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.

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.

The Times They Are A Changin’: Parenting in My Forties

The Times They Are A Changin’: Parenting in My Forties

For many of our family birthdays, they are just another normal day, coming and going each year. However, as my birthday gets closer, I’m starting to reflect and reminisce about my life through these decades. From entering my twenties to passing through the thirties, I’m now beginning a new decade. Not just any decade, the “over the hill” decade—my forties. Yet, I’m not dreading it. I welcome it. Read More

The Dreaded Chores

The Dreaded Chores

Chores. One of the most dreaded words around our house. Let it be known, I have already won the “Worst Mom” of the year award. According to our children, I am the only mom who assigns these tasks; however, I find this statement hard to believe. Despite their protests, I firmly believe there is a place for a daily chore list—a frame of mind that developed during my own childhood. Read More

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