The Senior Year To-Do List

The Senior Year To-Do List

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

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

Preparing for Graduation Starts Now

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

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

The Graduation To-Do List

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

In October

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

By November

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

By January

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

By February

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

During March

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

During April

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

May

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

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

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

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

Focusing on Where Stress Stems From

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

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

Ways to Help Kids Handle Stress

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

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

Ways to Help Yourself Handle Stress

As a parent, strategies I am working on are:

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

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

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

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

A Favorite Educator’s Legacy Lives Beyond Retirement

A Favorite Educator’s Legacy Lives Beyond Retirement

As a high school student, I never really paid attention to the duties of the superintendent. I knew he lead our school and made important decisions, yet, I never fully comprehended what his daily duties included. However, I did make sure to pay attention when he would make the occasional “snow day” call.

What I did know was each day—whether it was before school started, during lunch or during passing periods—he would say, “Hi Shel…,” followed by some reference to how the day was going, and then the conversation would usually turn to softball. What I now realize is he valued relationships and making connections with students every day.

From a Happy Face at School to Family

Fast forward 22 years and I am part of this superintendent’s family. Being part of an educational family, I have learned a great deal of the actual duties of a superintendent through conversations at dinner, at the fair or visiting their place frequently. Through all the stories he does share, there is always one constant shared throughout: he cares.

At the end of this month, my father-in-law will retire after 40-plus years in education. And while I could make a never-ending list of him advocating for education or dedicating numerous hours to coaching, what I am forever grateful for is our children watched their Papa Mo dedicate a majority of his life to something he was passionate about. This was evident in his daily interactions with students and staff.

His Work Made an Impact on Many

His legacy will forever have an impact on our kids, especially our oldest, as her future educational goals include becoming a family and consumer science teacher. Our daughter shared an essay she wrote for class and below are highlighted points she eloquently states as to why her Papa Mo is her hero:

[His] dedication to education and helping make other people better in all he does…Awarding diplomas at graduation, his proudest moment every school year, showed his hard work and dedication to the school and students he served.

[He] always finds time to attend mine, along with my cousins and siblings, sporting and school events. Not a week goes by without seeing him in the crowd.

[He] puts in hours of time working on the farm to provide his grandchildren with the experiences of 4-H.

Continuing His Legacy into the Next Generation

Looking at my father-in-law through my daughter’s eyes ultimately displays he cares. She sees it and the rest of our family sees it. If there is anyone I want our daughter to model her educational career after, it is my father-in-law. We all know his career in education was lined with important decisions, stress and time-commitments. However, what he valued and displayed the most was that he cared, and this is what I want our daughter to know when she is a teacher—to carry on her hero’s legacy and to show her students and athletes that she cares.

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.

Grandmas Get Pimples

Grandmas Get Pimples

One day last week, I woke up with a sore in the corner of my lips. I didn’t think much about it but the next morning it was bigger, redder and hurt just a tad. It wasn’t time to call the doctor, but I wanted to keep my eye on it.

What started as a stressful week worrying about my skin ended in a lovely moment with my granddaughter.

Do I have a cold sore?

My husband always struggled with cold sores so when my spot first appeared I asked what he thought. He didn’t think it was a cold sore. Skeptically, I asked him if you spread cold sores by kissing. He laughed at my question and went out the door to play golf. The love and support were overwhelming! I could never complete with golf.

On the third day, the center of my sore was getting dark and hard. Even though the spot was only the size of a pinprick, I decided to apply Campho Phenique cold sore cream and burn it to death. By the fourth day, there was no change.

I tried to occupy my time by running errands. I ran over to my daughter’s house to drop off a book. My daughter wasn’t home so my granddaughter came to greet me. She gave me a big hug and then looked at me. She started to laugh hysterically.

Did I have food in my teeth, or something hanging from my nostril? It took about two seconds of laughter before she squealed, “Oh, my gosh, Grandma. You’ve got a zit on your face!” A zit at my age? How could that be?

A lesson in skincare

My granddaughter had bad acne between 8th and 11th grade. It caused her a lot of grief and she made many trips to the dermatologist. After multiple trial and errors, they finally found a plan that worked and she no longer gets as anxious over the situation. Bottom line, she’s an expert and knows what a zit looks like and how to contain it.

I had her look at my lips so she could be 100% sure it was a pimple. Tears were streaming down her face from laughing. She’d never heard of a grandma having a zit. The bump was definitely a zit and not a cold sore and it was in the corner of my mouth.

I was shocked. I hadn’t had a pimple in at least 45 years. I’m struggling with age spots and dry, blotchy skin, but now I need to add zits to the list?

My hysterical granddaughter knew exactly what to do. First, she gave me a hug. Second, she quickly found a tube of Clearasil and gave me application instructions. Clean the area, then gently dab the Clearasil to the pimple. She told me it would be gone in two days. I thanked her for the advice, although I really did remember how to get rid of pimples. Unfortunately, my routine for getting rid of pimples always started with popping them. I didn’t tell her that.

Returning the favor

After our session, she gave me a high five and said, “You’ve always been there to give me advice and I’m glad I can now return the favor.” Wow! She really is growing up. I know I will always need technology advice, but this was different. Getting sentimental over a zit is another new experience for me. As we hugged goodbye, her final comment to me was, “At least you’re not going to prom tonight!”

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.

Adventure is Out There

Adventure is Out There

It was over 13 years ago when my husband and I wrote down a family goal of providing our children with the gift of travel. Our goal then, as it is today, is to provide as many opportunities as we can to see the wonders our great nation has to offer. While it may still seem like a far fetched goal, we plan and plot out our trips in hopes of traveling to as many of the continental states as possible before our children graduate high school.

When it comes to trips and vacations, spontaneous and unplanned are two words that hardly find their way into my vocabulary. For me, every vacation or getaway is planned – and planned meticulously. For my husband and eldest daughter, “adventure is out there” is more their style.

“Yes, let’s go.”

For the extended, activity-free, Easter weekend, we planned a college visit for our daughter in Western Nebraska and then a third trip back to the Black Hills. However, when my husband spontaneously suggested we drive to Yellowstone rather than go to Mount Rushmore, immediately our daughter said, “yes, let’s go.”

In an uncharacteristic fashion, I quickly agreed. I was actually excited for the spontaneous 1,700 mile detour from our original plan. Already 6 hours from home and another 10 hours from Yellowstone, we began our “quick trip” to one of our national treasures. Yet, I knew this would be an adventure our kids would not forget as nothing was planned, including where we would stay each night. We vowed to get as far as we could, find a hotel, explore the area quickly, and then continue the next day.

This spontaneous road trip provided many moments for our family to create memories. From waiting patiently for Old Faithful, to taking pictures in front of each new state sign, the memories we created will make for great conversations for years to come. Even picking out the state collectibles became an adventure.

Our two daughters collect one small item from each of the states we visit. One collects stickers, and the other collects keychains. Naturally, our son decided he wanted to start collecting something to remember our travels. In typical 10-year-old boy humor, he started with the ridiculous idea of collecting moose’s poop, but soon realized he would not be able to find that in every state. For the next 30 minutes, he browsed postcards, snow globes, patches, magnets, playing cards and finally decided upon lapel pins, which is perfect for him. For the next hour after his purchase, he figured out all of the states he has visited, and how many pins he would have to buy so he would be caught up on his states.

Our Family Adventure

When the weekend was all said and done, we traveled 2,100 miles in the course of 75 hours. Yes, sometimes the confines of the pickup truck felt quite cramped with all five of us having our earbuds in at various points in the journey. Yet ultimately, we all loved the trip! The spontaneity of changing our original plans allowed us to create new family memories. We added two more states to our visited state’s list, and it was a great reminder for all of us to enjoy the moment. For myself, someone who plans out virtually everything, it was an awesome opportunity for me to not worry about the next stop and to embrace the fact that “adventure is out there.”

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.

Navigating the Potholes of Life

Navigating the Potholes of Life

The end of winter and the beginning of spring always seems to bring challenges and surprises. We live in Lincoln, NE, and we know the weather is always changing. I find myself having bags of clothes ready to grab and go. Baseball starts early, and the rain added an umbrella to my usual bag of “layers,” which I pack to watch our grandson play. What I wasn’t ready for was the large amounts of rain received in parts of our state. I wasn’t ready for towns being flooded and the need for those families to relocate. I wasn’t ready for the need to help families affected by the flooding.

The Nebraska Floods

We saw videos on TV and pictures online. It was devastating, and I was at a loss of what I could do to help those affected by the floods. We donated money to the cause and supplies to help those in need. We hope our donations get to flood victims and are confident they will be used.

Then, Lincoln was put under a mandatory water restriction. That directly affected us. John and I wanted to do whatever we could to support our community and follow the law. My husband was a little concerned I didn’t flush the toilet all the time. He got over it. In the past, we never used plastic water bottles because of recycling concerns. We got over it. Bonus, we didn’t have to water our lawn because it was already under water.

We were pleased that within a few short days, the restrictions went from mandatory to voluntary to no restrictions. Being the hippie aged person I am, I was ready for the long haul, but because I’m not too much of a hippie, I was pleased to get back to normal. Full showers are a luxury no matter what your age is.

Did I say normal? What is normal? Normal winter weather produces weather-related challenges – like POTHOLES!

Dodging the Potholes

Every year our community has potholes, but this winter weather has put a few extra dents or dips in our roads. The other day, I found myself driving while straddling two lanes of the street in an effort to avoid the devastating potholes. I’ve heard horror stories about people losing their tire covers, denting their wheels or worse after they hit a huge hole.

Immediately, I went into grandma mode. If I was experiencing this, what were my grandkids experiencing during their driving excursions? I had visions of their car wheels coming off when they hit a pothole. In my mind, I saw them in a hospital bed because their car was stuck in a ten-foot hole. Grandmas can wish the best for their grandkids, but we can also fear the worst.

I realized I can get emotional and worry too much about my grandkids, who are no longer babies and don’t need to be babied. I also realized that potholes are a fact of life. The potholes in the streets of Lincoln will get fixed.

I then began thinking of the potholes in the lives of young adults. These potholes are also everywhere. The potholes of life may include risky behavior, not planning for the future, addictions – the list could go on and on. Successfully driving on the streets is also a road map for navigating through the potholes in life. The lessons might include be aware of your surroundings, anticipate what might be coming around the next curve, keep your eyes on the road and feel free to straddle the road of life.

Then I took a deep breath. I decided to take my own advice and not needlessly worry about my grandkids. Then, I took another deep breath and realized being a grandma includes loving, caring for, and yes, even worrying about the grandkids. Potholes will always be there.

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.

5 Things I Want My Teenage Daughter to Know

5 Things I Want My Teenage Daughter to Know

The winter weather finally gave way to spring: the birds are chirping, the cranes found a home in Nebraska for a few weeks and the track is full of students running and jumping. However, spring also means something else for our household — birthdays. In the next month, we’ll officially have two teenagers in our home. I can say “officially” because our younger daughter has thought she’s a teenager since about eight years old.

Things I Want My Teenage Daughter to Know

Another teenager in our home. It seems like yesterday you were scooting your chubby little self across the floor with your curls bouncing up and down. Even though physically you’re my “mini-me,” our personality traits could not be more opposite. However, this is what makes you, YOU. Most days your procrastination and ability to get out of chores has me clenching my teeth. Yet, some days I’m insanely jealous of your strong-willed personality. Your fierce passion for certain things in life will move mountains someday.

But for now, here are a few things I need you to know:

There Will Be Limitless Questions

Where are you going? Who will be there? What did you do tonight? Are you sure you studied enough? Did you get your project done? Why are you doing this at 5:30 a.m. when it is due at 8:00 a.m.? Be grateful we’re asking too many questions. We’re not being strict or nosey. It’s okay for us to set boundaries and limits.

Value Your Friendships

I’ve always said you don’t need to be friends with everyone, but you do need to be kind to everyone. Those teenagers who become your friends, love them and love them hard. Make sure this circle of friends encourages, challenges and has each other’s backs. Reflecting on my teenage years, I’m glad I had a few friends that I trusted who made high school a memorable experience.

Challenge Yourself

Find something that’s challenging and work hard at learning and growing. Many times, I stayed within my comfort zone in high school, being afraid to fail. Failing and retrying leads to one of the most important things you can develop which is a strong work ethic. What will become quickly apparent to many is not trying, being afraid to fail and always walking the paved path.

Chase A Dream

Write your dreams down, visit those dreams often and chase them with an unrelenting passion. When you’re twenty, thirty or forty the lion inside you will thank you.

Save

Learn this skill now. This is one skill I am thankful I learned early during my teenage years. Fund your savings account. Invest in stocks. Start a mutual fund. Contribute to the investments with half of whatever you earn. This will not only help you to prepare for your future but will teach you good spending habits.

Becoming an Adult is Hard

As you embark on your teenage years there will be many times where it may seem difficult, frustrating, but also exciting. However, in the grand scheme of things these years are so simple. You know these years will fly by as you have witnessed with your sister. But ultimately, be the best version of you.

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.

Reading Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”

Reading Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”

I love to read. Since retiring, I joined two book clubs and thoroughly love both. I find myself reading novels I didn’t even know existed and enjoy the challenge of learning and living within each book.

I’ve always wanted to read a book with my grandkids, but unfortunately reading is a school assignment to them. There have been times where I read the same books as my granddaughters. When the Harry Potter book series was published I purposely read the novels at the same time as my granddaughters. Unfortunately, my grandson was not as interested in the wizarding world, so once again he was left out.

The girls and I really enjoyed the process of ready and discussing the Harry Potter series. We celebrated by going to see the movies together. As I recall, we didn’t read the entire series, but reading, discussing and watching the movies together was priceless. I often wonder if we would ever read a book together again.

This holiday season I finally got the chance to restart the family book club with Michelle Obama’s Becoming.

Restarting the Family Book Club

This holiday season one of my granddaughters saw my book club list on the kitchen counter. She was surprised I was reading Becoming by Michelle Obama for that month’s book club meeting. My granddaughter had heard of the book in school and even asked to borrow it! 

Oh my! Could this be happening? Were my ears deceiving me?

Yes, my family book club was happening again! Even if our family book club only had two members and read this one book, I would’ve been thrilled! 

After reading the book we came together with our thoughts and questions about Becoming. I was very curious to see her discussion topics and questions. Amazingly, she left politics almost completely out of the picture, preferring to focus on the process of “becoming” or changing. What defined a becoming moment for Michelle Obama? What life changes and the emotions that followed led to those big moments of becoming? 

Our “Becoming” Moments

It was a great discussion. We reflected on our individual becoming moments. What led to those moments and how did they help make us the people we are today?

Sports were a predominant theme for my granddaughter’s becomings. A coach who really pushed her to the next level, a teammate who made her laugh, yet focus too. Those specific moments helped her pause and reflect on how these individuals shaped her into the person she is today. 

Although I am further along in my life, I shared with her that I, too, am still changing through my own becoming moments. I hope I never stop.

My granddaughter and I are similar in our passion for our community and helping others, but the process of becoming as a grandma is different from becoming as a grandchild.

My granddaughter’s mentors are challenging her to become an adult in a new and exciting world. I, on the other hand, have mentors my same age. We still challenge each other to learn, but it’s different. I no longer strive to be the best educator in the world now that I am retired. My focus is now on those becomings which can transform me into a better and more loving grandmother to my grandchildren and support them through their becoming moments. 

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.

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.

Breaking Through to My Grandkids

Breaking Through to My Grandkids

For many reasons, communicating with teenaged grandkids can be difficult. I know I’m a lucky grandma because my grandkids live near me in Lincoln. However, I still don’t get a chance to see them as often as I would like, and even though I can see my grandkids every day, I may not be communicating very well. As my grandkids continue to get older and become more independent, I’m finding that I need to adjust my expectations to stay in touch.

Feeling Out of the Loop

I always thought of myself as adaptable, but adjusting to less communication with my grandkids was not something I ever anticipated.

My grandkids’ lives are different than they were in elementary and middle school. Now, they’re on their phones, they drive, they work, they study, they’re in sports, and sometimes they even have a “special” friend. I am not complaining! All my grandkids are growing into hard-working, young adults and they make me proud each and every day. However, maintaining quality conversations amongst all these distractions is hard.

I assumed my grandkids would always want to see their grandma and tell her what was going on in their lives. I still think my grandkids want to see me and talk to me, but I’m now competing for other things that need their attention like school, work and friends. I get it. These are life skills, which will turn them into wonderful, caring adults but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

In the Good Ol’ Days

As I write this blog, I’m reflecting back on my days as a teenager and my relationship with my grandparents. (Hmm, maybe I should have reflected on this before I started writing this blog!)

My greatest memories of my grandparents were when I was in elementary school. I would help my maternal grandmother work in her garden and she’d let me eat peas right out of the pods. I’m sure I made a dent in her yield! I remember visiting my paternal grandparents’ farm and learning how to collect eggs from the chicken coup. Collecting eggs, while avoiding the chicken poop, was always a challenge.

When I grew up and started high school, there were movies to see and friends to meet at the swimming pool or on the ice pond for skating. And, yes, I even did some studying. Come to think of it, maybe things aren’t so different?

Turning the Corner

There is something different now: technology. The phones, the texting, the instant communication has made it easier than ever to stay within arm’s length. So, maybe I don’t have it so bad after all? My grandkids don’t usually initiate a text, but they always respond when I send one.

This blog is certainly not ending as I intended. I think I’m ending it with my first, and maybe only, New Year’s resolution, albeit a little late. From now on, I’ll text each grandkid at least three times a week, but rather than telling them what I’m doing, or asking them questions about their day, I will just send them a positive statement. Something like what my grandparents said to me:

  • I’m grateful for you.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I love being your grandma.
  • I believe in you.
  • You are important.
  • You make me proud.

I’m not going to feel sorry for myself that I can’t speak to my grandkids as much as I want. I feel loved, needed and eager to show my grandkids how much I love them. Some things may have changed, but luckily some things will always be the same.

So, forget the Debbie Downer form of me in the first part of this blog. Focus on the positives, love your grandkids, and remember, you’ll need to change just as much as them!

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.

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.

Returning Gifts Online: Tips for Senior Citizens

Returning Gifts Online: Tips for Senior Citizens

When your grandkids are older, you no longer ask their parents what they’d like for Christmas and birthdays; you go straight to the source. Maybe they’ll tell you what they really want, but are afraid to ask for it from their parents. Perhaps I’m still waiting for the day when they say, “Nothing, Grandma. Just to connect more with you.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

When I asked the grandkids what they wanted for Christmas, I immediately received a string of texts from them with the picture, website and description of the item they wanted.

They were all so patient with me and explained everything in more detail. Unfortunately, everything I asked was already in a previous text. Multiple messages later, I can just hear them telling their friends, “Oh my gosh! My grandma is so slow!”

I did my best this year to follow everyone’s suggestions. I found the website, and did my best to pick out the perfect size, perfect color and perfect gift. I felt so proud knowing I made the appropriate online orders for everyone this holiday season.

I try to set a limit to the amount of money I spend on each grandkid, equal amounts for everyone. It isn’t always perfect, but I make it darn close. I work on making sure each grandkid has at least four presents under the tree. A pair of sneakers can be over $100, so I have to be careful. Sometimes I can find a sale and include three sweaters in one package. The kids understand and acknowledge my efforts with joyous laughter…or is it mockery?

All the gifts arrived at our home in time for me to wrap and add them to the bounty of gifts beneath the tree. Christmas morning came and our family had a great celebration. This year, I went two for two in the gift department. Two grandkids didn’t have to return a thing! Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, two grandkids weren’t so lucky. I had to google how to return these gifts. Turns out returning gifts online is a little more complicated – even more so when you’re a senior citizen. Let me tell you, it’s tough.

Here are some tips I found:

  1. Don’t open the box.
  2. Keep all the gift receipts.
  3. Check the return policy.
  4. Have or bring your ID.

I bought two polo shirts from Macy’s online. They were on sale. Yippee! They didn’t fit. Bummer. I think I’ll get reimbursed, but I bought a replacement shirt at Von Maur in the right size just in case. So much for a two-for-one.

As for the Adidas tennis shoes I bought online: Even though I ordered the requested size, they were the wrong size. I ordered new ones and returned the old. So far, so good. However, the second pair was also the wrong size! Now I can’t find the second order number or the email. I think I’m ready to hit my own personal delete button. Okay, maybe it’s not all that bad, but I’m out of my league. Tomorrow, I’m heading to the actual Adidas Store.

After all this, I have some of my own tips to add to my Google list for grandparents:

  1. Keep track of your orders and texts from your grandkids.
  2. Print off your email confirmations, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.
  3. When in doubt, blame the grandkids. I think this is the best tip of all. I did nothing wrong, it’s all their fault.
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.

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