There are two things a hockey mom is not often seen without: one is her cup of coffee and the other is her hockey blanket. She is so done with that coffee before the game even starts, but the hockey blanket? Now that is a long-term relationship.

I should know. I’m one of those hockey moms who has been in a long-term relationship with her hockey blanket. I remember I first introduced my hockey blanket to the rest of the hockey moms on the team like it was yesterday. “See this? I got it at Walmart for ten bucks! I swear!” and with that, they all happily and unconditionally accepted my new hockey blanket into their hearts – and occasionally their bottoms too.

We’ve been together for about ten years now, my hockey blanket and I. We’ve had our ups and downs, I can’t lie. We’ve had issues with neglect, like the time the blanket almost left me for good after being forgotten at an arena in the GTA (my kid got injured, sorry. I had other more important things on my mind that just my hockey blanket) or the off-season summer months when I barely even look acknowledge its presence (we both just wanted to be single for the summer). And we simply don’t mention the time I left my blanket in the car because I secretly coveted my friend’s Eddie Bauer down blanket.

There were things I didn’t always see eye to eye on with my hockey blanket. I mean, it didn’t always match my winter coat or my handbag, and occasionally people insisted I share it with them, but somehow we got through these rough patches and stayed together through the years. I watched other hockey moms change their hockey blankets like they changed their hairstyles but not me. I loved my hockey blanket.

And now it seems this relationship is getting complicated. It’s not the blanket, it’s me. I only have one child left in hockey and so many of the arenas we frequent are blasting their heaters that I just don’t need it anymore. I mean I still love it but more and more these days I find we do things separately. And I have to tell you, after ten years, it’s wearing a little thin. I know my hockey blanket is feeling like it needs a break from me too. The other day I found our dog sleeping with it! I think that was the last straw. Let’s not call it a divorce, let’s call it a conscious uncoupling. And let’s face it; I could use a younger one.

Still, I have no regrets and I’m glad for all our years together. We raised three beautiful hockey players together and got lost together on many less-travelled roads. I’m ready to move on and judging from the looks of my dog and the blanket, I think they are too.

It’s game over, hockey blanket. Thank you for playing. I hope we can still be friends.

Three cheers for our hockey blankets – even if we don’t all live happily ever after!

 – this post first appeared in my weekly HockeyNow Mom Mondays column.


Photo credit: City of Vancouver Archives

Photo credit: City of Vancouver Archives

It’s 8:00AM on a Sunday morning. I am longing to quietly linger over my freshly poured hot cup of coffee, but it is simply not to be. It is hockey team picture day and I am in the midst of unsuccessfully coaxing my sixteen-year old daughter out of bed. The person – let’s call him The Conjuror – who scheduled photos for a Midget girls team at 8:45AM on a Sunday, sandwiched between a Novice team and an Atom team, truly has a sick sense of humour. Any email attempts at rescheduling our team’s time slot have been met with a cheery “LOL!”, so I guess there is no delaying this:  hot coffee or not, we have to be on the road in fifteen minutes.

If there is a hockey mom out there who has survived team picture day without loss of temper, dignity, or blood, you are my hero and I salute you. Please know that after sixteen years as a hockey mom I am still working on my picture day game plan, but bribery is still my go-to champion. Promises of Fruit Loops and Slushies, however, have given away to shopping excursions and free beer but please don’t judge me.

“Let’s go! Dad and I have to be in the picture too, you know!” I shout up the stairs. It’s true too; as bench coach and manager, he and I will be in the picture with her but I’m not sure if this helps or hurts the –getting-out-of-bed process. From her bedroom comes an incomprehensible human response followed by a loud thud which we will all just interpret to mean “I’ll be right down.”

My husband has generously brought in her hockey equipment from the garage which, thanks to a very mild November, does not require thawing. As all hockey moms know, there is not even enough room to change a shoe in the team picture room let alone a hockey player so you must arrive at team pictures fully dressed in your hockey gear. Lord have mercy.

Despite the conversation between my daughter and I during this process, with me speaking in English, and her speaking in a mysterious uncharted language, she is dressed and ready to go in record time. This will cost me a trip to Sephora for sure.

Arriving at the arena community room allocated for our association’s team picture day, I take one look at the photographer and any amount of sympathy I had for my daughter and her teammates, is immediately transferred to this beleaguered soul who obviously needs something stronger than a hot cup of hot coffee. As he struggled moments before to get the Novice team to just stand still for two seconds he now wrestles with getting this Midget team to even move an inch.

Then, in three weeks, I will receive my order for these team pictures; I will marvel at her smile and forget the chaos it belies.

And how did your picture day go, hockey moms?

Three cheers for team picture day – and for the wizard that is the team photographer!

Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy!

Normally when I read Scott Feschuk’s articles in Maclean’s magazine, I laugh so hard I pee my pants.  This is not as bad as it sounds because I usually only get to read Maclean’s in the bathroom, so don’t worry. 

A recent Feschuk column, however still humourous, was a bit more philosophical as he contemplated his own midlife crisis.  What really caught my attention, without the accompanying incontinence, was a comment in reply to his column.  A Dr. Drummond, author of the The Midlife Crisis Handbook  (how perfect is this for that hard-to-buy-for-in-midlife-crisis someone on your list?), pointed out that, “Midlife Crisis is a term first used by Elliott Jacques in a research paper in 1965 where he discussed the angst of middle aged men in big business. They were asking the question, Is this all there is? and really struggling with whether or not their feelings called for a big change in their lives.  A functional Midlife Crisis is a massive shortcut to living your dreams when it is done well and done on purpose.”

If posing the query, “Is this all there is?” designates a midlife crisis, then everyone in my family is having one on a fairly regular basis – particularly around dinner time.

Secondly, a “…massive shortcut to living your dreams?  There’s only one shortcut I know to living my dreams, and it’s called Lotto649.

So in contrast to Dr. Drummond’s definition, clearly the midlife crisis that all your neighbours want to talk about is a dysfunctional Midlife Crisis:  running off with the secretary, buying a motorcycle or a leasing two-seater sportscar – none of which are particularly sensible for a married man in his midlife! 

I took a different approach and recently preempted my husband’s midlife crisis by giving him permission to take on a mistress.  Yep, a marital hall pass.  My one and only condition was that she have her own car and is willing to drive our kids to hockey.  Not surprisingly, he has no takers so far, and my dear husband is suggesting that’s because the 30-somethings in his life aren’t big on hockey.  I say the 30-somethings in his life aren’t big on him.

Funny how the crises of most women involve altering the effects of time, whereas for men it involves fooling the effects of time.  As for me, I figure I’ve had at least a dozen midlife crises along my journey, which Dr. Drummond thankfully points out is perfectly normal.  It’s doubtful I would mourn the choices I’ve made in life and entirely unthinkable for me to take dysfunctional action to undo any of them.  I have no shortage of complaints about what new dysfunction plagues my body and mind these days but the midlife decisions that plague most women hold no controversy for me:  if it involves needles or knives, I just need to get over myself.  Which means of course that most of my midlife crises go entirely unnoticed…that is … until that crisis is interrupted by yet another of Life’s existential mysteries:  did we run out of peanut butter again?

How will you handle your midlife crisis?

Hey!  A short article of mine was recently published at YummyMummyClub.ca.  I invite you to have a read:   http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/gift-giving-for-teenagers?s=newsletter120111

I may be known as Aunty Gift Card to my nieces and nephews for their birthdays, but I am decidedly anti-gift card at Christmas. Ripping open an envelope on Christmas morning is about as exciting as ripping open a report card: they already know what’s inside.

Teenagers are a rare breed to live with on a good day… never mind to shop for. They either want everything under the sun or they don’t want anything at all; proving my long-held assertion that teenagers cause hair loss in parents. Add to the stress of selection – the cost! In addition to my own three kids (ages 15, 14, and 11), I have 11 nieces and nephews for whom I shop (read: I need to stay within my budget).

Here are some suggestions to make gift giving easier for teens and tweens.

If you still think Hello Kitty is just cute little pink lunch bags and pencils, then you and I have been living under the same rock. I recently checked out their line of totally far out make-up compacts at Sephora which include eye shadow palette and blush for $35.

The famous Coach line of handbags is far too expensive. And really? What teenager deserves be walking around their high school with a handbag nicer than mine? But they seriously want one. So, why not a little wristlet, instead for under $50. This cuties can easily hold their cell, iPod and lip gloss (but not a hair straightener, sorry).

You don’t have $999 for the MacBook Air on his list? Really? So? What now? If your teenagers has a lap top (any many of them do), why not consider getting them a cool skin (aka cover sticker). At www.Gelaskins.com you can chose from a huge array of funky designs – and not just for their lap tops but also cell phones and iPods too. You can also create one of your own buy uploading pictures or designs. While they might be a little disappointed they didn’t get that new lap top, for under $30, at least their old laptop, iPod, Blackberry or cell will look brand new!

How about a pair of really neat earphones? Sorry, epic fail on the teenage lingo. I mean, I am stocking up on some totally sick skull candy for their iPods and MP3 players. There’s usually a whole aisle of them at Best Buy or Future Shop, but you can also occasionally find them dirt cheap at Winners!

Finally, for the rarer-than-Mother-Theresa-rare-Teenager who really, really, really doesn’t want anything for Christmas… buy them a goat. Er – rather – buy a village in need of a goat through one of the many charitable organizations offering Gifts of Hope such as Plan Canada, Unicef and Oxfam. Mango trees, baby chicks, classroom essentials, sanitary essentials, anti-malaria bed nets, among many other popular choices, are available for sale.

So I wish you every success with your holiday shopping for teenagers. I still have hair which proves these gifts have all been well received by my family – and by my wallet. Happy holidays!

Has anyone actually noticed that Canada was in the midst of a nationwide postal strike? I’ve heard a fair bit about it on the news but quite frankly, I haven’t otherwise even noticed.  Well, I take that back.  I HAVE noticed that while these postal workers are heatedly debating preservation of their essential service to Canadians whereas I can take a breather from cleaning all the junk and direct mail flyers from my neighbourhood super box.  Yes it’s true.  While I did briefly enjoy mail pick and delivery right from my college apartment door while in university in the US, I have not had home delivery of my mail in Canada since – oh – like, 1983.  Probably the last time I saw and honest to God letter carrier too.  Seriously, I am not missing the daily ritual making of two piles of mail:  one that goes directly to the recycle bin and mail that comes into the house.  You know the pile that comes into the house is a tiny fraction of that which feeds my Blue Box.

If I hear one more postal worker complaining on the news that they are not going to be able to retire at age 55 like they’d planned, I seriously might just go – well – postal.   If my taxes going up again in order to subsidize the pension benefits and/or pension shortfall of one more public servant, Crown or pseudo-crown corporation employee, I might just send them my early withdrawal penalty fees from personal retirement savings funds (oh wait, they’re on strike) .

But you know, I’m a pretty reasonable person (other than on Monday mornings), and have been known to change my opinion on many things over a glass of Chardonnay (not on Monday mornings), so I thought before ranting too loudly I’d quickly take a look at the CUPW website to see what’s the hold up with getting my next issue of Canadian Living (note to self:  email Transcontinental Media about switching that account to e-subscription).  The union’s main website page announces where and when the next rallies and demonstrations are being held.  Oh great, so now in addition to not getting my daily dose of real estate must-haves in my neighbourhood, it’s also going to take me longer to get home as I attempt to divert these gatherings.  Okay, so when I did finally navigate my way to their Program of Demands (pretty sure CUPW introduced that term to my kids right around toddlerhood) under their Key Resources heading, I found their most recent newsletter from their National President dated August 2010.  Seriously?!   Have there been no updates to the members since?  I honestly could not find out what actually caused the screeching halt of the delivery of greeting cards from yet another charity looking for donations to my mailbox.

I was getting a little freaked out that I might miss my next Columbia House CD shipment (“Did you know you can still buy CDs?” my daughter asks one day.  Thwack.), but then remembered they went bankrupt last year because of this “…obsolete media…”  I guess they thought iTunes was just a fad.

Heaven knows I will miss my opportunity to claim my millions from Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.  That’s ok because I am one of the over 60% of Canadians saving for my own retirement and it looks like I am not doing so any time soon. 

It also looks like I’m not going to get that postcard from my sister who is visiting Italy right now with her family.  Not to worry, however, for I know within 10 minutes of her arrival home, she’ll have all those photos posted to a shared Shutterfly site.  In fact, knowing her, I should probably check my email for she may very well have already done so while travelling (unlike me who relied on the postal service and mailed film and mementos home from a once-in-a-lifetime trek through Europe in 1989 that never arrived…ever).   

It is absolutely tragic that I will fail to be informed about what’s on sales this week at Giant Tiger (your all-Canadian family discount store).

Ah well, no matter.  Looks like the posties will be legislated back to work next week to resume this essential service to Canadians, so  I have no worries than that the one personally hand-written piece of mail we do get – birthday cards from Grandma – will safely arrive in time for our next family birthday in August.

Long live the internet.

Homework for a class I’m taking in memoir writing involved buying a journal.  Oh – and using it.  I’m trying not to roll my eyes but I have never “journaled” or kept a diary and thought this was quite a tedious assignment.  Nevertheless, a trip to Indigo-Chapters is one that my daughter and I enjoy – each to our own corner of the store – so off we went on a school supply shopping trip for me.  Though my corner is usually Fiction or better yet, Starbucks, this visit involved a trip to the Paper section.  My daughter has led me there on numerous occasions to seek out one of the many journals she has maintained in her lifetime.  She is ten.

I was staking out a spot for my brand new journal, with a big letter A on its front cover, in my night table drawer, when I came across an old diary of mine.  So I lied; I did keep a diary; but only for about 4 months of my life.  My aunt bought me a small one for Christmas one year and I managed to keep it up for an astonishing 4 months in the year 1980.  My daughter was in the room, and was obviously curious about its contents.  What the heck?  I read aloud from a random page…

“When I write in this diary, I think about my daughters reading it and what they will think.”  I know, but I swear that really was on the page that I randomly flipped open and read to her.  She looked at me with such amazement that you’d think two cosmos collided.  She was wriggling and giggling with excitement so I read on to find out what other profound predictions I professed in 1980.

I was 16 years old in 1980 and a very average 16 year old at that.  I was not out struggling for social justice or campaigning for peace, I wasn’t plotting to overthrow my parents’ rule and  I wasn’t depressed or raging or even writing bad poetry.  I was, in fact, entirely ordinary, working as a waitress in a truck stop, studying for exams, angsting about my hair and playing a bit part in the local theatre company’s production of The Sound of Music.  Oh and I had a huge crush on a boy named Chris (“A.G. loves C.R.” was emblazoned in a big heart in the back cover!).

“Oh, Mom!” my daughter chided, “You were such a drama queen!”  It dawned on me that a) the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and b) my daughter was making a connection.  She realized that this evil thing that takes away her iPod and makes her eat broccoli was once young and frivolous. 

So, I am now determined to do this journal business – if for no other reason than for the conservation of my own memories and emotions (perhaps no longer so young and so frivolous).  She may have a ten year old herself one day (and it’ll serve her right) and look back on this, and her own, journals!

If there is domestic nirvana, Good Cleaning Lady she be.  I’ve been without this heavenly bliss since July (that’s right – JULY – don’t come visit!).  My husband and I have employed a cleaning lady since very early in our marriage.  For the first few years of our wedded life together, housecleaning was the only thing we fought about (I’ve matured now to the point that I have since found other mundane things to fight about).   I seemed to be doing it every weekend.  In 1991, $40 got your entire apartment cleaned, plus whatever laundry and ironing was lying around.  Of course the apartment was about 400 square feet; laundry was limited because we had all this disposable income for dry-cleaning and who, quite frankly, who irons anymore?  Fast forward almost 20 years now and our cleaning lady of 5 years leaves a voicemail saying she’s off to Germany for the month of August and will call me upon her return.  No sweat – we’re at the cottage for 2 weeks…how bad can things get?  Except…she does not call back at the end of August!  I let things go a couple more weeks until I am wading through dust bunnies and dog hair a foot deep.  I misplaced my daughter for a whole hour.  Finally found her after an anxious game of indoor Marco Polo!  . 

Our cleaning ladies have been the glue that keeps our marriage together – or just my uncomplicated version of the Other Woman I’m not sure.   It is entirely possible that this woman, after 5 years of promoting peace and non-violence in our matrimony has divorced us.

So since the end of August I’ve been the domestic Goddess around here.  Though after 4 hours of sweat labour, I feel more like a cross between the Tasmanian Devil and Pigpen.  I’m truly enlightened too:  a good cleaning lady may be hard to find but well worth the effort and way cheaper than marriage counseling.

Help Wanted!

Those of you with children know the age-old travel game of counting cars on the highway.  In my younger days, I counted purple corvettes.  Volkswagon’s reintroduction of the VW Bug saw the return of Punch-Buggy –No-Punch-Backs.

While in Tuscany recently with my family, our days typically involved at least an hour of car travel to and from our destination of the day. Each day, my three kids, along with whichever cousin was along for the ride, would count the yellow cars.  Any type of motorized vehicle counted, but they had to be yellow.  Not amber, not flax, not mustard and certainly not golden.  Yellow.  While Italy may be known for its colourful people and amazing food, their cars are disappointingly grey, black or white.  So the counting yellow cars game proved to be more of a challenge than usual, and I found myself helping them out by being on the lookout.

On our last day in Italy, we were traveling to Florence, about 45 minutes north of our resting spot, La Fattoria Romignano.  Our road trip the day before had yielded a banner crop of yellow cars.  The count was high, so there were equally high expectations for today counting the yellow cars en route to Florence.

My son was up to about 24 yellow cars by the time we reached the outskirts of the old town.  Then it happened.  I could hear the guttural noises emanating from my husband’s throat.  He excitedly began started the play-by-play:  “Coming up on our left hand side!  Wait…wait…wait. Now!  Look!” 

Strapped to the back of a flat bed trailer truck was the supreme trophy of the yellow car counting game.  We were witness to the mermaid of the deep, the unicorn of the forest, the elf of the North Pole.  We saw a yellow Ferrari.  After the ooos and ahhhhs, one of them said, “That’s just gotta count for extra!” This sighting was of particular importance, for we did not see another yellow car for the rest of the tri – or perhaps they just faded from our view!

If I cringe at the sound of the word “clutter”, imagine what the verb “de-clutter” does to me?  Mild weather always beings to mind Spring, which regrettably (for me) always brings to mind Spring Cleaning.  It’s not that I mind hard work but there is much anguish involved in this exercise.  I don’t mind emptying my closet of clothes I have not worn in a while and of which I have tired, but this annual ritual also reminds me that I have sadly outgrown many of these clothes (and not in height, either).  Some of my neighbours take to the post-winter task of yard clean up with commendable cheerfulness while I simply can’t even get out of the garage.  Seriously.  I can’t get out of the garage.  And so, this is where our spring task begins.

My kids are just starting their hockey playoffs schedule and we do intend to ski over the March Break and I am still very much in my Vancouver Olympics euphoria so I can delay GDC-Day (Garage De-Clutter Day) until at least April.  At some point in April, however, these inevitable tasks must take place:  the hockey equipment that has been outgrown must be disposed of and replaced and the has to be cleaned and stored until try-outs in the fall (except for those of crew playing spring hockey), snowboards, skis, helmets and boots must be moved to the basement, tobogganing and snow fort and snowman making paraphernalia must be washed and stored, and very thankfully the snow shovels and ice melting pellets can also be stowed away.  All these are necessary but are constant reminders to me of the ever-speeding passage of time.   Then the Blue Box, Black Box and Green Box will all be power-washed after winter’s harsh treatment and reassembled in their rightful places.  After all this clean up, we can stand back and admire our big, beautiful, clean 2-car garage!  That is, until we take down out the bicycles, scooters and rollerblades. 

I will enjoy those 10 minutes anyway.

With hockey season begun, all manners of normal human existance cease to exist for several months.  As such, please feel free to visit my other site www.shotfromthepoint.wordpress.com for postings about my “other” self – my life as a hockey mom.


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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