Play Hard for Humboldt

hockey sticks

I am a hockey Mom.  And today my heart is breaking for our hockey family touched by tragedy.    I am a hockey Mom to my own boys, yes, but not just to them. I am a hockey Mom to all of their teammates, to the kids they play, to hockey players everywhere. When I watch an NHL game, or a Junior team play, I still see someone’s kid out there, and think of how proud their parents must be. They are our boys.  Our girls. You see, we are a hockey family.  This game of hockey that requires so much time, travel, sacrifice and dedication ties us together.

Sure, we are fierce competitors on the ice, staring each other down before a game, but if one of our family falls, we are all on the same team. We feel each others pain,  we embrace each others’ losses and wins.  We are bound by this crazy hockey lifestyle, driving our players around on pitch-black mornings.  Freezing our butts off for hours in cold arenas.  Cashing in our life savings to pay for it all. We take others in, open our homes, feed billets, jam teammates into hotel rooms to save money.  Hockey family is always welcome.  We happily feed each others boys, tie their skates.  Everyone gets hugs and high-fives. There’s a respect, an understanding.  We get it.  We have each others’ backs.

Hockey Moms are tough, sometimes too tough, but today our hearts break, and our enthusiastic, loud cheers have turned to silence.  We quietly wonder, why? how?

This morning, we sit,  thinking of the times that we have complained about smelly gear, or another expensive weekend away, or that Mom who yells too loud at the rink. And we realize now, that right now, none of that matters and ALL of it is worth it.

So. worth. it.

Right now, there are members of our hockey family who desperately wish they could drive their son to the rink one more time.  They will go into the garage and instead of being angry when they trip over a hockey stick, they will bend down, and cling to that stick as if it were the most important thing in the world, because their son, now gone, once held that stick.  Their son celebrated life holding that stick, learned about hard work holding that stick, made best friends holding that stick, grew into a man holding that stick, and never wasted a moment of his life while holding that stick.

So hockey Mamas everywhere, for your sisters and brothers, for the families of our boys on the Humboldt Broncos, and for our hockey family everywhere,  pull your toques back on, keep cheering loud and be grateful that you still have smelly gear to wash.  Embrace your hockey family.  Don’t leave anyone behind. Support those kids.  Feed dreams and play hard for Humboldt.  It’s worth every penny, and every moment.




(plural ohanas)

  1. An extended family unit.

OriginFrom Hawaiian ʻohana.

Posted in coaches, family, hockey, parenting, sports parents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments

Just say thank-you

thank you

I should have just said thank-you.  But I didn’t.

It’s been a while now since I brought the roof down with my big mouth. I really messed up.  Nothing new, my mouth opens and things come out before I have a chance to edit. It happens all the time.  But this time, I really knocked it out of the park. I thought I had something important to say, but really, I didn’t. Not important enough for what it would ultimately cost.  Sure, it’s important to express our feelings and concerns as parents, and it’s definitely crucial to advocate for our children. But, when someone volunteers to coach our child’s sports team, when they give up free time with their own families, and donate that time to us, really the only thing we should ever say to them is thank-you.

But we can’t resist.  We all think we have something important to say don’t we? Here’s the thing, nobody wants to be the crazy sports parent.   And we never think we will be.

But it happens like this:

We listen to the whispers.  We start to believe the gossip. We wonder if our children are being overlooked in their sport.  We question the coaches’ decisions, their motivations, and their loyalties.  We create drama where there doesn’t have to be any.

Sure, there are politics in sports, and yes, our kids will get passed over for others at some point. But it really isn’t any of our business how the coach gets to that decision. And it isn’t the end of the world. And it certainly isn’t up to us as parents to change the outcome on behalf of our child. On that team, our kid’s team, the decisions about what happens on the ice, or the field, are entirely and unequivocally the coach’s decisions. Whatever decision he or she is making. It’s theirs. It always is.  Why?  Because they are the freaking coaches. They are out there. Not us.  Because they are the ones getting up at 5am to coach our kids a sport.  Because they are there for so many kids who’s parents can’t or won’t be there.

The coach is always there.

Hauling bags, raking pitching mounds, tying skates, staying up late to make practice plans, tournament plans, development plans.  They are there for ALL of our children; the wonky ones, the insecure ones, the lonely kids, the kids with no role models, the “crazy” kids, the snot-nosed kid (there’s ALWAYS the booger-nosed kid), the always-late kid, and the missing-one-elbow-pad kid…all of them.

At CRAZY a.m. (that’s a real time), in a freezing cold arena, our coach is willingly out there with that “un-coachable” kid, the “brat” that all the parents in the heated lounge shake their heads at.  And that coach will do everything he can to convince that player he can be a superstar by 7 am.

And that kid?  Well he will remember his coach’s early morning words  FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

It’s real.  A good coach can make a positive, indelible mark on a person’s life. And it may have NOTHING to do with the sport.

At your child’s next practice, watch closely, and whisper “thank-you” into the lid of your mocha latte. Watch what happens when the coach gathers a rag-tag group of sweaty, sleepy hockey players into a circle at the end of practice. The players’ sticks will bang the ice in unison…whipping up courage and strength for the day, strength for a lifetime. That ice banging ritual is a THANK-YOU and a show of respect…from teammates to each other, and to the coaches.

And those coaches, on those mornings, will have an immeasurable impact on our children.

What have I learned since last season?  To be humble.  To be reasonable. To ignore the chatter.  To be thankful. And most importantly, to keep my mouth shut when I want to question the coach. Now I just sip my coffee, watch the game and whisper thank-you.


Posted in baseball, coaches, family, hockey, parenting, sports parents | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Let Them Grow


We dropped our oldest son off at his first ever week of camp yesterday afternoon.  He is at a summer camp on a little island, just a short ferry ride from the town we live in.  His best friend is there, and the camp director is a friend of ours.  It couldn’t be any safer. For weeks I have been talking to my first-born about the camp, asking him if he is excited, and wondering how he would do.

What I didn’t really stop to think about was how I would do.

And boy oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, am I NOT doing well.  I am failing miserably at being the Mom who is TOTALLY cool with her 9-year-old living in a tent on an island in the pacific for a week.  I am at “might need medication to get through this” bad.

It’s not as extreme as it sounds.  The camp he is at is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.  That means that they have gone 70 years without losing a kid. It’s likely they know what they are doing. There’s a nurse, and lifeguards and all the usual safety guidelines and rules. It seems like a wonderful, safe, and loving place for kids to spend a week learning about themselves,and the outdoors. It really does. He is going to make new friends, and memories that will last a lifetime.  He is getting a chance to deepen his self-identity and to grow.

I know this is all true.

But all I could do last night was PANIC.  There I was, wide awake in my bed, all googly-eyed, in the dark – 1:30, 2:30, 3:30…4:30am, panicking that I won’t know how he is doing for FIVE, yah that’s right FIVE! days.  I started imagining my son swimming (he’s more of a “flapper” than a swimmer), and then no one (not one of those energetic Christian teen councilors) noticing as he slowly loses his strength and starts to slide under the surface. Yep, I went to THAT place. I started questioning the insanity of sending a just-turned 9-year-old to camp.  We don’t even allow sleepovers, and now he is spending 5 nights in a wall tent with 9 other boys. Probably with some sound-asleep, snoring, zit-faced teenager as his councilor.

Was I insane?  What on earth was I thinking?  I said to my husband between deep, cleansing breaths (so as not to pass out) “I think we made a mistake.  He’s too young.  Those people don’t love him like we do”.  All my husband could say was “yah, those wall tents have no ventilation – the air in there is going to be rank by morning”.

Total. Meltdown.

Really Mom, what the fudge?

I realize now, more than ever before, that I have some serious trust issues.  I am shocked at how poorly I am handling this.  And embarrassed.  I know about my control and trust issues.  They are not new to me. I have always thought that the pilot of the jet should just let me fly, since I will pay WAY better attention to what is going on up there.   And I admit, I find it (VERY) hard to let “Swervin’ Mervin” aka my husband, drive our family anywhere.   And I may attend some (ALL) school field trips.  I have issues.  I had issues.  Lately I am getting too tired and lazy to attend ALL the field trips.  But if said excursions involve other parents driving my kids in motor vehicles, or watching them while near water, I am SO THERE.

Why am I like this?  I surely didn’t learn this from my Singapore Sling-drinking 70’s parents who let me run around barefoot in the forest at our cabin (that fronted on a lake…a very deep lake) playing “kick-the-can” until midnight.  Where were my parents?  Listening to Kenny Rogers and kicking back  with friends on the patio, with not a clue where the children were.

Nope. This is my own neurosis.  It runs deeper than parenthood. But I have this summer camp to thank for making it glaringly obvious that there is some work to be done here in KOOKOO-land (otherwise known as my brain).  Why am I so afraid of letting go?  Easy to answer – I know how excruciatingly painful loss is.  I know what it looks like when a Mother loses her child.   And my way of protecting myself from more of that kind of pain is to control, protect, and fight for my children’s safety.  But in the end, I realize, I can’t wrap them in bubble-wrap.  I can’t stop them from running barefoot in the forest. I can’t stop them from “dropping-in” to a concrete swimming pool on their tiny bikes.

And I can’t fly the plane.

Letting go is what I need to do – a little at a time.  I don’t want to.  But just as I am resisting the urge to drive out to camp and see how my son is doing, I will be stronger than I really am.  I will force myself to fight against that panic.  I will try to over-ride irrational fear with courage.

I will have to let go, to let them grow.

Posted in Boys and Nature, faith, family, Home and Homemaking, Nature, parenting, summer camp, Uncategorized

Irritation at 98%


We are having a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, and I am severely irritated.

You see, I am of Ukrainian – Norwegian descent and there is nothing in my being that “does well” in the heat.  I burn, I rash, I get hives.  I peel.  And being hot makes me lethargic, puffy (er) and irritable.  Doing nothing due to the heat-induced lethargy makes me feel guilty and crappy, which makes me even more irritable.

This heat wave coincides with us returning from a fun, yet extremely fast and hectic road trip to visit relatives in Alberta, where it was also record breaking hot.  I have barely recovered from the “Big City Hot” and now I am faced with “Coastal Town Hot”, which isn’t nearly as bad as the latter, but still irritating.

It also coincides with the middle of the summer, which means the “fingernails-on-chalkboard” whining has started with the children.

“Mu-um, I’m bored!”

“Mu-um! My brothers are bugging me!”

“Mu-um, why can’t we go to the lake?” (for the fifty millionth time this week)

Also, the dog is following me around panting and slobbering, and sitting on my feet. Normally I like it when he sits on my feet.  But in 34 degrees celsius, he can take his 90 pound hot and hairy arse and get it AWAY from me.

It’s too hot to walk the dog, too hot to exercise outside, too hot to think.  This is not my ideal situation.  I can’t even muster up the energy to be “fun Mommy” and do all those “keeping cool on hot days” activities that Pinterest says I should do.

You see, I am a puffier girl, and I am a (very) fair girl, and I just WILT in this heat.  Like a big, pink, flower.

Now, to add to the torture, the town that we live in has just announced a water use ban.  This means that the only activity I currently enjoy – turning on all my sprinklers and spraying everything until it is fresh and cold…the plants, the garden, the kids, the dog…myself, while sipping a very cold gin & tonic,  is not allowed.

Kill me now.

We are lucky enough to live surrounded by the ocean, lakes, and rivers, but the effort it takes to get my three kids, the dog, seventeen “floaty” toys, lunch, umbrella, sunscreen and hats packed into the van, it’s just…well…it makes me feel old.  And sweaty. And pink.

So, someone please tell me that I am not the worst person ever for wishing this heat wave would be over.  Bring on the cool winds, hockey season, and school!  Then throw me a sweater and call me cured!



Posted in family, Home and Homemaking, Nature, ocean, parenting | 1 Comment

Time is a River


One of my favourite songs is River’s Edge, by the Great Lake Swimmers (which I had not heard when I named my blog – for the record) I am a little obsessed with rivers, and feel very blessed to live by a very beautiful river.

I don’t now why I have this connection with rivers.  I think it’s because they represent hope, energy, life, and also remind us of how fleeting and perilous life can be.  They make beautiful noise, and draw life to them, and also send life out from them.

When I listen to that song, I get pulled into the current of my memories and just abandon myself to it.  When I do this, I let myself go to those places that on most days, I just can’t.  No time to go there.   What’s the use of going there?  Why would anyone WANT to go there.

To the place where I try to remember how my Mom moved.  How did she walk?  What did her voice sound like…I can’t remember now.  I wish I could go back, but I am swept downriver.  All I can do is swim in the direction life is taking me.  And let go.

Time, like a river flows.  Sometimes fast, sometimes it meanders.  Sometimes it will suck you under and take your breath away.

I remember sitting for hours by a river in the mountains watching my future husband fly fishing.  I would paint, or write.  Sometimes I would do a little fishing myself.  The sunlight sparkled off the ripples on the water. Our future together,  like the river, so clear and “full of potential”.

Time gives us new beginnings, carries us out of the rapids and into the flats, where we can get a break.

I finally found the memory card that has all of our photos on it since my first son was born.  I thought it was gone.  I was watching a short video of my oldest son (who was two at the time) singing a song to his twin baby brothers.  It was in their nursery, and as I watched, I could barely recognize the room, the babies…it was like watching someone else’s home movie.  I didn’t remember those curtains, or the way the small room looked, jammed with two cribs, dusk setting in through a window of a home I moved out of only three years ago – but in so many ways, a lifetime ago.

Time plays tricks on us.  It gives and takes away.  It flows faster than we can swim. So we need to surrender and let the river carry us through it all.

Be Blessed and find a river to sit by for a while…

Posted in family, Nature, Uncategorized

It’s better outside


I have blogged about my feelings about getting kids out of the TV room and into the forest before.   Today, after a few crazy hours that looked something like this: Me, working from my home office, while my boys fought, watched a movie, fought, the dog chewing every Lego he could get his teeth on, AND spitting it back out mixed with dog slobber all over the couch that he’s not supposed to sit on, kids made a mess, dog made a mess, I yelled, threatened (as usual) to take EVERYTHING away.  Someone threatened to run away.  As a dust ball the size of my head blew past me on a dirty floor,  I realized we just had to get outside.  Or I might cry.

So after a frenzy of helmets, dog leashes and scooters, a small fight about who was riding what “thing”, me, the three boys and the dog set out for a walk.

Walking out of our chaotic house and into the mid-day sunshine, the smell of ocean floating on the breeze, is all it took to bring us all down about 50 notches on the stress-meter.  As I walked, and the kids rode up and down the hill, and the dog sniffed every tree, waggly tail flapping in the sun.  I thought really?  It’s that easy?  Why do I always forget that it’s just better outside.  It’s SO much better.

Closed-in areas create tension.  We all need to get out in the open.  In my case, I have to get out every day, more than once, or I start to feel like I am suffocating on the mayhem.  I need to remember this every day when the fuse starts to get short – just get outside.

MOMMY SURVIVAL TIP OF THE SUMMER: Drop everything, and walk out the door.  It’s better outside.

Posted in family, Home and Homemaking, Nature, parenting | 1 Comment

Still here with me, Dad


Today is my 42nd birthday.  It seems strange to me, because the years really are going by faster, and I am now older than I ever thought I would be.   I feel so young in my mind (but definitely not in my knees!).  I still have hope every morning, the way I did as a kid.  I still feel like the best is yet to come…but I’m not sure what that is.  I am much more grateful for each birthday now, as I feel the press of old age on one side, and the distancing from my childhood on the other.

Today is also Father’s Day.  I lost my Dad 12 years ago, exactly ten years (almost to the day) my Mom passed away.  My Dad fought like a lion to stay alive, but couldn’t.  Before he died, our relationship had hit a rocky bit, but thankfully, somehow, through grace  and the maturity to let go of anger, I only remember the great Dad I had and the years we had together as a family.  My Dad taught me so many of the life skills that I am thankful for every day. I realize now, that I was lucky to have this man in my life. Sometimes he could be hard, but he never stopped teaching me important lessons.

Little lessons that have stuck with me through the years.

I wish I had listened to him more.  I really do.

He was a smart man, a good man, an honest man.  He had integrity.  He taught me what love looks like in the way he loved my Mom.

He taught me how to drive.

How to shoot a gun.

How to catch a Walleye.

How to train a dog.

How to ski.

How to ride a bike.

How to change a tire.

How to use a saw.

How to drive a boat.

How to plant a garden.

How to bbq, and mow a lawn.

How to sail.

How to saddle a horse.

How to hit a nail.

How to build a great fire.

How to bake Christmas bread.

He never complained about hard work.  He was always thankful for his career.  He was humble, thrifty and freakishly intelligent.  He taught me to trust good people and have faith.  To help people. And to hit the day running.

He worked really, really hard.  Too hard, like so many men from that generation.

About a month ago, my husband brought a little orange tree home.  It was just like the orange tree my Dad had in his office when I was a kid.  I used to love going to work on Saturdays with him.  He would let me use the photocopier and pick one orange from his office tree.  They were tiny and bitter – more like a lemon than an orange.  But I loved them.

I still remember the smell of the orange, mixed with Old Spice and office supplies.  I would draw, while my Dad would work on some construction draft.  He would whistle softly, and shake his knee.  Like he always did…

I kept this memory to myself. Didn’t tell my husband or sons about the orange tree.  Some memories are so special they don’t need to be thinned out through sharing.

But today, on my 42nd birthday, my husband was so excited – he had a surprise for me.  He ran out to the deck and came in smiling, with a tiny orange in his hand.

Try it! He beamed…

I took the tiny orange in my hand and pressed it to my nose, and in a wave, my Dad was with me, sitting in the room with my husband and my three sons.

I could barely breath.  As I peeled the orange and tasted it’s bitterness, he was right there with me.  My heart spoke to his…

I know you are here Dad.    I won’t forget what you taught me.  Thanks for the oranges, and the love, and the sacrifices.  Thanks for loving us, and loving Mom.

Thank you for everything.  Happy Father’s Day.  I love you.

Posted in family, parenting | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments