What To Do In Alberta – If You’re From There

my dad
calgary alberta 2nd birthday
I should remember the birthday cake, cuz, it’s cake, but I don’t. Me, age 2

Despite our best-laid plans,  we ran out of time to see the places in Calgary where I grew up, or as the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said, “the places that made Joe, Joe.”

It’s too bad.

Much of my early, happy life was here.

Here I had two parents. Here I had a neighbourhood full of friends. Here I played ice hockey on the icy streets, played soccer in snowy fields, and made snow tunnels so immense that the Vietcong sent me a note saying, damn, boi, that’s some tunneling. (Looking back, maybe we never had summer in Calgary for some reason).

calgary, alberta, home
My first home. I remember the sunporch and the garden.

Of my life in our first house, when I was a small child, I remember sitting in the sun on the porch with our dog, a lab named Bobby. I remember not getting supper one time because I refused to stop watching Lost in Space. I remember digging in the backyard, which I defined as gardening and not, you know, digging up the flowers.

But I recall so little of when I was that young. Most of my other ‘memories’ are no more than extensions of photos taken at that time. Funny how that is.

Of my life in our second house, I have many, many more memories. We lived on a cul-du-sac in LeDuc, and if not every house, then every other house had kids around our age. We built snow forts in the winter, and cardboard forts in the summer. We built used hot wheel car lots and stocked them with our best cars (then forced our parents to pick which one was best and even though I always made the best one, I didn’t always win.)

During those times, we ran wild and had fun, being kids in a time before iphones, youtube and stupid morons like Logan Paul. We had a street full of parents who made sure we never got into any real trouble and sent us home if we got out of hand (and God help us if that happened because, by the time we got home, mom had received a phone call detailing what we’d done!)

Calgary alberta 2018
Everyone getting ready for school. Well, not ‘everyone’ by a long shot, and yes, I played with girls.

I traded and collected hockey stamps in that neighbourhood. I threw stones at the bigger kids in that neighborhood, then spent a year hiding behind telephone poles avoiding getting beaten up by them (strangely, a lot of my childhood stories involve throwing stones at people for some reason I still can’t explain). I watched my first football game in colour at a friend’s house, played tag around the cars, and found the best places to hide for hide-and-seek in that neighbourhood.

We had street BBQs, no crime (at least anything serious), and so many kids to play with, we were never short of company.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.

I remember my dad made a skating rink in the backyard that took too long to freeze and rolled downhill, ultimately creating a very deep, but very narrow skating rink.  I remember walking the dog with my dad beside the yellow grass-way next to the highway. I remember making a lemonade stand with my mom in the summer. I don’t remember selling any, though… odds are, I drank it all myself.

I remember playing with my brother when he was my best friend in the world. I remember watching Bugs Bunny and eating hamburgers and ripple fries while my dad rolled cigarettes. I  remember being woken up one night when one of dad’s friends arrived at our house drunk and playing the bagpipes. I remember the wolf that used to hide in my closet and scare me. I remember my mom coming in and chasing it away with a broom. A whole lot of times.

So for the years that I lived there, did that place help define me?

Without question. I felt loved. I had a street full of friends. I had a small world to play in.

Only much later in life did I realize the magic of that time, of the wonder years of skinned knees and sleepovers, of living in a community, not just a house on a street.

Work dad
Work dad. Suit. Tie. Good accounting glasses.

I understand why we had to move, why my dad made the choice to move.

He hated the long hours at work, hated not being with his wife and sons, and hated that he had not found the balance between money and a quality life.

He made the choice to move so he could read to his sons, throw the ball around with them, or take them to the library. He made the choice to listen to his boys in those terrible school concerts, to coach my soccer team (being English, this was more of a deal than I ever knew), and to be there to cheer us on, wipe away tears or teach us how to be men.

my dad
My dad and me on the first day of baseball.

Did he know he had only a few years to live?

I don’t think so, but I do think he knew that being a good dad, a good husband, a good man was more important than a big paycheck.

And I get that.

He made the best move possible, but I look back on those Calgary years as some of the best in my life.

Who could not? I had nearly everything a kid could want.

 

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Top 10 “Did you know?” Wedding Facts.

We had such a great time
We had such a great time

So, now follow me as I take you behind the scenes of our wedding to reveal some of the things you may not have known went on.

  • The bride-to-be wouldn’t let me see the dress until the wedding. I was banned from looking at the pictures on her phone. A whole section of the closet was off-limits to me. I would be sent out of the room when her friends came over. Like a bad dog.
  • I was on the verge of being a complete groomzilla. I blame my OCD need to control things, but the truth is, I simply wanted it to be the most amazing wedding for The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. Every time I came into to see the decorations people, they would wince. Or try to run away.
  • The week before, I’d spent days on the slideshow, first bothering the bride’s family for photos, then going through my own in dusty albums, then scanning them, then making a slideshow. I had a complete meltdown when 6 hours of work crashed and hadn’t been saved. I may have used bad words I was so mad, I even went for a run. A. Run. However, the next day, I was able to redo it all and have a good show for the wedding.
  • The-Oldest chose all of the classical music used in the beginning, putting his vast knowledge of that genre to good use. The dancing music…that was 99% The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. I think that I, maybe, picked one song that was subsequently dropped. The 2nd -to-last song was the Hungarian Rhapsody, chosen by The-Oldest. His most favourite song of all time. He may have been the only one dancing to it by then, though.
  • I told The-Youngest that if he was a goofball while walking his mom down the aisle, I would go to school with him every day, give him a kiss on the forehead, go over and tell the girls he liked them and wanted a kiss from them, too. I told them we would shout “we love you snookumbums!” when he was playing goalie. We’d even make a sign. And post a youtube video. I told him we’d never buy him new pants so the cuffs would gradually creep up his legs, and the crotch would tighten on his balls slowly, but painfully. In other words, I would make his life HELL, until he got married.
  • It was a nightmare to carry the wedding dress when we made the outdoor photoshoot. OMG the photos turned out amazing, but finally, the bride gave up on me or the junior bridesmaids trying to lift her train, and she gathered it up in her arms like a baby and marched from one location to the next. Still radiant. Still so beautiful.
  • At the outdoor shoot, the junior bridesmaids and The-Boyz mistakenly took that time as play time. There was a lot of shouting things like, “Get out of the pond!” “Stop throwing rocks into the mud, you’ll splash the bride!” or “Joe, stop making faces at the photographers!”
  • img_1804
    My incredibly funny brother, Michael, making everyone laugh.

    Both the MC, (my brother, Michael), and the bride’s father were sick on the day of the wedding. Probably a few others as well. But mad love to them for being there, and I have to say, my brother did an absolutely incredible job as MC. He was funny, charming, and did such an amazing toast to the boys.

  • We had no idea that the bride’s mom (and official officiant) would don a bishop’s hat when it came time to read the Princess Bride Mawwage speech. We knew she’d do the speech ‘cuz we had bugged her to, but the hat was a great addition and made us both laugh.
  • It was our Great Baba that got the dancing started. Without her, both The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I would have chatted forever.

img_1798All-in-all, so many things happened that day that it’s hard to narrow them down to a small list. When we took our pictures outside, the photographer decided to use leaves. Pick them up, throw them into the air, he said, and so The-Youngest gathered up HUGE fistfuls and threw them at his mom, giggling like crazy, ‘cuz, you know, the photographer told him he could.

But nothing bad happened at all.

It was such a great wedding.

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons School Being Out Rocks

NYNY rideI don’t know whether to be nervous or excited. Sort of like the moment before your date arrives or just before the roller coaster drops 10,000 feet in 2 seconds.

But the boys are out of school!

And there are 10 GREAT things about that.

1) No more nagging The-Youngest to do his spelling or math or English or socials or science or, well, anything that doesn’t involve mini-hockey.

2) We get to use the pool one last year. With water restrictions, birds pooping in it all the time, and the cost of various and toxic chemicals, the pool’s gotta go.

3) More time to play Magic, build tanks, play FIFA or NHL 2015, throw the baseball, walk the dog in the park, win at Clue, or listen to The-Oldest become a classic pianist.

4) Another epic vacation. This year, Vegas/Grand Canyon, or as The-Youngest calls it, “the trip to the Hershey World.” Apparently, it’s HUGE. The candy store, not the Grand Canyon. (“Joe, did you know – it’s two stories?”)

grand cayon

5) More time to discuss the great philosophic ideas of all time. Like the meaning of evil. The nature of the greater good. And if Ant-man could beat Spiderman (who The-Oldest pronounces, Spooooderman for some reason that makes sense to a teenage mind).”

6) No freaking baseball, hockey, Tai Kwon Doh, parachuting, goalie camps, soccer, Tai Chi, Ballet or Jujitsu or Jedi Training. Just summer. No commitments. How cool is that?

7) No force-feeding The-Youngest so he can get to school on time. Or fast-washing The-Oldest’s gym strip so he doesn’t smell like the Rock’s armpit.

8) No racing out the door, then remembering The-Youngest forgot his lunch, binder, water bottle, magic cards or shoes.

9) monte pythonMovie time! So many movies to watch.

10) Two months chock full of opportunities for great experiences.  Good or bad, I’ll blog about them all.

But, as The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world often says, “it’s not our job to make sure the boys aren’t bored.”

So, true, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make 2016 a fantastic summer.

Tournament Trials – The Loss – Part 7

IMG_8406[1]
They did their best to keep their heads held high
So, after 5 games, the boys had won four and lost one. The last one. And we were in serious danger of missing the ferry. Worse, we still had a ceremony to get through.

The boys lined up on the ice. A carpet was laid out between the two teams. Several old men in blue jackets and berets walked out to stand with the coaches. Veterans. Medals on their chests.

An announcement was made about the winners. The winners cheered. They were the better team. They deserved their moment. Then our time came and our coach took the mic. He looked over at his team. They had their heads up but their shoulders were slumped, like all the air had gone out of them.

He told them they hadn’t lost the tournament. He told them that they had won second place. Won. Second. Place.

Won.

He told them that they had beaten 4 other teams. That they’d played well.

He gave a great speech, but then he’s a pastor in his church and, I would think, not unused to giving people inspiration when they’re down.

Then the boys got their trophies. Pretty damn nice ones, too. The organizers did good.

IMG_8417
Ok, it wasn’t a very big carpet they rolled out.

After each trophy was handed out, the boys would shake hands with the vets. “They had soft hands,” The-Youngest said. He wanted to know what wars they’d fought in, but I couldn’t answer that. “They each had two medals, he said, so that must mean they’ve fought in two wars.”

He could be right.

By the time everyone got their trophy, we had to really make time to catch the ferry. It was 5pm. The ferry left at 5:45. I had a reservation, but not all our team did and it would be a small New Years’ miracle if we all made it. The drive was 20-25 minutes. And we had to still get our gear off.

It was decided that the only thing they’d get off was their skates. Well, sure, fair and fine for players, but to get goalie skates off means you have to untie the pads as well. But we were up to the task, and while most of the team left ahead of us, we were not far behind.

We stuffed our gear in the car. We stuffed the gear of two other boys in the car. We stuffed, 3 kids and 2 adults in. Somehow. And sped off. Now is usually the time I get epically lost, but with the aid of my iphone, I weaved my way in and out of traffic like a Nascar pro.

We made it into the line-up at 5:25. The ferry was 93% full. The attendant gave people without a reservation about 50/50 if they’d get on.

While we waited in the lot, the boys changed their gear. At first, they wanted to change outside of the car. OUTSIDE OF THE CAR. Like, in the open! Like with people in cars on either side looking at them!!!

The answer to that was, ah, no. No way. So they took turns inside the Rav 4 getting out of their sweaty, wet gear and into civilian clothes.

In the end, we all got on and assembled at the front of the ferry. The boys’ good humor had returned, and they were all so excited that they’d done so well. Mad props to the coach for finding exactly the right thing to say to them when the game ended.

The coach gave another speech about behaving, but this went largely unheard as the boys roared off to cause problems. Not The-Youngest though. He was given 20 min then a few quarters to play some video games, then kept by my side (mostly playing games on my phone.)

Yes, this is what two people decided to do on a busy, busy ferry. Lets put our hands together for their humanity
Yes, this is what two people decided to do on a busy, busy ferry. Lets put our hands together for their humanity. Thank goodness their snowboards had seats.

Most of the parents did the same thing and those who didn’t quickly gathered up their sons after supper. However, as goofy as the kids may have been, the epic award for being a complete asshat goes to a couple who occupied 6 seats in the cafeteria.

The ferry was 95% full when it left. There was a massive wait for food and for tables.

The staff even gave an announcement that anyone who’s finished eating, if they could please bugger off so that others could sit down.

Not those two entitled pricks though. They saved 4 seats for their snowboards. So, I took their picture. To quote Red Foreman, my fathering mentor, ‘Dumbasses!!!”

wft star trekAs we  sat down, I told The-Youngest to see what a sense of entitlement leads to.

How many people had they inconvenienced so they could store their coats and snowboards? How fair was that to our team that could have used those seats to eat?

He said he’d never do that, and I believed him.

All things considered, he’d been great on this trip. Not perfect, sure, but he’s 9 and he was with his hockey buddies, so he needed to have a good time as well.

The best picture of The-Youngest yet.
The best picture of The-Youngest yet.

We got home in time for him to tell everyone about the games they’d won, the saves he’d made, the MVP medal he’d won and the trophy the team got for ‘winning second place’.

I declared the weekend a success and went to bed and slept for 20 hours.

 

Tournament Trials – Pools and Parties – pt 3

monkeyImagine if you condensed the sound of screaming monkeys in a hothouse jungle and put that in a can, then, when you were sick with a cold, exhausted from a traumatic ferry ride, and pretty much ready for bed, you popped that can open right in your ear….

Well, that’s what the pool party was like.

Thank Christ we forgot the water bottle.

Because we forgot the water bottle, we had to go get one and by getting one, I managed to only have to endure an hour or so of the pool party.

Oddly enough, I remember thinking, hey, cool, the motel has an indoor pool. How awesome is that? It was, like -150 degrees outside and there would have been no way the boys could have played in an outdoor pool

poolHowever, the indoor pool was in a small space that seemed to amplify the noise by about a thousand times. And man, can little boys make some noise. Forget standing by a speaker in a Metallica concert or cheering for Seattle in the Century Link field, those places ain’t got nothin’ on a pool full of 16 nine to ten year-old boys.

But the boys had such fun, even if it looked like a piranha feeding frenzy sometimes. They tried to drown each other. They cannon-balled in the pool.They splashed water out of the pool like they were trying to empty it (in fact, given another hour in it, I think they would have had more water outside of it than in it.)

Such things are fun made of.

With a few other parents, we lifeguarded the pool as best we could, though, if I am truly honest, I mostly looked out for the Youngest since his swimming technique is to flail his arms in the water and slowly sink to the bottom like a submarine.

Luckily the pool wasn’t that deep and, to his credit, he didn’t push his limits too much.

When a huge rubber floatie was thrown in the pool, the boys all tried to do their best impression of refugees on a makeshift raft. I think they managed to get about 12 on the damn thing which was not much larger than a coffee table.

I gotta say, I was impressed. This bodes well if we ever get hit with an epic, biblical flood.

One-by-one, the boys began to disappear, though, taken back to their rooms by their parents to get ready for supper. The Youngest was one of the last to leave. If he could have slept in that room, I think he would have, but we needed to get him showered and ready for the pizza party.

It’s one thing I’ve noticed about Atom level hockey. We do a LOT more things together. And that’s cool. The Youngest has begun to make good friends on the team, and has a blast when doing stuff with them. The pizza party was just another way for the team to bond. The plan, play a little mini-hockey, then chow down, then, I dunno, play more mini-hockey while the parents drank until they could stop their eyes from twitching or their hands shaking.

We ordered a ton of pizza. About 4-5 large slices for every boy. That should be enough, right? Right? While we waited for it to arrive in our official party room in the basement of the motel, the boys played mini-hockey.

mini hockeyHonestly, it’s a game that eludes me. I mean, you play with tiny sticks, on your knees, and try to shoot a ball into a goal the size of a recycling box. Even The Youngest, who may be the smallest on the team, fills the entire net. It’s a goalie’s dream. Just stand there and take shots to the face.

As far as I can tell, the rules are pretty simple. Whack another kid with your stick, push them over then knee-race with the ball to the goal, shoot on the goalie who will – big surprise – save it, then have both teams descend on the goalie and whack at that ball until it goes under a table or between someone’s legs (in which case, you whack harder). No passing. No real skill needed. All that’s required is you be able to be able to run on your knees. And yell at lot.

But the kids love it. I mean, LOVE IT.

When the pizza turned up, we found we’d severely underestimated what they would eat.  They went through those boxes of pizza like they would never eat, again. I’m pretty sure someone even took a bite out of the grease-soaked cardboard protectors. I had one piece of pizza. A few of the parents had none.

These were large pizzas, too. HUGE ones with meat and cheese. As I watched them stuff slice after slice into their mouths, I wondered if we should have kept them out of the pool. And locked in a closet.

And feeding them made them even more hyper. Like hyenas, they roared out of the room and into the motel, wielding mini-hockey sticks and screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs.

I can’t say I wasn’t a little scared.

fathersAfter the whole ferry incident, I was loathe to let them just have the run of the place. So, I had to be the uncool parent and tell The Youngest he has to stay with the adults and practice his math.

Ha, just kidding. I told him he could only play in the hall outside our party room.

A half hour and two beers later, I took a look into the hall. I had heard nothing for 5 minutes so either they had all been killed by a weirdly ricocheting ball, or had gone off to do mischief.

Guess which turned out to be true.

The Tournament Trials – Part 1

16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, one ferry and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.
16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, two ferry rides, and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.

Christmas had come and gone. So had New Years.  So what better way to start off 2016 than with a hockey tournament in Nanaimo? 2 days of hockey.  A day of travel to and from the tournament. With 16 kids.  And a ferry ride! And a motel!! And…possibly unsupervised playtime!!!

Such are the things that age me (or nearly kill me.)

I guess a part of it is that I was once a 9-year-old boy, and 9 year-old-boys are very creative when it comes to fun, explosives and sharp sticks. If you’ve read the blog, or seen some of the pictures, you know what I did when I was young, and I think I was a pretty good kid.

I greatly feared what the new generation could come up with.

But I also knew this could be a legendary weekend for The Youngest. Something he’d remember for years. Maybe for all his life. So I had to take him.

Hooooogan!!!!!
Hooooogan!!!!!

And the truth be told, I wanted to be there to be a part of that experience. Maybe as Sgt Shultz shouting “Hoooooogan!!!!” all the time. Or maybe just as a hockey supporter. Or maybe just as the proud parent of one of the few kids who didn’t pull a fire alarm or yell at the top of their lungs all the time.

So the plan was to head over on Friday, have a great time at the hotel, then buckle down and play 3 games on Saturday. Now, 3 games is quite a lot, even for young kids, and getting a goalie in his gear, out of his gear and in his gear over and over and over and over, again, can be a fun experience all on its own.

However, if we won the 3 games, we had a chance to go to the playoffs. If we won one of the playoff games, we’d go to the finals and probably get a trophy or a medal or a golden jock or something. But that was only a part of it. In truth, the kids were looking forward to pool time at the hotel more than the games, and they were looking forward to playing mini-hockey in the hallways more than the playing in the playoffs.

Such is the nature of boyhood.

For me, though, I was more than a little stressed. See, I have control issues. It could be hard being a parent on a tournament. I would have to let the Youngest out of my sight and believe that he’ll make good choices. At the age of 9. With a mob of other 9-11 year olds. Yeah. That’s a serious leap of faith.

But the other choice was to keep him by my side at all times. Don’t think I didn’t think about this. I thought about this very seriously. But what fun would that be, so against all my fears, I wanted him to have a good time more than I wanted to avoid ending up in a mental hospital.

The BC Ferries could not have possibly imagined what awaited them
The BC Ferries could not have possibly imagined what awaited them

So, I nutted up, loaded him into the car with tons of equipment (forgetting, of course, the water bottle), and then picked up another parent and his two boys. My first test of parenting on a tournament would be the ferry.

What could go wrong on a ferry?

Well, now, that’s an interesting story.

Top Ten Wedding Ideas – Rejected

Weddings, oh the happiness, the joy, the stress
Weddings, oh the happiness, the joy, the stress

Well, now that the proposal-part has been done, it’s time to take a look at what our wedding will look like. Or not look like.

There are so many decisions to be made.

Big wedding or small? Harder for us to actually do a big wedding as we have to pay for it and some clown spent a lot of money on a ring and helicopter ride, but we’ll see what we can manage.

Where? Oh so many choices. Not a destination wedding. Not an elopement. Something nearby. Something nice, but not massively expensive. Something warm and intimate if possible. Our friend Sheila nailed it. Small Italian restaurant. We want a similar experience.

And what about theme, flowers, dresses, suits, and the second most important thing, food? All these things have to be decided and decided sooner rather than later. Already some of our ‘spots’ were booked. (In one case, booked up to 2017!!!)

So, we’ll continue to think, to plan, to compromise.

In the meantime, I had some great ideas. However, not all of them were approved. Here is a list of the Top 10 Ideas that didn’t quite make the cut.

  • Nothing like a good tragedy at a wedding. Game of Thrones
    Nothing like a good tragedy at a wedding. Game of Thrones

    A Red Wedding. I mean how cool would this be? We all get shot with arrows at the end, fake or real, I hadn’t decided yet, maybe a mix of both. But this idea went nowhere, despite the fact it would be uber cool to hold the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world in my arms as we say our last good-byes. Oh, well.

  • Hockey Wedding. As advocated by the Youngest. I’m not sure how it would work, but there would be some form of skating, a shoot-out, maybe someone singing oh Canada, and an organ. Sadly, I can’t skate and while me standing on the ice might be comical, it would likely end in something horribly embarrassing posted on youtube.
  • Star War Slave Girl Wedding. Ok, I haven’t completely given up on this one. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world would look amazing in the Princess Leia slave-girl outfit and we could have everyone else come as their favourite character (though both boys want to be Darth Vadar for some reason). A total winner in my books, but I’m sure you can hear the eye rolling from where you read this.
  • A walking dead cake. How cool would that be?
    A walking dead cake. How cool would that be?

    The Walking Dead Wedding. OMG, how cool would this be? All zombies? My speech would be something like, mmmaaaa, ggggaaaaah, arrrrrhhh, and no one would make fun of my dancing. Plus, the whole death do you part thing wouldn’t apply. Maybe something like, “until shot in the head by living humans.” However, this was a solid no as well.

  • Wedding in the Rain. How romantic, right? So we get a little wet. So the bride’s eyeliner runs? So we all shiver for a couple of hours and catch a cold. It would certainly be memorable.
  • Sky Dive Wedding. Like let’s pretend for a moment I’m not terrified of heights. Wouldn’t it be cool to leap out of a plane together, and while hurtling towards the earth, pledge eternal love? Doesn’t that sound like fun? Well apparently it “sounds like I got into the liquor cabinet.”
  • How to throw a hobbit party
    How to throw a hobbit party

    Hobbit Wedding. Think of an idyllic setting, the grass impossibly green, the trees alive with bright leaves, everyone wearing hobbit feet and vests. Think of white tents billowing in the gentle wind. Think of kegs of beer, the best kidney pies, and fireworks. We could have Gandalf marry us, though this may take a bit of work since it’ll be The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s mom who’ll be doing the honors.

  • Batman Wedding. Now I get this one might be a bit of a stretch since Batman never got married or anything, but here’s the pluse to this idea. I get to answer all the questions with “I am Batman, “ in a gravelly voice.     “Will you take the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world to be your lawful, wedded wife?”
    Anyone got a bat mobile for rent?
    Anyone got a bat mobile for rent?

    “I am Batman.”

    “Will you love and honor The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world until death do you part?”

    “I am Batman.”

Plus, we could drive away the in bat mobile.

  • Sound of Music Singing Wedding. Well, to be honest, after hearing myself sing, I kinda put the kibosh on this myself. I mean, everyone wants to hear the hills are alive with the sound of music until you actually hear me sing it. I would look good in a traditional Austrian suit, though. And I do like the idea of controlling the children with a whistle.
  • Princess Bride Wedding. Ok, again, I haven’t given up on this one. Mawwwage, that bwessed event… I’m not sure we need a giant or any R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size), but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen me in my Dread Pirate Roberts outfit, which I would, ah, yeah, have to buy, cuz I totally don’t have one hidden in the closet upstairs.

So what ideas do you have?

Any suggestions?

Another 6 am Practice

bad omensDo you believe in harbingers? You know, signs that the universe sends you that things are going to go pear-shaped, that you really should stay in bed, today?

So, up at 4:30am. Sore from dental extractions. Got to the car at 5. It was still dark outside. Raining. Kind of beautiful. I could see the lights of the valley. There was almost no sound of traffic. Streetlight glistened like diamonds on the pavement.

It was serine. Quiet. Peaceful.

IMG_2799Then I pressed the wrong key on the car fob and set off my alarm. A loud, blinking, wailing alarm.

Beeep!  BEEEEEP!! BEEEEEEEEP!

Being 5am, it was a total shock. Like a bucket of cold water thrown on me. I leapt back. Eyes wide. Heart stopping. And the car key flew out of my hand.  Then, bounced, as any key would do, under the car.

WHIRRRR! BEEEEEEEP!! BEEEEEEEEEP!!!

Mortified, I flung myself to my knees like I was praying to Jesus and tried to find the key. It probably took only a few seconds but in beep-beep-alarm-time, it took forever. FOREVER.

Oh, how I hate that moron who sets off his car alarm at 6 in the morning. HATE. And here I was… that guy.

I grabbed the key, unlocked the door, leapt in and sped off before I could make eye-contact with any of my neighbours who had turned on their lights and were looking out the window.

A great start to the day.

IMG_2598But today was a special day – hockey-wise – for the youngest. He was going to be goalie. Now, on the list of things he wants most in life, an X-box one, the power to fly and never, ever, ever, have to do homework, again, being goalie trumps this. In spades.

I pick him up, and, after he has asked me about forty questions about life, the universe and goalies (most of which I cannot answer,) we arrive a bit later than usual, because, like, I wanted to add a bit more stress to my life

Then I am faced with the putting on the goalie gear.

Looks simple. It does. There are leg pads and a simple chest protector and gloves. So we go to work. Skates are put on, tied tight, the chest protector squeezed over his head and onto his body, the jersey put on, slightly harder to do because of the protection for his arms.

Then comes the bad. The goalie has to lie down on the ground so the pads can be put on. The youngest, being who he is lies right in the center of the small dressing room and blocks everyone. No matter how many times I get him to stand up and lie down again, so he won’t block anyone, he somehow manages to lie down in the exact same spot. Like it was his spot. Like he’s paid for tickets to that spot.

So be it.

I kneel on top of him to hold him down and begin to figure out what straps do what. In hindsight, I should have googled a video but sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know. You know?

goalie gearThere were straps for extra knee pads and something that looked like it hooked under the skate and … what the heck were the laces doing at the very bottom? What the heck to I tie those to? The skates?

Unfortunately, after I figured out the simple straps, the room was empty and I had no one to ask if I was even doing this remotely right. The youngest was pretty patient, especially considering I sat on him to yank on the straps, but then I did something completely stupid.

I asked him what the laces were for?

Being who he is, he had an answer. Being who he is, he really had no idea, but didn’t want to say so.

So I did as he suggested as tucked the laces into the pads. But that seemed wrong and wrong is something I hate.

There was only one solution. With the practice starting, the kids already skating around with great flurry, the coach doing all coachie stuff, I marched carter onto the ice and then shouted for the coach to see if I’d done everything ok.

Turns out, amazingly enough, I got most of it right, including the fact that certain pads had to go on certain feet (which I got right either by using my superior intellect or damn, blind, luck, whichever you believe is more like me.)

It was the laces that I got wrong. Big frigging surprise. I mean, what kind of idiot listens to a 7 year old.

Turns out they had to be tied right to the skates, just above the blades, then wrapped around and tied tight so the pads wouldn’t wobble or fly off or decide to write a novel or something stupid.

A few moments later, the youngest was good to go, and the coach, an amazing guy who really deserves some sort of medal, made sure I didn’t feel bad about buggering up the pads.

Sighing, I went upstairs with all the other parents who looked at me with great sympathy. Seems everyone has a first time with goalie pads.

Like some sort of rite of passage.

hockey goalieI sat down and watched as the youngest skate into goalie crease, set his stance and began, what he will tell you, is the beginning of his epic NHL career.

Me, it was just another day as the hockey noob.

Why Minor Hockey is Like Way, Way Better Than the NHL

Why Minor Hockey is Like Way, Way Better Than the NHL

canucksI’ve been fortunate to watch a few hockey games, now. One a professional league. One a bunch of little kids with Timbits on the back of their jerseys.

And I have something to tell you.

The little kids are way more entertaining.

And they don’t cost you a year’s salary to see.

Here’s why.

skating1) I’m pretty sure there’s no dancing in the NHL. At least I’ve not seen the players doing it. I think LA has some skating bunnies or something, but whatever. In H1-4, you can see a kid off in his own world, listening to music in his head (or, on a rare occasion, over the PA) and dancing up a storm. I’m not sure he realizes everyone is watching.

2) There are girls. GIRLS! And you know what, they can skate, they can hit and they can shoot.

kids in hockey3) You’ll see the future superstars and they might not be named Lafleur, Tretsiak, Sedin or Orr. They might be named Li, Jawal, Kim, or Rahim. Or even Sheila Matusimshu.

4) In the NHL, the goalie will play without a stick. How boring. In minor hockey, I’ve seen it take 5 min for a goalie to be able to pick up his stick, completely oblivious to the play around him. It’s like he’s blind and lost in a forest looking for a peanut or something.

5) Playing hard actually counts for something in minor hockey.

pee6) No goalie, ever, in the NHL has had to skate off the ice in the middle of the game to go pee. It’s not uncommon in minor hockey and hey, how much greater the tension when your goalie simply skates away clutching his crotch?

7) The fans in minor hockey cheer for every goal and every save and, in most cases, every time their child touches the puck. They cheer really hard when their goalie makes a save, cuz, like watching Luongo these days, it’s pretty rare.

8) Games in minor hockey can be 23-1. I kid you not. No one keeps score of course. No one except the parents, the coach and the kids. However, I think the Canuck lost a game like that, but it’s still cooler with the kids.

9) In the NHL, a 4 on 0 breakaway pretty much guarantees a goal. In minor hockey, not so much. 10% chance of a goal. 40% chance at least one will crash into the other. 10% chance the goalie will skate away from the net in search of his stick or a bathroom. 39% chance the shooter will miss the net. 1% chance they’ll score. So much more interesting, right?

10)        In the NHL, every slapshot pretty much goes off without a hitch. Maybe a broken stick. Maybe someone blocks the shot with their face or crotch. But basically, nothing spectacular. In minor hockey, well, I’ve seen them fall after shooting, leap as they shot, miss and hit the kid beside them in the helmet with their stick, hit the ice so hard the stick flew out of their hands, and, every so often, when the moon is full and mercury is rising, the shot comes off. Again, isn’t that more fun?

hockey with boys

So, if you ever get a chance, sell one of your Canuck’s tickets, buy a new car, then go see a minor hockey game. It’s worth your time.

Bribery For Dummies

Bribery

hockey gearFor some reason I don’t understand – a statement that I often use these days – it’s a constant battle to get the youngest one ready for hockey.

I dunno why.

He seems to enjoy it. It’s not like he has to get ready for dental surgery or a day mucking out the stables, but man-oh-man, does he find a way to dawdle.

Now his mom seems awesome getting him ready. She’s massively patient. Determined. Focused. She makes it look easy.

But for me, it’s like…

“Boy, stop sticking toys in your ears and put on your socks.”

“Boy, why are you lying face down on the pillow when we have to leave in 2 minutes or be late?”

“Boy, why didn’t you go pee before we put on all your gear?”

pokemon cards“Oh my God, stop sticking Pokemon cards down your underpants and get your jock on. Pokemon cards will not stop a puck.”

This method, (oh, let’s call it the whack-a-mole-problem method), takes us about 3 hours to get ready.

Clearly, not good.

The second method I try is reasoning. “If you get dressed quickly, we won’t be late and being late is like the worst thing in the world because I look like a moron.” In hindsight, this seems less about him and more about me. It could be why it fails so spectacularly.

Some reasoning works, though. To be fair.

But the most effective method, by far, is bribery.

Oh, I know, I should be able to use reason and logic and my superior life experience to get a 7-year-old to get dressed quickly, hell, I managed hundreds of people over my life, but they are all pussies compared to a 7-year-old (except for one former store owner who was, for all intents and purposes, a spoiled child who NEVER grew up.)

So, yeah.

briberyBribery.

It works.

Me: “Here’s what I need you to do. Eat your breakfast in 10 minutes. Go to the bathroom. Get dressed in 10 min. And if you do, we’ll get a donut afterwards.”

Or, “…we’ll play NHL 14 when we get back, you and me.”

Something like that.

Today, though, I added used my phone as a stopwatch to count down the time. I mean, how was he supposed to know 5 minute had passed? ( other than me saying, “5 minutes have passed for the love of all that is holy and bright in the world and you haven’t even taken off your PJ top!!!”)

So, with a stop watch running, we made it a game. With a bribe at the end. “If we beat our best time so far, 10 minutes for breakfast, 5 minutes for bathrooming, 10 minutes to get dressed, (that’s 25 minutes for those counting), we’ll make fart noises for the whole drive to the arena.”

And it worked!

We tracked each segment.  He took it as a personal test of his abilities to beat those times and each time he did, I got a chance to praise him and how awesome he was, and at the end of the time period, he was good to go. With minutes to spare. In fact, he had so many minutes to spare he got a chance to play NHL 14 before heading off.

A total win-win. I am ridiculously pleased with myself. Plus, I got to make farting noises in the car for 10 minutes.

Bribery worked.

At least until he figures out what I’m doing.

Then, I suspect, I’ll have to shift gears. My hope is that he’ll be 35.

I welcome suggestions and advice.