Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brian Boitano at Warp Speed /and/ An Ice Show Rehearsal

Thursday night, I made potato soup with cornbread. Stitch and I holed up on the warm futon and watched "Brian Boitano and Friends," which I got from netflix. Stitch would watch for a few moments before getting up and saying, "watch this!"

He'd cavort and twist before falling to the floor in hysterics. This move was named the "flop jump." We then discovered that the DVD could be made oodles more fun by watching it in double speed. Tonya Harding's spins have a weird kaleidoscopic effect, and the pairs lifts look like a shakeweight ad.

We laughed until the soup was gone and our sides ached.

Stitch sighed. "Will they ever put me on a movie?"

"If you skate good, sure. You'd be on the internet, too. Like Michael Weiss, Adam Rippon or Jeremy Abbot."

"Do I have to skate like that?"

"Well, yeah."

"That will never happen," he sighed.

I rolled my eyes. Whenever my mini cynic goes off on a depressing tangent like this, I have learned not to argue. I just change the subject. "Want to watch Beetlejuice?"

Friday night was the first night of the Ice Show rehearsal. (Did you forget about those?) I was excited to meet parents of other boy skaters! Wow! Could we talk? Can we discuss skates and things? I need some help over here!

What I was expecting was a bunch of moms I could chat with. What I got was two lackluster dads who clearly wanted to be somewhere else. The kids did a small routine (which was cute) and the dads just talked endlessly about their kids' busy schedules. One boy swims four days a week, skates five, and also does some kind of football. Another does hockey and also swims. (but he doesn't like lessons.)

All in all, no help. Stitch came off the ice declaring the routine "easy!" I asked if he wanted to stay for public skate to play and he said yes.

One of the boys in his group class showed up. "Hi!" he marched over.

"Hey," I greeted him. "How was your week?"

"It was good," he stammered. "I'm practicing for competition tryouts!"

Uh, what? "What are those?" I asked.

"Well, when 'they' see a boy that's good, they want him to compete, and I'm good!"

What the hell was this business? I never got a chance to find out, and I didn't really care. "Stitch is doing his first competition next weekend, maybe you guys can compete against each other," I said, still being friendly.

Well, that took the wind out of his sails. He never mentioned it to me again. Stitch played with his friend, mostly making snowballs again, not really practicing and I didn't push. Class is winding down, and when the competition is over we'll be taking a short break in our schedule.

We left with cheery goodbyes and "See you tomorrows."

Competition tryouts?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore...

Skate day. Group Lessons. Again. More Crossovers.

"I HATE CROSSOVERS," says Stitch as we cross the parking lot.

"I know. I'm sorry."

We ran into Coach X on the way in, and we chatted briefly. Skate Dad was also there; he has a kid in Pre-Freestyle and another in Freestyle 5, and we all talked for a moment about getting the Boys together in a class, to share costs and to encourage more boys to figure skate. I thought it was a great idea, and one that needs pursuing.

Stitch skated fast in class. Too fast. I could see poor Coach M begging him to slow down and do his crossovers correctly rather than blowing through them. Dad, S and I laughed and made trouble in the bleachers, pointing out the awesome skaters and that one girl who keeps blowing through levels despite her awful skates. She got bumped to Beta!

The kids ended up playing a game of "red light, green light" and then class ended. Nutso never said hi to me, never even came up into the bleachers. She stayed right by the ice door, scowling. Precious and Shuffles told me that they were going to play hockey together. Precious made the weird statement that she didn't want to dress in "those skinny tights." Hm. More weirdness from the Nutso Clan.

Afterwards Stitch and I hit the mall for a "lucky charm." I told him he would need one for his competition, now just two weeks away. He picked out a silver enameled four-leaf clover. I thought that was perfect.

Then we did something different. I broke out a map and a time sheet for The Rink Over There. The one where the competition was. We were going to public skate there, to see the rink, get our bearings, so as not to be so befuddled and surprised on the big day.

I only got lost for a moment, when I missed the turn, and had to make a series of U-turns to get back on track. We pulled into the lot, following the signs "ICE RINKS."

"Look for kids with Zuca Bags," I told Stitch.

We didn't have to. A bunch of hockey kids were doing jumping jacks on the sidewalk, with coffee klatches of moms huddled nearby. Yes, this must be the Ice Rink. This particular park district has a "sport complex," with gyms, ice rinks, pools and parks in one place. It's huge. We went in a door marked "Main Entrance," and were greeted by Halloween decorations and a banner, "BIG ISI COMPETITION! IS THERE A CHAMPION IN YOU? REGISTER NOW!"

Oh, wow. This is real, isn't it?

"Hi," I went to the front desk. "We'd like to do Public Skate."

"It doesn't start until four," said the big woman behind the counter.

"I know. We're a bit early. That's okay."

"Nine dollars, please."

I paid our way, we got stamped, and we went to find "Rink A."

Rink A also happens to be where Stitch will be competing, so I felt lucky. The Rink was just finished Practice Ice. We sat down and watched some pretty powerful skaters; double jumps and flying camels. What surprised me was the fact that there were lower level skaters on that same ice. One poor girl was being coached to death. She was trying so hard to land what looked like a double toe loop (could be mistaken) and kept two-footing it. Her coach, a big guy with a thick accent, kept fussing at her. I would have called it. She clearly looked too tired to continue on, but I'm just a mom. But as she kept on trying, her attempts got worse and worse. I felt for her, she looked so disappointed in herself. Poor thing.

The bleachers were nice, and there were theatrical lights permanently installed overhead. The hockey boxes were deep, and clearly where the judges would be seated. I pointed that out to Stitch, who was laying belly down across a few bleacher seats.

"Will there be a spotlight?" He asked.

"Probably not. Why? Do you want one?"


"Wait. You don't want pictures or video of you, and you don't want people looking at you, but you want a spotlight on you?"

*pause. Beat.* "Yes."


Stitch is a magnet for vending machines, and it didn't take him more than five minutes to find the machines at this rink. He grabbed two bucks and took off for a snack. "If you get lost, just tell someone you need to get to Rink A!" I called after him.


He was gone.

I watched routines to bad pop music, girls struggling with jumps and I debated where I was. What the hell. What am I doing here? Big Girl two footed her jump in her skates sparkling with Swarovski crystal, her face etched with pain and labor. Someone else scratched a bad fall right in front of me, the sound of her body thudding into the glass. Is this my future?

Stitch came back in time to see skaters still jumping even as the Zamboni chased them off. "WHAT IS GOING ON??"

"I don't know. I know Rink Pal would never allow that," I said, referring to our friend the Rink Guard.

I put on skates and we set off as the one Rink Guard opened the door.

The ice was harder, deeply gouged, and had a soft blue tint. Beyond that, it was the same. Little hockey boys and their dads, small girls in sparkly skate dresses, moms reading and acting bored in the stands, and people huddled by the ice door, blocking the way and creating a traffic jam. I skated my workout; swizzles, forward stroking, backwards swizzles and backwards pumps. Stitch played and spun, then realized he could get in the hockey box and no one would care. I joined him.

"What do you think?"

He shrugged.

"You ready for this?"



We then declared the evening to be "Fiesta Night." I stopped at a grocery store, taking the long way home past all the train stations and crossings. We got a few hot dogs, a party tray and some chocolate soda.

I tossed the top down and we rode with what might be the last warm evening of fall in our hair. "When we skate at home tomorrow," I shouted back to him. "Tell Rink Pal that he needs to get to That Other Rink. They clearly need him!"

"Yeah! Those hockey kids were going the wrong way!"

How much longer do I have of Public Skate being a viable practice option, anyway?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is my kid Weird?

Yesterday was Parent/Teacher conference day. I met with Stitch's teacher, and the first thing I asked was, "Is he acting normal?"

"Very normal, just different."
"Oh good. Sometimes I think that if he ever asked me for a Spiderman toy, I'd breathe a sigh of relief."

She told me he was doing very well in reading and writing. He's in the advanced group, in fact, and has proclaimed to the class that he is "a writer." He even wrote it on their whiteboard.

I didn't quite know what to think. He's taken to writing a lot at home, and I often find him in bed reading about his trains or indulging in comic books.

She did have some concerns about his lack of attention to detail. "Ask him anything about a book he's read, and he can tell you. His comprehension is phenomenal," she said. "But ask him to write down those details, and he won't do it. I know he CAN, he just WON'T."

I sighed. "It has to be his idea," I said. "If it's not his idea, he won't have anything to do with it. The same thing happens with skating. Tell him to practice and he won't. But let a good jivy number come on over the speakers and he will take to center ice and dance."

"He is also so sensitive," she went on. "Whenever I get stern, he thinks I am yelling. I'm not, I just have to be firm sometimes."

"Yes. He's like that with his coach as well. I'm working on that."

I was feeling a little mystified and scared. When Stitch was learning to read, it felt like a brick wall.

"Read this,"
"Read that."
"What does that say?"
"But it's a simple word."

Honestly I thought Kindergarten was going to be torture. But then something "clicked" in his head, and it was a torrent of understanding. Now he reads easily at a fourth grade level.

Writing was the same way.

"You have to write."
"Just take your time."
"This isn't hard..."
"Just sit and write. Write about anything."

But then something "clicked", and now he loves writing. He leaves notes for me, for dad, for teachers, everyone. He writes his own little comics, his own stories. The story he wrote for class was "something I'd expect to see published," said his teacher. His handwriting and spelling is atrocious, but once you translate, what you get is something with humor and insight.

She then told me that one day she was reading a story to the class, and Stitch became so moved by one of the passages that he stood up, hugged her for a moment and said, "Thank you for that story, Ms. Teacher." She is astounded at his patience, his tolerance of other students, his compassion. "You are blessed to have him."

"You should see his room."

Stitch hated the Ballet class, but when we went to skate Thursday evening, he was attempting to do a Splits on the ice. Coach wants him to come back, but I need to tell her, "Not yet. Give it time. He's not ready yet."

"Practice your crossovers."
"You just have to do ten in each direction."
"But you cheat. You need to lean more into them."
"Hold out your arms."

At some point, something is going to "click", and I will relish that day. If history sets any precedent for Stitch, that day will be the day to watch.

He skated to his own tune last night. After I made him practice crossovers, he spun at center ice until he fell down, dizzy and laughing. I had told Teacher that I wanted Stitch to skate for exercise, for self confidence, as an outlet for that artistic side he so obviously has. She agreed with me; he needs a source of confidence and pride. Stitch has said that he wants to build his own railroad when he grows up, but a kid who dances and spins in my living room can't spend all day tied up in rails and steam.

So, I work at my motherhood surrounded by a mess of shredded paper, destroyed workbooks, posters of Jeremy Abbott and Michael Weiss, sometimes indecipherable poems and stories, and various gauges of model trains and tracks. I kiss him goodnight and note that his hair stinks of ice rink. I check on him as I go to bed, finding that he's arranged his pillows, blankets and stuffed animals into an ungainly "nest" with arms and legs poking out at uncomfortable angles. A book will typically thump to the floor, an old Junior Encyclopedia volume about steam engines that he is laboriously working through. I guess I am blessed without Spiderman.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finding Ice Time

Did you know that if you write "Public Ice" often enough on your calendar, it starts to look like "Pubic Lice?"

I'm sitting and staring and debating and I'm starting to understand why some moms pull their spawn out of school to make way for skating. I get it. You look at these schedules and it's just a half hour shy of school being out. Or in. When you factor in a Coach, and her schedule, and it gets even more confusing. "I can do this day or this time, but not then. Perhaps next week? What about then?"

Pre-Freestyle Ice seems to assume that your kid doesn't go to school. Or something. It's incredibly hard to get a Pre-Freestyle kid on the main rink. The days that they are out of school are also the days that just HAPPEN to have no Practice Ice that day. I swear, it's like the school board and the rink staff had a meeting. It just seems easier to say, "Screw it, I'll just school them myself and be done with it." Except for that whole thing where I'm terrible at math and we'd be on food stamps, it seems like an elegant solution.

What's also terrible is that my weekends have been consumed by skating. I spend every Saturday and Sunday shuttling back and forth to the rink, with less than reliable results. Public ice is sketchy. Friday nights, there is no resurface at all because "The broomball people like it rough." It's gotten so bad, it's almost not worth going. Saturday afternoons are crowded with smelly Hockey people, followed closely by balls of hockey gear with little kids somewhere in them on the Public Ice. I've been warned that Sunday afternoons become a "Madhouse" in winter, with everyone and their dog suddenly wanting to participate in skating. I hate crowded ice. I don't mind populated ice, just not Crowded Ice. (I'd get my Sundays back, as well as my Saturday afternoons.)

I'm left with Practice Ice. If I do the two least expensive options, that gives me several weeks of hourlong figure skating sessions. Stitch seems to take the Practice Ice a bit more seriously, so maybe this means no more goofing off and throwing snowballs. What I've decided is to book the midweek evening session, and a sheet of coupons. This way, we have an hour of solid practice plus sheets for lessons and whatever. We'll continue to go to the public sessions that are valuable (clean ice and sparse crowds), but skip the ones that have become useless.

Morning Ice seems to have become an inevitability. I just spend my mornings drinking coffee anyway, I can do that anywhere. The challenge will be to get Stitch out of bed that one morning of the week.

I've dumped every session of Ice available to Stitch on a Calendar that I can easily access from my Stupidphone, so no more bumbling when Coach accosts me with vague references to this day or that day. And I can easily point out sessions to Dad when he's got the time to take Stitch to the rink.

I downloaded this song this morning. It made me feel better.

I'll beat this system yet, I swear!

A Rant and Cautionary Tale

Last night we tried to get some practice ice. Note, "Tried."

We arrived thirty minutes early, got a snack, put on skates, and waited. As time ticked by, a nice lady came down from the booth and asked if we were going to skate.

"Yes," I replied.

"Are you registered?"

"Uh, no..."

"Did you turn in your coupon?"

I held it up. "No...."

"Oh, dear," she scuttled back up to the booth.

Let me start by saying how foolish of me it was to assume that a convenient time to skate would have oodles of time available.

There are 26 spaces available on Practice Ice. As many as 13 of those are pre-sold. The remaining 13 can be sold as walk-on, but for this particular time slot, those are apparently gone by noon, a full seven hours before the ice.

Bitch Monitor rolled her eyes at me and in tones I'm sure she reserves for her toddlers, explained the process. "You have to turn in a coupon in the morning to get a space. Call your coach."

"Yes, but I work. How can I turn in a coupon in the morning."

More eye rolling. "What I'm saying is that you have to call your coach in the morning, and tell her you want to come. She will turn in a coupon for you."

"Okay. Thank you."

And as we left, the first nice lady stopped us. "You couldn't get on? I'm so sorry. Next time, then. I want to hear your music," she said to Stitch.

She was the only nice soul I encountered that evening, and we went home deflated.

I'm telling you this as a warning: No one is going to tell you shit about the nuts and bolts of this process. People will feign ignorance, dodge questions, or worse, fluff you up with lovely poems or quotes about character building and self esteem. After you're done listening to a Frost poem about paths, you're going to meet a greasy haired bitch of an ice monitor in a booth who rolls her eyes at you and acts like you're trying to see the wizard.

I suppose I understand why all the other skating moms don't really talk to the newbies. I'm sure they had their deflated and depressing evenings, too. They've done their rounds, earned their stripes and they just don't feel like messing with anyone who doesn't get it. So they hang in their clusters of coffee and chatter, and don't even notice the new moms like me.

So Stitch and I went home, where I made soup and studied the Ice Schedule. There was a glaring time staring out at me, and from a distant past I could hear an echo, "Five in the morning, morning, morning..." Would Greasy be there then?

I began a more arduous task, reinstalling the OS on my phone while I played Spider and debated my options. This whole skating thing is getting more and more involved. I keep thinking that at some point it will settle. We will have a routine and a schedule and that will be it. But there's always something new and something more to contend with. Is this what every Alpha Parent deals with? Hell, at this point I'd be glad for the company of Nutso just to have someone to talk to.

After forty minutes of downloading, battery charging, system checking and other technologic nonsense, I looked at my phone and saw it had an OS update anyway that had nothing at all to do with my preparations of the past half hour. Well, fuck it anyway. I guess things will work out in the end if I'm patient.

("Five in the morning, morning, morning....")

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lernin' to be a Skate Mom; Practice Ice

I have the Winter Forms for Practice Ice in my home. I'm not sure if I actually need a form or what, but I have them.

To get on Practice Ice at our rink, you need a coupon. Unlike other coupons, this coupon does not save you money. My past experience with Practice Ice was to buy a coupon the day or so before I needed it. I was only getting a coupon for the few private lessons that Stitch had that weren't on Public Ice, so I was only needing one or two a month.

Well, then we needed a bit more practice ice. So I bought a sheet of ten coupons. And I cut them out. Clipping coupons that don't save money. Natch. I have a stack of coupons in my purse now. My problem was that I bought a sheet of coupons for 45 minutes of practice ice rather than an hour of practice ice. I thought I had made an intractable mistake, but then I learned that you can slip fifty cents to the Ice Monitor to make up the difference and no one will care. Hooray! Lesson here? Make sure you buy coupons for the Practice Ice you actually use.

Anyway, for the upcoming season I will probably just stick to my current method of "buy a sheet and show up when you can." But other skaters do it differently.

Other skaters, presumably more serious skaters, can fill out this form that I have, requesting that they always get a certain hour on a certain day. That way, their practice ice won't ever be so full that they can't get on. It's contracted to them, they pay the full amount up front. If they fail to show up, then that's their loss. And yes, there are 5:30am slots on there most days.

You have to fill out the form and bring it back to the rink. "Put them in the Safe or in Mysteria's Mailbox!" (Mysteria is the name I've given to the Skating Director. I've never seen her.) Yes, there is a Safe in the office. I've bought skating coupons that come out of the Safe. The first time it was strange. Why are skating coupons in a stupid Safe? I suppose they are worth money; any enterprising skater can swipe a stack of coupons and sell them for half the face value, making off with a decent profit. Yet I just don't see a girl in Mondor tights and sparkles, smoking a lazy cig and mumbling, "Coupon? Coupon?" at the passers by.

Practice Ice is designated by Skater Level. Stitch is Pre-Freestyle. This means I won't have to worry too much about Stitch getting nailed by a surprise double lutz while he's working on backwards stroking. No Double Lutz's on Pre-Freestyle Ice.

It seems fair. Practice Ice is about six bucks an hour. So, for the few hours we need it, it's not that bad. Recreational Skater, folks!

But no one told me any of this. Even when I asked. My questions were given vague answers and people pointing at an intimidating bulletin board that referred to "Lutz Corner" and that Legendary 5:30am Ice. And yes, I got the "Eight years old" thing, which turned out to be not true. I guess my point is, Don't Ask People. Get the stuff in writing, the official papers, because that's the only way you're going to get the rules up front.

When you show up for your Practice Ice, you have to turn in your music to the Ice Monitor, who will either be in the Lobby checking people in if you're there early, or in the booth playing the skater's music if you're there late. You write your name and the date on the coupon, give her that and your music, and you're all set. Go skate. Simple, were it not for the mysterious process of getting here in the first place.

So anyway. We'll be at Practice Ice on a weekday evening from here on out. Stitch has indicated some desire to come up with his own routine, which will be just for fun. Hey, if it gets him to practice, whatever. I can cut music until the cows come home.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sickly Weekend

Stitch had a cough this weekend. No fever, just a nagging, hacking cough that made it sound like he would be giving TB to anyone within a 500 foot radius. As such, I pulled back on the skating schedule to allow for some rest.

Friday afternoon I picked Stitch up from school, we ran to Target for a few things, and then it was off to the rink for his first Ballet and Off-ice conditioning class.

I was dutifully expelled from the small dance room where a large Russian man walled off the children from us Parents. It felt odd. I was used to being on the sidelines, camera in hand, waiting for the slightest moment to capture. Nope. I was in the lobby, reading a book and waiting for some little kid to get nailed in the head by a bigger kid practicing her off-ice axels. It was exciting.

Stitch came out of the little room an hour later, looking very sour and mad. I was afraid to ask. "Uh, did you like it?"

"NO," he replied in a fury.


"He YELLED at me, and it was PAINFUL." Apparently the stretching was painful, and the Russian dance instructor had done what Russian Dance instructors do, which was be gruff and "mean."

The man came out and told me that Stitch did well and was "very coordinated." Really? Stitch? coordinated? You must have him confused with that other kid.

The kids got a few minutes to rest, and were then ushered outdoors for some running and jumping. Stitch had been coughing prior to this, but now he was coughing in earnest. I indicated that perhaps Stitch should go home early from this outdoor exercise in the chilly fall air. Coach Y agreed. "A few laps and then I send him home," she said.

So the kids trundled outdoors, where they ran some short relays, did laps, and then jumped rope in some various ways. The bigger kids behind me were jumping Salchows and other doubles. I remember the first day I saw a skater do a double jump on solid ground, it was earth shattering.

Stitch and the other boy were working on jumping rope, which is apparently a lost concept on boys younger than twelve. Neither of them got it, but Stitch got it a bit better than that other boy. Perhaps Russian Man was right about Stitch's coordination.

Stitch began to cough, whine and collapse. His cough was just too much. (As in, he was gagging on it.) I said it was time to go. Coach Y bid us farewell and off we went. I told him we could skip Friday night skate and order chinese instead. He liked that idea. As we walked into the door of our building, there was a stack of chinese menus freshly dropped off. "Kismet!" I shouted, like we'd just won at Bingo.

I started him on Vitamin C, we ate fried rice and watched a boring train video.

Saturday was lessons, group and Private, and he did well. Nothing exemplary, just more and endless crossovers. Nutso was blathering on about how Coach L might let Precious skip Alpha 2 and go right to Beta, which I thought was a mistake but I didn't want to have Nutso go all freakout on me. Precious was out in her new skating dress and plaid jacket, crossing feet and gliding. Eh, even if it's a bad move it will still be fun to watch. I don't anticipate seeing Nutso or her family around much longer, especially since they've started going to the other rink across town for additional lessons. "They've already skated for an hour today," she smiled as Shuffles looked up at her mournfully from yet another failed attempt at a one foot glide. I just nodded and smiled, wincing as Coach Y physically forced Shuffles into position.

We hit afternoon skate, and an hour of evening skate, until his cough returned and we went home early.

Sunday we went again, and just as I was thinking that perhaps we were skating a bit too much, Stitch pulled up beside me on the other side of the hockey boards. "MOM!" he shouted between the crack in the glass.

"What?" I shouted back.


"No, this is the only public skating session today. Why?"

"I WANTED TO SKATE SOME MORE." And he took off, swinging one leg up high in front of him before catching his blade and examining it for a moment. He dropped it again and looked back to me with a wicked little grin.

Patience, patience, patience.

(His cough is much better. Vitamin C, people. Lots of vitamin C. Crushed pills in orange juice or in honey/lemon tea. Start it early before it blossoms into true sickness!)


Now, I've never been one to bend rules or claim slight cracks in logistics to get my way... no, never. Seriously.

When I was told that skaters had to be eight years old to be on practice ice without their coach, I took that at face value. However, now that we are nearing crunch time for practice, and practice ice is at a serious premium and I don't have time to wait for Coach Y, that rule was a bad impediment.

Now I have actual Paperwork in my hands, and it states, "Any skater younger than seven must be accompanied by their coach."

Did you get that? "Younger than seven."

Stitch is seven and FIVE MONTHS. He is technically OVER seven.

Hellooooo Practice Ice on Wednesday evenings! Three sessions, three times per session, that's NINE runs of his routine. SCORE.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let's Sew a Boy's Bodyshirt - 1

I have the day off today, to rest and recuperate and just take a little mental time off from my day job. So what are my plans? Catching up on sewing.

Today I need to make a white turtleneck and black pants for Stitch to use in the Holiday show. Girls just need to bring tights, but Boys need to bring the Whole Shebang. (This is because the Shebang is hard to find and the rink can't be bothered.)

I've made two bodyshirts now, so I feel confident enough to tell others how. What is a bodyshirt? Well, it's a shirt with Manties attached to it. Remember when they were babies, and they wore Onesies? I bought out Children's Place of the Onesie Turtlenecks because Stitch couldn't untuck them, no matter how hard he tried. His shirt was perpetually tucked in, and he looked great for an eighteen month old.

Boy's skating apparel runs on the same concept. A Bodyshirt is a Onesie for grownups. (Sorry, but that's the truth.)

These patterns come from Canada, so allow 14 days for it to get to you if live in the Lower 48. Don't order the patterns a week before you need it.

Canadians seemed to have figured out how people use patterns. When you get this, you won't get the thin brown tissue patterns. You'll get something between regular paper and cardstock with all the patterns on it. It is your job to measure your kid and determine his size. Then, you need to get some pattern tracing paper and trace out the proper size pattern from the cardstock. Cut the tracing paper, and there is your pattern. Your twelve dollar pattern should last ages as they grow!

So, once you've done that, you need to get some fabric. I'm fortunate enough to live within walking distance of an incredible fabric store, which always has something suitable. Barring that, there are websites that sell appropriate stretchy fabrics. Bodyshirts must be four way stretch. Period. I tried to get away with a 2 way stretch, and it failed miserably. They're fitted, and can't go on and won't look right any other way. So, four way stretch. It's a common practice for me to go around lightly tugging on all the bolts of fabric in the store. Today I have a cotton stretch knit, 80% cotton and 20% spandex in white.

You'll also need some notions; the little other things. You need three snaps, 1/4" elastic, and thread to match whatever fabric you chose. We also picked out some bling. Well, it's me.

Okay, in our next post we'll start cutting and sewing. Stretch fabric is not the monster that some people make it out to be. In fact, I don't find it much different than other fabrics.

No More YouTube Skating Vids.

If you hop on YouTube and type in "Pre-Alpha Skating Competition" looking for some encouragement, you won't find it. You won't see some little kid stumbling over a toepick or windmilling backwards. What you WILL find is a bunch of videos from parents who label their wunderkind kids as "Little Future Champion" or "OMG LOOK Future Olympian!!!"

Don't get me wrong, these kids are great skaters. They are typically just out of their OshKosh diaper covers and can move a Waltz Jump and One Foot Spin. If you, as a parent, were looking for some way to increase your Parental Inferiority Complex, this is the fastest method. If you ever wanted to sit alone at the dining room table after dark, mulling over your budget numbers with a bottle of bourbon and thinking, "Maybe if I stopped eating, I could squeeze in another six lessons per month," then start looking at the various Wunderkind Vids on the internet.

What's important to remember when watching these videos, (and I've stopped) is that Figure Skating does cost money, and no little girl of five learned a sit spin in once-a-week group lessons. This has more to do with money than talent. Talent makes it possible, but Money is what pays for the Private Coaching.

Here's a good series. This kid is two, but she has a Private Coach and the Rink to Herself. What. The. Fuck. And of course, mom has posted an entire series of her little Darling's progression, and how TALUHNTED she is. Well, duh, lady. Hell, throw me in a rink for a few hours a day with a private coach giving me Nilla Wafers for every crossover and I'd be a lumpy Michelle Kwan in a year. Most people can learn to ice skate competently, given time and good coaching.

Sure, these kids are talented. But there are years ahead of them. ISU rules have written out any future Tara Lipinski’s, sorry. These "Future Olympians" may get shot down by early arthritis from all the jumps, be downed by an injury, be burned out in general before they hit twelve, or just be hit by plain bad luck before they ever hit the Olympic running. Calling a five year old a "Future Olympian" is unfair for everyone involved. So, Little Muffy who can do an Axel at ten breaks an ankle and is out for a year. During this year, she decides to take up Softball. Mom's already dumped tons of cash, emotional energy into figure skating, (not to mention all the time she took bathing in and responding to the endless accolades online) is anyone going to believe for a moment that mom won't be mad at the switch? I watch "Toddlers and Tiaras," I know she's gonna be PISSED!

I feel confident that if I had the resources and time, and Stitch had the patience to actually be instructed rather than picking things up through osmosis, he would be rocking the rink in no time. But I don't, and he doesn't, and if I pushed, he'd quit. Period.

I love to daydream as much as the next person about what a great person my kid could be, but he's seven. It's not wise of me to pigeonhole him into something as specific and long-shotty as "FIGURE SKATER.” I'd much rather see him as an engineer with Union Pacific, frankly. Or firefighter. Or Day Care Owner. Or any of the other random life choices that pop up from time to time. The Figure Skating is supposed to be a fun sport for him, that's all. Of course I'm proud that he's good at it, and I’m pretty confident I will shed a prideful tear or six, but I don't think it's a wise career choice. I would be much prouder of a son that figured out how to run a high speed passenger rail system across the North American Continent than I would an Olympic Figure Skater. (Not to mention a lot richer at the end of the day.)

Tara Lipinski rocked the Olympics at fifteen, but after that she had a string of bad injuries and a mediocre acting career playing bit roles simply because she was OMG TARA LIPINSKI. Surely we, as parents, can do better than tossing out one trick ponies to the world.

After I run across one of these Skating Wunderkind Vids, I take comfort in the moms becoming Internet Panhandlers for “sponsors” to continue funding their Unrealistic Expectations, and then perform a ritual mind cleanse by watching Chimps perform Spread Eagles and Ice Dance.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yet more Skating

This past weekend we didn't skate much. We had to run up north and close up the summer cottage. But with our time growing more precious by the day, we had to squeeze in every second of productivity. Despite the six to seven hour drive ahead of us, we went to lessons Saturday morning.

We got there early, and Stitch got measured for the ice show. I wrote yet another check. We clomped up into the rafters of the Refrigerator, and watched the FS5 classes do their mid-term review things. Sit spins and flying camels. Suddenly I looked up. "Stitch? Did I forget to feed you?"

He giggled.

Good lord, I'd forgotten to feed him breakfast amidst the late packing and planning. We trundled back down to the concession stand for a bagel and chocolate milk. Stitch was pleased with my forgetfulness, but it was painful to watch him try and dodge that loose tooth with a bagel.

Time went on, and I wandered back out to put the Ice Show rehearsal schedule on my calendar. Standing by the office door and trying to manipulate the stupid touchscreen on my stupid phone, I glanced over and saw Coach Y.

"Oh, hello," she smiled at me.

"Hey," I assumed this would be standard greeting time. "How was your week?"

"Good. Listen. I want to ask you something,"

Oh crap. What now? Coach Y apparently runs a Friday afternoon ballet and conditioning session for her skaters. The cost is nominal plus a skate coupon. There is a boy about Stitch's age in the class, and he would benefit greatly from it.

I had to agree. I had tried off-ice stretching and bending at home, but Stitch was far too giggly and silly, and his body would often go limp in my arms which he found a hysterical trick. Yet when I watched him try and control his gangly body on the ice, trying so hard to reach and maintain some semblace of grace, it hurt.

I told Coach Y that the answer was more than likely yes, but I had to ask everyone and I would call her.

During lessons, I watched Stitch spin idly while he waited for his classmates to get evaluated. The Coach would then snap him from his reverie to get him to perform stroking, which he did half-assed. "No extension" the eval would read. Sigh. We could work on that.

I talked to Stitch about the class, which he didn't want to do. Then he spun around and did some kind of ballet move. Yeah, I'm listening to what you DO kid, not what you SAY. "It will keep you from spinning in my living room and trying your jumps on the sidewalk. Do that with the coaches, not me. You're going."

So, yes. Tomorrow is his first Off-Ice Conditioning class.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Weekend Skate; Preparing for Competition, part 5 (??)

This weekend I had a wedding to attend, three hours away. I called in for backup, getting Grandma into town so she could take Stitch to his skating lessons. I hate missing skating lessons in general, but we were doing a favor for the bride and I do love these people. So off we went. I left a new copy of Stitch's music, a skate coupon, Coach's check, and money for the vending machine. I left the rest to fate.

We returned home extremely late Sunday morning, and went right to bed. The next morning, Stitch plowed into my bed wanting some cuddles. Oh fine! I asked how skating went. He said it was fine, and that he did a Waltz Jump with Coach just holding one hand and not two. (Will Dad win his bet that Stitch will be doing a waltz jump by Halloween? I still doubt it.) I asked if the music worked, and Stitch said that they didn't use it. Um, what? I put that away for the moment and got up to get breakfast.

Grandma and I chatted about family stuff for awhile, and then I casually asked how skating went. She said it went fine, and she expressed her bemusement at Coach. She said Coach had given her notice about a put-in Practice Ice session Sunday afternoon, and Coach said it would "be a good idea" for Stitch to attend. I asked about the music. No, she said, music was not allowed on the small rink.

Well, that's a bit of a problem, as Stitch hadn't skated to his music on the big ice yet. He needed to work on timing; he was running through the program too fast.

"Wait," I said. "Will he be able to skate to his music during the Practice Ice, and that's why Coach says he should go?"

Okay then. I finally got the message, although I got it in a terribly convoluted way. Stitch would attend the Practice Ice that afternoon, and I would bring the still unfinished costume and the new CD with us.

Ordinarily I would have skipped Public Ice that afternoon, but Grandma had brought her near-deaf Boyfriend with her (don't ask) and he had the TV on so loud I was about to go nuts. It was best that we went skating so I didn't go nuts and kill anyone. Besides, I wanted to show off the costume to my Rink Pals.

Stitch skated his program twice, practiced crossovers, and then played with his friends. Nutso had brought Precious and That Other One, so I played with Stitch and That Other One. I have a game where I chat about ice cream and candy while he skates backwards. He gets so wrapped up in chocolate ice cream and cherries that he loses track of how many laps he's done backwards. You can mix it up by saying things like, "Practice going backwards, but don't you dare try on one foot. It's far too dangerous." Eventually they were giggling and trying backwards one foot glides just to spite me, while I feigned parental freakouts.

Then That Other One did a turn too sharp and tripped over her toepick, hitting her knee. She balled up into wailing sobs, and Nutso started panicking. I helped her up, and Rink Pal started her to the door, but not before Nutso had marched onto the ice and railing about some mystery skater who had cut off her little darling. (No, it was a toepick trip, and she's fine. You stop dramatizing the event and she will, too.)

Stitch was now starting to complain of cold feet, (the rink is positively polar now) and heading off frequently to warm up. I may have to invest in warmer socks or boot covers or something. I showed Nutso the costume I made, and she was impressed. We were talking about the basic beadwork, and how it isn't so hard, when Precious came up. "What is that for?"

"That is for Stitch, don't worry about it," she tried to dismiss it.
"Is that for the Holiday Show?" Precious pressed on.
"No, that is for some other show that Stitch is doing. Go skate."

I had to stifle a laugh. Nutso has asked me about competitions in the past, but she had balked at the idea of paying to compete. I get the feeling that Precious wants to compete as well. Precious has shown some pretty distinct envious attitude at Stitch lately. It kind of bugs me. Then Nutso came out with another gem; "I am taking them to Some Other Rink, across town for lessons."

"They still skate here, of course, but they are also taking lessons at Other Rink. In one lesson they learned the weaving thing," she made a side to side wavy hand motion. “One lesson!”
"You mean Edges?"

I looked out at Precious and That Other One. Precious was still leaning over her knees, which made me nervous about her tripping over her toepicks. It's kinda hard to do edges without a solid one-foot glide. (Stitch is trying them, but is still skittish.) While on the ice, Other One had insisted to me that she had been bumped to Alpha 2, same as Stitch. When I asked her to practice crossovers, she balked, went to the wall, and crossed feet while standing still. Hm. I know I'm not supposed to compete with other parents' kids, and I try not to, but, What the Hell? I get the distinct impression that Nutso is trying to compete with me through her kids. Honestly, I don't care. Precious could be doing Axels, and as long as she didn't have an attitude about it, I'd be thrilled for her. What bugs me is the fact she is so "in your face" about her progress.

Anyhow, they quit early, and I waved bye as they were getting out of skates in the lobby. Stitch was in full on complaint mode about cold feet, and seeing as how he'd be skating again in an hour, I let him quit ten minutes early. We took off skates and headed up into the rafters, where I put his frozen feet under my fleece and we watched the other skaters.

Dad left to go get Grandma and Boyfriend, and Stitch and I went to go get snacks at the Walgreen's. I realized I hadn't eaten anything but a sausage patty at breakfast, and was about to die. We got some chips and drinks, headed back to the rink and watched the Broomball people play while we waited for Practice Ice. The Operations Manager asked what we were doing and I replied, "I'm hiding from my Mother in Law." She offered to let me use the locker room and she'd say she never saw me for ten bucks. It was tempting.

Skaters began to trickle in, a steady progression of Zuca Bags and glitter. One mom camped on the floor with a hair dryer and warmed her daughter's boots, and the girl put on an assortment of corn pads. Yes, we were in the right place.

I put Stitch back in skates, gave the music to the Ice Monitor, and off we went. Coach arrived, and I held up the costume. Coach approved, and said that Stitch should wear it next time. Okay, great. Grandma, Boyfriend and Dad arrived in time for the start, and they headed up to the rafters for warmth. Stitch headed out onto the ice, but hung on the door for a moment, looking to me.

“Do it twice with music and twice without,” I said. “That’s all you have to do.”

He nodded, then went out and skated through it once before Coach called over all her students who were practicing that afternoon. She reminded them the procedure to get your music on, and then sent them off. Stitch called for his music right off, and skated through his routine for the first time on big ice with his music on.

I think something clicked in that minute. He had his arms out, he did stroking properly, he slowed down a bit, and posed at the end. And he was happy. Very happy. He then went to the door. “Okay, now what?”

“Um, well, you can work on your crossovers in that hockey circle until you get another chance with your music.”

So, he did. Then he came back to the door. “Now what should I do?”

“Well, why not go work on your spins?”

And he did that, too. And he came back. “Now what?”

“Um, do two laps; stroke five times then bunny hop twice.”

He did that, not precisely as ordered but he did his best. Then he got his music on again.

He came to the door. “Now what?”

“Well, you can stop now if you want.”

“I want to do it again.”

“Do what?”

“My routine,” he shouted as he headed back to center ice. And he did it again.

At that point, Fab Skater and Awesome Mom had come in, returning from USFS Regionals. Fab Skater introduced me to Awesome Mom and pointed to Stitch. Grandma, Boyfriend and Dad were coming down the stairs to leave. “Are we going? Boyfriend wants pizza.”

Stitch came to the door again, said “Hi” to Fab Skater (who I think he has a massive crush on) and went off again.

“Stitch! If you want to stay on practice ice, you have to practice!” I called after him. “What are you practicing?!”

“My routine!” he called back.

Um, okay. He did it again. Fab Skater declared the whole thing “adorable.

Awesome Mom and I chatted about costumes for a moment before Stitch finally gave up and said he was hungry. We said our goodbyes and headed out.

As we left, I asked Stitch, “Do you feel better about this now?”


“The competition will be just like that, just at a different rink. Simple.”

A few nights later I affixed the glitter appliqué I made to his competition vest. Stitch saw, smiled, and did a move from his routine out of the dining room.

Twenty nine days, folks. Twenty nine days.

Name Changes

I've been referring my son as a letter for the duration of this blog, and it's started to grate on me. I can't imagine how annoying it must be for a reader.

So, I'm changing his name. He is now Stitch, as in the little Monster from Lilo and Stitch. Trust me when I say it makes sense.

Imagine if you will, this little loveable monster in skates, and you have a just about perfect image of my kid.

That is all.