Our Children Winter 2015

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halifax’s Family Magazine



Winter 2015


together How a mom worked with teachers for her son’s success

Dealing with grief

Advice on helping children cope with illness and loss

A helping hand

Tilak Arora helps students new to Canada feel at home and excel at school

Enter the We Love Our Teachers

contest! eat your vegetables

book reviews

face to face

page 9

Get creative and win.

$55,000 in cash and prizes available.

Includes colouring and design contests for students in grades P-6. Visit putwasteinitsplace.ca for information.

Make art. Not garbage.

All entries must be postmarked by Friday, February 6, 2015.

New c for our

Celebrating literacy, celebrating local authors and celebrating our future young authors.

Vicki Grant

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has called Vicki Grant “a superb storyteller.” Quill & Quire said she has “the kind of timing, pacing, dead-pan one-liners and punchy humour that a seasoned comic would envy.” Vicki is the author of thirteen award-winning books including Pigboy, Quid pro Quo, Dead-End Job and Not Suitable for Family Viewing. Vicki’s books are used in many settings – Halifax Learning is proud to say that they use Vicki’s books across Nova Scotia with delivery of the SpellRead program.

Vicki is a great example of why we do what we do – helping students discover the love of reading and writing.

453-4113 • www.halifaxlearning.com Halifax•Dartmouth•Tantallon•Fall River Truro•New Glasgow

— a gold-standard reading program trusted by parents and experts alike in Nova Scotia for close to 15 years.


Winter 2015


contest: Ready, set, read! Get your class together r new reading contest and win a party!

features 12 A helping hand Tilak Arora helps new students to Canada feel at home and excel at school

14 Learning to come together How one mom collaborated with her son’s teachers to set him up for success

18 Dealing with grief Being honest and providing information in simple terms can help children cope with illness and death

20 Eat your vegetables! Tips on getting your children to eat their veggies. Hint: You have to eat them, too


Purple Day Cassidy Megan and her mom, angela McCarthy, talk about Purple day and living with epilepsy.

departments 07 Editor’s note 09 Contest Our annual contest honouring great teachers is back!

10 First Bell Events, new products, trends and more.

22 Face to face Cassidy Megan used to think she was the only person with epliepsy. Now, she’s using Purple Day to help people around the world understand the condition

26 Passages of parenthood 28 Superintendent’s message 30 Book reviews

Our Children | Winter 2015

New contest: Do you have the best teacher ever? tell us about them and they might win a great prize!



On our cover On our cover: Alfie McCarthy with his friends and classmates, Owen Fitzgerald, Alex Bent and Maci Dobbin at their school, Sir Charles Tupper. Read Alfie’s story on page 14. Photo by Shannon Newton

Publisher Senior Editor Editor Contributing Editor Graphic Design

Patty Baxter Trevor J. Adams Suzanne Rent Janice Hudson Gwen North

Production Coordinator Paula Bugden Printing

Advocate Printing & Publishing

Contributors Jane Doucet Elwin LeRoux Lianne MacNeil Edie Shaw-Ewald Kate Staatsen

For advertising sales contact: Angela Faulkner Tel. (902) 420-9943 afaulkner@metroguide.ca

Our Children | Winter 2015

For editorial and subscription enquiries: Tel. (902) 420-9943 Fax (902) 429-9058 publishers@metroguide.ca 2882 Gottingen Street Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 3E2 www.metroguidepublishing.ca www.ourchildrenmagazine.ca


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher. Return undeliverable addresses to Metro Guide Publishing at the address above.

Our Children is a Metro Guide publication.



Kick-starting healthy habits The first week of December marked the end of our participation in the 60 Minute Kids’ Club Challenge. What did my daughter and I learn over the two months we had to track our fitness, nutrition, sleep, hydration, screen time and helpful thoughts? It was hard. There was a bit of whining. And my daughter complained a little, too. It’s tough fitting exercise into already busy schedules.

Suzanne Rent, Editor

On Facebook: Our Children Magazine

On Twitter: @Suzanne_Rent @OurChildrenMag

It’s also tough turning off the smartphones and computers and connecting with the real world again. But overall we learned better and healthier habits. When I was shopping for groceries, I’d count the number of vegetables and fruits I purchased. I eliminated all juice, pop and sugary drinks from the fridge. If we were thirsty, we drank water. One day I noticed my daughter wasn’t asking for sugar cereals at breakfast; she was automatically getting fruit. She ran more at school and even did some light weightlifting. And she complimented me on my progress, saying I was more flexible than the woman in the Pilates workout video.

I learned it was my job to make better choices for my daughter. If it were up to her, she’d eat chocolate and cookies all day. But if you give kids healthy options, and they are hungry, they will eat the healthier foods. I encourage parents to check out the challenge here: 60minkidsclub.org. It’s a great way to kick-start your way to healthy habits. In this issue on page 12, student correspondent Kate Staatsen tells us about Tilak Arora, who helps new families to the region understand the culture, make new friends, and navigate a new city and school. Mr. Arora helped Kate and her family when they arrived in Halifax from Europe. Also, read Jane Doucet’s story on page 18 about helping your child deal with grief. And on page 14, learn about Alfie, his mom, Alice, and his school. We’re happy to share this wonderful story about acceptance and inclusion. As always, if you have comments or questions, feel free to email me at srent@metroguide.ca.

We are now accepting enrolment applications for next year!

Limited space available in Pre-primary & Our school Primary classes curriculum includes September 2015

& French!


We are a private school without uniforms providing an education to nourish your whole child from Pre-primary through Grade 9. Our small classes and theme-based curriculum allow our teachers to challenge and support each child in ways that recognize their uniqueness while providing a solid education and emphasizing co-operation and respect for others. Call to schedule a private tour or to find out about our enriched curriculum and our visit-for-a-day—a gentle introduction for new students.

(902) 423-9777 HalifaxIndependentSchool.ca @hfxindependent 3331 Connaught Ave, Halifax HIS_OurChildren_12_2014.indd 1

Our Children | Winter 2015

art, music, swimming

7 2014-12-16 1:57 PM

PLAY STRENGTHENS BODIES. AND FRIENDSHIPS. Playing outside kept us happy and healthy. Isn’t it time it did the same for our kids? Learn more at thrive.novascotia.ca

Active play teaches sharing, taking turns, helping others and resolving conflicts. It boosts confidence and self-esteem.* Active play, what a great way to prepare for school days! – Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card 2012

Congratulations to the winners of our poetry contest! Nikki Ricafort, Alexis Sexton and Sara Farguson all had the chance to read their winning poems on stage at the Word on the Street Festival in September.

Celebrating super readers! Winners of the reading party contest are the students of Grade 2N at Duc d’Anville Elementary in Clayton Park. This class of 20 students read an amazing and record-breaking 972 books during the month of October. For their prize, they enjoyed a pizza party as well as gifts from Nimbus Publishing and Our Children.

Congratulations and keep reading!

NEW contest


Our Teachers!

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” —Brad Henry


Atlantica Hotel & Marina at Oak Island will treat the winning teacher and a guest to a night’s stay, breakfast and a spa treatment. Send an email to chammond@metroguide.ca or mail us a letter at Our Children, 2882 Gottingen St., Halifax, N.S. B3K 3E2.

We’ll draw a winner on Friday, March 27, 2015

Our Children | Winter 2015

Send us the name of a teacher who has contributed to your school experience in an exceptional way and tell us why they had a significant impact on you. We want to celebrate the fantastic teachers in all of our schools, but only one can win. Make sure it’s your special teacher we hear about.


First Bell

Challenge yourself this winter!

The 60 Minute Kids’ Club Challenge is back on! Sign up your child or school this winter and improve your overall health by tracking your fitness, nutrition, sleep, screen time and more. The winter challenge starts January 15. Or look ahead to the spring challenge, which starts runs from April 15 to June 1. Parents are encouraged to sign up, too, and make this a family challenge. It’s a great way to kick start

your family into healthy habits. For more on the 60 Minute Kids’ Club, visit http://60minkidsclub.org Our Children editor, Suzanne Rent, and her daughter took part in the fall challenge. Suzanne blogged about the process, detailing what they learned about each health factor they tracked. Find her blogs at ourchildrenmagazine.ca.

The students at Atlantic View Elementary took part in the fall challenge. Here they are pictured with Olympic kayaker Karen Furneaux, centre, who stopped in for a visit to encourage them through the challenge.

Our Children | Winter 2015

Author school tour a huge success


This past fall, Halifax Learning partnered with best-selling author Vicki Grant to visit 12 schools across Nova Scotia. Designed to inspire passion for reading and writing, Vicki’s witty and engaging talks taught students that anyone with passion and patience can become a great writer. Vicki’s tour was so successful, they’re already planning next year’s visits. Please contact them if you would like your child’s school to receive a visit this spring. Halifax Learning also offers educational support in literacy and math. Their reading program SpellRead has turned nearly 3,000 students into skilled and confident readers. To book a free assessment and learn how SpellRead will increase your child’s reading, writing, communication skills and confidence, call 902-453-4113 or email information@halifaxlearning.com

We Day 2014

Students from around Atlantic Canada came together on November 28 to celebrate We Day, an event that encourages kids to be agents of change. Speakers and celebrities entertained and motivated the crowd of more than 8,000 students. Our Children was there to celebrate, too. Here are some highlights from the event.

Travis Price

Our Children | Winter 2015

Photos: Ed Boulter/Free the Children


Parker Murchison


A helping


Tilak Arora helps new students to Canada feel at home and excel at school By Kate Staatsen, Student Correspondent

When I lived in Holland, my parents chose to speak English at home (my parents are not from the same country). I spoke Dutch in school and with my friends. I understood English perfectly, although I could not read or write in English that well.

Our Children | Winter 2015

When I first started school in Canada, kids in my class didn’t really know that I had just made a really big move. My teacher also did not notice in the beginning that I was new to Canada because I already spoke English. It was difficult to understand for everyone that I was having a hard time with reading and writing. I also wasn’t used to the new culture that much.


When I met with Mr. Tilak Arora for the first time at Bedford South School, I was really happy. He was always smiling and he understood from personal experience that moving to a new country is difficult. Mr. Arora really helped me understand how everything works here in Canada. And he helped me make new friends, which I really needed. He was a great help and we met quite often. At first, I thought that Mr. Arora worked for Bedford South School but he doesn’t. He works for the YMCA. I learned that the YMCA does lots of different things. Its website says that “the YMCA in Canada is dedicated to the growth of all persons in spirit, mind and body, and to their sense of responsibility to each other and the global community.” One of the things that it does is to help people who are new to Canada. So, it also gets people to go to a school and help out

Photo: Suzanne Rent

Four years ago, when I was just six years old, my family decided to move to Canada. Well, they really decided three years before that; it takes a long time to get the right stamps in your passport before you can actually move to Canada. There are lots of different reasons why people move to another country. My parents explained that they wanted a less hectic lifestyle, friendlier people, and more space. They said that they really moved for us and not for work. So we moved to Canada to start a new life.

Student correspondent Kate Staatsen with Tilak Arora, who works for the YCMA in a program that helps new Canadians fit into their homes and schools. Arora helped Kate and her family when they moved to Canada from the Netherlands.

international students who are having difficulty with moving and everything. One of the reasons that Mr. Arora worked at Bedford South is because there are lots of international students there. Mr. Arora says that he helped 142 students last year. Most students are from countries in the Middle East like Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Iran. When Nada Al Suhaibi moved to Canada from Yemen, she could not speak English at all. The only language she knew was Arabic. She did not understand any of the words people said when she first moved. She also had no friends because she did not really know anyone. Zaina Awad, who was born in the United Arab Emirates, only knew the language and the alphabet a little bit when she moved here. She also didn’t have any friends. The Canadian traditions were also quite different from what she was used to. Mr. Arora helped both of them, too. Mrs. Bonin is a Grade 6 teacher at Bedford South School. She loves that she has international students in her classroom. “It brings a richness into my classroom that I did not have at

any other schools that I have worked at,” she says. “I think it is a positive thing!” Mrs. Bonin says that international students are different because when they just came to Canada they experience culture shock. “The difficulties that international students have are language, social aspects and interactions and making friends,” she explains. “The friends that they make in the beginning are the friends that are going to be part of their social bubble.” When I met with Mrs. Bonin I asked her how she and Mr. Arora help international students. She explained that Mr. Arora helps contact families if they did not bring in something for a class activity because there was a language barrier and even helps have other students translate for them. “Once I had a Korean student in my class and he spoke no English, so Mr. Arora called his parents and explained to them that he was going to get another Korean family to help them out. He even got students in the school to help each other out.” I asked Mrs. Bonin how international students made it more interesting in her classroom. She said that in Grade 6 you learn about world culture. “What I really like about international students is that they approach things in a different way,” she says. “It could even be a math problem. I like to have an open and welcoming environment for everyone!”

I think that the YMCA is a great association because they put people like Mr. Arora in schools to help international students. And Mr. Arora especially is great for international students who need help, because he creates the bridge between students at school. He also highlights the different cultures and how they are all quite different! That is really good because some people, like me, may be shy to express that they have some really neat things about them and their culture. Mr. Arora is actually not at Bedford South anymore. After I interviewed him, he got a new job at the YMCA helping people all across Nova Scotia, which is awesome because he is really good at his job and he can help even more people. Maybe you can help, too? Visit the Centre for Immigrant Programs at www.ymcahrm.ns.ca.

Our Children | Winter 2015

People who move from a different country all need different things. I needed to understand some of the customs here, like singing “O Canada” every morning (which I had to learn, of course!) or having to wear indoor shoes at school. Some kids may need to understand English, how to make friends, or read and write. We all need something different. But we all needed to understand Canadian customs and that is what Mr. Arora helped students with.


Cover Story

learning to

come together How one mom collaborated with her son’s teachers to set him up for success

Our Children | Winter 2015

By Suzanne Rent | Photos by Shannon Newton


It’s a typical day in Alfie McCarthy’s Grade 2 class at Sir Charles Tupper in Halifax’s West End. The little superheroloving blond and bespectacled student jokes with his classmates and listens to teachers’ instructions. On the wall above the whiteboard are a series of paintings of owls made during art class. Alfie’s painting, signed in painted bold letters at the top, hangs in the centre. But it took Alfie, his parents and teachers a lot of work and time to get him to this place. There was a time when getting Alfie just through the door was a challenge. Alfie has Down syndrome and his success at Sir Charles Tupper was the

result of his own efforts, and those of his mom, Alice Evans, his teachers and experts with the Halifax Regional School Board. “It’s phenomenal, really,” Evans says. “When Alfie started here I didn’t have any expectations of him being included in the classroom or going to a mainstream school. I was just excited about him going to the same school as his brother.” Getting Alfie to this place started well before he even started Primary. His mom met with teachers before that first day, bringing him to school to say hello.

“Our expectation wasn’t, ‘Now you need to come in and we’ll teach a lesson,’” she says. “It was where is he at right now and setting our expectations based on that. So first we just wanted him to come in the door and feel comfortable coming in.” And eventually he did. Jason Petrie and Melinda Davis shared teaching duties in Alfie’s Grade 1 class. Petrie taught math, science and social studies while Davis taught language arts and early literacy. Petrie was new to the school, so he met with Alfie’s Grade Primary teacher to review the plan from that first year. At first, it was a continuation of understanding that routine again and socializing with others. He’d have Alfie hand out assignments to classmates, pointing to the owner of each. Petrie saw a difference over several months. He could address assignments one-on-one with Alfie, do a specific lesson with him that was part of his overall plan. And eventually, Alfie learned every classmate’s name. “Back early in the year, it was quite a deal to get him focused and away from the group,” Petrie says. Alfie now loves numbers, counting and telling the time. But Petrie remembers, too, not wanting to divert Alfie away from a group of peers who were distracted and focused instead on Lego. Petrie thought that was a teaching moment in itself; Alfie was part of the group, a typical Grade 1 student who momentarily lost his focus when distracted by toys.

Davis recalls her moments of success that involved sharing a picture Alfie drew to the class. “To share that with the class, to speak with the class, that was huge,” Davis says. “I had tears in my eyes. It was months and months of trying to get that to happen. Now he shares stories.” And now Alfie’s reading has progressed. He’s reading longer sentences, and while he uses his fingers to follow the lines, he will soon be using his eyes instead. “That’s a big academic move,” Davis says. Evans says she loves that Alfie now comes home wanting to share words and stories. “It’s so amazing because we didn’t teach him that,” she says. “For him to learn these things at school and then come home and share them with us, it was really heartwarming and we’re really proud and pleased with him.” Alfie’s teachers credit his mom for being open to discussion and sharing insights with them. “[Parents] are so important to the team approach,” Bryden says. “What they say and what they know about their child is so valuable. We need to know that. It can’t be successful for the child if we don’t have the parent onboard.” As Grade 1 wrapped up, the teachers sat down and created a plan for Alfie for Grade 2. “That’s part of our proactive and preventative approach, so our expectations are here, where we want it to be, and we build on that,” Bryden says. While Alfie overcame that initial anxiety, the nerves kick in just before a new school year arrives. So to temper those feelings, Alfie visits the school a few days before class starts. He will see his new classroom and meet his new teachers. He takes photos of the room with his iPad, and views them at home so he can become familiar with his new settings.

Opposite page: Alfie McCarthy, with his Grade 2 teacher, Lisa Van Houten, shows off one of his art projects. Top: Alfie with his mom, Alice Evans. Centre: Alfie and Rajani Poojari, his EPA. Bottom: Alfie and classmates, Owen Fitzgerald, Alex Bent and Maci Dobbin.

Our Children | Winter 2015

While his parents and teachers had the basic outline of what they hoped to accomplish for Alfie in the first year, including working on his speech and learning social aspects and routine of the school setting, they first had to get him through the door. Laurie-Anne Bryden, a learning-centre teacher at the school who works with Alfie, says it started with baby steps.


“I think the biggest thing I’ve seen with Alfie is his confidence,”Bryden says. “Because we had some behaviour, and because we had the anxiety, once he saw that he was going to be successful, we saw the behaviour and anxiety lessen. That was huge for him… Until he realizes he’s going to be successful, it doesn’t matter how many goals we have for him.”

The experience that lasts a


Our Children | Winter 2015

Get the session you want today. summer is only two seasons away!


Summer Camp for girls and boys aged 6-17 Outdoor Centre school trips for classes of grades 5-12


His peers have learned a lot from the process, too. Evans and the teachers say for them, Alfie is just another classmate. He’s often invited on playdates, they all share the same interests and need for routine at such a young age. He also has a great sense of humour and is quite a little ham. “He’s really popular,” Evans says. “He’s got lots of friends.” That shows the children it’s OK to be different. “We all have our strengths and challenges,” Bryden says. “It’s also to show them compassion and empathy for other children, instead of it all being about me.” Bryden says how the teachers work with the students allows them to be role models to other kids in a different way. “If the teachers are seeing the positive things and the strengths in all our children, then the children will also treat each other like that,” she says. Evans says what the school has accomplished with Alfie represents a bigger lesson about inclusion that goes beyond the walls of Sir Charles Tupper. “I think it has great ramifications for our community, our future, really,” she says. “Alfie is someone who has friends who are going to think one of their friends has Down syndrome and it’s not someone who should be in an institution or be separated from the general community, but has a part to play.”

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Dealing with


Being honest and providing information in simple terms can help children cope with illness and death

Our Children | Winter 2015

By Jane Doucet


It’s hard enough for an adult to handle the news that a loved one has a serious illness. Now imagine children who haven’t yet developed the coping tools to properly process the information receiving that news, and their ensuing feelings. It’s important for parents to handle these situations sensitively, particularly if the sick relative is Mom or Dad. “Always provide information in clear language, simple terms and developmentally appropriate amounts based on the child’s age and capacity to understand,” says Dr. Pamela Mosher, a child psychiatrist at the IWK Health Centre. Research shows that children who receive information in these types of stressful situations and talk about it with their parents experience less anxiety overall than those who don’t. But parents should be mindful of being too straightforward and honest. The goal is for children to get the information

they’ll need to process what’s happening in healthy ways but not be overwhelmed (especially younger ones) with too much detail, which can be scary. “It isn’t honest to say that Mommy isn’t going to die, because if she does die, the child will feel lied to,” Mosher says. “It’s truthful to say that Mommy is sick, and her body needs medicine and surgery to help it work better. And that Mommy and Daddy love you, and no matter what happens, there will be grown-ups to take care of you.” For example, if Mom is having treatment for cancer, their son might tell Dad he’s upset and afraid she’ll die. Dad could say, “I’m upset, too, but Mommy’s doctors are using medicine to fight the cancer, and we hope that she’ll keep living. But sometimes cancer is too strong and even the best medicines don’t work. So I’m also upset that Mommy might die. If

If the sick relative isn’t a parent but lives nearby, visits can be helpful for both the family member who is ill and the child. “If they’re used to having regular visits, there’s no reason to stop this routine unless the parents and child discuss this and make a decision together,” says Mosher. Hospital visits are fine as long as the child is prepared in advance for what he or she might see. For example, how Grandma will look, whether she’ll be in bed asleep or in a private or shared room. It’s a good idea to decide ahead of time on how long the visit will last. If the relative is a sibling or young cousin, one question that might come up is, “Could I get sick like Cousin Lucy and die?” This is an understandable fear, says Mosher. You can address it by saying: “While it is possible that another person might get sick with the same disease, it isn’t very likely that you will become sick. But if you do, Mom and Dad will be here to care for you, no matter what.” Regardless of the circumstances, and as difficult as it can be, parents should try not to alter their children’s routine. “Children should keep normal routines and schedules as much as possible,” says Mosher, “and meet basic expectations in terms of school performance.”

Support at school Teachers are well equipped to observe

student to share his or her feelings,

their students’ behaviours and notice

then listen to other students tell a story

when something changes. While many

about someone they’ve lost and how

parents will let teachers know when a

it made them feel,” says Trim. “It can

loved one is seriously ill or has died, not

help them realize they’re not alone.”

all do. “In those cases, the teacher can have a conversation with the parents

After a student’s loved one has died,

to find out what’s going on,” says

teachers need to be patient. “It can

Faye Trim, a Halifax-based registered

take one to three years before grief

psychologist and former school guidance

is resolved,” says Trim. “Each child is


unique and will progress differently. Keep in mind that children are resilient.

Once the teacher has the necessary

With the right support and coping skills

information, he or she can approach the

and enough time, they will heal.”

student sensitively. But what if the child hesitates to open up? “It’s never a good

If teachers still have concerns about

idea to push a child to talk,” says Trim.

worrisome behaviour such as frequent

“The teacher can say, ‘You seem to be

crying or angry outbursts, they can

more emotional than usual in class’ or

access the school’s psychologist, social

‘I’ve seen you crying—that’s not like

worker or guidance counsellor. “The

you, what’s going on?’” If the student

school can play a big role in helping

chooses to confide, the teacher can then

students at times like this,” says Trim.

respond, “How can I help you?”

“The more supports the child has, the better.”

Some teachers lead “caring circles” during which classmates discuss a certain

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OurChildrenMagazine www

topic. “The teacher could encourage the

Our Children | Winter 2015

she does, we’ll all be sad and miss her so much, but I’ll be here to make sure you still go to school, see your friends and do the things that matter to you. And we’ll talk about Mommy together.”



eat your

vegetables! Parents can make better choices and be the role model if they want to improve their kids’ diets

By Edie Shaw-Ewald Vegetables and fruits are on the outer rim of the Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating rainbow, illustrating their importance to our health. Programs such as the 60 Minute Kids’ Club encourage kids and their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables. So you are not alone in being concerned about your child’s diet. Take a look at your diet. The same surveys show that most adults don’t eat enough produce either. Adults should have seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day. Are you reaching your targets?

Our Children | Winter 2015

Adults are more motivated to eat vegetables and fruit because they know it can add years to their lives and life to their years by reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. But chances are that your child won’t find this motivation to crunch more cabbage.


Nagging, coercing and bribing techniques don’t work well in most cases, and can result in emotional drama at the dinner table and usually backfire in the future. Recognize your role as a parent and your child’s role as an eater: you provide the healthy food, a positive role model and eating environment; your child decides what and how much to eat. Respecting these roles will nurture the long-term goal of raising a healthy and independent eater. Plan to have at least one fruit or vegetable serving at breakfast and snacks, one vegetable and fruit at lunch and two vegetables at dinner. Structure and routine around mealtimes will help your child develop long-term healthy eating habits. Eat together at the table as much as possible and let them see you eating and

enjoying vegetables and fruits. Make positive comments about the food: “Aren’t these peppers sweet and crunchy?” “This pear is so juicy!” I never advocate preparing separate meals, but consideration is important. For example, if they prefer the vegetables that you are preparing for dinner in their raw state, then set some aside before you cook them. Try different cuts and cooking methods. Use a peeler to shave ribbons off of carrots or cucumbers to put into salads. Try roasting brussels sprouts instead of boiling them. If they don’t like lots of vegetable chunks in a soup, purée the soup to a smooth consistency. I’m not a fan of always disguising vegetables, though. It doesn’t teach children to enjoy these foods for their inherent tastes and textures. But a little sneakiness is probably okay. Add cooked puréed veggies, such as cauliflower, carrot and sweet potato, to well-liked foods such as chili or pasta sauce.

Sweet Potato-Parsnip Mash Peel and cut 1 large sweet potato and two parsnips into chunks. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and return to pot with 1/4 cup apple cider, a dash of salt and pepper. Mash until nearly smooth.

Price is another barrier to eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Plan meals ahead to avoid food waste and take a look in the reduced price section of the produce aisles. Buy produce in season and don’t forget to stock up on inexpensive frozen vegetable options. Stock up on frozen fruit when it’s on sale. Was Winston Churchill talking about parents getting their child to eat their veggies when he said, “Never, never, never, never give up?” I think so! He must have known that a child’s tastes and preferences can change as they mature.

WALK-IN CLINICS 6 locations to serve you in HRM with evening and weekend hours! One number for ALL locations 902-420-6060 For details visit thefamilyfocus.ca

Edie Shaw-Ewald BSc RD is an Atlantic Superstore Dietitian. You can reach her at Edie.Shaw-Ewald@Loblaw.ca.

Tips for encouraging your kids to eat their veggies: • Deter all-day grazing so that your child will be hungry and motivated to eat at meal times. Offer snacks at certain times, not too close to meal times.

help plan and prepare meals. • Encourage your child to fill half their plate with vegetables at dinner. Be a role model! • Serve small amounts of unfamiliar or not well-liked vegetables with familiar and well-liked vegetables.

Our Children | Winter 2015

• Get kids involved by letting them


Face to face

The power of


Cassidy Megan used to think she was the only person with epilepsy; now, she’s helping people around the world understand the condition Cassidy Megan and Angela McCarthy

By Suzanne Rent

Our Children | Winter 2015

Cassidy Megan is in the Sir Charles Tupper building at Dalhousie, curled up in a chair, wearing an oversized purple hoodie, with the sleeves pulled over her hands and nursing a couple of broken toes she suffered while cheerleading.


She looks like a typical high-school student and has a quiet but quick wit. But that purple hoodie she’s wearing represents more than typical teenage style. Cassidy is the founder of Purple Day, to raise awareness about epilepsy, which affects 50 million people around the world. Cassidy was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was seven. “I thought I was the only one,” she says, recalling when she heard about her diagnosis. Shortly after her diagnosis, her mom, Angela McCarthy, arranged for the Epilepsy Association to visit Cassidy’s class to talk about epilepsy. That day, Cassidy shared with her classmates that she had epilepsy. A year later, she told her mom she wanted to have a day dedicated to epilepsy awareness. So with the help of her mother and school principal, they decided on March 26 as that date and they named it Purple Day. But Cassidy wanted to make it bigger. So with the help of social media, word of mouth, Epilepsy

Association of Nova Scotia, New York-based Anita Kaufmann Foundation, emails to Members of Parliament, a call to the Prime Minister’s Office (they never chatted) along with Cassidy’s passion for sharing her story and learning those of others like her, people around the world now recognize Purple Day. Her mother says Cassidy is determined to get the word out about epilepsy. “That’s just Cassidy,” she says. “She doesn’t think in black and white. There’s a whole rainbow in there and she’s going to cover all the bases.” Now 15, Cassidy has received many accolades for her work on Purple Day, including a meeting with Queen Elizabeth, the QE2 Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Red Cross Young Humanitarian Award. Our Children recently spoke with Cassidy and her mom about Purple Day, what they learned about epilepsy and what they’d like to see Purple Day become. Why did you choose the colour purple for this day? CM: First, yes, it is one of my favourite colours. Second, because lavender is the actual colour for epilepsy. But it’s just a shade of purple. It’s hard to find just lavender.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve had the chance to do with Purple Day? CM: I met a lot of really nice people at Sick Kids [hospital in Toronto]. I had a lot of fun. I got to hang out with them, learning. We had cupcakes, too. We had a cupcake fight there. I’ve gone to a lot of conferences. I understand why they call board meetings “bored” meetings. I get to travel. I see a lot of different things, meet a lot of different people. What do you want our readers to know about epilepsy and people with epilepsy? CM: That people with epilepsy can do anything other people can do. And what to do if they see someone having a seizure. That there is more than one type of epilepsy. What Purple Day is and what it represents. And you do have to restrict yourself from doing some things, but you can do most things. AM: She can’t go swimming by herself or without a type of preserver. We don’t let her go for bike rides alone and usually don’t let her go for long walks by herself—she had a seizure one day when she was out for a walk by herself, it was scary for her and us—or go horseback riding by herself. We don’t like her cooking when she is home by herself either. All of these are only because if she has a seizure it is dangerous. She cannot drive. What have your learned about yourself doing this? CM: I learned more about the kinds of seizures I have and what happens when you forget to take your medication. I do cheerleading; you wouldn’t think I could do that. I can speak in front of a lot of people, but when it comes to speaking in front of my class or my friends, no way. But it has helped me. Angela, what have you learned as the parent of a child with epilepsy? AM: I learned that there are a lot more medications, treatments and resources than we thought. I learned, though, that the world needs to be educated more. That there needs to be more awareness. I learned people need to be more aware of the resources available to us and they need to be realized. I learned that it can happen to anyone. That has been a fear as a parent. I learned that other parents have the same fears and concerns that we do. I learned I have to trust my kid’s judgment and I have to let her be a kid as much as possible. She has taught me a lot. She says, “I have epilepsy, just like you have brown hair and

blue eyes. It’s just a part of me. I can do whatever I want, if you let me.” What do you want other parents to know? AM: When Cass was having her seizures when she was little, we got after her for daydreaming and for being clumsy because she’d fall down the basement stairs all of a sudden. Then we had the guilt of not knowing. So one thing I would tell parents is don’t feel guilty because you don’t know and didn’t know how to react. But educate yourself. Use the agency [Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia]. Use the support that is there for you. And words are power, so talk about it. The longer you are quiet about it, you’re kind of giving into the stigma. Voice your fears, voice your concerns and work hands-on with your doctor. Have you noticed a difference in Cassidy’s personality since she started Purple Day? AM: I’ve noticed a huge difference in confidence where before she wouldn’t speak about it and now she has no problem speaking out about it. She’s quick in jumping on those things she sees injustices in. She’s definitely more confident and outspoken with the advocacy. What did you think when you met the Queen? CM: The first thing that came to my mind was, “Wow, her hair is a lot whiter than I was expecting.” It was fun. It was also cool. But apparently, I had quite a long conversation with the Prince [Phillip]. AM: She cannot remember everything that she talked about with Prince Phillip but she knows that they talked about school, he asked her questions about herself and she asked him about his visit. Do you want to do this as an adult? CM: It’s not really a job...It’s fun seeing people’s events and stuff. It doesn’t feel like a job. It’s more like something I like doing, helping people. What do you want Purple Day to become? CM: I want it to keep going on, keep getting bigger, let more people know. Purple Day actually started in Halifax, so I want it to be the “purplest” place.






OurChildrenMagazine www

Our Children | winter 2015

AM: Lavender is the original colour of epilepsy awareness. The lavender flower is often associated with solitude, which is representative of the feelings of isolations many people with epilepsy feel. When Cassidy started Purple Day she chose to say purple because she said lavender is a shade of purple and this way people can wear whatever type of purple they want and she figured it would be easier to find purple things and lots of it, more then lavender.


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passages of parenthood

Awe-inspiring parenting, sort of

One mom offers her tips on achieving somewhat awesome parenting By Lianne MacNeil I never grew up dreaming of getting married, owning my own home, being a domestic goddess and craft-maker extraordinaire. And I certainly never dreamed of being someone’s mom. I’m not vain, but I think I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping my children happy, healthy and educated and on the right track to being polite, intelligent and valuable members of the human race. While there are certain qualities that are necessary to being a good parent I have almost 22 years of experience on how to learn from your mistakes and be the best-that-you-could-possibly-hope-for mom on the block. No one does what I call “somewhat awesome parenting” quite like me.

Our Children | Winter 2015

Here’s my personal list of the ins-and-outs of parenting as a veteran of three children, years of home child care and additional time working within local public schools. It may not be pretty and it may not be for everyone, but it’s the world of parenting as I know it and it works.


Spits and giggles. It’s all fun and games until someone giggles and spits! Humour will get you through the majority of your parenting years and laughter is the Grace Kelly of surviving the blessing of your beautiful children. Don’t worry about always being right, rigidly following the rules or about appearing silly because your children will love you anyway. Giggle when it’s funny, hide your snicker when it’s not but never forget to laugh. As Mark Twain once said, “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” I’d like to think his weapon reference was about parenting but who can say? It’s also been suggested that you should “end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry.” Amen to that.

Crying is so OK. There will definitely be many times in your years of parenting in which laughter is just not enough. So I’m here to reassure you that crying is completely normal and should be used at all times when possible. Crying rules of thumb indicate that it’s acceptable for babies to cry, it’s OK to let your kids cry and it’s perfectly fine and normal for you to cry. Whether we are sad, scared, frustrated or injured, there is always an actual reason that we are crying so don’t try to stop those tears. Weeping, sobs and sometimes even frantic wailing are there to help, can be very therapeutic and, I promise, will help whatever is bothering you pass more quickly if you just let it flow. Release the boohoo, Kraken! Orange is the new black and hiding is the new sanity. New parents will likely jump back in shock while seasoned parents will tweak neck muscles from their emphatic nodding. A locked bathroom door, the running faucet and loud fan will become your best friend. You will hide to use the washroom and you will hide to cry and gain personal strength on a bad day. You will 100 per cent hide to eat a chocolate treat without having to share and, although you’ll see their little fingers poking under the door, you will most likely grow to love the freedom of The Hide. Take it from me, friend. If your child is safe from harm just take a moment to lock the bathroom door, turn on the fan, blast the faucet and enjoy a whole two minutes of your hot coffee or bowl of ice cream, uninterrupted. Grossed lightning. Farts, burps, snot, eye boogers, nose boogers, poop in every texture, pee, throw-up, toe jams and belly-button stink. Your beautiful, well-mannered little child is going to find these fascinating, terrifying or hilarious and if you don’t believe me then it’s a giant misconception on your part. Every single charming item in the first sentence of this

paragraph is what you should expect when you’re expecting: they’re universal. They’re gross. Deal with them. Soppy, sloppy and schmaltzy. You must be sappy to survive parenthood from birth to infinity and beyond. We automatically hug our children when physical affection is needed or wanted, but you must also squeeze them tight when they push you away. Even more difficult is that we absolutely must give them hugs when we don’t want to and if you don’t believe that’s possible just wait until the pre-teen years. Fathers must be willing participants in tea parties, mothers must learn to make passable truck noises and everyone must learn to enjoy a good knock-knock or “He touched the butt!” Finding Nemo joke. The parenting journey is a gift and privilege but finding your own path is a challenge even on the best days. As Maryanne Radmacher said, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.” Wax on, wax off and stay strong my friends. May the force be with you in this wide and wonderful world of Somewhat Awesome Parenting. Top: Lianne MacNeil with her children, Morgan and Meadow.







Bottom: Lianne’s husband, Mike, with their children, Morgan, Meadow and Victoria.


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Our Children | Winter 2015





Snow play Winter can be a great time to be active and take in the great outdoors •

By Elwin LeRoux, Superintendent

Winter provides many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities • in Nova Scotia. Typically we have enough snow to play with, ponds and lakes freeze over to skate on, and ski hills and snowshoeing trails are ready for action. Our schools view winter the same way: as an opportunity to get outside and participate in activities only available during this season. Physical education teachers, as well as classroom teachers, take students outside to play, discover, learn and be active during the winter months.

Our Children | Winter 2015

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has been working on new Primary to Grade 9 physical education curricula. The curriculum encourages physical education teachers to consider not only school equipment and facilities for lessons, but also community resources and natural environments, such as local skating rinks, trails and hills.


I asked our own Susan Steele, Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence recipient, about her perspective on winter activity as a physical education teacher. Ms. Steele talked to her colleagues and shared some of the winter physical education class options. • •

Winter carnival/snow Olympics: These events are similar to the end of year field day where classes or mixed groups visit stations and play games outside in the snow. Ice-skating: Some schools are able to plan trips to the Halifax Oval for ice-skating. Other schools might plan to visit their local rink. Snow circuits: Students have various stations to complete including “vigorous” snow angels, snow ball target practice and snow relay races. Students love the challenges! Snowshoeing: Some schools have snowshoes available for students to use. They will go for walks or sometimes be really adventurous and have snowshoe races! It is quite the cardiovascular workout!

Ms. Steele also had some suggestions for families. • • • • • •

Sledding Skating on local ponds/ lakes when the ice is safe or visit the Halifax Oval Build a snowman Build a snow fort Hiking trails are usually packed down Skiing or snowboarding

Over the next few months take time to have some winter fun. Build a snowman, go sledding or maybe hit the ski hills. Whatever you choose, being active in the winter is good for everyone in your family. So grab your toque, mitts and scarf and head outdoors.

Snow soccer: Just because the fields are not green doesn’t Elwin LeRoux is the superintendent of the Halifax Regional mean you can’t play soccer! Snow golf: Kick a soccer ball around the snowy field and School Board. Twitter: @ElwinLeRoux try to get the ball in the hoop/ target with as few kicks as possible Sledding: This age-old classic is a great cardio workout. srent@metroguide.ca Feedback www ourchildrenmagazine.ca Some schools are lucky to have safe hilly areas away from @OurChildrenMag OurChildrenMagazine roads and trees. www




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book reviews Healing the Bruises

Eva and Me


Story by Lori Morgan Illustrations by Kathy Kaulbach Alice Housing Ages 6 to 8

By Eva Purcell-MacIntyre and John MacIntyre MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Ages 10 to 12

By Dave Atkinson Nimbus Publishing Ages 10 to 12

A generation ago, Eva’s story would have been almost unheard of, but it’s becoming a more common one. From an orphanage in Guongdong, China, she made a 13,000-kilometre journey to her new home: a fishing village on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Jammed with family photos, Eva and Me is a deeply personal story by Eva and her new father, sharing her journey. They explore how John and his wife came to discover Eva in a Dickensian Chinese orphanage, the emergence of her vibrant personality, as she settled into a new life, and her experiences growing up as a Canadian child and discovering her identity. Now 12 years old, Eva shares her story with grace and maturity—this is like getting to read a family’s personal journal.

Kate’s destiny has always been clear: on her thirteenth birthday, she will hear the moon call, and become a werewolf like them. But Kate doesn’t want to be a werewolf. Kate likes ducks, and when the moon calls, she quacks in reply. Her family is nonplussed as Kate transforms into the eponymous wereduck. Writer Dave Atkinson has crafted a world that’s fantastical and funny enough to enchant kids. This is the perfect book for young readers who are ready to graduate to chapter books. Beyond the imagination-sparking premise, it’s a well written story that contains good lessons about discovering yourself and accepting others.

Our Children | Winter 2015

If you’ve never been in the situation, it’s almost impossible to understand what it must be like to be a child in an unsafe home, to have to leave because the people who are supposed to care for you can’t or won’t protect you. With this ambitious and important book, author Lori Morgan, who has worked as a youth counsellor at Alice Housing for the last four years, tries to make the experience more relatable. With warmth, empathy and wisdom, she tells the story of Julia, a young girl who, with her mother, leaves an abusive home and begins the healing process. For kids who have experienced domestic violence, the story will be relatable and perhaps show them the light at the end of the tunnel. Kids who haven’t had such experiences will learn to see through the eyes of a kid just like them. This is an important book—a complex topic handled well, and perfectly complemented with Kathy Kaulbach’s evocative illustrations.


By Trevor J. Adams

Cupcake Diaries By: Coco Simon Ages 8 to 12 Cupcake Diaries is a series of books about four girls in middle school who own a cupcake business together. They do lots of events like birthdays, weddings and parties. They started their business on the first day of middle school when Katie brought in cupcakes to school during lunch. Throughout the series they have had lots of adventures and lots of new things happen. This would be interesting to pre-teens thinking of starting their own business.

Brookelyn Joyce Grade 6 Central Spryfield Elementary