10 Gifts That Don’t Involve More ‘Stuff’

I don’t know about you but I’m already getting a bit anxious about all the ‘stuff’ that is about to come into my home in a little over a month’s time.  You know what I’m talking about:  toys.  Plastic toys that emit random, repetitive, rage-inducing noises, toys that will break approximately one week after they are removed from their packaging, toys that will lay forgotten in the playroom corner by February, toys, toys, toys.

We know how overwhelming it is for our families to find just the right gift for our kids (heck…it’s hard enough for us to know what to get them) so this year we will encourage family members to offer gifts of experience rather than stuff.  Here are a few ideas that might work for your family:

Time

An afternoon with the gift giver – movie, mini-golf, bowling, skating, skiing, museum, pedicure, afternoon tea at the Chateau Laurier, etc.

Lessons

My boys have been asking for karate lessons for months now (I suspect this has something to do with Power Rangers).  This seemed like a good idea until I researched some options.  Turns out karate is quite an expensive sport, as most sports are.  Why not get family members to contribute to lessons?  Other options:  skiing, snowboarding, musical instrument, cooking, etc.

Museum Memberships

Skiing/snowboarding lift passes

There are many great hills in and around Ottawa, such as:

Mont Cascades

Vorlage

Camp Fortune

Edelweiss

Recreation

Recreation gift certificates from the City of Ottawa : Can be used towards literally hundreds of activities across the city (including March Break camps).

Sports Equipment

Even better than new, try Play It Again Sports or ask in your Buy Nothing group!

Entertainment tickets

Ottawa Senators 

Ottawa 67s 

NAC 

Shenkman Arts Centre,Centrepointe Theatre 

Ottawa Little Theatre

Movie gift certificates

Art lessons

4 cats 

Mud Oven 

Monart Art School of Ottawa

Ottawa School of Art

Their very own star

Buy them a star and name it after them: https://www.starregistry.ca/ (my oldest son would think this is the coolest thing ever!)

Toy Rentals

A toy rental from PlaneteFun. Host a sleepover or fun party for a group of your child’s friends, and rent something really fantastic!

Hockey Mom: Empowering Life Lessons

Kids in the Capital is pleased to welcome back Antonia Cetin to the blog. Antonia is an educator and the author of You’ve Got This, Mom! A Mother’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Modern WorldThis post originally appeared here.

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Having woken my son at 5am on a Saturday morning, I’ve fed him and got him out the door to sit in a cold rink where I wait for his hockey practice to begin with the mug of coffee that I cling to for warmth and solace. I joke with the other parents, “Who thought this was a good idea?” Yet, we’ve been coming back for 7 years.

Over the course of the 7 years my son has participated in NMHA activities and teams, Matthieu, has grown and learned so much. When he first started playing at the age of 5 as a little Timbit, he could barely skate and after 3 months of the early wake-ups, the complaining that this was too hard and the helmet was heavy and itchy, and watching him flop on the ice and finish all of the drills last, that protective parent doubt began to creep in and I was beginning to think that maybe this was not such a great idea. Then, miraculously, in what seemed like the space of a week, he went from barely standing to flying across the ice. He was sliding, gliding, and having fun. He was hooked!

As a parent, I was happy for him that he was enjoying his new skills which I knew could provide him with a lifetime of opportunity for physical activity and comradery but even more so, I was thrilled that he was learning a very important life lesson. Without knowing it, he was learning so much more than how to skate: he was learning that even when something isn’t easy, you stick with it until you succeed. He was learning to be resilient. And, you know what? I was learning something, too. I was learning the importance of letting him struggle so that he could become resilient. I was learning that my role of Mom wasn’t just to protect him, but to provide him opportunities where he could learn to be resilient in a safe space.

Since these first beginnings, our learning has continued and Matthieu has blossomed. He has learned the satisfaction of belonging to a team and arriving at practice to welcoming cheers of, “Yeah, Matthieu is here!” and I have learned to be grateful that he has a space where he belongs. He is learning that you don’t always win your games, but that it sure is fun to play, and I have learned that it’s ok to let him be disappointed in his losses and to cheer him on anyways. He has learned the value of seeing the bigger picture (what all is going on around me on the ice); of collaborating on plays and of sharing (the puck, the defeat, and the glory), and I have learned to step back and let him have the space to try, to fail and to succeed.

Hockey has brought Matthieu a common ground for conversation with people of all ages, an excellent way to stay fit and healthy, and perhaps most importantly, a lot of joy. As a parent, aside from watching my son grow and learn about hockey and about life, and being happy that he has found an activity that makes him happy, I appreciate that the NMHA has brought us the opportunity to meet and chat with other wonderful hockey families. Hope to see you at the rink sometime, too!

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.

 

 

 

Celebrate a farm-tastic birthday at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

If you’re looking for a memorable, hands-on experience for your child’s next birthday party, look no further than the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. They don’t “horse around” when it comes to birthday parties…they take fun seriously!

The excitement begins with a special tour of the animal barns, led by a knowledgeable museum guide. Children enjoy face-to-face interaction with the farm animals — including calves, rabbits, chickens, and horses — while your guide discusses animal habits and routines. Animal experiences are subject to seasonal changes (spring is lamb season!). Of course, we’re always happy to answer questions about the animals from curious, young minds.

Each two-hour birthday party also includes a game and a craft, as well as making and eating a delicious treat. Choose from two “udderly amazing” party themes:

  • A MOOving Experience: An ice cream-making party (for kids ages three-12)

  • Pizza Party: A pizza-making party (for kids ages five to 12)

Are “ewe” ready to join us? The 2018-2019 calendar is filling up fast – visit our website for pricing details and to reserve your party. They also offer free party invitations – just download and print!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

Library Recommended Kids’ Books For Remembrance Day

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new fall books for children with us. This month’s post is by Kristina Roudiy, Children's Program & Public Service Assistant at the Alta Vista branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

Remembrance Day is an important event for Canadians of all ages. It is also an ideal opportunity to have thoughtful discussions with kids, not only about the sacrifices made by others, but also about conflict, war and peace. To help get the discussion started, take a look at the following books that can be found at the Ottawa Public Library. Simply click on the book title for more information about each book.

Picture book: Proud as a peacock, brave as a lion

For ages 5+. In this picture book, a young boy asks his grandfather questions when he sees him getting ready for Remembrance Day. The grandfather explains why he fought in World War II, using animal idioms to describe how he felt or acted. A lovely story to read with younger children.

Non-fiction picture book: A bear in war

For ages 6-8. Aileen, 10 years old, sent her teddy bear to her father, who was serving as a medic in Belgium during World War I. Teddy followed the father everywhere, and was with him also when he died on the battleground.

In the sequel to that book, Bear on the homefront, Aileen is now a nurse serving on the homefront during World War II, and this time Teddy keeps company to some British children sent away from the war zone and travelling by train to their host families.

These are based on true stories, and you can see that toy bear at the War Museum in Ottawa!

Non-fiction picture book: Rags, hero dog of World War I

For ages 6-9. This book will appeal to dog lovers as well as elementary school students interested in the history of World War I. It tells the story of Rags, a dog who was found in the streets of Paris by an American soldier, and who ended up following him into the trenches and serving as a messenger. 

Non fiction book: Dazzle ships : World War I and the art of confusion

For ages 7-11. During World War I, British warships were routinely targeted by the Germans, which threatened to cause starvation in the UK. An artist called Norman Wilkinson came up with the brilliant idea of painting the ships with wild designs and uneven patterns, thus confusing the periscopes and the most experienced sailors. The illustrations soften the wartime theme, while the text provides historical facts and emphasizes the role that artists & women played in the war.

Special picture book: The eleventh hour / Jules et Jim

For ages 7-10. This is the story of Jules and Jim, childhood friends who end up serving together in World War I. Cartoonist Goldstyn uses gentle comics to tell the moving story of the very last Canadian soldier to die in World War I, at 10:58 am on November 11th. This book also covers the theme of friendship, being different, and going at a different pace than other children. This is a new book that is available in both English and French (so a great read for French immersion families!)

Novel : Winnie's great war

For ages 8-12. A follow-up to award-winner picture book Finding Winnie. Did you know that Winnie the Pooh was originally Winnipeg, a Canadian bear adopted by Captain Colebourn and the unofficial mascot of the infantry brigade? The bear then travelled overseas, all the way to the London Zoo, where he met Christopher Robin Milne. This story will appeal to animal lovers as well as those interested in good historical descriptions.

Graphic novel : Where beagles dare

Did you know that the comic strip Peanuts has been one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, and that it has been translated into 21 different languages in 75 countries?

In this book, Snoopy is recruited for a World War I top-secret mission while on holiday in France.  

Silver Birch Award : The Vimy Oaks : a journey of peace

For ages 7-12. This is the story of Lieutenant Leslie H.Miller, a Canadian soldier, who picked up a handful of acorns and mailed them home. Over the following one hundred years, those acorns became majestic oaks on the Miller’s family farm in Ontario. In April 2017, seedlings from these oaks were repatriated to Vimy Ridge - as a living legacy of hope, remembrance and renewal.   

Non fiction book: Spies of World War I; an interactive history adventure

For ages 9-12. This is a “choose your own adventure” book, which uses real facts from World War I espionage. It offers 43 choices and 21 different endings! Contains interesting black & white photos.

Thriller novel: The Button War: a Tale of the Great War

For ages 10-14. This story takes place in a Polish village during World War I. One night, the Germans drop a bomb on the local school, making it real that war has come to the village. Jurek, a 12-year old boy, dares his friends to steal the shiniest and most intricately designed military button, to become “king”. The game turns deadly… Told from another boy’s perspective, the novel captures the way that war can forever alter a child’s sense of morality and security in the world.