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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

The start of the school year is a hectic time, as getting back into a routine is tough and tiredness sets in. Anxiety and stress also become more prevalent as busy schedules, homework and less time at home takes a toll on our household.

On top of all of this, we have a senior making decisions regarding her career choice, colleges and taking dual credit classes, which adds another layer of stress. And we also have two other children who have realized this is the last year their older sister will be home every night, which has added another unforeseen layer of stress.

It’s those evenings before big projects or quizzes are due that seem to be the most stressful. My husband often tells me, “You are dealing with our stressed out daughter because she is exactly like you!”

Focusing on Where Stress Stems From

I am a firm believer in parents being a positive role model in their children’s lives. Yet, I am wired as an, “always on the go, something has to be done, worry about it until I get sick” person. I love to travel, but I have a panic attack at every airport until I am through TSA.

These are qualities I definitely don’t want my children to be like at any stage of life. All of this changed when my father had a heart attack this past summer and ended up in a 6.5-hour quadruple bypass surgery. The doctors talked about how diet and stress played a huge part in his episode. I made a conscious effort from that point on to really focus on triggers that cause stress in my life.

Ways to Help Kids Handle Stress

As I continue to grow in this area, these are techniques I am sharing with not only our senior daughter, but our other two children as well:

  1. Get and use a planner. Our kids are very good about purchasing a planner, but about half way through the year the planner becomes nonexistent. We need to keep discussing with our kids the importance of writing down due dates and activities.
  2. Do not procrastinate and prioritize tasks. That’s it. Make time for things when you can and don’t leave them until the last minute.
  3. Encourage more time to relax. I need to encourage them to put down homework and set aside activities so they can just hang out and relax.
  4. Get sleep. The average hours of sleep for our teenage daughter last school year was 5-6 hours per night. A stressed out mind and body will lead to sleep deprivation. Encouraging her to go to bed earlier and getting a better night’s rest will allow her to approach stressful situations more calmly.

Ways to Help Yourself Handle Stress

As a parent, strategies I am working on are:

  1. Avoid the constant reminders or nagging. If I am constantly on their case about getting homework done or prioritizing tasks, I am diminishing their responsibilities. Plus, I’m sure they get frustrated with the constant reminders. I can encourage them to set small goals, which will ultimately help them develop better time management skills and learn not to procrastinate.
  2. Set limits on technology. This will allow our children to understand that they don’t have to be connected to social media all of the time and to learn to be present in the moment.

Even though the start of the year is an adjustment for us and stress seems to escalate, there are strategies that our entire family can do to combat stress. Modeling and practicing these positive strategies towards stress will hopefully teach my children to handle their stress in various circumstances, especially when it comes to school and busy schedules.

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.

Hugh Jackman, #WearSunscreen & Your Family: What Do You Need to Know?

Hugh Jackman, #WearSunscreen & Your Family: What Do You Need to Know?

My husband and I have four children, all ages six and younger (that’s what happens when you go to medical school). Right now, their favorite movie is “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman. He is famous in the entertainment industry for his singing, dancing and acting abilities, along with his devilishly handsome good looks.

However, he’s also famous in the dermatology world as he has publicly battled basal cell carcinoma not once, but five times in the past including a recurrent basal cell carcinoma on his nose. Hugh posted pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #wearsunscreen to help raise public awareness and encourage good sun protection behavior.

Most Common Type of Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. In fact, it’s the most common cancer overall. It develops after repeated sun damage over time. You might notice it as a pink scaly patch. Or, it might be a raised pearly bump, almost pimple-like that never seems to go away. Sometimes basal cell carcinoma will bleed after minor trauma or for no reason at all.

Second Most Common Skin Cancer

Are there other types of skin cancer? You bet! The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer may appear as a growing lump, often with a rough surface. But, it also could be a flat, reddish patch that grows slowly and may be tender. Sometimes these grow quickly on the skin in a volcano-like fashion. Squamous cell carcinoma can be serious in some cases and spread beyond the skin to lymph nodes if not treated properly or within a reasonable amount of time.

Most Well-Known Skin Cancer

Finally, the skin cancer with which most people are familiar, is melanoma. Melanoma can be a life-threatening skin cancer, especially if not caught early. The warning signs for melanoma are summed up in the “ABCDE” algorithm.

  • A = asymmetry (one half doesn’t look like the other)
  • B = border (irregular, ill-defined or funny-looking shape)
  • C = color (one spot that has multiple colors within it, such as different shades of brown or black. Red, white or blue colors are occasionally seen in melanoma)
  • D = diameter (a majority of melanomas are greater than 6mm when diagnosed, which is the size of a pencil eraser; however this doesn’t mean that smaller spots aren’t worrisome)
  • E = evolving (a mole that is changing in size, shape or color)

Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family

So, what can you do to reduce your risk for skin cancer? Protect yourself! Make sun protection a priority, not only for yourself but for your family. If you have children, make it your goal to not let them burn. Like never. Never ever.

Here are some tips I use with my own family:

  • Everyone needs sunscreen when outside. This includes just playing outside, going to the pool, going on walks, whatever it may be. The two types of sunscreen available are:
    • Chemical sunscreens: (the active ingredients are long words that are hard to pronounce, such as oxybenzone)
    • Physical sunscreens: (the active ingredients are zinc and/or titanium, easy to pronounce)

I prefer zinc/titanium-based sunscreens because they stay on better, cause less skin sensitivity issues and are better at preventing sunburn in my opinion. Examples of this type of sunscreen include Neutrogena Sheer Zinc SPF 50 or CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 50. Overall, any sunscreen is better than none. And don’t forget, it needs to be reapplied every 2-3 hours.

  • Make hats your friend. Put them by the door you use most often to go outside. Put one in your car. I don’t know HOW many times a patient has told me, “I didn’t plan on being outside that long!” Never travel without a hat!
  • Buy rash guard swim shirts or other sun protective clothing for yourself and your family. Yep, I make my kids wear long-sleeve swim shirts to the pool. Sorry kids, but you’ll thank me later. SPF 50+ clothing is available for swimmers, golfers, fishermen, etc., at local stores such as Scheels but also on well-known websites such as www.coolibar.com. Trust me, it’s worth the money to invest in good sun-protective clothing.
  • Put on a layer of sunscreen to your face and neck every morning. Use it before applying makeup. There are some really nice, light sunscreens available over the counter. My most recent favorites for this purpose are Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50 or La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50.
  • Finally, come see me! If you are worried, questioning a spot on your skin or just want a once-over, you should visit me at South Lincoln Dermatology or see a board-certified dermatologist in your area.
Gina Weir, MD

Gina Weir, MD

Dr. Weir is a dermatologist with South Lincoln Dermatology.

2625 Stockwell
Lincoln, NE 68502

402-421-3335

Seeing a Father’s Love For His Daughter

Seeing a Father’s Love For His Daughter

As I was watching my husband take our daughter’s senior pictures, I realized I am at a crossroads of jealousy and admiration. Jealous of the bond between my husband and our oldest daughter. He witnessed every first in her life: the first time she rolled over, her first word, her first step, her first day in daycare, her first elementary field trip, her first homecoming dance.

Our daughter wants to travel with her dad. She looks for him to get a hug after every softball game. She chooses me when she needs to shop or has forgotten something. She doesn’t even like me going to physical therapy because I talk too much.

He’s Always There for Her

Yet I admire the bond because it’s nothing unique or extraordinary. He has just showed up. He showed up when I returned to work after maternity leave. He showed up when she was a terrible sleeper and would only sleep when he rocked her in her car seat for hours upon hours. He showed up when she wanted to refurbish an old piano bench. He showed up when she wanted to play softball and the team needed a coach. He showed up when she needed a shoulder to cry on after she did terrible on a test. He shows up when our daughter is approaching curfew to make sure she is home safe and sound.

Just by showing up he has taught her many life lessons. What I have noticed the most are the lessons to love, to be adventurous and to radiate confidence.

He’s an Incredible Model of Support

We all see how my husband has modeled love to his family and his profession. He does not miss any of our children’s events. Even when he cannot physically be there, he shows up virtually and sends text messages before and after to show his support. Our daughter sees the value and the importance of showing up, as she has commented: “I don’t want to miss anything of my kids’, just like you, Mom and Dad.”

“Go on the adventure. Try it. Let’s do this.” From $100 adventure days to trying new foods to traveling, my husband has instilled a sense of adventure in our daughter. It’s both of them that now drive our family’s traveling experiences. Even when my husband takes her up a 700-foot tower just to see the views or try Pickled Wrinkles, he is encouraging her to appreciate life beyond our little town. I pray no one ever takes away the sense of wonder, the sense of curiosity and the sense of adventure he has taught her.

He’s Helped Bolster Her Confidence

Even though our daughter does not have the confidence to decide where or what she wants to eat, that is completely overshadowed by the confidence she radiates in other circumstances. When our daughter wanted to learn how to play softball, my husband was there to play catch with her each day and to coach her. Now when she steps in the batter’s box or centerfield, you can see the confidence in her eyes. When she wanted to learn about photography, he spent hours helping her develop this skill. Now when she is behind the lens, you can see her smiles knowing she just took the perfect picture.

He is always there. Always. He is determined to not miss anything as she begins the last of all of her high school activities: the last softball game, the last One-Act performance, the last track meet and the last time she walks down the senior hall. As our daughter walks across the stage to receive her diploma, I am sure there will be a hug and a tear shed between dad and daughter. I am sure at that moment I will have a few tears. However, those tears will be of joy and admiration, as I have had a front row seat watching the bond of a father and daughter grow, just because her father showed up.

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.

What Happened to Cuddling?

What Happened to Cuddling?

I know I can’t be the only mom out there that has zero sex drive. I recently reached out to other moms and this topic was one of the most discussed.

For me it’s not just my sex drive, it’s cuddle time that is also nonexistent. Anytime my husband rubs my back in bed he expects more. It’s like the line in a Brad Paisley song, “When you say a backrub means only a backrub, then you swat my hand when I try.” What happened to just cuddling or showing affection? This could be a main reason to my low sex drive—that and kids. Let’s face it, moms are tired!

However, I definitely think it has to do with your relationship with your partner. I never feel like having sex if my husband doesn’t show me affection and “creating moments” in the normal moments of life. Let me explain.

The Importance of Moments

Wrapping his arms around me while doing the dishes, grabbing me and randomly dancing, kissing me tenderly on the forehead – this is creating a moment. I want to feel desired just like the old days.

But telling him to be more affectionate never works. If anything that drives him farther away. Since I have to order him to be affectionate, it was evident that he didn’t want to. Begging for kisses and hugs feels lousy, even if he complies. Not only did I feel needy and undignified doing it, but it pushed him further away as well.

Turning Toward My Husband’s Needs

I considered that he may not be feeling loved either, even if you are being affectionate with him. Fortunately, rather than telling him what he should do, I tried to naturally restore the romance by being my best self again.

When I started acting like he is smart, capable and strong, that went a long way toward bringing back the make out sessions, snuggling, and yes, even sex.

I realized we became robotic when it came to sex—everything was the same every time. After some communication on how I was feeling, we decided to change things up. He was feeling the same way and was willing to try. After trying different things and having it more often than once a month, it increased my sex drive and helped us become more affectionate throughout the day.

Remembering to Let Myself Have Fun

Granted, it’s not always easy when the kids are sick, you’ve worked a 12-hour day and the mortgage is late. But if you can’t remember what you like to do and let yourself do it, you’re not showing much affection for yourself.

Fretting is not going to make him more affectionate. But dancing the Macarena at the grocery store? It definitely could. After all, you were all smiles and laughter when he first put the moves on you.

Let’s all yell this song loud and proud, “Girls just wanna have fun!” The more you appreciate yourself, the more he will see you for you, and give you what you really want: fun, cuddle time, and yes, even sex!

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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