More than Taekwon-Do with Masterful Master Phil

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 World. This blog post originally appeared on her website:

When I signed up my 13 year old son for Taekwon-Do lessons at Black Belt Excellence Martial Arts Academy in Kanata, I did not realize that I was signing us up for life and parent coaching, too. Not only is Master Phil a seventh degree Black Belt, who passes on the passion for his discipline to his students, he is also a master teacher. He teaches students respect, motivation and belief in themselves and he teaches parents and teachers how to relate to their children.

When Master Phil meets his students, he doesn’t try to make friends and to be like them. He is authentic and he is very clear about his role and the student role, very politely demonstrating respect. Right from the start, he looks students in the eye, introduces himself, and asks questions. At first, his questions are closed questions so the student has to answer yes or no. When the student responds, Master Phil instructs them to answer with a “Yes, Sir.” or a “No, Sir.” He welcomes them to his dojang (martial arts academy), and talks about the importance of respect verifying the student has understood by simply asking, “Do you understand?” Another closed question. When the student answers, Master Phil reminds the student to answer with “Sir.” With the third question, Master Phil assumes the student knows, and just waits for the appropriate response. From the start, with a few very simple questions, without any fuss, he has established expectations for respect and discipline.

Master Phil also understands the importance of creating rapport with parents and demonstrates respect towards the parents to his students. From the start, students get the message that everybody is there for the same goals: supporting that student. And everybody  understands that they need to work together to achieve those goals. Greeting students and parents alike when they arrive, Master Phil creates community. He thanks the parents for taking the time to drive their kids to the lesson, and commends the students on their dedication to practicing. With a few simple comments, he creates a bond and demonstrates to his students how to be respectful as well as boosting their confidence and motivating them.

When Master Phil gives feedback to his students, he goes beyond the generic and questionable “Good job.” He seeks to acknowledge who they are and what they can do: You listened well; You were focused; You worked hard; I can see how dedicated you are; Your practice is paying off. This specific feedback focusing on what they do, motivates students because they know someone has noticed what they can do and, as a result, they want to improve. Then, when Master Phil tells them what they need to work on, they know they are getting honest and helpful advice and not criticism. When he addresses his students as “Future yellow belt”, or “Future green stripe” he is telling them that they can achieve the next step, that they are on the right track, and that he sees it. They want to work harder because Master Phil believes in them and knows they are capable.

If you decide to sign up your children for Taekwon-Do lessons with Master Phil at Black Belt Excellence Martial Arts Academy in Kanata, know that you are signing up for so much more.  Master Phil demonstrates and teaches students respect, dedication, and authenticity. And, he teaches the observant parent how to achieve compliance from children and young adults, how to foster a respectful relationship while staying in the teacher/parent/adult role and how to motivate and encourage them. Masterful, Master Phil!

Winter Books for Readers of All Ages from the OPL!

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new books for children with us. This month’s post is by Andrea Gowing from the Centennial branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

Winter:  A Bright Baby touch and feel book.

This board book has lovely textured pages full of fun pictures of winter’s magic.  We find a plump happy snowman, a sparkling snowflake, a winter forest and more!  A lovely first winter concept book for little hands.

Hello Winter!  By Shelley Rotner.  A lovely introduction to our coldest season using vibrant photography that speaks of the joys of winter. Children dressed in bright, warm winter clothing show us how to have fun in the snow.  Aspects of the natural world in winter are explored including how animals cope in the cold.  Short sentences and simple text make this a perfect read aloud for children ages 4+.

Mice Skating By Annie Silvestro.  Lucy is not like other field mice!  She does not want to stay all burrowed down in winter.  She loves wearing her “fluffy wool hat with the pink pom-pom on top,” and the feel of the snow crunching under her paws.  She cannot convince her friends to come outside with her, so she goes alone and discovers the thrill of skating.  Eventually Lucy outfits her friends with warm hats and skates, and they too, discover the joys of winter outside.  This is such a sweet book with perfect mousie illustrations.  Curl up with your little mouse and enjoy.  Adults will groan at the ‘cheesy’ puns! 

Winterhouse By Ben Guterson.   The first book in a trilogy for Middle-grade readers, this story is set in a hotel full of secrets!  Eleven year old Elizabeth is shipped off to Winterhouse hotel "…in the middle of nowhere during Christmas with no money and hardly any clothes," by her not so loving aunt and uncle.   Lucy’s new friend, 11-year-old Freddy, who loves puzzles and anagrams as much as she does, helps her solve a long-standing mystery.  A great story for mystery lovers.

The Boy Who Went Magic by A.P. Winter.  While not exactly a winter-themed book, this one is written by A.P. Winter!   Magic has been banned, but is it really gone?  Bert and Finn set out on an adventure to find it.  Airships, fights, adventure, gadgets, and of course magic. This is a fast moving magical tale best described as steampunk meets Harry Potter.  A fast paced, ‘can’t put it down’ adventure that will appeal to Harry Potter and Artimus Fowl fans!

Warm up with the NAC Orchestra Family Adventures Series!

Looking for some entertaining (and educational) activities to enjoy with your child this March? Check out the remaining two performances in the Family Adventures with the NAC Orchestra series. Geared to kids aged 5 and over, this fun and interactive series introduces children to the joy of orchestral music.  Each performance is accessible in either English or French,  lasts approximately one hour and features the NAC Orchestra with special guests who bring the music to life! Be sure to arrive 45 minutes early to participate in hands on pre-concert activities. Tickets start at $15 for kids and $20 for adults.

Upcoming Family Adventures events include: 

Freestylin’ Like Mozart
March 2 - 3, 2019 at 2:30 PM
Did you know that musical geniuses like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven freestyled on the keyboard in improv competitions against other composers, fueled by suggestions from the audience?  Join us for an exciting and interactive concert experience that puts together comedy theatre Second City and the NAC Orchestra to demo musical improv and hear some of the classical masterpieces that came out of it! For more information or to purchase tickets for Freestylin’ Like Mozart visit

Orchestra From Planet X
March 30 - 31, 2019 at 2:30 PM
An unwitting conductor only wants to trace the influences of the New World on European orchestral tradition when two aliens descend on Southam Hall with ideas of their own! With ideas and inventions for influencing "Earth Music" these mischievous extraterrestrials turn what should have been a straight forward orchestra program into a sci-fi musical thriller. For more information or to purchase tickets for Orchestra from Planet X visit

**GIVEAWAY! We’re giving away four tickets to the March 30th performance of Orchestra From Planet X! To enter, simply leave a comment on this Facebook Post letting us know who you will take with you to this sci-fi musical! Draw will take place Friday, March 15th.

This blog post has been sponsored by the National Arts Centre Orchestra. All opinions are our own.

What Dry January taught me about myself

You can’t have been on social media in January and NOT seen a post about Dry January. Dry January is a public health campaign with its roots in Britain. Launched in 2014 by the non-profit Alcohol Change UK, the organization’s aim is to reduce the harm from alcohol. According to their website, one person every hour dies as a result of alcohol. That’s certainly a sobering statistic.

When a friend on Facebook posted in late December to say she was starting a fun/casual “support group” for Dry January, I decided to join in. 31 days later, I’m sharing some of the insights and lessons I’ve learned along the way!


The Why

I didn’t publicly declare I was doing Dry January because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it. Another reason was that I really didn’t want to answer the WHY question. People think you’re either crazy, or a bit of a stick in the mud when you refuse a drink.

To be very clear: no, I’m not an alcoholic (I have many, many people in my life who can vouch for that fact.) But as I’ve written before here on the blog, I have become increasingly aware of the harmful effects of drinking culture among parents. It’s always bugged me that I rely so much on that glass of wine at the end of the day. In recent years (that previous post was written in 2015!) my resolve to drink only on weekends has certainly been successful - if you define “weekend’ as Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and the occasional Monday.

When I first entered my drinking habits into the handy “Try Dry” app, I was brutally honest and also quite shocked at how much I’m drinking in an entire month. The one glass of wine would often turn into 2 (or even 3) on weekends and who actually pours themself a UNIT of alcohol? Most of us are drinking 1.5 or 2 units per drink.

The final reason? My dermatologist recommended I try a month alcohol free to see if it would help with my psoriasis.

The How

As I mentioned above, I didn’t think I could do it! But the combination of support I received in the Facebook group, the satisfaction of clicking that little “I stayed dry” button on the app every night, and the benefits I was seeing propelled me forward. In fact, it almost became easy - sure, I still had my moments of longing, but those were few and far between the moments of pride.

To make sure I didn’t fall back into old habits, I knew I had to REPLACE or REDIRECT. I replaced my favourite brew with a non-alcoholic IPA called Partake. Obviously this was not going to taste exactly like my favourite beer, but if it was nicely chilled it hit the spot and my cravings vanished. I replaced my wine with sparkling water (often mixed with fruit juices) or kombucha, which I drank in a wine glass. I also drank a lot of vanilla rooibos tea with a dash of cream and maple syrup.

The worst time for me is right after work/school when everyone is hungry and tired. That’s when I’m most likely to pull out the wine and pour myself a glass. So I had to redirect myself to healthier habits - I tried to rest on the couch if it had been a long day, or played a quiet game with my girls. Most cravings disappear within minutes, so as long as you’re finding something else to do, you’ll get over the hump soon enough.

The Results

A few of the benefits I’ve observed:

  • Brain fog is gone. I can’t believe how clearly I can think! My memory has almost certainly improved, and I’m feeling much more organized in my life.

  • Mood swings and anger: I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my mood swings, which could be related to blood sugar - alcohol wreaks havoc on our blood sugar levels, and I’ve noticed I’m feeling much less angry and more calm overall. My kids are definitely feeling those effects, as I’m less likely to be snapish with them (especially around dinner and bedtime)

  • Healthy habits: without alcohol, I’ve been forced to turn to healthy habits to reduce stress and anxiety in my life. I’ve found an amazing yoga class, and have also started Zumba. I’ve been taking a lot of long walks (yes, in the snow!) and have even cut down on caffeine. I think without the “fuzziness” that alcohol seems to bring on I don’t need the same caffeine kick to keep myself going throughout the day.

Sadly I haven’t noticed any change in my psoriasis. I’m convinced it would heal if I just moved to a warm and humid climate, but alas, that’s not happening anytime soon. I also haven’t noticed any change in weight, but I’m a slim person who doesn’t fluctuate anyway, so I’m not he best test case.

The Future

To say that this challenge has forever changed my relationship with alcohol is not an exaggeration. I know I won’t be going back to the same drinking habits (although many people who do Dry January do, and that’s OK if it works for you!) I don’t think I want to be 100% alcohol free, but I’m going to be much more careful about when and why I’m drinking. The Try Dry app will help me with those goals, as I’ll be able to continue tracking my drinks throughout the year. And now that I’ve done it, I know I could do it again - and for longer if need be.

The health benefits of daily alcohol intake rest on shaky evidence and there is mounting research that points to significant harms from alcohol - particularly for women. This makes so much sense to me, as I’ve always wondered why I can sometimes feel hungover after only two drinks. Women metabolize alcohol differently, and our fluctuating hormones add another layer of complexity to the issue.

Overall, I feel strong and quite proud that I achieved my goals. It’s given me more confidence in myself and has had a ripple effect on many other areas in my life. I’ll definitely be doing it again!

If you missed the Dry January boat and feel curious, why not try another month? February is shorter ;)

Winterlude 2019

The snow has been steadily falling for almost a week here in Ottawa, and February is fast approaching. Almost time for one of the best festivals of the year - Winterlude!


On the list of activities this year are some old favourites that are always a MUST for families: - the Rideau Canal Skateway, Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park, and the 32nd Crystal Garden International ice carving competition. Also back this year are the WInterlude mascots the Ice Hog Family, with a special birthday celebration for Noumi and Nouma.

What’s New

  • The Chimes: Visitors to the Byward Market are invited to activate this set of chimes comprising more than 30 illuminated tubes and eight loudspeakers, triggering a transformation of the space through sound and light.

  • Culture Walk: The Downtown Rideau Culture Walk is a free, self-guided walking tour featuring the abundant and vibrant collection of public art, galleries, exhibits, monuments and points of interest in the district “Where Culture Lives!”

  • Sparks Street Icecade: Three weekends of frozen interactive fun! Try your mitts at classic carnival games with a chilly twist. Enjoy a warm beverage as you toss, throw or shuffle.

  • LGBTQ2+ Ice Mosaic: Come OUT and play: build an ice mosaic using small coloured blocks of ice in the rainbow flag colours.

Where to go

There are so many different destinations for Winterlude. You definitely don’t have to spend all your time skating on the canal. Check out this link for the complete list of events and destinations, as well as an interactive map so that you can find your way around. The easiest form of transportation is the OLG Sno-Bus shuttle service which is FREE. Ongoing shuttle-bus service is provided by OC Transpo and the Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO), linking the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park, in Gatineau; the ByWard Market (Crystal Garden); and the Rideau Canal Skateway up to Dows Lake, in Ottawa. OLG Sno-Bus stops are clearly indicated on Winterlude signs.


Never braved the snow to check out Winterlude? My family goes every year, and I wrote a quick tips/tricks blog post back in 2016 (the year when all the ice sculptures melted….we still had so much fun!) to give families a bit more info on all the big events.

Do you attend Winterlude with the family? What’s your favourite part?

This blog post has been sponsored by Canadian Heritage. All opinions are our own.