Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I am a Pushy Parent

I push Stitch. I push him to do better at his homework, read more challenging books, do math in his head, spell out long words on his own, and try new things that he thinks he can't do. I push him to help me with housework, help me with shopping, and I continually push him to mind his manners and be polite.

I also Push with the Skating. I've stopped cajoling at practice sessions and just stated, "Practice before you play." I give a set amount of maneuvers to be performed, with the assumption that it won't take him more than ten minutes and the bargain that I won't harass him anymore after that. He might moan and whine and roll his eyes, but he'll go out there and do back crossovers without me standing over him. He'll do everything I ask, and if he forgets, he skates over to the boards and asks me, "what next?" (There's so much now, I have to write it down.) I don't ask for everything at once, but over the course of a weekend I'll get through the whole list. He knows that I don't care if he gets it right or not, I just want to see some effort. I'm not Coach, don't ask me about how it's done. It's up to him to remember how Coach taught him.

And it's working. His back crossovers are improving steadily, faster than the forward crossovers did. He's fighting less, playing more, and getting the difference between Just Gliding Around and Skating.

I know what other parents hear in the Lobby as I'm tying on skates; "Now, do ten back crossovers in each direction, five lunges with each foot, five spirals with your good foot,  five bunny hops, and five one foot spins. Then you can play."

"Uuggghhh, Mom!"

I see the raised brows and dirty looks. I'm one of Those Moms. Damn straight I'm one of Those Moms. I'm one of Those Moms who can tell the difference between an actual injury and a dramatic performance. I can hear the difference between and whine and a real cry of "No more, mommy." (Remember how I didn't force him back to Ballet Class?) And I'm one of Those Moms who, when their young child exhibits a continual desire to do amazing things, I will push them to achieve those things.

Young children can't be expected to grasp that it will take years to achieve a Double Axel. Their thought process just doesn't work that way. Stitch was a Quitter before he started skating. If something was too hard, he'd quit. My goal with the Pushy Parent routine is to keep the Double Axel on a high shelf, always in sight, but focus his efforts on the small things he's doing right now. Because if he's wanting to skate, but just seeing the Double Axel and can't do it, he'll quit.

Those Waltz Jump attempts this past weekend? I didn't ask for those. In fact, I have often stated that I prefer him not to try it without Coach around. When I told him that he was scaring me out there, he laughed.

"Just wait until I can spin around three times! Then I will really scare you!"
"You mean a triple? You think you'll do triples someday?"
"Yeah! What's it called when they go around four times?"
"That's a quadruple jump. Not a lot of people can do those."
"What about five?"
"That would be a quintuple. No one's ever done that."
"Sextuple, but no one's ever even thought of that."
"What about seven?"
"No idea."

Last night we did his exercises and stretching again. I only counted to ten for the repetitions, but Stitch would keep going. I only asked for ten sit-ups, he did twenty. I only asked for a count of ten on the split attempt, Stitch went to twenty, rested a moment, and tried again. I asked for Waltz Jumps, and he said he'd already practiced them that day while in Child Care. He only watched a few minutes of the skating I had on the computer before asking if there was a public skate that evening.

Lucy's mom sat in the bleachers on Sunday and never pushed. She read her book and shivered. Lucy spent most of her time gliding around, hanging on boards, or talking in bleachers. Without the Guiding Hand of a Pushy Parent to give her some direction, Lucy didn't practice, and she left looking bored.

Which parent sends what message to their child, the Pushy Parent or the one that Reads in the Bleachers?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Youth Sports

I dragged The Boys out of the apartment for an hour at the playground before public skate. It was warmer than it had been lately, and we all needed some fresh air and change of scenery. The Boys kicked around a ball for awhile, and Stitch delighted in rolling himself over the ball rather than kicking or chasing it. He'd drop to his knees and skid before throwing himself over it, laughing. I guess it's a good thing we didn't do Soccer.

We headed in from the chilly outdoors to the chilly indoors, putting on skates. The Public Skate was crowded, reinforcing my thoughts that Practice Ice will become necessary during these winter months. Stitch was dutiful in his "practice before you play" notion, and I didn't ask much as he'd spent a lot of time on the ice this weekend. I just asked for the basics in Beta; backwards crossovers, backwards stroking, and jumping if he felt like it. Precious, That Other One, and Shuffles played around with him, with Precious wondering at how a backwards crossover works. (It's easy to get hitched on your toepicks without the posture.) She tried a few times, and then I had both of them try backwards stroking for a lap.

Then I noticed Stitch's Friend From School. I'll call her Lucy.

Lucy is, well, a bit of a snark. She's got some attitude issues, but for some reason she and Stitch are good friends. Lucy takes Swimming, and Tennis, and she's active with her Church. She takes Group Lessons as well, and she's Gamma. That puts her a level over Stitch, and for this reason she thinks herself a better skater than Stitch. (I disagree. On public ice, she scootches along on one foot, she doesn't have any semblance of stroking technique. Anyway...) Lucy's been showing up on the Sundays quite a bit recently. Over the summer, we never saw her, but ever since the competition, we've seen her just about every Sunday and her folks got her a skating pass. Lucy never fails to attempt to upstage Stitch. It's true, she can do a one foot spin and a catch blade spiral. She's stronger in her back crossovers. Stitch gets discouraged at this, and it's made worse by her snotty attitude about it. In fact, I'd lump her and Precious in the same boat when it comes to the Snot Factor.

But today, Lucy was sticking with some other girlfriend of hers and not paying much mind to Stitch. This was fine with me. Lucy scooter pushed around with her friend, hung on the boards, and sat in the bleachers with their skates dangling. I came up to rest a bit and get away from the crowd, and chatted with Lucy's mom awhile. Something is up with Lucy.

Lucy's mom rolled her eyes at the idea of doing the ice show, then mentioned that one of the coaches suggested Lucy take privates. Hm, I happen to know this coach and I know that she wouldn't recommend it unless Lucy wasn't up to the task of Gamma. (And if I'm wrong, then my opinion of this Coach just changed dramatically.) Lucy's mom asked me what rates are, and I explained that it varied from coach to coach. I said that I might take up practice ice if the public ice kept on being so crowded and useless. Lucy's mom then asked me about Practice Ice. But then, after all that, Lucy's mom rolled her eyes and said, "It doesn't matter, she's not competing or anything."

"Yes, well, Stitch seems to enjoy competition and he and Coach will begin work on the new routine in December. I'm kind of anxious for Ice Show to be over, so we can move on."

"Yeah, we're not doing that."

"Well, this seems like Stitch's sport of choice, so I'll support it as best I can. It won't be easy," I was thinking about morning ice options, when it became apparent that Lucy's mom was done with this conversation. I excused myself to the ice. Lovely thing, really; being a parent in skates. I can escape.

Hm. Again, something is up with Lucy.

Lucy and her mom left at resurface. Precious and family also left at resurface. Stitch kept skating, whizzing around and gathering snow on his blades. But after awhile I could see he was getting tired so I asked him if he was done. He feigned sleep.

I guess this is his sport of choice. It's a Sport for him. This is what I wanted. This isn't about costumes and music, it's a Sport where they happen to wear costumes and need music. I wouldn't think twice about spending money for him to be on some kind of ball team. He just doesn't want to be on a ball team. He wants to figure skate. What kind of parent would I be to not encourage and enable this great athletic activity? Let the naysayers, downers, the crabs, the homophobes, and the people who think I'm mad in my quest for Olympic Gold do and talk and think as they please. All I know is that I walk home with a little boy who waltz jumps down the sidewalk, spins in my kitchen, and loves the fact that I sew for him.

And can I state that Hockey Dads are way worse than Figure Skate Moms? Today, I counted no fewer than five unhappy little girls in hockey skates with Hockey Dads shouting at them. They were shuffling along, clearly their first time on the ice, and looking mournfully at the pretty white Riedells of the other girl skaters doing spins and crossovers. Why is is acceptable, even uber-cool for a girl to play hockey, yet it's Taboo for a boy to Figure Skate?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Just when I think we're done for the weekend...

Stitch wanted time to play on the ice after being so constrained at Ice Show rehearsal, so we went back for public skate this afternoon. I did some beadwork and froze, while Stitch harassed the Rink Guard and sped around.He had done his practice for the day and could play for the rest of the session.

Imagine my surprise when I looked up to see him turn a Waltz Jump attempt. And another. Then another. He must have seen me pale, because he did it again. And laughed. What fun! Scare the shit out of mommy!

"What are you doing?" I called out.

He laughed, and tried again. And again. And then he spun. And spun, and spun, and spun.

Waltz Jumping.

Who knew?

Let's hear it for the Boys

There are just not a lot of boys in Figure Skating. It's plainly unusual here.

Yesterday Stitch dragged both me and Dad to both sessions of public skate. The early afternoon was booked with everyone who decided not to join the Black Friday flocks, which pleased me but made for crowded ice. A few of Stitch's friends were there, and he was dutifully impressive with "just gliding around," as he put it. And of course there were a lot of hockey boys around. A lot. Hockey boys and a Hockey Dad in full Goalie Gear. Ugh. Stitch and I passed by him at one point, and another parent commented on Stitch's ice abilities. "You're so good," the mom said.

"Thanks," replied Stitch.

Goalie Dad guffawed and hitched up his leg pads. "Purty soon he'll be in THESE!"

"Don't count on it," I replied, but it fell on deaf ears. Everyone was at once convinced that Stitch was a budding Hockey player. No one listened to me as I said that he wanted to Figure Skate. Goalie Dad was leading them on. I just let it go. Rink Pal surprised me with a Thanksgiving flower arrangement, which was absolutely delightful. I have to keep bringing them cookies!

That night there were more hockey kids. Hockey kids and Teenagers, which are just as bad. Fortunately at Stitch's age, the hockey boys are oblivious to their Dad's prejudices and make friends pretty easily. Stitch was soon running around with some of the little ones, showing off his tricks and speed. The Teenagers were a different story.

Remember the boy who said he was going to competition tryouts? He was there. Let's call him PrepSchool, because he always wears a faux PrepSchool jacket. PrepSchool is about two years older than Stitch. He's started taking privates as well, and is about a hair close to landing a waltz jump. He's got the confidence to try, but he falls a lot and is still very ungainly on the ice in general. PrepSchool is just old enough to stick himself in with the teenagers, and they were egging him on to try his tricks for them. They were texting and gabbing and acting uber cool, and PrepSchool seemed to enjoy being their entertainment. I felt silly for him.

Stitch got tired, so we left a bit early. He had Ice Show rehearsal in the morning.

So, sure enough this morning, he woke up and put on skating clothes. I brought the pants I'd sewn for the other boys to test size and length. The boys were (as always) fast and furious and hard to round up. Typically there are two or three coaches out there, today there was just one. Shuffles finally joined the group, and as predicted, he was a boat anchor as well as being completely lost. Ah well, there's nothing at stake here but cuteness.

There are only twelve boys in the Ice Show, and those twelve represent all of the Boys in the Pre-Alpha through Pre- Freestyle levels of the skating school. So, we have boys who can waltz jump and boys who still struggle to do swizzles in the same routine. Needless to say, it's a bit lopsided and uncoordinated. This is why I have doubts about putting Stitch in the Spring show. It's not worth my time or money to put him in a routine that isn't challenging. I'd much rather invest that time and money in competition.

Richie Rich was there, and his mom and dad were lofted in the rafters in their full-length furs. Another mom and I lamented the loss of the concession stand, closed for the holiday or something. Richie and Stitch did some talking, and then Richie seemed to delight in cutting off Stitch in the line to the circle. The rehearsal ended, with Stitch coming off the ice panting, "Must... skate... more..."

"We can come back for public skate later," I promised.

Afterwards, Other Mom and I headed out to change out of skates and try on pants. Imagine my shock when I saw a pair of bare girl legs sticking up from a bench. Bare Girl legs, and when I passed by, I saw a Dad with Mondor tights, which were going on over a Pull -Up Diaper. This girl was four, had to be four. I walked away.

Other Boy tried on his pants for me, so I could get the length. Richie's Mom and Dad hung out, waiting for Coach Diamond. Apparently they were having a lesson that day. Prep School and his mom showed up. Prep School is not in the show, but he was getting his lesson that day anyway while we can still get ice. I have to wonder if this is our competition; Richie Rich and Prep School. If so, it would be Richie Rich that I fear the most.

I told Other Mom to spread the word about me sewing. "Sure. But I don't know how much longer he'll be doing this. He wants to play hockey."

I sighed.

We watched a bit of the Men's Freeskate this morning from Paris. Stitch watched awhile and then said that he wanted to win more trophies. I reminded him that January 23rd is his next chance, and he and Coach will start working on the next program in December. Stitch definitely has a competitive streak, which will serve him well. Now that he knows he's got some skill, all he needs is confidence to see it through, and ignore the naysayers and Hockey dads who might convince him otherwise.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tipper: Morning Skating Lessons make for Long Days

I'm a morning person. I can wake up at 5:30 without an alarm without an issue. But I've done two morning skating lessons now, both at 8am and found myself completely shot by 3pm. I just don't get it. It really throws a kink into my thoughts about getting Practice Ice at 6am some mornings next month.

Stitch and Coach got the big ice to themselves this morning. Coach worked him on some stretches, lots of crossovers, backwards spirals, and I froze to death. She told us to watch for her at the ISU Grand Prix event this weekend, and I said we would.

We've been watching more skating lately. If I have it on in the background, Stitch will wander in and out, watching as he wants to. That's fine with me, I think of it as Subliminal Messaging. The more skating I watch, both Big and Small League, the more I'm seeing. I'm learning what's good and what's bad. Good posture versus sloppy stances. Big smiles versus expressions of "oh god please let this end." Big jumps, bad falls and what makes a big jump into a tragedy. I'm almost to a point where I know who is going to make that jump, who won't, when to hold my breath, and the magic moment when a routine is suddenly all downhill. I've seen good spirals, bad edges, and how fast a run in tights will go when pulled into a layback spin. Don't be fooled, I still can't tell anyone which is a toe loop and which is a flip, I more watch skating like I watch NASCAR.

I'm also learning what I don't like. We mostly watch men's skating, as Stitch doesn't like the Ladies. (Sorry, ladies.)

I don't like Asymmetrical costumes on men.(The half butt flap on the half tuxedo tops especially. It's like an ass flag when they spin.)
I don't like Bodysuits on men. (Too easy to get carried away with Teh Artz.)
I don't like Flesh Colored Spandex. (It never matches.)
I don't like fringe on arms. (HATE fringe or fluff on one arm only.)
I don't like high and stiff collars. (If you're going to dress as Ming the Merciless, you might as well get a damn ray gun.)
I don't like The Traffic Cone. (Sticking your ass in the air on a spin is not attractive.)
I don't like ungainly positions.(See above.)
I don't like schizophrenic music. (Just... pick a piece. Stick with it. Please.)
I don't like muzac as skating music. (Don't get me all excited thinking you're going to skate to "Paint it Black" and it's the instrumental version I hear while waiting in line at the Perkins.)
I don't like five o'clock shadows on skaters. (They look especially silly when wearing a purple and gold bodysuit.)
I don't like overdone facial expressions. (Jeremy, Stitch loves you, but I honestly think you're having a stroke out there.)
I don't like Standstill Choreography. (More skatey, less dancey.)
I don't like Pantomime. (Don't, don't, don't "play the piano" during your routine. Third grade was years ago.)
I don't like the OMG ONE BRIGHT AND SHINY GLOVE look. (Looking at you, Patrick Chan.)

Other observations I've made?

Jeremy Abbott looks like an accountant.

Coach wants music when she gets back. No problem. I can probably leave that in her mailbox at the rink on Sunday. She also says she needs to "figure out" what level to place him at for the USFSA Basic Skills in January. (Turns out I got my competitions reversed. USFSA will be in late January.) I'm guessing Basic 3 with a Half twist.

Tomorrow is Eating Day, so no Skating. Friday we'll probably hit the Public Ice, and Saturday is Ice Show rehearsal. I have a lot of sewing to do, and I'm glad that I got as far as I did with the new competition shirts. It's a lot of work and headache behind me.

I seem to be catching my second wind finally. If this morning skating is going to become a part of the routine, I need to harken back to my barista days and get used to seeing the dawn. Time for a beer.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I have mentioned before that Stitch is ISI. This is "the Fun League."

But Coach has begun to state the Stitch's weird amalgam of skills might be better suited to USFSA. (United States Figure Skating Association.) That's the Big League.

I took a look at the testing structure of USFSA Basic Skills, and she's right. Stitch has Basic 1 through 3 cleared, and can do skills up to Basic 8. I don't know how their competitions are judged, but if Stitch competes at ISI Alpha, the crowd will only get a sampling of what he can do. ISI would hold him back.

She's mentioned a USFSA Basic Skills competition in the Spring.

That is all.

Christmastime is Here

Some years I feel Christmas, some years I don't. Last year I was all about Christmas. I did the whole shebang; family, tree, gifts, food, all of it. We all had fun even if I did have to drag The Boys through some of it. This year, I'm not feeling it. The stores already have their lights up and music on, and the store aisles at Kohl's were already jammed with the random flotsam that people buy you when they have no clue what to get for you. Emergency radios, foot baths, shit like that. I'm dragging my own ass through it.

We had gone to buy shoes. Stitch goes through shoes at an unbelievable clip. It's not that he outgrows them, he destroys them. His current record for a pair of shoes is three months, and those guys were ragged pauper shoes with the soles flopping off at the end of their lives. Either Stitch is the only kid who runs, walks, jumps and exercises regularly, or kid's shoes are the biggest scam on earth. Anyhow, we bought a pair of Sensible Brown Shoes, and Stitch was already hard at work on their eventual destruction through the mall. (Running, skidding to a stop, waltz jumping, spinning, etc. I find it disconcerting that my kid's skate boots look like formalwear in comparison to his day shoes.)

Of course there is a toy store, recently set up just for the holiday season. We stopped in. Stitch and I wandered the selection, and I was horrified. Piles and piles of cheap plastic crap with no rhyme, reason or purpose. I'm a button pusher, so I pushed a button on a cheap robot toy. It began yelling something about ray guns in mangled English, and Stitch skittered away. There is a fake guitar, and it plays "music" when you "play it" so you can be an "instant rock star." Wow, what a concept. Instant Rock Star. There were smaller and faker versions of "sports balls." I was tempted to get a pic of that one and send it to Dad. Stuffed toys that looked deranged, Nerf Guns that are pointless to buy in Winter, and all of it something I could easily see being discarded in twenty minutes.

The best was the "kid's roller skates." I stopped and stared at that one for awhile. They were marked "6+", so they were meant for a kid Stitch's age. They were tri-wheeled moonboots meant to go over existing shoes, and the label advertised three "settings." Stage 1: Lock one wheel in place. (Cripple the movement) Stage 2: Forward Only. (Screw up their body mechanics.) Stage 3: Forward and Back. (Even if the kid or skates lasts long enough to get to this stage, no one is going backward in those.) The kid on the box was trussed up in full-on safety gear; helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and nearby adult holding on. I thought about this, and I thought about the morning's Waltz Jump first attempt. I thought about Stitch's backwards hops on ice, and his galloping act. I thought about Coach, who isn't holding on as much as she used to.

I looked around me, and I was suddenly jarred by the realization: what bothered me was that it was all fakery. Fake cooking sets, fake musical instruments, fake vacuums, fake costumes, and fake skates.Why are parents letting their kids be fake? The whole world is out there, let them have it. Why buy a fake cooking set, let them cook. Stitch knows the basics of banana bread and can make himself a baked potato in the microwave. Why a fake musical instrument? Small guitars are inexpensive, good enough to learn on and lessons are cheap from starving musicians. Why fake costumes? Give them a real opportunity to costume up! Why fake skates? Skating is awesome!

Stitch held up a small ball, and began to whine. Funny that in a store full of the latest kid's noisy gadgetry, he wanted a ball. But I have a policy that whining gets you nowhere, so we left in short order.

Stitch's holiday list is full of science kits and ransom electrical parts from American Science and Surplus. I have no issue with this. In fact, I'm proud as hell. I can't wait to see the look on Santa's face when he asks for an ant farm, motors and LED's. I'm going to ask Coach if a Spin trainer would be a good purchase, and stick that in his stocking. But his holiday gifts will be real. I refuse to let my kid be fake.

Today I have to get the Thanksgiving food in order, sharpen skates, and make a stop at a friend's house where she is holding my "scrap" of dance floor. I asked one of my colleagues if he had any dance floor scraps they might be tossing out, and if I could have one. Of course he said yes, so now Stitch doesn't have to do stretches or floorwork on cement anymore. (A "scrap" of dance floor is 3' x 6'.) I'm also going to sew and start work on the coach's gifts for the Ice Show. In other words, a busy day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Busy morning. I was up before dawn and packing a skate bag for a morning lesson. Coach called yesterday and said there was no ice at the home rink, can we get to That Other Rink Across Town for a lesson? Sure, why the hell not? Besides, I was curious to see what Nutso was so in love with over there.

That Other Rink is about fifteen minutes away from us. Not a big deal. We arrived well on time and put on skates in front of the inset circular fireplace in the lobby, which I thought was awesome. Stitch, surprisingly, was not whining and seemed ready to get to work. He got on the ice and warmed up with some stroking. Coach had a student before Stitch, but Stitch was free to work on whatever while he waited. Coach introduced the two kids, and then had Stitch show the young girl his galloping act. "Can you do that?" asked Coach to the little girl.

The little girl shook her head with a look of, "please don't make me try!"

Stitch skated around, doing little hops forward and back. I had him do crossovers, and while Big League skaters might flash over to the boards for water, Stitch comes over for some chocolate milk.

Half an hour later, it was Stitch's turn. Coach has now fully seen what Stitch does on public ice alone, so now she's trying some moves that aren't on any skating curriculum. Catch blade spirals, forward and back.  Footwork. Better bunny hops. One foot spins. Exiting the spin properly. Finally, that Waltz Jump. Coach held him for awhile, first with two hands, then one, and finally she told him to try it.

He did. It was once and it was small and scary, but he did it! I'm still in shock.

They worked on some odd things before the half hour was over, and then Coach and I settled business. "He's a lefty," she said. "Officially. He will spin and jump to the left."

"Uh... okay."

"You know, double, triple, quad jump, they spin. He spins to the left."


"So we'll keep working on that."

"Uh-huh." A pair of gloves flew at my feet. "Stitch, keep your skates on. Get the guards on."

"Where are you going?"

"Ice show rehearsal. Starts in five minutes. I think we'll be fine."

We were fine and she beat me there. I'm not sure how. I laid on the benches and rested my back while the boys formed a haphazard army. Afterwards I measured some boys for their skating pants. I am now exhausted with a full day of housework ahead of me. I need a nap.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Watching Skating

Stitch typically does not like to watch ice skating. He likes to skate. Which was why I hesitated when Coach suggested that I get IceNetwork and have him watch the Trophee de Bompard (or something), an event of the Senior Grand Prix of skating. But I did it anyway. I figured I could watch the events that we missed while I cook Thanksgiving or sew. Last night I turned on the NHK Trophy while we ate dinner.

Stitch watched between making little notebooks from a larger, preshredded notebook. "These people skate better than me," was his first line of commentary.

I said yes, but they had also been skating for many years, most of them starting right at the age he was now. And all of them started out doing swizzles.

He watched for awhile, and then some truly ridiculous costumes came on and I couldn't resist. "What is this? It looks like a box of band aids barfed all over him. Who is this guy? He looks like Ming the Merciless."

Stitch loves it when I go off like this. He was laughing and watching and not liking the slow choices of music. "Too slow, too corny," he would say. Then he came out with: "I want to win the NHK Trophy."

"Well, if you do decide to try for it, I won't dress you like a science fiction villain."

He then started asking, nay, demanding to go downstairs to jump rope and do stretches. Coach has indicated that he needs to do stretches at home. Obviously she told Stitch as well as me. When I've tried this in the past, Stitch didn't take it seriously, so I stopped. But this time, Stitch dutifully jumped rope forward and back (with limited success but he's getting better) and tolerated the stretching with a minimum of complaints. The basement was big and we echoed loudly, but as it's winter and cold out, this was the best option. We used the bike rack as a ballet barre and the stains on the floor for jumping exercises. I'll bring down some chalk next time and he can do dot drills.

We came back upstairs and watched the awards ceremony for the men. Stitch was upset that Jeremy Abbott took second and not first. I rolled my eyes and put him to bed. Dream big, Stitch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Equipment Issues, Ice Show, The Escape Artist

Stitch loves to T-stop. Loves to T-stop endlessly on his right foot. He's not Snowplow stopping anymore unless he's trying to snowplow someone, so all stops are now t-stops.

As a result, his right skate boot is soaked by the end of any skating session. I've noticed it, and I'm concerned. I asked Rink Pal if this would pose a problem, and he seemed to think that since Stitch would outgrow the boots within a year anyway, it probably wouldn't matter. I'm still worried, as now the sole of the right boot seems permanently discolored. I take them out of the skate bag, pull off the soakers and set them out to dry, but all this water does seem to be doing some damage.

Worst case scenario, the sole could crack and not hold the screws, making the blade loose. Should the blade come loose when Stitch is pulling his terrifying galloping or jogging act, that would be disastrous. I've noticed that his Right Foot is also the foot he's picking to do one-foot spins on, so that sole has got to remain solid as he and Coach start working on those.

I called the skate shop and arranged for a sharpening this weekend. I'll ask them to take a look at that sole and let me know what needs to be done, if anything. This situation ranks right up there with going to the mechanic or the dentist, because I'm well aware that the worst case will be costly.

In the meantime, I'll be begging Stitch to please t-stop on the left foot for awhile.

Last night was Ice Show rehearsal. Richie Rich's mom and dad hovered by the window, with Mom in her furs gliding in to take a picture every now and then. We hovered by the window for awhile until Stitch began glaring at me and making hand signs that he didn't want to be watched. Dad and I had been dismissed! So we stood back and chatted with Rink Pal and Ice Dad (whose kid just qualified to compete in Junior Nationals in Ice Dance.) Ice Dad looks like a deer in the headlights, it's kind of fun.

Later on, two moms joined in, and we talked about costumes. I mentioned the requirement that boys supply their own black pants, and how I'd made Stitch's pants out of a peachskin suede that was nice.

"You can make them?" one mom asked.

"Uh, yeah."

"Can you make some for us?"

"Sure. Bring me the materials, and I'll charge you twenty bucks for labor." I gave her  list of the supplies I'd need, and to check in with me Saturday at next rehearsal. Without even thinking, I'd made forty bucks. I'll measure the boys Saturday, but they're roughly the same size as Stitch.

Stitch wanted to go back to public skate to play. So we ran out for a quick dinner, and ran back to the rink so Stitch could gallop and fly free for awhile. He showed dad his hops, and he spun whenever the girls vacated the center. (I keep telling him he can go center whenever, but those girls are sort of annoying.)  I meandered the rink, went and sat with Speedskating Mom and watched her boy practice for awhile. They have a meet in March that everyone will be at! I noted the time, and then went back to the small rink. I held up my scrolling sign on my phone at Dad: "HOMEWORK."  Time to go.

If you've never seen two grown men attempt to corner and pin a small boy who is remarkably quick on ice skates, you're missing something. Stitch darted and sped off, escaping Dad and Rink Pal with squeals of laughter. Finally Rink Pal cornered him, and Dad grabbed him. Stitch grabbed his skate blade, peeled off some ice and tossed it up at Dad. I was in hysterics.

Rink Pal said goodbye, and "see you this weekend." Ice Show rehearsal is every Saturday from now until Showtime. (Stitch also has a lesson Saturday morning before rehearsal.)

I came home and put Stitch's nose to the grindstone on homework. Three tries to get it right, and sent him to bed. I just about finished the Gunther Gabel Williams shirt, all that's left are some snaps. (Dad insists that this is a misnomer, Gunther Gabel Williams didn't wear shirts.) I'll start cutting the black shirt tonight. Perhaps I can sell shirts, too.... Hmmm. There's definitely a market out there!

 Gunther did wear shirts. Sort of.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Double Shot

Yesterday we got hit with Teh Gay comments twice. Haters gonna hate, I guess.

During Game day I ran into one of the fellow parents from school. His girls do gymnastics and his boy used to play hockey but now does soccer. We chatted for a bit and I was pleased when he commented on the competition video, saying that he showed it to his own son for pointers on how to stop fast and go backwards. I said we were planning on the next one for late January, and told him the music Stitch wanted.

Other Dad raised his brows and puffed out a bit. "Don't you think that's a bit girly?"


"Well," he shook his head. "That might be a bit girly."

"No, it's not. It's good skating music." And pardon me, but weren't you just telling me how you were looking to MY kid to show YOUR kid good technique?

Fast forward to Late Skate. It was a bit crowded because for some reason people feel compelled to come in from a cold night to a cold room to skate, and there was a Hockey Game that night on the main rink. I gave Stitch some money for the vending machines and sent him off.

My Mother/Spidey Sense started to twitch, so I went over to check on things.

Three older boys, not in skates and clearly here because they were dragged here to watch the hockey game, were clustered around Stitch at the Vending Machines. This isn't unusual, most kids aren't allowed unsupervised with money at the machines, so kids will typically gather around some kid with parent-free cash. But I stood back and listened for trouble.

"Do you play hockey, the greatest game ever?" one boy asked.

Stitch ignored and went for his lemonade. He's in his good figure skates, not his moonboots, so it's clear he doesn't play hockey.

"I'll bet you don't play hockey," another boy said.

"Stitch, you okay?" I spoke up before things went south.

"Yeah," he handed me my change.

The first boy looked at me with wolf eyes and said, "Just tryin' to have a conversation."

I gave him Mother Bear Glare and said, "That's cool."

The rest of the evening was uneventful, but now that we're public I guess we can expect more of the same.

Haters gonna hate.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Stitch has private lessons. Most skaters do. The reason being that skating is exceptionally hard and it's not always possible to pick up the skills completely in a group setting, so the kid needs a little help. The flip side is that the skills get picked up too quick and the kid spends a lot of time bored at the boards. (Get it? Hardeharhar.)

In the early days, Stitch spent a lot of time being bored in Pre-Alpha 1. He got it pretty fast, and since he was spending his time chasing rink guards at public skate, he had a fair amount of speed. I debated for about two weeks and consulted an online expert before proceeding.

Is it expensive? Well, how do you define expensive?

Stitch gets supplementary privates for a half hour twice a month. It costs me the same as fifteen trips to Starbuck's within that same thirty day period. I had a choice; I could stop on my way to work and ingest a calorie laden coffee beverage, or I could watch my kid rock a two foot spin.

I really didn't need those calories.

Our rink has forms that you fill out to request private coaching. I turned one in, and got a call a few days later. She gave him a trial lesson (which must be paid for) and he did some amazing things at. So she's our Private Coach, and Stitch still takes the Group Lessons.

It's a perfect balance, actually. I wouldn't dream of doing strictly Privates, because Stitch learns the mechanics of the moves in Group, and learns polish in Privates. When he's got the moves down pat, she introduces him to more challenging things, like Shoot the Duck and the Waltz Jump. Coach will also choreograph his competition routines through the Learn to Skate levels, so it's a great bargain.

I will admit now that I was seriously debating a coaching change. I even went so far as to ask my Coach in question. He said sure, and his rates were the same. The reason I was thinking about it was because Stitch was interpreting Coach as "Mean." He would often be angry after lessons, saying he was tired of being bossed around. Skating is supposed to be for fun, right? So, I asked this coach because Stitch saw this particular coach as Fun.

That was a month ago, and a lot can happen in a month. I have since changed my mind. Coach is making some great progress with Stitch, and I love her coaching style. I don't want to interrupt a good thing, especially when he's walking into Backwards Crossovers and just on the hinge of learning a Waltz Jump.

There is a Russian welder in our shop, and I asked him if he could teach me to say, "Isn't she a bitch," in Russian so I could say it about one of our skating moms. He laughed and we got to talking. I said that my kid thinks Coach is Mean. "She isn't mean, she's Stern. Stitch needs to get the difference."

Wolfgang (his nickname) smiled and said, "That's the way they are, especially with sports. If she's just being stern, she's trying really hard."

Coach clearly likes Stitch, and she does try hard. Today I'm going to give her Carte Blanche to push Stitch. I have video evidence of a one-foot spin and a catch-blade spiral, moves Stitch refused to do for Coach because he knew full well that she would make him work harder.

I gave the same permission to Stitch's teacher to get him to read material that was more appropriate for his reading level, and not the baby board books he will pick out on his own. He freely admits that they are easy and he'll get done faster. Stitch thinks he's cheating me, Dad, and Teacher. He's not, he's only cheating himself.

I showed Stitch "She's a Good Skate," the Snoopy cartoon where Snoopy plays irascible skate coach to Peppermint Patty. "Is that like Coach sometimes?" I asked.


"Do you think Snoopy is being mean, or is he trying to get Patty to skate better?"

"Skate better."

"That's what your Coach is doing, too."

So, as Peppermint Patty says so succinctly, "There's no one harder to please than a Skate Coach."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alpha Competition, Music

Stitch and I talked about music again, and I think he likes this piece. I like it, too.

We'd just take the first minute of the song. There's a nice point for a fade out right before the first improvisation point.

He first said he might like a Michael Jackson song, but we couldn't settle on one. So I started looking at Snoopy music, since he likes Snoopy. I had it between "Surfin' Snoopy" which was a minute already and needed no cutting, or this one.

It was no contest, really.

Shuffles, part Deux

We've had two ice show rehearsals, and I hadn't seen Shuffles at either of them, so I was assuming that Shuffles was sitting this one out. Just as well, every time I see him he looks more pained and miserable than he did the week prior. While his speed is improving, he still can't do a one-foot glide for more than a millisecond. (You have to hold a one foot glide for the distance of your body length to pass Pre-Alpha 2.)

But the Nutso asked me about the routine. "How is it? Is it easy? We haven't been to rehearsal."

Oh, crap, seriously?

"Well, they do some crossovers, but he might be able to fake his way through them," I considered. "And they do some heavy swizzling... and they spin at the end...." I realized Shuffles would be hopelessly lost at best and a boat anchor at worst. "Um, it's pretty easy. I think he'll be fine."

I've volunteered for spots, so I can't wait to see the carnage!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


On the way home, Stitch and I were chatting, and suddenly he asked when skating lessons would start again. I told him "not for awhile. You have Game Day on Saturday, but that's it for a few weeks."

He pouted for a moment. Tonight after dinner, I cleaned up and we went for a walk. This was to be a Talking Walk.

Stitch and I sat down in the middle of an Indian Summer night and we talked skating. I expressed how happy I was with his skating, and how proud everyone was. But I also explained that the skating is becoming a serious expense. He seemed a bit shocked. I told him that I didn't mind spending the money so long as he continued to make progress, do well, and be happy. However, I would cut back if any of that changed. We made some verbal agreements about goals to reach for February, and what is and is not acceptable behavior at the rink. Stitch agreed to it all. I agreed that I would give up my afternoon beers on the train home, and put that money to new ice skates when the time came. Stitch was very happy about this, he has often said that he "worries" about me drinking "too much beer." We also talked about coaches, and all that Coach Y had done for him; the progress made, how she stood up for him at the competition, all that. We decided to stay with her for awhile longer.

When we got home, I typed up a written mini-contract that is good to the end of February. I read it to him, he agreed, and we both signed it. One of the agreements was that I would not make him do Compulsories in his Alpha Competition. He sighed dramatically and said, "Oh, thank god."

I told him that I would show this to Coach, so she knew his goals and expectations. I then asked him to think about what music he would like so I could cut it for him.

It was kind of heartbreaking; when I told him that he could choose between doing a competition in the spring or the spring show at the rink, as I could only afford one or the other, he got wide eyed and said he didn't want to do either.

"But I thought you enjoyed competing."

"I do, but you don't have to spend the money!"

"No, sweetie, I want you to do it. You just have to choose. I think you would be better off competing, as the routines for the PreStyle kids in the shows seem really simple."

"Yeah, that ice show routine is EASY."

I read somewhere that the best way to teach your kids about money is for you not to have any. Stitch knows that we are not rich. He spends a lot of time devising ways to make or find money. He thinks we should open a store, with me making and selling clothes and jewelry, and he would sell his crafts and art projects. I keep saying that money isn't everything, and there are a lot of miserable, wealthy people out there who would do anything to have what our family has. He doesn't believe me.

Just trust me, kiddo.

I Listen

I'm a Listener. Had I been an American Indian, I would have been the one with my ear to the ground. I overher all sorts of crazy crap, but mostly at the rink.

I'm told that our rink is very unique in that mostly everyone is supportive and friendly. I know a lot of names by now, and mostly everyone knows or at least knows of Stitch. Stitch enjoys a minor celebrity status being the favorite of the Rink Guards. However, we're not free of our share of weirdos, and Stitch is encountering what will be his first tastes of rivalry. Not that he knows it, I just overhear it.

Saturday Stitch had a private lesson. His regular Privates are on a smaller rink, usually shared by four or five other kids getting privates from other coaches. One of these coaches I'll call Neil Diamond. (Not because it's a dead match, but he reminds me of the famous singer.) I don't particularly like Coach Diamond's teaching style. It mostly involves him running fast circles of the maneuver to be learned, while the kid struggles to perform it in the center of this whirling madness. Add to that Coach Diamond's calls of, "Do it! Put your foot there! Come on!"

Our Coach first does a patient explanation, followed by demonstrations, then Stitch tries. Demonstrate, try. Demonstrate, try, try again. Demonstrate, try, try, try again. And so on. Stitch may not pick it up right that day, but as I always say, "Tomorrow is another day." (Skating is hard.)

Coach Diamond's student I will call Richie Rich. Because he is a millennial version of Richie Rich. His mom and dad sit on the benches, watching like hawks. The mom wears fitted furs and does a lot of glaring. Sometimes at me. It's unnerving. I tried once to engage the dad in conversation, but he politely responded before making it clear he wasn't interested. Richie Rich has never once spoken to Stitch, even though they are the same age and skating level. He wears some serious high test skates, very new.

Coach Diamond and Richie Rich were out together again this past Saturday. I was in the lobby, having just finished up with Stitch's skates and told him to report to the ice to wait for Coach. Diamond was greeting Richie's well dressed parents and the Dad was making comments about the Ice Show rehearsal the previous day.

"Oh, yes, we're really happy. At rehearsal that night, all those other boys were marching like this," and he made some wonky jerky motion. "But not Richie, he knew what he was doing!"

I smiled. "All those other boys?" Yeah, okay.

I learned from Rink Informant that Coach Diamond at one point was "watching" Stitch. But now that Stitch is the clear property of Coach Y, he may have switched camps. Stitch informed me that Coach Diamond ushered him to "shoo shoo shoo" away from a specific area during practice ice one afternoon. Now, I don't know the context or what Stitch was doing. I wasn't there. But if Stitch was doing crossovers or any other sort of serious practicing, then I have a problem. For now, I let it go.

Coach Diamond knows what his parents want, and he gives it to them. A few weeks ago, he was teaching Richie a two foot hop with a half rotation. He called this a "Mazurka." (I know it's a real move, I just don't know if they were doing it right. They weren't moving when they did it.) Mom and Dad gushed and applauded from the sidelines. They spent a good ten minutes doing this, and again, I'm not sure if it was correct. Parents love jumps. Jumps are Super Cool. A half done jump is way cooler than a boring crossover, sure. But the Boring Crossovers come FIRST.

So, Richie Rich is doing standstill Mazurkas, and Stitch is still stumbling through the mechanics of a backwards crossover. That jumping over there is way cool, but watch Richie try a backwards crossover. He stumbles a lot more than Stitch. I think this is a grave coaching error. Basic moves come before jumps!!

At the end of the lesson, Coach Diamond picked up Richie and swung him around head down on the ice. Both of them were laughing and making noise, round and around they went, and I was horrified. If at any point I had considered switching to Coach Diamond, that door closed in that moment. One, that is incredibly dangerous. Two, I'm paying you to coach, not turn the ice into a playground. Three, I'm all for being friends, but a Coach needs to have a student's respect. Hard to maintain when you're swinging a student by his toes. (And I don't see Stitch being very responsive to his coaching style.)

I will continue listening to Coach Diamond and his parents, and I will see if my Rink Informant has any new information for me.

On the homefront, Stitch showed me rather definitively that he can do a very low Shoot the Duck off the ice. He got down and stuck that foot right out there. "Holy cow, kiddo!"

"Yeah, but I can't do it on the ice," he lamented.

"Try it on Friday, just keep practicing."

He also showed me that he can almost make a full rotation jump. I was having him do half-rotations in the parking lot, but then he decided to go all the way. He can almost make it!

One of my points with Coach will be to ask for a list of things we can do off the ice, at the playground so Stitch can improve his strength. Another is a list of moves I can run down with Stitch on Public Skate.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First Places, all around!

And he won. Both events, even the compulsory which he hated and had a fall. (Backward Swizzles of all things. He got carried away and went too wide.)

It was quite the day.

We left home on time at six thirty, arriving at the rink shortly after seven. We checked in, gave up our music, and waited. Coach showed up not long afterwards, and took Stitch aside for some wake-up jumping rope and an off-ice run of his program. Stitch was wide awake, bouncy and giddy. He knew that all this excitement was about him and his program.

Dad took him to the men's room to change. (No boy's dressing room.) I hung out anxiously. The vendors spoke to me and tried to push some rather nice soakers on to me. (Very nice soakers, but we all know how I feel about soakers.) Dad and Stitch came back, dressed and ready for skates. Girls had begin arriving at this point, so Zuca bags were rolling everywhere and I started to feel the roving terror of the toes when little kids in bladed feet are about.

After ten minutes of hand-wringing, I put on skates. Dad tried to interfere, but I felt that after all the sewing and driving and check-writing, I wanted to put on the skates. I went to the lineup area with Stitch, and a gaggle of little girls and a two boys were waiting as well. It was sheer madness. I immediately dubbed it Chaos Alley. Coaches and moms and ice monitors with clipboards were all vying for a spot where the kid was accessible. Coach arrived and dismissed me, so, with just an empty set of blade guards in hand, I went to sit and watch.

It felt so odd.

The kids took the ice for warmups; little ones doing little routines in cute outfits. They're all cute now. Dad and I took pictures, being dutiful parents. After awhile, they were ushered off by the announcer, and one by one they did their routines. Lots of Disney tunes, lots of sweeping music for swizzles, lots of lyrics about dreams. Very few falls, lots of shaky spirals. But a great bunch.

Finally, Stitch took the ice. For a moment I thought, "Oh, god, please let him do the routine Coach taught him and not some crazy thing he's had in his mind." The music started, and he took off. Swizzle, hop, spin (and the audience applauded his spin!) one foot glide, backwards wiggle, backward swizzle, stop, pose... pose... pose. He ran a hair too fast, but all was forgiven when he did a sharp heel on the final note anyway. Then he bowed. The audience loved it.

I was amazed. That's MY kid!

A few minutes later he appeared at the bottom of the bleachers and waved at us. I ran down and scooped him up. "You were amazing!"

"Yeah, I know!" Let it never be said he lacks confidence.

We left to go change into the compulsory outfit, and I noticed the happy smiles of the audience members as we passed by. They smiled at him! After forever and a day, we emerged from the ladies room in the other outfit, and Coach found us. "Did you see?" she asked.

"See what?"

"Results are up. Go see."

So we went to see. Stitch saw his name next to "First Place." He did his comic "jaw drop" and then got bouncy. "What do I win? Is it a medal?"

Coach led us over to the awards table, where Stitch collected his first trophy. It's very nice! But Stitch had wanted a medal. I rolled my eyes and told him to please take the trophy and remember that there was a strict "no whining" policy in effect for the next few hours.

We ran up the bleachers to show Dad, who was suffering through the Beta Freeskate alone. "That was fast," he said, shocked at the beautiful trophy. "I never got anything that nice."

Stitch was mighty pleased with himself. "I want to do it again," he said.

"And you will," I replied. "You still have Compulsories."

He groaned. He really hated the idea of compulsories, but I just think it's because he didn't have a lot of time to prepare.

For some reason, the high freestyle skaters got sandwiched between the little ones. So, while we were waiting to do more forward Swizzles, we got to watch double jumps and blade grabbing skatenastics. Stitch and Dad went to find "breakfast," and returned with popcorn. Whatever.

Gordon's mom didn't speak to me again today, but I'll chalk that up to competition craziness. Gordon did well, but I didn't see how he placed. Honestly, I didn't really care at the time.

So, finally, the skaters in his event cluster were called to the lineup area. I had him in skates already, and we trucked back down to Chaos Alley where moms and coaches were giving last minute instructions to wide-eyed kids. Coach arrived and asked Stitch what he was supposed to do. He listed off three strokes, two foot glide, one foot glide, three swizzles...

"No," said Coach. Stitch had the numbers wrong. Crap.

She dismissed me and then went to haggle with the ice monitor. Something was amiss, but I figured he already had a first place so whatever he got this time was fine. I went back up to our lonely perch. The kids took the ice and Stitch did a wobbly routine. He wasn't as sure of himself this time. Coach was way out on the ice and giving explicit instructions, like this was a lesson and not a review.

Warmups got called, and everybody left. Stitch was supposed to be the second skater out, but some other girl went out before him. That must be what the haggling was about. Now Stitch had one more precious minute to review. I see. (Again, didn't really care.)

That girl finished up, and there was Stitch. He took his place, and began easily enough. He watched the center line (can't cross, half ice only) and started backward swizzles. And fell. There was that shared moment in the audience when anyone fell, that half gasp and pause. Stitch got up and continued swizzling backwards. It never happened. He bowed, the audience applauded, and suddenly we were done. Three months of preparation and worry, and then in two hours it was done.

I went to collect Stitch, but got stopped on the bleachers. Another mom, the mom of the cute thing in blue sparkles who rocked the pre-alpha spiral competition. "Is he your son?"


"He's very good, when did he start?"

"March, so not too long ago. He's really taken off with it."

"What level is he?"

Oh god, here we go. "Well, he's competing at Pre-Alpha but he just passed Alpha yesterday. So I guess that makes him Beta now."

"And he's how old?"

"Seven." Good lord woman, what is your point?

"Does he want to do pairs?"

Honestly, I was waiting for this today. I just didn't know when it would come. "Well, he's in charge of his skating, and right now he thinks girls are icky. (Truth!) That might change in a few years, but for right now, he's a singles skater."

"Oh," she was disappointed. "Well, thanks."

"Your little one is adorable, and very good. I loved her spiral."

"Okay," she was still disappointed. "Thanks."

Stitch appeared through the door. He half smiled. "I fell." Coach was right behind him.

"So?" I countered. "I don't care if you fall. I only care that you get back up."

Coach asked him why he fell. "He knows," she said.

"I did it too wide," he said quietly.

"Ah, that's okay. You got up and did great! I think you were fantastic."

Coach seemed more concerned than me. We then settled some business and went to get his Real Boy clothes. We just had to wait for results and then we could go home.

"So," I asked Stitch. "Want to do this again?"

"Y-E-S," he spelled out his enthusiasm.

Dad wandered from Chaos Alley. "Are results up?" I asked.

"I can't tell. It's a madhouse over there." He gave up too easily.

I forced my way in and peered between the sparkles. Another first place.

"See that?" I pointed it out to Stitch. "You won again!"

"I did? Really?" I think he was a bit stunned because he fell.

"Let's go see what you got!" we started trucking to the awards table.

"I hope it's a medal," Stitch bounced.

It was another trophy, this time a Trophy trophy. It looks like a kid's idea of a trophy and Stitch was so happy. He grabbed it and gawked. "My first real trophy!"

"Keep skating like this and you'll have more," I reminded him.

I went to find Dad so he could pony up the engraving fee. Stitch never let it go after the engraver got done with it. He bounced and clutched and refused to let us see it. "Two trophies," he beamed.

"We'll need a shelf," I mused.

"Shelves," the engraver winked at me.

Yikes. So, our first competition and what did I learn? There were few boys. Very few boys, and Stitch was the only boy not skating in what I would consider practice wear. All the other boys had on regular athletic pants and shirts. Stitch had two costumes. The competition amongst the girls seems fierce, but most boys compete against the book. They know it, I heard two of them talking about it in Chaos Alley.

Dad took off for work, and Stitch and I went to Chuck E Cheese. I had told him he was going regardless of how he placed, as he's worked so hard. He ate pizza and won 422 tickets. I keep saying that I need to take him to Vegas.

Of course we went to public skate. The trophies came with us. His rink friends greeted him like a returning hero, viewing his trophies and congratulating him. He was speeding around the rink and spinning, trying funny tricks for his friends. Nutso even congratulated him before launching into another round of random complaints. Precious diverted the conversation by talking about her teeth. "How many teeth has Stitch lost? I've lost FIVE."

Okay, sure. I'll have this conversation with you.

We left early. It's been a long day. I have leftovers for dinner, and I plan on making popcorn and snuggling with a good movie. Tomorrow or later on this week, Stitch and I can have our talk. I know he wants to compete again, but I need to see exactly (or as close as possible) what he wants out of this.

All in all, a great day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Group Level Testing

Well, I don't know how it happened, but Stitch passed Alpha. I watched as he blew by the other kids dutifully doing crossovers and gave up hope, but then when they started playing games I got a good feeling. Sure enough, he ran up with the paper smiling. "I passed!"

Thank heaven.

Precious was indeed bumped to Beta. This should be fun. In fact, those were her her only words to me today, as she held her nose aloft and showed me the paper. Wow. Just wow. Again, the proof is in the pudding and Beta is notoriously hard. More than one little girl took her skates off in tears today, and all were in Beta.

Tonight I am stitching the last of the snaps and buttons and finding the few last hanging threads. I finished the black faux suede pants, as Coach decided to have Stitch in his white turtleneck that he hates and black pants for Compulsuries. That's boring, so I got home and made a red sparkly cummerbund.

The bags are packed, the clothes are set out. The car is gassed up, the donuts bought. All we have to do is grab a donut and the bags and leave.

Saint Lidwina, wish us luck tomorrow!

One more Day

It's a big skating weekend. Yesterday morning Stitch had a put-in practice with Coach, that night he had ice show rehearsal. Today is Test Day for the Group lessons, and tomorrow is The Day.

I'm actually more nervous about the Group Testing than I am about the Competition, believe it or not. Mostly because I can't stand any more forward Crossovers. Every practice session is just endless rounds of forward crossovers, accompanied by endless whining. I just want him to move on to something new. As for tomorrow, my biggest challenges are getting everyone up and out the door by 6:30. I plan on having a bag packed with a sewing kit, extra music CD, and a flask of whiskey. After that, it's all up to Stitch.

When it's over I'm taking him to Chuck E Cheese as a reward for all his hard work. He really deserves it. All this practice... when I think about it, it's really quite amazing. Then I plan on taking a rest for a week or two. Cut back on the skating so he can recoup and we can have a chat on whether or not he wants to compete again. I could go either way, but I do have an idea for a killer costume I'd like to get started on should he decide to do this again. (February.)

Yesterday we almost had a shadow cross our weekend. Stitch has a Bully at school. Or rather, the school has a Bully. She's some mean little switch, who makes threats against just about everyone. "I'm going to knock your teeth out," and so on. Yesterday, she whispered, "I'm going to kill you," at Stitch.

Stitch, as instructed, went right to Teacher, Teacher sent both of them to the office where the Bully patently denied everything. All parents were called, and Dad has a meeting with Teacher on Tuesday to discuss the incident. The school officials assure me that this is being taken very seriously, but I was more concerned about Stitch being negatively impacted before such a big weekend.

But this is different from our bullying incidents in the past. Stitch doesn't seem to care. Whenever this happened in K-garden or Preschool, he'd wallow and whine and wonder why some people didn't like him. I really wanted to say, "Some people are shit heads that you shouldn't try to please," but he was young. For days he'd sit in a depressed funk.

Not this time. This time he laughed it off and tried to show me his stroking technique in the train station. He was too excited to get to rehearsal to care about telling me everything. We got to the rink late due to Train problems getting home, but he skidded onto the ice and rehearsed well, then asked to stay for public skate to play. He even practiced crossovers and stroking before play as instructed with a minimal amount of whining. We went out for some Teriyaki beef and caterpillar roll afterward, and it was like nothing ever happened.

I'm very pleased. Do I entirely credit the skating with this remarkable new ability and show of maturity? Not really, but I do think it's playing a heavy part. Stitch has some unique and impressive skills that other kids don't have, and he knows it. He sees the same kids at the rink who are mean on the playground. They're falling all over themselves while he dashes away, and I know he gets a kick out of it. I think the Coaching and Practice, the choices he gets to make with his music and costume, and learning the confidence to show those skills in competition is having a very positive effect on him. The knowledge that his Coach thinks he's got some talent and hearing the complements of strangers at the rink doesn't hurt either. "He's really good!" they say to me.

"Tell him, not me," I reply. "He's the one jumping all around."

Last night on the way home we talked about Coach's ultimatum on T-Stops during competition. He can't do them. He must do Snowplow Stops, and he wasn't sure why. "I like T-Stops better."

"Yes, I know. But you're being judged on Pre-Alpha skills. T-Stop is a Beta skill, not Pre-Alpha. You have to stick with Pre-Alpha skills."

"But then I have to start all over!"

"No," I rubbed my eyes. This is confusing even for me. "The rules state that you can only compete at your highest level tested at the time I turned in the paperwork. That was Pre-Alpha. So, even though you're practically Beta, you're going to be judged only on Pre-Alpha skills on Sunday. Does that make sense?"

*Pause* "No."

"You're not going back to a Pre-Alpha class after this. You will go on to Beta provided you do crossovers correctly tomorrow. But if you decide to compete again, you might be competing at an Alpha level because that's the highest level you would have passed."

Silence. It still didn't make sense to him. "Just don't do T-stops, okay?" I said with a laugh. "Snowplow the judges if you want to."

Stitch can throw snow a full two feet out the ice door. I think he just might try it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stop Making Sense

I've been musing on Precious and some of the other kids at the rink. I know it's not acceptable to compare my kid to other kids, a lesson I've learned in school when Stitch's stories look as though they were penned by a raven on crack. But I can think, can't I?

Coach teaches another boy, who will be competing Sunday as well. I'll call him Gordon. She talked highly of this kid, stating that his mom was in a local esteemed Ballet company, and that he was at Gamma level in lessons but competing at Alpha level. (*shrug*) I was anxious to meet him.

When I did, of course his mom blew by me like I didn't exist, so whatevs. Then I caught a glimpse of Gordon's skating. Slow. Stumbly. Forward crossovers lack that smooth look.This kid can't be in Gamma. Mom was chatting and grinning at the stumbly look. Coach Y was looking frustrated, and as we left I saw her talking to Gordon's mom with a pained expression. Something was amiss.

Later on I learned from Rink Pal that Coach had a "sit down" with Gordon's mom about speed and practice.

In my experience, Public Ice is a fine way for PreStyle kids to practice. It's cheap, easy to supervise, and not very crowded at the right times. Even if it is populated, what better way to learn stops and sharp turns then by dodging little kids who fall a lot. But I'd never seen Gordon during public skate on weekends. Ever.

Precious is another story. She's becoming quite the viper, and dragging her siblings with her. When Stitch and I attended the Halloween Costume Skate on Sunday, she eyed us from afar before approaching. "Is that REAL blood on his shirt?" she asked me, indicating the red stains from the blood capsule on Stitch's shirt.

"No, it's fake," I replied.

The words, "Probably juice," hadn't even finished crossing her lips before she skated off, never to speak to me again. I know she's a Yankee child of a decidedly Yankee mother, so I can only fault her manners so far, but the attitude that reeks off this child has a stink. Nutso seems convinced that Precious will be bumped to Beta, but even if that does happen it will be a mistake. Sure, Precious can land one foot over the other, but her back is bent and her knees are rigid. Her line is not good. If she were Stitch, I would like him to stay in Alpha to get it right before moving on.

At Ice Show rehearsal, I talked with SkateDad and watched his boy. He's Stitch's age and in Pre-Freestyle. I was interested to see him skate. But as I watched I realized, this kid doesn't have the same confidence on the ice as Stitch. He didn't take off running across the ice as Stitch did, and his stroking included toepicks. His forward crossovers look just like Stitch's; a bit leany with a mild stagger on about the fifth or sixth one. I didn't ask.

I think parents are getting confused by this process. Ultimately, we want our kids to learn to skate well, not attach a label to their level. When a skate parent introduces themselves to me, their first statement is their name. Their second is their kid's name, immediately followed by their skating level. I then have to state my kid's skating level, and thus the totem pole becomes established.

But the names on the levels aren't important. What's important is the skills. No parent would dream of advancing their kids a grade level in school if they didn't have the chops, but here in the skating world, that's acceptable and cool. It's cool because skating is awesome and it's even more awesome to have a kid that can skate. The levels are an instant way for other parents to judge your kids skating and coolness factor in comparison to their own. But it just cripples the kids in the long run.

Let's compare to swimming; no sane swim instructor would pass a kid to the next level if the kid didn't have the chops. The kid would just wind up hurting themselves, and exposes them to a dangerous possibility of drowning. Same with skating.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Newbie Moms like Me

Yesterday was group and private lesson day. Coach Y was barking at Stitch to get on the ice as he was pulling off his guards, and I knew that she'd be milking every second. We're a week away, and while I think things look pretty solid, the coach of course has every right to tweak the program.

She had him run through some forward and backwards crossovers before running through the program five times. Yes, five times. She even ran to get her boom box from the big rink, found an extension cord and ran it to the ice door, where I pushed "play" and Stitch ran through the routine again and again. One mom was sitting on the benches behind me, and asked me what we were doing.

"Is this for a competition?" she asked.

"Uh, yeah," I said. "It's next week, so I guess they're looking to make it good."

"What level is he?"

"He's Alpha 2 now, but competing at Pre-Alpha. It's weird, the day he passes Alpha, he'll be competing at a Pre-Alpha competition. I guess that's just how it falls."

And we talked. Her daughter was the one in the sparkly Princess costume. This mom didn't know if her daughter was ready to compete, but told me about the girl's enthusiasm. "I just want to do one that's no pressure," she said.

"Then do ISI. Everyone gets a medal for showing up, and they encourage the beginners." I told her about the website, the cheap membership, how to pony up to compete, and music. I felt rather wise.

After the private lesson, I cleaned up the extension cords for Coach while she ran to the group class. I got in to find my friend, and we started talking about Thanksgiving and how she needed to come over to teach me how to make Curry Goat.

A voice behind us chimed in. Another newbie mom. We talked about food, apparently how our town has none good in it, and then we inevitably turned to skating. "I found her some skates at a yard sale," the mom looked over wistfully at the Beta Group.

"Which one is yours?"

She indicated Rockstar, the girl who has been bumped up from Pre-Alpha all the way to Beta in one session. Rockstar had been the one in the Moonboot Skates, and now she had a pair of Riedells in bad need of a sharpening.

I queried if Rockstar would be interested in my Pre-Freestyle ice calendar, to get some added practice. Mom turned to me. "There's practice ice?"

I set her up with the same information I gave to the other mom; ISI, competition, coaches, etc.

The other mom put down her notebook and gave a hard look out onto the ice. "You know, sometimes I get the feeling that we aren't wanted here."

"So do I. Ignore it. Everyone started at Pre-Alpha, and they know it."

We laughed, class ended, and we all said our goodbyes. I felt much better, knowing that I wasn't alone in feeling that the parents of higher level skaters can be less than welcoming.

(Oh, and I met Mysteria!!! 'Nother post, 'nother post...)