My Love Affair with Hockey

I didn’t always love Hockey. It only took one pre-adolescent trip-up on double-bladed skates for me to decide I should stick to sports that aren’t played on frozen surfaces. And so my father, a former collegiate player himself, swapped his skates for a softball glove and spent his weekends at track meets instead of hockey games. He wasn’t offended that his three daughters had little interest in his personal sport of preference. On the topic, he only had one request : “Never date a hockey player”.

And so I made it through the first nineteen years of my life with very little understanding of the sport. How many innings(?) were played in a single game… how many players were on a roster… Which hall-of-famers played for which NHL team… That was until, in the fashion of a stereotypical daughter, I found myself at odds with my father’s one wish. I didn’t do it as an intentional act of rebellion, but I started dating a hockey player.

So began my love stories with Kevin in particular and the sport of hockey in general. Falling in love with one was quicker and easier than falling in love with the other. One had wit and charm, blue eyes, and a cute South Boston accent. The other had lots of rules I didn’t understand, a cold venue, and an NHL network that always interfered with my reality TV viewing schedule.

When I started watching Kevin play, I didn’t know much about what I was seeing. The whole experience stressed me out. I’d sit there in the Whittemore Center Arena, clapping nervously when other Wildcats clapped, and just hoping the puck wouldn’t go in the net.

As time went on, however, Kevin’s passion started to rub off on me. Without meaning to, I learned about the game. I soon found myself reading plays as they developed, analyzing the quality of shots made on net, and actually enjoying hockey highlights over breakfast. I knew what systems should look like, and when ref’s made iffy calls. I could match NHL-ers to their teams, recognize different styles of goaltending, and appreciate a good, high-intensity hockey game.

Just when I was starting to think Hockey wasn’t so bad after all, it really upped its game and sent us on all sorts of wonderful adventures. It brought us to Providence where Kev and I spent our engagement in an adorable East Side apartment. Just a few weeks after our honeymoon, it sent us to la bella Italia for two seasons. Next it landed our newly expanded family in Wichita, the land of Sunny Decembers and smoky barbecues. And then, with a second baby on the way, it flew us to beautiful Scotland where we’ve been ever since.

It hasn’t always been perfect, nor would I have expected it to be. Hockey comes with a lot of baggage, literally and figuratively speaking. There is a lot of pressure and very little stability in such a performance-driven career. There are challenges to living away from our families. There is packing. (A LOT of packing.) There are everyday stressors magnified by being in foreign surroundings. But even in the hardships, there are positives. As I watched Kevin rehab from potentially career-ending injuries, I admired his resilience and work ethic. When we needed support we would have found in our families back home, we found it in our Hockey communities. When we struggled to balance his schedule with our graduate programs, parenthood, and marriage… when all we had was each other, we learned how strong we are together.

Maybe it’s just me getting sentimental as the season winds down, but somewhere over the past eleven seasons I fell in love Hockey. I love it for showing me places I never would have seen, introducing me to people I never would have met. For bringing out of Kevin some of his best qualities, the ones I fall in love with every day. For teaching me to be more flexible, inspiring my wanderlust. And for challenging us as a couple in the best possible way.

Now, all that said…. as much as I love Hockey, I will likely be a bit of a stress-case in the stands this weekend, feeling the pressure of a do-or-die playoff series. I’ll be cursing the clock for going too slow if we are ahead and too fast if we are behind. I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat, cursing my Hockey affection for driving me on the verge of crazy…

love can do that sometimes. 


Lessons of a Tummy Bug

You know it’s going to be a long night when you wake up to your husband asking you to help him determine whether your one-year-old is covered (COVERED!!) in puke or poop. Puke or Poop? Sounds like an awful gameshow category. Baby looks completely exhausted (and rightfully so seeing as its 3am). You check his diaper and, since it’s clear, you know it’s the other end that’s responsible for producing the vile-smelling substance that’s filled his bed and he’s apparently rolled in. You’re weirdly relieved. Is it better to be cleaning vomit than shit from your baby’s neck folds and hair? Probably. The Would-You-Rather game takes on a whole new level when you have kids.

And so the night progressed with more of the same, big brother, joining in the fun shortly after. It was the first time, and likely not the last, that BOTH babies in our house were hit with a tummy bug in the same night. And here were some things I learned from the enlightening experience, one that serves as yet another rite of passage in parenthood…

1.     Do not under any circumstances give your baby a glass of milk following a vomiting episode. Even if it appears to have been an isolated incident. Even if he’s begging you for it “milk. Milk. MILK, MILK!!!”. It WILL come back up. Almost immediately. But not before you’ve cleaned his bed, changed the sheets, and dressed him in a fresh pair of pajamas.

2.     Vomit smells absolutely, positively, repulsive. I had hoped there was some sort of maternal odor immunity that comes with having children, but that is not the case. I am always surprised by how disgusting it is, irrespective of who it comes from. And how that phantom smell persists long after it’s been Lysol-ed away.

3.     You have approximately one hour and twenty-seven minutes before another child in your household is up with the same bug that tormented the first one earlier. You have approximately thirty-two seconds after that “mommmmmmyyyyy” wake-up call has been issued to get that child to the toilet.

4.     It is in these moments that you are most strongly reminded of how single parents are truly the most kick-ass people out there. How do they do THIS?? ALONE?! And so follows my incredible gratitude to my husband for being all-in even when the going gets rough. I see him climbing up the stairs with a third batch of cleaning supplies, comic sound effects bouncing off him, “KAPOW” “KABOOM” “BOING”, like a handsome Calvin-Klein-boxer-brief-wearing superhero. Maybe it’s the fumes from the cleaning products, but I swear he’s as handsome as ever. Mommy goggles I guess. I am such a sucker for seeing my guy being such a good daddy to our boys.

5.     The cuddles you get the next day almost make you forget about the fact that you were up all night scrubbing puke off the floors and rubbing your toddler’s back while he stood over the toilet. You all snuggle on the couch watching Frozen for the millionth time and life isn’t bad at all. This will be the light at the end of the tunnel that I’ll hold onto the next time a stomach virus rolls around.


Don't Laugh, Sarah.

You think your day was hard? Try NOT laughing at some of the shit a toddler says. This be-the-responsible-adult-and-don’t-laugh thing is really difficult. Especially when you are chronically sleep-deprived because things are always funnier when you are tired. The problem with laughing at something your toddler does is that it encourages them to do it again. This is not a secret to toddler parenting, but a fact of human nature: It’s fun being funny. And toddlers are often funniest when their innocent curiosity crosses the line with inappropriateness. They are candid comedians, but, if you're trying to raise conduct-appropriate citizens, you must represent a stone-faced audience. Here are a few instances where it’s been the most difficult and simultaneously most important that I NOT laugh.

1. Toddler is being irrational.
This happens a lot. Take, for instance, when I unwrap a granola bar that’s split in half and Brayden absolutely refuses to eat it because it’s “broken”. Screaming fit ensues because he’s starving. Starving!! And yet, he can’t imagine eating a perfectly good, albeit broken, snack. Or, here's another example: he’s throwing a tantrum because I simply cannot do anything right. I push his seat in too close to the table, then pull it out too far. He wants the yellow cup with blue lid not the red cup with green lid (obviously). He wants his pancakes cut up smaller, but not THAT small (clearly I’m an idiot). And on and on it goes until he ultimately decides he doesn’t want pancakes and eggs at all. Instead he wants the slice of pumpkin bread that I’d offered him at the start of this whole debacle and he’d refused. It’s funny because it’s all so absurd. Is this little person really THIS irrational? Yes. He is. But he's also clearly distraught so laughing would be a cruel response. Look away from that ridiculous but equally adorable pouty face. Leave the room. Give him a hug. Whatever you do, don’t laugh at him. 

2. Toddler reacts unfavorably to having to share his mother.
I want my sons to know I love them both. Equally. And that, though they have to share their mommy and daddy, they get a brother out of the bargain. So, I like to use their bouts of jealousy as learning opportunities. I can’t do that, however, if I’m laughing. Picture this: I am making lunch and a cranky/hungry/i-don’t-know-why-I’m-crying Tyler is gripping to my leg like a spider monkey. Meanwhile, his older brother is having a fit of his own across the kitchen. When I ask him what's wrong, he screams, “that’s MYYYYYYYY leg”. In other words, my right leg, the one Tyler is clinging to, actually belongs to Brayden. Maybe it's the chaos of the minute, but his claiming possession over one of my limbs triggers a giggle. I quickly rein it in. “Actually, Brayden, that is my leg. But if you really must borrow a leg of mine to cry on like your brother, you can use my other one. I have two boys I love and I have two legs.” Learning opportunity seized! Christ help me if I have a third child.

3. Toddler discusses his private parts.
Ugh. The innate fascination a boy has with his penis is truly remarkable. My 14-month old can’t find his nose but he can easily say “pee-pee” and locate what he obviously identifies as a more important body part. I’ve read enough about this to know that it is normal. For the sake of preserving what is a natural and healthy curiosity, it’s best not to scorn their behavior. But you don’t want them running around in public yelling “Look, mommy! There’s a ball in my penis” either. So you just have to develop some matter-of-fact responses. “Yes. I see that.” and “No. You shouldn’t play with them in public”. Or, you might need to practice non-reaction. This is probably a more difficult alternative because when I hear my two-year-old say “Look, mommy! My penis is getting bigger” it’s really hard not to cringe.

4. Toddler uses the potty in a public place. 
There’s a lot of descriptive dialogue that my little guy uses on the toilet. When we are in the privacy of our own home, I am generally unfazed by the exclamatory remarks about the bubbles in his pee or the size, smell, and consistency of his “poopies”. It’s when he’s pooping in public restrooms, something he’s actually quite keen on doing, where my maturity is really put to the test. It’s hard not to laugh knowing there are strangers listening to the whole thing… his grunting, followed closely by a, “That was a BIIIIGGGG splash, mommy!” I can’t fault the kid for anything more than stating a fact. I mean, it WAS a big splash. Should something so big come out of someone so small? I make a mental note to google that later. “That was a stinky poopy, mommy.” Another truth. That woman waiting for the bathroom picked a really bad time for a pee break. I really don’t want to encourage potty-talk so I swallow the yes-this-is-the-story-of-my-life-now laugh that’s stuck in my throat. And it’s not easy because I’m also trying not to breathe.

5. Toddler premeditates assaulting his younger brother with a vegetable. 
You always know when Brayden is up to no good. Just ask, and he will tell you. The other day, I spotted him walking towards the kitchen with a large cucumber in hand. Why he had a cucumber at all, let alone outside of the kitchen is irrelevant, but I'm guessing it has something to do with Tyler helping me "unpack" groceries earlier in the afternoon. The part that really got me was his very matter-of-fact response when I asked him what he was up to. "I'm going to hit Tyler in the head with a cucumber". What did you just say? “I’m going to hit Tyler in the head with a cucumber.” Oh. Ok. Just wanted to make sure I heard you correctly. 

Don’t laugh, Sarah, don’t laugh.