Why the Humboldt tragedy hit us so hard


In a word, it’s relatable.

Turn on the news any given day and there are atrocities around the world. Shootings, bombings, terrorist attacks, accidents, you name it. And as horrifying as all of those are, for most of us they are not relatable. We gasp at the news and then move on. It’s easier to put aside other horrors in the world and carry on with our day. Because they’re not here, or they’re not likely in our immediate reality.

If you have kids in hockey or any sport, this tragedy is something that’s possible. It’s something we could imagine happening to us. It’s our worst nightmare. We send our kids on buses. We send them on excursions. We entrust them to other adults, coaches, teachers, friends. For all of us, this could happen.

I was in a hockey arena when I heard the news on Saturday morning. My son’s minor hockey team was about to play a tournament game and the parents whispered in horror about the accident that had occurred the night before in Saskatchewan. I couldn’t watch the news coverage. Tears were under the surface. I felt sick for those mothers and fathers. Whether you have kids or not, this happened to a young group of hockey players in our country, and we are united sharing their pain.

Our boys gave a moment of silence on the ice. They wrote “Broncos” on their helmets. They played for the team who has lost so much.

Like many of you, I’m wearing a jersey today.  My husband is wearing a jersey. My kids wore theirs to school – my daughter in my son’s goalie jersey, and my son in his green and gold baseball jersey because for him, sharing the Broncos colours is an honour.

As I drove around town this morning running errands, I saw the number of hockey sticks on front porches and was overwhelmed. I exchanged solemn nods with others in the grocery store who also wore their jerseys. I carry the weight of this tragedy with me as many of you do.

We are united as a hockey community, as a country, as parents and as human beings.

We are grieving with you, Humboldt. You are in our prayers.



The lead knee


The other morning as I sent Reid off to school, I noticed he had a hole in his athletic pants. The ones I just bought a month ago because he’d outgrown, and worn out, the other ones.

“What happened to your pants, Reid?”

“I dunno.”

Standard answer, I don’t know why I even ask. I already know the answer. He’s hard on clothes, and I dare risk oodles of hate mail by stating that most boys I know are hard on clothes, especially when it comes to the knees. Girls can be hard on stuff too, don’t get me wrong, but I never had this conversation with my Mom friends when our daughters were 6, 7 and 8.  Actually, I think it has more to do with birth order and personality, but that debate could go on for hours and I digress. This isn’t about gender, or birth order, not one ioda. It’s about knees. And not both knees, at least not at first. In Reid’s case, it’s the right knee. His lead knee.

It took a while to figure this out but while at one of our many evenings at the rink watching Sydney skate, Reid was bored and found another boy to run around with. What did they do for fun? They ran down the corridor and slid, right knee first, along the floor. This gave the boys an hour of hilarious fun, and I sunk into my uncomfortable plastic seat sipping my tea, pretending to be annoyed by those disruptive children who were clearly not mine.

The mystery was solved. He blows out his right knee because he leads with that knee when he slides along the floor, down a grassy hill or toboggans without a toboggan. He blows through at least one pair of snow pants every winter, always the right knee meeting its demise first.

It doesn’t matter the type of pant either: track pants, jeans, cargo, snow pants… no material is immune. Some may last a little longer, but it’s only a matter of time. What I need are kids pants that come with knee patches hanging from the tag instead of those extra buttons. No one uses the extra button. Ever. But patches? Golden. I need a Mables Labels, but for knee patches.

For Reid, there’s only one type of pant I buy: cheap.


I started working out… again


When I was in my teens and twenties, I was fit. Not just fit, but super fit, like one of those annoying fit people you wished you could be, but just glared at instead. I was one of those, a long, long time ago. Since I rode 24-hour mountain bike races, cross-country skied across provinces and worked out regularly at the gym (yes, I’m bragging because I actually used to do cool stuff), I never thought I would ever have to worry about what would happen to my abs after I had kids – or my butt, or my thighs.

Like many busy moms, I put fitness on the back burner after kids. Not on purpose, but just by necessity. And lack of sleep. And overall exhaustion. As each year passed, I got more and more out of shape. And saggy. And fat.

Mind you, I did try to get back on the bike, the treadmill, the rower, and in the pool in between kids and schedules, but nothing ever stuck. Someone would get sick and it would derail me for a week, then two, then a month would go by and I’d be starting all over again.

Last September, when the skating and hockey season started up again, I got a Fitbit for my birthday and vowed to use the running track while Sydney was on the ice. I’d be in the same building, and just think, I could get back in shape!

I went to the track… twice. In a whole year. That’s it. On Mondays, I was too tired because skating started at 8pm and frankly, 8pm is just too late for me to exercise (never mind that Sydney is out there doing it). Tuesdays I was at a different arena for hockey… with no track. Then the baseball indoor training sessions started, so on Wednesdays I had Reid with me for half of Sydney’s session, then Rich would pick him up for baseball practice on his way home from work and then, well, with only a 1/2 hour left, there just wasn’t enough time. Then Rich’s work schedule changed and he was commuting downtown every day, which meant Thursdays I had Reid the whole time Sydney was on the ice. I’m pretty sure they don’t let young kids up on the track, although I never really asked, so may as well forget Thursdays. Fridays were often a hockey game, or a night off, and for goodness sakes, I needed a night off once in a while! And Saturdays… well, by Saturday, I had actually forgotten the plan to go to the track and just sat at the rink and had a coffee instead.

So here I am again, at age 44, chubby and out-of-shape. And the sad thing is, despite my jeans being tight, and a bit uncomfortable, it really doesn’t bother me. Well, it does, but I can quickly get past it. I’ll complain and sigh, tug at my jeans and complain, then have a glass of wine and forget about it. Of course, my health is always my main concern yet my blood pressure is low, cholesterol is low and bloodwork is stellar. So, no push there. The Fitbit I’ve had for a year has recorded me at the exact same weight as when I started. These days I use it more for tracking how little I sleep, and telling time.

So, what’s the plan? I lug goalie gear around 4-5 times a week (lift weights), bend and twist myself into a pretzel tying up goalie pads and skates (yoga), and hustle from the coffee place to the seats at the rink (speed walk) so I can collapse in an exhausted heap.  And about once a week, Rich and I sit on the front porch with a glass of wine, talk about the day and what our plans are for implementing some sort of exercise routine. We call it the never-never plan.

Putting on the goalie gear


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


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


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


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.