There are Mean Girls in Adulthood Too

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The other day I went on a homeschool field trip with some of my kids. There were a few friendly faces there, moms I’ve seen at one homeschool event or another over the years and a few new faces too. I remember what it used to feel like when I would attend events as a new homeschooler and not know anyone, so I always try to reach out and make others feel welcome, whether it’s a just a friendly smile or a small attempt at making conversation. I asked one of the new moms how old her daughter was and she smiled when giving her response and I could almost feel her exhale of relief at someone having made the effort to talk to her.

There are mean girls and bullies in adulthood too. But you can use it as a teaching tool to help your kids navigate their own "mean girls" experiences.Image Copyright: keeweeboy / 123RF Stock Photo

I had noticed a mom earlier who was perfect put-together, hair and make-up done, with seemingly perfectly behaved children and THEIR hair was combed neatly. All of them, mom included had outfits. Not clothes like my thrown together look of old runners, worn-thin-long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans, but outfits. They all looked like they had stepped off the pages of a magazine. And I was intimidated. Because I don’t have outfits, don’t even own any, wouldn’t know how to put one together.

My kids used to have outfits and neatly combed hair but that was years ago and now my only goal is to get them out the door fed. I don’t even check to see that they aren’t still wearing their pyjamas because frankly, I’m pretty ok if they are seen in public in their pyjamas. Over the years I’ve discovered that there are worse things than your kids being in their pyjamas or a Princess costume in public.

As for my kids’ behaviour, it’s pretty unpredictable even in public and I couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be a meltdown right there in that lobby, so I didn’t really want to approach that mom with the seemingly perfectly behaved children with the lovely coordinating outfits and recently combed hair.

I felt like I would be judged for my appearance or for my kids’ appearance. I took a quick glance over at one of my daughters whose hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in a few days (to be clear, it probably looked that way because it hadn’t) and started noticing the “outfits” my kids had seen fit to put together for themselves that morning and kind of wanted to shrink into the floor.

Then I reminded myself of all the wonderful friends I’ve met over the years at homeschool events because I walked up and started talking to someone who looked a bit lonely or like they felt out of place. I took a breath and walked over to say ‘hello’ and it wasn’t well received. She really did look at me in a disapproving way and gave signals that there was to be no further conversation. It brought up my insecurities.

I felt like I did the time in high school when everyone owned a Club Monaco sweatshirt and the yearbook committee was taking a photo in the gym in a Where’s Waldo style of everyone wearing their Club Monaco sweatshirt except that I didn’t own one.

I stayed at the field trip for awhile and felt awkward and silly and halfway through, I quietly excused myself and went to the library to work on my computer and try to stop feeling like I had made a mistake by talking to the put-together lady.

The thing is, she wasn’t mean to me. She wasn’t nice either, but she wasn’t overtly mean. For all I know, she was having a bad day or is an extreme introvert or is very shy. I’m not the least bit upset with her but it made me think about the times in my life when people have been mean.

I was bullied by a girl all throughout my elementary and junior high years. It started in Kindergarten. I wasn’t her only target but she was relentless. I had great friends and good teachers but this girl’s bullying made me dread going to school to the point of sometimes feeling physically ill. She had a couple of sidekicks in junior high that helped her spread rumours and call me names and it couldn’t help but affect how I saw myself.

High school was an overall great experience for me without the bullying I had encountered up to that point and with a great group of friends, but I still saw mean girls there and saw how they could be to others. I accepted it as “girls are just like that” and “there’s nothing more vicious than a hormonal teen girl”. I thought that once I got out of school and into the real world, there would not be any more mean girls because surely women would be respectful of each other.

As an adult, I discovered that women can be rude and gossipy and backstabbing and cliquey and just plain old mean. They can spread rumours about you or tell you that your bum is getting wider or not invite you to events that everyone else in your friend circle is invited to. They can bash your parenting behind your back or straight to your face.

Someone you considered a close friend can tell you that your choice to adopt is going to ruin your ‘real’ children. Someone who may have once been a family member can try to sabotage your marriage (true story). People can try to get you to take sides in their ‘fights’ with mutual friends. They can put you down in an attempt to build themselves up. They can be jealous and catty and cruel.

Mean Girls FBbut…There are women who are so kind and loyal and beautiful, who help each other and give of their hearts and their time and their talents. There are women who I am so blessed to know that I have met in all kinds of strange ways, including taking the risk and going up and talking to a stranger. These women have my back. They are encouraging and inspiring and real. They make me prayerfully consider my important choices and call me on my missteps when needed, but can also make me laugh until I cry. I feel so privileged to have them in my life. Their generosity and kindness far outweighs any negative experiences I’ve had in the past.

As an adult though, I have choices that as a child confined to a classroom I did not. I can choose to surround myself with people who accept me for who I am, fashion cluelessness and all. I have sometimes had to make the difficult decision to remove a toxic person from my life. I tried to do so as gracefully as I could, but my life is better for it. I can choose to assume that the lady at the homeschool field trip was judging me or I can assume that she has her own issues which may just be that she is shy and that her reaction had nothing to do with me.

I can choose to be a good friend and model what being a good friend means for my children. When my kids encounter a “mean girl”, I help them discover if it’s really a character issue as in the case with my childhood bully or simply someone who is socially awkward or shy. Above all, I have the opportunity to teach them that there are many people in the world who enrich our lives and I can help them to seek those kinds of people out. I can teach my girls (and boys) to surround themselves by the givers, and above all, to be givers themselves.

Asthma Almost Took our Daughter

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of a Canadian leading research based pharmaceutical company. All opinions are 100% mine.

This past weekend, we took our kids to see the movie Miracles from Heaven. It was a great movie, but for me, it brought back some intensely painful memories of the years that our daughter was sick. In the movie, there is a scene where the mom, played by Jennifer Garner, climbs into the backseat with her daughter as they frantically rush her to the hospital in the night. That brought me back to a similar scene that played out in our home. Miss Optimism had been rapidly getting worse and there came a point where she could hardly breathe. Her lips were blue and she was coughing so hard that she threw up over and over again.

We called my mom to come and watch the other kids who were all asleep. In those next minutes, things got so scary that we left home before my mom arrived because the danger of leaving our sleeping kids alone for eight minutes was so much less than the danger our daughter was in. I climbed into the backseat with her and Mark rushed us to the hospital. There were times along the drive where we almost called an ambulance because her breathing was so laboured. I prayed all the way there, begging God to let her live. When we arrived at the hospital, Mark ran in carrying her and she was immediately given oxygen and IV medications to save her life. This is the face of asthma. The name doesn't sound very scary but it almost took our sweet girl. Find out how you can protect those you love.The other part in the movie that I could relate to almost too well was when the mom stood her ground and refused to leave the hospital until she got answers for her daughter. I several times have had to do the same. Very early on in our daughter’s illness when she was only about four years old, the Emergency room wanted to discharge her even though she was still having a hard time breathing and I did not feel that she was yet at a point where I could care for her at home. They insisted that I take her home even though she was still so sick. I called a friend from the parking lot as soon as we were discharged asking her to pray for us. That friend happened to know a paediatric pulmonary specialist who is the best in our area and I drove straight from the hospital to his office. I will forever be convinced that that phone call saved our daughter’s life.

We had been having a hard time finding a doctor who would take her case seriously. She had at that point been diagnosed with asthma, but the general feeling of the doctors in the Emergency rooms we had visited seemed to be that because she was rarely wheezy, it was mild asthma. As it turns out, our daughter suffered from a condition called silent asthma. With silent asthma, there is rarely any wheezing but the airway constricts very quickly and it is often more severe. When we arrived at that specialist’s office after hours that fateful day, our daughter’s lung function was just 23%. We had just been discharged from the hospital and had I driven home per their instructions, we very well could have lost her.

For those who think of asthma as “just asthma”, it may surprise them to know that “an estimated 235 million people around the globe suffer from asthma and this number is rising. World-wide, deaths from this condition have reached over 250,000 annually. In Canada, approximately 20 children and 500 adults die each year from asthma.” according to the Asthma Society of Canada.

Over the course of the next few years, Miss Optimism was followed very closely by her specialist and had many more Emergency room visits. There was a time when we were seeing her specialist several times a week and she was even admitted to the hospital for extended stays on a few occasions. We tried many different regimens for managing her asthma, but her health remained precarious.

Miss Optimism’s body produces too many IGEs, which are the antibodies that react to allergens, so for much of the year, it was dangerous for her to go outside as just breathing the air could trigger an asthma attack. Her lung function remained dangerously low and we needed to give her asthma treatments around the clock. There was one year where the treatments had to be every hour and a half around the clock and I grew so tired that we had a night nurse come three nights a week so that I could catch up on sleep and she could administer the treatments.

Miss Optimism was essentially allergic to the world around her and as she watched her brothers and sisters play outside and go camping without her, we worried about her quality of life and even about her dying. There were times that her lips would be blue and she would struggle so much to breathe that I thought I might lose my precious girl. She is such a gift to us that I could not imagine my life without her infectious positivity and her caring heart.

Her doctor and nurse were amazing through all of it. They went above and beyond for her and for our family and never stopped looking for answers. Her doctor even gave us his home phone number to call in emergencies. When we reached the lowest point of her illness and were living every day in fear of losing her, they found a solution. They changed her treatment and that changed our lives.

Before asthma, Miss Optimism had been an active, outgoing, happy girl who never sat still. After asthma, she still had that same spunky personality but her life became limited and her fear grew. After proper treatment, that active, fearless girl came back and now shines brighter than ever. asthma health transformationWe can now go on family vacations. Miss Optimism can go camping and roast marshmallows over a campfire. She was so allergic to animals before that she couldn’t be near them, but this past summer, she went to horse camp for a week. The child who used to not be able to go in our backyard is now taking weekly horse lessons! I could never have dreamed of her life and ours being this full.

I am so thankful that her asthma is now stable and properly managed, but I want to get the word out about the dangers of asthma and the importance of accessing medical care for the symptoms. There is now an easy 30 Second Asthma Test you can take online to see if your asthma is controlled. Discovering that your asthma is not as controlled as you thought it was could save your life. Please consult a healthcare professional with your results. Please spread the word about this simple test as managing this illness is critical.

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Easy Traditions to Build Family Connection

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Family connections aren’t made in the big momentous times like holidays and vacations and theme parks. They are made in the almost imperceptible milliseconds of day-to-day life. They form when a boo-boo is kissed or covered with a band-aid, when a momma sings her baby to sleep, when siblings make up after a quarrel, when memories are recalled, when an inside joke sends everyone into fits of giggles. They are made in the living.

Easy traditions you can incorporate into your life to help build family connection and create memoriesImage Copyright: get4net / 123RF Stock Photo

There is something about family that cannot be found anywhere else. The feeling of belonging, of knowing that you can be accepted for who you are, in your worst and in your best. Family connection is crucial for laying a foundation for our children for their future relationships and how they interact with the world.

If you ask someone about their family traditions, they most likely think of holiday traditions for Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving or Hannukah. Those traditions help shape how we view those holidays and can even impact how we view ourselves as they can help give us that sense of belonging, but everyday family traditions can be just as impactful.

When I was thinking about this idea of everyday family traditions, at first, only a few came to mind, but I soon realized that we have all kinds of little things we do that set us apart from other families, little habits or games that we’ve invented that help define us as a unit.

Guess how many seconds – this is our waiting game. When we are in a restaurant or doctor’s office and we notice the kids getting a bit antsy, we ask everyone to guess how many seconds they think it will be until the food comes or the doctor arrives. When everyone has put in their guess, we s-l-o-w-l-y, slowly count all together. What the kids don’t realize is that this act of counting slowly together is actually very calming and they also keep their minds of their impatience or hunger. The person who is closest in their guess without going over wins. Their prize=just being the winner and yet, this game totally works.

Family language – all families develop their own language over time. It often stems from words a small child can’t pronounce properly that other family members think is adorable and they all begin to refer to it using that word. In our family, there are several words that came about that way and there are also quite a few Amharic words (two of our children were born in Ethiopia), some Dutch words (my husband is Dutch), and some shortened words that everyone understands the meaning of even if they make no sense to anyone else. Oddly enough, no French words have made it into our family language even though I am fluent in French. We all know that the “backie” is the “backyard” for when Jonah was little and couldn’t say the full word. We all call washcloths “dookies” for the Dutch word even though we now know that word also means something else less pleasant.

Photo albums – I used to scrapbook a lot prior to blogging and we have over 50 photo albums. The kids spend hours poring over them. Although this may not exactly be a family tradition, it contributes to our family culture and feeling of unity as we reflect on memories together.

The You Are Special plate – We were given two You Are Special plates as a gift after our last adoption. We set one out for the birthday boy or girl on their birthday of course, but we also use them to celebrate things like a child getting their driver’s license or first job, completing a project they worked hard on or another accomplishment that needs to be celebrated.

Family Fun Nights – A few times a year, I plan a really fun family fun night with themes like Minute to Win It, Just for Laughs and The Tooth Fairy Forgot. We also have smaller family fun nights that I throw together at the last minute where we may just play board games together or snuggle up and watch a special movie.

Bedtime – When we tuck the kids in, we have a routine that we follow that is very simple but consists of things like asking them about their day, praying with them and sometimes giving them a back scratch or reading them a story.

Suppertime – Every day at supper, we go around the table and answer the question “what is the best thing that happened to you today?”. We used to also ask what the worst thing was but it turned into a sibling tattling fest so we stopped that years ago! We also don’t allow cell phones at the table. It is supposed to be a time of family connection.

Birthday supper – On our kids’ birthdays, we have a family birthday supper where the kids get to pick anything they want to eat. And I really mean anything. They can choose items that don’t go together at all or an all dessert supper. They’ve chosen some pretty creative combinations over the years!

Friday night dance party – This is something we used to do every Friday night. Now we only do it once in awhile but the kids all have fond memories from it and sometimes have their own dance parties with each other. We would just put music on and dance or sometimes use Just Dance (which is super fun in a group) or watch how-to videos on YouTube.

Vacation ornaments – This one is somewhat related to our Christmas traditions but when we go on a big family vacation, I buy a Christmas ornament to help us remember the trip. When we put up our tree, we can reminisce about those holidays as we hang the ornaments.

easy family traditions squareImage Copyright: patriziatilly / 123RF Stock Photo

Other ideas for family traditions:

  • secret handshakes
  • quote notebook – a journal where you record cute things your kids say and the date
  • annual family portrait
  • family walk
  • weekly pizza and movie night
  • weekly board game challenge
  • watch home videos together
  • plant a tree to commemorate special occasions such as graduation
  • have brunch together every Sunday
  • family sing-along
  • choreograph a dance together and then pull out your moves at weddings and parties
  • write notes in their daily lunches
  • group hugs
  • family motto or theme song
  • mother-child or father-child dates
  • annual family time capsule
  • serving together in the community
  • annual measurements on the door frame or wall

I asked some of the bloggers that I know what their family traditions were to help give you even more ideas. 

“We have family nights every Friday. We have a big slumber party, watch movies, play games, have a special dinner or snacks. We stay up late too! Weekly vacation!” ~ Alison, Pint-Sized Treasures

“With the change in every season, on the equinoxes and solstices, we always celebrate by getting outside and connecting with nature. We also light candles and talk about what we did in the previous season and our hopes for the next season.” ~ Shelley, STEAM Powered Family

Nature Weaving

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

This nature weaving activity combines creativity and the outdoors. It costs nothing and encourages exploration of textures and nature. I got the inspiration from a copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly circa 1970something that I picked up at a friend’s garage sale.

Nature Weaving is such a great activity to encourage kids to explore the world around them.Materials needed:

  • twine
  • four sticks
  • items found in nature

The first step to this activity is to find four sticks. To create more of a square frame, the sticks need to be of similar size or to create a rectangle, two longer sticks and two shorter sticks will do the trick.

Step by step:

  1. Using the twine, make a frame by attaching the sticks together at each corner. You can do this by winding the twine around and knotting once it is securely fastened.
  2. Once your frame is finished, wind the twine around the frame, looping on each end before continuing on to the other side (see photo below) until the frame has lines of twine across it. Secure by knotting.
  3. Go on a nature walk and collect leaves, twigs, weeds, flowers, feathers, grass, and other items for the project.
  4. Weave the items collected one at a time over and under the twine, alternating to create more interest.
  5. Admire your lovely creation!

nature weaving step by stepA few of my kids got really into this project, in particular, Einstein and Dancing Queen, while some were not as interested. I think that had we gone on a big nature hike somewhere, it would have captured their attention more. Looking for items in the backyard wasn’t as appealing as it would have been in a forest or on someone else’s land!

The kids that did participate enjoyed it and especially liked the finished products. It was also neat to see the different variety of things that they came up with to include. Our yard is full of treasures waiting to be found and since we just got back from a week of camping, long grass was certainly not hard to find!

Nature weaving is a good sensory experience for kids as well. There are many different textures that can be included. I think Einstein will probably make these on his own in the future. He also really liked the idea of making a frame out of sticks and now that he has that skill, he will likely create frames for other art projects in the same way.

nature weaving projectIf you are looking for other simple kids’ activities, you may be interested in following my For Kids board on Pinterest.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board For Kids on Pinterest.