Canadian Thanksgiving

My family is made up of Canadians and Americans which is awesome. This past weekend, my American niece brought a friend to our Thanksgiving gathering . In celebrating her very first Canadian Thanksgiving she asked, “So how do Canadians do Thanksgiving?” It’s a fair question and a much more sophisticated one than “Canadians have their own Thanksgiving?” or “Why don’t you celebrate it at the end of November?” which are two questions I have also been asked. My American nephew has always provided the best possible answer when asked the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving: “Same food; different relatives.” There you go.

So while it’s awesome that my family is made up of Canadians and Americans, it is not awesome that they get two Thanksgivings and I only get one. That is for the birds (see what I did there?) and I want in on that!

I have an open invitation to US Thanksgiving from my American family but I have been unable to attend one because the US Thanksgiving does not fall on a Canadian holiday. See, Columbus Day often falls on Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. I must say I really appreciate that Christopher Columbus could coincide his landing in Central America with Canadian Thanksgiving so that so many of my US relatives can join us. While Columbus Day is not a national holiday in the US, it has for the most part been observed by most of the schools my American nieces and nephew attend, and by some US employers.

I now I am thinking that the only way for me to celebrate US Thanksgiving on a regular basis to have a Canadian national holiday coincide with the US one. (I’m a little surprised that no one asked this of our party leaders during the recent national debates but, whatever.)

The problem I’ve run into (which I am guessing the party leaders might already know) is that I cannot come up with a single important historical event that took place in our history at the end of November – one that Canadians can celebrate nationally and that would coincide with US Thanksgiving. This leads me to conclude that Canadians didn’t do much at the end of November other than put their winter tires on, pack their freezers with moose meat and lie dormant for the winter.

We seem to have our own Black Friday now, a spillover from the US tradition of the Friday after Thanksgiving being the busiest shopping day of the year. You can hardly designate Black Friday a holiday though can you? And then there’s Louis Riel’s hanging at the end of November for his part in the North-West Rebellion but that’s hardly a happy occasion to make a national holiday. It is a provincial holiday in Manitoba but in February. I just think it’s a little harsh to ask Americans to change their Thanksgiving holiday to February. Besides, it’s tough to find a live turkey to pardon in February in many parts of North America.

Still, it would be nice to celebrate another Thanksgiving. Plenty to be thankful for … on both sides of the border!

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and an early wish to all my American friends for a magnificent Thanksgiving … in November … when I’m out putting on my winter tires … and packing my freezer with moose meat.


TGiving Table 2015


Book Launch Party pic



Reminder:  Taking place TONIGHT

The Mill Tavern

5544 Main Street, Manotick


Books will be on sale for $15 each

Someone once told me that boys will always love their mothers, forever and for always. Boys may not break our hearts but they sure break our backs. Both my boys have shared a room for the better part of the last eighteen years and both recently left for university. Somehow instead of double the mess, the wreckage that is their bedroom was a disaster of epidemic proportions. There are school supplies in that room seeking political asylum. It took me until October to venture in there because when you order a Hazmat suit online, seems there is a fair amount of explaining to do to Public Safety Canada.

Once I decided that an intervention was essential (just in case we had house guests), I swooped in like a SWAT team … singular SWAT team, mind you. Their room was unrecognizable. Two full days later, I have to say I’m damn proud of myself … their room is now pretty tidy and no property restoration company was involved!

This exercise was not without casualties however. As I cleaned out their room, here is what I found:

18 hockey player figurines

17 plastic mini sticks

16 minature dinosaurs

15 dirty socks (not matched of course)

14 hockey tournament medals

13 hockey pucks

12 Disney pins (still attached to their Disney lanyard)

11 USB sticks (contents unknown)

10 NFL game jerseys

9 bags of paintball balls

8 bobbleheads

7 calculators

6 empty tins of chewing tobacco

5 different school permission forms signed by me

4 letters I’d written to them at camp – unopened

3 fifths of vodka – empty of course

2 poker sets, and

1 clearly used beer funnel

Oh, and I also found roughly ten dollars in coins which I feel I am certainly keeping (I feel I am owed).

So after several bags of garbage and recyclables if I have any advice to give young mothers of boys it is this: don’t wait until they leave for university to clean out their room. And the second piece of advice is: if you think they’ve been doing it themselves all this time, you are as pathetically naïve as I was.

Now as I gaze into a clean and tidy boys room I realize it’s as unrecognizable now as it was when it was a lethal death zone.

Everyone also says boys are easier and I suppose they are … better with personal protective equipment.


Boys room 2015

I’ve been a lot of widows in my life: a golf widow, a hockey widow, work-travel widow; never a real widow. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. Like this week for example …

He departed for the International Old-timer’s Hockey Tournament in Munich, Germany, a mere 6,300 kilometres and six time zones away, and will be gone for six days. This boy’s weekend was pitched to me some time ago as a fun, international hockey tournament for his group of friends that are adult recreational hockey players. “Great idea,” I thought. “Go; you’ll have fun.”

Of course no one goes to Germany for a weekend so the “weekend” turned into six days, which I should have predicted because his golf “weekend” in the spring is also a six-day event. Some people will say it’s just a coincidence that this tournament coincides with Oktoberfest. Those some people must think I’m stupid. First of all, he left with no hockey equipment, claiming he was just a sub, a call-up in case he was needed due to injury or some other Oktoberfest-induced incapacitation.

And he casually slips me the itinerary as he slips out the door to the airport …

There are exactly two mentions of this hockey tournament in the two-page itinerary – on Saturday and Sunday. There are at least nine references to “free time in Bad Tolz”, “free night on your own”, “free morning on your own”, “dinner and party”, “Munich dinner and beer tasting”, “party at Oktoberfest tent” and finally, in case he’s still at a loss with what to do with himself in Europe, a “free day on your own”. With this kind of itinerary, the risk of Oktoberfest-induced incapacitation is less of a risk and more of a inevitability. I sincerely hope he’s not the only substitute (I fear he might be a little unreliable in that category … with this kind of itinerary).

There used to be a time that I didn’t like to go away for weekends on my own because it was too much work. If that sounds like a paradox then you must be a man. I then decided it was time to take care of “me” and I would plan weekends away but not before I arranged any necessary carpools for all my kids’ sports and activities, left a refrigerator full of meals and out clean clothes away in their closets. So naturally, I spent the first twenty-four hours of my weekend away … sleeping.

Soon after having kids, my husband and I agreed to two trips away without each other the year, and no carry-overs. That was until I realized that most of his weekends away were six days long. In the early days, it took a lot of energy and planning just to walk out the front door (but always worth it). As the kids grew older I got bolder! I now take at least three or four weekends away and still leave a few days on the table! There’s my annual Soul Sisters Weekend with my sister, my sisters-in-law and my female first cousins. There’s my now-annual reunion with my college friends. There’s my annual writers conference (where with writing part is often kind of like the hockey part in this trip of Peter’s). Rarely do my weekends away involve anything golf or hockey-related. But yes, sleeping is still very much a big part of my weekends away!

There’s room for improvement here so am open to suggestions (… and invitations!).

Where to next …?


Thinking of going to see a movie tonight?

My daughter wanted to celebrate her first weekend at home alone (with me) since her older brothers went off to university. I can’t blame her. I know I did the same when my sister, a year older than me, left for university leaving me with a whole bedroom to myself for the first time. In. My. Life.

So last weekend, we decided on dinner and a movie since my husband was out of town and it was just the two of us. Yes of course I considered a girls’ weekend away, but our poor family dog has been traumatized by the disappearance of two of his humans so we thought it best to throw him a bone and stick around to support him in his grief. According to my daughter, the recommended therapy also involved the three of us sleeping in my bed.

Deciding on a movie with a fifteen year old is about as easy as me fitting into my favourite jeans these days. We viewed no less than eight movie trailers and as the hour of our dinner reservation drew near, agreement seemed doubtful. I really wanted to see Trainwreck because I really want to be Amy Schumer’s drinking buddy (she doesn’t know about that yet though). Apparently this movie is not suitable for a fifteen year old though and I didn’t want her to be stigmatized by a CAS intervention.

Do you know what we finally agreed upon, other than a large buttered popcorn, of course?

We went to see Inside Out. That’s right. We went to see a Disney-Pixar movie. A teenage girl and her mother on a Friday night. (Watch the trailer here.)

The movie is told almost entirely from the perspective of eleven-year old Riley’s emotions, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Anger and Joy who all reside at Headquarters (her mind). But Inside Out is no cowboy and spaceman movie. Simply, it’s a tale of the woes of being a kid moving to a new town. But while I was entertained by the sincerity and humour of the plot, I was dazzled by how its creators revealed the many complexities of the conscious mind, long term memories, the recall tube, and train of thought (all given a significant role – albeit animated – in the movie).

It was a perfect movie for the two of us as we missed my boys, her brothers. It got us talking about the important role that all the emotions plays in our lives – provided they’re balanced – and how stressful it really is to feel compelled to demonstrate only one emotion all the time (like Joy, whose voice is none other than my other best friend, Amy Poehler). The movie would only have been rendered ‘perfect’ if Riley had been a Canadian hockey player instead of a Minnesotan, but let’s not let disgust ruin our joy.

I laughed, I cried and so did my date. Inside Out will make you feel all good inside … and out. Go see it. “Meet the little voices inside your head.” It will make you play with your mind … in a good way.


Photo credit to Disney
Photo credit to Disney
Photo credit to

(Photo credit to

I love to read. I don’t get near enough free time to just … read. Sometimes, if I hear rain upon waking, I silently make a pact with myself that I’m just going to spend the day in the warmth and comfort of my bed and read all day. Then I realize it’s a weekday and I have to get to work. Or it’s the weekend, and I have about a million and a half chores and errands to tend to.


My favourite genre is historical fiction which takes me away from my current world and bends my mental senses every which way. I also love humour which bends my mouth and abs in every which way. The one genre of writing I stay away from is non-fiction. It’s way too much like the real world. Oh, I see. It is the real world. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it. I need to escape. Fiction and humour do that for me

So it came as a shock to me when I looked back on my list of summer reads and realized that the majority of books I read were non-fiction. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m growing up or something.

I read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed mostly because I really liked the picture of the shoe on the front cover. Also because since reading Jane Christmas’s “What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim” I’ve wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago. But that’s in Spain and really far away. After reading “Wild”, I really wanted to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. And you know what happens next, right? I’m going to read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and want to walk the Appalachian Trail. Can someone please just write a book about that short cut trail to the liquor store in Manotick? Did I mention I’m not a hiker? Anyway, I couldn’t put the book down. Maybe it was like fiction to me because I’m never actually going to do anything like that.

Then I read “A House in the Sky” by Amanda Lindhout about a Canadian sort-of journalist who spent over a year as a hostage in Somalia. In part, this book ticked me off because listen, Amanda, I’ve been trying to teach my kids that there’s no short cuts to international fame and here you go and try take a short cut because no journalist would step foot in Somalia unless Oprah invited them. The seemingly endless nightmare she put her parents through as a result of her stupidity still stuns me. Yet she and her co-author Sara Corbett retell an experience that is terrifying and spellbinding. Amanda’s resilience and will to survive are nothing short of extraordinary. And as a mom, I just couldn’t put it down until I knew she was ok. I think her mom should write a book too. Wait. No.

And because a terrifying hostage story wasn’t summer-y and fluffy enough, I read “A Storm Too Soon” by James Tougias about a daring Coast Guard rescue off the coast of North Carolina after a freak storm caused a sailing vessel to capsize throwing its crew of three into a little itty bitty life raft amongst the 80 foot waves. Another page turner that I couldn’t put down until I was satisfied that everyone was safe. A special treat for me, though, was that I got to meet one of the survivors Rudy Snell who is from Ottawa and happens to be a neighbour of one of my book club friends. Oh yeah – and I’m never going sailing again.

Finally … finally … I finally read a book that wasn’t all about disaster and the wild outdoors. I read “Let’s Discuss Diabetes” by David Sedaris. Yes it’s non-fiction but it was funny. Oh he is a humour master, that David. It was so funny in fact that I was reading sections of it out loud to my family on the dock at the cottage this summer. (I got to spend a bit more time on the dock by myself pretty soon. It’s a good tactic if you want some alone time I’ve come to realize!)

I don’t think I’ve read four non-fiction books in my life and here I’ve cram them all into one summer. That’s ok. I’ve amassed a little army of historical fiction and humour books that will get me through this dreary winter.

But before that, go on! I urge you to go read these books before I change my mind about nonfiction!

What was on your reading list this summer (and spare me the non-fiction)?

This post previous appeared on; you can see the original here.


It’s here already! I can’t believe it! Reunion is this weekend! What should I wear? Should I even bother going? Does my hair look alright? Have I gained any weight since the last reunion? More importantly, have any of my friends gained weight since the last reunion? I wonder if Amanda will be there with a new husband again. What if no one recognizes me? What if no one talks to me? What if I don’t remember anyone’s names?

All this nagging self-doubt is swirling around my head right now as I contemplate my reunion this coming weekend. Is everyone so insecure about reunions this weekend or is it just me?

By “reunion” I mean Arena Reunion – the big party that is house league sort-outs and takes place this weekend

This season, my daughter is playing first year Midget hockey. She and her hockey equipment will convene with about eighty-five other fifteen- to eighteen-year old girls at the Nepean Sportsplex here in Ottawa. Once the inevitable piercing screams and recap of summer adventures of their own Arena Reunions simmer down, eighty-five pinny-sporting girls will forget their summer tan lines and hit the ice. They will all participate in a series of scrimmages intended to evaluate their skill level and ensure that all the house league teams are properly balanced.

My daughter is pretty excited. Our house has been a tornado of activity the last two weeks in getting her two older brothers now retired from minor hockey andoff to university. She was entirely neglected during most of that maelstrom – a position she did not appreciate. Between numerous trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond and Canadian Tire for all the necessities of dorm life, and all the joys that come with student accounts, course choosing and text book shopping, she received uncharacteristically few reminders for her to double check her hockey gear to make sure it all fit. Thankfully, all that she requires is a new hockey stick (which no one thought to pick up on our several trips to Canadian Tire of course) and a pair of socks. She will also now have the undivided attention of both her parents (until Thanksgiving at least) – just the way she wants it!

And I will be amongst friends again. I will reunite with my fellow hockey moms, most of whom I have not seen since my daughter’s season wrapped up last April. I won’t know all eighty-five of these girls or their families but I will know a good number of them and I am looking forward to seeing them at the Arena Reunion. Very soon, I will be getting to know sixteen of them even better – our team for the year. They will be my second family for the next eight months. And I hope I remember their names!

So do you think it’s possible for me to lose ten pounds by Sunday afternoon?

Three cheers for the start of a new season! May your team be balanced and your coffee mug be filled!

hockey tryouts

It is time

The time has come. It has been eighteen years in the making, but the time has definitely come:  my second son and middle child has left for university.

I safely delivered his brother to Dalhousie University last fall, so I now consider myself a professional Uni-hauler. Under my careful scrutiny and supervision (cue: helicopter sound effect) my eldest manage to stay alive his first year away from home while navigating a fresh new dorm life experience and a first year university experience. In fact, he and I also recently executed that precision-planned exercise that is moving into off-campus housing. I survived that experience relatively unscathed. (But that’s a blog post for another bottle of wine day).

My second child is moving into residence at Trent University. Unlike his older brother, this son will have a roommate. His roommate is someone we’ve never met. Someone my son has never met. A complete stranger. A foreigner to our family. I am not exactly sure who thought this is a good idea but this is happening. This is happening as we speak. And I must deal with this unfamiliar territory (oh, and my son too I guess).

For some inexplicable reason, I seem to be the only one in the family who has any concern about this roommate scenario. My son and his new roommate have each other’s email addresses, providing a perfect opportunity to exchanges pleasantries and get to know each other a little in advance.

They have exchanged exactly one email.

Evidently they are each satisfied that that the other is not a serial killer. Each appears perfectly happy to let the whole thing unfold unrehearsed and unplanned on move-in day.

Me? Not so happy.

And that now-familiar phrase in all Parent Information documentation about dorm move-in day that reads?

“We recognize that this is an important day for your student and for you. You are welcome to stay and visit for a while, but try to keep in mind that your student will want time on their own to make new friends, explore, get acquainted with a roommate, etc. We are looking forward to meeting you and your family!”

This also does not make me happy. It sure doesn’t sound like they’re looking forward to meeting me and my family! Sounds like they’re trying to get rid of as quickly as possible (oh, and my son too I guess)!

I just have a couple of questions for my son’s soon-to-be roommate … it won’t take long …


I suggested he complete these forms as soon as possible and return them to me along with the requested criminal background check.  I’ve also created a series of icebreaker games to play out on move-in day just  to get the ball rolling. AND I invited a few of my close friends from the RCMP and CSIS to join us. Won’t that be fun?

Again for some inexplicable reason, it wasn’t University Housing that requested my prompt and immediate departure, it was my son. While he ushered me to the door, I made a couple of quick stops to make his bed, stock his frig and change the shower curtain, that’s all. His new roommate looked pretty happy I was leaving too. I’ve not heard back from him on any of those documents, however.

I bet I’m not getting my finger print scanner back either.


As sensible people are enjoying the remaining summer days in the sun, I am watching the slow painful death of my flower pots knowing that with each floating, falling petal, I am one step closer to the new minor hockey season.

I wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I got excited about the upcoming hockey. There were those Initiation and Novice years (when my kids had less than 4 seasons of minor hockey under their jockstraps), and I was prepared with shiny new pint-sized hockey equipment, a fully charged camera and a gleaming new travel mug. I also remember the Atom and Peewee years, looking forward to reconvening with a solid social network and recalibrating the car pool schedule. Come the Bantam years, I started the season thinking, “two more years and they can drive themselves to the arena”, and once a Midget parent, I handed over the car keys. I have been each of these hockey moms.

I’m about to start my fifteenth season as a hockey mom, with my third and remaining player, who starts her first year of Midget play. Like corporate service awards, I think there should be rewards bestowed upon hockey moms as they reach significant milestones in their hockey mom careers!  Since ‘glass’ is the traditional gift for the fifteenth anniversary, I think all hockey moms should start off their fifteenth season with a nice new wine glass! Preferably filled, of course! But then who am I kidding? I start off every hockey season with a new wine glass!

With new wine glass in hand, I can think of a few other things that would make the hockey season go down a little easier. You know, like …

  • A chauffeur
  • A GPS (for my chauffeur, of course)
  • A skate-sharpening machine
  • Magic, regenerating hockey sticks
  • A 3D printer (that spits out food)
  • A life-size Taylor Swift body suit and mask (for those Saturday mornings I haven’t showered)
  • Self-renewing hockey laces
  • A brand new unlimited Tim’s coffee card
  • Deodorizers (preferably one that comes with an ozone cleaning machine)
  • A personal, portable battery-operated heater
  • Never-ending role of hockey tape (can never have enough hockey tape)
  • A million dollars (yes, actually, that would be round of my wish list nicely)

We’ve already invented a self-parking car, a selfie stick, and a watch that tell us our flights are delayed, surely someone out there is working on my wish list?


September is upon us, and it’s time to pull out my hockey blanket and put an extra pair of socks in my purse.

So much for progress.

Hope your summer is winding down slower than mine.


Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago about a supposedly fun cottage activity! I still feel the same way!

About Astra

Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.

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