Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Genesis of a Hockey Family

In what could be construed as the inevitable conclusion to our hockey path in life, R has finally joined in on the fun, and not a moment too soon. It all started with N, then I jumped on the wagon, followed by A, and now R has expressed some interest. To be honest, it sort of came out of nowhere, because I never really thought she’d be interested, but I should have seen it coming. She really enjoys watching hockey, with either the kids playing or at Dartmouth. Hockey is also one of those sports that women excel at but don’t necessarily have to have to built like linebackers, which I can appreciate. Plus, there is a big hockey community out here that spans the entire spectrum of abilities.

With this in mind, I had to once again spring into action to round up some equipment. Not the easiest thing to do when the season is practically over, but like many things in life, if you are willing to do some exploring and put in the time and effort, things can happen. The first order of business was to get A some skates. When I first picked up skates for her, I went to Listen and got a nice pair of hockey skates figuring she’d use them for public skate or on KB’s rink, but nothing serious. They were a bit big on her, but for casual skating, no big deal, right?

Once she started to get into hockey, however, it became clear that her skates were too darn big. To her credit, she never complained, but when R tried them on and they fit her, I felt bad for A. Now we could have gone out and gotten her brand new skates, but in addition to being cheap, I didn’t think it wise to buy new skates before she had really decided whether or not she liked hockey. We did the same thing with N, he wore second hand skates his first year, and once it was clear that hockey was here to stay, we bought him new skates.

Anyway, where the heck do you find used skates at this time of year? If it were fall, there would stuff all over town, but I was way behind the curve here. I started to ask around and after a few inquiries, I managed to score a pair from our good friend MF. She had a pair that she handed over and they fit perfectly. Talk about a score, I was really grateful, and now R could wear A’s “old” skates.

The next task at hand was getting equipment for R. She is actually an accomplished figure skater, but she’s a little less sure of herself on hockey skates. Plus, when you add in a stick and handling a puck, the whole world changes. The first thing to do was get her a helmet. She could have worn A’s helmet, it fits her, and the simplest thing would have been to buy A a new helmet and give her old helmet, which we got from KB, to R. The same issue came up, however, of whether A was going to stick with it, which I think she will, but didn’t know this back then.

I contacted some hockey gurus, i.e, DF and GG, and sure enough, they came through in a big way. DF lent us a helmet that he had lying around. A few months back I unloaded a bunch of equipment to him, kicking myself afterward because I had a perfect helmet for R, I just assumed she’d never use it. Now I couldn’t go and ask DF for it back, but I figured I could at least inquire about any extra stuff he might have, which turned out to be the case.

GG was my hero, the guy lent us a full set of gear, not to mention two sticks. I was floored, that was more than I could have ever expected. Of course, being the neurotic nutcase that I am, I felt really guilty because the stuff belonged to his son. What was he going to use? GG assured me that it was okay, but I still felt bad. Plus, you could see that, unlike me, GG bought the good stuff. No trips to the Listen Center for this guy, he’s a real hockey player. R was able to try out the gear and she liked it and wants to do it more, it’s just a question of when. We were able to return the equipment to GG because I have full gear and won’t be needing it while R is on the ice, and vice versa. That may change if and when we start playing on opposing teams, but by that time I’ll hopefully be able to assemble some equipment for her. I think once the season ends and over summer more stuff will become available, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Wendy Pilling for the pic.

Still Going Strong

Now I know this is not a topic of discussion between my real-men hockey friends, but the flowers we got mom for Valentine's Day are still going strong and dare I say, looking amazing. It's been 11 days and counting, and if anything, they look better than ever. They're blooming, and smell great. Even our cat Dusty goes nuts over them and constantly wants to be near them. That's kind of cool, isn't it?

In the past I've given R flowers that lasted a few days, max, and even then, they don't always open up. More often than not, they just die and wilt as buds. I know it's the thought that counts, but sometimes it's a bonus when thing work out nicely.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Divine Intervention?

How’s this for a tale of divine intervention, or should I say a sign of things that were meant to be? I’ve been playing hockey (playing is a stretch) for about 3 months now, and I’ve managed to scrounge together from various sources, which includes friends and the fabulous Listen Center. I’ve found that if you stop by the Listen every week, you can score a gem now and then, but it’s really a luck of the draw. Mostly it’s complete junk, it’s amazing they even try to sell that stuff, but if you’re persistent, you can find great deals on stuff that is in good condition.

Now when we first ventured into playing hockey, I never imagined that I would actually play on an organized level, so naturally it didn’t really matter what sort of equipment I had. As you play more and more and interact with players who really know what they’re doing, you begin to realize that some things do matter, and even if they don’t, you don’t want to seem like a complete loser with old, second hand stuff that looks like junk. I seem to manage to look like a loser no matter what, but that’s beside the point.

A good example of this was my hockey stick. I got it a couple of years ago at the Listen for five bucks, and it’s worked fine. I even got a thumbs up from DF for having a “classic,” in his words, which probably meant it was so old that you couldn’t buy the thing new if you wanted to. It worked fine for moving pucks and doing an occasional slapshot, but eventually it became clear to me that the thing was a dinosaur, and people even started to make fun of it. Now I know I shouldn’t care what people think, especially since the hockey world is filled with real men who don’t tolerate sissies, but I started to feel a little embarrassed, I don’t deny it. I even toyed with the idea of getting a new stick. I went to Stateline and asked the guy if it really made a difference and he looked at me and said, “What are you, a sissy?”

I began asking around and getting a new stick became my new favorite OCD topic. I looked around at what everyone was using, and noticed that a lot of old-schoolers definitely opt for wood, while not too many people under the age of 40 use wood but instead go for the composite. Now I know nothing about sticks, but had set my mind on the fact that if I was going to get a new stick, I wasn’t going with wood, even though people I respect and admire all swear by it. I was going synthetic or bust.

The biggest stumbling block was cost. Wood is cheaper, but it’s wood, and as I mentioned, I wasn’t going to get wood. Synthetic or more specifically composite sticks can easily cost you over $100, and I know most dedicated hockey players wouldn’t even give a second thought to dropping that kind of cash. Not me, as many of you might know, especially my Mentor.

Either way, it was on my mind, but I wasn’t ready to take the plunge. Things have a funny way of working out, however, and the clouds parted and a sign came raining down on me at the open stick. I was in the process of digging the puck out from along the boards when I whacked the puck and guess what happened - my stick broke. I felt like a real hockey player, it was kind of cool, but best of all, I was going to need a new stick, especially since there was under 14 open stick that afternoon. One of my friends even said that I’d earned a new stick by now. Say no more.

I went home and showed the kids, who got a huge kick out of my ersatz display of hockey prowess, and we headed straight over to Stateline to get dad a new stick. Of course I didn’t get crazy and kept it way under $100. We then hopped in the car I had A&N tape it up while I drove over to UA for under 14 open stick. They did a great job.

I have to confess that I like my new stick. It makes me feel like Joe Sakic, and I now play just like him. Amazing what a difference a new stick can make, especially when it's a composite, or at least looks like a composite.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Vince Petaccio for the pic.

Final HS Hockey?

We played homeschool hockey last week and I’m thinking that may have been our last one. It’s a great group but we’ve been pretty immersed in hockey and maybe a small step back wouldn’t be a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hockey, but it can be all consuming, and I feel like I’m forcing the kids into it, even though they say otherwise.

Anyway, with hockey every other day of the week, taking a break one day wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Plus, it’s not that cheap. I seem to drop loads of cash each month to attend, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems a bit steep. I applaud the group for organizing it, they do a great job. I’ll leave it at that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to the Boston Public Library for the pic.

Funny How Things Work Out

We had a great time a couple of weekends back at the Dartmouth hockey game, and it serendipitously turned out really nicely without any planning. In fact, it was completely happenstance how things transpired. Now we normally go to the hockey games fairly regularly, it’s a fun night out in the big city and where we can eat Boloco burritos, hot dogs and churros, and even see friends with the same game plan as us, no pun intended. This time around there was a big crowd of people we knew from hockey, and it worked out beautifully.

At first I couldn’t figure out why they were there en masse, all wearing their team jerseys. I thought maybe I’d missed an email or something before I realized it was the older kids who were together. A has some friends on the team, and she went over right away, and a lot of those players have siblings on N’s team, but he was a bit more pensive. I think it was because he didn’t have his jersey he felt a little out of place, but he had his hat on, and that should have been enough.

Either way, he held back a little and sat with us, which is a little heartbreaking because you could tell he wanted to go over and hang with his buddies rather than his stiff and boring parents. We kept encouraging him to go over, but he stood his ground and wouldn’t budge. It was going to take something big to get him to join the party. Well, soon enough, that moment arrived when his buddies came over and told him to come over and sit with them. Without a moments hesitation he was gone. It’s moments like that that remind you what being a parent is all about.

I think the kids had a blast, and it was nice seeing our friends outside of our typical environment, i.e., hockey. Then again, that’s not true, we were at a hockey game. Either way, it was a lot of fun, and it really came out of nowhere.

As a parent, you live for these moments. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Phillip Worsnop for the pic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meeting Friends at Open Stick

Being that hockey fanatic that I am, I’ve been going fairly regularly to the adult open stick and I’m starting to see some friends there. KB started showing up because he’s playing in the adult league and wants to get some practice in, and DS is coming, as well. I’d heard he played and was good, but had never seen him play or for that matter, skate. He came to the last OS and he is in fact a good player. Plus, he’s not your quintessential brute hockey player, he’s more of a skilled gentlemanly player. Definite Lady Byng candidate.

Since we’re neighbors, we’re even carpooling to the rink. It makes for a good time, and chatting with hockey players is a great way to learn about equipment and skills, because sometimes I’m too intimidated to ask the big guys for advice for fear of seeming like a big dork.

Then again, it may be too late for that. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Johnny :D for the pic.

Impromptu Spontaneity and Getting Crazy

CH and I are always talking about how we’d like to be more spontaneous and do things without so much darn planning, which is like pulling teeth for the likes of us, but we’re working on it. In fact, sometimes we even get a little crazy.

Case in point, last week CH called us out of the blue and asked if we wanted to go to a performance in Woodstock, and there was no planning involved (this is huge for us). How's that for living life on the edge? I was invited, as well, but had to go to work in the AM. I was planning on working, then jetting home to attend the show because I enjoy hanging with the Hs, but it was really too ambitious on my part because the show was at 10:00, and that meant I would have had to have finished my work by 9:00. No such luck.

It worked out beautifully because the kids had a blast, got to hang with friends and see a show about Thomas Edison (an academic event, as well), and even saw some of their hockey buddies at the theater. When they dropped A&N off at home, the kids hung out for a few minutes and I got to chat with my buddy CH before they were off. All in all, a nice day for everyone, and hopefully we’ll be able to arrange them more often... without too much planning, of course, because that would defeat the purpose, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to topio for the pic.

A Series of Unfortunate Incidences

Is this another setback for my glorious freelance writing career, or just another reason to bite the bullet and work harder?

Then again, it’s hard not to look at this as unfortunate timing, or maybe someone’s just trying to tell me something. I have been trying to dabble in freelance writing so I can make enough dough to support our fabulously opulent lifestyle, but am not completely clued in as to where to begin. Some of my ideas just haven’t panned out, while others are still brewing. I decided to target some magazines but had to come up with story ideas, first. Like everything in my life, it’s complicated, and I had to think of an assortment of story ideas, big and small.

Anyway, the first two story ideas I had was to profile some local businesses, but when I contacted them about my ideas, they kept blowing me off. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and was patient, but when I finally heard from them, one of them had already been profiled, and the other was going out of business. We had even seen the latter business just days before my inquiry. Talk about a bummer.

Oh well, back to the drawing board. I’m not for want of ideas, so I have to just keep my feet moving. Stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to bogdog Dan for the pic.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Maybe Getting Too Into It?

It goes without saying that we have become the nutty hockey family, but is it possible that we’re getting a little too into it? As my friend JB said, we drank the hockey Kool-Aid, and now we’re asking for seconds. As you may already know, we are thoroughly engrossed in being hockey parents, with two kids as players and a dad who’s a weekend warrior, not to mention a loving mom who is very supportive.

Well if that wasn’t enough, we help out at the arena on a regular basis. The rink has some crazy arrangement with the high school and town. I originally thought it was just a part of the high school since it sits on the school grounds, but it’s actually an independent entity, and everyone has to pay to use it, even the school. Since we’re youth hockey, we, too are responsible for paying our dues, and part of that is fundraising. This includes all the usual bake sale type of stuff, and we regularly make chili and cookies to support the program.

We’ve also been working the scoreboard, and let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. We’re lucky because they don’t keep score for the mites games and the house squirts don’t play real league games. Once you get into travel squirts and up, you have to be serious and keep track of every detail of the game. We’re talking players stats, shots on goal, penalties, etc. There is an official score sheet with tons of details that get submitted to some governing body, and both teams get a copy. The score is the easy part. What complicates the matter is that the computer that controls the scoreboard is a bit complicated, and there’s no reset switch. Best of all, when you screw up and it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s up there on the scoreboard for everyone to see. Talk about embarrassing.

As I mentioned, doing the mites is easy. You just buzz each line change, and that’s about it. There are no stoppages, and they don’t keep score and don’t call penalties. For the house squirts, things get a little more interesting. They do stop play, which means every time the whistle blows, we have to stop the clock and if we’re on the ball, play some music. The whistle blows for offsides, icing, penalties, goals, and whenever the goalie stops the puck, so we have our work cut out for us. We then have to stop the music the moment the puck is dropped and resume the clock. The scoreboard also has shots on goal as well as penalties.

The penalties are what kill us, because we couldn’t figure out how to program it. Once you input the number, there’s no turning back, and the first time we did it, I put in the wrong number and couldn’t erase it. People kept looking up at the scoreboard wondering what sort of loser was in the scoring booth. As the penalty minutes wind down, the player in the box has some sense of when he gets to exit, just like in the NHL, but since we don’t know what we’re doing, we have to lean over the glass and tell them their time is up.

Now all of this is challenging in and of itself, but we’re “supposed” to have an official game sheet that lists all the players and the game stats. A copy gets filed away with USA Hockey and each coach gets a copy. Since we’re a house team, nobody really cares, but one time the coach asked for his copy and I looked at him like he was insane. He laughed and didn’t really care, but I felt sort of bad. Sort of.

Being in the score booth can be pretty stressful. It really takes a team of people because you have to watch the game closely and be on top of the information. Life would be simpler if there were no music in between stoppage of play, but the music adds to the festive atmosphere. Since R and I can’t leave well enough alone, we even burned special CDs to play during the games, using songs that we thought we be good for a hockey game. This, of course, adds another layer of complication to the whole endeavor.

There are two ways to play music during the game. There is a CD player hooked up the sound system, as well as a laptop computer filled with songs. The computer is nice because there are millions of songs, and all you have to do is double click and the song plays. The downside is that they are short clips, really just designed to be played between whistles. Since the time between whistles varies, the song clips will often end and the next one will kick in, which is kind of lame. Also, you have to click on the songs, and it’s not always clear what the song title is. Since we’re pressed for time as well and scrambling, we often end up hitting the same darn song over and over.

The way we started to do it was to use the CD player, which has a carousel, but again, the CDs don’t have all the songs listed, so I’ve put discs in that play all sorts of angry rap music. That’s why we burned our own. The other disadvantage of CDs is that you can’t put as many songs as the computer, so we have to burn more of them. Plus, the CD player is more cumbersome than using the computer.

Either way, we can’t spend too much time trying to figure this thing out, so we just play a CD until the game starts, then hit pause. When the next stoppage of play occurs, we skip to the next song and then stop it when the game resumes, and so on and so forth.

My point is, we could do the bare minimum and just work the clock, but it’s nice having music. DF even has discs that play official NHL songs, and it’s difficult to not be influenced by his enthusiasm. The guy is amazing, he really loves hockey.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Suffice it to say that we’re making our lives busier and more complicated, but loving every minute of it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Wendi Pilling and dchorneyko for the pics.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feeling Left Out but a Fun Day, Nonetheless

They say adolescence and puberty are a trying time for a kid, but what they didn’t include in that assessment is how much neurotic parents suffer, often more than the kids. Let’s face it, children are not always in tune with what is going on, they’re too busy having fun and being kids. It’s the neurotic parents who internalize everything and take things personally.

We had a bit of drama this weekend, and I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say it was fuel for my neurotic fire. I think the situation could have been handled differently, and not that anyone even gave it a second thought, but it made me bummed. We were not the only ones in the same predicament, and perhaps a case could be made that we were not alone in our thinking, because right after the game, an impromptu pizza party was organized, and we all headed over for a bite to eat. It was fun hanging out, but now it’s sort of weird and awkward being around certain people.

In all fairness, we don’t know the circumstances, and we are not in a position to judge, but I’m not going to let something like reasonable and rational thought stop me from stewing in my own neurotic juices.

That’s the beauty of being an adult, you can act like a child without needing your parent’s permission.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to stucharl for the pic.

Nightmare Parenting

I read a really interesting article in Yahoo Sports about parents who behave badly to their children when they play sports, though not in the way most of us might think. In the article, they asked college and pro athletes what their worst memory of playing sports as a child was, and the unanimous answer was the drive home after a game with their parents. The reason? The parents would lecture and question them about their game, and it really bummed the kids out. Their fondest memory? Being with their grandparents after a game, who tend to indicate that they love just watching their kids, irrespective of the outcome or their performance. Go grandmom and granddad!

Anyway, as you might have guessed, who do you think is guilty of being an annoying parent? You got it, yours truly. The article points out that the parents have the best of intentions, it’s just misguided parenting that inspires them to stick their noses in too far. It made me realize that the kids hate hearing the lecture from us, and we should just put a lid on it and let them unwind after a game.

I have to confess, I was a little embarrassed about the whole thing, and fortunately R and I have one another to watch each other’s backs and monitor our respective behavior. I will say this, this past weekend when we drove home from a game, I kept my comments to a minimum, and only talked about how much we enjoyed watching the game. Boy, parenthood sure is complicated.

One last note, when I was kid, my parents had zero interaction in my game. They drove me to the park and watched my games, but they didn’t really have a clue what was going on, so they couldn’t offer constructive criticism. I don’t know if this was a result of this, but I loved sports and did just fine. I didn’t have the nightmare parents that they describe in the article, at least not for sports. They may have been a nightmare in all other aspects of my life, but not sports.

My point is, kids will evolve into the athletes they were meant to be irregardless of what the parents tell them. It’s the job of the coaches to train the kids and teach them to be good athletes, and maybe parents should just chill and enjoy the game... yeah, right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to betinhalm for the pic.

Falling Apart

I am officially falling apart, and as anybody over the age of 40 will attest to, it ain’t fun. Somehow I manage to gear up and play hockey, but I’m usually pretty sore afterward, in a good, feeling sort of healthy way. I’m getting more exercise than ever, though, and that’s a good thing. One tangible benefit is that my stamina during hockey and open stick is much improved, so much so that I don’t feel the constant need to visit the vomitorium while we’re playing.

On other health fronts, there was some question about my hearing because I can’t hear R or the kids. They are constantly frustrated by the need to repeat what they are saying, and I am always being asked to have my hearing checked. I finally went in and got tested and my hearing is actually normal, so clearly the problem lies elsewhere besides my own ears. Vindication is sweet, is it not?

I’ve also got sleep apnea issues, and I went to my doctor to discuss that. My dentist is actually a sleep apnea expert, and he wanted to enroll me in a sleep study and try to get some data on me. I’m all for it if leads to a solution, but as far as I can tell, I have what is called positional sleep apnea, which means that it occurs when I sleep in certain positions, mainly on my back. I’ve been sleeping on my back my entire life, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in another position, but have also always been aware of the fact that I sometimes stop breathing while I sleep. It’s a scary thing because you wake up sucking in air. It freaks R out (I can imagine) and she is always telling me to have it checked out.

However, since it seems to be positional, I took some measures to combat it, and I think it’s working. The key is to not sleep on my back, and I’ve been working on that. The first thing was to get a puffier pillow, because it not only makes sleeping on my side more comfortable, but it makes sleeping on my back difficult. The other thing is I’ve “installed” hard plastic balls on my shirt and that makes it nearly impossible to sleep on my back comfortably. It’s not ideal, but better than starving myself of air. My dentist said that sleep apnea is the #1 risk factor for a heart attack, more than smoking or obesity, so it’s pretty serious stuff.

Finally, one other issue I’ve been having is a little more serious and I have to confess it bummed me out because it involved my heart. You don’t want to mess around with your ticker, it can be pretty serious stuff. The problem I seem to be having is that now and then my heart skips a beat. I cannot for the life of me explain it, but when it first started happening, it was a little scary. I thought I was having a heart attack. It only happens when I’m sedentary, and what kills me is that I’m more active in life than eve, what with hockey and all the housework and parenting duties.

I went to my doc and he gave me a heart monitor that measures my heartbeat. It makes a lot of noise, and it kind of freaked out A&N. They weren’t sure what to make of it. You transmit the data over the phone, and then they do an assessment. I wore it for a month and according to the data, I have some sort of atrial misfiring that causes an irregular heartbeat now and then. Now I’m no expert on it, but my doc did not seem overly concerned, and he said if it continues to schedule a stress test. For the record, there were times when it occurred fairly regularly, and I was convinced that my heart was going to just kick out and stop beating. Talk about freaky.

I decided to try a dietary intervention before breaking out the big guns like drugs or surgery, and the good news is that it seems to be working. The biggest difference was in taking magnesium. Now I don’t know why this is so, but after taking a daily dose of Mg, my heart seems to have returned to normal. It baffles me, not that I’m complaining, but within a day of taking the stuff, I couldn’t really detect too much flutter anymore. I was elated, it’s nice to feel normal again. I haven’t cut out caffeine, but I am also reducing my sugar intake, and that’s probably the hardest thing so far. I live on sugar, and that’s not a good thing, but I’m finding that just cutting it out is a bummer, but not impossible. In fact, once you go a few days without, you realize that you don’t need a massive influx of sweets to feel satisfied, just a small bite of chocolate will do.

All in all, I had some health issues, but I took some intervention measures, and I can’t say they’ve been completely eliminated, but so far, so good. I’ll leave it at that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Paul J White for the pic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, which also happens to be our anniversary, so there was no way we were going to let it pass without doing something. However, with all that’s going on in our lives, it was on our radar but when it finally arrived, it was a bit of a surprise. Then again, as is often the case, when you do things without a bunch of planning, they often turn out for the better. Too much planning spoils the endeavor.

With this in mind, we hadn’t planned anything for the big day until the day before. Of course we were going to have to sandwich any activities in between hockey, but that actually worked out well. Since N had a practice in the evening, we planned on meeting R at the rink, and then we’d all head off somewhere for supper. The problem we always run into is where to eat. There are not a huge number of restaurant options that we really love, mainly because of the conflict between price and quality of the food, or in my case, just price. I hate to admit this, but when a meal costs a fortune, I just can’t enjoy it.

I experienced this on numerous occasions when I lived in New York. Normally I would avoid restaurants that had cloth napkins, but inevitably at some dinner party or on a date, you end up at a restaurant that breaks your back. Those are the same ones where the waiter hates your guts when you don’t order drinks, because it’s the cocktails that kill you. I lose all objectivity when a restaurant is expensive, it just taints my perspective.

Now the restaurants in this area are not overly expensive, but they aren’t cheap, either. In NYC, you get the whole spectrum, with places that are way beyond my means, to so cheap that you wonder what they’re feeding you. It’s nice to have that range of choices. Up here, it is way more homogeneous. The food is not outrageous, but it’s not cheap, either. I’ve yet to really find a place to eat dinner that knocks my socks off and is a good deal. There are plenty of nice restaurants where the food is really good, but it’s going to cost you.

This was a special occasion, however, and we’ve been having a bit too much drama in our lives, so we wanted to enjoy ourselves and not worry about it. We wanted something that was close to the rink so we could just head on over after practice, and it had to be kid-friendly, which pretty much includes every place up here. The fact that it was Valentine’s Day complicated it a bit because couples having a romantic night out don’t necessarily want kids screaming in their ears. For this reason we tend to eat on the early side, but N’s practice ended late so we had to join the hip and young-love crowd. It actually worked out beautifully.

We chose Melaza, a Caribbean restaurant in Woodstock. I made the reservation for four, but didn’t mention that we were with two young children, not that it should make any difference, but again, it was Valentine’s Day. Oh well, you can’t constantly fret over these details, you have to just go for it, right? In the end, we had a really nice time, not to mention a nice day.

It started out busy as usual. I had LTP hockey in the AM, which starts at 8:30, which means I have to leave at 7:30. It’s even worse at open stick, where I have to leave here at 6:30. It’s brutal. After hockey, A had her book club, where they are finishing up their short movie that they made. During her club, N and I went to Stateline to have his skates heat molded, which I’m guessing is the new thing in ice skates. After that, A had her musical rehearsal, and then we went to hockey practice with KB, which worked out beautifully because R was meeting us for dinner. From the arena, we headed straight over to Melaza and sat down for supper.

We really liked the restaurant. It was nice without being stuffy, and kid friendly to boot. In fact, there was a family with young children right next to us, not that it’s an issue because A&N are pretty well-behaved and don’t make a scene. The food was really good, and like usual, not cheap, but not back-breaking, either. I had the pork shank that people rave about, and it was excellent. N got the skirt steak which was tender and delicious, and the girls got seafood. R got the grouper and N got the scallops. They loved their dishes, though I didn’t get to taste them. They usually give seafood in smaller portions and I don’t want to cut into that. Their dishes looked beautiful. We also got the appetizer special with a bit of everything on it, which was outstanding. The ceviche was killer.

There was some debate over dessert, A wanted to get something there, but N wanted to get home in time to have family movie night. In the end, we decided to head home for dessert and movies, which is fine by me. Having kids definitely gives you an excuse to not only forsake cocktails, but to cut out early. I was happy to get home.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we got mom flowers for Valentine’s Day, and cleaned up the house. I figured it was something she could appreciate (the cleaning) because our house is a always chaotic with hockey gear, books, and clothes. I don’t know how families with five or more children do it. It’s important to know the people you love and understand what’s important to them.

All in all, we had a nice day and evening, and best of all, didn’t have to do an inordinate amount of planning to pull it off. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Favorite Book

There is an upcoming photo exhibit coming up at the library that asked patrons to choose their favorite book and have their picture taken with it. Somehow they got my name and asked me. I was happy to take part, but then had to choose my favorite book, which when you really get down to it, is not the easiest thing to do. There are times I can’t even remember the last book I read.

Either way, I had to come to a decision, and like everything in my life, I had to make a big ordeal out of it. Eventually, I narrowed it down to three or four books, most of which I have hard cover copies of. It really boiled down to Catcher in the Rye or Moby Dick, though the latter might be construed as venturing into the pretentious, pseudo-erudite intelligentsia, for which I am not a big fan, but what a great book. Runners up included Unbearable Lightness of Being, Confederacy of Dunces, and Little Big Man.

I went with Catcher in the Rye, which I started to read again and really enjoy, relating to Holden Caulfield, for better or worse. I went to the library and took the pic, and was surprised to learn that the photography had never read it, nor did he even know who wrote it, which struck me as strange because Salinger is such an icon. It could be a generational thing, the guy was older than me, so it probably wasn’t on his radar.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rakka for the pic.

A Day of Rest

Last weekend we got a break from our crazy routines, and it was nice, if not a big strange. It was either last Sunday or the one before, I can’t recall, but there was no hockey, no skiing, no scheduled playdates, and nowhere to be. The crazy thing is, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Sure, there are a million projects that need to be attended to, but it’s also nice to just take a break and get some much needed rest, which is exactly what we did. In addition to taking care of business around the house, I ended up reading and taking a nap. I think we’ve reached a point in our lives where even the kids can appreciate some down time, which is telling in and of itself.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to bigbrowneyez for the pic.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learn-to-Play Paying Off

Don’t ask me how this came to be, but I’ve been helping out with the coaching of the mites hockey team. It’s crazy when you think about it, but I’m happy to be able to lend a hand, if not a bit flattered that my limited skills could be of value. They say that flattery will get you nowhere, when in fact, when flattery is strategically employed, it will get you everything you want, especially when you’re dealing with the fragile male ego.

For the record, the head coach, DF, is not the sort of person who would encourage or give positive feedback unless it was absolutely deserved. He’s a pretty serious guy when it comes to hockey, and not the sort that sugar-coats things, which makes him a great coach and leader. From a parents POV, he intimidates me (my own neurosis) and maybe even scares me a bit, but not in a bad way. Some people are just so good at what they do and do it in such earnest and with such seriousness that you have to take a step back and look at them in wonder. In fact, and I know how corny this sounds, but he makes me want to do the best that I can be, and go out there and try my hardest. So when he asks me to help out coaching, not only am I honored, but I’m going to try to do my best out there. How’s that for being neurotic?

Either way, the other day while I was helping out, my own learn to play (LTP) coach stopped by and we chatted for a bit. I told him all my LTP was paying off, and he laughed and said the drills are all the same. Good thing for me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mike Boon for the pic.

Social Calendar and Busy Weekend

Last weekend we had plenty of hockey fun but a busy social calendar, as well. We had a Dartmouth women’s hockey game, followed by a game for A in the AM, then a birthday party, then a game for N in the evening. Hockey precluded our participation in the community breakfast, the local winter carnival/chili cookoff, and the Tiki Torch Trek. Then again, what’s more worthy of our time than hockey? Not much.

On the social front, one of the hopes we had in enrolling N in hockey was to help him to develop his own social circles outside of his sister’s sphere of influence. A is a very outgoing person who makes friends wherever she goes, whereas N tends to be a bit more reserved. Once he warms up to a group, he can be the life of the party, but it’s that initial breaking of the ice that is more of a challenge. Consequently, many of his friends tend to be A’s friends, because she makes the connections and he benefits from it.

This is fine up to a point, because as they get older, the difference between boys and girls becomes more apparent, and eventually they’re just not going to want to hang all together. It’s sort happening already, and not only does A want some space to do girl stuff, but N doesn’t necessarily want to hang out in an exclusively female environment. At least not yet.

Hockey seemed like a good opportunity to make that break, and so far, so good. N is surrounded by boys his age and they all share a common bond of hockey. Best of all, it’s his own thing, allowing A to travel in her own circles unencumbered and even freeing up mom and dad from being too overbearing... sort of. Let’s face it, in the era of modern parenting, no parent is completely absolved from involvement in their kid’s social lives. It just comes with the territory.

Either way, we’ve had a few social gigs through hockey, and it’s been fun for N. We did a bowling playdate that A tagged along with, even though there was some pre-existing social circles that they had to break into, but I can’t worry too much about that, these guys have known each other for years. Then just this weekend we were invited to a birthday party of one of N’s teammates. Birthdays seem like the gold standard of social acceptance, though it can work against you when you’re on the outside looking in. This was the first opportunity for N to hang with buddies without his sister there. I don’t think A minded because it was going to be a bunch of boys getting crazy. Then again, A has fun doing that, as well.

We drove out to Canaan to this place I’d never heard of called the Competition Complex. It’s basically this huge warehouse where kids can get crazy, not unlike Chuck E Cheese without the pizza, though there was plenty of fried food that you could order. N had a blast in this big caged room filled with rubber balls that the kids could throw at each other as hard as they could. They spent about an hour in there, and it was a good exercise for me to lighten up and let kids be kids. There was some pretty big kids in there (i.e., teenagers), however, so there was some cause for concern.

The place had mini-golf, a batting cage, video games, and playground. Not my kind of place, but I’m not a kid, I’m a stuffy, overbearing parent. The most important thing was the kids had a blast, and N got to hang with buddies and bond. Interestingly enough, I ran into several friends over there, all attending assorted birthday parties of their own. It’s the thing to do over there.

After the party, it was afternoon, so we headed home, got a quick bite to eat, then headed off to our second hockey game. Is it ever enough?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to identicaltriplets for the pic.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Coaching and Life

Now I don’t know how this evolved, but I’ve been helping out with the hockey coaching, and it’s all very odd in light of the fact that I’m not a hockey player, I just play one on TV. On the one hand, I like helping out, especially when they are short on people. On the other hand, they usually have enough people, and only on one or two occasions were they really short handed.

However, on several occasions I’ve been asked to lace up my skates and get out there, and as surprising as it may seem, it has become a regular thing. I’m not sure where this is coming from, and again, I’m happy to help, but there are times when I’m out there and feel like a boy amongst men, or I’ll just stand around twiddling my thumbs. I’ve alluded to this fact, but was told by the coaches that it’s still helpful to have bodies out there, and I’m learning the drills by watching and taking part. Fair enough. Besides, I’ve gotten the seal of approval from several coaches, so I haven’t been made to feel unwelcome. I don’t want to be the intrusive dad who feels like his presence is always an asset, even when he’s being a pain in the you know what.

It is interesting going out there and skating with the pros, not to mention a big group of talented kids. In fact, it’s the exact sort of environment that would intimidate and scare me enough to run in the other direction, and yet, I’m jumping in with both feet. Now I have the usual insecurities about going into a new situation and making a fool out of myself, and from what I can gather talking to other folks is that I’m not alone. Nobody wants to get in over their head while on display to large groups of people, even in a supportive environment. I think what makes it tough is that hockey is an ultra-macho sport, and the guys who run the show are not only talented, but don’t tolerate sissies. I think a group of women would be more supportive and nurturing, while in a group of hockey tough guys, you couldn’t buy an ounce of sympathy. Being the only neophyte in the group only exacerbates the situation. No hand holding or excuses will be tolerated. Just deal with it.

This makes it both easier and harder. If something happens or you make a mistake, just move on and don’t obsess over it. Nobody really cares. For someone who embraces his OCD with religious fervor, however, every little slip-up is made larger than life. In case you haven’t noticed, there are some great life lessons to be had in being a coach, at least for me. On the one hand, I’m a marginally competent skater, so I can go out there and keep up with the players. It’s the skills part that creates problems, and one in particular but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that the fun never stops, depening upon how you define “fun.”

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to craigk182 for the pic.

Moving Up

I’m guessing this is tied into the fact that N will be moving up to squirts next year, but the coach has on several occasions asked if he can make some of the squirt practices. I think it would be good for him, but he is somewhat hesitant, much in the same way he’s reluctant to play homeschool hockey. On the one hand, I can’t say I blame him because it’s a whole new world, different from the one he’s comfortable and familiar with. On the other hand, I don’t want him to be afraid of new situations, especially ones that he can benefit from, not to mention enjoy. The positives outweigh the negatives by a large margin.

With this in mind, it brings back the old dilemma of how involved do you get as a parent. When I was a kid, my parents never took an active role in my social or recreational life, other than providing a ride. Now I find I want to encourage N to take some chances and break from his comfort zone, but also don’t want to be overbearing because it’s his thing. Also, it’s just a game, and he should have fun, but there are life lessons to be learned in having fun, as well.

I guess in the end the only thing to do is provide the opportunities and encouragement, and see what he does with it. I do think reluctance can lead to inaction and ultimately regret, based on my own personal experiences growing up. It begs the question, is it better to nudge someone gently into something you think they would enjoy, or should you just be completely hands off and let the cards fall as they may? Of course, being the overbearing parent that I am, I lean to the former, but I’m working on it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to saganaga for the pic.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bushwhacked and Trapped

This always seems to happen to me, and I see it coming, but it nonetheless bothers me a bit to see it transpire. Not so much for the hassle, but for what I perceive as a bit of manipulation that we are succumbing to. As you all know by now, we have good friends who we hang out with a bunch. Their kids are buddies with ours, which is fine. The problem that crops up now and then is that A is a very loyal friend and would do just about anything for her best friends. Now loyalty is a great thing, but when you run across someone who can’t help but take a little bit extra, it can complicate things. Now I know A needs to work these things out and learn about the nature of people, but I can’t just sit back and encourage such behavior, or for that matter, play a part in it. Because I’m the parent in charge, I have the power to take a stand. That does not mean that I don’t resent being put on the spot.

The usual progression of events is that we get to see our friends and inevitably some request comes up, usually in the form of sleepovers, invites to dinner, attendance to events, or other assorted activities. This on top of what we are already doing. Normally I’m pretty open to doing things, but I know who the source of these ideas is, and it works something like this - one person wants something and plants the idea into our kid’s heads, and then they all work together to get me to comply. A bit sneaky, wouldn’t you say? Smart, but sneaky.

Since I’m on the spot, I have to come to a decision. If I say no, which is my first impulse, I literally get bombarded with resistance on all fronts, even my own kids, who are normally low key but with the right encouragement can go on the offensive. As I mentioned, I kind of resent it, and to add to the fun, usually the other parent is there keeping mum, which only encourages the kids. I’m guessing they are not averse to whatever ideas are being put forth.

Either way, I have to come to a decision, and again, I’m usually fairly game to do things spontaneously. However, when it is always the same people behind the plan, it can get a bit old. This time around, a new plan was sprung on me, and I stood my ground. Stick with the plan, and the more they fought back, the more I dug myself in for the long battle. I didn’t get mad, but part of me was a bit irritiated by the audacity of the kids. I never argued or battled with my friends parents. No always meant no, I didn’t try to make it harder by arguing.

I didn’t succumb, but I have to go into every social situation with said individuals knowing in the back of my head that this will crop up and unless certain people get what they want, there’s going to be a battle. Kind of makes me less enthused to enter into the situation in the first place, but nobody ever said human relations were easy.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Svilen Milev for the pic.

Guerilla Over-Parenting

I was wondering if it’s possible to be an overbearing parent while not seeming to be overbearing, sort of like stealth over-parenting. I can’t help being a presence in our kid’s lives, but there are times when I definitely get in the way, and I can appreciate that. I was kid at one time, too, and at some point in my life I sure as heck didn’t want my parents around. Kids need to have their space.

I don’t think A&N are at the point, not yet, at least, but they aren’t going to admit it, and again, I understand the importance of kids feeling a sense of independence and detachment from us. If anything, it’s an important part of growing up. It’s hard to keep this in perspective but when I was a kid, my parents were nowhere to be found. They didn’t provide much in the way of guidance, but they supported and provided for us. Otherwise, they were not very involved and provided little in the way of inspiration. It was kind of like a business arrangement, they held up their end of the agreement, and I was supposed to hold up mine.

Parents today have gone to the other extreme and are so involved that they can do their kids a disservice. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with life on your own. It has to happen at some point, and the more you prolong it, the harder it is to become an independent individual, i.e., an adult. I know, my parents held my hand for as long as they could, and would have done so until I was married with children. That was part of the plan, control things for as long as you can, and then use it as extortion. I was never encouraged to be independent or thoughtful of my life, and I bought into it all. It was simpler that way. As a consequence, I took the easy way out of things and avoided all challenges.

When the time came for me to finally set out on my own, I was completely clueless, and the learning curve was steep and painful. I basically went through adolescence as an adult. You’re much better off learning the hard lessons in life when you’re young and have a safety net to back you. As much as I want to be overbearing, I realize I’m not helping our kids in the long term. The goal is to find a happy medium somewhere in there.

I think the key is to provide support and encouragement, but leave it at that. There’s no getting around being involved in our kid’s lives, but they have to figure certain things out themselves, and unfortunately, that means dealing with having their feelings hurt and dealing with mean people. Maybe the most important thing (besides unconditional love and support) that we as parents can do is help our kids maintain perspective, and that comes from having experiences. When you limit yourself to the same routines, your world can become very small, and that’s when you lose perspective.

This crazy analysis stems from a recent experience where I think we’ve lost a little perspective, and could use a healthy dose of life experiences to remind us that there are plenty of other fun things to do with lots of nice people to make friends with. It’s all in an effort to expand our horizons, not in any way to close any doors. That’s not the point, nor is it our job as parents.

Okay, enough of my neurotic pontification, though bear in mind, this is not the end of this analysis, i.e., to be continued.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Erik Jager for the pic.

Friday, February 3, 2012

More Crazy Weather, Snow Day, and Friday Night Hockey

We hadn’t heard from our friends in awhile, partly because we have been working on other options for distractions in order to achieve better balance, though I’m not sure how effective that is. The idea is for us, the parents, not to be too intrusionary while presenting alternative opportunities to have fun and make friends. The key is to have fun and make connections. Hockey is a great avenue for that.

Last week, we had more crazy weather with the freezing rain/sleet thing going on, so we had some sense that school was going to be cancelled, and sure enough, it was. This meant lots of kids with days off and chances for playdates, or from a cynical perspective, the need for daycare. Sure enough, in the AM, the phone rang, and we made a plan. Our friends, whom we hadn’t spoken to in a couple of weeks, wanted to go bowling. We were all up for it, a great way to spend a day with lousy weather and re-connect.

It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it’s always a little odd when you spend all this time with people and then take a step back and take a break. Maybe it’s just a sign of a guilty mind, due in large part to the fact that I’m a neurotic mess and obsess over these things. Most people probably don’t give it a second thought, I’m sure of it.

Anyway, the plan was to go bowling after lunch, which gave us time to get things done at home and prepare for that evening when we were going to the hockey game at Darmouth. Some of A’s teammates were going to play on the ice between periods, so they whole team went to show their support. A bunch of N’s buddies were going to be there, as well. We bowled for a couple of hours and then it was time to go and meet mom in the big city.

I met with some resistance, the kids had other ideas and of course I got bushwhacked, as always, but I stood my ground and stuck with the game plan. We headed out to meet mom, had supper and then went to the game. We had great seats right by the bench, and we were close to the group so that the kids could sit with their friends and not be bothered by mom and dad. It worked out perfectly, and to add to the fun, they all won free pizza from EBAs. Thanks much to them.

The game was fun, it’s become quite the family activity for us, though it was a late night, and we got home after 10:00. We needed our rest for a big day of hockey the next day, but that’s just how we like it, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Darren Deans for the pic.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Skiing On A Busy Monday

The weather has been crazy, in a bad way for skiing, and for that matter, all winter sports. All outdoor skating has been compromised, and forget about Alpine and Nordi skiing. It’s not all bad, of course.

We actually hit the slopes last week at Suicide 6. It’s a bummer we have yet to really take advantage of our ski passes, but S6 has an amazing deal. $7.50 lift tickets all day. Normally I would just go to Pico because of our passes, but it’s far, and we can do a 2-3 hour day at S6 and still make it to afternoon activities, so that’s what we did. We met our friend J and skied for several hours. It felt good to be on the slopes, and it wasn’t crowded in the least bit. We got in a bunch of runs, and I think it’s good to be doing things that are not hockey related for a change. Plus, the kids are great skiers, and believe it or not, A is the one that worries me a bit at times because she loves to ski fast. Faster than me, that’s for sure.

We went to the lodge for lunch and had killer ski resort food, which amounted to cheeseburgers and fries, and then headed over for A’s drawing class. After that, we had karate, which we weren’t sure was even going to happen, but it did, adding to our long day. A small but good class.

After karate, time for supper and then to bed. What a long day, but was it ever fun. Plus we got to re-connect with some old friends, and it was only Monday. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Adi Judas for the pic.

Weary and Winding Down?

I get a sense that people all around us are experiencing hockey fatigue. Mind you, this does not apply to yours truly. I still can’t get enough, but I’m a late-comer to this scene and don’t practice/play for 4-5 days a week. As of this writing, I wish I could.

Either way, practices and even games seem to be short on players, and from what I can gather, for a variety of reasons. After talking to the parents, some skip out because they are simply tired of it, while others are sick or injured. I understand, they’re so young. Parents have alluded to kids not wanting to go to games or practices, which on the one hand is understandable given the length of the season, but I also think the best teams and players play all the time. Oh well, just goes to show you, you can always get too much of a good thing.

This past weekend, we had a game and I think half the team wasn’t there. Kind of sad.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to superburg for the pic.