Darting Memories

Darting Memories

Being a retired educator, our poor grandkids have learned I always have a lot of questions about school. I tend to ask what classes they are taking, who their teachers are and what topic they are studying in a particular class. I also ask about tests, their projects and grades. I guess my questions come with the territory of my professional life.

All of the grandkids have used me as a topic or reference in one class or another, and they love asking me questions. Heck, they have probably also used me as a class project I’m not even aware of like “Things not to do when you get older” or “Why do older adults not understand their phones?”

Finding Out More

I knew our grandson was taking a literature class this semester. He’s not a huge reader, so I wanted to know how he was doing. I couldn’t remember if he was taking a Holocaust Literature class or the Sci-fi Literature class, since both are great opportunities to get students involved. He responded by saying he was taking the Sci-fi Lit class. Next question, “Who’s your teacher?” As my retirement years keep growing, I know fewer and fewer teachers. I have found my influence with the kids or their teachers is waning. Probably a good thing on everyone’s behalf. Next question, “Do you like it?” He said it was OK for an English class. I thought to myself, “BONUS!” I know he won’t read “War and Peace” soon, but a positive response was a thrill to hear.

Next question, “What are you reading?” I could tell he was deep in thought for a second. In my mind I’m thinking, the kid has no idea what he’s reading? Doesn’t he go to class every day? Is he not participating in any class discussion because he’s not reading the book? Why the hesitancy? Following the sci-fi theme, is this kid really an alien who has been taken the body over my grandson?

Memories Come Darting Back

Two seconds passed and my grandson looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and he hit his chest four times and made some whistling sounds. What the heck was this? Are they teaching sound effects in sci-fi class? I thought for two seconds. I then asked if the novel he was reading was “Frankenstein” written by Mary Shelley. He smiled at me. Telepathically, we recalled the time all four grandkids watched the movie “Young Frankenstein” at our house.

We watched the movie during one of our movie dates at our house. “Young Frankenstein” has always been one of my favorite movies, so of course I wanted to share this unique experience with them. Both my grandson and I started slapping our chests making the whistling sound. This is the scene when the police chief pretends to throw the darts at the dart board. The chief actually puts the darts into his wooden arm. The chief made a whistling sound with his mouth imitating the darts going through the air and striking the dart board.

Reliving Memories Together

Soon, the other grandkids caught on and joined in the charade. The five of us had a great time sharing our experience with their parents and grandpa. It was a fun reminder of how we’ve enjoyed connecting in the past. One of our granddaughters then commented they liked the “Young Frankenstein” movie, however, she was really freaked out by the movie, “The Crows.” The Crows?? The rest of us looked at each other in a confused state of not being able to recall the movie. She talked about the scene which really scared her. It was when the crows were in the school yard attacking the kids running down the street. I quickly realized she was talking about the movie, “The Birds.” What a hoot, and I laughed till I cried.

The grandkids haven’t been over to see a movie in a couple of years, so to have them recall some of those memories was a thrill for me and, hopefully, for them. It was a reminder to me that the memories I hope to create may or may not have a long term connection with my grandkids, but when it does, it sure is great.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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!

Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ah, summer—the sun is hot, school is out, energy is high, and let’s face it, for parents this can be a challenging time. Not only does your routine change, but it’s also difficult to keep your kids reading.

Does “summer school work” sound like a chore to your kids? It’s a constant struggle for me to convince my children to do anything other than watch TV or play outside. The question I faced was, “How can I make reading or any other school work be just as exciting as any other summer activity?”

How to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Before school was out for the summer, I made a plan. I wanted to continue helping Cohen read throughout the summer. I heard of the summer slide, which is a term teachers use to describe the learning loss between grades over the summer, and I didn’t want that for Cohen. He had made such great progress throughout the year and was nearing a third grade level that I didn’t want him to fall farther behind.

Find Programs that Have Worked Previously

I looked into several reading programs being offered during the summer months, but they were ridiculously expensive! Plus, the times the classes were offered were not convenient for working parents, so that was a little frustrating! I realized I would need to make it a priority.

Make a Plan

I made a plan to go to the library once a week and have my kids pick out books they wanted to read. I also signed Cohen up for the library summer reading program, which is free! Then, we went to Barnes and Noble and signed up for that summer reading program. Lastly, I wanted him to continue with his frequency folder and have him read the same passage every day. I thought I had a great plan in place.

But life gets in the way. My plans for him to read continues to be pushed aside for the different activities planned in the evenings that Cohen wants to do. My son didn’t view reading as a fun activity and I realized I needed to make it a priority and encourage summer reading. It was time to get creative!

Set Goals

It was time to set some summer reading goals. I had Cohen help me set our goals and create a chart together when he finished his frequency passage. Cohen and I made a “Reading Hall of Fame” bulletin board. After every book he finished, we take a picture and I post it to the board.

Make Reading a Family Event

My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall, so I am trying to make reading this summer a family affair. During the warm weather months, it can be hard for busy, on-the-move families to fit reading in. So we started to set aside some time to read before bedtime. Every family member grabs some books, we turn off all electrics, and read for 20 minutes. We’re also trying to listen to more audio books—while at the library, I found some fun family reads on CD.

Make it Fun

Lastly, his teacher gave me this idea before summer vacation—twice a month during the summer we have a “Cookie and Bookie” where we read a story or two together, he reads one page then I read the other, and when finished we discuss what we read. Then, of course, we bake cookies together!

Granted, these are no substitutes for cracking the books. And I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing the summer slide, but I am trying to make reading a priority this summer so Cohen won’t be far behind when he enters 3rd grade this fall.

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!

How to Get Ready for Prom

How to Get Ready for Prom

I remember it like it was yesterday: the curled pigtails, the little white dress, the big smile, the small basket of flowers. Our daughter looked like a princess walking down the aisle with the other flower girl and ring bearer. I remember saying to my husband, “Before we know it, she will be going to her high school prom.”

Even though she’ll always be my little girl, that time has come, and she is looking forward to one of the highlights of her junior year—prom.

A Prom Mom’s Prep List

I’m very well-versed in this prom stuff. This will be the twentieth prom my husband and I will attend together—three as high school sweethearts and seventeen as prom/class sponsors. But it’s my first year as a “prom mom,” and I am learning that a lot goes into preparing for the day and that it can be an expensive night.

In the midst of all of the craziness that goes into the night, I want to make sure we help make our daughter’s first prom a great high school experience. With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Start preparing early.

I didn’t want our daughter to procrastinate on finding a dress. We started shopping the summer before prom because there was an off-season dress sale. We had no intention of buying a dress that day. My daughter wanted to peruse and find a style she liked. Luckily, she found something she liked and didn’t feel rushed to make a decision. Often when we rush, we end up spending more money.

Along with buying and altering the dress early, I encouraged our daughter to schedule her nail and hair appointments ahead of time to help eliminate unnecessary anxiety.

Lesson 2: Create a budget that works for your family and communicate this budget with your teenager.

We told our daughter she has a certain amount of dollars allocated to prom. We were willing to pay for the dress, shoes, hair stylist and corsage. She will be responsible for all other expenses. Communicating the budget to our daughter has been an integral part of this experience. By giving her a spending limit, she was conscientious about staying under budget.

A helpful tip: buy your prom dress in the off-season to save money.

Lesson 3: Don’t forget the details.

Prom is right around the corner, and we’re starting to have conversations about our expectations for the evening. We’ll be setting a curfew and discussing what it means to make wise choices. I want her to know the importance of making wise choices to ensure she has a memorable yet safe experience.

Also, many adults will have a part in making this day a memorable experience, and I’m encouraging our daughter to be diligent in thanking them.

My Little Girl

Life moves pretty fast. After our daughter’s hair and makeup are done, and she puts on her navy dress, she’ll be ready to dance the evening away. I’ll probably smile and envision my little princess with her curly pigtails once again.

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.

Five Tips for a Successful Snow Day

Five Tips for a Successful Snow Day

Snow days — I love them and I hate them — despite the sheer joy at hearing the early morning news about a snow day. According to our three kids, I was “that” mom today. You know “that” mom who makes all of her children do their chores. “That” mom who makes her children do their homework. “That” mom who is crabby all day long.

Snow Day Expectations

My kids and I had different expectations of what our snow day should look like. Each of them had their day planned out from playing video games to staying curled up in blankets to watching movies. My expectations were a little different.

According to my children, I was the ONLY mom in the entire state requiring kids to do chores and homework all day long on a snow day. One would have thought I asked all three kids to write a dissertation. For about two hours “that” mom surfaced and so did frustration, arguing, tears and disappointment.

In the midst of the two hours here are just a few of our interactions:

  • Our oldest: “Mom, I am tired of doing laundry! That is all I have done since your surgery.”
  • Middle daughter: “Mom, you have unrealistic expectations. I don’t understand what I even have to do.”
  • Our youngest: “I hate homework. Why are you making me complete the entire week of assignments? I still have two days before my spelling test.”
  • Our oldest daughter: “Please everyone just quit arguing.”

Facing My Disappointment

Knowing how busy the rest of our week was going to be due to schedule changes, I knew we finally had a day to get ahead on chores and homework. My kids couldn’t see my vision for the day and I made it known that I was disappointed. I was not only disappointed in how we were treating each other, but also that my kids were not helping out around the house.

I felt guilty that I did not extend any grace to my kids. I was disappointed in myself for not recognizing their need to just have a lazy day. Our kids are pushed to do so much during the school day, especially our teenagers who are feeling the pressure to keep good grades and be involved in organizations. Today, what I failed to see is that all three kids are stressed either with their schedules and homework. They just wanted a day to relax. If adults need a break sometimes, kids definitely need one too.

Tips for Surviving A Snow Day

After everyone calmed down and completed their homework, everyone was able to enjoy watching movies for playing videos games. However, I decided to write down a few tips in the hopes that the next snow day does not escalate to tears and unrealistic expectations.

  • Give up on productivity: Our kids do need some down time, especially our son who just loves being home. He finds his peace and needs his quiet time at home.
  • Let the kids be kids: I need to encourage our kids to be more childlike, even our teenagers, particularly on snow days.
  • Extend some grace: I definitely can do better on this, knowing our kids have had virtually every chore added to their lists, as I am recovering from a surgery. I just needed to breathe and extend some grace.
  • Turn the technology off
  • Set better expectations: If anything does need to be accomplished I will set better expectations. For example as a family we will sort, wash and fold three loads of laundry.

A snow day can throw a wrench into any schedule. With the help of the tips above, hopefully the next snow day can be a little more relaxing and childlike before “that” mom comes out.

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.

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

I have never been more excited and sad to register Collyns for kindergarten. It’s only January but I already filled out the necessary paperwork and made her appointment for her kindergarten physical. August 13 can’t get here soon enough! My last baby will be in school come the fall. Yes, I am sad. Yes, I will cry. But, that means no more full-time daycare! Now I feel like there is a light at the end of this daycare tunnel. Read More

How to Promote Healthy Screen Time for Your Kids

How to Promote Healthy Screen Time for Your Kids

Today’s children are growing up immersed in digital media. In the past couple years, we have seen an explosion of social media, different devices and ways for kids to interact with technology.

The concept of screen time is also changing. Kids used to spend their screen time watching TV. Now with computers children and teens are not really watching as much TV, although they are watching shows on their computers. And of course they’re watching YouTube! They’re also on Instagram and Snapchat. Plus, a lot of their schoolwork and homework is done on the computer.

All of this changes how we look at screen time.

Changing Times and a New Way to Look at Screen Time

In the past, the recommendation was two hours of screen time a day, and that was pretty straightforward. Nowadays, if we set a two-hour limit a lot of kids would hit that before lunchtime because they’re doing homework on screens in their classrooms. So we have to look at screen time differently. Rather than a specific number of hours per day, we need to look at what types of media children are using and the value of the interaction.

Think of Screen Time like the Food Pyramid

There are things we should have sparingly and there are things that should fill more of our plate.

At the top of the pyramid, the fats and sweets of screen time use, is mindless watching. This is where a child sits in front of the TV (or on an iPad or computer) and watches cartoons. This is fine when parents need to make dinner, or the child needs a break to watch their favorite show. It’s just not something you want to do all the time.

Below that on the food pyramid I think of watching shows with your child. This is better because you’re able to engage with your child. Instead of your child just sitting there, you can enjoy the show with them. You can ask, “What would you do if that happened to you?” Or, “What do you think she’s going to do next?” This creates a conversation and encourages your child to think about different things while watching something fun.

Below that, and even better, are educational games where your child can either learn something or solve puzzles. This engages your child’s mind. So when you’re breaking up screen time, you can allow more time for activities versus mindless show watching.

Guidelines for Screen Time by Your Child’s Age

Under 18 months

Use screens as sparingly as possible. Sometimes younger children will be exposed to screens when older siblings are watching TV or are on the computer. I would try to be aware of this and prevent it from happening as much as possible.

Around age 2

You can start to introduce screen time. I encourage parents to be very consistent and thoughtful about what types of digital media your children are exposed to. Giving a child a cell phone at a restaurant to help them wait until the food arrives, that’s fine. I worry more when kids are at home and instead of playing with a parent, sibling or toy, they’re in front of a TV or tablet.

Early Tweens and Older Children

Starting in the early tween years (and even around age 8), I would definitely have a very close eye on your child’s screen time use. This is where children develop a lot of habits they might have for the rest of their life in terms of screen time and the way they interact with others online.

For older kids, there’s Instagram, Snapchat and a million other social media platforms. Being very careful about how much time you allow your child to have on these platforms is critical. It’s also important to make sure they aren’t replacing all of their interaction with their friends and peers with online interaction.

Guidelines for parents:

  • Know your child’s passwords
  • Be able to look at their phone/device at any time
  • All devices should sleep, meaning charge somewhere other than the bedroom so notifications don’t disrupt sleep
  • Children should use their screens in public places in the house, the family room or kitchen table

Setting guidelines gives your child some autonomy and also protects them from some of the dangers that exist with social media.

Be a Role Model

The other thing I share with parents is being a role model for your child. So if I as a parent tell my children to get off their screens, but then I’m getting notifications and looking at my phone at the dinner table, or pulling my phone out when we’re having family time, I’m not modeling what I want my children to do.

It’s very important to have time where we say no phones, and we put them in a basket or a different room, and sit down for dinner or a nice conversation without anyone getting notifications or hearing text message dings. We have to model self-control as parents and say, “Okay, I’m going to put my phone on silent so we can talk, relax, watch this show together, read books or go play outside.” This shows your child what’s important to you.

Set Family Rules for Screen Time

Whatever you decide for your family, I encourage you to sit down and talk about it together, write it on a piece of paper, put it on the fridge and say, “This is our plan for screen time.” It shows your children that screen time is important for all of us.

Setting rules for everyone, and modeling that behavior as parents, reinforces that while screens are useful and have a lot to offer us, there are more important ways to interact and more important things to do than be consumed with our screens all the time.

Join our Facebook Group

Phil Boucher, MD is a pediatrician with Lincoln Pediatric Group. You’re invited to join his Facebook group for parents called “Present and Productive Parents.”

Join today, start learning and connecting with other parents.

Phil Boucher, MD

Phil Boucher, MD

Pediatrician with Lincoln Pediatric Group.

A Blog for My Husband

A Blog for My Husband

This blog is written for my husband. Most fathers don’t receive the credit they deserve. Well, at least mine doesn’t. When we got married nine years ago, we decided to have kids right away. We just didn’t think it would happen quite so fast. We were thrown into parenthood at the age of 24 and on our first wedding anniversary we had a one-month-old. My husband thrived as a dad. When our daughter was born we thought we had this parenting this down. And then we thought “why not add more to our plate!” Read More

Operation Cheetos

Operation Cheetos

Our youngest grandchild and only grandson was asked to participate in a contest/skit during his high school pep rally. Seeing pictures of the event made me smile. I was pleased to see he actually attended the pep rally and supported the fall athletes and coaches! Remember, I’m a retired high school principal, and there were always kids who thought a pep rally was a reason to skip school.

The contest consisted of two-person teams of students, one person put on a shower cap with whipped cream on top and the other tried to throw Cheetos on top of the shower cap. When the time was up the team with the most Cheetos on the shower cap won. My grandson, who donned the shower cap, and his partner won!

Operation Finale

When I texted him to see if he would have another contest in the winter pep rally. He responded with, “how about operation finale”. Operation finale? What did that mean? Usually, I am confident in my interpretations or translations of the grandkids’ messages, but this time I needed to follow up, “What does operation finale mean?”

His reply was, “I want to see the movie Operation Finale.” I laughed out loud! I should have realized there was no connection between the pep rally and the finale. That would make too much sense. It was his way of asking us to take him to see the movie.

After I laughed at my mistake, I was thrilled. My teenage grandson was asking us to take him to the movies and even be seen in public with us. BONUS!

Lessons from the Past

Operation Finale follows the story of the Mossad post-WWII. This group of Israeli intelligence officers located and tried to extradite Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi officer and major organizer of the Holocaust, to Israel to face war crime charges. The movie was very informative and very intense. I even jumped a few times. During the movie I managed to sneak a look at my grandson from the corner of my eye and he was enthralled with the movie.

The end of the movie really brought the past and present together, as videos of the 2017 Charleston riots were replayed. The Nazis were evident in the past and still are visible in the present. We talked after the movie about history repeating itself and why we don’t always learn from our mistakes. He reminded me there are people who don’t think they are making mistakes. I’m proud he gets it, but I’m thrilled he’s still catching Cheetos on his head and winning pep rally contests. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all caught Cheetos on our heads?

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Talking About the #MeToo Movement with My Grandkids

Talking About the #MeToo Movement with My Grandkids

The list of famous men accused of sexual harassment these past few months seems endless. At first, because of their fame and presence on our screens, the *#MeToo movement almost felt like it was happening in another world. But it wasn’t. Local marches and discussions, even in Lincoln, Nebraska, showed us that it’s everywhere. No one knows if this is part of a revolution or if the #MeToo movement will pass. Despite that, I think it was important to talk about it with my grandkids.

Don’t Worry Grandma

Recently, I met up with my grandkids for lunch for one last gathering before the new school year and their days fill up with class, clubs, sports and other new challenges. I was curious to learn if my granddaughters knew about the #MeToo movement and if they knew how they would respond to sexual harassment. Would they confront the person? Would they share their story with a friend or adult? Would they feel comfortable sharing it with their parents? I also wondered about my grandson. Is he prepared to act if he encounters harassment or assault either towards himself or another person?

I also wanted to share my thoughts and feelings about the #MeToo movement and tell them the story of Tarana Burke, who’s 2006 story of sexual assault and advocacy started the #MeToo movement. After listening to a young woman share her sexual assault story, Tarana, a sexual assault survivor herself, didn’t know what to say. Later, she wished she would have said, “me, too.” This is how the #MeToo movement began.

When I brought up the #MeToo movement during lunch that day my oldest granddaughter said, “Don’t worry about it grandma. We’ve got it figured out.” They wanted to share their excitement over the new school year, laughing and teasing each other, not talk about sexual violence. I get it. This wasn’t the time for grandma’s serious talk. So, I let it go.

What Was In It for Me?

Maybe I wanted to have this discussion because of my life as an educator. My eagerness to make sure all students are safe and taken care of is important to me. But mostly I care about having a plan to help young people deal with sexual harassment and assault. The plan can’t always be carried out exactly as planned, but I feel better when there’s something we can look to in a time of crisis. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to this with my grandkids that day, but that’s okay.

Or, maybe I wanted to have this discussion because I’m a nosy grandma? I really was curious to hear where my grandkid’s minds were on this topic.

Lastly, maybe I wanted to have this discussion because it’s on my mind. I don’t want it to be lost in the never-ending news cycle.

It’s Out of My Control

What’s funny is, I used to worry about my grandkids falling off bicycles or climbing too high on the playground equipment. I still worry about them every day, but what I’m worried about has changed. I’m not in control when it comes to their response to the #MeToo movement. I’m confident that their parents have helped them prepare for the future, but it’s not up to me. I have to take a deep breath and trust that they will do their best, just as they’ve always done.

It’s always been my belief that change doesn’t happen until there’s a crisis. Society needs to shift in order to disrupt the narrative around sexual violence to make the changes we need. Tarana Burke said, “If in this country, we had an outbreak of some communicable disease that 12 million people got in a 24-hour period, we would be focused solely on the cure. That’s the difference in how people think about the disease of sexual violence.”

*Please note, I may not have used the correct way to address the movement, #MeToo. Sorry, I don’t have any idea what a hashtag stands for or means. Guess I’ll need to ask my grandkids!

If you or a loved one needs help after a serious trauma such as sexual assault, the Bryan Medical Center emergency department offers specially trained, discrete sexual assault nurse examiners who can help. The Bryan Counseling Center also offers compassionate counselors who work specifically with those who have endured serious trauma or abuse.

To schedule an appointment with the Bryan Counseling Center, call 402-481-5991.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

The Importance of Student Organizations

The Importance of Student Organizations

The first day of school is one of my favorite days of the year. The excitement of back-to-school photos, seeing students walk into our building for the new school year and listening to their favorite summer memories fills my heart with joy.

Our principal, who happens to be my husband, planned the best back-to-school day ever with both the staff and students — a parade down Main Street. Even though the parade was the highlight of the day, the build-up to the parade stuck with me. The parade and rest of the back-to-school activities centered on a theme — nobody watches the parade.

Join the Parade

This idea, inspired by Bob Goff and Donald Miller in “A Million Miles in A Thousand Years,” encourages people to participate. Nobody can watch the parade. They can only be in the parade.

I keep thinking why this theme and why this year? Why would I encourage my own children and students to join the parade and participate in one or more student organizations? First, as a parent, I want our children to be a part of something bigger and make a difference. As a teacher, I want children to develop and enhance their skills as an extension of the classroom.

Being part of a student organization hugely impacts a student’s educational experience. My husband and I have already noticed the positive impact they have had on our daughter during her junior year. Because of this, we’re encouraging our two younger children to be involved in groups beyond the regular school day, too. But what are our children getting from joining the parade?

Develop Soft Skills

The essential soft skills, also known as people skills, teach students how to work with others, communicate with others and enhance critical thinking skills. Students not only enhance these soft skills in student organizations, they also learn to interact with small and large groups and develop time management and organizational skills.

Explore Interests

Student organizations give our children the opportunity to explore interests and expose them to other learning opportunities. For example, our oldest daughter has no interest in accounting or business law. Yet, she is part of a business organization which allows her to understand the importance of the business world.

Develop Leadership Skills

Student organizations encourage leadership. We are all leaders, but whether we choose to be a positive one or a negative one is up to us. Through these groups, students can learn to develop characteristics that we admire in effective leaders: trailblazer, honest, inspirational, competent and fearless.

Unfold a Purpose

Student organizations provide a multitude of opportunities to serve others. Through serving others, our children learn to be part of something bigger than themselves. They see firsthand the reward of giving their time and talents to others. As parents, we get to see our children take pride in their work, learn to love the process and grow a thankful heart.

Student organizations are a great way to develop all these skills and so much more! Most importantly, our children will be joining the parade, not watching.

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.

If you could prevent your child from getting cancer, what would you do?

If you could prevent your child from getting cancer, what would you do?

You have the power to prevent cancer your child could get later in life

The dog days of summer are upon us and my family of six has spent countless days at the pool, baseball games and summer camps. Now a new school year is starting, and it’s a good time to make sure our children are up to date on their check-ups with the doctor, dentist and optometrist. As a parent of kids ranging in ages from eight to 13, this year also included discussions about the importance of getting the HPV vaccine for cancer prevention.

What is HPV, and how does it lead to cancer?

HPV stands for the human papillomavirus. It includes a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some types of HPV can cause warts or papillomas, which are non-cancerous. Most of the time our body’s natural immune systems can fight off the infections the virus can cause. But, some types of HPV cause cancer in both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), HPV causes most cases of cervical cancer, and nearly all cases of pre-cervical cancers. It also causes many vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, throat and tongue cancers.

As I began to learn more about HPV, I found myself wondering how common is the virus. What I found was astounding:

  • Each year in the United States 31,500 people are diagnosed with a cancer related to an HPV infection.
  • The virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Any man or woman who has ever had sex, including vaginal, anal or oral, can get the virus.
  • Four out of five people will have HPV at some point in their lives, according to the latest estimates. The virus is so common that the best way to prevent an HPV infection is to get vaccinated.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

This is the first thing I wanted to know after hearing about this cancer prevention vaccine! I felt comforted knowing that more than 270 million doses have been given around the world since 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As a registered nurse, I understand any vaccination has potential side effects. Yet many people who get the HPV vaccine report no side effects. Potential side effects of the HPV vaccine have been mild like other vaccines. The HPV vaccine is approved by the CDC, and like all vaccines, receives ongoing monitoring.

So how can I prevent cancers that my kids could get later in life?

As a cancer nurse navigator and a mom of four children, I was very interested in the current recommendations to prevent HPV related cancers. I started by having a conversation with our family doctor. I learned my kids could receive the two series vaccination (six-12 months apart), as early as age nine or ten. The CDC highly recommends kids be vaccinated at ages 11 or 12, as that is when the vaccine has been shown to be the most effective. If a child starts the vaccination series between the ages of 15-26, a third vaccination is recommended.

The HPV vaccine prevents infections from nine HPV types that cause HPV cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, receiving the vaccine before being exposed to the virus can prevent up to 90% of HPV cancers!

As I was making doctor’s appointments for my kids, my almost 11-year-old son openly shared his disgust in having yet another “shot” scheduled with his upcoming appointment. This brought up a great moment to have a conversation about the purpose of this vaccine in preventing certain cancers later in life. He has heard many of my stories over the years of people struggling with cancer. He asked several great questions about the vaccine, and I didn’t hear him complain again.

A week later his sister was giving him a hard time that he was the ONLY kid who needed a shot this year. He promptly responded, “I’d rather have a two-second sting than a cancer that I didn’t need to have!” Proud mom moment!

I have had the personal experience of caring for patients with HPV related cancers. With this new cancer prevention vaccine, I feel so lucky to live during a time where these types of cancers could be greatly reduced or even eliminated in my kids’ generation!

My suggestion for parents is to talk with your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine, and to your children about why “another shot” is so important. For more information, check out the links below.

www.cancer.org/hpv

www.cdc.gov/hpv

*Information for this blog provided by American Cancer Society.

Carmen Orr

Carmen Orr

RN, Cancer Nurse Navigator

Carmen Orr is a Bryan Medical Center oncology nurse navigator, which is a  specially trained nurses who are here to help you and your family through each step of your cancer journey.

How Important is the HPV Vaccine?

Listen to our podcast with Dr. Philip Boucher, a pediatrician with Lincoln Pediatric Group, to learn more about the importance of the HPV vaccine, research done on its effectiveness and tips on talking to your child about why they are getting the vaccine.

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