Another Year, Another Goal

A more appropriate title may be, another year and hopefully a goal. I don’t mean my vision board goals, which I never even put together in 2015. The kind of goal I am working toward is achieved on the ice.

Though life hasn’t slowed down and I am behind with all my normal to-dos, I have spent the year with a feeling that I need more. That something was missing. (Perhaps the curse of ditching the vision board.) Not coming up with any good ideas, I decided instead to try out hockey.

The idea first formed this summer but came to fruition while I was working off some of the forced hockey parent volunteer time in the concession stand. (Stay away from the slushies. Anything that can stain your skin can’t be great for your stomach!) During my shift, another hockey mom working with me mentioned she has been playing hockey for the past three years. She had fallen for the game watching her son through the years and decided to give it a try herself. She found it one of the hardest and most thrilling things she has taken on – both physically and mentally challenging. That aroused my interest. She also assured me that there were all levels of play including the most basic beginner teams. The association does a formal assessment to place you anywhere from AAA to C3. C3 being a lower division than the lowest found in the kids league. That is where her team is ranked, and in fact she just got her first goal ever this year.

I started thinking that maybe I would try the summer clinics offered to women who wanted to play and then join a team next season. That night I went to the WHAM (Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota) website and saw there was an upcoming assessment. Being impulsive and impatient is my nature, and with summer clinics so far out I decided why not just jump in feet first? I was sure I could figure it out. I had watched enough games. So with confidence, I registered myself even though I have never been on hockey skates. (It couldn’t be that different from being on figure skates?) The season was half over so I would be unlikely to get picked up by a team but I knew getting assessed would commit me to the following year and get me focused on a training plan. The next morning, to the dismay of my horrified son, I started trying on his old equipment and I was all set.

I was able to get three practices in at a local rink before the assessment. I used the time to try to learn to stop and skate backwards. I quickly found out that stopping in hockey skates is a totally different world from figure skates. I somewhat figured out stopping on one side, or more like turning myself into a half circle to slow me down. As for going backwards, I moved in that direction a little bit. I brushed it off that I would probably be offense at first anyway. I even started wondering if I possibly could make C2 level if I could score like I do in my son’s shooting room. I was having so much fun daydreaming, feeling proud and laughing at myself that I amused myself out of realizing how bad I was. You would think it would have been apparent to me with the comparison of the six year olds darting around the rink.

Then came assessment day. Recent college players down to … well down to me … gathered at Augsburg Ice Arena to show off our skills. The first half hour was skating, passing and shooting drills. All of which I failed miserably. The puck is much easier to shoot in the basement when both it and I are standing still versus crossing paths on the ice. And for the skating and stopping drills, they did not go well forwards or backwards. I was becoming concerned since the last half an hour was a scrimmage.

That is where I shined. Not in my skills, but in sweat and smiles. It was so fun hockey sayingpretending to play. I didn’t really do anything but chase the puck around during my shifts and watch the good players actually move the puck and play. I also learned it is very difficult seeing out of that cage, which was a good excuse when I completely missed a puck right by me. But even as bad as I was, it was fun to hear the other skaters on my bench cheer me on. I also loved how each two minutes on the ice had me dying for my next two minutes on the bench to catch my breath. It was exhilarating.

That night ranking came out. My name was registered as a C3 player. Seeing my name on the list felt like I won an award. Granted everyone made the list and I was the lowest ranking possible. Still, I told all my family the good news and emailed my hockey mom/player friend that I did it and would take clinics in the summer so I could be on a team the following winter. Next thing I know, I get an email back asking me to join her team. They were short players lately at games since the whole team has overbooked lives like mine. If I was willing to dedicate myself to showing up and practicing as much as I could, they would take me on so I would be ready next season as they try to advance to C2 play. I registered as a USA hockey member and signed on!

Thus far I have had one practice and one game. At the practice I didn’t embarrass myself too badly. Though one of the coaches took me aside and tried to teach me crossovers. Which basically is a more efficient way of skating, but first he has his work cut out for him just teaching me to trust lifting one skate up and trusting the other to glide on its edge. I prefer both skates firmly planted on the ice and even better a stick in my hand for extra balance support.

The first game went well in the fact that we won. Another plus, was that I have watched enough games to understand offsides and icing so I didn’t get the whistle blown on us.

Playing left wing at my first game - and still staying upright!
Playing left wing at my first game – and still staying upright!

My plan though was to get one goal or at least one assist. It would be my thank you to the team for taking a chance on me. I skated as fast as I could and often I would hear the coach yell to me “that is your puck!” meaning it was up to me to do something. I would have my eyes on it and a deep desire to take it and skate up to the opponents’ net. My biggest motivation was seeing the other team’s player also approaching and knowing if I didn’t at least hit it away from her I would have to skate all the way back across the ice again.Well, the closest I got to a break away was falling across the ice on my face trying to reach for the puck. No fairytale ending here. Three days later I am still sore and I have a bruise on my chin. But I can’t wait to get out there again.

I have never played a team sport and am excited to learn about being part of a team. Even the locker room is foreign to me but I like listening to everyone’s chatter and then the silence as the coaches came in for a pregame strategy. (Not that I could follow or carry out the moves they marked up the board with.) I still feel like a kid hoping to fit in and become one of them soon. So far, all the players have been encouraging and forgiving. Plus having the coaches pull me aside on tips and mistakes, even yell at me on the ice, is what makes me feel most included. They actually think I can maybe contribute.

It is a totally new feeling to be so new to something. As my teammate said, “It is not often as adults we have an opportunity to start the learning curve so low.” Physically and mentally there is so much to learn. It is draining and thrilling to push myself in a direction I have never tried. It has also made me realize how good these 12 and 13 year old boys are. It makes me truly appreciate the strength, skill and grace they have. It may tone down my yelling “move your skates” and “get that puck” as they race down the ice.

Wish me luck in the playoffs! If I have nothing else to offer the team, I am competitive and hopefully that drive will help make up for my lack of skill and talent. I am hoping to report back that I finished my first season with one goal.

True Confessions III: Bad parenting

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted about a traumatic parenting incident. With a toddler at home and a job that requires working odd hours, she had dozed off while her toddler napped and forgot to meet her other young daughter at the bus stop. A conscientious mother, she felt terrible and was beating herself up a bit over her all-too-human lapse.

 I sympathized, but inside I thought, “Oh honey, if that’s the worst you can come up with you’re doing pretty good…” Which leads us to our next True Confessions topic: Bad Parenting

Stormy: The little nipper – As a brand-new mother with a brand-new son, I decided to clip my newborn’s long fingernails. With 20 nieces and nephews, I was no stranger to taking care of babies, so I took out the tiny nail clippers and “CLIP!” snipped the end of my son’s thumb. He wailed, I cried, and I quickly handed him off to my husband who finished the job. A half-dozen years later, as a frugal young mom, I was giving my son a haircut once when I very cleanly snipped the top of his ear. It was one of those moments where I immediately registered what I had done but there was complete silence for about 10 seconds as my son scrunched up his face and I braced myself for what followed. He wailed, I cried. After that, I was willing to “cut my losses” and pay the Children’s Barbers for future trims.

KitKat: Just shake it off – I took pride in the fact that as a first time mom I didn’t get panicky over every little bump or fall. My son would take a tumble and I would tell him to “shake it off” instead of running to his rescue. This worked well for awhile. My son didn’t dramatize every little bump. Like most two-year-olds, he loved to run. Though still would trip over his own feet quite a bit. One day, pretending to let him win a race we were having down the sidewalk, he fell over (like many other times). He got up, I said shake it off and he took off running to win the race. Proudly, he turned around with a huge smile and blood covering his face.

Stormy: No really, I’m sick – My older daughter has an unusual relationship with pain. She has a crazy high threshold for physical pain: Shots when she was a toddler, broken bones, acute appendicitis, all hardly elicited a wince. At the same time, she has a low threshold for emotional pain or drama. So in grade school, when she told me she was sick and wanted to stay home, I chalked it up to “school-itis” and insisted she go. An hour later, I got the call from the school nurse. My daughter had thrown up in the hallway on the way to class. Discomfort and embarrassment. Way to go, mom.

KitKat: Full moon – As an over-scheduled family, we are often running out the door in a panic to make it to different events and activities. My kids learned early that they better be able to fend for themselves to get ready for anything they deemed important enough to show up on time. For the most part, they show up presentable. One Saturday after arriving at gymnastics class, I learned my daughter didn’t have on her required shorts over her leotard. She just turned five so I do usually check her out before leaving the house, but it was an extra crazy morning. It might not seem like a big deal. I didn’t think so as I sent her in with a quick apology to the teacher and took my spot with other parents to watch from behind the glass. I saw my sweet daughter run out. As she turned to face her teacher, all of the parents were faced with my daughter’s now-turned-thong leotard. I spent an hour listening to the giggles of the other parents as my daughter mooned us in a variety of positions.

Stormy: Bad day on the playground – My newly adopted Chinese daughter was 5 years old when she had an unpleasant encounter with a wood play set. We picked her up from day care and my usually sunny girl was crabby and whiney for the next hour or so (but whining in Chinese, so we didn’t really know what she was complaining about). Finally, at dinner she was scowling and wincing and gesturing to her bottom, so I took her into the bathroom and made her “drop trou.” There, embedded in her rosy little behind was a 2×4. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. It literally was the equivalent of half a toothpick. I yelled for my husband (do you see a theme here?) who extracted the offending splinter from my grateful daughter’s delicate derriere. In fact, after removing it and washing it off, we taped it to a piece of cardboard and labeled it, for posterity. Or for posterior-ity, if you will.

KitKat: Time to learn a lesson – My son is careless with his things.  Off our watch and at school it is even worse. His desk and locker is a disorganized mess. We have missed conference appointment times, homework, and teacher notes that were crumbled in his desk. Numerous water bottles and clothing items have left for school and never returned. It is a constant battle we have with him. Take care of your things. Be responsible. When it was time for a skating session in P.E. class and he wanted to bring full hockey gear, we sat down and discussed that his equipment is valuable and he has to bring it home each night. Sure enough by the fifth day he showed up at home with no gear. Instantly he started his defense, how he put it nicely away after class and someone must have stolen it. He did look for it. It wasn’t his fault. That is when my tirade started about how careless he is with his things and always had an excuse. After making him sit through a lot of talk about responsibility, telling him he could help pay to replace it and adding on the dreaded no electronics punishment – I stormed off saying maybe he would finally learn his lesson. It was a long weekend. Then, the following Monday, we got a call from school saying they had found his equipment. It had accidentally got moved by a janitor when moving some tables around and they were sorry for any inconvenience. They had found his nicely packed bag, safely tucked into the other classroom. My lesson ended up in being how to say sorry when you are wrong.

Kool-aid for grown-ups
Kool-aid for grown-ups

Stormy: Putting the teeny in Martini – And my greatest shining moment, my crowning achievement of parenting, was the time my family and my sister’s tried to escape the relentless winter with a hotel water park getaway in downtown Minneapolis. After several hours in the water park, my husband was in my sister’s room watching the hockey game with my brother-in-law and the kids were in my room watching Nickelodeon. I jumped in the shower to wash the chlorine off of myself and came out to find the kids huddled around my youngest who looked positively green. “What’s wrong?” I asked my son. He responded that my petite 5-year old daughter had poured a glass of Kool-aid and wasn’t feeling well. I looked at the plastic pitcher no longer full of the bright, colorful liquid inside—not Kool-aid, but premixed Cosmopolitans. Nearly 100% booze. I panicked for a bit: How much had she drank? How would I explain this to the paramedics? I spent several minutes debating the lesser of two evils: Having the Department of Human Services questioning my obviously neglectful parenting or having my daughter experience alcohol poisoning. When I looked at my little girl, her skin was pale and her eyes were glassy–this wasn’t good. Then, she promptly threw up the bright pink poison. Immediately, the color came back in her face and her eyes brightened. Crisis averted. I could keep my terrible parenting a secret. Well, until now. But since my daughter is now a beautiful, happy 18-year-old, I managed to get her to adulthood in spite of myself.

KitKat: On the rocks – Stormy isn’t the only mom who inadvertently provided their child with a taste of liquor well before appropriate. In the summer, often after work I go up on my balcony to enjoy some fresh air, a VO Manhattan and page through a magazine. Once in awhile the kids will follow and my daughter would always ask for ice. I’d grab one from the glass and suck off any lingering whiskey (or so I thought) before feeding it to her. This would keep her quiet for a bit, which was a big deal at three. One morning, she asked for ice and my husband grabbed one out of the freezer. We were quickly told his ice didn’t taste good like Mommy’s. No wonder she was quiet! From then on I remembered to bring a cup of pure ice out with me.

Okay, it’s clear that neither of us are going to be getting Mother of the Year anytime soon. Does anyone else have a good story to share? After all, this whole parenting gig is Easier Said Than Done…

Fear the Yeti

If you’re wondering what the hell a Yeti is, you’re not alone. I found myself googling it during my son’s hockey game as I heard the parent next to me shout it out as our boys came onto the ice. I was already having trouble keeping up signswith understanding the game … icing, offsides, cross-checking … I never could figure out why the referee was blowing the whistle. (I called him an umpire till my son scoffingly corrected me on a drive home one evening.)

I’m assuming you’re already getting the impression I am not the world’s best hockey mom. And, if you had asked me what sport I would be managing my life around—that is if I actually had to choose one—hockey would not have been it. For starters, I hate the cold. I already live in Minnesota, so why would I add on the torture of standing inside a cold arena? There’s not even a chance to warm up from the below-zero walk from the car. Plus, I was not so ignorant about the sport to not know that the costs and time dedicated to it were much higher than for those of many other activities my son could choose to participate in. But, in tandem with how the rest of this parenting gig has seemed to go, nothing turns out as I would plan it. He fell in love with hockey. 

With three practices a week and at least one game, hockey has become the center of family activities. We plan around it. The schedule hanging on the fridge at home is synched with my Outlook at work. There have been times we have been dragging kids out of bed for a 7:30 a.m. game and others starting a long drive home from an outlying rink an hour past normal bedtimes on a school night. My daughter’s most whined phrase has become, “Do we have to go to hockey again?” 

And let’s not forget the mandatory volunteer duty. As my son moves up the hockey ranks, so do the hours as parents we are committed to serve. Twelve hours this year that my husband and I had to work off at the concession stand. Looking on the bright side, it saved me a lot of snack money and calories once I actually had a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations. hotdogs

It was looking to be a long season. Never having been an active sports participant or fan, I just didn’t get it. Well, then I started to. 

Something happened as I watched these boys play together as a team. It was something I had never before seen in my overly competitive and fairly self-centered son. Everything was bigger than him when it came to this group of boys. It was all about The Team. If one of them had a bad game, there was no finger-pointing or griping as I witnessed too many times in even a casual game of kickball in our front yard with friends. These boys rallied around each other. Every scored goal was an exciting win for all. I would hear detailed recaps of all the parts played by each team member in getting that puck to just the right position. I would watch the team hurry back to protect their goalie when the other team grabbed the puck. Never was a goal blocked or scored without everyone on the ice patting our goalie in congratulations or “good try” before lining back up for the next face off. And they weren’t the best team. In fact, the season started with a 12-1 loss to a farm team who towered over ours and skated rings around all our players. But these boys grew together as a team. Soon I found myself cheering and yelling for each of the boys by name right along with the others. I took pride in watching each of their huge strides in development as individual players and as a team: Proving their growth as they lost only 5-4 in overtime to the same team two months later.

And it wasn’t just on the ice they were a unified team. These boys bonded as friends. It was very different than their relationships with school friends. There were no pretenses. They didn’t have to act cool, dress a certain way or have a pecking order. They were just the crew. At an out-of-town tournament, I would watch my son wake up in the morning grab a hotel key and throw on a hat to meet the other boys at breakfast. This was the same boy who normally would want me to find out where the other kids were, determine whether or not they were they in their pajamas and wouldn’t join others till invited in the group. I heard other parents on the team saying the same thing. There were no insecurities. They could fully just be themselves and fit right in.

I met some great parents, too. None of us were too intense about the standings, but we all would be jumping up and down on a good play and nervously pacing as we watched our kids in a final shoot out to end the game after two overtimes had past. (I did learn some of how the game worked!) We knew each other’s kids and cheered for them as loudly as our own. We knew how each boy would react to a win or a loss. 

Well, the season is now coming to an end. At our last game, the kids were begging the coach to get them all on the same team again next year. They didn’t hockeywant to play with anyone else. Well, that isn’t how it works, and the coach promised them they all had a lot of hockey ahead of them including other great teams to be part of. I found myself feeling sad, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m already looking forward to starting it again next year. It was fun to be part of something. Working (or cheering) together and sharing in both the wins and the losses. I also now understand why you hear so much about the importance of girls also playing team sports, especially during high school years. A feeling of being part of something beyond yourself is so important, plus feeling like you belong somewhere. That team dynamic I had never experienced. (It was pretty amazing just witnessing it.) But, I will make sure my daughter does, and I am happy to tag along on my son’s journey for now.

One thing I won’t mind is a small break from the dictating ice-time schedule. This week, as I invited friends over for dinner, I had to add the caveat, “…that is, if we aren’t placed in the evening bracket.”  Though my friend’s response was, “We’d love to. But, I can’t say for sure till I know how my son’s basketball tournament pans out.” With the end of the season, I can take back control of my schedule. That is until baseball starts. 

And, if you haven’t googled it yet, a yeti is another name for the “abominable snowman” who is pictured on our Storm team’s jerseys. “Fear the Yeti” became our team chant. It may also make for a good vision board slogan next year, I find it seems to help me as a meditative chant in my mind that both makes me smile and feel some power. Much better then that “ohm” stuff that has never worked for me.