Smell the Cake

Targeted ads are devious, underhanded, and incredibly effective. Maybe they only work on the simple-minded, but if that is the case then it’s time I come to terms with my mental capacity. Because despite knowing exactly what happens when you click on one of them, I regularly fall victim to Instagram ads. Like, far more often than I am willing to admit publicly.

One thing continually pushed on me by the powers that be is meditation tools. Not just for me, but also for my children (clearly my phone is listening to what happens in my home every day circa 6pm). For pretty much all of these the concept is you designate 5 minutes once a day, anytime, to sit down with your kids and do guided activity.

My initial reaction is always a big fat eye roll when people instruct me to get my children sitting quietly for more than 10 seconds, let alone meditating (I often wonder if the parents that tout these apps have some herbal supplement that they slip their kids to help out, and if they’re willing to share). But I actually do think teaching kids mindfulness at a young age is a good thing. Lord knows I could have used it.

So for all of these reasons, and because it was an Instagram ad, I bought it. And as most things go around here, while our intentions were good, our execution has been…not spectacular.

But one of the more effective activities has been a breathing exercise where children are instructed to breathe in deeply through their nose, like they are smelling a cake, then exhale slowly through their mouth, like they are blowing out the candles. Smell the cake, blow out the candles.

I don’t know if the kids like it, but I can tell you that I do. Because any time my seven year old starts to spin out of control because her brother “TOOK MY SPECIAL PILLOW AND I ASKED HIM TO GIVE IT BACK AND THEN HE TOLD ME THAT NO, IT WAS NOT MY PILLOW BUT IT IS MY PILLOW AND NOW HE WON’T GIVE IT BACK AND NOW MY FORT WILL NEVER EVER EVER EVER BE OKAY!”, instead of screaming back at her that she’s acting like a lunatic, I say to her,

“Okay, Mora? You need to calm down. Smell the cake. No, no…stop, and smell the cake. Smell the cake, blow out the candles.”


“Smell the cake…”



…and then she starts smelling the cake and blowing out the candles at hyper-speed, which looks a lot like hyperventilating.

It’s fun.

But here we are 5 days out from next Tuesday, a shadow that has been looming over us for four years. And as much as I have tried to busy myself with children and phone banking and writing post cards and disinfecting everything anybody touches and life in general, I still find it impossible to avoid the visceral reaction I experience in those rare quiet times, when there is space enough to think about what is hanging in the balance on November 3rd.

And while my knee jerk reaction continues to be abject rage and panic (because it feels so much more familiar and appropriate), I have found that following my own advice and taking even a single deep breath really does pause me long enough to slow, and sometimes even prevent, the routine spiral down that dark, angry, terrifying wormhole. And that alone is worth it. Because we’ve spent enough time down there already.

So if you can muster the strength, take a piece of sage advice from Headspace for children:

As next week comes hurtling at us, and we stare down the abyss of spiking COVID numbers and million acre fires and Supreme Court appointees that don’t believe in racism or climate change and hundreds of kids at the border with “lost parents” and proud boys with AK-47s intimidating voters at polling places and states tossing mail-in ballots based on laws passed less than a week before election day and and and and and and and and and and…………………………..

Stop. Smell the cake. Blow out the candles.

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