The Kids Are All Right: Youth Week in New Westminster

On May 2nd, the New Westminster Youth Awards will celebrate New West Youth.

These awards are a ceremony designed to identify and recognize the accomplishments of youth within the City of New Westminster.  There are six categories for youth accomplishments as well as one category for adults that have supported youth in their work towards success.

The Youth Awards themselves originated from the definition and purpose of Youth Week in B.C. which is to highlight and promote youth throughout our province during the first week of May each year. This celebration provides the opportunity and backdrop for an awards ceremony dedicated to youth who have accomplished great things within our community. The ceremony also provides a forum for promotion and identification of the positive contributions the youth demographic has made to the New Westminster community on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. An additional purpose is to establish and maintain a positive environment and outlet for youth accomplishments within the New Westminster community. The categories and criteria are heavily Parks & Recreation based with intent to highlight youth accomplishments while in our programs, facilities, and community events.  It is a chance for youth to stand out and be noticed for the positive contributions they have made.

You can get more info about all of the events at NewWestYouth.ca, including the BBQ today after school.

Rest in Peace on Kelly Street

Though Halloween is classically meant to be eerie and dark, it is quite depressing when you live on a street that is deserted on Halloween. We moved into the 500 block on Kelly Street last summer and were very disappointed to have less then 10 trick or treaters come to our new home. Having grown up in a bustling Halloween street, I remember the magic, sense of community and fun it had been just outside my door. This was just not acceptable. As I went about  talking to the neighbours I heard of stories which now seem to be  legends. Neighbours of old spoke of a time many moons ago. Years before, the number of trick or treaters were too large too count.  As time went by  people left, new people came and in the end most people stopped caring. My mission? Is to get it back to where it use to be.

But how?

I thought, what are the bare essentials necessary for any outdoor adventure regardless of Halloween? Shelter, warmth, food and drinks.  Rest in Peace on Kelly Street was born.

Forget about the pre-Halloween dinner scramble. Come down to Rest in Peace on Kelly Street. Relax and enjoy Hot  Coffee, Hot Chocolate and Pizza- complementary from Sapperton’s very own Pappa Leo’s Pizza. Be warm and sheltered from our heat lamps and gazebos. Get enchanted by the decorations and vibe to come. Be most rewarded by our give-aways and BIG treats!

“Rest in Peace” prior to your journey or have a warm  resting Place with food and beverage to-go in between homes.    Or if it works better, end your night with us as your final resting place.

In the shadows of the night

Come join us for some haunting bites.

We cast you shelter, warmth, hot drinks, BIG treats.

May you Rest in Peace on Kelly Street.

For more details please follow us on https://www.facebook.com/RIPKELLYST/

Instagram: @ rest_in_peace_on_Kelly_st

On Being a Vegan Mom

I am a tattooed, vegan, babywearing, bedsharing, crunchy mama to a biracial toddler. Guess what part of the above sentence usually gets me the most heat? Choosing to raise our son vegan wasn’t an easy decision; my husband is an omnivore but does not cook or keep meat in our home and I am a vegan. We respect each other’s dietary choices but live a mainly vegan lifestyle. Feeding our son what we already make at home was only logical and it forced us to put a lot of thought into what we actually feed our child. And let me tell you, he is a big eater and has tried more foods than I have in my entire life. I am working on that. But that isn’t enough for some…  

I have heard it all. “child abuser,”, “bad mother,”, “you should be in jail!” “you should have your kid taken from you!” You name it, I have heard it. Pro-tip from an alternative parent: stay away from comment sections. (Actually, just stay away from the comments period, for your sanity.) Vile comments from parents who feed their kids fast food and other junk—which I would never dare judge them for—who then have the nerve to judge us for feeding organic veggies, fruits, tofu and the occasional cupcake. “You do you” apparently does not apply to a vegan parent. And I take that to heart because my kid is going to be at the receiving end of these uneducated comments once he starts school. I’ve heard the rhetoric many times:“how dare you impose this on your child who cannot make his own decisions?” Well, because they can’t. That’s why they have parents to help them make those decisions. Much like you do with yours, and you deem it fair to feed them whatever you think is good for your kid. So do I, and with probably more thought because I do have to make sure he gets enough iron, B12 and—yes—protein. My answer is, how dare you would think I would voluntarily put my child’s life in danger for what you consider a diet fad. Instead of wondering where he gets his protein, why don’t you ask how I am able to feed my two year old broccoli and kale?

We live with two silly (that’s the polite way to put it) dogs. One of them—a beagle —is the reason I became vegan in the first place. Beagles have long been test subjects in labs because of how trusting and kind they are for their size. I have since been on a long and slow journey toward a sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan-as-much-as-I-can (I mean, electronics made in countries full of conflict, amirite?) and, eventually, zero-waste lifestyle. To me, veganism is much more than food. It’s in line with our current societal and environmental issues and needs and a vision that we all share deep inside— a better place and a better planet. To me it’s only logical, but I will not force it upon my child.

We are raising our kid to be compassionate, understanding, and able to make his own choices. At home, we eat vegan. If my son chooses to venture outside this dietary realm I will not stop him. I will support him and show him kindness. I will educate him on the reasons why his mommy is a vegan and why we made this decision for him, but I will not restrict him. No matter how much my little heart will break, and no matter how hurt my sense of ethics will be. My love for my child must overcome it and not become an inhibitor. I did not impose this lifestyle on my husband. He took on the challenge on his own and is now our household’s sole chef, and a fantastic one at that. The kid has his work cut out for him with growing up in today’s society in general, so I don’t need to repeat my father’s mistake and be so restrictive with foods. I grew up on meat, mash, and veg in a can. We ate whatever my father liked.

My husband grew up with junk food and had soda and chocolate bars in his packed lunch, how lucky! I didn’t really drink soda until I was a teen. To this day, our opposite life experiences impact us both. Hubby is a serious cola addict and I am overcoming being a picky eater. This causes divide and judgement on both sides of the family and, in my case, a lot of anxiety. So we pack lunches and snacks and try to educate, but we cannot expect them to know that even stuff that seems like it should be vegan (margarine, for example, has milk products in it) sometimes isn’t, and that carefully picking the cheese and pepperoni off a slice of pizza does not make it vegan.

As a couple, as parents, we come together to compromise and raise our child in this new world we live in. A new world where we care for other lives, the environment, and our bodies. He’ll follow suit. Kids are usually inherently vegetarians and, well, being vegan is so hot right now.

 

Bubble Guppies! Live at the Massey Theatre!

My son is eight now but that doesn’t mean I can’t sign you the Bubble Guppies theme song.

🎶Bubble bubble bubble guppies guppies guppies 🎶

I’m pretty sure we have watched every single episode and if he were younger he’d be completely thrilled to hear that the Bubble Guppies are coming to New Westminster on February 18.

Don’t know the Bubble Guppies?  It’s an Emmy-award winning telelvision show that teaches kids about a wide range of topics – from dinosaurs to dentists, rock and roll to recycling, and colours to cowboys. Molly, Gil and their fishtailed classmates learn about the world around them through playful investigation.

And yes, there is now a live stage show: Bubble Guppies Live! Ready to Rock! And we have a Family Four pack of tickets to giveaway.

“Put on your water-wings and get ready to dive into a swimsational musical underwater adventure,” says Patti Caplette, artistic director of the live show. Koba Entertainment has assembled an all-star team, including Bubble Guppies creators and writers Jonny Belt and Robert Skull, to bring this show to the live stage, “We’ve created a totally awesome production for everyone to rock out with the Bubble Guppies, but first they’re going to have to solve the mystery of the missing band member,” says Caplette.

The basic plot: when the Bubble Guppies are getting ready to rock n’ roll with everyone’s favourite tunes, a special band member goes missing and the show can’t go on! With help from Mr. Grouper and giggly little fish, Molly, Gil and the whole gang embark on a musical expedition as they search every corner of their bubbly world for their friend. Featuring music, comedy, and audience participation, the Bubble Guppies will have to leave no stone left unturned and no bubble left un-popped in order to get the show on the road.

Tour information and ticket details available at www.BubbleGuppiesOnTour.com.

To enter our contest:

Simply add a comment on this post! Feel free to share! Contest closes 4pm PST on February 13 – Family Day – and winners will be notified via email so make sure you use a valid email address. You must be able to pick up your tickets from the Box Office

Joining Houses

Paul wasn’t supposed to live. And then not past three. And then not past six. And now he’s thirty.

My new brother-in-law Paul has a disability, or to use his more enlightened vocabulary a ‘diverse-ability’. It’s a one-in-a-million condition, for real. We can talk about the science later, or not, because in some ways the details don’t matter. It’s like when the end of a movie doesn’t say what happened to the main character, or wanting to know the gory details of a crime. Curiosity is natural, but it can overshadow what’s really important about the story.

I married Alexi less than two years ago, officially joining houses with a family that is different from mine. What I noticed from the start is the openness and closeness of this new family. Emotions are stated plainly. Arguments happen. They can spend so much time together without a break. I found this remarkable, but it could make me feel uncomfortable.

Paul is Alexi’s younger brother. He is very social. His 30th birthday was packed with a mix of family, friends, rugby teammates, young entrepreneurs, and free-spirited souls. He has a ridiculous guffawing laugh that makes me stop whatever I’m doing to join in. His bright blue eyes have a wonderful mischievousness lurking just below the surface, which often manifests as a smartass comment that catches me off guard.

His stubbornness is at once his best and worst quality. He dreams about wheeling across Canada and doesn’t want to hear reasons not to, but has to confront his body’s limitations. He trained too much, which resulted in a ceaseanddesist order from his metabolic specialist. He lives very independently and works hard to make it happen. But he also needs support to prep meals and clean because his fine motor control is varied. I admire Paul’s stubbornness, despite the worry it sometimes produces for those around him. It pushes him to live a great life.

Life’s most meaningful experiences are so memorable because they are the best and hardest things you will ever do. This has been true for me about joining my new family.

It has been amazing. I sat in a room while the whole family worked with Paul to make a “path.” A path is a life plan where you write and draw all your big dreams, hopes and ambitions, and then work back to create a workable plan to get there. It was in these few hours where I saw—really saw—how much love and closeness this family shared. The conversation was about living independently, finding love, finding meaningful work, and living well. I saw Paul’s courage as he talked about his dreams and some of his unique challenges. I heard overwhelming support, interspersed with some hard truths and reality-checks.

It has been hard. Before we got married, Alexi and I talked about having children and the possibility of having a child with a disability. I was terrified. I asked if we should find out  before getting married. I asked if we should not get married if it turned out we couldn’t have kids. We went through genetic testing to see if we were both carriers of the particular gene. It was a game of chance. It was a conversation with doctors about probabilities. It turns out we’re OK.

It was during our conversation about children that I felt  most loved, and saw my wife’s courage and  commitment. She said, “I love you, and that’s enough. We’ll figure everything else out.” These two sentences changed me. I was coming from a place of fear. She was coming from a place of love, commitment, and faith.

Her parents are remarkable and candid. I see their joy and appreciation for life. I remember his mother saying, while we were sitting looking at the water, “You stop worrying about a lot of things when you’re not sure if your child is going to live or not.” I know it’s been hard for them having a child that needs more support through their life. A son that is very independent, but won’t launch the same way as their daughter.

Getting to know Paul has made me more compassionate. I am more willing to ask questions and try to understand people’s experiences. I am more willing to contribute to my community. I see the randomness, fragility, unfairness and most of all the beauty of life. We can’t predict who will be in perfect health, have a car accident, get cancer, or have a disability. I am grateful for the support that he and my family receives. Because the same thing could happen to me, to my neighbor, or to my friends. I want to live in and help build a compassionate community. It’s hitting home now because I will be a father soon too.

RESOURCES:

The Family Support Institute of BC, located in New West, strengthens and supports families faced with the extraordinary circumstances that come with having a family member who has a disability.

Vela is a Langley-based non-profit that helps families create amicroboard”. A microboard is a small group of committed family and friends who join together with the individual to create a non-profit society (board) to help the individual plan their life, advocate for what they need, and connect to their wider community.

 

Family: You Keep Using That Word

Six years after the end of our relationship, I found myself awkwardly seated at a table on the fringes of my son’s father’s wedding hall. His bride was a mysterious but beautiful young Ukrainian woman I’d only met a few months earlier, and frankly the whole thing intimidated the pants off me.

The day of the wedding, there had been a massive windstorm, and stray branches were littered across the parking lot. The threatening gray sky set the scene for some kind of apocalyptic event. From the edges of the room with my quietly disoriented date next to me, I watched my extended family officially take shape: my son stood in his tiny pressed suit at an archway between the couple, occasionally skipping between us from one side of the hall to the other, so excited to be part of something so grand. His dad tousled his little mop of hair just as often as I flattened it smooth again—a subtle, invisible tug-of-war. I pointed this out to my ex as he visited our table. He chuckled and gave grinning Tommy another ruffle. Without ever having had a nuclear family to compare this to, Tommy’s worries extended only to how many treats he would get after the ceremony.

Tommy has always lived with me and happily visited with his dad without being subjected to an autopsy of our relationship. The arguments he’s exposed to are the important ones—the value of cats as pets or whose hairstyle is cooler (mine). I’ve grown to adore Tommy’s stepmother. Though the three of us are friends now, if you’d asked my ex and I when we split if this were possible, we’d both have found a clever way to change the subject.

Back then, the idea of being a single mother terrified to me. All I’d ever seen were TV renditions, and since I’m no Lorelei Gilmore I feared Teen Mom was my destiny. But it turned out–as it almost always turns out–parenting a child alone is infinitely easier than trying to crush a family together from parts that just don’t fit.

I’m often asked, “why couldn’t you make the relationship work for your child’s sake?” This is interesting, because the concern is never about the real hardship affecting lone-parent families: poverty. Child poverty is the main contributing factor toward poor socio-economic outcomes for our children. In New Westminster, only 18% of census families live in single detached homes, compared to a national average of 55%. Most families (76%) live in apartments or duplexes that continue to become more unaffordable as the housing market worsens for everyone.

According to the 2011 census, 6,340 of New Westminster families with children at home were married, 605 were common-law, and 2,755 were lone-parent families. Of those lone-parent families, 2,195 are female-headed households, which means my particular family structure isn’t so unusual: we make up nearly 23% of families with children at home. When women still earn less than men and perform the bulk of domestic labour, it’s no surprise our major challenges when he have children alone are income- and career-related, which explains our troubles with housing and poverty.

That the question “why didn’t you figure it out?” is about our children’s emotional well-being in light of not having a specific (heterosexual, married) family structure is insulting. It assumes there is only one good way to raise healthy children. It ignores the gendered income and labour disparity that perpetuates child poverty, and invalidates anything outside the prescribed norm. It’s also intrusive. Married couples are never asked by new acquaintances to describe the worst parts of their relationship publicly, but this information becomes an overriding part of your character as a single parent, and is therefore Everybody’s Business. Apparently nobody becomes a single parent without a fascinating, tragic backstory.

This attitude superimposes a ‘correct’ family structure on top of ours, highlighting the ways the two are mismatched, and demanding we address our ‘otherness’ in ways that reassure the observer. I’m expected to agree that my son’s upbringing is flawed, and feel pressure to heroically ‘make up’ the differences with Tales of Personal Strength! or some other inspirational martyr nonsense that conveys that ‘we’ll be okay despite it.’ Look, I don’t have time to inspire. I’m busy today.

Regardless of my response, the result is usually a pitying look, which is–as we all know–the correct way to respond to someone grocery shopping with their family between karate and dinner. My son hears the exchange and sees the look. He goes from feeling proud about his new karate belt level and excited to tell his dad at dinner, to wondering what’s ‘wrong’. It’s troubling. Nothing is wrong. When society calls anything other than a nuclear family a ‘broken’ one, we make healthy, loved, supported children feel broken for no reason at all. I just want to buy milk and self-consciously grab pack of toilet paper, and suddenly my family is wrong. Tommy and I are having that talk again in the back seat of the car, and his day is tainted by the whole thing.

We have these talks a lot. I have been asked in front of Tommy why my son isn’t white, what his dad is, where his dad is, and all the awful little things in between that prompt him to doubt his family’s legitimacy. The reality is, even if we hadn’t attended Dad’s wedding and even if Dad wasn’t in the picture, nothing is wrong with us. The process of being required to explain ourselves for existing differently is what’s wrong.

Whether your family includes biological heteronormative parents, remarriages and half-siblings, a lone-parent household, adoptive or foster parents, eighteen siblings, no siblings, a ‘mixed’ ethnic background, LGTBQ+ parents, or guardians who aren’t parents at all, the only thing that matters is that your family is supported in getting the resources you need to stay healthy and produce decent people. None of us have the picture-perfect family of yesteryear’s newspaper ads, and we shouldn’t! (Guys, those ads also told us smoking would make us cool and that asbestos was a good insulator.)

If you want to acknowledge challenges in non-traditional family structure as a way of showing your compassion, try this: look for common interests and shared experience. When you see me grumbling at my son about dawdling while trundling along the sidewalk with my milk and toilet paper, don’t think of me as a beleaguered single mom taking it out on her neglected kid. That’s just not what’s happening. We’re being a family: a patchwork of warmth, laughter, love, dysfunction, impatience, determination, and devotion, just like yours. And trust me, I know you have your share of grumbles, because this family thing is hard work however you do it.