Motherhood

You can tell an awful lot about a woman by the contents of her freezer.

I have a friend who, despite having three kids, has a truly immaculate home, unlike my own home with three kids which seems to be rife with kid clutter and dog dirt. Whenever I come home from her place, I am inspired to tidy up just a little.  If nothing else, to at least wipe the dogs’ drool off the patio door. Well, this time I went for broke:  I cleaned out my bottom-drawer kitchen freezer!

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about my kitchen freezer. In fact, a freezerful of je ne sais quoi. As I was cleaning it out, I was not at all surprised by the number of containers with unidentifiable contents, or the amount of food with freezer burn beyond rehabilitation.  I was, however, a little grossed out with the amount of dog hair I cleaned out of my freezer – which seems to be immune from freezer burn. Pretty sure this explains the string of declines for any dinner invites I extend.

Delighted with my Saturday morning’s accomplishment, I gathered the family (except the dogs) around the kitchen frig and presented them with my handiwork. “Ta da!” I announced, to a primarily indifferent audience.

“What’s that?” asked my husband, pointing to a little square Tupperware container amongst the ice cube trays and frozen treats.  “It’s Fishy” I whispered. “It’s fishy?” he asked. “Why does fish get its own corner of your freezer?” which would be a very good question in a normal household. “Shhh! Not fish,” I corrected, “Fishy.

“Fishy’s alive?!” screamed my daughter jumping up and down. Sigh.

“No honey, Fishy is not alive.  He is still very much dead.  He just happens to be still very dead in our freezer.” A now thoroughly confused husband then said, “I’m going to regret asking this, but what is a dead Fishy doing in our freezy?”

“Well, when he died, we were on our way out the door and didn’t have time to give him a proper funeral.”

“Sooo, when exactly did Fishy die?” asked my husband, glancing over at the fish bowl on the kitchen counter that contained a very much alive Beta fish.

“Three years ago.” I answered “Give or take …”

Needless to say, after having her dead fish replaced with a new alive one, the urgency surrounding a proper pet burial had diminished, and we all sort of forgot about the whole thing – until today.

Despite the wasted food and a long-overdue funeral, I truly feel like I accomplished something that morning.

The patio door, however, is still covered with dog drool.

This essay was written for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.  It didn’t win but was great fun to write.  I put on my best “Erma”.  As many of you know, I learned so much from the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held every other year in Dayton, Ohio, its faculty and most importantly its attendees.  You can read the winning entries here.

If the regular hockey season is responsible for my proclivity for coffee and pinot grigio, then the minor hockey playoff season is to blame for my increasingly regular consumption of energy drinks and tequila.

playoff ladder

The intensity of the playoff season is largely due to its unpredictability. Until the regular season league standings are final, we never know who we will face first in the playoffs, when the games will be, where the games will be and what practices will now be added to the schedule – or even if we’ll make the playoffs at all!  Hockey dads have no doubt analyzed numerous playoff scenarios and while I’m reasonably certain these scenarios where rhymed off several times over various dinner conversations, I think I tuned out around mid-January!

There is an entirely different atmosphere around playoff hockey, filled with traditions and superstitions.  Although most players are too young to sport playoff beards (at least until about Midget level anyway), nothing says ‘playoffs’ to a minor hockey player like a new outrageous hairstyle.  I really thought I’d seen the last of the mullet in my high school years, but it makes an unfortunately popular comeback around playoff time. And in striking contrast to the mullet, another playoff favourite is the military buzz.  The mane of choice for my two boys was decidedly the “hockey flow”.  A respectable playoff flow necessitates serious lock-nurturing of this long-ish hair (meaning, sporting a toque or baseball cap pretty much 24/7 to “get her goin’.”). If you ask me, a flow is just a millennial mullet (but no one is asking me).

Playoff hockey also intensifies players’ irrational behaviours.  Superstitions that are typically reserved for just the goalies during the regular season suddenly become major team events during playoffs. It could be the same t-shirt, the same toque or ball cap, and yes, even the same socks, all to be worn with religious regularity and without interruption right through to the Championship game – or elimination (which I am forbidden to speak of except in secret hand signals to my husband). The same goes for seating arrangements in the dressing room, and even in the car during carpools.Those who aren’t quite daring enough to trim their locks (meaning their mom didn’t give them permission) may be otherwise playoff-inspired to tint their locks (if their mom gives them permission). A whole bench of Billy Idol look-alikes.  Girls’ playoff hockey hair is certainly not left out in the cold either, as the low-lights in various team colours are decidedly playoff chic.

faceoff

Is it just me or does it seem that, between the hair, the rituals, the music and the whatnot, the more painstaking the preparation for playoffs, the sooner the team is eliminated from action? I wouldn’t dare say so before or during playoffs – that’s an epic jinx – but sometimes the lead up to the playoffs lasts longer than the playoffs themselves!  Oh well. At least their fashions are all set for NHL playoffs, and hopefully I can finally wash those socks!

So what is my best advice for survival of the post-season?  Take it one superstition and one tank of gas at a time.

Now, where’s my shaker of salt?

I don’t mind when my husband goes away on a boys’ weekend – really – I don’t. I have noticed, however, some fairly significant differences between a boys’ weekend and a girls’ weekend.

golf

For starters, men don’t know how to count.  A boys’ weekend is never forty-eight hours – it’s more like ninety-six hours.  Women have a different word for that – it’s a freakin’ vacation, is what that is. A girls’ weekend on the other hand, starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s. A. Weekend. We’re gone for maybe forty-eight hours, but usually more like thirty-six hours.  That’s ok though, because by my counting, I can plan two girls’ weekends for every one boys’ weekend.

Planning a boys’ weekend is pretty easy too:  pick a date, pack your golf bags and head out the door.  Planning a girls’ weekend involves, um, more.

I’ve noticed most moms, myself included, are exhausted just getting out the door for a girls’ weekend given the Herculean effort involved in organizing a weekend away.  Yet, despite the effortlessness that seems to accompany planning a boys’ weekend, I have noticed that they don’t seem to come home very well rested at all.

During a girls’ weekend, I may text my husband that I arrived safely, ask if he found the casserole in the freezer, and remind him about our son’s baseball game. I would never text my husband asking him, “Can you check on our line of credit?” or better yet, “I talked to the police officer and it’s cool”. There’s not much to text from a girls weekend.  “I ate and I slept” isn’t all that exciting. I could ratchet it up a bit and say, “I laughed so hard that wine came out my nose” but am not sure if anyone at home would be interested in that one either. Or better yet, “spent four hours at the spaspa today – better than sex.” Yeah, I pressed cancel on that one too.

Returning from a boys’ weekend and walking into the house involves the onerous task of dumping the dirty laundry into the hamper and storing the golf clubs in the basement.  Returning from a girls’ weekend and walking into the house, well, it just brings tears to my eyes.

So despite their differences, what happens at a girls’ weekend, stays at a girls’ weekend and for sure, what happens at a boys’ weekend, stays at a boys’ weekend.  Maybe the texts should too.

Soul Sisters Weekend 2014 seems just a little too long away…

There it is …

The deadline is looming…

Just a few days away…

We can see the “Submit” button from here…

Just have to click it and we’re done …

admissions officeI’ve been helping my teenage son complete his post-secondary school applications.  It wasn’t that long ago that I remember filling out my own university applications.  Actually, I do remember now – it’s been over three decades since I even looked at a university application!  Oh well, those applications – they were some great memories.  

I can’t believe how streamlined the entire process is now.  This whole world wide web online application thing is pretty nifty.  Since Canadian schools are the only ones on his radar, there are no SATs to take or scores to submit, so the application itself is fairly standard – at least for the Ontario universities.  What it lacks in applicant differentiation, it makes up for in efficiency and simplicity!  We entered his OEN (Ontario Education Number), his student number, his high school code, then pointed and clicked our way to the Submit button.  His application to Manotick Co-Operative Nursery School back in 1999 wasn’t even this easy – and that involved an in-person interview – because arranging an interview with an alumnus would have been over the top, right?

Now comes the hard part:  the waiting.  This I do remember being extremely tedious.  What follows, God willing, is the equally challenging task of deciding which post-secondary institution I want to visit on a regular basis – I mean – which is the right environment for my son.  Of course, the task of paying for that choice – er –  opportunity of a lifetime – is also still a task at hand as well. As I was saying, God willing …

I’m not sure about my son, but I found the entire university application process so easy, that in fact, I told him that I was thinking maybe of applying to university all over again myself.

Silence.

“You’re kidding, right?”

Of course I’m kidding dear!  I can hardly leave your father in charge of redecorating your bedroom, now can I?

Bring on those offers, Admissions, I got my paint chips all lined up!

paint chips

So, there needs to be a reason? Certainly not in my books, but in this hilarious book, Reasons Mommy Drinks, Lyranda Martin Evans and Fiona Stevenson (Three Rivers Press, 2013) give 100 reasons that Mommies drink, along with 100 cocktail recipes (seriously ladies, you couldn’t come up with 365?!) that are almost as funny as the motherhood anecdotes after which they were named. I highly recommend reading it (and copying down the recipes!).  It was a little tough reading a book about drinking during my annual month of detox, but then again, it was refreshing to recall all those ‘new mom’ experiences of new mothers – mostly because I’m well past that stage and can actually laugh at them now.

There is the cocktail aptly named “The Silver Scream” named after mommy’s first foray into humanity after childbirth at a Mommy and Me movie, or a yummy concoction called “A Mudslide” which follows a not so yummy experience with explosive poo.  Well, who hasn’t had an experience with explosive poo and who doesn’t need a drink after it? Of course nothing celebrates baby’s first steps like a drink called the “Walk ‘n’ Roll”, and nothing will restore your sanity after listening to children’s music all day, like the “Raffi-tini”, best served “with Baby Beluga caviar” – bwahahaha! (Oh, yes new mothers, you WILL have that song in your head for the rest of your lives).

The book chronicles the first 18 months of motherhood and though I am now 18 years into motherhood, I still remember all those crazy, sleep-deprived baby days – and how badly I wanted a drink!  Sadly, the book starts off with a series of mock-tails (buzzkill alert) until page 31, beyond the anecdotes of nursing.  And sadly that’s pretty much how motherhood started in real life too, wasn’t it? I wish this book had been around when my first born was 18 months old and my second was already 4 weeks old.  It would have given me great comfort – and great inspiration for cocktails – to know that, a) I wasn’t losing my mind, and b) I actually was losing my mind but I was in very good company!

The only negative I have about the book was the ridiculously small print size.  I don’t know my fonts – all I know is I needed my 1.50 reading glasses to read this book instead of my 1.25’s and that made me feel old. Feeling old sucks.  Feeling old makes me feel like making a cocktail…

The Old Fart Work of Art

Ingredients
Sparkling wine, Prosecco or champagne
Crème de Cassis

Instructions
Pour a small amount of the crème de cassis in a chilled champagne flute
Top with sparkling wine then sit back and wonder where your teenagers are…

reasons mommy drinks

I remember fondly the Christmas presents my children used to make for me at school. I still have the classroom-crafted Christmas ornaments from Kindergarten, the decorated Santa’s cookie plates from Grade One, and will simply never part with the rendering of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer done with hand prints for the antlers and footprint for the head from Grade 3. I am so glad that I wasn’t the classroom volunteer that day! Somehow Christmas Gifts for Mom dropped off our school board’s educational curriculum some time before middle school. Such a shame.

It was about middle school, however, that I suggested to them that just because they weren’t making things in the classroom anymore, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still get us a gift. I mean after all, the time had come for them to fully appreciate the old saying that “it is better to give than to receive”. Lord knows their dad and I have been doing a lot of giving over the past seventeen Christmases.

Generally their Gifts for Dad came out of my wallet and the Gifts for Mom came out of Dad’s wallet but that was ok. It was still fun to find a little something under the tree to enjoy along with our Christmas morning mimosa – my husband’s and my mimosas, not the kids (that would be wrong, right?). I’m so glad we started this new tradition because now that my children are all teenagers, I can tell that they truly enjoy picking out the perfect gifts for their parents.

So what was under the Christmas tree for mom this year, you ask?  Well, my oldest son bought me a set of wine glasses, my middle son bought me a Mason jar with a straw (with a heartwarming dedication, “for the cottage”, along with it) and my daughter, my youngest, bought me a coffee mug and a half a kilo of coffee. My mother, who was visiting for Christmas, suggested “Your children seem to know you well.” I couldn’t tell if she was impressed or disgusted.

Christmas 2013

Well, yes, they do seem to point to the things in life I appreciate the most, given to me by the people in my life who I love the most. Anyhoo, no matter. I love my presents and will no doubt put them all to good use. After all, my kids are undoubtedly the ones I have to thank (or blame) for needing them in the first place!

Was there something special for you under the tree this past Christmas?

Like many Canadian parents, my husband and I have been saving for our three kids’ post-secondary education pretty much since the kids were born. This is partly because I struggled with the cost and subsequent debt of post-secondary education and didn’t want to see them burdened like this but mostly because my mother is very much still alive and appears bent on spending my inheritance. Thanks a lot, Mom.

Saving for education and paying for minor hockey occasionally leaves our disposable income a little short-handed.  Once my three kids started playing hockey, my eyes gleamed with the prospect of prosperous athletic scholarships to big U.S. hockey universities. I quickly realized that perhaps the parents of the other 585,000 Canadian youths playing minor hockey may also have also had the same idea.  The reality is that the number of Canadian kids being awarded scholarships to US colleges and universities has drastically diminished over the last decade and even when a scholarship is awarded is pays only a fraction of the cost of a earning a degree south of the border.  In 2007, the rosters of the top ten hockey teams at U.S. college hockey that season showed only 59 Canadian players on those rosters. Even more sobering is the fact that according to a 2008 New York Times report on NCAA scholarships, hockey scholarships only cover an average of 80% of the cost of the education (and hockey ranks pretty high on the percentage of the cost of the education the athletic scholarship covers!).  So given that neither the NCAA nor my inheritance will pay for my kids’ education, saving for it is the really the most likely options.  Unless of course, I win the lottery.

So, my kids’ have had social insurance cards almost as long as they’ve had Ontario Health Insurance Plan cards, because a SIN is required to set up a Registered Education Savings Plan.   The federal government will actually match 20% your RESP dollars under the Canadian Education Savings Grant (CESG) to a lifetime grant maximum of $7,200. Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan ( CST) can help you get started with your RESP.

cstAs for paying for the kids’ hockey, well that too has always been a balancing act.  Certainly the two years when all three of my kids were goalies ranks as two of the most expensive years we’ve ensured as parents of minor hockey players. And certainly none of my kids get all the hockey equipment they want or believe they are entitled! We’ve often drawn from and contributed to the neighbourhood chain of equipment hand-me-downs. We’ve brought picnic lunches and dinners to many a hockey tournament and occasionally even shared hotel rooms with other hockey parents to help reduce the cost of hockey travel.  Right now, CST’s Beyond the Blue Line has a contest going on, where hockey moms and dads can help their hockey team or organization win $10,000 to help make hockey a little more affordable. Submissions can be in the form of a video or picture with an essay (no longer than 1,000 characters).Entries must be received by December 31, 2013. Details and rules can be found on CST’s website.

I will, however, still buy a lottery ticket once in awhile!

How do you balance the cost of yours kids’ sports activities and saving for their post-secondary education?

 

Disclosure: I am part of the C.S.T. Consultants Inc. – Beyond the Blue Line blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog post are my own. Oh, and I love my mom and don’t want her inheritance.

Here is another delicious, nutritious slow-cooker soup to complement the busy hockey mom’s recipe book!

hearty minestrone

Hearty Minestrone

1 Tbsp  olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 each, stalk celery and carrot, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

½ tsp salt and pepper

1 can tomato paste – 5.5 oz/156ml

1 smoked ham hock (1lb/500g)

1 piece Parmesan cheese rind

8 cups  water

1 large potato, peeled and cubed

1 sweet red pepper, diced

1 small zucchini, sliced or chopped

1 cup each rinsed and drained canned red and white kidney beans

1 cup dried pasta

~~

Fry onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper and scrape into slow cooker.

Stir in tomato paste, ham hock, parmesan rind, potato, red and white beans and water.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until ham can be easily pulled off the bone.

Discard bay leaves, parmesan rind and ham bone.

Increase heat to high and stir in red pepper, zucchini for 20 more minutes.

Add some cooked pasta (adding it uncooked to the soup is possible but may make it a little mushy).

My trick?  I make this on a Saturday and then leave it in the frig (or garage, if it’s winter!) and then leave it on “Warm” all day Sunday as my hungry hockey players come and go!  Enjoy!

From Canadian Living’s Comfort Cooking, Winter 2007

There are two reasons I would travel in a snowstorm: I am in labour and need to get to the hospital, or one of my kids has a hockey game. “You’re crazy,” said my husband, “Who goes out in a weather like that to have a baby?”

blizzakThis past week, we have had the kind of winter weather that Bridgestone will use for its Blizzak tire commercials for years to come. Saturday, I drove two of my kids to their hockey games in near-zero visibility. “Really?” you ask. “Zero visibility? Well, then how did you get there?”

Because I am a hockey mom.

My vehicle and I instinctively know how to get to all the local arenas.

As I read the Saturday morning paper with my coffee I thought, “Humph! One centimetre of snow.  No big deal.”  My faith in the accuracy of meteorologists is about as high as my pile of pile of fresh, scented hockey equipment.  I dropped my speed by 10km per hour when I saw the first car in the ditch and another 10km when two fire trucks screamed by me clearly en route to another accident.  Mother Nature loves a smug winter driver (and so do tow truck drivers).

Yesterday, Ottawa was blanketed with 25cm of winter wonderland fun. The school boards called a snow day. The hockey associations did not. I helped push one car out of a snowbank and two hockey bags into the back of winter drivemy SUV. The car was a Toyota Yaris with no snow tires and had no business being out in this weather. The hockey bags? Well, they had a much easier time making it out of the parking lot.

For the better part of the last thirteen winters, I have driven my three hockey players through some crazy weather – the kind of weather that halts airport operations and sends emergency road crews into high gear. I guess snowplows and hockey moms have a lot in common.  My passengers are usually oblivious to the white-knuckle driving conditions that have often punctured the excitement of trips to practices, games and tournaments, but we hockey moms are not.  We are reminded that ‘the first goal of hockey is having fun’ yet there is nothing too fun about some of the winter drives I’ve had to and from the arena.  I don’t know why we do it. I tip my cup of Timmies to the snowplows and give them a wide berth.

And it’s only November …

Hockey parents have this reputation for excessive drinking which I believe is unwarranted.  The truth is, hockey parents do like to drink a lot but, come on, it’s not because we’re hockey parents, it’s because we’re parents. Period. I can assure you that I was drinking long before my kids strapped on their first pair of skates!  For some reason, that does not seem to surprise anyone.

So you know who I think started this nasty rumour about hockey parents and their drinking? I think it was that it was those crazy little hockey kids who drove us to drinking in the first place – they’re the work of the devil.

My daughter asks me stuff like, “Oh, do you really need alcohol to have fun?” I pondered that this weekend as I looked around what passed for a hotel room smaller than my university dorm room and I answered, “Yes.  Yes I do. It is way more fun to be stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere with a glass of chardonnay than being stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere without a glass of chardonnay. In fact, I think you’re having way more fun yourself when I’m here with my little glass of chardonnay, because you’re out there doing God knows what and I don’t even know where you are until I need another little glass of chardonnay and I find you in some random hallway with all your friends eating popcorn” and thankfully not my chardonnay (not yet anyway; I’ll give that a few more years).”  She should know that hockey weekend would be way less fun for the both of us if I was without chardonnay.

How about this one: “I don’t know how you drink that stuff … it tastes terrible!” I don’t believe  it has ever been – nor will it ever be – about the taste. Wait until you have kids – especially hockey kids – and I assure you that little glass of chardonnay will NOT taste terrible, it will be medicinal magic –so will the second glass. And so on …

And when she tells me that I don’t need my wine to have fun, I tell her she doesn’t need the $12 buffet to have fun either.  What’s so fun about paying $12 to witness a couple hundred screaming little girls waiting half an hour for the one single waffle iron that every single one of them seems to “need” at 9:00AM on a Sunday morning?

I’d say we’re even.

white wine

 

Note: This is not a sponsored post, meaning , I was not offered any free booze to write this post. I had to buy it myself. And for you hockey parents, please rink dresponsibly.

 

 

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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