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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Planning a Disney Family Vacation

Planning a Disney Family Vacation

It’s a family vacation to remember. I can already picture it: Me, lounging poolside with a fruity cocktail as my carefree husband applies sunscreen to my back. We laugh, charge another round to the room, and bask in the sight of our happy kids splashing responsibly in the shallow end of the hotel pool. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

If you’re considering a trip to the Most Magical Place On Earth, it’s likely you’re feeling a little stressed and maybe even confused on where to start. With four theme parks, two water parks and a giant shopping district, it’s easy to see why. This was our first big family vacation and the planning felt more in-depth than planning my own wedding.

Where to Start When Planning a Disney Family Vacation

The first step you’ll want to take when you plan a Disney World trip is getting prepared. I started with reaching out to friends and family who’ve recently gone to Disney World. I also reached out to a co-worker who used to work at Disney—she helped out tremendously.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, which I highly recommend if you have the budget, you’ll have an account created on Disney World’s website. This is where you’ll be able to access the My Disney Experience that holds your reservations and links your dining reservations and FastPass+ selections. The preplanning took my co-worker and I a couple of dinners to select and plan. So make sure you decide early on selecting your FastPasses and dining reservations! When you’re at the parks, you’ll be able to use the app to view maps, restaurant menus, your plans and more. It’s a must for any Disney World vacation!

How to Properly Pack for the Family

The next step is packing. Here, it’s all about packing smart from the start—remember, less is more!

I went above and beyond on the Disney clothes beforehand and planned out a new outfit every day we were at the parks. This was not necessary, but it made it feel more special for the kids. I figured that we are probably only going to offer Disney once, so why not! Also, don’t forget to pack ponchos as it rains almost every day in Florida.

While packing don’t forget that snacks, games and movies are a traveling must! Both kids had a backpack full of these items to help with boredom on the plane. Luckily, this was their first airplane experience, so the newness of flying helped a lot! After the major things are complete, try to enjoy your time as a family.

Expectation vs Reality

Without going into every little detail about the trip here were my expectations vs. realty.

  • Expectation: We’ll get an early start first thing in the morning! Let’s do this vacation thing!
  • Reality: Why can’t we sleep in; we are on vacation?
  • Expectation: Let’s go to all four parks starting from when they open and stay until the fireworks at night.
  • Reality: “Mooooooom, can’t we just swim in the pool?”
  • Expectation: Let’s take hundreds of pictures at every location. Everyone is very posed, smiling big and happy.
  • Reality: Nobody really wants to take a picture; they just want to have fun! The smiles are only half smiles and everyone’s thoughts are, “Fine, let’s get this over with.” And of course, there’s always that one person, my five-year-old daughter that just doesn’t want to cooperate, making everyone else annoyed.
  • Expectation: Even if the lines are long, we’ll enjoy the family time together.
  • Reality: “Mooooom, can I have your phone!”
  • Expectation: This is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my children will act perfectly and be happy.
  • Reality: “Mom, my feet hurt, why is this line so long?” And then there was at least one melt down a day!

One Last Piece of Advice

My one big piece of advice when planning a trip to Disney is plan down time. I wanted to visit as much as possible, but my daughter wanted pool time every day. We did see all four theme parks and visited the shopping district, but in reality, we could have spent several days at just one park.

We crammed a lot into a short time. However, Disney World exceeded my expectations. Even though the trip wasn’t always what I had planned, we created memories that will last a lifetime. And it is safe to say, we are all ready to go back!

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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Becoming More Intentional in Life

Becoming More Intentional in Life

During many of my leadership lessons, my students and I often discuss how important creativity is. In most instances, students believe creativity is a skill they have lost. So, I recently began teaching a leadership unit focused solely on creativity.

I started planning many activities around not only embracing the creativity each student has, but challenging each student to further enhance their creativity as well. I have activities planned from seeing the world through shapes, doodling, researching personality traits, inspiring others, taking a gratitude walk and spending ten minutes in complete silence.

The Importance of Being Intentional

The whole purpose of the unit is being intentional in finding ways to enhance one’s creativity. As I started thinking, the word “intentional” kept creeping up in my mind. I decided I needed to take the challenge along with my students to be more intentional.

With the busyness of the winter season at both home and school, I decided I would model intentionality by spending 15 minutes in stillness for the next 30 days. I suggested to my students that they all pick out a notebook to write or doodle in. The ultimate goal of the project is to connect to our inner creativity.

Practicing What You Preach

I wanted something more than a doodle book, therefore I started searching for something as a visible reminder to be intentional about my time of quietness. The idea came to me quite quickly. Six years ago, I kept a little gratitude book that I carried with me at all times. I was intentional in writing down the little blessings, and I also added meaningful pictures and inspiring Bible verses.

Due to the number of times we looked through it, the pages were torn and the edges were bent. However, the book was filled with love. I made this little gratitude book for two years, but I stopped making my little gratitude books. Looking back, I realized the busyness of life just took over. It also just seemed natural to have pictures on my laptop and on an external hard drive. I told myself I would print them out someday. Someday turned into some month which ultimately turned into never.

Make a Visual Record of What You’ve Learned

The visual reminder of my intentionality is simple—create a little gratitude book. During those 15 minutes of intentional stillness, I am going to record in words and pictures the joys in my life. My little book with those torn pages and bent edges will be moments of joy and moments I do not want to forget.

Ultimately, I hope modeling intentionality for the next 30 days with a visible end product to share with my senior students will encourage them to unlock their creativity. These quiet moments, however, will go beyond enhancing my creativity skills. These moments will allow me to pause, reflect and be thankful for all of my blessings.

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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Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Just the phrase “parent-teacher conference” makes me anxious. However, this last experience was a positive one. Typically, parent-teacher conferences happen either right before or right after report cards. And with grades in the picture, the stakes are raised.

That means it’s worthwhile to make the most of the short time you have to meet with the teacher, and it’s also reasonable to expect that the teacher is prepared to discuss your child in a meaningful way.

Some have been more successful than others, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the preparation beforehand that makes the difference.

Worry Leads to Joy

Like most parent-teacher conferences I worry, as the last few experiences haven’t been positive. Going into this year, I was expecting the typical: Cohen’s reading isn’t grade level, he’s getting upset very easily, he’s becoming anxious, he’s needing to go the office, and so on. Those have been his critiques for the past three years.

But boy was I surprised during this year’s conference. Cohen’s teacher had nothing but good things to say about him. The way she described him and her attitude towards him gave me goosebumps. You could see her overall joy when talking about Cohen. She talked about his wonderful personality, his willingness to help, and his compassion towards others. She made the executive decision to stop the score sheet he had to bring home every day because he continuously got a perfect score. She was shocked that he needed to do those sheets for the last three years.

Sure, she addressed his reading and his anxiety when taking tests, but she was proud of his determination and his willingness to participate despite his lack of confidence when it comes to reading. Lastly, she hoped her son, who is 6 months old, will have Cohen’s characteristics when he’s that age. This comment brought tears to my eyes. I have never left a conference feeling so proud and excited for him like I have in this class with this teacher!

It’s All in the Preparation

This last conference made me realize that there are different ways to prepare. I’d like to offer a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child’s parent-teacher conference.

I purposely choose the last conference of the night. That way if we go long, I’m not holding up anyone else. If I can, I don’t bring my children. That way I can bring up things that I want to say that I wouldn’t say in front my child and vice versa.

As hard as it is, I try and come with an open mind. As a parent, I have to remind myself of this often, but my children’s grades and behavior are not a reflection of who I am as a person. They have free will and will make mistakes and decisions that I don’t approve of, but It doesn’t make me a bad parent.

Ask the Teacher Questions

I also bring specific questions or concerns and not the typical, “So how’s my kid doing in your class?” Since we only have a few minutes to talk, I’d like to know right away which areas are of concern.

If your child is unhappy in school, you may be the emotional dump at home who hears about all the things that went wrong during the day. That’s what I hear from Cohen most days. I don’t get to witness my children having fun with their friends at lunch or answering a question that stumped everyone else in the class. I learned that we needed to focus and build on these little victories together.

Lastly, tell the teacher what works well at home and what you need help with. I often feel like I’m on my own once my children get home, but teachers often have tips that may help studying and getting organized at home go more smoothly too.

Now that I know a few tricks of the trade, I am less anxious for these conferences. I feel that Cohen is growing and learning in third grade. I love that his teacher was so open and honest with me, and I’m glad she is willing to work with him and for him. I trust in her and am so happy she is teaching my child because Cohen is starting hate school a little less.

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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Traveling Through Life with My Squad

Traveling Through Life with My Squad

The group text message went like this:

“Okay squad…I am 95% sure I want a tat. Who also needs one? I need my squad for moral support to get me through the door.”

“I am definitely out for the tattoo, but can be there for moral support.”

“I am in!!! I want one with my Dad’s handwriting.”

“I might consider it!”

“I will support. But out on the ink for me.”

I am an introvert and a private person. Being around crowds is very overwhelming to me, my anxiety rises and I tend to find myself conversing with only a few people whom I feel comfortable with. This may come as a surprise to some since I am surrounded by students, adults and other colleagues all the time in my career.

Forming My Squad

Believe me, throughout the many stages of life, I have tried to include everyone in everything. But I also realize that due to my introvertedness, it may be hard to get to know me and I can come off as unfriendly at times. And having people think I am unfriendly causes me additional stress. This is why my circle of friends is so important to me, especially during this stage of life.

Ten years ago our squad had one thing in common: our daughters’ softball team. Eventually, at the games, we started sitting by each other, sharing snacks, and learning about each other’s likes and dislikes. Over the course of ten years we have celebrated new additions to families, mourned the deaths of parents, shared hysterectomy stories and gone on family vacations.

Friends Through Thick & Thin

So naturally, I turned to my squad to find the courage to get a tattoo (or talk me out of it). Yet, what I appreciate about our squad is that there is definitely always a gathering place, we show constant support for all of our kids, we can laugh to “make it all better,” and we respect the silence that helps bond and grow all relationships.

Every stage of life brings new adventures, challenges, stories and milestones. While we travel through each of these stages, the best part is having a squad by your side for the journey.

There are those friends that come into our life journey for a short distance or even get out at the first stop sign. While others are there for the long haul and walk your journey with you. The softball moms could’ve sensed my closed nature and quickly jumped out at the first stop sign and given up on me long, long ago. But they didn’t—they all stayed in the vehicle, and I am incredibly thankful to be on this ride together.

Enjoying Every Bit of the Ride

This year is special. This year is hard. This year four of us have high school seniors. Two moms have kids who have already graduated, two moms are experiencing graduation for the first time, and another smiles and cries along with us and is trying to figure out how she will do this next year. Senior year is hard not only for the child, but also for the parents. We have spent our entire parenting years preparing our kids for their next journey, but we want to hold onto them and keep them in our homes just a little longer.

Yet, if it was not for our daughters, we would not be the friends or better yet, the family we are today. Each of us has our own joys, frustrations and insecurities, but we also bring our own perspectives and insight about life and the journey we are on. In the end, we all know we are still loved and we will be there for each stop along the way.

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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I Share Too Much

I Share Too Much

“I know you, and I haven’t even met you.”

Lately, several bloggers I follow have written about issues of privacy and what they are willing to reveal about themselves in their blogs. I am an over-sharer, especially with friends. I reveal everything in real life, but I am more hesitant online and I try to retain some vagueness.

What You See Is What You Get

When I started writing for this blog, it was an exercise in public writing. I have, over the last several years, been open about my flaws, struggles and family issues. I’ve willingly allowed the blog to become a collection of personal essays. I try to be protective of the people in my life, but write about aspects of our lives together. I regard very few things as sacred—I am an open book.

I assume that I am not unique and that my experiences and feelings have been felt by many other humans. Commenters have said that they admire my openness and honesty, but it is less about those virtues than the fact that I like to live my life the easiest way possible. I want to be the “What You See is What You Get” version of myself online, because it’s easier. People who know me offline are rarely surprised by anything that I post. Recently, however, I think I overshared. There’s such a fine line between presenting the authentic you and sharing too much.

The Downside to Oversharing

In a recent blog, I discussed how important communication is with your spouse, as every married couple knows! However, my husband and I have been so busy, our communication has been lacking, resulting in built up anger and frustration. Lately, we’ve been having arguments and they never get resolved. We yell and go to bed angry and never talk about it, or at least it doesn’t get brought up for a good couple of weeks.

Well, the past fight had been eating away at me and I overshared with a bunch of friends and on social media. I divulged deep and embarrassing details from our marriage. At the time it made me feel better to talk about my feelings, but I realized after I shared these intimate details that I needed to talk to my husband instead of my friends. When these details came up at a group outing with my husband, I knew he was hurt.

Knowing When Enough Is Enough

In today’s world, communication that used to entail my best friend through a private pipeline is now something posted, tweeted and pinned. I decided I probably should make time to be a spouse, parent, take a shower, and occasionally talk to my husband. If I would have just talked to him in the first place — not during the argument, but set a time to talk — my oversharing may not have happened.

The beauty of blogging, and the thing that sets blogging apart from other forms of Internet marketing, is that it is personal and relational. Thus, I pride myself in being real and authentic, and to tell stories that other women can relate to. I just need to make sure that I strike that balance between sharing without oversharing and letting everyone see the real me, flaws and all.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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The Surprising Risk of Sepsis for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Newborns – What You Need to Know

The Surprising Risk of Sepsis for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Newborns – What You Need to Know

As an infectious disease pharmacist and member of Bryan’s Sepsis Committee, I have seen many cases of infections and sepsis in many different patients. I specialize in getting the right antibiotics to patients with severe infections like sepsis, and work mostly with adult patients.

Now that I’m a father and we are expecting again very soon, I started looking deeper into the risk of sepsis for pregnant women and newborns. And, I was surprised at what I found.

Infections are a Serious Risk for Pregnant Women and Newborns

Thanks to improved prenatal care, most pregnancies and deliveries happen without complications. However, infections are still a serious risk for pregnant women, new moms and newborns. In fact, recent data shows an increase in sepsis-related deaths for pregnant women in the United States.

Newborn sepsis remains a leading cause of death among infants. There are two times sepsis can occur in infants:

  • Before a baby is 72 hours old, called early-onset sepsis. This is usually the result of viruses or microorganisms passed from the mom to the baby in-utero or during delivery. The incidence of this type of sepsis has decreased considerably since the 1990s due to new health screenings for pregnant women
  • After a baby is 72 hours old, called late-onset sepsis. This is usually the result of viruses or microorganisms acquired in the environment or through invasive procedures

What Exactly is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. Basically, it’s when your body “over-reacts” to an infection. This can cause your organs (i.e. heart, kidney, liver, lungs, etc.) to fail, and can lead to death. Sepsis can be thought of as the sickest a person can get from an infection. Lots of people get infections, but not everyone develops sepsis. Some people are at a higher risk of developing sepsis than others.

What Can Increase Your Risk of Pregnancy-Related Sepsis?

Many of the risks are associated with the individual person and the type of pregnancy, such as:

  • Have never delivered a baby before (called nulliparity)
  • Currently pregnant with or recently delivered twins, triplets, etc. (called multiple gestations)
  • African American race

Others are associated with the type of delivery or medical therapies, such as:

  • Cesarean-section delivery (i.e., C-section)
  • Assisted reproductive technologies (i.e., artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, etc.)

What Can Increase the Risk of Sepsis in Newborns?

Some are associated with mom:

  • A common bacteria called Group B Streptococcus (GBS), most of the time this is not harmful but it can cause a severe infection in some newborns
  • Inflammation of membranes surrounding the baby due to bacterial infection (this is called chorioamnionitis)
  • Currently pregnant with or recently delivered twins, triplets, etc. (called multiple gestations)

Some are associated with the birth:

  • Prelabor rupture of membranes (occurs when the amniotic sac breaks before labor begins)
  • Prolonged rupture of membranes (over 18 hours)
  • Preterm birth (defined as a birth before 37 weeks)
  • Low birth weight

Some are associated with procedures after birth:

  • Invasive procedures such as a cervical stitch
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics
  • Prolonged use of a catheter inside the baby’s body
  • Ventilator associated pneumonia

What are the Warning Signs of Sepsis?

The signs and symptoms are different for moms and babies. It’s important to know the warning signs and seek care immediately. The sooner you or your loved one receives care, the better the chance for a full recovery.

Sepsis symptoms in pregnant women or new moms:

  • Shivering, fevers, shakes or very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort (feel the “worst you have ever felt”)
  • Pale or discolored, or clammy/sweaty skin
  • Sleepy, difficulty waking up, confused
  • “I feel like I might die”
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased urination

Sepsis symptoms in newborns:

  • “Just not looking right”
  • Unusually sleepy, lethargic or difficult to wake up
  • Unusually irritable, inconsolable
  • Not feeding or eating normally, vomiting
  • Less than three wet diapers or stools in a day
  • Fever or hypothermia (low temperature)
  • Shivering, shaking or poor muscle tone
  • Respiratory distress (not breathing right)
  • Abdominal distention or bloating
  • Bulging fontanel (soft spot on a baby’s head)
  • Unexplained jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Blood in stools

Take Action

If you see a combination of the above symptoms and suspect sepsis, or just feel like something isn’t right, call your doctor or go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY. It’s important to say “I’m concerned about sepsis”. The sooner treatment is started, the better chance you or your loved one has of surviving and making a full recovery.

When caught early, immediate administration of IV antibiotics and fluids can be all you need to make a full recovery. The longer someone delays getting treatment for sepsis, the greater the likelihood that the person will have severe complications such as kidney failure requiring dialysis or problems taking care of themselves (such as walking by yourself, bathing, brushing your teeth, etc.). It can even lead to death.

Be Informed, Tell Others – Let’s Raise Awareness and Save Lives

As an infectious disease pharmacist, treating sepsis and letting others know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sepsis is my job. As a new father and husband, it’s my passion.

Sepsis is always a serious condition. The sooner signs and symptoms are recognized and treatment is sought, the better chance to save a life. Every patient is somebody’s loved one, and now that I’ve got two little ones depending on me, I feel even more responsibility to make sure people understand how serious and common sepsis actually is.

Prevention of pregnancy-related and newborn sepsis starts with good prenatal care, good hygiene and frequent handwashing. Bacteria and viruses are naturally found on surfaces and easily spread by unwashed hands.

I urge you to tell everyone you know about the signs and symptoms of sepsis as well as the ways to prevent it. With your help, we can increase awareness of sepsis so people will seek treatment sooner, and lives will be saved.

Learn More About Sepsis

To learn more about sepsis, listen to our Bryan Health podcast. Bill Johnson, MD, Nebraska Pulmonary Specialties, tells you how to spot sepsis, and how early diagnosis and treatment can be lifesaving.

Kevin Sponsel

Kevin Sponsel

Infectious Disease Pharmacist

Kevin Sponsel is an infectious disease pharmacist and a member of Bryan Health’s Sepsis Committee.

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The Senior Year To-Do List

The Senior Year To-Do List

Some combination of the following statement is often said over and over, “Don’t blink. Your children grow up way too fast, before you know it they will be a _______ (fill in the blank.)”

Here we are with a senior daughter. She did grow up way too fast. I realized I need to fasten my seatbelt because this year is flying by faster than any other year. While my husband and I are trying to be still and soak up every minute at every activity of hers, the days left until graduation keep diminishing quicker and quicker.

Preparing for Graduation Starts Now

I know we still have eight months until graduation and life beyond high school, but we will need to start checking things off of our to-do list, as I like to be prepared and our daughter takes her time in making decisions. And while our daughter is enjoying her senior year and stressing out about her dual credit classes, I pretty much need a few lessons from the book “First Time Senior Parents: How to Survive.”

I quickly remind myself of all of those rule-following, first-time parent things I messed up on the first time around, such as when to introduce fruits and vegetables or even when to allow her to jump in mud puddles. I have decided to stay away from all of those first-time senior parent books, websites and articles. We are creating our own family “graduation to-do” list with the help of our high school senior daughter.

The Graduation To-Do List

For those first-time senior parents out there, if you have no idea when this or that need to be completed, I am sharing our to-do list with you. The items listed include both to-dos for us as parents and our daughter to complete. This list is continually being added to, however, it is a great start for those of us who are graduating our first born.

In October

  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form

By November

  • Visit final colleges one last time
  • Set a budget for the graduation celebration
  • Make senior picture final decisions
  • Finalize graduation invite list
  • Create and have graduation invites printed
  • Start filling out scholarships

By January

  • Plan decorations and table centerpieces
  • Purchase all paper products
  • Continue filling out scholarships

By February

  • Determine foods that will be served
  • Continue filling out scholarships
  • Create graduation video

During March

  • Order desserts
  • Mail out invites
  • Print out pictures that will be displayed at the graduation celebration
  • Plan out help for the day
  • Finish applying for scholarships

During April

  • Finalize foods to be served
  • Prepare grocery list
  • Finalize college choice (if our daughter has not made her decision)
  • Create picture timeline display and keep it simple
  • Determine how guests will sign in and leave an encouraging message

May

  • Thoroughly clean our house and manicure our landscape
  • With the help of Grandma Jo and others, set up for the graduation celebration
  • Celebrate our daughter’s graduation from high school

Two months into the school year, here I am with the to-do list on my devices and my seatbelt fastened. Yet, the most important to-do list that I make sure I check off daily is the written note: be still and enjoy.

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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Becoming a Soccer Mom

Becoming a Soccer Mom

I never thought I would be a soccer mom. Growing up I hated the sport. I tried it once and it wasn’t for me. But in August of 2017, I officially became a soccer mom and joined in on all the endless practices, games, and tournaments of the soccer mom world. Gone were the carefree weekends of sleeping in, making plans, and traveling. Without realizing, we’ve slowly began to live and breathe soccer, especially now. Recently, Cohen decided to try spirit soccer instead of recreational soccer through the YMCA.

Cohen felt that he was ready for a more competitive league. And boy, if we didn’t live and breathe soccer before we do now. As a soccer mom, you sign them up, take them to practice, bring orange slices, and cheer them on at games. That’s it, right? If the job was that easy, anyone would do it. Being a soccer mom in today’s world is a lot of work.

Kids Sports Aren’t How They Used to Be

Before the league even started, there was the expensive uniform I needed to buy. The uniforms had to be a certain kind, from a certain vender, and hundreds of dollars later Cohen received a pair of black shorts, black socks, and two jerseys that we could have bought a lot cheaper at Wal-Mart.

Practice started two weeks before the first game. Cohen’s team was made up of 8 and 9-year old’s, whom he’d never met. But he was excited and happy to play for the Redhawks. There he was two days a week practicing a sport that he loved, and it showed during the games.

Increasing the Intensity of Parents

The games started and you could instantly tell which of the boys really wanted to play and which boys played because it was their parents dream. The first game Cohen’s team got crushed. The boys had little chemistry and you could tell it was their first game that they have ever played together. But Cohen continued to have a smile on his face and you could tell he loved the game. The second game showed promise and the team was building momentum—that game ended in a tie. Finally, by the third game the team started to click. But these spirit games had a different feel. They were intense, not only from the coaching and players, but from the parents as well.

Parents of athletes can be wildly passionate about their children’s performance on the field, particularly as it relates to how much field/play time they get. Like any sport, people get emotionally charged during a soccer game. Parents, especially dads, sometimes feel they know more than the referee and/or coach. It gets frustrating watching your child play with a hollering dad sitting in the grass on the sidelines. You have the coach giving instruction on one end and the dad giving opposite instruction on the other. I will never claim to be knowledgeable in all the various aspects of this sport, and I do sometimes tell my son to be more aggressive, but as far as play calls I leave that to the coach and not these know-it-all dads.

Passion & Sportsmanship Go Hand-in-Hand

I personally think it’s admirable to be passionate about something. However, there is a distinct difference in being passionate and being unsportsmanlike. I constantly hear parents talking about how their child was treated unfairly on the field, demanding rematches and more field time, or for another child to be benched because they are not as good as this parent’s child. You wouldn’t believe the amount of drama that goes on both on and off the field. It’s enough to create a Soccer Mom-themed Bravo reality show. I can’t imagine how club soccer or any higher level of soccer will be. It’s quite a jungle out there already!

Pressures from the coach and the expectations of an unreasonably high level of commitment from me, Cohen, and my entire family, but also the pressures from the daily academic stresses of juggling practices and studies. Beyond all this pressure, there is the ultimate demand of playing the perfect game. Cohen has yet to play the perfect game, which unless he’s a U.S. Olympian, he won’t. And that’s okay—let’s remember he’s eight! But seeing Cohen’s determination at practice and during the games makes it all worth it. I know my son won’t be the next David Beckham but as long as he’s having fun, I’ll continue with this new title of soccer mom, which I am proud to have.

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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Developmental Milestones for Your Baby & Toddler: When to Relax and When to Seek Help

Developmental Milestones for Your Baby & Toddler: When to Relax and When to Seek Help

A child’s first words and first steps are memorable events – and most parents want their children to reach these and other developmental milestones ‘on time’ or to achieve them early. So it’s natural to be concerned if your little one isn’t, in your view, keeping up with these milestones. But how do you know if it’s time to truly worry?

Children don’t always meet milestones at the same time or at the age range expected. That’s okay! It’s not a big deal to miss one or two developmental milestones. These milestones should be looked at as a range for developing skills.

Preemies are a special case. Babies who are born prematurely usually will not meet milestones on time. As an example, if your baby was born two months early, he may reach four-month milestones at six months. We generally adjust milestones for premature babies until they reach age two.

That said, when children who are not preemies miss most of the milestones in their age range, it’s worth talking with your child’s doctor.

Here are some milestones and red flags that will help you know if and when to take action.

Two to Four Months Old

Motor Skills: Holding items in the hand. Pushing the upper body with support of the arms when he’s on his tummy. Pushing down on his legs when his feet are on the floor, like when he’s placed in a walker.

Cognitive Skills: Responding to voices. Following movement with his eyes and watching faces. Making some eye contact. He can give a social smile when he interacts with his caregivers.

Language Skills: He should gurgle and coo. There may be some different inflection in his vocalizations.

Red Flags: Not responding to loud noises, interacting with caregivers or visually following movement.

Six to Eight Months Old

Motor Skills: Sitting unsupported for short periods of time. Passing objects from one hand to another. Grasping at things with her whole hand. She can probably roll over.

Cognitive Skills: She has gotten better at watching things. Her eyes track side-to-side, up and down, and in circular motions. Reaching for things that are in her field of vision.

Language Skills: Responding to sounds by “talking” back. Turning toward sound sources. She may repeat syllables, like “ma-ma,” “da-da” or “ba-ba”. She’s interested in social play—a fan of peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake.

Red Flags: Stiff or tight muscles. Sloppy or ragdoll-like movement patterns. Showing no affection for caregivers. Eyes turning inward or outward. Not responding to sounds.

One Year Old

Motor Skills: Crawling. Pulling himself up to standing with the support of furniture. Taking steps with help or support. Ability to grasp finger foods. Using both hands together to pick things up. Pinching things, poking things. Shaking, banging, throwing and dropping toys. Waving and clapping.

Cognitive Skills: Imitates gestures. More engagement in social play. Extending an arm or leg to help get dressed. May show some anxiety with strangers.

Language Skills: Speaking more. Maybe using noises as names, like “mama” or “dada”. Responding to “no”. Understanding simple verbal requests

Red Flags: Dragging one side of the body while crawling. Inability to stand with support. No words. Not seeking out a caregiver when upset.

Toddlers

Motor Skills: Younger toddlers should be mobile and walking, perhaps pulling toys along. Fine motor skills like scribbling and stacking blocks.

Cognitive Skills: Identifying body parts. Pretending. Starting to categorize things.

Language Skills: Using pronouns (I, me, he, she, for example.) Naming colors and objects. Listening to short stories. Creating simple sentences.

Red Flags: Extreme clumsiness. Inability to sit still for long periods of time. Not walking yet. Oversensitivity to light, sound or movement.

Tracking Milestones and Treatment

  • Many milestone checklists are available with a simple online search
  • Make note as your child attains new skills
  • Talk to your child’s doctor if multiple milestones are missed or you notice developmental red flags

If your child is missing milestones, your child’s doctor can evaluate his or her development and guide treatment as needed. Physical therapy can help with muscle tone, while occupational therapy can help your child develop fine motor skills. Speech therapy treats language development. If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk to your child’s doctor about potential needs for a therapy specialist.

More on Child Development

Want to learn more? Listen to a 10-minute podcast with Stacey Anderson, a pediatric occupational therapist at Bryan Health:

Stacey Anderson

Stacey Anderson

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Stacey Anderson is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with Bryan Health!

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