wall only houses the oven and stove top, so it’s not too big of a deal. I not-so-patiently wait for the day we decide to tackle the yellow and brown kitchen wall. But during the meantime, my husband has tackled many projects on the infamous “honey-do renovation spreadsheet.”

We’ve held onto the old wood for seven years in hopes of creating a shiplap wall in our kitchen. Two weeks ago, my husband started refurbishing the wood. My excitement was building. After much debating, planning and finding consecutive free days, we started the demo of the kitchen wall. But when I say “we,” I actually mean my husband. I quickly learned in the first hour of prepping that this was not going to be a task that involved both of us.

Putting His Skills to the Test

Two not-so-brilliant suggestions and a handful of tears later, I was off to wash and fold laundry. I left the renovation to my husband. This I know to be true about my husband: he does not like doing any home renovations because of my unrealistic timeline expectations. Still, I found myself standing outside of the plastic watching my husband as he demolished the wall and strategically planned how to rebuild it.

And, no matter how frustrated I was, I could not help but be amazed as I watched my husband in his element. He meticulously cut the drywall to save the adjacent walls. He was careful to collect all of the nails, so they would not be left on the floor. He intensely studied the measurements to ensure my ideas would work. And he even prepared me for a longer renovation timeline due to unforeseen issues.

17 Years of Waiting Will Be Worth It

There are days I struggle with patience because I’ve waited years for this one renovation project to start. I will definitely have to adjust my expectations of how fast this project will take to complete. However, as I continue to wait for the moment my husband will holler to help make a decision or to sweep the floor, I realize I’m lucky that my husband has pretty amazing craftsmanship.

We’ll have to live in chaos longer than I would like, and we’ll have to make meals without our oven or stove for the next month. We’ll have more renovation frustration ahead of us, yet at the end of it, our home will have another project completed by my husband’s hands.

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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Talking to Kids About Divorce

Talking to Kids About Divorce

Di-vorce – the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

But what does that mean to a child?

I’d like to start off by saying my husband and I are not getting a divorce! I repeat, Mitch and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and we are NOT getting a divorce.

However, the topic of divorce recently came up in our household, and both of our children were made aware of what the term divorce meant and why we were talking about it.

Tell Them What Divorce Is

While every family has to do what’s right for them (and for their kids) in approaching this topic, we had it a little easier since we weren’t talking about us. But no matter the situation, our priorities were to make sure our kids understood what divorce is, let them ask any questions and reiterate the importance of family.

We wanted to tell our children together, even though they’re at different ages. We felt that they could gain support from each other, which they did— more so my daughter looked up to her brother for understanding. And by doing so, no one felt excluded or that there were secrets because everyone heard the same thing.

Don’t Try to Avoid What’s Happening

Before I get to individual advice points, there was a piece of advice we got that calmed my nerves a great deal. The actual “telling” of the situation to the kids was important, but how we acted moving forward was bigger. At the end of the day, words are words, and they never speak as loudly as actions. We wanted to let them know that we’re still one big family, but things were going to look a little differently for holidays, birthdays and special family occasions.

There were two initial things we explained to our children: who was getting the divorce and the reasons why. The reasons why sounded a bit blunt, but we wanted to be honest. The explanation for it was as accurate as possible without confusing them or being too detailed.

Embrace Their Questions

When we told the children about the split, it led to many more questions. The questions were very practical. They wanted to know things like: Where will each of them be living? Will they still see them? Can they still talk to them? Will they still get presents from them on birthdays and Christmas?

It also provoked some insecurities from them about mommy and daddy’s relationship. Will you and dad split up? If you fight or disagree, is that the start of you both separating too? This led to more conversations about relationships, conflict, resolving conflict, love, marriage, and other issues they wondered about. But in the end, this discussion made us closer as a family.

Whatever you decide to tell your children initially, my guess is that the majority of your discussions with them will be about your own family. We made sure to reassure them that mommy and daddy have a secure and stable relationship and that no matter what, everyone is here for them! Again, making them realize the importance of family does not diminish after a divorce. Our family is strong, and our extended family is still strong—and we are committed to helping them maintain those ties.

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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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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