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Hockey implants

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My daughter and I were hockey implants this past weekend.

It’s not what you think.

Technically, she was the implant, I was the transplant.

She was invited by another team to a hockey tournament in Jay Peak, Vermont (uh huh, so skiing was also involved too!) as a pick-up player. Several players from a team in her association were unable to attend this tournament so they get to pick up players from another team, hence their invitation to us – I mean, my daughter. It was her job to play hockey for this team; it was my job to get her there (well, my husband’s. Given there was skiing involved, we made this a ski-hockey-waterpark weekend).

It seems a lot of parents of recreational hockey won’t travel to out-of-town tournaments. Cost, time, winter roads, whatever. But out-of-town hockey tournaments is what I love about being a hockey mom (in fact, they may even be why I tolerate minor hockey).

And I’m not the only one. When our hockey years are behind us, I can guarantee you that all three of my kids will look back on their minor hockey careers and the out-of-town tournaments as being the bomb dot com. (I learned that phrase from my daughter and I can’t stop using it.)

Out-of-town hockey tournaments offer an opportunity to play teams from other cities (heck, from other countries, as was the case this past weekend!) and is like a mini-vacation (despite a typically busy game schedule particularly if your team advances beyond round robin play). It offers a brief but reliable antidote to the ho-hum doldrums of the cold, Canadian winter. It offers families the chance to dispense with normal routine of school and work – and to travel and sleep in close quarters (the only form of winter camping I’ll agree to).  It offers the potential of a new town or city or food or folklore to explore and who can deny the enriched learning experience kids derive from hotel swimming pools, mini stick hockey in the lobby and terrorizing hotel security guards after quiet hour (despite me having signed numerous waivers over the years promising precisely not to do so!)??

Some of the teams my kids have been on have had six tournaments a season (when playing competitive hockey) and some of our teams have only been to two. Regardless of the number or the timing (except for maybe The Great Hockey Weekend of 2012, which we do not speak of in our household), I will never vote down a hockey tournament weekend.

I like hockey tournaments. I know my kids love hockey tournaments.

I liked being a hockey implant and I’m certain my daughter enjoyed being a hockey implant too.

And I think we make the perkiest of hockey implants out there!

ice haus

Adventures in Solo Travel

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Kids today are so lucky.  They have fewer chores (because they’re so busy) and they get to go everywhere (because they’re parents feel guilty leaving them at home). Parents today are much more adventurous in travelling with their children. I realize I’m part of this culture, indulging my children in all sorts of travel adventures. In return, I hope my kids will look back upon our family travels and continue to be inspired by the world and long to see more of it … preferably on their own … soon.

So my daughter recently experienced the pinnacle of childhood adventures:  the solo voyage. As in sans parents. When family and summer scheduling conflicts prevented us from attending a much loved beach week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my daughter somehow managed to finagle an invite from her uncle to go to the beach with his family – complete with puppy dog eyes, curled lip and promises of ‘I won’t be any trouble at all …’, I have no doubt . Naturally he, being entirely defenceless to the puppy dog eyes and curled lip look, agreed.

us customsThe first significant hitch she encountered was US Customs.  I guess runaways are extremely clever these days, including those with an official consent to travel form notarized by a lawyer, signed by both parents AND carrying a return airline ticket. Evidently US customs officials are impervious to the puppy dog look and curled lip routine but good on her for trying. She fared much better with Canadian Border Services upon her return and the usual, “Are you bringing back any weapons, alcohol or tobacco?’ was replaced with “I bet you had a lot of fun! Welcome back.”

This solo adventure of hers took another unfortunate turn when Hurricane Arthur decided to take its own unfortunate turn towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she was staying with my brother. If anyone could turn a hurricane on its heels it would be my daughter, but alas, the Governor did not think know of her powers (primarily reserved for use at our family dinner table), and Dare County issued an evacuation order for Hatteras Island. While I am certain she had visions of a SWAT team lowering their ladders from helicopters evacuating stranded tourists such as herself, she soon found out what it really entailed: a day’s driving stuck in the worst traffic jam imaginable.

And now she is off to sleep over camp for two weeks (something she has done now for seven summers).  While there will certainly be someone there to feed her and do her laundry, I know she will return from camp grateful for a flushing toilet.

bluesfestMy sons are also on their own solo adventures this week. My 18-year old is at the national Canadian Big League Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario (ten days of residence living at Lakehead University will be good training for his body to get used to dorm beds) and my 16-year old is experiencing Ottawa’s largest outdoor musical festival, Bluesfest 2014 (requiring him to master one of the biggest travel obstacles for today’s youth:  public transportation). Their adventures, however, will probably not be titled Adventures in Solo Travel but rather Travel in with Solo-Cup Adventures. Sigh.

So this house is just a little too quiet for me right now and I think it’s time to embark on some solo (or solo cup) travel adventures on my own. But I am a seasoned traveller, right? None of this Customs nonsense, lousy beds, public transportation woes or guilt can get in my way, right?

Stay tuned!

airplane

 

Mascot Confidential

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According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the most dangerous jobs in Canada are in the construction, manufacturing and transportation sectors.  Surprisingly, no mention of mascots.

toufou1I was shocked when I discovered recently that Toufou, the beloved moose mascot of Tremblant Ski Resort in the beautiful Laurentians north of Montreal, now has security detail assigned to him. Evidently being a mascot is more of a high-risk occupation than I thought. Zut alors!

Everyone makes fun of mascots; it’s not just me, right? They’re obnoxious and kind of freaky but I don’t want to see them hurt. Except the one who knock over my beverage … him I want to hurt.

My daughter was a TouFou-stalker, but a I’m-a-cute-three-year-old kind of stalker. The minute we’d arrive at Tremblant, she’d look for that crazy moose everywhere and if she caught sight of him, she’d knock over everything in her path to get to him (including my beverage).  As a 12-year old, she now understands fully that TouFou is not a real moose, but it is still an annual tradition for her to have her picture taken with him.

So upon arrival to Tremblant over March Break, we strolled about the pedestrian village and it did not take too long for our first TouFou sighting. As my daughter posed for her annual photo with Moosey (as she still affectionately refers

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to her childhood friend), I joked with his security guard: “Mais voyons donc! TouFou’s making the big time now, eh? Needs security?” The security guard nodded but was not offering up any details about would not offer up any information as to his raison d’être.

As March Break lore goes, TouFou once got a little too personal with a few ladies who were dancing to the music in Place St. Bernard square. Seems the boyfriend of one of those ladies (probably after too many trips to the dépanneur) did not appreciate TouFou’s mingling with his lady and decided to teach that maudit TouFou a lesson toute de suite. Even worse, instead of telling simply telling their friend to manger de la marde, a whole group of his buddies joined in in giving TouFou an old-fashionable mascot thrashing.

I sure hope TouFou wasn’t seriously hurt but it certainly explains why he is now accompanied everywhere by someone whose vision is not impaired by a 2-foot wide head. But I also couldn’t help laughing at the stupidity of this obviously drunker-than-a skunk (or moose) reveller.

Just imagine the conversation with his girlfriend:

GF: “Seriously? C’est quoi ton problème?”

BF: “Well, he was – like – trying to grab your butt!”

GF: “Grab my butt. Really. With his paw. Uh-huh.”

BF: “I don’t like you dancing with other guys.”

GF: “Other guys? or just 7-foot tall biped moose?”

And what would a father say to his son after such a brawl?

Father: “Nice shiner, Son! What did the other guy look like?”

Son: “Uh, well gee Dad, I honestly didn’t get a good look at him”, which is probably safer than “he wasn’t wearing any pants but I’m pretty sure he had antlers”.

Franchement! But honestly don’t feel too bad for poor TouFou, he still gets all the girls!

As for the stupid idiot that prompted Tremblant to assign security to TouFou? Well, thanks to his girlfriend and father, he’ll be in therapy for years … once he’s out of juvie, that is.

tremblant

Outside my comfort zone…

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Not long ago, my daughter persuaded me to try surfing. I don’t mean internet surfing (on that I am a pro thanks to my highly evolved procrastination skills), I mean the real shaka bra water sport surfing (on which I am most definitely not a pro).  Not that it mattered to my daughter, but Mai Tai and I were perfectly happy enjoying my first visit to the Hawaiian Islands without this sharp turn outside my comfort wake.  Nevertheless she begged for an exciting and inimitable mother-daughter day – and 12 year olds are good beggars (until they turn 16 and can then drive themselves). “What the heck?”I thought, “When in Hawaii …” Well, I can now tell you the correct answer here is, ‘drink a Mai Tai’.

Despite a profound lack of experience and misguided sense of athleticism, I relented.  I was counting on my strong Canadian running legs to carry me over these waves, forgetting that my strong Canadian running legs were old and not at all that strong. I then carefully chose a surfing company that specialized in Beginners and Cowards because I am both (I kid you not; it’s right there on their website), and guaranteed their students to be surfing by the end of the lesson (though no reference was made to exactly how and the word ‘gracefully’ was omitted from their pledge). I was relieved to be paired with a father-son duo who, like me, had no previous surfing experience.

First wave.  Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. After this unsuccessful first attempt at shredding the nar the other youngster in our grouping asked me excitedly, “Hey Lady, was that you who did that amazing face plant out there?”  Three words I do not ever wish to see, hear or experience together again: amazing and face and plant.  After making sure my bathing suit still covered the significant – I mean appropriate – parts of my body, I quickly wiped the salt water out of my eyes (sea water not tears, thank you) and made my way back to the waves’ breaking point for round two.

Next wave, please. “You’re lovin’ it, right Mama?” Our native Hawaiian instructor, Kihe, had taken to calling me Mama during our land lesson and I carried this nickname into the water.  “Oooooohhh Mama,” he continued, “Here comes a 40-footer!” I don’t think Kihe was aware that I firmly believe that ‘here comes a 40-footer’ is only good news when referring to yachts, not waves.  Noting the panic in my eye, he assured me with a twinkle in his, that he meant the next wave was 40 feet wide not 40 feet high. Funny guy. I smiled nervously and paddled furiously as Kihe instructed me to do.

Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. “Get out of my way!” shouted another novice surfer who erroneously assumed I actually knew how to get out of his way. “Addictive my eye” I muttered to myself, as we collided.  “Deadly is more like it.” There was water in parts of my body where water should not be. My instructor, Kihe, reminded me at my next turn that I need to keep my eye on where I want to go.  “If you look at other people, you’re bound to hit them.  It’s the same in skiing right Mama?  You look at a tree; you’re going to hit the tree!”  Oh my God, how did he know about me and the tree?

Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. Contrary to my wildest dreams but true to the surfing company’s guarantee, I managed to catch a ride on the next wave. There is no doubt in my mind that those 60 seconds of adrenaline were definitely worth the ensuing two hours of work trying to recreate that experience.  For the love of Job, surfers are the most patient people on the planet. And strong.  In case you’re ever wondering why there are so few printed manuals on surfing out there it’s because video would make the following instructions come to life much more effortlessly:  Paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, kneel, stand, surf, kneel, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle,.  Repeat. So where was the part where you just lay down on your surf board and just … well … lay there? That would be a good part; definitely part of my comfort zone.

My daughter stayed behind for a few more rides as I let my surf board and the tide carry me to shore. So endeth the surfing lesson and my retreat to my comfort zone.

Soon thereafter, my son suggested we visit Black Rock for some ‘totally sick cliff jumping’.

‘Yeah.’ I thought, as I mixed another Mai Tai. ‘Send me a post card.’

 

Maui Wave Riders

Author’s note:  to the professional photographer capturing all these wonderful memories on film, I respectfully request to destroy all evidence.  Thank you.  The entire world thanks you.

Have you ventured outside your comfort zone lately?

Earth: The Pinhead of the Universe. Making me … what?

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I recently visited the Museum of Science in Boston with my family and discovered something rather distressing.  We went to the Hayden Planetarium’s presentation of  Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond our Sun which revealed to me in dramatic fashion and great astronomical detail by Harvard and MIT PhDs that I am, against all superior judgment, NOT the centre of the universe.  Okay, that was a bit of a cosmic shock, if I may say so, but I guess I had it coming.

For some people, it’s important to be one leap for mankind closer to answering the almighty question, “are we alone?”, but for me the answer to that question now points to more species slowing my high-speed internet and clogging my satellite TV.  Sad face.

In the two and a half decades since I have graduated from university, astronomers have discovered the existence of exoplanets – planets that are outside our solar system.  An unbelievable 800 or so such planets have been discovered. As astronomers find more of these exoplanets, like HD 142 b in the constellation of Phoenix (yes, that’s far, far, FAR away – farther away than Pluto), I am not only closer to realization that I am not a dominant force in this universe, I now also have to get used to the fact that I am really rather insignificant.  If  our sun is nothing more than a pinhead on a vast sandy beach in the cosmos, what does that make Earth?  More to the pinhead, what does that make me?  A tiny speck?  A speckle of a speck?  A “pinhead” used to be a bit of a derogatory term, but now I find out that being a pinhead at least has some significance in our cosmos … while I have none … barely even a speck of dust! This, on a Monday morning.

During the presentation, I found myself thinking Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, clearly providing some explanation why I am not an astronomer from MIT or Harvard.  Horton said, “There’s a tiny person on that speck that needs my help!”

In the vast cosmos, I am not even a tiny person on a speck.  I’m not even a speck.  I slowly started to feel invisible, like I do at BestBuy on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas.  Or when asking for technical assistance from my internet provider.  Or while waiting 45 minutes for my scheduled doctor’s appointment.  Or when having to wait for my kids down the street around the corner from their teen party.  Come to think of it, apparently I have a great deal of experience being inconsequential!  Horton, I just want you to know that I aspire to be more than just a pinhead.  I’m working hard to be the best terrestrial speck possible!  In the immortal words of Horton, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.

If there was a bright star in this cosmic disappointing discovery it was in reminding my family that THEY are not the centre of the universe either.  And that my star-gazing friends, made my starry, starry night.  Nananabooboo!

Do you wonder if we are not alone?  Or like me, would you rather be left alone?

Mile-High Turbulence

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I often seem to get the middle seat on airplanes (i.e. not aisle and not the window seat).  During their brief safety demonstrations, I wish flight attendants would also provide guidelines to exactly how the occupant of the middle seat is to access anything from beneath their seat let alone the flotation device to which they so conscientiously refer.  While the life vest is only required in “an unlikely event”, accessing my carry-on stowed beneath the seat in front of me, is a more likely event.  I cannot seem to do it.  Seriously, at 5’2”, I am not a large person, and years of practising the cat – cow yoga asana have not improved my flexibility such that I am able to contort myself effectively.  There is simply insufficient room for me to bend over and retrieve my bag without cocking my upper body and head sideways into the crotch of either one of my seatmates.  “Sorry, so sorry!  Just getting my book!”

I’m proud to say that I have, however, perfected that Ninja-like escape over the sleeping aisle seat occupant to retreat to the bathroom at the back of the plan (which is not entirely unlike the CIA Operative moves my once upon a time-toddlers used to pull off manoeuvring into our bed in the middle of the night).  This achievement only took hold after a lifetime of sporadic trans-Atlantic flights holding my bladder the whole time and only once have I accidentally pulled most of the hair of the seat occupant in front of the sleeping passenger while holding on for fear of landing in the previously aforementioned crotch.  I’m much improved now.  Perhaps having accomplished this stealth move, I am now limber enough to hop in and out of my seat to collect my things in the cabins above.

The next airline travel achievement I plan to master?  Circum-navigating the drink cart clogging the aisle for 75% of the trip!  Seems an equally “unlikely event” that these airplane bathroom visits will diminish as I approach mid-life, so this feat might require that Ninja-like skill coupled with a Cirque-du-Soleil -like somersault over the drink cart.  Stay tuned.

With what deeds of dexterity have you managed to dazzle fellow travellers in your cramped-space voyages?

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