Friday, December 31, 2010

Observations on the Ice

My legs had the shakes, so I didn't have on skates. This happens from time to time; my muscles feel weird and I'll just feel shaky in general. Friday night at Public it started, and I felt like I was about to go down every few seconds. Today was similar, so I sat this one out.

Stitch was playing ambassador to all the small children with new skates for Christmas. He was coaxing them to come off the wall, talking about his lessons and his coach. He was handing out candy canes. (We have tons.) Generally being a very good boy, and the other moms were loving him. I filled in Stitch's gaps when the moms asked me; Group Lessons, Private Lessons, Ice Time and so forth. Honestly, I hated sitting in the stands with the other moms. It's all, yup, here I am, sitting and watching. Doo-da-doo. Stupid legs.

Gordon was there. He was working on three-turns, looking a bit lost, and eventually he and Stitch ran into each other. They talked and played for awhile before Coach called her students into the small rink for a bonus session. They each did their programs (I'm learning) and I couldn't help but notice that Stitch seemed to be doing his program at a higher level. He also has the best spin. Every skating parent website out there tells you to not compare your kid to others, but I don't see how this is possible. Gordon was cheating his forward crossovers, the girl was doing great but didn't do her awesome spiral, and Stitch was hopping, one-foot spinning and lunging like it was his job.

Gordon's mom came over to the window, and like true skating parents we were both face-mashed into the glass for awhile. I finally decided I was done looking foolish and introduced myself. "Oh," said Ms. Gordon. "Yes, we've seen you. Your son is very talented."

"Thanks. He really enjoys it. Yours is doing some good work, too."

What followed was a conversation wherein I learned: Gordon has been skating for three years. He started in the Tot level, and was suddenly zoomed up to Gamma once he hit six. Gordon's mom had the plan that Gordon learn to skate so he would be knowledgeable on dates. All this, she claims, is a surprise. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think many people plop their three year old in a Tot Class with the foresight of their future significant others in mind. Gordon's mom cannot sew. Gordon's mom only skated once a week until Gordon started competing, and she really hates the practice ice schedule. "I mean, I don't want to be here too late or too early. That's just not right."

"Well, coming from the theatre, really late and really early is just par for the course. You deal with it. Nutella sandwiches help."

We then talked about Spring Show, how I don't plan on doing it if Stitch will be just doing swizzles and wiggles (Sorry. I'm just so done with swizzles.) and Gordon's mom saying that it was "cute."
"They wore sunglasses at the end."
"Yeah, I think Stitch would like to actually skate, not wiggle."
"Oh, but he'll be in freestyle soon," she says. "They might pass him up faster. It happens."
"We'll see. Whatever happens, happens."
"Oh, no. They will. He's got a lot of natural talent."
"No, he just skates a lot. You should bring Gordon more, they can play together. The boys need to stick together."

Then she rants off again into how horrible it is to spend the day at the rink. (I think there's a stack of free books at the door for a reason. There may as well be a sign; "PARENTS. YOU WILL NEED ONE.")

We had errands to run after skating. Stitch was really upset when we got into the car.
"Honey, what's wrong?"
"No, really. What's wrong."
*sniffle* "I didn't get a chance to play."
"I'm sorry. I thought the bonus lesson would only be a half hour. I'm really sorry it ate up Public Skate time. How about on Sunday I leave you alone for the entire time. No practicing if you don't want to."

So, while Stitch may be full of "Natural talent," he is still a little boy. And again, while I'm sure that if we stuffed his days full of lessons he certainly would be in Freestyle soon, I have no desire to rob him of his boyhood. He's friggin' seven. We have lots of time, folks.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dear Well-Meaning Neighbor....

Mind your own business!!

Friday night before the holiday Stitch and I were walking home, and my Well Meaning Neighbor caught up with us. We chatted briefly about the holiday and I casually mentioned that I had to run home and grab the skate bag, so we could hit Public Skate.

"Wow, Stitch skates a lot," says Well-Meaning Neighbor. "Does he like to skate that often?"

Do you hear the subtext here? It gets louder in his next response.

"Yes," I reply. "He's often asking if and when there is public skate. We typically hit all of them on weekends."

"Wow," says Well-Meaning Neighbor. "Stitch, do you ever get a break?"

Stitch mumbles something.

"Do you want a break, Stitch?"

Stitch mumbles something else.

Did you catch that? Well-Meaning Neighbor has made the implication that you are making him skate too much!! Stitch's less than enthusiastic reply has affirmed his suspicions. What Well-Meaning Neighbor didn't hear was Stitch's earlier question, "Is there public skate today? Can we go? Yay!"

My immediate reaction is to reply to this is perhaps he's making his daughter hang out at the stupid bookstore without buying anything too much, or perhaps they need to question why it is whenever she's at my place, she's glued to the TV watching some pre-teen magicky pseudo drama. They don't own a TV. Yeah. They're those parents. But I didn't. I politely responded that yes, Stitch does like to skate as often as he can. (I'm doing my best down here, Southern Grandmas, but darned if I don't want to have words with these people sometimes!)

I don't question other people's parenting, it's too much of a minefield. So why is it that just about everyone I talk to about the skating will give me a look and subtly imply that I'm forcing this on Stitch. I'm not.  Stitch asks to skate. Further, if Stitch's endless communications of spinning in my kitchen, hopping all over the sidewalk and asking, "Think I can do this on the ice?!", talking about wanting a fan club, and sleeping with his trophy are saying that he wants to progress in skating, then this is what I need to do. Don't bug me about it! I wouldn't deprive him of a chance to excel any more than I would deprive him of his Nestle Quick.

I don't question other people's ridiculous parenting methods, and here in Gilded Suburbia there are all types. I would never call you weird to your face for not owning a TV. I would never laugh and offer sweet Muffy Pixie Sticks after you boast that she thinks Brussel Sprouts are candy. I don't make too much of a face when it slips that your kid plays four hours of vidya games a day.  I won't giggle about your notions that a field trip to LegoLand is a vile consumerist marketing ploy, not until I get into my car. I will politely smile in gentle pity as your son lands a punch to your shoulder while you attempt to lace his shoes. I don't bug you about your uber-paranoid delusions about vaccinations. I don't turn up my nose at your super-organic goji berry yogurt brittle. I will bite my tongue and say nothing as you order me to paint two soccer balls on your kid's face because "he's gonna be a big famous soccer player one day and make us all rich!" (Yes, this actually happened. Kid was four.) I don't bug you about your parenting, don't bug me about mine!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blunt Truth

Stitch got thrown in over his head on this one. The last competition was Swizzles. This one is Three Turns and One Foot Spins. These competitions are only two months apart. Stitch is feeling some heat and there's a bit of tension in the air. Am I worried? Sort of, but here's a bit of blunt honesty: I hope he takes second or third. I want to see what he does when he loses. I'm still viewing the whole competing thing as a big experiment. If he flips out, then we need to step back and re-evaluate.

Historically, Stitch wouldn't do anything unless he was guaranteed a positive outcome. He didn't even chance failure or losing. If anything, board game, relay race, tag, art project, anything, was "too hard" or might reveal him to be of lesser skill than his peers, he wouldn't even try.

So far I'm pleased with the way Skating his given him a very unique and difficult skillset to be proud of. I'm happy that he has a Coach who pressures him to better things and a veritable fan club at the rink. But this is the first time he's been handed real pressure. He must learn this skill and put it within this program in four short weeks. If all goes well and no one gets sick, we have 3 more sessions with Coach, 17 Public Ice Sessions and 5 Practice Ice Sessions to get it down. He can step up to the plate, er, ice, or he can half ass it and lose. Now is when he sees the real consequences of faking, cheating, blowing through it or trying to whine his way out of it. I doubt skating judges care about his cute little grin, unlike the teacher's assistants at school who let him get away with murder(ing the English language.)

I've explained to him that it's not up to me and it's not up to Coach whether or not he gets that medal he's longing for. It's up to him. He's the only one who's going to be in skates that day. He seems to be hearing me. On Sunday's session, Stitch worked his Three Turns for a half hour, unasked and unprovoked. (He's going to have outside edge three turns down just by mistake.) Monday, Dad and Stitch worked them for twenty minutes. He's frustrated, he's mad, he's even growling, but he's doing it. And getting better. So far, I'm pleased. I think he's stepping up.

However, the biggest test will be to see how he handles second or third place.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dear Young Skater; You are Not a Coach

There's a very nice young lady at the rink. She's about 13 or so, very sweet, obviously loves to skate and is progressing fast. Her back crossovers are like silk, her three turns are magic, and she's learning a Waltz Jump and spins. She's very lovely and is eager to spread her enthusiasm with the other girls. She largely avoids Stitch, because while she finds him cute, she really doesn't seem to know how to approach a little boy who spends a lot of time on the ice pretending to be an ambulance. (She once told him to please stop with the siren noises. Stitch ignored her. Welcome to public skate!)

But yeah, really nice young lady. We'll call her NariNam

Trouble is, she's a beginner. And her enthusiasm bubbles over into "let me teach you." I have no issue with kids playing and daring each other into new moves, but NariNam wants to teach. So after her lesson is over, I'll often see her out with a helmeted kid with wobbly ankles stumbing through a forward crossover. NariNam is right there, playing Coach. This weekend she was critiquing her "student's" skates, knocking on the obviously plastic heel and stating that she "didn't trust" skates where the blade wasn't screwed in. She was playing equipment expert to some very cheap sports store skates. And mom was right there, nodding, smiling, being sucked in by the prospect of free instruction and NariNam's obvious charm. After resurface, NariNam was prodding this kid into back crossovers. She does this with at least three little girls at any session I see her on.

Again, I don't mind kids helping each other out. What I do mind is a kid acting as an expert to a move she herself picked up not but a month ago. How does NariNam know that this particular kid is ready for her impromptu lesson? What if NariNam pushes this kid into something where the kid gets hurt? I mean, the PSA website pretty much details why Skating Coaches cost so much; there's tests and certs and insurance involved.

I know NariNam's dad is very proud of her, as well he should be, but he really needs to put the nix on this Amateur Coaching routine. I think it's a recipe for disaster.

JoAnn Schneider Farris Officially annoys the crap out of me

I follow the Blog on figure skating at It's run by some chick named JoAnn. JoAnn seems to enjoy further cloaking figure skating in mystery, as her blog posts are often cryptic but with warnings of bad things happening should you (as a parent) make wrong decisions. But, ever eager for information, I follow anyway.

She posted over the weekend that "Cheap Figure Skates are not acceptable." What followed was two paragraphs basically repeating that same statement, with some words about going to the skate shop and asking your coach. (But if you're a way beginner, you don't have a coach. And by the time you have a coach, you probably already have opinions about skates.) Well, JoAnn, what is acceptable? Finally fed up with the vague posts, I asked her to clarify. I said that while Alpha level skaters might want something more substantial that sports store skates, they also don't need K-Picks and Harlicks.

JoAnn replied politely enough, but today I find she has taken my comment, reworded it, dumbed it down, assumed I have a girl in Pre-Alpha, and deleted my real comment to ensure that no one knows what really happened. If you read the question I "wrote", it's pretty obvious who is me and who isn't.

WTF. All I asked for was clarification, because I remember those early days of thinking, "Oh, shit, what kind of skates do we need?" and no one being able to really explain.

I'm a bit miffed. I don't have a girl in Pre-Alpha, and I don't like being taken out of context, to say nothing of being re-written entirely. If JoAnn can't write a decent post about skates for beginners without doing it in a "question and answer" format, something is wrong.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Stitch's Christmas

Stitch had been begging for his own laptop for months. Lately, it's become a pain to find him on mine or Dad's laptops, and forcibly removing him. Dad thought about this, and with a cheap new hard drive, rehabbed one of the old Laptops and gave it to Stitch. Stitch was thrilled beyond words. Stitch also got: A Hexapod Monster, a build-it-yourself robot kit. A Triops set; they're like Sea Monkeys but bigger and akin to prehistoric shrimp. Break your own Geodes. Dad and Stitch can spend the week building the Titan Tanks; wirelessly remote controlled tanks that fire infrared "bullets" at each other and reverse direction when hit. Counting Cubes; multiplication is hard. An Enviro-battery set; he can now make simple batteries with fruit and vegetables. And a few other sciency things.

I got a Wii Game that features Figure Skating, and when the announcer called "AXEL JUMP" I replied, "That was a waltz jump." Stitch looked up from his computer and said, "I can do those!" I fell on my virtual ass a lot, and my virtual coach wouldn't even look at me. It's fun! 

A coworker commented that Stitch got nothing "Skating related" under the tree. I replied with a short explanation of the outlay for practice ice at two rinks, extra coaching costs, competition fees and the ongoing contributions to the New Skate Fund. He shut up real fast. Yes, when it comes to skating, nearly every day is Christmas Day.

I believe in well-rounded children, and I love that Stitch can not only do a decent bunny hop, but also build me a water detector for the kitchen floor in case the dishwasher leaks. Stitch was building a recording integrated circuit with the additions to his electronics set and asked, "Is there public skate today?"

We're off to find one of the outdoor rinks. We need to get outside for awhile anyway.

Tonight I will start cutting the new pants. FIL got us gift certificates for Best Buy, and I'm getting my own sewing machine.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh, Shi....

This morning we all slept in. The Boys got home really late last night, both of them at the theatre's annual potluck. Stitch was snoozing until about nine, which is rare for him. I made bacon and eggs and turned on "Holiday on Ice" just to have playing while we ate and planned the day. Skating, cleaning, last minute errands, and then snacks, movies and cuddling for the evening.

I was cleaning up the dishes and noticed Stitch watching the skating, more intently than usual. "How long is this guy gonna skate for?"
"Well, Big League skaters' programs can be three or four minutes. You're a Small League skater, so your programs are only a minute."

That was that. We checked the skate bag and headed off. The crowd was really light for a holiday, and Rink Pal had on some rather lovely holiday music. Stitch practiced his routine, his three turns, and when he was getting too frustrated I told him to go play.

What happened next was so completely unexpected... Stitch stayed center and danced. I mean, danced. He was in his own little universe, for his own audience, doing his own private version of Holiday on Ice. I quickly ran for my camera, and started to quietly video it. Stitch noticed, but instead of cutting it off and getting mad, he smiled and kept going. And going. And going. Arms out, huge smile, cheeks red, hair flying, and he was just all over that center ice. He hopped, he spun, he grabbed the cones and did death spirals with them, and always finished with a flourish.

Mom is saying, "This is great!" but my Inner Realist is saying, "Oh, shit. Oh, shit."

Coach had a lesson with another student, and couldn't help but notice Stitch, dancing. The student did a spiral, much higher than Stitch can pull off. Stitch, not to be outdone, held his leg out in front of him and held his head to his knee. Coach laughed. She caught me later. "That's very unusual. Most of the girls don't get that they have to go with the music, but he's just creating..."

"Uh-huh," I'm still in a bit of shock.

Then she starts going on about being a club later on and I'm glazing over. "That's later.. " I mumble. I notice Stitch do a lunge that is really low. He's starting to understand them. Then he stands and spins. I wish Coach a Merry Christmas and off she goes.

I can see Stitch is wearing down. He should be, he'd been going nonstop for about an hour. He came off the ice, panting. "My feet are cold."

"Mine, too. Getting tired?"

"Yeah. Can we go?"

"Yes. You skated hard today."


We headed to the store for some snacks, and now he's playing a video game like a normal kid. A normal kid who now has firm opinions about ice quality, stating that the Rink Across Town has much better ice than Home Rink.

Grocery Store had Rex Goliath for four bucks a bottle. I bought two.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bad Idea or Utter Genius??

I had a thought on my third glass of boxed chardonnay last night;

Boot covers. I need to make a more sturdy pair so as to withstand Stitch's continuing assualt on his footwear. The thin nylon pair already have big holes in them after just a month. Stitch has issues figuring Inside versus Outside edges. Why not make a pair of boot covers and embroider an "I" and an "O" on the respective edges (Sides of the Skate) along with directional arrows indicating what direction he'll go on that respective edge.

Stupid Crutch or good Short Term Learning Tool?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

About Dad

Dad and I celebrated our tenth anniversary in August. We met in a theatre and the rest is history. Dad still works downtown in a big theatre, and Stitch sometimes gets to go and "help Dad" backstage and in the booth. When it comes to the skating, though, I think Dad is often a page behind us.

Coach and Stitch had a program day today. It's Holiday Break, Stitch has buckets of free time, and I've asked for two extra lessons to fill it up. Better to have him ice skating than shredding up notebooks or disassembling then reassembling random toys into something unrecognizable.

I'm stuck at work, so Dad got to take him to Practice Ice. I called in when I assumed Coach and Stitch would be done, but they were still going.

"What does the program look like?"
"Uh, it's kind of like last time... start on the blue line, head stage left, do a wide circle, head back upstage, turn from forward to backwards on one foot,"
"Three turn."
"Yeah, three turn, then do one of those skip-hop things," he says this haltingly as it's clearly happening in front of him.
"That's a bunny hop."
"That's a bunny hop? That doesn't make any sense."
"Okay, what about now?"
"Uh, he's doing a t-stop, but he's dragging his skate behind him," he goes on.
"That's a lunge."
"Whatever. Now he's on one skate, holding his body parallel to the ice."
"What? He's not spinning."
"I know."
"I think he's got the basics of it. They were having music issues."
"That's lame. Did our music work?"
"Oh yeah." (The Home Rink CD Player doesn't like CD's from my Burner, but it does like them from Dad's burner.)
"Kickass. Just see if you can write something down."
"We've already scheduled next Tuesday."
"Great. Try and video that one." Because while I love you dearly, your attempts at explanations are useless. (And yes, he does read this blog.)

Dad doesn't attend many of the lessons, group or private. Most of these occur on weekends when he's working. Morning Practice Ice is out of the question for him. When you get home at midnight or later, getting up at six for stupid skating does seem pretty ridiculous. It's not that Dad doesn't care, it's just that Dad has odd hours. Really. Odd. Hours.

I think Dad just needs a better run-down of what Stitch is learning. I'll find the ISI and USFSA curricula and show it to him. Maybe that will help, but reading "forward inside open mohawk from standstill" might serve to confuse him further. Admittedly, I have to see the moves and have them explained to me before I can identify them.

I got to thinking this morning; if the January program features bunny hops and lunges, the March ISI program of boring forward crossovers will be a real snoozer. Stitch likes to jump and spin, and in this respect ISI is a real drag.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This is my personal Axel.

Stitch needs new pants. This wouldn't be so bad had I not realized that the addition of a poufy waisted shirt and the attached briefs would make my original plan of "wing it with just an elastic waist" too tight.

So, I have two yards of black stretch, all my velcro and elastic, and a zipper. I have never sewn a zipper before. I have been consulting my Jalie instructions, and they are no help.


􀂃 Make sure the pattern marks on pieces A C and D are transferred onto the fabric (fig. 4). Watch how you draw these things on, because the fabric stretches, and when it does, your marks can get messed up. Clip front as shown (fig. 5). We're not going to really indicate how this is done, so just get yourself some paperclips and Macguyver it.
􀂃 Pin zipper (face down) to right side of right front, just below the single notch (fig. 6a). Did you get that? Are your marks right? Don't screw this up. Fold zipper tape as shown (fig. 6b) and stitch on zipper tape
as shown (fig. 7). Did we specify that you stitch the tape while folded or not? No? Yeah, good luck out there.
􀂃 Pin right side of fly to wrong side of zipper and stitch from top edge to the mark (fig. 8). Then, pin the right side of your eyelid to the bottom of your foot, and baste. Realize that your mark drifted by three inches because the fabric stretched under the weight of your pencil. Topstitch your eyelid.
􀂃 Bring seam allowance towards right front and topstitch as shown, taking in all layers (fig. 9). Watch your needle here because it's going to get fussy as the machine realizes it will actually have to work through more than two layers. Be prepared to disassemble the entire bobbin assembly at least twice.
􀂃 Pin left front to right front as shown at crotch seam and stitch (fig. 10) from inseam edge to the mark. At this point your machine will realize that this something you don't want to do twice, and the bobbin will run out. Rewind the bobbin and start over.
􀂃 Pin fly facing to right side of left front and sew 1 cm (3/8’’) from edge, from the waist edge to the mark (fig. 11). Have you screwed up yet? No? Good for you. Pour a glass of wine and continue.
􀂃 Pin other zipper side face down to right side of fly facing ONLY (fig. 12) and stitch 3 mm (1/8’’) from zipper tape edge. Switch from wine to vodka. Realize you have misplaced your mm ruler and wonder why in the hell Canada can't get with the program and use wonky American measurements. From here on out, MM will be referred to as Freedom Inches.
􀂃 Before flipping right side up, pin facing to right front as shown (fig. 13). Pin zipper to front as shown, right next to the facing (fig. 14). Hold up your work so far. Realize that the front side is stitched to the wrong side and pour a double shot of vodka. Get out your seam rippers. NOW you're sewing!
􀂃 This pin will be visible on right side of left front (fig. 15) and indicate where to stop your topstitching. Stitch over the pin. Break needle.
􀂃 Starting 3 Freedom Inches (1 1/8’’) from fly edge, find your pencil from underneath your tangled pile of velcro and elastic, trace your topstitching line on right side of left front, from waist to the pin (fig. 16) and topstitch all the loose threads and cat hair permanently onto the fabric. Finish the vodka.
􀂃 Flip wrong side up, remove pins and cut excess zipper (fig. 17). Yes. cut through the entire goddamn zipper. Don't be shy, just get out the kitchen shears and hack away. It's fine.
􀂃 Bring fly and fly facing right sides together (fig. 18), dig out the pincushion from under your foot where you've been grinding your heel in frustration and pin.
􀂃 On right side, bar tack through all layers as shown (fig. 19). What the hell is a bar tack? It's the bar, stupid. Go tack yourself to the bar. That's were you belong after doing this successfully.

Got that? Let's go through it again...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Welcome to Beta -or- It's Three Turns to get into Hell

Day one of the Grand Experiment went off without a hitch. Dad asked me what on earth I was doing, but I explained that 6am on a Saturday beats the hell out of 4:30am on a Thursday. Stitch and I got up, made our way to Rink Across Town, and got in forty five minutes of solid practice. The Egg Timer, ever the neutral arbiter of time in a young child's eyes, dutifully recorded three minutes each of stroking, crossovers, lunges, bunny hops and spins. (And some other things.. one of which had the unfortunate acronym STD on my list.) Stitch made some pretty fast spins; at one point he came over to the boards and said, "I spun so fast, the boogers flew out of my nose. Can I have a tissue?"

After practice, we had breakfast, and headed over to Home Rink for Private Lesson with Real Coach. She was glad to see us, and listened to the music. "It's a waltz," she seemed to have been hoping for something a little more fun. "But we can work with that." She said she'd spend today figuring out what level to put Stitch at for the comp. Okay, fine. We've got two solid weeks to practice.

Coach Diamond and Richie Rich were having an off day. Richie was arguing, whining and slumping, while Coach Diamond did his ever best to get something done. "Come on, Richie. Richie. Waltz jumps, Richie. Waltz Jumps. Richie." Repeat this as Richie slides into the boards with a thunk and stares out at the observers as though begging someone to save him. Eventually Richie collapsed into an uncooperative slug onto the ice, while Coach Diamond was leaning down and informing him that this was coaching time. A bad day. We all have them. I'm not going to judge, honestly.

Our Coach was having a solid time, as Stitch dutifully performed all his moves as best he could. Then she got him down to the end and pulled a three-turn on the half goal circle. I've seen Three Turns, and while they look so farking easy, I simply can't figure how they're done. The physics escapes me. It must escape Stitch as well, because his "What the heck?" could be heard through the glass. Coach got his hands and got him to do it, then with one hand, but that's as far as it got. Stitch just couldn't wing that blade around fast enough. He almost got it, though. (Tomorrow is another day.)

They did this for awhile, and then she slid over to me. "I think we need to decide between Basic 5 and Basic 6. Basic 6 would be more fun for him."

Um, there's no we in this process. This is all you.

"So, he needs to practice the three turn, he did really well today." And she showed me to basic of it so I could know when Stitch was cheating it.

Then they headed back out for a last minute thing. I hit "play" and Coach let Stitch go. He bunny hopped, spun, crossed over and crossrolled. He held out his arms and danced to his own lazy waltz on one foot. I noticed some smiles from the observers.

Coach came back. "Basic 6. We'll start working on a program next week." We agreed on an hour of Practice Ice the following week when Stitch is on his long winter break, and I dreaded the notion of getting Stitch to try those damn three turns.

And with that we rushed to the last stop of the Skating Day, Beta Group Class.

Pre-Alpha could have been its own Militia. The ranks of the wobbly fully filled the boards; snowpants, weird skates and all. The fallen soldiers were taken off the ice periodically, tears and wails met with consoling parents, "Awww, baby, you don't have to if you don't want to...."

I was looking out for Shuffles. He was in a different outfit today, so I almost missed him, but when I started looking for the scooter-pushing-on-his-right-foot kid, I found him. Alpha 1, and completely unable to cross feet. I've never seen this kid look more miserable. Honestly, if I wasn't afraid she'd go all apeshit on me, I'd question Nutso's choices on keeping this kid in a skating class. (There is a big universe of youth sports out there...) The Coach ended up spending all her time with Shuffles, and the rest of the class got largely ignored.

Without my good friend Lady Cluck to talk to, I was bored and cold, but enjoying my new rank as an upper echelon skating parent in this particular class timeslot. "Oh, my kid? He's over there in Beta. And god, I am so tired, can I just rest on your lap or something?"

Precious did well, and on her way out she was sure to remark to me, "I think Beta is eeeezzzzyyy." Suddenly I'm thinking of those stupid little Beta Fighting Fish in the pet store, wondering if I held up a mirror to Precious if she'd flip out and start fighting herself. Stitch was in agony, complaining of cold feet, so I took off his skates and put his feet under my fleece. He grinned and sighed and laid back on the bench like a contented cat. The families near to us were giving us odd stares. Fuck them, we're tired.

At noon, we were done. Sort of. We got the Christmas Tree. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like cramming a five foot Scotch Pine into the back of a Mustang Convertible. Stitch got to ride in the front seat on the way home, ducking when we saw a police car.

Truly, today was one of my better parenting days.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Talking about Losing

Last night we hit Public Skate. After the endless torture of being in skates and unable to play all last weekend, I had promised Stitch that I would take him to every public skate I could get him to this weekend.

Stitch galloped and jumped and cavorted, and then figured out he could do crossrolls like the bigger skaters. (Again, thank you Youtube for educating me and silly me for thinking that my kid had "invented" some new skating move.) He and a friend gathered snow on their blades and stuffed it into a cone, creating a literal "snow cone." I sneaked the finished product out of the rink in my jacket, and as far as I know it's still sitting in the plants outside the door. (The public skate manager is really nice but forbids kids making snowballs or snow things in general. She might as well forbid sandcastles at the beach.)

When we got home, Stitch and I listened to another chapter of The Cinnamon Bear before I tucked him in.

"Okay, Stitch. Saturday you and Coach are going to start working on the new program."
He did a comic *boink* look.
"Are you excited?"
"Good. The competition is at the end of January."
"I won't win."
"Oh? How do you know?"
"I just won't."
"Do you want to win?"
"Well, just skate your best and see what happens. That's all you can do."
"I won't win," he continues being depressing.
"Well, someone has to win, and someone has to lose. That's part of competing, and losing is OK. In fact, losing can be your biggest teacher."
"Fourth place, no. Third place, no. Second place, no," Stitch is counting off on his fingers.
"Stitch, do you hear me? Losing is OK, and I don't think anyone really loses in a skating competition anyway."
"I want to win first."
"Stitch, this is important. Listen; I don't care if you don't take first and you shouldn't either. What's important is that you try your best."
Stitch gives me a look. I'm touching on big concepts, and it's late.
"Think about which shirt you want to wear, and let me know," I try to end positively.

This is the only thing that nags me about competing. I don't know how he'll handle losing. Slowly, he's learning that small mistakes are OK. Hopefully he'll pick up that big mistakes are OK, too. But, as one of my Buddhist friends used to say, "OK isn't too far off from KO." Let's hope that I can keep us on the right side of the letter order.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

N00B Mom has a question...

But I really don't know who to ask. Coach is saying that Stitch needs to start doing Ballet. I agree, and I am considering tossing him in the Ballet for Skaters class at the rink before sending him back the "mean" Russian Dance instructor. (Slow immersion.)

The thing that is giving me pause is the fact that the "ballet studio" at the rink is not on a sprung floor. In fact, I don't think any of the floors at the rink are sprung.

Call me kooky, call me a nutty stage mom, but I don't want Stitch's growing joints doing jumps on anything other than soft earth or a sprung floor. This isn't just Stitch, I'd question any dancer or gymnast doing high and powerful jumps on vinyl over concrete for any prolonged period of time. Why should figure skaters be any different? It's bad enough that they have to do these jumps on an unforgiving ice surface, why make them practice on yet another unforgiving surface?

A sprung floor, for those who don't know, absorbs the impact energy of a jump. Without it, it's the joint that absorbs the impact. Constant exposure to this kind of thing leads to shin splints, early fatigue and long term chronic injury. (How many skaters get early arthritis in their hips, knees and ankles? Did anyone think to question the off-ice regimen?)

So yeah. While I agree that ballet instruction is a great idea, I don't want to do it on a vinyl floor laid over stupid concrete. I'll look for a professional studio first, because I think the extra cost of that will balance out by not having major orthopedic surgery before the age of 30.

But who do I ask? Who do I tell? Do I march into Mysteria's office and say, "Gosh, I'd love to do your ballet program but your floor sure is shitty."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Grand Experiment

This week begins my foray into serious Practice Ice. In the past, I've only bought practice ice when I've needed it for lessons and program practice. It was never on the regular schedule. As the repertoire of "tricks" grows, I've decided that it needs to be a normal thing. I'm changing up one hour of the six (on average) that Stitch spends on Public Ice for Practice Ice.

I love Public Ice, I really do. But it's stupid hard to get Stitch to practice on it. He has too many friends to race, too many Rink Guards to harass and too much interference from Baby Fallsalot. Stitch will often declare that he can't practice because there are "too many people." (I guess this is his way of stating, "I cannot work under these conditions!")

Stitch does show some degree of work ethic on Practice Ice. I set him off with the words, "This is Practice Ice. If you want to stay here, you have to Practice." I think the combination of fewer skaters, less intimidation from the girls his age knocking out doubles, no interference and the big threat of being kicked off if he doesn't do what he's supposed to makes for an actual practice session. I do my best to inform him of Rink Etiquette as I've gleaned from the 'nets; Only spin at center, go with the flow, don't linger in corners, and be super polite. And historically, it's worked.

So now I'm going to take it a step up, and make it part of the regular schedule. The Rink Across Town actually has convenient hours for PreStyle skaters, so I'll have to take the ice over there rather than at Home Rink. (Sorry, but I really don't want to get up a 4:30 if I don't have to. He's in fucking BETA. It's not that serious yet.)

I'm also going to give up The List in favor of The Egg Timer for these sessions. Egg Timers are indispensable tools for young children. If I tell Stitch, "Do ten crossovers in each direction," he will blow through them just to get done with them. If I make him spend ten minutes on them, he may actually take some time to get them right. We'll see if that theory works. I know it works for the Classroom, Homework Reading and Chores.

What if the experiment fails?

Well, I'll step it back before discontinuing completely. I'll make it every other week rather than weekly, but honestly I think there's a good chance of success on this one. I don't think I'm pushing here, because I've just casually noticed that he gets better results on Practice Ice. If I were pushing, we'd have started this long ago and I'd be skipping Public Ice entirely. That won't happen. I still want him to have his playtime.

As Coach said, "He loves the ice. He loves to skate. I don't want to lose this." Me neither, so let's just take the uptick one step at a time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still not feeling the Holidays...

I've stated before that I wasn't in the mood for Christmas. We're ten days out and this hasn't changed.

Typically I don't enter malls or stores after December first. I don't like crowds of annoying people, so I have to do all my shopping online. It hit me that I'd better get off my duff or I'd be paying expedited shipping. While I was ordering the various electronics kits and science stuff, I was trying to nail down why I wasn't in the mood.

It's the damn skating.

Yup, the biggest holiday of the year and I don't give a shit because he has a competition the following month that I think is more important. Screw the tree, screw the tinsel, forget the candy and I haven't bothered to listen to a single carol because I'm thinking of how to better cut his skating music.

I'm Buddhist, so a holiday that revolves around presents kind of irks me anyway, but honestly my thought process has been so damn skewed by public ice, practice ice schedules, lessons and coaches that my eyes just kind of glaze over anything not skating related. I'm annoyed that both Christmas and New Year fall on a Saturday and the rink is closed. How stupid is that? Christmas has become an unnecesary bump on my calendar.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Of course I have kept these feelings from Stitch. I've promised that this weekend we will finally get a tree. I will put on my hap-hap-happiest face as we drag out the decorations and sing stupid carols. I'll watch Polar Express on an endless loop until Tom Hanks invades my dreams with his creepy computer animated face doing double lutzes and haircutter spins. I might even go completely nuts and make gingerbread men, to which I may or may not subconciously apply skates with royal icing and sanding sugar. I will watch old Rankin Bass specials and not point out to Stitch that it kind of looks like the claymation Kringle and the Winter Warlock are skating during the chorus of "Put one foot in front of the other." I will not loop the skating scene in Charlie Brown's Christmas Special.

I will get over myself.

I promise.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My First Ice Show; What I Learned

Pageants are fun. I know it's all drama and fuss and wails of, "But Muffy needs a spotlight/more sparkles/better shoes/another photo session, etc." I find it funny that I fell into the Stage Mom trap, when Stitch himself was having an utter blast. At the end of the day, they're fun.

They're fun because of the screw ups, the mistakes, the drama and the tragedy. This is where the stories come from, the really good ones that you share with late night friends after a few too many rounds.

One of my favorites comes from The Living Nativity back when I was a teenager experimenting with stage managing. I was assisting Stage Right, and I was in charge of Pagoda/Wise Man Exit, Camel Entry and Exit, and keeping the curious out of pee range of the Lion. I got peed on. This is where I learned to add an extra fee for working with animals.

What Nativity doesn't have shepherds and sheep? The sheep, of course, were the charges of the shepherd handlers, who didn't watch over them by night but instead herded them into a heated tent after each show. One night it was particularly cold, and it had been a rough show. Cues missed, children crying, there had been a mombrawl over who was playing Gabriel, and the lion almost knocked down his stage cage, scaring the bejesus out of the lamb who peed on his handler. (I don't blame you, little lamb.) We were all done. Just done. I was putting away the pagodas, the Wise Men and their entourage of children and pigeons. Everyone was crabby and cold and hungry.

All of the sudden I hear a loud shout. Over the headset I get garbled chaos. I look out over the field and see four men dressed as shepherds chasing three runaway sheep over the snow. The sheep make a break for it over a busy parkway and into a neighboring subdivision of townhouses. The shepherds are screaming, cars are honking, and woe betide the poor soul coming back from a party with one too many eggnogs under his belt that night.

You hit a point in any given rough production where you stop caring. I mean, you care, but you're punchy and goofy and it hits you just how ridiculous all of this is. I was laughing so hard, the tears were freezing on my cheeks while batshit mothers were howling at me that their darling Muffy didn't get to carry the stupid pigeon cage.

The sheep run onto a frozen retaining pond and realize that the crazy men have stopped following them, so they stop as well. There they sat, baaing and shivering as the shepherds debated how to handle this funundrum. No one knows how thick this ice is, and no one is heading out there to rescue some stupid sheep.

One of the rules for working with animals is that you never place yourself in danger. There are two classifications of animal people, a handler and a pro. If you're a handler, and an animal starts freaking out, back off and call a pro. Don't be a hero, because you endanger yourself, the animal and others around you. (The pro will just step in with a dart and end it. It seems like some of the pros this weekend would have enjoyed that option.)

I think an ice show is a lot like that. Once the sheep are on the ice, there's nothing you can do. You're cold and hungry and tired, but there they are, and there they will stay until they come off and by then it's too late. If you try to intervene and "save the day", you'll end up pissing off or endangering someone. So just go with the flow, let a pro handle it. It's okay to admit that a situation is bigger than you.

Back to the sheep. How did it end? The shepherds and a pro laid down and made a human chain across the ice. The pro at the end nabbed a halter, and all it took was one sheep being led calmly away. The rest of the herd animals calmly followed. The pro calmly led them back to their heated tent. It was really anticlimactic, but it's still one of my favorite stories.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No more Pants. I lost them.

The final Ice Show went down at around 5pm today. Stitch finally got out of his costume around eight, when I peeled it off of him to put on his pajamas. He kept insisting that there was another show at 9am tomorrow morning.

On our way out the door, he gave a last look at the ice and mused. "I wonder when little girls will bring me stuffed animals after I skate." That's what I get for catching an hour of the Grand Prix Finals before heading out to do an ice show.

I was pretty sure I was going to get through this with all our shit intact. Soakers, Blade Guards, Boot Covers, Gloves, I had managed to keep up with everything. But no. I lost his jeans. So, Rink People? If you find a pair of little boy jeans, please put them in Lost and Found. I will collect them next weekend, when he has Group and Private lessons.

As the song goes, "Oh the movie never ends, it goes on, and on, and on, and on."

"There Will be Pants" - The one I watched

Last night I actually got to watch the show. As a spot op, you can't really "watch." I know it sounds weird, but when you've got your eye trained hard on your mark you don't really "see" what they're doing.

One of my colleagues braved the weather to join me. "It's just like NASCAR, only with toddlers and skates," I said as incentive. We sat in the bleachers, sipping bourbon and cokes, and enjoying the show. She wasn't disappointed; a girl plowed into a pile of loose props and a soloist performing a backwards haircutter spiral nearly nailed a little one doing her little routine.

"When does Stitch come on?"
"He's one of the first bits."

Sure enough, here come the boys. Now, I knew Stitch had been hamming it up. Dad had reported it to me and he had spoken to him. I had spoken to him. Coach had spoken to him. Apparently it's going to take Joe Pesci talking to him, because he is still going all prosciutto out there.

Stitch waved to the audience. He waved to his fellow performers. He did his routine spot on (and sure enough the other boys began to follow him), and on the way out he waved, blew kisses, and when the spotlight stayed on him, he didn't fail his cheering audience. He did a hop and flourish right on the final beat of the music and blackout.

My friend was in hysterics. House left loved it. I didn't know what to think. I mean, as a mom I think it's awesome, but as an entertainment person, I know he needs toning down. For now I'll say, Let him have his Ham.

And of course I have video of the whole thing. So now I have immortalized these days of Richie Rich cutting him off, Shuffles looking lost, and the interminable swizzle which if I see many more of, I will stab my eyes out. Stitch says he hates it when I do this, but I've told him that the Parent Police will ticket me unless I record and photograph his childhood. (He rolls his eyes at this notion.)

Today is the final performance.

Yesterday we ran home between shows to sit for a moment and get some dinner. I'm a big proponent of getting out of the theatre between shows, if only for a little while. It prevents burnout and I had a big crock pot of split pea soup waiting for us.

"How were things in the dressing room?"
"Good," says Stitch.
"You boys looked good out there today."
"Did you have fun?"
"Yup." *pause* "I think I want to do Ice Show again next year."
"If that's what you want, sure. You can do it next year. You'll probably be with the freestyle boys by then."
"But I want to be a soldier again."
"I think you'll have fun no matter what you do. You really seem to love having an audience."
"Oh yes."

I had made the comment to Coach, "I think we found the 'on' switch," referring to Stitch whenever he's got an audience. May the Buddhas forgive me if I am raising another Bowman the Showman.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Where the hell are your Pants?!" - Show 2

I'm sure there are about twenty boys ranging in age from six to sixteen who are all wondering who the hell I think I am.

I arrived in the boy's dressing room to find all their costumes scattered on the floor and completely disorganized. I straightened things up and sewed buttons quickly.

Then they arrived.

"GET OFF THE COSTUME RACK!! SERIOUSLY??" (This was to an older child.)


After watching Richie Rich wale on his parents and generally act like a future menace to society, I took extreme pleasure in making him clean up his spittle from the floor.

But there was a bright moment. A skater who had tossed his gift child costume on the floor after the matinee actually stopped me from hanging it this evening. "I've got that."

"Oh, good. It's important to put things away. Thank you."

I noticed all the boys hang up their costumes with some degree of success.


Preparing for Competition - Round 2

My calendar is reminding me that we are 43 days out from our first USFSA competition. We still have no program.

Am I worried? Freaking out? Not sleeping well?

Actually, I'm sleeping just fine. I'm not a bit worried. Coupla reasons why:

1. Ice show got in the way. Coach, Stitch and myself were too busy to bother worrying with a new program.

2. Coach is fantastic. I have complete faith that she will arrange something that is challenging to skate, easy to remember and awesome to watch.

3. Stitch is out of school for TWO FARKING WEEKS this month. This means two weeks where he can hit Practice Ice daily on the big rink if needs be.

4. I'm no longer worried about how Stitch will react to being alone on the ice in front of a crowd. He's shown that he loves to compete and loves his audience. I'm no longer fearful of Fall and Bawl.

5. I have some perspective now that I didn't have before.

Dad is concerned about the whole USFSA thing. He thinks that exposing Stitch to the Parental Drama of Moms with Unrealistic Expectations could go south. That may be true, but perhaps only on the Girl Side. After all, this is just Basic Skills. Anyone talking about Sochi is out of their minds anyway.

I'm more excited than nervous. I'm more comfortable of my role in this. As Stitch so clearly informed me as we were going through music options, "Mom. You are not the one skating. I am."

(I thought he should skate to Daft Punk, he liked Vince Gauraldi. Oh well.)

"There Will be Pants!" - Dress Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal was fantastic. I can't give a play-by-play, so I'll just do some highlights:

1. My spot is a Trouperette with a sticky trombone. I got the wing of focusing on soloists and opening the flood wide when lighting groups. Despite the stickiness, I could often easily segue from a large group to one or two people. The spots are really the only specials and white frontlight they've got, and we want everyone to look good, so find unlit people and light them. Skaters do move fast, and I was liable to lose them if they made any unexpected twists or turns. Practice will work out my own kinks. The only hitch is when an actor, er, skater tosses a prop from center to downstage left which must be spotted. He nicked it real close to the hockey boards and I was dangerously close to losing a clean shot. I'll mention it to a coach; Keep it upstage a bit.

2. The boys were sent to the torture room; a big empty gym with balls and nets while wearing flimsy costumes. Dad reports that Richie Rich has lost four of five buttons. Tonight I will be sewing while I man the Boys Dressing Room.

3. Coaches have officially lost their minds. When I removed my headset I could hear the arguing, yelling, fussing and fighting going on from backstage. I'm way back in the rafters of the house. When skaters missed their marks or lost their music, sometimes Mysteria would speak from the High Sound Booth, "Coach M, come center so we can discuss." Great fun, really.

4. The Nutso Clan was not in appearance.

5. The Boys did their best, but lost their music. Stitch was trying to direct the other children, despite my firm words to "worry about you, don't worry about others. They'll probably follow you anyway if you just DO IT." Ever since the competition, Stitch has become obsessed with hitting the music. When they missed it this time, his loud "Oh, darn it!" echoed into the silence. (Showbiz Lesson #2 for Stitch; When you mess up, DON'T draw attention to it!)

6. Dad reported some profanity going on backstage. Apparently Stitch overheard someone being called an "Apsehole." Folks, your colleague may indeed be an Apsehole, but backstage at a Kid's Pageant is no place to remind them of this. And really, unless the Pope is coming, it's just not that serious.

After the show, Dad marched into the High Sound Booth and gently reported the infraction to Mysteria.
"Did you get the crazy parent look?" I asked.
"Yeah, she gave me the look. But when I told her that I didn't really care, and she might want to correct this before she gets a really crazy parent that does care, she apologized."
I love it.

7. For a bunch of skaters who contested so hotly over these solo bits, I've never seen a more bored bunch of performers in my life. They were frowning, sometimes scowling, only smiling at their entrance and then skating as though they had burrs in their spankies. And don't give me the "it's just rehearsal" excuse. Dress rehearsal is given the same energy as a show! In my world, Dress Rehearsal is probably a preview with an audience. Give it all you've got. But no. One girl fell on a sit spin and sat for a beat as though considering the universe. Get up, girl, before I turn this spot off. No one wants to see you frown. 

8. Next year we should skip this nonsense and do "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas." First off, who the hell doesn't like Emmet Otter. Second, half the show takes place on a frozen creek. This is a perfect match for skating. Third, all lead roles are boys. Fourth, all the little soloists could go on during the "Talent Show" portion. It's freaking perfect, people!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"There will be Pants!"

I've been doing various jobs in the entertainment industry since I was roughly twelve years old. My first "job" was donkey and serval cat wrangler with a Christian themed animal show. I've done lights, sets, costumes, acting, stage managing, ushering, the works. I still work in entertainment, but in a 9 to 5 capacity so I can raise Stitch.

Along the way I've learned that a bad show is never the end of the world, and even if it is, the journey will be ridiculously entertaining. Whatever is wrong, audience probably won't notice. And if it's a Kid's Pageant, the end result will always be happy parents and lots of applause, even if little Muffy did throw her tap shoe into the orchestra pit and hit the tuba player. (Actually happened.)

One thing about Kid's Pageants, though; They are a minefield of high drama. There are some Big Egos on these Little Tyrants, and chances are good this is their one time of year to be Lord and Master of all they survey. Parental Dramatics never fail to be communicated to Children, who will pick up on their mom's antics and carry her torch of insanity. (Children are mirrors of their parents. Never forget that.) This starts a domino effect that can sour the entire thing if not kept in check. I've always been involved as an "outside Contractor," usually brought in to hang lights and help them get their electrics together. My contact was limited but always just astounding to watch, as they railed against the Laws of Physics to achieve their own ideas of perfection. "But little Muffy is blinded by those lights, can't you DO SOMETHING?"

Um. No.

Here in Skateworld, not a lot of people are aware of my work history. I'm just "Stitch's Mom." This is my first involvement with a Kid's Pageant as in Insider. So, while I was momentarily ruffled by the word, "TRAIN" next to my name on the volunteer list to work spotlights, I let it go. I took it into the context that the "Captain" of the spotlight team had more than likely been doing this for a dog's age, and this was his only time of year to assert some authority. Never mind that if those spots came from where I think they did, I've probably serviced them. But again, I let it go. Sure, I can be trained.

This is my first time being in the same room with all the skate coaches at the same time. I've seen all of them at one point or another, but this time it's all at once. They're marching around with clipboards (Clipboards are an indication of authority in these things) barking orders at the children and giving terse and cursory answers to questioning Parents. I learned quickly that any questioning parent, no matter the question or concern, will quickly be labeled as "crazy." Any time a parent directly or indirectly caused a child to be delayed for any reason, there were eyerolls and dirty looks.

Well, I've mentioned that the Boys got the short end of the stick in this show. Their routine comes as a second part of a general "soldier" act. At the end of each rehearsal, the boys were just dismissed. No one ever told them which way to go to exit off the stage/ice. So, now that it's rehearsal, the boys were told to Exit.

Exit where? The boys milled, confused.

Coaches got terse again. Mysteria sounded irritated from her post on the High Sound Booth. (This is always a Room of Royalty in Kid's Pageants. Seriously, they get pissed off if you enter a booth. I once even had to explain that I had to get into the booth if they wanted me to show them how to run the lightboard.)

I went to collect Stitch's blade guards from the side of the stage/ice that he wasn't coming off of. "I don't think anyone told them how to exit," I said to Coach X, who was sitting there.

"Oh, they'll come off this side of the ice," he said, trying to assure me of something I didn't care about.

"That's fine, but no one told them that. They're confused because they weren't told."

Here comes Coach B, who seems to hold a grudge against the world in general for no apparent reason. "What's the problem?" she asked.

"There's no problem," I said, trying to be diplomatic. "The boys are just confused because no one ever told them how to exit."

"They'll come off this side of the ice," she said.

"I don't care what you do with them, just tell them so they aren't confused." I was giving up. I could hear their tone; "Just another crazy mom."

I saw the problem very clearly, they just saw me as a complaining, Crazy Skate Mawm. Crossed viewpoints. Ah well. The boys got labeled as Boys, and I got my label as well. Sit down, shut up, mom. Everywhere, signs indicated that the Skating Professionals would tell us what to do.

Well, you guys may be skating professionals and I'm sure that you can teach a hella good sit spin and axel jump. I'm an Entertainment Professional and I can tell you that you need a professional third party Stage Manager/Director (Not Mysteria!) who should have been present for at least 50% of each group's rehearsals, so she could have seen how to better seam these acts from day one. But hey, I'm just a Crazy Mom.

Another common theme in Kid's Pageants is that every single one of them, without fail, will always bill themselves as a Professional show. This one is no exception. They use the term "professional" to indicate quality. I use the term Professional to indicate that I am getting paid. By my definition, this isn't Professional, it's a Kid's Pageant. By my family's Definitions, we paid to participate so technically that makes Dad and Me Producers.

As a Producer, I'm not too happy with the way my Client (Stitch) is being handled. Stitch isn't too happy either, but I had to explain things to him. "Stitch, welcome to show business. Today will be boring, and chances are good it will suck. The show, while you are not on the stage, um, ice, will be boring. I'm very sorry, but this is the way it is. Be patient, stay calm no matter who is freaking out around you, and you'll be fine. We're committed now, and we'll see it through. Okay?"

It's good advice for me, too. Be patient, and stay calm. I'm now seeing the other side of the coin for these Pageants, but I have my professional experience to serve as guide. I count myself lucky.

In the costume room, when a coach seemed to come unhinged because of the sudden introduction of pants to the Boy's costumes, I had to try to not laugh. "The boys have NEVER had pants! Why are there pants??" she railed at the poor costume volunteer. "No one told me there would be pants! We've been doing this for years and there were never pants!

The costume volunteer threw up her hands, and the coach turned to me, still railing. "There will be pants! The boys are wearing pants now, OKAY??"

"Sure, that's fine." I was dying inside.

(There may be pants, but they are thin and crappy. I could mention an analogy, but I won't.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Adventures in Skate Parenting

So we had Privates today at the Rink Across Town. No biggie. I'm getting used to the idea of having multiple rinks to skate at. Stitch had a great lesson and all was well. The Skating Director of this rink came out later and explained that Coach wanted us to get a form turned in to join USFSA. This is so Stitch can compete in January. Great, says I. Let me get his skates off and then I'll follow you.

I head into the office, pay for ice and start getting the form squared away. Stitch will claim USFSA membership on behest of Rink Across town, and ISI membership at Home Rink. All was going swimmingly until I heard a familiar voice call, "Hi, Stitch!"


There she was, dragging that suitcase and a snotty glint in her eye. "Oh crap," I ducked under the glass window of the office.

The ice monitor looked at me like I was insane. "Are you okay?"

"I'm avoiding someone," I said, looking up. A group of kids had come in. Precious was among them and they seemed to be chaperoned by a few adults. Nutso wasn't to be found. Maybe this was some kind of camp program, and Nutso wasn't here. I gingerly peeked up. "She doesn't seem to be here. Maybe it's okay. I just don't like talking to her."

The ice monitor raised a brow.

"It's not an outright rivalry," I tried to explain. "She just acts weird to me because our sons started skating at the same time, and mine is learning waltz jumps while hers is still struggling with one foot glides. It's not my fault, I just bring him to skate more."

"Well, that's the ticket," Ice Monitor was laughing under her breath. "Practice, practice."

Just when I thought I was safe, in walks Nutso. And she saw me.

"Crap. There she is. And now I have to go say hi."

"It will be the performance of the year," the Ice Monitor handed me my receipts.

I walked out. "Lessons today?"

"Oh, yes," says Nutso. "The quality here is so much better. Are you taking lessons here, too?"

"No, we just snag ice here. You realize this is a different program, right?"

"What do you mean?"

If you can imagine the greedy glint in a king's eye when he discovers a genie in a bottle, then you can imagine the smile that crept across Nutso's face as I explained the difference between ISI and USFSA. "It's not that USFSA Basic Skills is more serious," I tried to diffuse it. "It's not. It's just the way to start if you want to become serious."

Didn't help. Nutso's grin was wide and gleaming. "Wow, I didn't know."

I call bullshit on that, but I'm a Good Southern Girl and said nothing. "Well, we have to get going."

"Okay, is there rehearsal today?" she called after me.

Really? "Yes, it's the preliminary run through. He needs to be there at noon."

"Noon?" Nutso sighed. "But he has a birthday party at two."

Without thinking I blurted, "Well, then it's a matter of priorities for you."

Precious was on the ice. Shuffle and That Other One were playing in the lobby. I left her with her hands full.

Either I have successfully convinced Nutso to leave Home Rink, or I have opened a whole new can of rivalrous worms. I'm not sure which.

"Why are there no boys in Figure Skating??"

I can tell you why. You won't like the answer, but I'll tell you.

There are no Boys in Figure Skating, because Figure Skating doesn't understand how Boys work.

Boys need to move, to run, to jump, be active. They need to show off, do daring things, test themselves and get deadly sometimes. Boys don't wait for and largely don't need the same kind of Approval from Authority that Girls thrive on. Figure Skating, which has become the single domain of Girls, forces Boys to act like Girls. Sit still. Wait your turn. Stand like this. Don't do that. Not like that, like THIS. Oh, my gosh, Boys are so difficult! Why are you so difficult? Do it again. Ugh, the Boys are such a challenging group, aren't they? I hope that coach survives.

Because Boys are Boys and Figure Skating curricula don't get this, Boys quickly drop out and move to Hockey where they can be more of themselves and get encouraged rather than disparaged by well-meaning but plainly ignorant folks.

Today was the first prelim run-through of Ice Show. I watched a dozen Boys sit in the bleachers, writhing and wriggling and being told to sit still by parents and others. They were waiting, wanting, begging to skate, but instead were getting the message that you boys are out of hand! They aren't out of hand. Let them Skate! I watched as a Coach plainly said to them that the Boys together are a bad combination, indicating and frankly pushing them to the trouble they were going to make unless someone gave them a constructive outlet for that Boy energy. No one did, and so Coach was gratified when they responded with a chorus of farting noises.

I watched hundreds of girls spin and twirl and jump. I watched a dozen boys, only three of whom are in Pre-Alpha, swizzle, dip and skate plain. When their routine was over, Mysteria chided them from the loudspeaker. "Okay, BOYS. Let's do that AGAIN." Stitch was confused and bored and played with his jacket.

It is truly frustrating as a parent to know that Stitch works hard and plays hard at Figure Skating. He can do a lot and he's proud of it, as well he should be. But now that it's Showtime at Home Rink, Home Rink plainly doesn't care. This morning I watched him start work on a true Sit Spin and do some solid outside edgework which he's never done before. This afternoon, I watched him get fussed at for "not getting it."

Ice Show Coaches got exactly what they expected, which was a ragtag group of uncoordinated Boys. They got it because that was how they treated the Boys from day one. Children will always, always live down to your lowest expectations.  Figure Skating has very low expectations for Boys, and then it cries because there are so few boys.

Fortunately for Figure Skating, Stitch has a Coach that gets Boys. Coach is letting him spin and jump and go nuts, and encouraging him. She shows him new and constructive methods of insanity. I'm glad for her.

On the way home, I told Stitch that if he doesn't want to do Spring Show, that's fine with me. He said he didn't want to do it. So, Home Rink, that's one more Boy you've lost to your Spring Spectacular because you shafted him at Winter Show.

You only have yourselves to blame.

Billy Joel never sang "It's six am on a Saturday."

I'm awake, and burning a CD. Yep, I forgot, and now I pay the price by arguing with my external CD burner which is extremely fussy. I think it's working now.

In a half hour I have to get Stitch up, dressed and out the door. It's snowing out and my own car has a dead battery so I have to gakk my husband's car. Just as well, my car is rear wheel drive and drives like shit in the snow.

After lessons this morning I'm dealing with Dead Battery, finishing Pants, and then heading to Ice Show rehearsal.

Next weekend will be a tiring logistical nightmare. Due to Ice Show performances, we won't have any ice at our home rink. For Stitch to practice his new program, being choreographed today, he will have to get ice somewhere else. I can't let it go a full week without being practiced. Stitch will forget. So, between matinees and evening shows, I'll find some ice time at That Other Rink Across Town or perhaps some of the outdoor rinks available to us now. (Provided the ice is skateable, reasonably clean and free of douchebaggy skaters now common at Public Ice.)

It's going to be a long day.