I am participating in Operation Come Home’s 24 Buck Challenge this week, during which I am trying to provide meals for myself with a budget of just $24. You can read why in my inaugural post here.
I love food and I love to cook so shopping for this challenge was difficult and uninspiring for me. I mean, check out this menu:
I know, right? Where’s the beef? In fact, where is just about anything that is good and decent in this world? I thought, “Well, coffee and drinks are not included so there’s my breakfast smoothie and coffee” forgetting that I put strawberries, mangoes, bananas and protein in my smoothie. Then I saw ahead to Thursday evening where I will find myself at a dinner party with some girlfriends. Bingo! Free food. I’ll bring the wine! Then I remembered I was attending a potluck on Saturday evening for which I am expected to bring food. Bummer. No food! Looks like I’m bringing deviled eggs to the potluck if I can snag a few mustard and mayo packets from Timmies. AND if I don’t manage to eat them all myself.
Day One started out beautifully: a lovely cheese omelette with a big glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. Actually I would call that pretty normal even for a Sunday. And dinner? Of course I would have preferred a fresh salad and fresh green beans but chicken, rice and canned green beans was tolerable. But my arrogance and confidence faded quickly after my hardboiled egg breakfast – and I am not looking forward to a whole week of them.
I’ve only just finished Day Two and my favourite expression has become, “Are you gonna eat that?” My family is ok with it but my co-workers find this a little disconcerting.
Day Two and I am also cheating; I can’t help myself. I managed to fit in a loaf of bread on the budget so grilled cheese sandwiches were doable – depending on how far I could stretch 200g of grated marble cheese – but I had no money left over for peanut butter and jam. Let’s just say these things mysteriously appeared on my doorstep one morning, just like the cooking spray and salt and pepper.
Now if only a nice strip loin with a peppercorn sauce with mysteriously appear on my doorstep.
Several years ago, a friend of mine started volunteering his time with Operation Come Home, an employment, education, and support centre for homeless and at-risk youth age 16 and up. Based in Ottawa, their programs focus on what works and what matters to youth, as well as encourage personal growth of everyone as an individual. My friend started out cooking breakfast for their program one a week. He quickly earned respect for many things, not least of which was his menu planning (bacon) and diversions (reading homeless youth their horoscope). I know they appreciated this. (The bacon, I mean). He has gone on to lend his expertise in many other programs and events including 24 Hours of Homelessness, during which he slept outdoors with a group of volunteers for 24 hours. In Canada. In January. It was only 24 hours for him, but not so for many homeless youth in Ottawa.
I knew I could not participate in 24 Hours of Homelessness, not without forsaking my kids RESPs investing in down clothing and bedding, so decided I would show my friend my support by participating in the 24 Buck Challenge. This is a new addition to Operation Come Home’s “Reality Campaign” intended to raise awareness for the income challenges of the average youth living off of welfare. I have $24 to spend on food for the week January 31 to February 6, 2016. The cost is determined by calculating the amount the Ontario Works provides to youth for a monthly allowance minus expenses like rent, a phone bill, bus pass, etc. What’s left over for food would be approximately $24 per week. That’s $3.43 per day or $1.14 per meal. Luckily for me, coffee and drinks are not included in the $24 total. Woohoo!
Some of you may recall the family Lent project I did during which I endeavoured to feed my family of five on the equivalent funds of a family on social assistance. At the time, 2009, my budget was $14.66 per day. You can read my reflections on this challenge on my blog. So this “reality campaign” was a challenge with my name written all over it in peanut butter. I thought, given it was just me participating and not my whole family that it would be a piece of $1.14 cake. Today is Day One and I am quickly finding out how very wrong I am.
My trip to the grocery store played out as follows:
|Bread (loaf, whole wh)||2.17|
|Hunts Pasta sauce||1.25|
|President’s Choice Mac & Cheese (2bx)||1.98|
|Chicken thighs (4)||3.74|
|Green beans, canned||.99|
|Tomato (fresh, 1)||2.00|
|Uncle Ben’s Fast&Fancy Rice (1pkg)||1.00|
|3 fresh bananas||1.07|
As the cashier quickly bleeped up my total, I realized how depressing this week would be. I have a 27cents left in my food budget for the week. And you think that shopping list is depressing? Wait until you see my menu for the week, which I will share tomorrow.
Seven days, $24, and no butter. Someone, throw me a bone … please.
This post appeared in my weekly Hockey Mom Monday post for Hockey Now.
My 15-year-old daughter is helping to coach four-year-old hockey players this year in her association’s Timbits hockey.
And by “coach” I mean she’s bending down and picking them up off the ice about 20 times an hour or giving them a gentle shove to generate some momentum.
And their young hockey moms? They’re sitting there in the stands with their gleaming new travel mugs, fully charged cameras and still-white winter jackets.
They as adorable as their Timbits!
As a veteran hockey mom, I’ve said and done some pretty stupid things over the course of my minor hockey mom career. So for the benefit of those adorable young hockey moms, here are some truly stupid rookie moves most new hockey mom will make at least a few of:
1. Let your kids play hockey indoors
“It’s just a tennis ball. What harm could it possibly do?”
You have no idea. Say goodbye to all your light fixtures, framed prints and your washer and dryer.
2. Give your kid 50 cents for the hockey card machine.
“It’ll keep him occupied on the car ride home.”
And every single car ride home for the next eight years. Game over.
3. Get to the arena without the hockey gear
“He’s old enough to remember to put his gear in the back of the van!”
Sure he is. He’s five years old after all and practically a genius.
4. Offer to handle the team Bingo fundraiser
“It will be fun!”
Sure it will. There are bingo ladies at the bingo fundraiser. That is all you need to know.
5. Stay up really late at a party the night before a 6AM hockey practice.
“I’ll just stay for one more”
Which turns into three more. You’re up the (frozen) creek now … and again when that 5 a.m. alarm clock goes off.
6. Eat an arena canteen hot dog
“They look so tasty and I’m so hungry.”
You do realize it’s been there for three hours, rotating in its own fat. Trust me. Save your #YOLO for the potato chips.
7. Host the team ice-breaker party
“It will be fun. Really, how bad can that be?”
Bad. Imagine sixteen 10-year-old boys and their siblings and their drinking parents. Think about it.
8. Forget to remind your kid to go to the bathroom before all the hockey equipment is on
“That’s ok, Sweetie, this will just take a minute.” No, it won’t. “You’ll be back on the ice in no time.”
No, she won’t. You might as well just undress her and go home. Game over.
9. Forget to double-check the hockey schedule
“It automatically downloads to my iCal.”
Uh-huh. Until you realize there’s no one from your team at the arena and just maybe the schedule changed. And you’re totally screwed because your kid is the goalie.
10. Say stuff like:
“It’s fine. I’m sure there’s a gas station on the way”.
It’s not fine. Sign up for a CAA card. Now.
Really, they’re honest mistakes. You’ll be forgiven – I know I was. Don’t worry, Momma’s here to help!
Three cheers for all the rookie hockey moms!
Last weekend, my daughter and I attended the annual Cornwall Girls Hockey Association Fall Tournament – as we have done the first weekend of every November for the past nine years. It’s become another hallowed hockey tradition in our family and I’m not allowed to mess with it.
Only ‘mess with it’ I did.
This was our first tournament after my book, “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” was published. Now that I am a famous author and all, I get to go on a luxurious book tour and jet set to exquisite book signings all over the world, and be interviewed by incredibly famous people. Except in my case, I jet set to cold hockey arenas all over eastern Ontario and get asked riveting author questions like, “Do you know where the washroom is?” That’s fame, people.
So Saturday morning, I left my daughter1 sleeping soundly at the hotel the morning after her first round robin game, and headed back to the arena to set up my book signing table amid all the hockey bags, coffee-sipping parents, and the typical hockey tournament vendors (hockey hoodies, sports equipment, sports photography, etc.) selling their wares. Since I wasn’t selling – or wearing – hockey hoodies emblazoned with “I’m a Cougar Mom” or “I’m a Wildcat!” it took a little while for people to wander over, and ask me about the book.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just my potential book buyers that were asking questions. I was asking a lot of questions. I met people from all walks of hockey life. I met people who had just as busy a hockey life as I have (ok, some even busier) and many more offering a completely different hockey perspective on which I had zero experience.
Have you heard about the one where a dad takes his son to hockey for the first time, then somehow becomes the volunteer hockey coach? Sure, you have. We all have that ‘dad’ either living in our house or right next door. Well, I met such a hockey dad who went on the coach at a pretty senior level and then ultimately became a hockey scout for the CHL. He opened my eyes to a fascinating side of hockey that I will never know anything about, but for the stories he told me last Saturday.
What about the one whose kids were going to the NHL? Have you heard that one? We all have. And then reality sets in and we realize our kids have a much more likely chance of dying while taking a selfie than playing in the NHL, so we refocus our efforts! I met a very interesting man who talked about his kids’ experiences with athletic scholarships to US schools. Good, bad and ugly … mostly ugly.
Have you ever bought an action photo of your child at a sports tournament? I made eye contact and small talk with the photographer traipsing back and forth between ice pads taking photos and he finally came over and talked to me for a bit. Seems his business got started when he was taking photos of his grandkids playing hockey. He quickly realized he was shooting more than just memories – he had a great business opportunity in his hands. He shared his woes of weekends spent in cold arenas at just a time when he should be finally warm. He too shared a perspective of hockey that I never knew about (and that all photographers focus on the younger age groups when parents are still innocent and beholden!)
I met a fascinating dairy farmer who, when he wasn’t in the barn or on the tractor, was in a hockey arena (or some other sport venue) with his four kids. He was sad that none of his kids was going to the NHL, but sadder still that none of his kids were going to be a farmer. I’ll say this about farmers: the most sincere handshake I’ve ever received.
Then, I ran into one of my daughter’s teachers at the tournament with her two young daughters. I was able to bring the usual parent-teacher awkwardness to a new level when I warned her to please not take the chapter about me being a prostitute and Hookin’ for Hockey too seriously.
And finally, as I expressed my gratitude for my little corner of the arena foyer to the tournament organizer, I discovered he doesn’t even have kids in hockey anymore. All day long, I had been telling people that I got to finally finish my book when my two boys retired from hockey and that, with only one child left in hockey, I can see the light at the end of my hockey tunnel. Yet, here was this hockey dad who continued his relationship with his kids’ hockey association, long after his kids did. I told him to go buy a condo in Florida already! For some, like him, there’s more to hockey than skates and sticks.
I told each and every one of them, “Hey! You too should write a book!” and they all laughed. I guess we each recap our hockey memories a different way.
My daughter has no more hockey tournaments planned until after Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t plan another hockey tournament for myself … and my book. Because …
It’s the people that you meet.
1 And just so you don’t go calling Children’s Aid on me and all that, she’s fifteen years old and her teammate mom’s and my friend were on it, ok?!
For some reason, hockey moms have a teensy weensy reputation for drinking. I sure I didn’t start it but may have contributed to that rumour over the course of my hockey mom years. Perhaps it comes from that little shot of brandy in the coffee to get you through a 6AM practice or maybe the Canadian beer smuggled across the border for the Rochester tournament or very likely having to squeeze a dozen or so women into a hotel room to socialize. Whatever the reason, there’s usually a good story.
I realize it’s just the beginning of the hockey season and nothing could have possibly gone wrong yet, right? But once in a while, a hockey mom’s day goes so terribly offside that some liquid relief is necessary. The inspiration for this post came from a viral posting on some pretty hysterical wine pairings written by Jeff W. As a veteran hockey mom, I’m here to help with your hockey mom wine pairings.
The setting: You’ve been driving through blinding snow all the live-long day and finally get to the hotel. You do not want to be asked, “Do you have a reservation?” Obviously you have a reservation. You’re also obviously the last one here since the only parking spot left is in another time zone. There were no trolleys in the lobby, they’re all the second floor being used as bumper cars by the three Atom teams staying there. As you approach the front desk whisking sopping wet hair away from your eyes, breathlessly muttering, “Ughhh what a drive! I cannot wait to get out of these clothes,” to the front desk clerk, who peers over a computer with apathy since you’ve obviously interrupted a really good part of episode two of season seven of Grey’s Anatomy. “I don’t seem have a reservation for you. Are you sure you’re at the right hotel?” Oh, dear God.
The Drink: Crown Royal Special Reserve
Pairs nicely with desperation and lost hotel reservations
The setting: Somehow you’ve driven all the way to the hockey arena without your child’s hockey stick. It’s their job to put it in the car right? So if their signature top-shelf wrist shot doesn’t make its mark because they had to borrow their teammate’s back up stick which is either three sizes too small or too large, that is not your problem.
The Drink: Three Sticks 2012 Chardonnay
Pairs nicely with incessant nagging
The setting: You’re sitting through your third minor hockey game of the day. Now you’ve been tossed out of a game by the referee. You’re not THAT hockey parent, you’ve never been THAT hockey parent – something just snapped. Call it exhaustion. Call it frustration. But call a spade a spade – it was still inexcusable. Now you’re totally embarrassed and you just want to slink into the back seat of your car and cool your jets … and steal the fifth of vodka from your oldest son’s backpack. You’ll like this one – just don’t drink the whole bottle and then go back into the arena to apologize.
The drink: Polar Ice Vodka (best consumed right out of the bottle)
Pairs nicely with remorse and embarrassment
The setting: Your child has just advanced to the next round of playoff hockey. This is entirely unexpected given their regular season play but – still – you’re really excited for them. Until you discover that the playoff games conflict with the girls’ weekend you’ve been planning for months (assuming the hockey season would be over). After 80 emails you’ve come to the realization that there’s no changing the date. You’re just going to have to suck it up and tell your husband he’s on his own.
The drink: Dog House White VQA (husbands are equally if not more familiar with this varietal)
Pairs nicely with – um – being in the dog house.
So as you can see, I am clearly an expert hockey oenologist. Let me help you! Whatever your hockey mom situation, I am certain I can find the drink for you! Leave your hockey mom traumas in the comments and I will prescribe the right remedy for you. Oh, and cheers, by the way!!
Please drink responsibility and know your options for getting home from hockey safely!
Sweaty palms, shortness of breath, inability to concentrate or focus. Honestly, by 9:00AM I was wondering if I should take a sick day. And by mid-morning I was reconsidering. I really thought these symptoms warranted a trip to Emerg. Clearly, something serious was wrong with me.
And what was this serious ailment with which I’d been afflicted?
I had a serious case of Nophonophobia.
I didn’t coin that term. It is however a fairly modern condition: the fear of being without one’s cell phone. I had left for work and forgot my cell phone on the kitchen counter.
I went to work.
Without my phone.
Surely my reaction to not having access to my phone was overly severe but that didn’t stop me from thinking about turning around and heading right back home to retrieve it. And it’s not I’d been severed from all communications; I was actually at arms’ length from an office landline phone and not even eighteen inches away from an office computer with full internet access.
But I wanted my phone. MY PHONE. At my fingertips.
This from a woman whose sole sources of communication in high school – and even university – were teeny pieces of paper furtively passed to friends, stuffed into lockers or tacked to a public bulletin board. When worse came to worse (usually ten minutes after getting off the bus), I resorted to a single push-button corded phone located in the kitchen. Clearly, my dependencies have come a long way.
Now mobile communications had entered my life and I had a hard time living without for even eight hours. Once or twice during the day I got a social invite via email which I could not respond to because my schedule is on my iCal and I could not check it (my work schedule is synced to my iPhone calendar, but my iPhone calendar does not upload to my Outlook calendar at work). Dear God, what other imperative social invites I would miss because I didn’t get the text that day?!
On several occasions during the day, I invoked the emergency tree communications plan: I emailed my husband and asked him to text my daughter to remind her to text another mother if she did not in fact need a ride home from school that day. My sons are away at university and I actually DM’d them on Twitter to let them know I didn’t have my cell phone. If they need me, they’d have to send me a message via Twitter or FB Messenger, or call me on my office land line, like that was ever going to happen. It just made me feel good doing so.
As afternoon rolled around I was found I was actually grateful for the lack of disruption from the frequent ping and bird calls that emanated so frequently from my cell phone; I was actually fairly productive in fact. As I was leaving the office, I called home from my office phone (brushing off a couple of layers of dust) to let my daughter know I was on my way home. So old school! No wait – vintage!
In the end I survived; of course I survived. So much so, that I might leave my cell phone at home more often.
Sheesh, who are these people who can’t live without their phones?
There is so much planning that goes into a guys’ weekend away. The date is chosen months in advance to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with anything important going on with work or with family. If it does, it might become necessary to reschedule, setting off a series of emails to put forth alternative dates to everyone attending. Accommodation is carefully selected to ensure a wide range of tastes and budgets are taken into consideration. One of the men is charged with arranging all the restaurant reservations, being mindful of everyone’s medical conditions and dietary restrictions (though thankfully this task is rotated I believe to make sure not one person is doing it every time). And certainly it’s a big chore to make sure any excursions that are booked suit a wide variety of interests within the group of weekend warriors as well.
The entire week prior to the boys’ weekend away is devoted to doing laundry making sure that not only all his clothes are washed for the weekend in order to have maximum personal choices when packing but that all the clothes of his family are also washed and folded. It can be tricky organizing rides for all his kids to any of their weekend activities for which his wife might have a conflict. The last minute grocery shopping and meal preparation is exhausting but necessary as well so that the wife doesn’t resort to take-out for three meals in a row.
I can only imagine how tricky it must be for dads to constantly have to quarterback the social lives of their kids over the weekend through numerous back and forth texts granting permission to do this but forbidding to do that.
And that ultimate sacrifice of precious “me” time he devotes during his weekend getaway shopping for that special little trinket that made him think of his, ever so grateful for her efforts during his absence? That is priceless.
Luckily we women have it so much easier. We just grab our clothes and go.
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
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.
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 …?
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.