Let’s Talk About Santa

Let’s Talk About Santa

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a question that has haunted me each of the past few Christmases: Will this be the year my kids stop believing in Santa? If they ask, how do I tell them the truth? And how do I tell them the true meaning of Santa? The holidays are a magical time of year, but for parents, the Santa issue can pose a real dilemma.

The Questions Have Already Started

My son is 10 and in 5th grade. For the last two years, he has questioned the realness of Santa. And of course, there are those kids who try and spoil it for everyone and make him wonder. Even though I know it’s natural, I’m not ready for my wide-eyed, innocent, trusting baby to be a logical, thoughtful, questioning human. I don’t want the days of his implicit trust in me to be a thing of the past.

I know the magic of being a kid can only last so long. But this year, I am trying to hold on for one more moment. But inevitably, I will have to tell him that Santa Claus is not really one single, human with a big belly, a white beard, flying reindeer, and an arsenal of magical tools without which Christmas would not happen. On the plus side, I might not have to do elf on a shelf anymore.

My son continues to ask me if Santa is real and my response, “If Santa weren’t real, who bought you these gifts?” He never assumes it’s me because he thinks that I’m cheap. Plus, he knows I would never create the mess the elves make so it can’t be mom or dad.

But this made me realize that maybe we shouldn’t be telling our kids about Santa from the beginning. If I could do it all over again, I would have been honest about Santa. It may sound strange, but I truly think it’s possible to believe in Santa without believing he’s real.

One Way to Keep the Magic Alive

I would have explained to them that, no, Santa isn’t a real person like me and you. He doesn’t really live at the North Pole with a bunch of cute little elves and reindeer, and he doesn’t really fly around the world in one night jumping down chimneys and delivering gifts. But I’d also tell them that this is a magical story that a lot of people love to pretend is real when it’s Christmas time. However, this idea of Santa may be the way I break the news to Cohen.

Another mom shared this letter, and if Cohen asks again this year, I believe this is how I will respond, maybe not in a letter but with similar words.

Dear (Child),

You asked a really good question. “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one single Santa.

We are the people who fill your stocking and choose the presents under the tree—just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them and you will probably do for your kids someday.

This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends and in God.

You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and happiness. We are on his team and now you are, too.

Letting Our Kids Make Their Own Story

So, whether your kids are on the cusp of seeking out the truth about Santa, or whether you’ve got a few more years of childlike innocence to capitalize on, hold this mom’s words in your heart. You can empower your kids to spread love, joy and peace, and the true meaning of Santa.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing isn’t whether Santa is real or not; it’s all about the space you create around the story. Ultimately, the way you deal with Santa in your home is a very personal choice and something you have to decide for yourself.

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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Helping Our Kids Understand They Can Do Hard Things

Helping Our Kids Understand They Can Do Hard Things

There is a sign above my classroom door: “You Can Do Hard Things”. I see it every time I look up from my desk, walking around my classroom, or standing at the front of the room. The past handful of weeks, this statement has really struck a nerve with me. I find myself gazing at it and really focusing on those five little words. You. Can. Do. Hard. Things.

Doing the Hard Things

My husband definitely is doing the hard things. He balances many roles but the most important is being a dad, husband and principal all while he pursues an EdD. He is doing the hard things, however, the foundation of everything he does stems from one word: love. My husband loves all the roles he has and he understands the big picture.

He believes every student should leave Milford High School with a passion, purpose and one employable job skill. He does the hard things day-in and day-out even when his family does not see it. Yet, he knows he must model it not only for his family but also for the staff and students at Milford High School.

Have We Made Things Too Easy?

I often wonder, in today’s world, if we are lowering our expectations of our teenagers. Or have our teenagers lowered their expectations, knowing they can achieve the lower standard? It is becoming increasingly apparent that failing is not an option anymore. In general, our teenagers are afraid to fail.

So yes! Yes, our teenagers can do hard things. Here’s the deal, we should expect our kids to do hard things. The small hard things that we expect our kids to do today are going to help them develop the discipline needed to do those big hard things in the future. We should have the expectation that our kids can do the hard things asked of them. We can expect our kids to make their beds each day, turn in their homework on time, fail a project, or sit on the bench, but we can expect our kids to try and to ultimately care.

To do this, first though, as a parent, I had to learn to let go of fear. I remember teaching our kids how to ride a bike. At some point, I stepped away and let them ride down the street without me running behind them. Just like letting our kids bike, I had to quit being a band-aid for them. I had to let go of what could go wrong. I had to start thinking about what could go right.

Don’t Be Afraid to Push Your Kids to Do the Hard Things

Next, as parents we have to intentionally train our kids to do hard things. This is a great way to develop perseverance. But not only should we train them, but we also have to have tough, truthful conversations. We cannot sugar coat the demands of life. Life is hard. Growing up is hard. Having truthful conversations will teach our kids that life is always going to throw hard situations at them and that they may fail, they just cannot try. Hard work is part of life and is something that they cannot shy away from.

This parenting gig is hard. Even though we model doing hard things, we love that we can teach our kids to face life’s circumstances with a “what could go right mindset”. And somewhere in the middle of the hard things, our kids are going to find and pursue a passion and ultimately, they are going to realize that those hard things make the deepest impact on others.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

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When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

At what age should your child be allowed to get a cell phone? Talk about a loaded question, especially if you’re a parent arguing this point with your child who is upset that they are the only kid in school without a phone. Nowadays, the internet told me that the average age kids get a phone is between 12 and 13. With that in mind, parents are the best judge of whether their children are ready for a cell phone, and the lessons they teach about that readiness can begin at a young age.

When Is the Right Time to Get Your Child a Phone?

Just last week, I had eight of Cohen’s soccer buddies over and many of them had phones, some even had nicer phones than me. I was so surprised. And now, it’s the top item on Cohen’s Christmas list.

Allowing your children to have a cell phone is an extremely personal decision for every parent and family. Almost every expert, non-expert, friend and family member has an opinion on the subject and of course they are happy to share it with you.

Thanks to the well-publicized use of cell phones for safety reasons and school emergencies, parents understandably want their children to have access to the life-saving devices. And I’ll admit, recently, there have been a couple instances where it would have been beneficial for my 10-year-old son to have a phone. Practice ended early and he had to wait for me to pick him up.

Determine The Function the Phone Serves

Not only is a phone on the top of his wish list but, of course, he wants a smartphone. He wants all the bells and whistles like his friends have. BUT does a cell phone or smartphone meet a need, not just for your child but for you and the family as well? I got a phone when I started driving but then again that was 20 years ago and a different time.

When I do go back to work, my son will be home alone for an hour or two after school and a phone would be nice. But for now, he can call me on the Ring doorbell, our Alexa, or through the kid’s Facebook Messenger App. All of these have worked for us so far but then again, he has to be home to use these devices.

My husband and I have discussed at length that Cohen may get a prepaid cell phone that can text and call so we both can stay in touch. He may not necessarily need a smartphone with apps and internet access. I fully expect pushback on this! Many prepaid cell phones are pretty cool these days—they look cool, they take pictures, play music—and have other different features but it’s not a smartphone.

Bottom Line: His first phone probably just needs to be able to text and call.

Set Some Ground Rules

This is still a conversation that continues in our household. My husband of course said, “You can’t just hand the kid a cell phone or smartphone and say, “Have fun! Make good choices!”

His General Rule: It’s much easier to start out strict and loosen up as Cohen proves he is responsible than it is to start out loose and then try to reign him in. Make phone ownership healthy for him and in return, easy on yourself.

I admit that I am probably on my phone way too much at home. I am trying to be in the present but my phone is always next to me and on and I know my children see that. Modeling appropriate cell phone use, limiting access, implementing parental control settings, and teaching Cohen about the dangers of cyberbullying will also take place as soon as that phone is in Cohen’s possession.

So yes, come Christmas, Cohen will most likely be getting a phone. But with the phone comes a cell phone contract that stipulates appropriate phone use, grades, chores, behavior, etc., all laid out with all the consequences. Sign on the dotted line.

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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Lessons Learned from Injury

Lessons Learned from Injury

Two weeks ago our middle daughter broke her hand during a high school softball game. The sport she absolutely loves. That night I instantly knew something was wrong when she pulled herself from the game and said, “Mom, I cannot get my glove on.”

Going from Manager to Mom

As her high school softball coach, my mind went straight to manager mode. My assistant coach and I quickly figured out who to sub and how to rearrange the defense.

As her mom, I quietly panicked looking at the tears in my daughter’s eyes. I encouraged my husband to take our daughter to the ER. Luckily for us, a local nurse happened to be at the game and she calmed our daughter down… me, not so much.

When I phoned my husband after the game, he and our daughter were waiting for a soft cast to be set. I asked how she handled the news and my husband replied, “As best as possible with a broken hand. However, Addi said she will be the best dugout leader possible.”

What My Daughter’s Injury Taught Us

Just then I realized this injury was supposed to happen. All summer we have discussed leadership as a journey not a destination. We discussed in her leadership journey she will find her style of leadership, she will learn that actions speak louder than words, the journey will be lonely at times but ultimately you want to learn to lead someone to the person they can be, not the person they are today.

This injury forced her to:

  • Go outside of her comfort zone
  • Practice servant leadership skills (something that was not her strength)
  • Seek other opportunities to be an active team member

Her injury has encouraged me by:

  • The valuable questions she is asking
  • Watching her action
  • Listening to her words

How to Be a Good Leader

Leadership is not always going to be joys and mountain tops. Leadership is full of adversities or challenges, leadership is full of making difficult decisions. Yet, the leadership journey is full of moments of growth. The one thing I am absolutely positive about, my leadership style is nothing like my daughter’s. Yet, she has my heart. In all reality, this is her journey, not ours. Her dad and I are here to encourage and challenge her to make those around her be the best person they can become.

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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Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is there really a “right time” to get pregnant? As it turns out, everyone you ask will likely give you a different answer. It’s a question just about every person considers once they enter adulthood. The answer will not only be different for different people but may change during your life.

When a couple gets married, they are almost always faced with the inevitable pester from friends and family: So when are you having kids? The older you are, the more pressing the question seems to be. Ticktock, ticktock.

There’s No Right Age to Have Kids

It may be that in your twenties, having kids later feels right… but once you’re in your mid-30s, you still aren’t sure. Or you may decide at 30 that now is the right time. Of course, the optimal time for a woman to get pregnant is when she’s ready—physically, emotionally, mentally and financially—and this time varies greatly from woman to woman. For my husband and me, we jumped at having kids right away. We were in our mid-twenties and still newlyweds. Every couple’s first year of marriage can be exciting for many reasons – whether they decide to travel to a far-flung destination together or buy their first home, but for us, we knew we wanted kids.

Neither my husband nor I were well established in our careers – we still aren’t. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my husband is still in school. We had little money and neither of us knew what we were doing. I know that nobody really knows what they are doing when it comes to having kids but I question how we survived. Were we really ready and the answer was no, but would I change it? No.

Surviving the First Few Years of Parenthood

I look back on those early years and think, “How did we do it?” Those first several years are rough. We’d been together for 5 years but only married 1 before we had Cohen. We were so young that most of our friends were still going out, but we were now raising a family. Unfortunately, we lost track of some friends because of how different our lives were at that time.

Now we are in our thirties and our oldest is 10 and youngest is 7. Most of our close friends are having babies. They ask for advice and the baby stage seems like such a long time ago. My children are almost old enough to babysit. It feels like we are again in different stages of our lives. But now I understand what my friends are going through and can make a better effort to help and stay in touch.

However, since we are the “young” parents we will continue to be in different stages of our lives compared to most of our friends. But, when we are in our early fifties, our children will be grown and out of the house. Fingers crossed we’ll have more money and be able to travel. And it’s weird to think but we could be grandparents.

When You Have Kids Is Your Choice

All in all, experts and moms agree that there’s really no right answer to the question of “when is the best age to get pregnant?” Biologically, the answer is probably the early 20s, but innumerable factors must be considered, many of which differ by individual. Your best plan of action is to do what feels right for you—whatever that may be.

If you and your spouse want to have a baby right after getting married, go for it. Don’t worry about what people will think, it’s up to you and your other half. There’s no right or wrong time to have a baby and you’ll never be 100% ready. Being married for longer doesn’t make you better or more ready to be parents, or stronger as a couple. If it’s what you both want then do it. Anyone who is currently pregnant, get ready for the most emotional, stressful, uncertain and amazing ride of your life. Every day is different but every day is so amazing. Just enjoy it.

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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Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Today I started the day out in a rush. I hit my snooze button for an extra 30 minutes. I took a little longer to put makeup on, brush my teeth and walk out the door. Little did I know a handful of colored circles with wobbly lines would change my day.

Needing to Slow Down

Once I arrived at school it seemed as if I had left my checklist completely unattended the day before and there were already six new items to check off before the warning bell rang. To start the day, there was a tech issue in the Spanish classroom and I explained in my best Spanish, “Yo estoy rapido en la mañana!” All the students looked at me with a look of confusion. The actual Spanish teacher explained, “I was in a hurry this morning.”

My day started out in a rush and feeling behind. I kept reminding myself I needed that extra sleep and time this morning just to prepare myself for the day. I kept focusing on the big picture of the day. I wanted to control what needed to be checked off on my list and became very frustrated when I remembered things to keep adding to this list. At one point in the morning, my daughter kindly asked, “Mom, do you need me to help you today? You seem so rushed.”

It’s the Little Things that Matter

And before I knew it, I was abruptly reminded at about 8:30, 9:15, 10:20 and then again at 11:10, that the little things are what bring us joy. Two text messages, a reminder that a “to do” list is overrated, a “this is so cool” comment from a seventh-grader, and the excited “oohs” from kindergarteners.

Yes, four times I was reminded to look at the simple, little things. I don’t think I was intentionally ignoring the small moments of joy, I just think I wasn’t “seeing” those moments. The fourth reminder came from my little kindergartener friends. They showed me joy is right in front of me, they showed me simplicity brings joy. In my small time frame with kindergarteners today, I brought joy to them by showing them how to color little circles with wobbly lines using technology. Yet, they reminded me of my life word — joy.

“Your Gift is Joy”

Later on in the day, I was teaching my Intro to Business students a lesson on leadership and a quote from my mom popped up on one of the slides, which I had forgotten I had typed. My mom told me prior to her passing away, “Shelly your gift is joy, share it daily with your students.” It took me everything to hold back tears.

My day needed to start out in a hurry, because I needed to be reminded of the joy the simple/little things bring us in life. Some days I get caught up looking at the big picture, looking at the big goal, I forget it is about the small things that we do that allow us to have the greatest impact on those around us. I am thankful for those wobbly colored circles as they reminded me that my greatest gift is the joy I share with others.

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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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

I’m a huge fan of routine, and so are my kids. I’m not the most organized of moms, and I’m certainly not a very organized housewife. However, I do believe that my kids need routine, and so do I. Their routine is good for me. During the summer, our routine went out the window. So now that school is upon us, it’s a great time to start getting back into our groove. I’m sharing my routine in hopes of helping other working moms get the most out of their routine on school days.

If you’re a working mom, your morning routine can either help you start off your day on the right foot, or it can be an obstacle that you must overcome. It can be a struggle each and every day. My tips and tricks will hopefully help you create a smoother morning routine. And the school year is the perfect time to get a fresh start in how you schedule your day and manage your time.

How to Get Started

Remember how last year you said you’d start adjusting bedtimes before the night before school started? Well, during the summer months, we decided to keep the kid’s bedtime routine the same. They rarely stayed up late, and they continued to get up at the same time. This made for an easier adjustment for heading back to school. Small adjustments are what I can handle with everything I have going on.

During the school year, I have to get us ready and out of the house by 8 a.m. for drop off at school. Without a routine, getting two young kids – ages 10 and 7, my hubby and the dog out of the house feels like I’m herding cats. Can you relate, mamas?

Granted, the first few weeks of school this year, I’m still working from home, so I’ll share how that makes things a bit different. For starters, I’m not an early bird. I’ll sleep in as late as I possibly can while still being on time. However, many moms I know wake up early. That way, they get in a power hour before anyone else is up. It makes a huge difference in how productive they are, and it allows them to be available later in the day to help with school work. Since I’m not an early riser, one of the things that helps in our house is to use the night before. We do as much the night before so that the morning is simply smoother.

Tips for Your Morning Routine

Lay out clothes night before. Each night both of our kids lay out what they’ll wear the next day, and I can provide input if necessary (e.g., look nicer for picture day or if it’s going to be 100 degrees, no long sleeve shirts, etc.) If I have morning meetings or a presentation, I also choose what I’ll wear the night before for the next day. I want to avoid this stress in the morning.

Put stuff out and together. For example, the lunch boxes go on the counter with containers ready. That way, if you need extra help from your significant other if something comes up, you don’t have to explain where things are or what to use. Some moms I know prep sandwiches, although I don’t do that. I don’t generally cut up fruit until the morning because it can get mushy, but even washing and drying fruit the night before will shave off time in the morning.

Put items that need to go with you by the door or always in the same place. This goes for water bottles, backpacks, folders, car keys, masks, etc. Have a consistent home for these items so you’re not looking for them in the morning and wasting precious time. Who has an extra 10 minutes to look for car keys or kids’ shoes? This goes for your stuff, that of your significant other and your kids.

Have breakfast options in mind. We try hard to not have breakfast be the same all the time, and yet, this can be one of the hardest meals of the day creatively speaking. We generally give the kids some options when they wake up so that we can get breakfast going. Have breakfast-on-the-go options. Let’s face it—you’ll have days, especially in the first few weeks of school, when you’re running late. Whatever the reason, I recognize that sometimes our kids will be eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes we’ll have bagels that are easily mobile.

Be Flexible & Relax

See how you’re feeling and make any adjustments to set yourself up for success for the day. For example, if you’re tired, give yourself more time and be gentle with yourself. If you’re stressed, it might be time for some deep breaths. It takes only a few moments of your day and makes a big impact. I do this before I even get out of bed as I’m turning off my alarm.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to feel more grounded, consider meditating. I’m talking minutes here, not hours. Or you can extend it for however long you like. Make sure you don’t throw off your schedule, though. If you have the time, get in that workout. I usually get in some exercise a few times a week. In the warmer months, I work out early since I usually head outside for my exercise.

Decide what you want from your morning routine. Consider what you want your morning routine to include and generally look like. If you do better when you have a few minutes alone, plan your wake-up time with this in mind. Want a moment of yoga or meditation? Perhaps you want a few minutes to enjoy your coffee before you get everything going. Only you know what you need.

Hopefully, these tips will help decrease stress and start the day off with more smiles for all! Now the afternoon routine is a completely different battle especially with all the after-school activities the kids are involved in. That takes a daily calendar on the fridge, a hope and prayer to get us to our bedtime routine on time.

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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Setting Expectations for Your Children

Setting Expectations for Your Children

It’s important to have clear expectations for your children starting at a young age. Having specific rules about chores, curfew and other expectations can make life easier for you and your child. It can also help your child gain confidence, grow and learn to be responsible. As your child gets older and learns to uphold expectations, some of these expectations may decrease—and others may be added.

It’s also crucial to have set rewards and consequences when expectations are met or not met. The best way to do this is to sit down with your child and come up with reasonable expectations, as well as reasonable rewards and consequences.

What does a Plan for Expectations, Rewards and Consequences Look Like?

Here are a couple examples of how this might look for you and your child, how to put the plan in place, and how having a plan in advance can help both you and your child.

Example A – Consequences

You and your child create a plan related to curfew. You both agree:

· Curfew is 10 p.m. on weeknights

· If they are late getting home, they will lose their phone for three days

A few weeks after establishing these rules and expectations, your child doesn’t get home until after 11 p.m. In the moment, it can be easy to become upset, but having a set plan beforehand helps immensely.

Instead of saying “you’re grounded, give me your phone,” you will be able to say “because you didn’t get home by curfew, you will lose your phone for three days.” Since this was agreed to in advance, you and your child will already be aware of the consequence of staying out later. This way you’re not put on the spot trying to determine a consequence in the heat of the moment, and your child is not caught off guard by the consequence since they participated in creating it.

Example B – Rewards

Setting expectations can also work to reward your child. If you have younger kids, you could have a list of chores and expectations that they can do to gain rewards. When they meet a certain number of chores/expectations a day, they might be able to earn one hour of screen time. Another option might be that they aren’t allowed to have screen time until they complete a certain number of tasks.

Tips for Setting Expectations & Consequences/Rewards

Here’s a list of tips to follow when setting expectations and consequences/rewards.

  • Be clear and concise
  • Be reasonable
  • Don’t take away things for an undetermined amount of time
  • Don’t say “you won’t get your phone back until you learn to respect me” as that is a very subjective measure and difficult to quantify for both you and your child
  • Having a set amount of days is the easiest way to have a consistent and clear expectation
  • What works for one child may not work for another; plans should be individualized for each child
  • Write down or print the list of expectations and consequences/rewards, and keep them somewhere visible for the family
    • This will help your child remember what is expected, as well as know what will happen if they decide to stay out later than curfew or fail to do chores
  • Make sure the list is manageable for you and your child; having too many expectations will be overwhelming
  • Be consistent – if you sometimes give the reward or consequence and sometimes don’t, this will create confusion for your child

Want Ideas for Reasonable Expectations?

There are several online resources available to help! You can search reasonable expectations by age and developmental level, as well as advice from other parents. Just remember each child is unique, and what works for others may not work for your child.

Here’s one resource you may want to check out: The Ultimate List of Age-Appropriate Chores.

If your child sees a therapist, they will also be able to help you and your child come up with a plan.

Set Expectations & Help Your Child Grow

It’s never too soon or too late to set expectations to help your child grow and become responsible, and to celebrate your child’s achievements as they take on responsibilities. The key is to work together, set reasonable expectations and consistently follow through.

Also, remember life’s a work in progress! There may be times when you need to adjust expectations or set new expectations, and this is perfectly fine.

Arianna Shay, PA-C

Arianna Shay, PA-C

Arianna Shay, PA-C is a physician assistant with Bryan Heartland Psychiatry. She graduated from Union College with a masters degree of physician assistant studies in 2019. She has worked in child and adolescent psychiatry for over two years, and is part of a wonderful inpatient team of providers, therapists, social workers, nurses and mental health technicians. Arianna works with children, teens, parents and families.

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Masks at School

Masks at School

I can’t believe it’s less than one month until kids are back in school. Summer break seems to fly by every year. On local parent forums, parents are excited about the planned return to full-time, face-to-face classes next month. Parents are engaging in the normal back-to-school chatter about teacher assignments, band camps, school supplies and one out-of-the-ordinary topic—whether or not to mask their unvaccinated child.

With school quickly approaching, I recently read the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) official back-to-school plan outlining COVID-19 prevention protocols. Last year, I was very impressed with how the schools handled the pandemic, but this year, the kids and I are ready for some normalcy. But how normal?

Changes at Lunch & Recess

I know there are a couple of changes the kids are hoping return to normal like no more “zones” at recess. That was one of the “pandemic rules” my kids hated and that I heard the most about daily. My kids want to play with other kids in their grade and play where they want to play. Kids shouldn’t be restricted to where and who they can play with at recess. Recess is their fun time.

Another change they’re hoping to see is removing the plexiglass from the cafeteria tables. This was a big one for my son. Again, my son wants to sit with his friends and enjoy having a conversation at lunch. Last year, the plexiglass made it difficult to hear each other. Many conversations were had under the table. And I know both of these things were put in for safety reasons, but my kids are ready for food, friends and fun at lunch and recess!

As moms, we always worry about germs—and even more now. My kids don’t wash their hands as much as they should, but I applaud LPS for the amount of time that the teachers and staff allowed kids to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. I felt comfortable sending my kids to school because of the amount of cleaning that was taken place in the building. Even my daughter was excited to pick out the sparkly hand sanitizer and the “squishy” carrier it fit in that attached to her backpack. Hand sanitizer is now a part of the supplies needed for back to school.

Wondering if Masks Will Be Required

Among the protocols LPS is suggesting for the return to school this year is that masks will be strongly recommended for unvaccinated students and required for unvaccinated staff. But masks are not mandatory—at least not yet. My children are still in elementary school, so they’re not vaccinated. Ever since the mask mandate was lifted, my kids no longer wear masks in public. Wearing masks has never been a problem for my kids. They never complained, they followed the rules, and they liked to pick out the masks they wore—unicorns for my daughter and a Denver Broncos mask for my son. Currently, my son wears a mask at his summer camp that he attends every day, which is a requirement. My daughter goes to an in-home daycare and does not wear a mask.

Last year, they were required to wear masks every day, all day! I appreciated the protocols. They never tested positive for COVID-19, and they were not sick once—not even a cold. So having them wear masks this school year would be beneficial. Also, COVID-19 is not going away, and since my children are not vaccinated, I’ll ask my kids to wear them, but my worry is that not all kids will be wearing masks.

If it’s not mandatory and my kids have an option, what will they choose? My son told me that he plans to wear his mask. “No big deal mom, I’m used to it,” he says. However, if my daughter’s friends aren’t wearing one, she probably won’t either. I’m still undecided if they’ll actually wear the masks this upcoming school year. But all of this could change if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. It wouldn’t surprise me if LPS makes masks mandatory for elementary kids.

Are other parents worried their kids won’t wear their masks if it’s not required? What are other parents planning to do? Let me know!

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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Falling Behind in School

Falling Behind in School

Here we are at the end of another school. Cohen finished 4th grade and Collyns completed 1st grade. Cohen excelled this year and continues to work very hard. Collyns however, struggled, but is it because of Covid-19 and remote learning last year?

Everyone is worried about how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting children. And it IS affecting them. Instead of feeling anxiety about the ongoing pandemic, as parents, we’re told to agonize over failing test scores and academic regression.

What’s Happening At School

Collyns is falling behind, they say.

Hurry up. Get going. She’s behind! She has to catch up to where she would be if there hadn’t been a global pandemic! Hurry up! Schools have this timetable and she’s falling behind! SHE’S FALLING BEHIND!

That’s what we’ve been hearing all year. She has had extra help in reading and we continue to work with her at home. But now that summer is upon us what do we do. She will be starting second grade. We believe she will catch up and we shouldn’t be worried. But over the summer so many kids regress and she could fall even further behind come fall.

Should Learning Continue in the Summer?

So, I stressed over it and listened and made the decision to put her in summer school. Starting in June she will attend summer school five days a week for half the day. That way she will get the extra help she needs. But she may hate it! Let’s get something straight. I know there is no ultimate timetable for learning. But the idea that my child is not intellectually where she SHOULD be and if we don’t do something about it now she may be at risk of falling further behind has me concerned. And, I wonder should I be doing everything the school is offering to better her situation in the fall?

Mitch, my husband, and I are not on the same page. He thinks she’s too young and she will learn when she is ready to learn. And if our child isn’t ready today, that doesn’t mean she’ll never be ready. He reassured me that it doesn’t mean one child is smarter than another. It just means their brains develop at different rates. And it’s perfectly normal. I know this and agreed with him. I keep thinking, summer school can only help her. But, what if she’s miserable and that makes home life worse?

Figuring Out What’s Best

Mitch and I agreed to give it a try. If she absolutely hates going then we won’t make her continue. She will just go to her daycare and we will make a better effort at home to help her catch up. The key is to provide her with the opportunities and the circumstances that maximize the likelihood of learning. Not pedantically checking off skills and benchmarks. We want her to enjoy her summer break and continue to learn. We just hope that this summer school will make learning fun. Fingers crossed that to her this is a summer camp, not school.

Yes, their educations have been disrupted by the virus. But a global pandemic will do that. You want to fix the problem, nothing short of ending the crisis ultimately will work. Kids are just that – kids. My children aren’t falling behind. They’re surviving a pandemic. Keep trying to fix the problem and they’ll be fine.

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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Welcoming a New Puppy

Welcoming a New Puppy

From a puppy’s point of view, puppyhood is a time of unapologetic energy, lots of exciting places to explore, new people and animals to meet, and tons of fun and adventurous times ahead.

From a puppy parent’s viewpoint, it’s a cute and cuddly time filled with this innocent and needy “baby” that craves lots of love and attention. However, it can also be a time of whining, howling, screaming, sleepless nights, sharp teeth, torn and chewed items, soiled floors, endless training and constant puppy monitoring.

Making the Decision

Bringing home a new puppy is a fantastic experience. After our last dog died, my husband and kids started asking for a new dog. My husband felt that our kids were at a great age for the extra responsibility. And I will say, our house felt empty after Maverick passed away. But I knew if we got a new dog, the responsibility of training the new puppy would fall on my shoulders, since I was still working from home. I was nervous and not sure I wanted more on my plate.

So before we decided to bring home a sweet little pup, we had a long, long discussion. I did my research. I knew if we were going to get a new dog, it was going to be a boxer. So, I took to the internet, I read blogs, watched training videos, bought supplies, found a vet and prepared our home for a puppy.

Within months of our first conversation, we added this delightful little ball of fur and fun to our family. Here we are with a 12-week-old boxer puppy named Maya.

A Puppy Is Like a Newborn

Yet, every puppy is a handful. The truth is this: the first dog or puppy you raise in your adulthood home with your children is an entirely different experience from the perfect, golden illusion you hold onto so dearly from your childhood.

Some people say having a puppy is like having a newborn, and they are right! You must have a thought-out and planned routine: feeding, taking your new pet out to potty, playtime and bedtime.

I realized quickly that patience was key! Maya wasn’t born knowing the expectations of the human world. We have to teach her. Don’t want the dog to eat your shoes? Then don’t leave them on the floor where she has easy access to them. No matter whether you want to teach your pup to sit when greeting people or to stay off the furniture, it’s all about repetition and consistency.

Training a Puppy

After four weeks, we’re now in a routine! Dogs love routines. We crate train her so while we’re gone and while we sleep, she’s in her kennel.

However, she really, really likes her potty break between 4 and 5 a.m. Luckily, it’s back to bed until the kids get up and take her outside and feed her breakfast before school. During school, it’s me and her taking on the world. Her day is full of naps, chew toys and many, many potty breaks while I work.

Let’s discuss what it means to have a potty trained puppy. Oh wait, she isn’t fully trained but getting there! Remember, puppies are babies, and we need to remember they can’t hold it as long as adult dogs. If we aren’t diligent, they’ll go on the floor in the beginning. Yes, we as pet parents have to help them succeed. The golden rule: You get the behavior you reward. Praise and a reward whether it’s a favorite toy or treat.

Even though we go outside for potty breaks every two hours or less, I also make sure she gets plenty of exercise. The more she gets during the day, the better she sleeps at night. The guideline I try to follow: five minutes of exercise for each month in age, twice a day.

It’s Hard But Worth It

With a new puppy, our day looks a little different. Luckily, we still don’t do much on the weekends, and the days are getting warmer. Maya enjoys her time outside except she hates wet grass. Just like a new baby, Maya and I are learning together.

So remember, if you’re thinking about getting a new puppy, in the beginning it’s about soiled carpets, crate training techniques and hard work, but think about the adventures you’ll go on together and the times you’ll share together at home snuggled on the couch.

However, it’s more to say to anyone who just brought home a new dog or puppy, “Hey, I’ve been there and I know it’s maybe more frustrating than you thought it would be, but you’ll soon get to a place where it doesn’t feel like you want to tear your hair out every day.”

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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When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

I think it goes without saying that things are a bit out of the ordinary right now. Our day-to-day life looks nothing like it used to, and it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like a couple months from now.

Wondering if Life Should Go Back to Normal

So while we all want life “back to normal,” we can’t rush it. We’re in this for the long haul, and we likely won’t ever return to life as we knew it—at least not for quite some time.

As we reach the end of another month in quarantine, there’s a lot of talk about re-opening our state (and country) and about getting things back to normal. Maybe it’s strange, but I’m not sure I want things to go back to normal.

I know a lot of hard things are happening right now. Some of us are very sick or worried about family and friends who are. Some have even lost someone special. Even those of us in good health are worried about jobs, paying bills, our children’s education and more. We’re grieving special things that didn’t get to happen: weddings, the school play, concerts, prom and graduation. As I share my thoughts, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about any of the very real dangers, stress and trauma we’re experiencing. And I know my experience might not be your experience.

The Positives of the Quarantine

All my life, everyone (including myself) whines about how busy they are. We complain about our overscheduled children (even though we’re the ones who overschedule them!) and how quickly the years go by. We work too hard, don’t get enough sleep and struggle just to catch a much-needed breath once in a while.

And so, the universe gave us a gift.

This quarantine made everyone take a step back and see what a more uncomplicated life might look like. In most cases, we’re working less and connecting more. We have stopped idolizing movie stars and athletes and instead spend time glorifying the first responders, teachers and frontline “essential” workers that have kept our country running. (We know you’re working more, and we thank you!)

We’re eating family dinner, playing board games together, taking family walks and going on bike rides. Not to mention my home life is a lot happier. While I work from home, instead of a 15-minute break to go talk with co-workers, I wash dishes, finish laundry, sweep or start dinner. I don’t feel rushed after work. I go to soccer practice but don’t have to hurry home to get household chores done. I enjoy having my kitchen for lunches and the copious amounts of coffee on hand. Plus, the bathroom is less than 10 feet away. My work clothes consist of sweatpants and T-shirts, and I wear a lot less makeup.

The New Normal

But, I do see things going back to normal. Our family went on a mini spring break vacation, and it was nice to feel normal again. And now, soccer practice and swim lessons have begun, so my calendar that was once empty is now filling up again like normal. However, when the country “reopens,” I hope the slower pace will somewhat continue. Let’s stop working ourselves to death. And can we make overscheduling our kids a thing of the past? Let’s continue to value family time over the twenty activities we could be doing.

I want our new normal to continue to have the positive memes and uplifting quotes, and in general, I want people to continue just being nice human beings!

Oh, I know the negative is still there if you look for it.

Still, I’m not sure I want the world to go back to normal. When things do finally get back to normal, I hope it’s a whole new normal.

At a minimum, however, one thing is a clear: normal as we knew it is gone. We need to adjust to our “new normal.” After all, normal is relative.

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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