Tournament Trials – The Games – Part 5

calvin in bedNormally, getting the Youngest out of bed is like prying a clam out of its shell, but not on this day, the day of the tournament.

I won’t say he leapt out of bed, cuz, you know, that would be a total lie, but he did roll over, fall out of bed and crawl to the bathroom in a reasonable amount of time.

I call that a win, dammit!

IMG_8373[1]Of the two of us, though, I looked more tired. Outside, it was cold. Frost covered the car windows. I wanted to crawl back under the warm covers and hide.

But we had to get dressed, eat, and find the other parent (and his kids) I was supposed to give a ride to… then get us all to the first game.

Had I been a lot smarter, I would have arranged to meet the other parent and his kids in the morning somewhere. But no, I didn’t think of that until the morning. So we had to track them down after eating. It wasn’t that hard in the end, the motel isn’t that big, so we all loaded up the gear and drove off.

The boys were excited. Despite a night of running around and playing, they were keen to get on the ice and play. I was keen to get more coffee. The previous night I’d marked all the nearby Timmies in my phone. Not the hospitals. Not the arenas. No, the vital coffee shops that would keep me alive.

So, we had 3 games ahead of us. 3. I didn’t know how the boys would be by the 3rd game, but for the first one, they came out skating hard. Hey, I thought, maybe we’d actually win a game. Wouldn’t that be cool?

But then the puck was dropped. The opposing team’s center took it and skated left, skated right, dodged here, dodged there then pretty much zipped through our entire team, ending his run with a goal on the Youngest who looked like his skates were mired in molasses.

It wasn’t a good start. 8 seconds into the game, and we had a goal scored on us.

goalie failI began to envision a very depressing ride home. Plus, within a few more minutes, it became apparent that the Youngest had caught a case of the goalie derps. It’s a horrible disease of fate where every bounce goes against the goalie. If a shot hits the crossbar, it bounces off the goalie’s back and into the net. Or a puck decides to randomly hop up in the air and over the goalie’s stick. Or, worse, one of your own players deflects the puck into the net.

All these things happened in the 1st period. It was looking grim.

But the team rallied. We scored one, they scored two, we got two back, then one more, then they scored, again, then us again. After 3 periods of hard fought hockey, somehow, we won! Won!!!

The boys were ecstatic. Talk of future NHL careers filled the change room.

I thought, wow, how cool is this? They won one. Now they can go home with their heads held high. They’d won one.

But wait, the 2nd game proved to be a slaughter. For us. We won 9-7. We outplayed the other team, out hustled them, certainly out shot them, and won.

Now, you have to understand that our team has won maybe 2 games this year. Ok 3. But 2 in a row was unheard of.

The boys began to actually believe they could do this. They could win the whole thing.

The 3rd game began with us annihilating the other team in the first period 7-1. Good God, we were on fire. Passing the puck. Sniping the top corners of the net. Back-checking. It was amazing to see.

Then for the 2nd period, the other team changed their goalie. I felt so bad for the little guy who had to go to the bench. Being a goalie parent, I know the pain he would have felt. But the new kid they brought in, oh, boy, was he good.

He saved breakaways. He gloved shots fired to the upper corners. He poke-checked the puck in scrambles. He smothered rebounds.

You could sense the game change. That kid was a wall. Nothing was getting by him, and by the end of the 2nd period, we were at 7-7. Not that our team played poorly, but it is said that every dog has its day and boy did that goalie have his doggie day on this day.

We skated out for the 3rd period looking weary, but determined. Our best player fought his way to get into an open shooting lane and fired the puck in the top corner. 8-7. Then the other team scored on the Youngest, a mad scramble around the front of the net where someone poked the puck in. 8-8. Then, with minutes left in the game, we punched in another goal. 9-8.

All we had to do was hold on. All the parents were sitting forward in their seats or standing up with hands over their mouths. The other team knew time was running out and attacked with fury. But, where as in the first game, the Youngest couldn’t catch a break, on this night, on this ice, in the last minute of the game, he became a wall. He saved shot after shot, and even when they pulled the goalie, he was able to stop them time and time, again.

And time ran out.

We’d won. 3 games straight. We were going to the playoffs!

IMG_8390[1]The boys were so excited!

They had believed in themselves and they had won. No matter what the result was on Sunday, they had done Langley proud.

For his efforts, the Youngest even got the MVP award for the 3rd game.

It was, to quote the Youngest, “the best day of my life.”

But they all knew the really hard games would come tomorrow.




Tournament Trials – Part 2 – The Ferry

A better name for our hockey team
A better name for our hockey team

To survive the ferry ride, I put aside my writer brain as best as I could. I brought a book so I wouldn’t just sit there in the seat and wonder if The Youngest had been eaten by killer whales or fallen into the lava engines that power the ferry and burned to death, or stolen by demented bikers who brought him up as one of their own, him becoming a hard-core one percenter who collected debts with a nailgun hooked up to an air compressor.

So, yeah, to survive, I had to put all that aside. But I may have put it aside too much. Looking back, I wonder if I adopted a too liberal supervision plan.

After I’d led him upstairs, fed him, I did what I dreaded to do.

He came up to me. “Can I go play with the team, please, Joe?”

“Sure, buddy. Make good choices.”

And off he went with his hockey friends. I chatted with a few of the parents, tried to read my book, but the truth is, every minute of every one of those two hours on the ferry, I wondered what the m***er-f***ing hell was he up to?

So, when he ran by, I asked him, “What are you up to?”

“Playing hide and seek.”

“Ok, but no running.”

The 2nd time he came by, I asked him, “What are you up to?”

“Not running,” he said with a face pink from exertion. “We’re playing tag.”

“Without running? Really? Then why are you panting?”

“Sorry, I’ll stop running.”

You were watching the Walking Dead??????
You were watching the Walking Dead??????

In hindsight, I should have asked better questions like, “You’re watching what on someone’s iphone?”

“Just where, exactly, did you play hide and seek? Did you play on the car deck? Did you bother other people?”

“Who’s throwing garbage off the freaking ferry?”

But I didn’t ask those questions until a lot later when bits of information began trickling in. It made no difference to the boys that we saw a pod of whales or a school of seals. Nope, they wanted to play in a place they had never played before and go a little wild. A little feral.

Because, you see, if left to their own devices, boys will very quickly become the kids from Lord of the Flies. I think if they’d have been left for any longer, there would have been a severed pig’s head, spears made from Whitespot toothpicks, and someone designated piggie and sacrificed to the beast.

In the end, no one died, no older people were knocked over, and I really should have twigged to what hide and seek could mean on the ferry, but that whole tossing garbage off the ferry was not cool. Not cool at all.

The team photo after 1 hour on the ferry without parental supervision
The team photo after 1 hour on the ferry without parental supervision

I asked The Youngest if he was a part of that, and he said no. He confessed, though, that he did nothing to stop it. Nor did he talk to any parents about it. Or me. Even though he knew it was wrong.

Oh, I get it, he didn’t want to be the one who tattled on his friends.  He wanted to be with the cool kids, do cool things, have fun. But there are limits and he needed to understand those limits. Or rather, have them reiterated.

Just before we docked, we had a long talk about what making better choices meant, a talk I maybe should have had in earnest with him before I let him loose like a baby Godzilla. But if there’s one truism about me being a stepdad, I am constantly learning and constantly evolving. I improvise. I adapt. I overcome.

The only problem is, so do the kids and next up was the pool party.

This was going to be a hard weekend.

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.


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.

Model Child

We didnt have TV. We had sticks.
We didn’t have TV. We had sticks.

Long ago, when there were no such things as cell phones, video game consoles or electricity, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves.

Sure, I tried whacking my brother with a stick.  I tried shop-carting down a hill. I even tried to build a raft and sail to the US. But one thing I fell in love with was modeling. Maybe it was the glue. There’s a good argument to say I was pretty much high most of the time I was modeling.


Wait, you know I’m talking about plastic miniature modeling, right? And not Fabio modeling cuz that’s another story all together.  So, to clarify, for whatever reason, I loved to make models.

I built tanks, mostly. A few planes. A few ships. Hell, I even tried to build a 19th 3 deck ship-of-the-line, but got defeated by all the rigging. It looked like a spider had gotten massively drunk and spun a web of chaos from mast to mast.

Then, for some reason, I destroyed most of my models. I still can’t explain why. (See the whole ‘glue’ thing.)

Tamiya Churchill VII tank with guys serving tea and biscuits. Yup. Tea and biscuits
Tamiya Churchill VII tank with guys serving tea and biscuits. Yup. Tea and biscuits

But this year, I bought The Youngest a model tank. He’s all into a multiplayer video game, World of Tanks, and I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be a cool thing for us to do together. You know, build something. However, I’ve learned from my youth and we’ll be making our tank in a very well ventilated place. Sadly, that’s the kitchen, and we may end up gluing cookies to our fingers or serviettes to our heads, but that’s ok. That’s part of the fun, right?

I bought him a Churchill VII for anyone who cares. It’s his favourite tank in the game, and, being 9, he’s a killer on the battlefield. It’s like those little fingers and that tiny developing brain were designed by God to rule the console. He absolutely slaughters me in NHL16. And he’s earned epic medals in the tanking game.

So why not tear him away and get him doing something… constructive.

Here’s our strengths.

Him: he reads instructions really well. Really well. I do not. My building of anything Ikea looks more like someone just shot a tank shell into a book shelf. Plus, somehow I always end up with a good dozen pieces left over (which is why I never got into car restoration.)

Me: I’ve done it before. I know the ins-and-outs of how to build a model. Not everything fits as it should. Not everything will glue to what you want it to glue to.

Him: He’s got small hands and keen eyes. He’d be a superstar in some workshop in the 3rd world where they make miniature doggie go-pros or something. I think we could have sold him for mad cash. But here in the 1st world, he should have no problem attaching that headlamp the size of an ant’s butt-hole onto a plate of sloping armor. Me? I can’t see well at the best of times and while, long ago, I could paint the eyes on a 1/72nd scale soldier, now I can barely read without a magnifying glass and the light of 10,000 suns.

Me: I am surprisingly patient when modeling. I can’t explain why it drives me nutso-beserko to stand in line for 2 minutes at Save-on, but I can play with little pieces of plastic for hours and not get my heart-beat above near-death. I think it’s about living in the moment. I hear such a thing is awesome.

So, between the two of us, we should be able to gett’er done.

This is a modeling sprue. I have no idea why they call it a sprue.
This is a modeling sprue. I have no idea why they call it a sprue.

And last weekend, we began. He, being a titch less patient, wanted to rip all the parts off their sprues, but once I showed him each part had a letter and a number, and the instructions would tell you where they’d go, he put down the parts and began to read what goes where.

His special ability was amazing. On model instructions, as on Ikea, there’s often lots of arrows going in lots of directions. But he wasn’t fooled at all. He read every direction perfectly. I was stunned. He’s 9.

After an hour, we had a lot of small bits put on big bits. He had more glue on his fingers than on the tank, but that all comes off and was not really unexpected. It helped that I bought a glue applicator designed for kids. It looked like someone had stuck a needle in a glue container, but it allowed only a little out at a time, unlike when I was doing it when it would look like an explosion of something gooey and messy.

Tamiya Churchill VII tank with guys serving tea and biscuits. Yup. Tea and biscuits
So many, many wheels. Why? Someone tell me why????

Yesterday, we build the tracks. Now if you’ve ever seen a Churchill tank, (and I know pretty much 100% of you have), it’s a massive undertaking. But, again, he rocked at it, and, unlike most of the hours on most of the days, he spent that hour sitting still, concentrating on what went where, and telling me all about his tanking experience.

“Joe, did you know I blew up 7 tanks in my last game?”

“Wow, great.”

“Joe, did you know I’m probably the best Churchill tank player on the server?”

“I did not know that.”

“Joe, did you know that I once destroyed a guy two levels above me?”

“That’s awesome.”

“Joe, did you know that if you shoot at the lower glacial plane on a tiger, you can penetrate it with AP?”

“Ah, what? I mean, right. Sure. I knew that.”

Note he is gluing actual parts together and not his fingers.
Note he is gluing actual parts together and not his fingers.

Apart from the actual building of the model, this time with him is awesome. We talk about nothing important and everything important. We laugh when we goof something up. We share thoughts about tanks and games.

It’s magical time. And I feel so very blessed to have that with him.

Where to See Lights In Langley

From the Times-Colonist. They always published a map of the best Christmas lights displays
From the Times-Colonist. They always published a map of the best Christmas lights displays

One of the things l used to love to do as a kid, hell as an adult, was go on a tour of all the Christmas lights. When I was young, we’d stuff ourselves into our Austin 1800, a car that never quite seemed to work right, pack a few blankets, a mug of hot chocolate and off we’d go. In Victoria, even today, there were plenty of lights to see, including the semi-famous Cherry Road/Ponderosa extravaganza where EVERY house on a huge cul-du-sac had an amazing display.

So this year, we were excited to take the boys on a tour. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world spent an afternoon online doing research, mapping out a tour and even printing out pictures of the houses we’d see. In all honesty, it was impressive. Like a google treasure hunt.

Nothing like a Griswold light display.
Nothing like a Griswold light display.

Now with the internet and TV, it’s hard to see something new. I mean, hey, somewhere there’s a Griswald house the size of Bieber’s 3rd mansion that’s sucking the energy it takes to run a small city. But we still felt it could be a bit of fun.

The Oldest was doubtful. How do I know this? He said he was doubtful. He said it wouldn’t be any fun. But once we told him part of the tour would be to rate the houses and their displays, he was on board. He loves nothing better than judging things. Movies. Houses. His stepdad. Whatever. Rocky 1 got an 8.1 out of 10. The top house, spoiler alert, got a 9.2. I usually get 2.4. On a good day, 3.4.

The Youngest we put in charge of assisting the navigator, aka the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world. You might think, wouldn’t having a 9-year-old help navigate be, like, the worst idea ever? But no, he’s got an amazing sense of direction and, his real secret, (as he revealed to us), was that he reads the signs. “Joe, did you know that’s how you find, stuff,” he told me.

Good advice.

So off we went. The night was cold. It was raining a little but not so much as to make the trip terrible. We first went to see a well-known display in William’s Park. No walking needed. You simply drive around. It wasn’t bad, but as our critic, The-Oldest pointed out, many of the blow up displays were dirty (and I mean caked in mud dirty) and not all the displays were lit up.

Drunk santa. Not something every child should see.
Drunk santa. Not something every child should see.

We explained it’s a hell of a job even putting up the displays, and keeping them maintained, well, that’s a ton of work, too. All done by volunteers – who ambush you at a checkpoint out of the park looking for donations. Not that we hate having to donate, but it was funny pulling up on something that looked like you’d see in Iraq, minus the guns and tanks. So, it may not be perfect, but it was big and impressive.

The Oldest gave it 7.9. I gave it about a 6, being a mean critic in my own right. The Youngest gave it 9/10. He liked the drunk Santa. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world gave it a solid 8.

Miranda GATHERCOLE 2015-12-08 The Land of Christmas in Fernridge.

We went on to see a great display with a castle (and a Santa inside the castle), a house that had synced their lights with music (a 9.2/10 from both the Oldest and I), and several houses well decked out with massive displays of lights. One even had reindeer pulling a sleigh that flew across the front yard (or to quote the Youngest, “Joe, did you know they’re not actually flying? They’re on a cable.”)

One of the coolest displays we saw though had less lights than most, but had synced singing trees to the music. That was a 9.3/10 for the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

We bought hot chocolate and popcorn at the house with the castle display, managed to survive with the spazadoodle (our dog) thinking every stop was a chance for her to go for a walk and going all, well, spazadoodlie, and we didn’t have to go outside in the cold and wet too much.

Was it a success?

I had fun. I love looking at lights. Plus, we didn’t get lost once. Always a plus in my books. The Oldest shrugged and said it wasn’t so bad. The Youngest gave the singing tree display a whooping 10.92874/10 and wanted to see more, so I think he had a good time. And the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, well she seems at her happiest when we’re off doing stuff as a family.

In Langley, there were no streets like Cherry Lane, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great displays to see. (The list is posted below if you’re interested, plus one on our own block!)

Langley Times Must See-Light Displays

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a link to the BEST house in the world! Be warned, I think I had a seizure watching it.

And THIS!!!!

Happy Holidays everyone! And thanks for reading my blogs!!!







One of The Great Secrets of Surviving Parenting

how i feelI have recently uncovered one of the parenting secrets. Or should I say, secrets-to-not-completely-losing-your-mind (while balancing lunches and hockey games and getting the kids to bed on time and remembering things that they might forget and… well, you get the idea).

And I found this secret in the last place you’d expect.

toiletThe toilet.

I know, who looks there for secrets, right? But let me explain.

Having not been around when the boys were really young, I had no idea that the only safe room would be the bathroom. But in that little room you can find a little quiet, a little piece of mind, a little time to yourself.

I remember my parents taking a long time in the bathroom. I always thought they had stomach issues, but now I suspect they’d brought a book, maybe a glass of wine and just settled in for the evening.

It’s not like I can’t tell the boys to give me some space. I try this while writing. But just as often as not, I’ll have someone come downstairs and want to chat. More so than if I was sitting at the table beside them. More so than if I ask them what was the best thing that happened in school today. It’s something I totally don’t yet, get. Maybe to get them talking, I’ll say, ‘don’t talk to me, ok, all right, we clear?”

Mostly, though, it goes like this…

“So, ah, you’re writing?”

Me: “Yup.”

“Whatcha writing?”

Me: “My blog.”

“Is it about me, again?”

Me: “It will be.”

“What do you mean?”

Me: “I mean I need to get this done, could you please come talk to me in 20 minutes.”

“Twenty minutes starting now?”

Me: “Yup.”

“Not when I reach the top of the stairs?”

Me: “Nope. Now. 20 minutes. Starting. Right. Now.”

“So when you say, like, ‘go’ or something?”

Me: “No. Just turn around and go play Murder the World on your Xbox. It’ll make you a better human being.”


At this point I usually shout for the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world to come rescue me.

occupiedBut in the bathroom, no one bothers me. Maybe it’s fear of the smell. Maybe it’s a sacred place for them as well. Maybe they simply can’t find me cuz I’m very, very quiet and don’t answer to the shouts of “Joe! Joe? Joooooooooooooe?!?”

But no matter. In that room I can catch up on a bit of reading. I can check on my FB friends. I can see what rascally things catz are up to. If I’m real quiet, I can even do up a quick blog post.

I’m sure other parents know this as well. There should be some sort of manual. Parenting Secrets No One Will Tell You. Maybe I’ll write it. On the toilet. With the lights off and the fan on.

Where do you hide?