Motherhood

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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.

Cornwall book signing

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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?!

1310 News

 

Great news!  I’ll be on the Ed Hand Show on 1310 News Radio on Monday November 16, 2015 between 12:30-1:00PM

We will be chatting about hockey mom stuff and my book, “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom”

Listen live here!

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.

suitcase

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

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

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

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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

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?

Sigh.

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!

beauty and the beast

Last night, my fourteen year-old daughter returned from two weeks at camp. This camp of hers in Algonquin Park is a pretty classic one: no electronics, no electricity in the tents and cabins, and no flush toilets, so the need to catch up on Instagram and Snapchat (and the proper use of a toilet) is almost immediate.

She spent some time regaling us in all her camp fun including descriptions of cabin mates and their personalities, exceptional stories camp activities and sports and then promptly fell into a twelve-hour, post-camp coma which I believe continues to this hour.

She spent the most time very animatedly telling us about the camp theatre production for July, Beauty and the Beast. This is no let’s-look-through-the-dress-up-box-and-see-what-we-can-find camp skit but a well-executed musical with a very talented cast held in a dedicated outdoor theatre. Not that I have actually seen a production, other than a YouTube-posted version, but they’re impressive. (And I was a postulant in a small town amateur production of The Sound of Music thirty-five years ago so I know what I’m talking about!).

As soon as she got home, she and a neighbour wanted to rent the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast (not sure if it was for comparison or to just gloat at Lumiere’s accent) but I told her we already had a copy, and after an impressively short ten minutes of rummaging I returned to the family room and handed them a VHS.

Honestly, from the look on her and her friend’s faces you would think I just handed them the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle.

“What is that?”

“It’s Beauty and the Beast.”

“What do I do with that?”

“You pop it into the machine and watch it.”

“Um, machine?”

“Yes, the VHS machine.”

“We have one of those?”

“Yes, we do. It’s a DVD/VHS combo.”

So we figured out the right input channel fairly quickly and the image soon appears on the screen.

“Ugh!” she cried, “What’s wrong with it?!”

“Nothing,” I replied. “We just have to rewind it”

“I have to what?!”

At this point, her friend then says, “Y’know, this sounds like a lot of work. I’m going home.”

However, soon enough though, we were fully rewinded and perfectly snuggled on the couch and watching a VHS-version of Disney’s 1991 release of Beauty and the Beast. (Which, by the way, you cannot actually get on iTunes, at least not in Canada.)  My nineteen year-old soon joined in on the retro movie night and it was a party.

After the movie was over (and remember, Disney movies are only about an hour long!) I suggested to my son, “I’m sure I can bring out you old favourite from the same VHS box, dear.”

To which he replied, “I better go work on my Me Ol’ Bam-boo dance moves, then.”

All this to say, don’t throw away your old VHS tapes or your machine. You’ll never know when they’ll come in handy for a lesson in retro movie watching.

Next up on the marquee: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

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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.
Buy Astra’s book “Offside by a Mile”!
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