Motherhood

It’s Friday night and I’m at the hockey arena. It’s no big deal. Since becoming a hockey mom fourteen years ago, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to a hockey arena on a Friday night! What can I say? I have an impressive social life.

Only this time, I’m not here with one of my three kids; I’m here with one of my friend’s kids. Again, because of my impressive social life, I need to be at a hockey arena on a Friday evening.

This boy’s parents, our friends and neighbours, are off to a family wedding at an adults-only resort in the Dominican Republic and being fourteen, he’s too young to join them. I think he could have passed for an eighteen year old, but whatever. I don’t even think there was a wedding, but whatever.

Thursday evening, my friend drops off her son for his 10-day retreat Chez Astra with $50 and a list of his weekly activities. I tell her “Hey, not to be rude or anything, but I don’t think this is going to cover my weekly LCBO purchases” and she doesn’t think this is funny.*

At first it looks like I might get out of the Friday night hockey carpool gig because I have company coming to visit . Then my guests decline and I mention this at dinner Thursday evening.

“Oh! So you can take me to hockey then?”

Quick. Think of something.

Only nothing comes to mind, and I concede: looks like I’m spending Friday night at the hockey arena.

After a 30-minute drive during which any question I asked was responded by him pulling his ear plug out and asking, “Excuse me?” I should know better; I drop all efforts to converse. I leave him at the front door of the arena and tell him, “I have a few errands to run (like running to the LCBO) but I’ll be here to watch the last twenty minutes” and off he goes.

This hockey arena has four ice pads and I forgot to ask him which surface he was playing on. I quickly size up the place: Pad 1 has girls on it  – moving on. Pad 2 has little tykes on I,t so I move on again. Pads 3 and 4 both look like they’re hosting groups of 14 year olds. I spend a few minutes checking out the teams on Pad 3 but I don’t see our underage, unemployed free loader. I move over to Pad 4 and see him chasing the puck down the ice.

I flash my best fake yeah-thumbs-up in his general direction, mostly because I sure as hell don’t want to have spent a Friday night at the hockey arena without him noticing my efforts! The game appears to end in a 2-2 tie, and I retreat to the foyer to await his return from the dressing room. I then run into another hockey mom I know from my daughter’s hockey team last season. After some chit-chat, she asks what team Emily is playing on tonight – because it would be normal for me to be here with my own child. I tell her that I’m here with a friend’s son and am just waiting for him to change, gesturing in the direction of Pad 4.

All of a sudden, my friend’s son comes up behind me and says, “Hey, I’m ready to go!” I wheel around and ask, “Where did you come from?” “My game. Over there” gesturing to Pad 3.

“You weren’t playing on Pad 4?”

“Nope”

“Oh. I see. So. You were not the one I gave a thumbs up to?”

Thank God I didn’t bang on the glass.

 “Did you even watch my game?”

 “No. I was watching the game on pad 4.”

“Who was playing on Pad 4” he asks, and it’s not a bad question.

“I thought you were.”

So, not only did I take a child not my own to a hockey game, I watch almost an entire game of complete strangers. Loserdom has my name on it.

“Let’s keep this between the two of us, okay?” I implore to him.

“Sure” he says. “Just like you’re going to keep the two chocolate bars before dinner between the two of us too, right?”

It’s a deal.

~~~

*Truth be told, she also dropped off all his lunches, and two or three meals for our entire family (which had just grown to six people) but whatever – it’s my story.

I hate being asked “what’s for dinner?” almost as much as I hate being asked,”where do babies come from?” I have a solution for the first question (sorry, there’s no solution for the second question).
Check out my latest Hockey Mom Mondays post at HockeyNow.  http://hockeynow.ca/blog/mom-mondays-compliments-to-the-chef-chef-hockey-mom-that-is-

My daughter and I were hockey implants this past weekend.

It’s not what you think.

Technically, she was the implant, I was the transplant.

She was invited by another team to a hockey tournament in Jay Peak, Vermont (uh huh, so skiing was also involved too!) as a pick-up player. Several players from a team in her association were unable to attend this tournament so they get to pick up players from another team, hence their invitation to us – I mean, my daughter. It was her job to play hockey for this team; it was my job to get her there (well, my husband’s. Given there was skiing involved, we made this a ski-hockey-waterpark weekend).

It seems a lot of parents of recreational hockey won’t travel to out-of-town tournaments. Cost, time, winter roads, whatever. But out-of-town hockey tournaments is what I love about being a hockey mom (in fact, they may even be why I tolerate minor hockey).

And I’m not the only one. When our hockey years are behind us, I can guarantee you that all three of my kids will look back on their minor hockey careers and the out-of-town tournaments as being the bomb dot com. (I learned that phrase from my daughter and I can’t stop using it.)

Out-of-town hockey tournaments offer an opportunity to play teams from other cities (heck, from other countries, as was the case this past weekend!) and is like a mini-vacation (despite a typically busy game schedule particularly if your team advances beyond round robin play). It offers a brief but reliable antidote to the ho-hum doldrums of the cold, Canadian winter. It offers families the chance to dispense with normal routine of school and work – and to travel and sleep in close quarters (the only form of winter camping I’ll agree to).  It offers the potential of a new town or city or food or folklore to explore and who can deny the enriched learning experience kids derive from hotel swimming pools, mini stick hockey in the lobby and terrorizing hotel security guards after quiet hour (despite me having signed numerous waivers over the years promising precisely not to do so!)??

Some of the teams my kids have been on have had six tournaments a season (when playing competitive hockey) and some of our teams have only been to two. Regardless of the number or the timing (except for maybe The Great Hockey Weekend of 2012, which we do not speak of in our household), I will never vote down a hockey tournament weekend.

I like hockey tournaments. I know my kids love hockey tournaments.

I liked being a hockey implant and I’m certain my daughter enjoyed being a hockey implant too.

And I think we make the perkiest of hockey implants out there!

ice haus

I just want you to know I’m not one of those hockey moms

But sometimes I wish I was.

My daughter’s team was in a hockey tournament recently in Cornwall and alongside the usual pre-game superstitions (mostly her), chips and wine in bed (mostly me) and juicing up the Jambox (both of us), her team made it to the semi-finals of the tournament – a game that they , the Hungry Hippos,  sadly lost to hometown rivals, The Ugly Pucklings (the nicknames girls’ hockey teams give themselves is an entirely different blog post).

One of her round robin games saw them play a team from the Outaouais region just across Quebec border from Ottawa. It was not a pretty game. We tied 1-1 but not before our trainer had to tend to two Hippos who’d been checked by girls on this team (girls hockey is non-contact by rule but not always in practice), and saw the opposing team accumulate 8 minor penalties in one game. I’m don’t think my daughter’s  team accumulated 8 minor penalties in the entire season last year. To make matters worse, one of their team members accumulated 5 of those penalties, and the coach then saw it fit to nominate her for player of the game. Not only is that bad coaching and parenting, but let’s agree that that is bad everything.

It was one of those games that gives hockey a bad reputation. Thankfully, the game finished with no real havoc and no serious injury.

The havoc started when we got home from the weekend – when I get to talk about my stellar parenting.

I should have just let it go, but I was irked, and the game became the subject of our family dinner conversation on Monday evening.

“You would not  believe this team,” I shared with the boys. “Eight penalties in one game! Five to one player! And the coach gives her Player of the Game. Can you believe it?”

My son asked, “ Did you yell at the ref? Did you and another hockey mom go at it?”

That’s when it happened. I faked it. I faked the bad ass hockey mom.

“You bet I did! The refs were totally useless! And then you know what else I did? I stood up and yelled at the other parents. Oh yeah. I gave them a piece of my mind – and a piece of my hot dog. That’s when it really got going. I stood up and screamed “what kind of a goon show is this?” and one of the other hockey moms told me to shut up and then the coach of their team told me to shut up. Then, this other hockey mom and I got into it in the stands. Then you know what I did? I spit on her. Oh yeah. I spit on her. That b!tch was asking for it, you know it!”

They stared at me.

They know I did nothing like that at all. *Sigh*

“Well … well,” I stammered, “I wanted to do!” I said. “I’m totally going to do it next time.”

I’m such a rebel … in my dreams ….

“Ice cream, anyone?”
 

Kids today are so lucky.  They have fewer chores (because they’re so busy) and they get to go everywhere (because they’re parents feel guilty leaving them at home). Parents today are much more adventurous in travelling with their children. I realize I’m part of this culture, indulging my children in all sorts of travel adventures. In return, I hope my kids will look back upon our family travels and continue to be inspired by the world and long to see more of it … preferably on their own … soon.

So my daughter recently experienced the pinnacle of childhood adventures:  the solo voyage. As in sans parents. When family and summer scheduling conflicts prevented us from attending a much loved beach week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my daughter somehow managed to finagle an invite from her uncle to go to the beach with his family – complete with puppy dog eyes, curled lip and promises of ‘I won’t be any trouble at all …’, I have no doubt . Naturally he, being entirely defenceless to the puppy dog eyes and curled lip look, agreed.

us customsThe first significant hitch she encountered was US Customs.  I guess runaways are extremely clever these days, including those with an official consent to travel form notarized by a lawyer, signed by both parents AND carrying a return airline ticket. Evidently US customs officials are impervious to the puppy dog look and curled lip routine but good on her for trying. She fared much better with Canadian Border Services upon her return and the usual, “Are you bringing back any weapons, alcohol or tobacco?’ was replaced with “I bet you had a lot of fun! Welcome back.”

This solo adventure of hers took another unfortunate turn when Hurricane Arthur decided to take its own unfortunate turn towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she was staying with my brother. If anyone could turn a hurricane on its heels it would be my daughter, but alas, the Governor did not think know of her powers (primarily reserved for use at our family dinner table), and Dare County issued an evacuation order for Hatteras Island. While I am certain she had visions of a SWAT team lowering their ladders from helicopters evacuating stranded tourists such as herself, she soon found out what it really entailed: a day’s driving stuck in the worst traffic jam imaginable.

And now she is off to sleep over camp for two weeks (something she has done now for seven summers).  While there will certainly be someone there to feed her and do her laundry, I know she will return from camp grateful for a flushing toilet.

bluesfestMy sons are also on their own solo adventures this week. My 18-year old is at the national Canadian Big League Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario (ten days of residence living at Lakehead University will be good training for his body to get used to dorm beds) and my 16-year old is experiencing Ottawa’s largest outdoor musical festival, Bluesfest 2014 (requiring him to master one of the biggest travel obstacles for today’s youth:  public transportation). Their adventures, however, will probably not be titled Adventures in Solo Travel but rather Travel in with Solo-Cup Adventures. Sigh.

So this house is just a little too quiet for me right now and I think it’s time to embark on some solo (or solo cup) travel adventures on my own. But I am a seasoned traveller, right? None of this Customs nonsense, lousy beds, public transportation woes or guilt can get in my way, right?

Stay tuned!

airplane

 

It’s sad really. I was the apple of my kids’ eyes for what seemed like only a nanosecond. I have three kids and I was their go-to friend from birth until – well – about that time around Grade 8 where they each dropped me like a hot potato.  I suppose that’s about when independent social lives start to bloom and a mother’s presence not only is no longer necessary, it is a downright intrusion of the You Suck variety.

I frequently chaperoned field trips until returning to work outside the home and even then offered one field trip per child per school year which was happily approved and anticipated by each of my kids.  Until Grade 8. Then I sucked.

I happily hosted non-birthday parties around Christmas and Halloween for all our kids and their friends. Until Grade 8. Then I sucked.

We all posed for family photos at various events and important tourist shrines. Until Grade 8. Then I sucked.

The eagerness to have “Mom” participate in any aspect of their lives other than stocking the frig and doing the laundry, waned considerably around Grade 8.

Initially my boys still permitted my attendance on the field trips, but disappeared with their friends upon arrival, leaving me to chaperone the girls or whichever group was last assigned to a parent. Soon thereafter field trip forms start coming home with the preamble, “But they don’t need any volunteers”, or with the box “No” already checked off next the question, “If volunteers are needed, may we contact you?”, even from my daughter.

I have become middle-school-redundant.

And so today, we are off to my daughter’s Grade 8 graduation ceremony after which is a class dance at the local RA centre.  All was going very well with our graduation planning until she learned that I was volunteering at the dance.  This elicited a “You’re kidding, right?” response from a now grown-up thirteen year-old (in all fairness, I did sign up for clean-up, thinking I could stay out of the limelight and her wrath).

Just when I thought I would have to politely decline my assistance at the dance, an email from the organizer came out suggesting the window from the kitchen to the hall would be closed and parents could (should?) keep a low-profile.

So there.

I’m not the only one!

I’ve been practicing a few dance moves though should things get a little boring.

 

 

 

An unsanctioned event organized by students at one of our local high schools has raised the ire of its principal. So much so that emails have been sent home warning parents of this event and its imminent danger.  Parents have been urged to ask their children NOT to participate in this wasteful and harmful event and have been cautioned that local police have been asked to provide additional officers to enforce safety, should the event take place.

What is this undesirable event that parents should be so anxious about?

Is it an illegal swim party at a local quarry? Is it an unchaperoned bush party at one of the many local farm fields? Is it the private post-prom party across the border at a local ski resort (where most of the students will be of legal drinking age)?

No. In fact, these events (which have taken place or are about to take place on my son’s social calendar) have not been deemed sufficiently objectionable by anyone such that parents should be alerted to potential unsafe and/or illegal activity. The low-down on the street is how we get savvy to these events.

The appalling event that I am being warned about is the annual senior student-organized milk chugging contest.

This will be one of the most uncomfortably awkward and sensitive discussions I will have with my teenagers yet.  There’s no way all those conversations about safe sex, drugs, alcohol, academic challenges, work and money chats will serve me for this one.

I’m not sure how to handle this one. Should I go the sour milk is bad for you-route? Or, that unpasteurized milk may make you sick-schtick? How about, milk that comes from cows who’ve been injected hormones have been fed is unacceptable-deal (oh, but that’s illegal in Canada, so will probably not be too effective).  Or the time-tested, waste-not-want-not talk? No, I think I better stick to the fear tactic that always works best:  “Do you have any idea how easy it is to get addicted to milk?”

This isn’t the first time we’ll be talking about milk-chugging contests, and I can assure you, it won’t be the last.

(Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I hope I don’t get my son suspended).

milk

 

CSIMy three children are all teenagers now and like many today, they are home from school before my husband or I are home from work.  I am generally the last to return home at the end of the day, and while my own housecleaning habits see me tidying up the kitchen before I leave for work, I am not likely to find it this way upon my return. My keen eyes are trained to decode the evidence before me and I know just what to nag about. Because my kids now know:  I am highly specialized CSI expert. I am a Cuisine Scene Investigator.

“Nobody move!” I shout, with the anticipated impact:  none of my teenagers has moved nor has any intention of moving.  Securing the scene is not as challenging they make it out to be on TV.

I begin my preliminary analysis:

I study the spatter stains and I know right away that my son has made himself a big glass of chocolate milk.

I examine the trail and I know my daughter has been into the popcorn.

I analyze the dishevelment of the dishes and I know my oldest son has emptied his lunch bag.

As I evaluate all the physical evidence and the possibilities I try not to jump to conclusions, but it hard not to.  And as I walk around collecting evidence I make sure that my kids do not interfere with my examination of the data.

“Don’t touch that!” I shout.

“But I was just about to put that away.” they lie.

“Too late! I caught you! You are now one of my suspects!”

“You should not be eating cookies right before dinner!” I bark at my son. How does she know? I see the querying look in his eyes. “You left the cookie bag completely open in the pantry!” He rolls his eyes.

“Did I not tell you that the ice cream was for dessert?” testing my daughter. How does she know? says the look in her eyes. “You could have at least rinsed off the ice cream scoop before putting it in the sink.”

Even today, I walked into the kitchen and found a half-filled coffee travel mug on the counter and know that my husband, too, is home from work. Clearly he did not pick up on the trail of evidence already before him. Clearly he is not a cuisine scene investigator – he’s just another instigator.

I finish wiping down this scene and catalog the evidence before the dogs decide to catalog it themselves (knowing the dogs they’re already accessories to many of their crimes that will go unsolved). I then begin my own cuisine scene and start making dinner. Sigh.

CSI … not for sissies … only for moms.

campus tourA few months ago I wrote a post about my eldest son’s applications to post-secondary institutions. And now with a few offers in hand, my eldest son has some decisions to make.

Much to my son’s surprise (not mine), bit by bit those offers started trickling in and we carefully picked the ones we would go and visit. Unlike the parents of many university-bound kids, I chose not to take him on road trip visiting every single post-secondary school between infinity and beyond. Instead, I promised I would take him to visit those to which he received offers, and was most keen to attend. Never having been on a single university tour myself when I was applying, I did want him to make an informed choice.  Depending on the location of these choices, however, a campus tour can set you back the price of a school year’s tuition!

The campus tour is generally pretty standard: the major academic buildings, the library or libraries if the school is large enough, at least one dorm room, at least one dining hall or the dining halls, the sports complex, and all the major support services (academic, health, etc.). It is also possible to arrange more in-depth tours with various faculties and even arrange to meet faculty members or varsity coaches. I’ve quickly realized that a good university tour guide is more than someone who can walk backwards and talk at the same time – they can make or break a prospective student and their family’s first impression.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get the uber- energetic student or recent grad that could not imagine life without this university. As annoying as their enthusiasm and university loyalty can be, the tour will not end until you know everything about the school including the words of the favourite university drinking song or have the university’s motto emblazoned on your brain. Alternatively, you may get a less enthusiastic tour guide who appears to have better things to do than make converts of wide-eyed, naïve high schoolers, and who showcases themselves and their accomplishments inviting you to come the their university so you can truly be as impressive as they have become (doing university tours for a living).

So now begins my son’s decision-making crunch time. He has ultimately has about three weeks now, to make his decision and pay his deposit (as you can guess procrastination runs in our family!). In that time, he will reflect not only on the wisdom of all that he has learned about these respective universities, but also on the words of wisdom of the tour guides.

I hope he took good notes!

 

I read an article recently in which a young mother had grown tired of the way she looked as a stay-at-home mom. Her former self as a working professional had paid a lot of attention to her personal appearance and made sure she always looked her best.  As a mother, her personal best had deteriorated from “Hell Ya” to “Haggard”.  She’d fallen into that familiar habit of motherhood attire:  yoga pants, no makeup and unkempt hair in a ponytail, if attended to at all.  She realized something had to change when she caught sight of her reflection in a store window and mistook herself for a street person.

Now, if she did in fact look like a street person, then yeah, maybe a shower and a new pair of shoes are in order. But I’m pretty sure she was not sitting on a piece of cardboard, begging for money with tattered shoes and yellowing teeth. I’m pretty sure she looked like 90% of young moms and all she needed was a good day at the spa (which she would spend texting the babysitter or her husband about the kids anyway).

But then she went on to write how she turned herself around a little, made sure to shower daily, put on real clothes, a little make-up and took a brush to her hair. It took barely any extra time and she felt so much better about herself and urged all moms to try it because we deserved it.

I think that’s that last thing a ragged, sleep-deprived mom wants to hear. I felt sorry for her. And if I’d read that post back when my kids were young, I would not have been jumping on that bandwagon too quickly.  My three kids are teenagers now and I am back in the paid workforce but I do recall the long stretches of my street person lookalike days.  So what?  My kids didn’t notice and they were the ones for whom I’d forsaken my ‘Hell Ya’ look in the first place.  I am still to this day, however, deeply offended when my husband or any another man comments on a woman – a mother – suggesting, “Oh, she’s really let herself go.” Well, duh! She only has two hands and both of them are full.

It’s a phase of motherhood and I wouldn’t dare make any mother feel guilty for her motherhood dress code. Yes, I’m back to work but I don’t feel bad about my showerless, yoga pants days. They made me a better mom.

And by the way, you should have seen what my husband looked like after a single day alone with all three of our kids. Boy! Had he let himself go!

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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