Simple Cakewalk Ideas

It’s that time of year again! It’s cakewalk season at many schools! I will admit it – when I see the cakewalk memo in my daughter’s school bag I let out a big ol’ sigh. It’s not because I am opposed to cake walks, but because I am not a talented cake decorator and I hate the idea of disappointing the hundreds of little faces who walk from cake-to-cake trying to decide where to put their tickets. 

Simple Cakewalk Ideas.png

If you’re not familiar with a cakewalk, it’s a school fundraiser where a bunch of cakes and cupcakes (typically bought or baked by parents) are lined up on tables typically in a gymnasium. The kids walk around looking at all of the cakes and cupcakes, and then pay for tickets to deposit in the bags or boxes belonging to the cakes they hope to win. Once all of the kids have done this, tickets are drawn and kids win cakes! Usually it’s one cake/package of cupcakes per kid.

The pressure is on to get the cake with the most tickets!  

Or is it?  

I have learned over the years that most kids don’t really care what the cakes or cupcakes look like – especially the younger kids. What they do care about is the amount of chocolate, candy and sugar the cake has! The more the merrier! 

Having said this, it doesn’t alleviate the pressure as much as it should for me. I would love to be a talented cake decorator, but I am anything but! Every time I see a cake walk memo my mind spins with ideas of what I should create versus what I CAN create. I would love to be that mom who can create a life size minion cake that looks so realistic that you expect it to talk (this cake actually existed at one of my daughter’s cake walks – that mom is one heck of a cake decorator let me tell you!). 

I know some parents purchase baked goods and I believe that is great if that works for them because for me, it’s all about participating. I, however, like to bake (it’s the decorating part I loathe). So, I try and bake something “attractive” for each cake walk. The first couple of years I would bake a cake similar to what you see below from the blog of Mrs Rachel Brady. A simple chocolate cake with chocolate icing and Smarties as polka dots. Perfect.

Easy chocolate birthday cake via  Mrs Rachel Brady

Easy chocolate birthday cake via Mrs Rachel Brady

Then my daughter mentioned that many parents make cupcakes and break them into four containers with six cupcakes each or six containers with four cupcakes each. Genius! This means there are more “cakes” for the kids to win and covers off any parents who may not have contributed. So, now I make cupcakes. 

My standby, “Oh crap, I forgot the cakewalk is tomorrow!” cupcake is ‘worms and dirt.’ It’s the chocolate cupcakes and chocolate icing or crumbled up cookie topping with gummy worms. Quick and simple to make and a hit with the younger kids (so I hear anyway).

This year I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone. I asked on Twitter if anyone had thoughts and made it clear that cake decorating it not my forté. It was recommended that I check out Pinterest, but the only cakes I ever saw on there were way out of my talent-league. But then someone sent me a link to cakewalk cake ideas on Pinterest and right away I spotted something I could do! It was simple, fun and cute!

The little piggies cupcakes were so easy to make and when I dropped them off the students collecting the cakes thought they were adorable! I can see myself making these again for the next cakewalk. 

Simple Cake Walk Ideas - Little Piggie Cupcakes

Suffice to say, I have learned to accept that I will never be the minion cake-making parent. Instead I am proud of myself for contributing something to every cakewalk my daughter has been a part of and that I made something that hopefully made a kid smile. Albeit, sometimes that kid is my own because she notices there are no tickets for my contribution and chooses to put her tickets in to win it. ;)

Are you a talented cake decorator? What are your favourite cake walk ideas?

Loving our labels

I have an amazing and beautiful family and I am so grateful for them.

That being said – our life is not a simple/easy life. Our life is chaotic and often feels like more than I know how to handle.

Kids screaming, being impulsive, crap everywhere, things forgotten, running late for everything, nobody on schedule…. Chaos.

You know… “life with kids”

Or that’s what people like to say.

Life with kids is just like that; don’t worry about it. It’s just this phase of life - you’ll get through it. “

But it didn’t feel good.

It didn’t feel good when we were fighting all the time.

It didn’t feel good when my 6 year old was rolling around under the table at the restaurant.

It didn’t feel good when we got notes home from school that our child couldn’t sit still on the carpet. 

Loving your labels

Our family was struggling and I knew we could do better.

A recent diagnosis within the family made me think we should head down the path of a psycho educational assessment – I wanted to know if anything else was going on, even if the teacher didn’t think there was anything to worry about (I asked).

We went for it, and what did we learn?

ADHD. Gifted. 7th percentile for working memory.

Really fast brain power, with not very fast processing power and very little working memory. Ok – so what’s working memory anyways?

“Can you go put your lunch in your backpack?”

“Sure.”

“Umm… why are you in the basement playing lego – did you put your lunch in your backpack? 

“What lunch?”

“Don’t be ridiculous! Get up here and stop playing around!”

Except it turns out – crappy working memory means it really IS in one ear and out the other and he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Lightbulb after lightbulb went off from the assessment. He wasn’t being a jerk or misbehaving, he was forgetting things. He wasn’t violent, his internal processing made it so that impulse control was low and he truly didn’t always have a reason for doing things.

And as we kept talking I learned that ADHD is HIGHLY hereditary – chances are a parent also has it.

Do you know an adult with ADHD?

Adults are getting diagnosed with ADHD a lot lately but it’s not because it’s some kind of new found craze, it’s because when we were kids the only people who got diagnosed with it were the REALLY problematic kids. The kids who were disruptive. The kids who weren’t passing in school.

Not the kids who mostly did what they were told, had decent grades, and definitely not girls.

The psychologist told me that most adults with ADHD have simply come up with adaptions throughout their lives and think of themselves as “lazy”

Oh! Me! I tell everyone all the time how lazy I am. Ha ha ha.

As we talked some more I realized it was my turn to get assessed - maybe there was more going on than being lazy.

I ended up seeing a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist so I didn’t go through the same battery of tests as some other adults I know or that my kids went through, but we talked. We talked A LOT, because ADHD doesn’t start all of a sudden in adulthood, you’re looking for signs that something has been up since childhood.

So let’s look at my childhood:

  • School aversion starting in kindergarten - “would do better if attended more frequently” was probably the most common comment on my report card throughout my life.

  • MASSIVE emotional outbursts from 6 or 7 until my teens years - I still apologize to my parents for these.

  • Depression as a teen – continued school aversion.

  • Messy. Really messy.

  • Terrible at time management.

  • Terrible at waking up and getting out the door.

  • Hyperfocus on school work (when necessary) – which really was me not paying attention in class, missing class A LOT and then cramming and passing. The key here is passing – I lowered my bar to “passing,” and that was all I ever expected of myself. “Don’t fail and you did a good job”

Let me tell you a bit about ADHD 

What can ADHD look like?

  • Never stops moving

  • Easily distracted

  • Problems with impulse control

  • Hard time regulating emotions

  • Poor time management

  • Disorganized and messy (wants everything in sight)

  • Forgetful

  • Problems completing tasks

  • Highly sensitive (noises, touch, taste, smell, etc)

Other ADHD Facts

  • Highly genetic. If your child has it, chances are high on parent does (or an aunt or uncle)

  • 25-40% of those with ADHD have a co-existing anxiety disorder

  • Up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression in their life time

  • 2x3 times more likely to have a sleep disorder

  • Children with ADHD have delayed brain development (by several years) and can often seem less mature than their peers 

ADHD looks like a lot of things that can also just be part of childhood.

Nobody ever flagged me for anything other than “would do better if attended school more often.”

My parents brought me to see psychologists and psychiatrists to try to help me (due to the emotional outbursts I mentioned above) – I was not simply forgotten, nobody knew what to do or what to look for back in the 80s and early 90s.

But even now when we know so much more, nobody flagged my kids and two of them have diagnoses because nothing was EXTREME. But just because things weren’t THE MOST TERRIBLE didn’t mean I was going to ignore my intuition that things could be better.

My second child’s diagnosis was really different and I never would have thought to have him diagnosed if it wasn’t for MY diagnosis. His is coupled with anxiety and depression (which we know is quite common.) He has a hard time paying attention, he is easily distracted by sounds and chaos or just having to focus on one thing at a time.  

ADHD can look like a lot of things, including a kid who feels like they never fit in and they just want to pull back from the world instead.

So let’s bring this back around to the “it’s no big deal” argument. The people who tell you not to put people or kids in boxes but just let them be themselves, whomever that might be. The ones who balk at the idea of any labels.

I want you to know that labels can be good!

I’ve witnessed these labels make life easier – higher grades, better impulse control  (and therefore not getting in trouble as much), being able to focus to complete a task, knowing how to compensate for terrible working memory.

I’ve seen how labels mean better support, access to alternate ways of learning and doing things, and increased compassion for people who struggle in traditional learning environments.

My diagnosis helped me realize I’m not lazy, I just do things differently. It helped me understand the supports I need in the places I struggle.

It helped me beat myself up a bit less for not being a good housekeeper at 42 (aren’t I supposed to grow into that?!) 

It helped me learn about ADHD quickly.

It helps me be innovative and willing to try new things.

It makes me a good entrepreneur. It makes me a great business coach.

Things aren’t perfect though – I’m not going to pretend an assessment and some words are a magic solution.

We’re still trying to find different answers – but we know where to look for them because we have a better idea of what’s going on.

Here’s what I want you to know:

  • Diagnoses and labels aren’t shameful, they are power.

  • Diagnoses aren’t rules and boxes, they are opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Every diagnosis in our family has helped me learn more about myself and has made me a happier person, more accepting of myself and decreasing the shame I felt for the things I couldn’t do.

A diagnosis isn’t a magic pill that fixes everything (though pills can really help some with ADHD!) 

School is hard and we don’t get the kids there every day.

I almost fired the house cleaner because I got all angsty and full of shame that the house had gotten so messy since she’d last been there.

We all have a lot of big feelings and we have issues with time management and not losing forms and getting places on time. 

But we have so much more knowledge to help us get through. We hired a parenting coach (Success in Steps) to help us figure out strategies to manage the family. We kept the cleaning person and made a deal that she would come MORE often and I would worry less about the state of the place when she arrived. I keep learning and talking to people and finding out what we can do to make our lives smoother.

I talk a lot about our ADHD journey because I know that it’s helping others. I get messages regularly from people realizing that maybe they need to look at ADHD in their families and me talking about it makes it less scary to do that.

Not everyone will see things our way but my experience is that labels aren’t boxes that puts us in a corner in shame.

They are lights that help us see how many people are dealing with Anxiety. Autism. ADHD. Depression. Dyslexia. They are labels that provide us with knowledge and knowledge is power and it helps us do better.

 

 

 

Things You Didn’t Know a Physiotherapist Could Do for Your Kids

Things You Didn’t Know a Physiotherapist Could Do for Your KidsAdd subheading.png

Marie is my physiotherapist and I've learned so much from her about what doesn't need to be painful and what I need to pay attention to, both for myself and for my kids. I asked her to share some advice to parents when it comes to some of the things that we don't think of physio for when it comes to our kids, but that can be SO helpful. Both my twins have REALLY benefitted from physio for their growing pains. Read on!  ~Lara

I have been a physiotherapist for too many years than I care to mention.  I have worked with everyone from premature newborns who fit in the palm of your hand to the elderly facing end of life issues.  I must admit though, school aged children hold a very special place in my heart.  Don’t they just say the darndest things sometimes?  I love their absolute candor and their ability to call you on your you-know-what.  When you are working with them you had better be prepared to answer questions honestly or you will pay. 

When people find out I am a physiotherapist they often ask me questions about things like their kids’ sports injuries or maybe their own back pain.  However, there are some things people never ask me that I wish they would.  There are a number of things a physiotherapist can help your kids with that no one knows about, so I would like to share a couple of them with you. 

Growing Pains

Let me tell you about a stellar parenting moment of my own.  When my daughter was about four years old she started complaining about pain in her legs.  She would be walking just fine and then suddenly stop and say she couldn’t go any further, or she would complain at bedtime.  I just wrote it off as drama queen behaviour and ignored it.  Then one night she was really crying so I gave in and checked out her legs.  The moment I got hold of her muscles I felt horrible.  They were incredibly tight through the entire length of both legs.  My heart sank because I knew that all this time she was having growing pains and I could have stopped them. 

What?  You can treat growing pains you say?  Despite everything you will read on the internet that says no one knows what causes growing pains and the only thing you can do for them is give pain medication like Tylenol, yes growing pains can be treated and here’s why.

I believe growing pains are caused when the long bones like the ones in the legs, which is primarily where growing pains occur, grow rapidly.  The problem is the muscles lag behind and this is what causes the pain.  These growth spurts are not just your imagination.  They are indeed very real.  Studies in which kids were measured daily have shown that kids don’t grow about 90 – 95% of the time, so all of their growth occurs within a very small timeframe. 

The bones have specialized areas from which growth occurs.  These are called growth plates and they are found at each end of a long bone.  When growth occurs the bones sprout new cells to either side of each growth plate so lengthening can occur rapidly.  Muscles do not have these specific growth areas so they take longer to lengthen. 

The obvious result when a growth spurt occurs then, is the muscles get tight since they can’t keep pace with the lengthening of the bones.  It is the tightness in the muscles that causes the pain, particularly when kids are active.  They are running around trying to use their muscles but the muscles aren’t happy because they are too short. 

This begs the question, well why can’t we just have them do stretches to make these pains go away?  The problem with stretching is that it indiscriminately pulls the ends of the muscle in opposite directions.  This applies a stretch along the entire length of the muscle.  That’s good right? 

The reason this isn’t terribly effective is that tightness in a muscle never occurs evenly throughout the entire length.  It is localized in small bunches of tight fibres, so you have very tight parts interspersed with loose parts.  When we stretch the entire muscle the loose parts happily give while the tight parts huddle together giggling and saying “why should I lengthen when my neighbour is willing?” 

To release the tight parts and relieve the growing pains you have to get your hands in there, find the tight bits of muscle, and manually release them.  This stops the growing pains every time, usually with one or two treatments.  I knew this and I still let it happen for a while before I did something about it, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. 

Preventing Knee Injuries in Girls in Early Puberty

Did you know that girls who play sports requiring quick changes in direction such as soccer or rugby are far more likely to sustain knee injuries when they hit puberty than boys?  In fact, girls who play sports are four to six times more likely to injure the anterior cruciate ligament (one of the main ligaments of the knee) than boys. 

Dr. Google will tell you that this is due to things like lack of strength in the hamstrings and gluteals (buttock muscles).  But why would muscles that have been working perfectly fine suddenly quit in puberty?  And why just in girls and not boys?  The reason is alignment. 

When girls hit puberty one of the biggest changes in the skeletal structure that occurs is a change in the shape of the pelvis.  They go from stick figures to curvy figures.  The pelvis widens and they suddenly have hips.  This changes the angle of the long bone in the upper leg called the femur.  As the pelvis widens it pushes out the top end of the femur farther to the outside.  This then changes the angle at the other end of the bone where it forms the upper part of the knee joint. 

When this significant change in alignment occurs the muscles get discombobulated.  The angle at which they are used to pulling is all wrong suddenly and they don’t quite know what to do with themselves so they just up and quit.  This leaves your daughter with instability through the hips, pelvis, and down into the knees and ankles, which sets the stage for a catastrophic knee injury.  This is so prevalent now that physiotherapists are seeing girls as young as 20 who have had two or three knee surgeries and are having to quit their sport of choice.

These injuries are preventable.  All that is needed is to manually realign the muscles in their new slightly different-angled environment.  They need a little guidance to settle into their new angle of pull.  Once this is accomplished stability is restored and the risk of injury is greatly reduced. 

While many people seek physiotherapy treatment when they are injured, no one ever thinks to seek help to avoid injury.  I would love to see this change.  We tune up our cars to avoid a breakdown, why don’t we do the same for our bodies?

If you are wondering if your daughter is having issues with stability, here are a couple of simple things you can check out.  Have her try a single leg squat making sure that she stays aligned square to the front.  If she can’t do this with solid balance then there is likely a problem of stability. 

Hopping on one foot with both arms in the air is another good test.  By raising the arms we take away one major balance cheating strategy and we can better evaluate the stability in the core.  If she can hop several times in one spot without travelling all over the place, losing her balance, and remaining square to the front then things are good.  If not, she may need some help to restore balance and alignment.

Physiotherapy Can Help

Sometimes when kids fall or have an accident we make the assumption that they are fine.  After all kids, seem to bounce like rubber and carry on.  While they may do so, they often need treatment after an incident just like we do.  If your child is complaining of pain don’t ignore it.  Even if it does go away, their movement patterns are likely off as they compensate around the affected area and this will have consequences down the road. 

Get your kids treated when something happens to them and don’t forget to consider physiotherapy for injury prevention.  Let’s keep them all active and healthy!

Marie has been practicing physiotherapy for almost 30 years.  She has extensive paediatric experience having worked the first decade of her career at CHEO.  She has two kids who suffer growing pains periodically and is the owner of M.A.P. Physiotherapy, a physiotherapy clinic in Orleans.  

10 Gift Ideas For Kids – That Are NOT Toys

I don’t know about your house, but my house has way too many stuffed animals hiding in beds and in closets, as well as un-played with plastic toys and small knick-knacky toys hiding under furniture. Every Christmas I try and come up with non-toy gifts that I know my daughter, as well as other kids we buy gifts for, will love. With that in mind, here are some fun gift ideas for kids – that are not toys!

10 fun gift ideas for kids – that are NOT toys.png

1)   Magazine Subscriptions

Whether the child is a nature-lover, crafty kid or likes quick facts, magazines such as Highlight, WILD Kids Magazine, Chirp and OWL are perfect for kids. They are quick reads, full of colourful pictures, and usually have many facts and puzzles.

2)   Books

Whether they are early, emerging or advanced readers, books make great gifts for kids of all ages! And if you’re unsure what kinds of books a child may want, a gift card for a local bookstore works just as well. AND if the child is not a reader – what about a notebook and artistic pencils or pencil crayons? Or a fact or joke book?

3)   Science Kits

Local stores such as Tag Along Toys offer many fun and educational science kits for kids of all ages! From creating candy to making your own soap, building a volcano to making batteries out of potatoes, science kids are always a hit for the inquisitive kid who likes to learn how things are made and how things work.

4)   Museum passes

Ottawa is lucky to have so many fun and engaging museums! Whether you decide on a 3-in-1 museum pass, a pass to the Canadian Museum of History or the Canadian Museum of Nature, you are giving kids a gift that will keep on giving (and a place to see and things to do all year long!).

5)   Movie passes or a movie date

If the kids in your life love movies, why not give them a gift card to the movie theatre! This time of year, Cineplex Odeon has a great deal on $40 gift certificates that includes coupons for lots of free stuff, such as popcorn! You could also create a coupon that promises them a movie date (complete with popcorn, of course).

6)   Sleeping bag or an “overnight bag”

If you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle or Godparent, the gift of a sleeping bag or overnight bag filled with everything kids need to make a sleepover comfortable and fun is usually unexpected – and knowing that it comes with a sleepover with their favourite people makes it fun and something to look forward to long after it is unwrapped! You can have a lot of fun building this gift by including travel games, travel towels, treats, etc.

7)   Blanket or pillow with a picture on it

Think about what your kids love to do, who they adore or if you have pets – think of how incredible it would be for them to have a blanket or pillow to cuddle with that on it! Photo blankets and photo pillows are a unique, personal gift that can be purchased from the comfort of your home computer and is sure to be a hit for kids of all ages. 

8)   A butterfly or bat House kit

If your kid is a nature lover then these kits that can be found at Lee Valley Tools or Home Depot are sure to be a hit. They can spend the winter building and decorating them as well as researching and thinking of a good place to put them come spring.

9)   Fun socks or pajamas

It’s a well-known fact that many kids don’t get excited when they receive clothes as gifts, so why not put a spin on it and find some funky socks or pajamas! One year we bought my daughter knee-high narwhal socks that continue to be a hit (holes and all).

10)  Kitchen tools

I am all about getting kids involved in the kitchen, so why not invest in some kid-safe kitchen tools so they can help you bake and cook! You can even make copies of some of their favourite recipes and create their very own personalized cookbook!

What not-toy gifts do you enjoy giving the kids in your life? We’d love to know!

What to say to your kids when a pet dies

We recently lost our pet cat of 13 years. Our cat was the first pet my nine-year-old daughter knew and loved, and we considered him a member of our family. He was so good with my daughter when she would dress him up, spontaneously pick him up for cuddles, or attempt to teach him tricks for treats. He was her “bud.” He was a buddy to all of us.

What to say to your child when a pet dies

Our hearts broke when we suddenly lost him. Who knew one little bundle of fur could have such an impact on our lives and our hearts!?

As soon as I suspected something was wrong with our cat, I brought him to the vet. It was a school day, but before my daughter left that morning I made it clear that our cat was sick and was going to see his vet. I told her because our cat was not eating or drinking and generally wasn’t himself, and in case the worst case scenario happened while my daughter was at school, I felt honesty was the best policy. Had she been younger, I may have simplified it a bit by saying he was going to the “doctor” because he wasn’t feeling well, but she is older and recognized he had not been eating or drinking.

When the vet told me it was cancer and the outlook was grim, my immediate thoughts went to my daughter – how was I going to tell her that her “bud” would never get better? Within 24 hours of that diagnosis, we said goodbye to our beloved family cat.

My daughter had yet to lose a close family member and I wanted to make sure I could help her understand death as best I could. At first, I struggled with how to talk to my daughter about when a pet dies. I found this discussion especially hard because I was emotional too.

What to say to your kids when a pet dies

Firstly, I let her know that it is common for pet owners to feel as though they’ve lost a member of the family when their pet dies. Not all family members are human. Our cat was a member of our family for 13 years!

Show emotion

I also let her know that is okay (and good) to feel sad and show emotion. We cuddled and cried a lot together that first couple of days.

Share special memories

Amidst the tears we each shared special memories, funny stories and looked through old pictures of our cat.

IMG_6934.jpg

Answer questions the best you can

When questions arose regarding why it happened so quickly, I assured her the veterinarians did everything they could to try and help our cat and were very kind. I also reassured her that our cat is no longer in pain or is scared.

Be honest

One thing I wanted to make sure of was that my daughter understood that our cat died. I wanted her to understand death and not think our cat was at a fictional farm – even if she were younger I would still make sure she understood this on whatever level she would have been comfortable with. I let my daughter guide me about how much information she needed, but remained truthful.

My daughter believes our cat is in “pet heaven” now. She often tells our dog, who continues to look for her furry friend, to look up at the sky – because the cat is probably up there telling her to not eat his treats. When I hear this it makes me sad all over again, but I don’t hide my sadness. I want her to know that it’s okay to cry when you are feeling sad.

Keep the conversation going

We continue to talk about our cat and have discussed adopting another cat… but not as a replacement, and not right away. Our hearts need to mend first before we welcome another cat into our family.

My daughter has handled our cat's death very well - better than me, I think! She has asked lots of questions regarding what we're going to do with his stuff, where his spirit is, and if it feels weird to expect to see him all the time. And I answer each question as best and as honestly as I can.

When considering a pet for your family, always keep in mind how you will handle it when your pet passes away. Losing a pet is the one thing my husband dreads the most when it comes to owning a pet, and unfortunately love and loss go hand-in-hand.