To the Parents of the Boy Whose Son Punched my Son

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Last month, two of our sons went to a week-long mountain biking camp that has an excellent reputation. We assumed that they were having a great time and learning great skills and maybe even making new friends. The evening that we drove down to pick them up, we learned that they had both been bullied while at the camp and it had been a pretty miserable experience.

They heard a lot of swearing (which sad to say, is probably to be expected given the age of the boys at the camp) and heard some words that to quote them “we don’t know what they mean, but I think they are very bad”. They both seemed upset and anxious to get out of there, so while one of them stood in line with me to get his medication, the other went with my husband to retrieve his belongings from his cabin.

To the parents of the boy who punched my son in the face... (an open letter)Image Copyright: mediagram / 123RF Stock Photo

My husband waited outside the cabin while our son (the quieter and gentler by far of the two) went inside. Very shortly after, he came out obviously distraught and in a near panic. My husband was able to extract from him that a boy from another cabin had been inside and had punched him in the face. He told my husband the name of the boy and pointed him out. By this time, the boy was standing over by his parents.

My husband is not a confrontational man, but given the circumstances, he approached the boy and asked him if he had punched his son in the face. He admitted to it, without offering an apology and his parents stood by, unwilling to even make eye contact with my husband or look over at our son, who by that point was in tears.

This is what I would like to say to the parents of the boy whose son punched mine in the face:

When you learned what your son had done, you both looked away, not wanting to meet my husband’s eye, not even mumbling an “I’m sorry”. You might think this reaction would make us feel angry, but it doesn’t.

I get it. I am the mom of some kids who are challenging. I suspect from your reaction that maybe this isn’t the first time your son has hit someone. The news didn’t seem to shock you.

Maybe you sent him to camp for the week so that you could get a break from the behaviour issues or the attitude or the constant power struggles. Maybe you were already feeling weary knowing that the break had not been long enough.

Maybe you were hoping that a week at a rugged adventure camp in the mountains where kids learn more about God would spark new hope for your son and therefore, for your family, and seeing that there had been no change in his heart crushed you.

Maybe you were just so tired of dealing with conflict with him (and because of him) that you just couldn’t face one more.

I get it. I’ve been there. Maybe not right where you are because I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of your situation, but I’ve been in dark places in my parenting life where it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel and I questioned what I had done to have caused the decisions one of our kids was making.

At one point, I spoke only of parenting in terms like “surviving until they’re grown” and “getting through”. Those were bleak days.

I wish you had talked to us that day that your son punched ours because I think you would have found that instead of judgment and anger, you would have found kinship and understanding.

This parenting thing is hard. HARD.

What I really want to tell you is this: There can be joy found in parenting even kids who seek out trouble or make poor choices. There can be hope for your family to find moments of peace. I’m praying for you. We forgive your son and our soft-spoken, gentle boy forgives him too.

P.S. I am not one of those moms who thinks her kids are blameless and perfect and I’m sure there are two sides to the story. Had it been one of our other sons, he would have punched back and then this would be a different conversation!

An open letter to the parents of the boy who punched my sonFor other parenting articles, you may be interested in following my Parenting board on Pinterest or subscribe to my email newsletter.

Bubble Paint Body Slam

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My kids are not the most sedentary kids…in fact, they are always moving. They enjoy art activities but they like them best when they combine movement with art.

I had some packing materials and came up with an idea that would re-use those and get the kids moving while they created. Bubble Paint Body Slam - My kids would love this! Gross motor meets sensory equals art.Materials needed:

To create this fun activity, tape the butcher paper to a wall. I strongly suggest that you do this activity outside. If you do try this indoors, be sure to cover the floor in scrap paper or plastic to catch paint splatters.

I wasn’t sure how high up my kids would be able to jump so I taped two sheets of paper, one on top of the other on a wall outside our house.

Next, wrap your kids in bubble wrap and secure the bubble wrap with a piece of packing tape. I only had enough bubble wrap to do their torsos. Paint the bubble wrap using paintbrushes, sponges or foam brushes. It works best if you put the paint on a paper plate or paint tray first.

I globbed several colours onto each of my girls and then let them loose on the wall. They body slammed themselves into the wall, laughing. They tried different techniques like jumping up to hit a higher place on the paper and different smear methods. They were laughing through most of the activity, so I think it’s safe to say this was an active art project they very much enjoyed!

I also painted their backs (well, the bubble wrap on their backs!) afterwards and they gave that a try. One of them actually found it easier that way.

Bubble Paint Body SlamI would suggest that you used your child’s height to eyeball what level to tape up the paper. Our finished results would have looked better had they been on one paper instead of two but regardless of how the final artwork turned out, the kids had a great time and got in some good exercise!

Bubble Paint Body Slam Art and Gross Motor Activity for KidsThis kids’ activity is great for sensory work, but Granola Girl did need to have her bubble wrap put lower down because having it up near her face was not something that she could handle with her type of sensory needs. Thankfully, my kids are all really good at expressing what their sensory needs are so it wasn’t an issue. She also wanted to be wrapped up tightly and loved the feeling of that.

This bubble paint body slam art is still hanging outside with the girls being quite proud of their work!

If you can't get your child to hold still long enough to complete an art project, these fun, active ideas are for you!

Cotton Ball Throw PaintingFor other fun ideas, follow my Kids’ Activities board on Pinterest and sign up for email updates.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board Kids’ Activities on Pinterest.

25 Soup Recipes to Keep You Warm This Winter

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Even though it comes around every year, winter seems to sneak up on me every time. Where we live, winter is COLD, the kind of cold that makes you want to curl up under a blanket in front of the fireplace and not move until Spring.

On those cold winter days, a steaming hot bowl of hearty soup seems to hit the spot. We eat soup year-round because I find that it’s an easy meal in terms of preparation, especially when made ahead and frozen and then heated in the crock pot. It’s also a good way to get a fair bit of variety into one meal, with some soup recipes having vegetables, meat and starches in one dish.

I’ve gathered this collection of some of our favourite soup recipes for winter (or any other time of year). I chose these particular recipes because they are filling and can be a meal on their own and some of them include ingredients that are seasonal for Fall or Winter. Many of them are gluten free, which is great for our family since one of our sons is gluten-free.25 Soup Recipes that will help keep you warm this winter!

25 Soup Recipes that will help keep you warm this winter!If you are looking for other great meal ideas, you may be interested in signing up for my weekly newsletters where I share tried and true recipes and following my Family Friendly Recipes board on Pinterest.

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beef and chicken dump recipes

Supporting a Family Whose Child is in the Hospital

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For four years, our daughter, Miss Optimism, battled a lung disease. For four years, she was in and out of the hospital. For four years, we worried that we would lose our precious little girl.

It was one of the hardest seasons we’ve walked through in our lives. Miraculously, we were able to find a medication that turned things around for her. We take her every two weeks to get two injections and other than that, her life has been pretty normal for a number of years now, but we are always aware how blessed we are to have her here with us and to have her healthy.

Ways to support a family whose child is in the hospital or has a chronic illness. This is a really great list.The days of monitoring her every breath, of middle of the night rushes in to Emergency, of surgeries and test results, of night nurses in our home, of our minutes being led by lung function numbers and of wondering if today could be her last are behind us and I am so thankful.

Those years spent in worry and with the stress of trying to juggle her health crisis with raising our other kids and managing day to day life are still easy to bring to memory so I thought I would use our experience to help other families who are living through a similar time now.

I have compiled this list of ways of supporting a family whose child is in the hospital or suffering a chronic or terminal illness to help family and friends best support them. I wish there had been a list like this when we were in our crisis so that I could have pointed others to it when they asked what they could do to help.

I created this list with the help of my friends Shannon and Lindsay. Shannon’s beautiful daughter spent her first 6 months in hospital after being born at 25 weeks gestation and has undergone many surgeries and long hospital stays since then. Lindsay’s little guy bravely battled cancer as a young preschooler and won. I’m honoured to know these amazing women and I’m glad that they were willing to share their insight to help others.

Ideas for supporting a family whose child is in the hospital:

Reassure them that they are good parents.

When they have to hold their child down for a painful medical procedure or make difficult decisions in which no one answer seems like the right one, they will be questioning their worth as a parent. They need reassurance.

Offer to watch the other kids.

I cannot emphasize this one enough. It is impossible to be in two places at one time and as the parent of a sick child, your heart is at the hospital. Not being able to be there with your child because you have to watch your other kids is torturous. Mind you, when you’re at the hospital, you’re also battling guilt for not being with your other kids. Offering to help with child care lightens the load for the family.

Take the other kids to do something fun.

The siblings of a sick child are also affected by things that at a young age, they should not be thinking about such as worrying about their parents and worrying about their brother or sister. They are also wrestling with mixed feelings because they may feel selfish for wanting more of their parents’ attention when they know why the sibling is getting it.

The parents are also feeling a tremendous amount of guilt for what their other kids are going through and what they are missing out on. Taking the other children to do something fun, even just going to a playground for a few hours will not only take their minds off things for awhile, it will take some of the burden of guilt off the parents.

Bring meals.

Going grocery shopping and cooking are low on the priority list for the family at this point. Bring a dinner or drop off some freezer meals. You can even get together with others who know the family and organize making a lot of freezer meals for them. (You can make ten beef dump or chicken dump recipes in one hour.)beef and chicken dump recipes

If cooking isn’t your thing, bring a pizza gift card or a grocery gift card. Drop off a jug of milk and loaf of bread.

Give money.

Until you’ve been there, you don’t realize how expensive it is to have a child in the hospital. The cost of parking alone is enough to cripple a budget. Then there are expenses like gas to drive to and from the hospital, meals, lost wages, and child care for the other kids. Since we are Canadian, the only addition medical expenses we incurred were prescriptions (and that was hundreds of dollars a month), but in most countries, there is also the cost of medical bills from the hospital stay.

A family whose child is battling illness has enough to worry about without the added stress of finances. Give what you can or pay for a hospital parking pass or gift card for food nearby or gas station gift card. If the family doesn’t have insurance, a larger fundraiser may be needed.

Offer to be the contact person.

It is so helpful for the family if there is one person who can field phone calls, pass on information, update facebook pages, pass along prayer needs, manage Carepages, organize meal needs, pick up donations, etc.

It can become exhausting for the family to have to repeat the same updates over and over, particularly if the news is not positive.

Be a shoulder.

Be there to listen. Simple as that. You don’t need to have the answers or to have been there yourself to just listen.

Don’t shut them out.

Be a friend by still talking to them about what’s going on in your life. You may feel like your trials are trivial compared to theirs and therefore not want to share, but they need distractions and they need to feel as normal as possible. Shutting them out of your life will not protect them. It will only add more hurt.

Bring the fun to them.

While they may not be able to attend dinners out or events, go to their home or the hospital just to hang out with them. It gets lonely there. I used to long for adult company. Bring a laptop with a funny movie or come armed with jokes! Distraction can be a good thing.

Offer to bring food.

If you are going to the hospital to visit (much appreciated by the way), ask if you can stop and bring them some food. When our daughter was at her sickest, I didn’t want to leave her side so I could only eat when visitors would bring me food. Sometimes even just a tea from a familiar coffee shop brought a sense of normalcy and comfort.

Bring something for the child who is sick.

This does not need to be extravagant. This can be as simple as a homemade card or sign with their name on it. It will show their parents and the child that you are thinking of them. It doesn’t hurt to bring something for the other kids too. They are feeling pretty left out as it is.

One year when Miss Optimism had been in and out of the hospital a lot and was not allowed to go outside for many months, a blog reader of mine sent a huge box of books, crafts and activities to keep her busy and cheer her up. She included a board game that all the kids could play, a few treats for the other kids and even some hot chocolate mix for me. It was such a blessing and an encouragement!

Tell the family you are praying for them.

And then actually pray. It’s been my experience that even families who are not faith-based appreciate all the prayers they can get when they are in this type of crisis. You can’t really go wrong with this one.

Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The family want people close to them to be informed and able to help in any way they can. Do be sensitive though.

One day when we had gotten some hard news about our daughter, a friend texted and asked me what her life expectancy was and whether or not she would be able to have children. Those were not questions I felt were appropriate to ask via text message and was paralyzed by the thought of typing an answer.

Sit with their child.

If you come to visit, offer to stay for a bit with the child so that the parent can go to the bathroom, have a shower, go for a walk, go get something to eat, make a phone call in private, or get some fresh air. Those are things most people take for granted but they are hard to come by during a hospital stay.

Ask what you can do.

Maybe they need you to tackle their laundry pile. The family still needs to wear clothes and chances are, that pile is rising by the day and just another source of stress for them. Maybe there are errands that need to be run or things that need to be fixed around the house.

Team up with others.

Of there is a group of you, sit down and figure out who would like to do what and come up with a schedule. That way, the family’s needs can be met and in a more organized way (though disorganized help is still appreciated!).

Be there on big days.

On big days like test results or surgeries, offer to go and sit with the family during the wait. And then, just be there. Hold their hand.

Treat the child who is sick normally.

The child battling illness is still a child. They need to have as much normalcy as possible and that starts with the way others treat them. Talk to them. If hospital policy allows it and the parents agree that it would be a good idea, bring your children to visit them too. Hospitals can be lonely places.

Help their marriage.

Offer to watch the other kids or stay at the hospital with the child who is sick so that the parents can have a date night. Divorce rates are higher among families who have children with a chronic or terminal illness and helping them to protect their marriage is important. Acknowledge the need for them to still be a married couple in the midst of everything they are going through.

Be places they can’t be.

Chauffeuring their other children to lessons or appointments or events, videoing performances and recitals for the parents to watch later. These things are invaluable.

Help with paperwork or note taking.

Often especially early on after a diagnosis, it can be hard for family members to process and remember what doctors are saying. Having someone there to take notes during meetings with the medical team can be very helpful. Also, having someone write a list of questions they want to ask the doctors during the next meeting is a help as well.

Along with a hospital stay comes paperwork. Helping the family fill that out can also lighten the load.

Sitting with one of the parents and helping them come up with a to-do list and then helping them decide how to delegate those tasks is a blessing.

Comprehensive list of ways to help a family whose child is in the hospitalOther ways to help:

  • clean their vehicle. It can become a dumping ground with all the trips to and from the hospital.
  • buy groceries/stock their pantry (healthy food options help reduce parent’s guilt)
  • summer: water grass, maintain their garden, mow the lawn
  • winter: shovel snow
  • vehicle maintenance including oil changes and gassing up
  • lend an iPad or eReader if they don’t have one
  • go to the Nurse’s station with the parent’s questions if they don’t want to leave their child’s side
  • make and deliver healthy lunches to the school where the other kids go or organize some make ahead school lunches. This daily chore can be overwhelming for parents who are hardly ever home.
  • when visiting the hospital, recognize if the parents are needing rest and keep visits short
  • on hospital visits, keep the noise level down, be respectful of other patients in shared rooms, be kind to hospital staff as your treatment of them reflects on the family
  • make them a playlist of uplifting music
  • double check to see if they have a phone charger and bring one if they don’t. In emergency situations, there isn’t time to grab a charger on your way out and it is so needed in the hospital.
  • give treats to parents – iTunes gift card, lotions, chocolate, snacks, family movie passes