Putting on the goalie gear

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If you’ve ever seen a 7-year-old goalie, it looks a little something like the Incredible Hulk  meets the Munchkins. They are tiny little kids but once in goalie gear, they’re pretty much, almost perfectly square.

The first time my husband anticipated working late and knew he couldn’t get to the rink for a practice, I had to help put on the goalie gear. So, we had a lesson at home.

“First order of business is to get the double jock on”, he said.

“The double what?”

“The regular jock shorts with the Velcro for attaching his socks first then the…. ”

“But he has socks on already, under his long John’s.”

“No, not those socks, the hockey socks that match his uniform.”

“Right, ok. Got it.”

“Then the special goalie jock with two flaps to protect his private area.”

“Holy cow, he doesn’t have that much to protect, is this all necessary? ”

(I just got the look.)

“Right, ok, goalie jock.”

“Now, his hockey pants…”

“You mean those shorts with the suspenders?”

(Eye roll) “Yes.”

Next I was taught how tie his skates super tight so his ankles had full support, then how to tie the shoelace string at the bottom of the goalie pads around the skate so they wouldn’t slip when Reid performed his various slides, butterflies and complicated goalie moves. Then Reid lay on the floor, on top of his pads, while I learned how, and in which order, to fasten the 45,000 straps at the back.

Next, the chest protector/full body armour/bullet-proof vest.

“Help him get his arms into the arm parts and make sure the Velcro is tight around his wrists, but not too tight. ”

“Right, got it. Check.”

“Next comes the jersey.”

“How does he get his arms in? He can’t lift them above his head with the arm parts of the chest protector.”

“Pull it over his head, all the way down and he slips his arms up to his sides and pops them through.”

“Oh wow, cool, ok, got it. Easy peasy.”

“Don’t forget the mouth guard, and finally the mask.”

“What’s a mask? You mean helmet?”

“No, it’s a goalie mask, NOT a helmet.”

“Right, sorry.  Got it, we’re ready to go. That was easy.”

Hockey practice night arrives and we get to the rink a full hour early to give me lots of time. No one else has arrived yet, thank God. Sydney sits in the stands and avoids the “smelly” dressing room and I’m thankful for the quiet so I can concentrate. First, we get the skates laced up.

“Wait, mom, I don’t have my jock shorts on.”

“Shoot, right, ok, skates off, sorry. Jock shorts on, socks on, check and check. Next the goalie jock, right? Then the skates.” So far, so good.

“My skates aren’t tight enough.”

“What do you mean? My fingers are raw pulling on those laces… are you sure?”

“Dad does them tighter.”

“Right, of course he does.” Retie the skates. “Better now?” The nod will suffice.

He sits on the bench, and I kneel to tie the laces to the skates. Holy crap, I’m hot. I peel off my winter hat and scarf and toss it on the bench beside him. My long winter coat catches on the pads and I struggle to move it out of the way. Jesus, this coat is HOT. Shit, how do I tie the laces again? Right, ok, got it.

“No, Mom, it’s around the back at the BOTTOM, then through and a criss-cross…” Audible sigh and eye roll from my 7-year-old.

Right, untie the laces and try again. Holy fuck, I’m sweating! I fight to get my ankle-length coat off while kneeling on the floor and fire it, rather aggressively onto the bench. I can feel my face is flushed and there are sweat beads around my hairline.

I retie the laces. I think we’re good. Reid lays down on his pads and I try to remember which straps snap and how tight the Velcro ones should be.

“Hurry up, Mom, everyone is already ready!”

Somehow the dressing room managed to fill up and empty out without me noticing. Our hour is already up.

“Just a minute, almost done…”

Pads on, check. Now, mouth guard and helmet. Excuse me, MASK. Check and check. He’s ready. Thank God.

“Mom, where’s my stick?”

I freeze. Oh my God, I can picture it in the front hall, at home, by the door. Fuck, fuck, fuck! My head feels like it’s about to blow off.

“Well, it looks like we both forgot it, Reid! Isn’t that your job to remember your stuff???” I can hear the pitch of my voice getting higher and more shrill.

Then the tears start. On him, not me, not yet because I’m grinding my teeth and trying not to lose my shit.  I take a breath.

“Ok, buddy, don’t worry. You go out and warm up and I’ll run home and grab it. But after this, we’re going to have a chat about who is responsible for WHAT because this is a lot of shit, I mean stuff, for Mom to look after! And I’m not the one playing hockey!” Ok, maybe not the best time for a lecture…

A few big blinks, a nod and a sniff, and off he goes. I leave Sydney with another Mom and ask her to keep an eye on Reid. I head out to get the stick and try not to drive to the airport instead.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m back and he has survived the warm-up without his stick. I, on the other hand, am wishing I’d packed my flask.

Six months later and now he’s putting on all his own gear, including the pads. He’s got this, and somehow, I still have my sanity.

 

The winter that wasn’t, but dragged on forever

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Someone said the other day that despite this lingering bad weather in March and April, we’re fortunate we didn’t have a terribly cold or snowy winter. About 6 weeks ago I would have agreed, but today, I call bullshit.

When cold weather, overcast days and some form of cold precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, it doesn’t matter) starts in November and carries on into APRIL, it really doesn’t matter after a while whether it’s -2 or -20. It’s irrelevant because it’s April and my effing tulips that are trying to poke out of the earth are now frozen solid for the third time in three weeks because winter decided to come back, again. It no longer matters that January was mild, or that I only shovelled the driveway 6 times instead of 20. January is forgotten. Today all that matters is that it’s been some form of winter since November, and I’m done.

This morning I couldn’t even argue when Reid (age 7) had a complete meltdown because he had to put his winter boots back on. Normally I’d tell him to be more positive, but this time I couldn’t. “I know, Reid, you’re right. This weather IS stupid.”

Is this climate change? I have no idea. I know these weird weather patterns are becoming more erratic as the years go by, both in summer and winter, and something needs to be done globally but I’m not here to solve the problem, or debate it.

Today I am completely peeved that I had to put on my winter boots again, my big winter coat again, and brush the van off, again. Yes, this is Canada blah blah blah, but I didn’t chose to live in the Yukon. This is Southern Ontario, where, by mid-April, it should be raining a little with some sunny days and buds bursting out on the trees. And for Pete’s sake, it should be ABOVE freezing! For the few sunny days we’ve had, there have been more without power due to ice storms, wind storms, snow storms or at the very least we’re chipping off our windshields just so we can run to Metro to grab milk. I will NOT shovel again, no matter how much it snows today. I won’t do it.

We can’t control the weather, this is true. But I also can no longer be held accountable for my piss-poor attitude to this relentless and stupid “spring” weather. The low pressure headaches, the blahness of not getting any sun (yes, I have a “happy light” but it isn’t the same) and being stuck indoors have taken their toll. The weather is grim, and so am I.

 

 

 

First Year as a Goalie Mom

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At age 5, Reid asked to play hockey. Not because he was fascinated by highlight reels or had an early obsession with Sidney Crosby. His buddies at school played. That’s it. That was a good enough reason for him. We signed him up for mini tyke house league because being Canadian, there were two things we wanted our kids to learn: how to skate and how to swim.

The first season was a confusing combination of admiration and admittedly slight embarrassment as Reid only skated on one foot, and pushed himself with the other. We asked the coach, pleaded in fact, that he correct this so he could keep up with his teammates. But this amazing, personable and dedicated man only smiled and told us, “he’ll get it, don’t worry”. By the end of the first season, Reid could skate. With two feet.

By this year, his third season, we weren’t sure he’d want to continue. He still liked the game, but didn’t want to fight over the puck or dig in the corners. Maybe hockey wasn’t for him. We didn’t care one way or the other, we were just glad he’d learned how to skate and would be able to hold his own in a game of pick-up with his friends. We let him decide and he asked to try being the goalie.

His coach was thrilled as most kids cringe and avoid goaltending at all costs, but none the wiser, we suited him up low and behold, he wasn’t half bad. He stopped more than he let in, and suddenly it was all he could talk about. We’ve seen the shirts, the mottos, the quotes from professional goalies toting themselves as nuts, looney toones and more than a little bit crazy to strap on that gear and voluntarily have pucks fired at them. But Reid came alive in net like nothing I’ve ever seen, and as far as I could tell, he wasn’t all that crazy.

After he made the Rostered Select team this season, we made an investment in some used equipment since the loaners from the league were too small, and buying new in the first year was well, just plain ridiculous, if you’ve ever seen the cost of goalie equipment. While he’s already on the tall side for his age, the enormous goalie gear made my little guy look like the Hulk.

We signed him up for a goalie clinic, on the advice of a friend, and let him watch You Tube videos of NHL goalies so he could learn some of the moves. He practiced with the team and seemed to be doing well out there. It was fun.

And then we went to his first game. Folks, if you’re new to hockey, let me be clear: Watching your child in net, at any competitive level, is highly stressful. I had no idea my blood pressure was about to go through the roof, or that I’d sweat so much I’d have to take my coat off in a freezing cold arena, or that I could actually hold my breath that long without passing out.

I emerged from their first game a complete wreck. What the hell just happened? There were kids barreling down on my son, trying to deek him out, firing shots at his head. Who let that kid get a break-away? How is that fair? He’s only SEVEN!

But Reid emerged with a wide grin and soaked hair, being high-fived by his teammates for making some great saves. He and the other goalie on his team felt like heroes. How are that kid’s parents so calm? Are they calm? They look calm!

I, on the other hand, needed a stiff drink. At times I couldn’t watch, my heart ready to explode, my head pounding from clenching my jaw through most of the game.

And it didn’t get any easier. The more they played, the greater the expectation. When they lost a game 4-1 and Reid was the goalie who let all 4 goals in, he was shattered. He couldn’t put into words how sad and disappointed he was so he sat in the back of the van all the way home, quiet and staring out the window. I let him be. When we got home, I hugged him and told him how I proud I am, every day, of all his efforts, and for sticking it out even though that game totally sucked.

Every time he plays, I fight nausea. I remind myself to take deep breaths. I talk myself out of punching the parent who cheers because their child scores on mine. I try not to cheer too loud, for fear of embarrassing him, but can never seem to find my mute button. I try to smile when the other moms say, “I don’t know how you do it”.

But I wouldn’t change a thing. He’s a good goalie, a great kid and a resilient 7-year-old who loves being between the pipes. He’s learning some valuable life skills out there, namely how to control his temper when the game isn’t going his way. We’ve had more than a few chats about limiting the number of times he slams his stick on the ice when he’s mad. Now he’s able to reset himself by tapping each corner of the net and then focusing on the next shot. And every once in a while, I look away when he needs to slam his stick down a few extra times.

In the end, he’s the one who has taught us; when you get knocked down, get back in net. He does, every time. And I resume my spot on the bench, trying not to think about rep tryouts coming up next month.

 

The Overscheduled Parent

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I suppose I should start out by saying “Hello, it’s me…”

In case you’ve been wondering, I didn’t fall off the planet. Rather, like many parents these days, I got busy. And not normal busy. Stupid busy. And now I’m back, a year later, wondering how I haven’t written anything for a whole year. I’ve had a lot to say, that isn’t it. It’s just the idea of sitting down at the end of the day and trying to put into coherent words any of my thoughts usually ends up with, “um, no, thank you”.

More than ever this past year, I have been drowning in small stuff. And big stuff. And medium stuff.  Work, volunteering, sports, household chores and more sports. Not my sports, but the kids sports. Me? Sports? No time. I’ve been sitting on my butt in cold arenas keeping Tim Horton’s in business. Figure skating, synchronized skating, house league hockey, select hockey, select baseball indoor training… and the four different boards that Rich and I sit on between us because we want to be involved in the kids’ lives. Why four? Because clearly being on one board was not stupid enough.

It’s true, we’ve become  THOSE parents. The ones we said we’d never be. The disdain I used to feel when I watched those crazy, overscheduled families flying from one activity to another, “OMG, I am NEVER going to do THAT!” I’ve been eating crow since I had kids, folks. Eating lots and lots of crow.

In the meantime, we have 12 activities/practices a week. Last I checked, there are only 7 days in a week. Soooo… hmmm… math was always my worst subject but I’m pretty sure that’s ridiculous.

I’m not sure how families with more than 2 kids do this. Or maybe they’re smarter and just don’t do it. But between Rich’s busy work schedule and very long days, and me painting 9-3 each day (physical labour really does suck in your 40s), I have had to figure out how to be in two places at once most evenings despite my sore, tired body and overwhelming exhaustion. With science being my second worse subject, cloning has not yet been successful.  Thank goodness for friends and neighbours whose kids are also in a ridiculous number of the same activities and can shuffle one of mine along with theirs. Because it never fails that although one or both of my kids are on the ice every night, they’re never in the same arena.

Despite the craziness, the kids have rocked it. Won tournaments, earned medals, learned how to survive disappointing losses and developed great life skills right in front of my eyes. All worth every minute I’ve spent frozen in the rink.

So, will I do this next year? Um, not quite.  One sport each please. We’ll still be living at the rink, but hopefully the practice schedule will not exceed the number of days in a week.  And if anyone asks me to sit on another board, I’ll run screaming.

 

 

 

Thank God it’s Monday!

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At after school pick-up on Friday, one of my working mom friends heaved a big sigh and blurted out what everyone else blurts out on Fridays, “Thank God it’s Friday!”
I started to agree, out of habit, then paused. Hmmm. I dunno.

Friday’s great and all, and definitely a signal of the week’s end to those slugging it out in the corporate, 9 to 5 world, but to me it means a house full of people again. Yes, people I love, absolutely, but those people I love are also noisy and make a mess. Don’t get me wrong, I do love family time, and I really love not making lunches and I super love that my hubby enjoys doing some of the cooking and I love a good family walk or round of Monopoly. But the weekend to me doesn’t bring about images of tranquil music and a spa atmosphere. It signals chaos.

Hockey practice, laundry, cleaning, groceries, planning meals for the week – all while tripping over Lego and managing the kids’ time spent on the iPad… “Yes, it HAS been 30 minutes! Get off the iPad!”

For a stay-at-home mom or a work-from-home mom or a combination (like me) of stay-at-home/working mom who works by day but still picks up the kids after school, I cheer for Mondays. On Mondays, I kiss my hubby goodbye as he heads to the office and take the kids to school in clean clothes with their fresh lunches, and then I come home to a quiet house. It might be a messy house, but it’s QUIET.

I’d love to say I put my feet up and eat bonbons while watching Oprah (is she even on TV anymore?) but I am often working – at one of my various jobs. Whether I’m writing, or painting (with my new co-owned interior painting company http://www.freshcoatpainters.ca), my surroundings are quiet. No arguing, no bickering over the TV, and definitely no endless “Mooooooommmmmmm!”

So call me weird, call me crazy but I love Mondays. So if you hear me utter TGIM, don’t panic, I haven’t had an aneurism, I’m just all about the Mondays.

Don’t eat ice cream in a hot wind

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On vacation last week, in the wee town of Minden, on a hot and muggy day, we (my family of 4) decided to head to the infamous Kawartha Dairy for ice cream.

We waited in line for 20 minutes, during which time I pulled my 5-year old son off the fence, partitions and back into the lineup at least 25 times. But it would be worth the wait, it would.

As we waited, I watched what people ordered ahead of us, gauging the size of the scoops and trying to determine which ones were “baby” cones, “Small” cones and “large”. It had been years since I’d had a Kawartha Dairy ice cream, and although I remembered them as very generous scoops, I assumed the massive 2 scoop cones everyone was ordering were in fact, the “large”.

We ordered 4 “small” cones and I handed the massive ice cream balls one at a time to my husband, who handed them to the kids, in turn. He then took my cone while I waited for his, and paid. Good grief, that’s a lot of ice cream.

I looked around at the clear sky, noticed the warm breeze blowing against my skin and breathed in a relaxed sigh. This was living.

Less than 30 seconds later, Rich came running over to the window in a panic, demanding 2 bowls and 2 spoons and a wad of napkins. He grabbed them and ran off – me following lazily behind unsure what all the commotion was about.

As I approached the picnic bench where my family sat, I was greeted with complete chaos. Reid was as blue as a Smurf, from head to toe, covered in a quickly melting “blue bubblegum” ice cream cone. Rich was frantically jamming it into the bowl and trying to wipe off his arms. I looked at Sydney, whose Moose Tracks was all over her shirt and down her face.
What the hell?

Rich, who was holding my cone, was frantically licking the bottom to keep it from dripping.

“What the? How did it melt so fast?”

As I uttered the words, I felt a cold drizzle down my arm and I looked to find Rich’s cone melting at Mach1 speed. The hot wind was whipping against the cone and splattering it across my top. I stepped aside and started licking frantically, the ice cream now blowing horizontally on the person next to me.

A young mom with two small boys, also with “blue bubblegum” ice cream cones, sat down with their fresh order and looked at us like we were complete derelicts. That is, until her youngest son leaned against her with blue ice cream dripping everywhere.

“Oh my God, don’t touch me!” She screamed.
“What? How? Jesus! Where’s Daddy?” Spotting Daddy who was strolling over completely unsuspecting, screamed “GRAB SOME NAPKINS! GODDAMNIT!”
He turned on his heel, horrified, in his neat, white linen shirt.
“This is STUPID! NEVER AGAIN!” she added, because I’m sure her wailing children weren’t hysterical enough.

We quickly departed the scene – heading for our van, laughing and trying to clean up our own mess. We were covered. Thank goodness I kept a container of baby wipes in the van.

Next time we’ll order “baby” cones and avoid a 30 degree day with 100km/h winds.

I’m just not ready

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I’m not ready for the school year to end. Nope, definitely not. Yes, I am tired of making lunches and yes, I look forward to not corralling my youngest out the door each morning with threats and bribes, and yes, I’m tired of carrying my son’s backpack to school. BUT. I know darn well that the kids will be complaining about their boredom inside of the first week.

This year, I decided to head things off. On the advice of a friend, I created an activity list and I stuck it to the bulletin board so when either of them whine, “I’m bored!” I can point to the bulletin board without even making eye contact.

I looked online for ideas and created a list of things the kids can do, on their own, to amuse themselves every morning until I finish work (I have implemented some crazy part-time work hours for myself just to stay on track: 5am-10am. Ugh!)

I am hoping that by creating this list and getting up early to stay in my work routine, I will somehow convince myself that I do not have two kids at home with me for the next NINE weeks. I love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t love listening to the bickering, the declarations of boredom or the huffs and sighs when their friends can’t come over to play.

We’re also on a strict budget this summer so we will not be traipsing off to Marineland or Wonderland or Legoland every other day. We’ll be having a good old-fashioned staycation right here in our tiny, postage stamp backyard. So what’s a 5-year-old and 9-year-old to do?  Here are some ideas, if you are in an equally challenging situation:

  • Find boxes in the recycling bin and paint them to make a village
  • Make a bird feeder out of popsicle sticks (and grab some bird seed at the bulk barn)
  • Collect and press flowers to make cards or pictures (but leave my roses in the front garden alone!)
  • Make a tent in the backyard (ideal for tiny, postage stamp backyards)
  • Write and illustrate a book (and then all go together after work to Staples to have it laminated – my personal favourite idea!)
  • Turn sidewalk chalk art into paintings by simply applying a paint brush with water

If all else fails, and they whine anyway, pull out those summer workbooks. My kids LOVE those. Oh, and don’t forget to keep your flask full and nearby.

May the force be with you!