Oh, the happy sights and sounds of Christmas are pervading my happy home: carols a-playing, tree lights a-twinkling, candles a-flickering, the mixer a-mixing, wine glasses a-clinking and of course … kids a-bitching.   “Joy to the …”  how does that one go again?

I really like Christmas traditions.

Like the year I started the tradition of letting the kids open one (1) gift on Christmas Eve.  This tradition was necessitated by a Christmas morning family photo in which my daughter was wearing her older brother’s hand-me-down thread-bare Pokémon pajamas with a hole in one knee, both my sons were shirtless and in boxers, and my husband did a reasonable (posterior) impersonation of Dave the Plumber, if you know what I mean.  Their initial excitement towards this new tradition disappeared almost as quickly as Karen’s homemade Christmas fudge as they soon realized that I got to choose the gift they opened, and they each got new pajamas each and every Christmas Eve. They hate this tradition almost as much as they hate their new pajamas, but I love my annual G-rated family photo. To each their own traditions, right?

I am looking forward to another of our annual traditions. I love that one of my neighbours organizes an annual Father-Son holiday hockey game, right around Christmas, at the local arena right around the corner from our home.  It’s a tradition that started about 7 years ago when my boys were only 7 and 8 year old – barely a few years into their respective minor hockey careers, and their dad, my husband, was a recently inducted member of the beer adult recreational league.   According to my daughter, however, there is a major problem with this tradition:  she’s not a part of it.  XY Chromosome or penis must be present to play in this hockey game – and typically both conditions are met (I think) with all its participants .  So I have to remind her, that I am not the host, our neighbour is free to invite whomever he chooses, and I am not about to jeopardize my invite to the after-party with a poorly-timed feminist tirade on gender equity (I don’t actually say all that, I just tell her to suck it up). She suggests a counter-attack but the thought of an on-ice Mother-Daughter hockey event triggers sheer terror in me and am certain my $500 max on my group insurance physiotherapist fees would prove insufficient.

Father-Son Group from 2005

I do however love my off-ice role in this annual event as the official photographer. Yes, I get to take the big group picture with some 24 fathers and sons in full hockey gear, but then one by one, each dad and son(s) skate up to me for their annual Father-Son hockey portrait. It’s the second best part of the whole event for me! In seven years, most of these boys have gone from being propped up by Dad, to towering over Dad. It’s enough to make this mom’s heart swell with pride, no matter who is in front of my lens. Any discussion of a Dads versus the Sons match-up would now be entirely delusional as there is no way the dads could survive a full-out game against their much younger counterparts – not without shorting out the arena’s electrical as a result of portable defibrillator unit overuse. Sensibly, the teams continue to be mixed. Once the game starts, I am usually relegated back to the kitchen and to busy food preparation for the after-party at our neighbour’s home, just across the street. The official outcome of the game is rarely conveyed to me, and is probably not integral to this tradition in the first place.

So my daughter has vowed to boycott the upcoming 7th Annual Father-Son Hockey Game with her now familiar and repetitive, “It’s not fair!” protest. And you know what I said? “Go right ahead!  If you need me, I’m across the street.” She is now old enough to stay home alone. I am sure, however, knowing that pizza, pop and more of Karen’s Christmas fudge await her across the street, we’ll find our sad but sporty little elf at the door at some point during the afternoon, if only to kick someone’s butt in the annual ball hockey game down in our neighbour’s basement. To each their own traditions!

Unlike many who feel lonely and isolated during this time of year, I am part of a vibrant, lively neighbourhood and am thankful for this annual tradition to toast our friendships. My annual post-after-party hangover? Not so much. But … to each their own traditions, right?!

From my daughter’s potty  mouth, not mine:
What holiday traditions piss you off?

This post was inspired by a writing prompt from Write on Edge.

Pivotal conversations …

“Wanna come over and see my new baby brother?” I ask my best friend, Dara.

“Maybe.” she replies with a shrug. I can tell that babies don’t hold any special endearment to her either since we’ve both been recently ousted from our ‘baby of the family’ status.

She and I are sitting cross-legged on the playground’s concrete. There are no swings or monkey bars on which to play, just the fading outline of a hopscotch template. Our knees are touching and though it’s only morning, they already show signs of the day’s adventures. We toy with the loose gravel between us. We are hunched over, bending our heads close in a huddled conference. Dara and I have followed my older brother and sister to school, even though it would be another 2 years before she or I even start kindergarten. No one is around but still we whisper, so as to not draw any unwanted attention to ourselves. We do not want a repeat of the last time we followed them to school, and actually marched right into the school with them after the bell rang. Neither of our moms were nearly as entertained by this impromtu visit as was the school’s Principal, what with newborns at home and all.

Then we get down to business.

“Did you ask her?” Dara inquires.

Curious about our mothers’ growing bellies and the sudden appearance of a tiny human being, we had pinky-swore to each ask our mothers, where do babies come from?


“And?” her eyebrows raise inquiringly.

“She didn’t want to talk about it. Too tired. She’ll tell me later, she said.”  is all I have to offer her.

“You?” I ask.

“Yeah, I asked her.”

“So. What did she say?”

“She told me she pooped the baby out …” Dara states matter-of-factly.

“You’re lying!” I hiss.

“Swear to God! That’s what she said!”

“Woah.” I think to myself but I say nothing outloud.

What else was there to say? It made sense at the time.

That’s the way I remember it – one of my life’s first pivotel conversations.  Of course it would be years before I learn the truth, and Dara’s inaccuracy, on the miracle of birth. On that day in September 1967, however, Dara had held the key to life and had passed it on to me.

Contract for Services Rendered

This agreement is made this day of Friday October 6, 2011 between Better Hockey Parent (hereinafter referred to as “the Provider”), having its principal place of business in Hockeyville, Canada and Ever-Growing-Lazy Hockey Parent (hereinafter referred to as “the Client”), having its principal place of business down the street from Hockeyville, Canada.

The Client hereby engages the Provider to provide services described herein under “Scope and Manner of Services.” The Provider hereby agrees to provide the Client with such services in exchange for consideration described herein under “Payment for Services Rendered.”

Scope and Manner of Services

Services to be rendered by Provider:

  1. Deliver by all means possible but legal, the appropriate hockey playing offspring to Saturday morning practice at designated time (0600) and specified location (see team website); and,
  2. Ensure all manner of protective equipment is available and appropriated engaged during aforementioned 0600 practice; and
  3. Return appropriate hockey playing offspring to principal place of residence following practice; or (if return time is estimated to be earlier than 0800h),
  4. Appropriately engage and supervise appropriate hockey playing offspring until the designated time of return.

Payment for Services Rendered by Client:

The Client agrees to pay the Provider for services rendered according to the Payment Schedule attached, within one (1) calendar day of the end of the 2011-2012 minor hockey season for services rendered from the Provider.

  1. Reimbursement for all Tim Horton’s coffee supply and required sustenance (i.e. donuts, Timbits, Red Bull) for aforementioned 0600 practice; and
  2. Provide necessary reasonable and customary reimbursement of all fees associated with required skate sharpening fees for the 2011-2012 hockey season (including any and all play-off games); and,
  3. Assume responsibility for all fundraising activities of offspring’s teammate for the 2011-2012 hockey season, including but not limited to
    1.  bottle drives,
    2. pumpkin sales,
    3.  raffles,
    4. Christmas wreath sales,
    5. chocolate bar sales,
    6.  gift card sales,
    7. PamperedChef product sales,
    8. fantasy hockey pool participation, and
    9. any other extraordinary fundraising activities partaken by the team; and,
  4. Provide necessary and appropriate infusions for the next out-of-town hockey tournament (strictly limited for consumption by only those that have reached the age of majority in the specified location of the out-town hockey tournament) including reimbursement of intermittent but probable watering hole tab; and,
  5. Provide pleasingly scented seasonal laundry service for all UnderArmor garments and socks associated with and worn during the 2011-2012 minor hockey season (the Provider shall designate appropriate rotation and delivery of said garments); and,
  6. Be appointed, and provide safe and reliable service as, the designated driver for the Provider and the Provider’s Spouse to the parent hockey party whichever date immediately follows the date of abovementioned 0600 hockey practice.

Should the Client fail to pay the Provider the full amount specified in any of the aforementioned clauses within the date specified by the Provider, a late fee equal to Offspring’s Teammate’s first-year tuition fees at an accredited college or university of their enrolment, shall be paid and interest of 10 percent per annum shall accrue from the calendar day following the end of the 2011-2012 hockey season.

Applicable Law

This contract shall presumably be governed by the laws of the County of Canada and in the Province of Ontario and any applicable but not entirely useful law, rule, precedent, practice, tradition, routine, habit of typical hockey parents.


In witness of their agreement to the terms above, the parties or their authorized agents (not to include abovementioned offspring or teammate of offspring) hereby affix their signatures:


Better Hockey parent   


Ever-Growing-Lazy Hockey Parent


Author’s note:  You think this is bad?  You should see the contract drawn up when my husband has to take our kids to 6am hockey practices! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Transfer of Ownership is a term typically reserved for used cars, computers and occasionally land and homes.  As of this past weekend, however, I can also now use this expression to include clothes.  I attended my very first clothing swap.  If you’ve never attended a clothing swap, it is quite simple:  it is an organized event for which several adult women gather to exchange clothes they own but no longer want.  My first clothing swap was a small, intimate affair with 5-6 women.  I admit my personal donations to this exchange were less than generous and somewhat out-dated but they were in good condition and free of any stains or obvious repair.  All our donations were required to be delivered a few days ahead of time and upon arrival, and I could see why!  My hostess’s living and dining rooms had been transformed into a women’s shop complete with dedicated sections for bottoms, tops, dresses, shoes and handbags.  Evening wear and business suits hung invitingly from her fireplace mantle while sweaters and tops intermingled on her dining room table.  Everything was free for the taking and her son created helpful signs directing “shoppers” to the nearby designated fitting rooms (the office, powder room and master bedroom!).

For me, the experience was vaguely reminiscent of my high school visits to my older and more fashion-savvy sister in university in the Big City.  Prior to a big night out with her and her friends, I drank beer and was invited to rifle through her closet looking for something a little more hip and stylish to wear.  Instead of the beer that pre-toxed our college nights out, for this event our hostess offered us Mohitos with fresh mint or a refreshing glass of wine while we poured over the stock… decidedly more chic.

I have to say that it was a very gratifying way to shop, aside from the obvious benefits of coming away with scads of clothing for which I paid not a cent!  I didn’t have to cash in my RRSPs for a new skirt nor did any bored, disgruntled sales clerks snarl at me while shopping.  Rather than buying clothes from a warehouse sale advertising designer labels that, upon arrival, are suspiciously cut away causing me to question their source and worry that SWAT teams would soon swarm the place, I acquired several brand name piece and several not-so-brand name pieces from close friends (who may have bought them from warehouse sales of questionable origin, but that’s another matter!). In fact, I know I acquired clothing that was well cared for by its previous owners.  Unlike typical Boxing Day sales at the mall, this clothing exchange was void of frenzied bloodthirstiness and I needed only once to inform a friend that she was rifling through my “try on” pile just a touch too expectantly!

I am the proud new owner of several pairs of pants, short and skirts not to mention some darling and daring dresses.  The bonus being that if I or any of my friends angst that the gorgeous dress just given away might have had one more good wear out of it, we know exactly where it now lives and can take it out for another spin any time.

As we left with our shopping bags full, we vowed we’d do it again – in fact – before the next season required another wardrobe adjustment!

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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