Monday, August 30, 2010

Preparing for Competition, part 2

Well, I bought the patterns. They should be here next week.

Next up; Fabric.

I dunno. Sounds like some kind of German Kink Place. 

Aunt Joyce's Ice Cream Stand

This is my new favorite Blog, an honest and factual discussion on the current stars of the rink.

I didn't know that Surya Bonaly ate nothing but seeds and now the term "Sashasplat" has been forever ingrained on my mind. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Preparing for Competition, Part 1

I was driving back from MadTown this afternoon. I had attended a raucous party which led to oaths of "NEVAR DRINKING AGAIN", was nursing a rather awful hangover and contemplating mustard, when the thought struck me; "Don't make the first thing you sew a competition costume. Sew a practice outfit first."

There is no skate clothing for boys to speak of. None. Just about the only skate pants you will find will be on eBay (happy hunting) or faraway internets vendors who will nearly always model their pants on This Guy:

Who is This Guy? How long has he been standing there? And is that Ass Padded?

Anyway, what skating apparel you will find for boys is always overpriced. Somehow the addition of an elastic strap at the foot will raise the price of a standard pair of pants anywhere from $30 to $70. Try here, or here. How about here? How about some used pants? That's some serious fucking elastic. I, for one, refuse to shell out $70 to $90 for a pair of athletic pants that have a strap on the foot. Sorry.

So what are my alternatives?

K has been skating in just regular old athletic pants. They're warm, they stretch, they are comfy and get the job done. But when he's out there and all the little sparkly princesses have on their skating apparel, he feels gypped. I understand. It would be nice to have some true skating apparel.

It just so happens that I can sew a serviceable garment, and Jalie makes patterns for figure skating. So, with a borrowed sewing machine, some stretchy fabric, time, patience and some sequins, I can help K out. Let's just hope that my time and effort expenditure doesn't turn out to make $90 look like a bargain.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Position of Mom

The skating world is all aflurry with the recent breakup of Kim Yu-Na (you know, the James Bond Chick from the Olympics) and her Coach, Brian Orser. (Canadian dude, also did Olympic shit.)

Brian says that all of this came out of the blue, he's all "bewildered" and he got the news in a sit down meeting with (ready?) Yu-Na's Mom. Kim herself was apparently not present to break the bad news to Orser, and Orser claims that she didn't know what was going on. A few hours after the split, a cryptic message appeared on Kim's Twitter feed, saying something about "stop to tell a lie, B?" and "This is what I've DECIDED." Speculators speculate that this tweet came not from Kim, but from "her handlers." Mom.

Kim Yu-Na is an Olympic Gold Medal Winner, runs a Korean Media Empire, is twenty years old and by all rational definitions, a fully functioning adult. But when it comes to her skating, Mom apparently is still calling the shots.

Park Mee-Hee is Kim's Mom. She says a lot of fun things here. And there's also some gems here. Helicopter mom? Pshaw! Meet ALPHA MOM! (I fucking LOVE this term!)

Mee-Hee admits to keeping track of Kim's mistakes and practically forgetting about her other daughter. I can only imagine what goes on with those two, and it's got to be something like ripping up rosebushes in the middle of the night with skate blades, or maybe throwing Mondor tights everywhere with some screeching "CLEAN IT UP!" at the end.

When kids are little, we moms have to step in and be their advocate. But as they grow up, we have to start stepping back and letting them take more responsibility and cred for their own lives. If we invest too much of ourselves in someone with their own ideas and their own free will, we're going to be disappointed. Period. That disappointment is what breeds anger and rumors of beatings with hairbrushes. Part of my learning curve with the skating thing is understanding that K will quickly lose interest if I'm always butting in with suggestions and tips. This is HIS DEAL.

But I have to wonder what will become of Mee-Hee and Yu-Na. Yu-Na says she won't let her own daughter do skating. Whatever the outcome, I look forward to the movie.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All the proof you'll ever need..

That Figure Skating breeds insanity.

Skating and Skating Shit, Part 1

In theory, skating should be one of the least expensive hobbies around. All you need is access to a sheet of ice, a decent pair of skates, and a high pain tolerance.

However, figure skating has a collection of assorted gak and accessories that make a game of Obstacle Golf look like an exercise in Voluntary Simplicity. I'd like to take a moment to add up the costs of diving whole hog into the world of skating.

We've already examined Blade Guards. And Puffy Soakers. Yes, these are two things that you will crucially need if you don't want to look like a Savage at the rink.

Let's start with the basics. Skates. We're not even going to discuss the Crocs of the Skating World, the Soft Series Skates. Put your feet in these puppies for a clonking good time, or perhaps for a trip down memory lane of you last run in with the Mafia. Recreational figure skates will set you back a measly $70.00. But you aren't a recreational skater, oh no. When I upgraded K's skates, Coach Y was very pleased. "Those other skates were for public skate." Such a big dismissal in such a simple statement. Your child is a Beginner. And a Beginner deserves gear with an appropriate label. Double your money for Beginner Skates. Yes, this fabulous boot and blade combination features padding enough to support wobbly unease on the ice and enough discomfort to make you feel like you're accomplishing something spectacular with those backwards wiggles. (I own a pair of these. They hurt like hell for three weeks.)

Oh, I'm sorry, that was a new term; Boot and Blade.

After you pass the innocuous Beginner Skate Stage, you get the astounding privilege of purchasing the Shoe Part (the boot) and the Skatey Thing (the blade) seperately! Aren't you thrilled?

Boots can run anywhere from $215 to $600 and up. And this is Riedell, which is the brand I'm familiar with. SP Teri (pronounced "Spuhterry")runs upwards of $500, and they go on into some detail about their fabulous Toebox which only reminds of some rather unflattering names I have for the wenches hogging the pedicure chairs. I can't even think about a Graf without reaching for my Beta Blockers, much less try to comprehend why they cost more than a steak dinner for four. At Lawry's.

Moving on to the Skatey part, you get some fabulous selections like Wilson who boasts some kind of Legendary English quality akin to Legend of King Arthur, who to my knowledge never skated. Then of course you can go for the Guido look on the ice and trick yourself out with some Paramounts. Skate blades can go anywhere from sixty to a hundred to car payment and then mortgage. What comes after that is Grandparent and Dark Corner in Shady Part of Town.

After you've selected your BOOT and your BLADE and removed the AED from your chest, your Skate Technician will affix your blades to your boots with a fucking screw gun. Yes, all that cash and careful selection, hopes and dreams poured into a single check, months on end of peanut butter while your coworkers ate Wendy's, all that will boil down to a single moment when you hear the whir of a screw gun unceremoniously screwing it all together. This the moment to remind yourself; this is all just hardware. No parabolic carbon fiber toebox ever substituted for talent.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 States The Obvious continues to do what it does best and provides this fabulous column of redundancy.

How to be a Figure Skating Parent:

1. Get up early.
2. Drive a lot.
3. Learn to love sparkly things and craft projects you can't botch.
4. Be cold.
5. Spend money.

And there you have it folks. Just about the only guidelines provided on any website anywhere if you're a beginner. Anything else is a rehash of these simple statements.

Which is stupid considering that most beginners don't have early morning practice ice. ("Five in the morning... morning... morning....") Most beginners don't compete and starter costumes seem reasonable at retail. It's actually quite temperate in the higher levels of the stands, and group Learn to Skate lessons are cheaper than Tennis.

So for a beginner, these statements are more like pronouncements of doom rather than true guidelines.

Fuck it, I'll write my own damn guidelines for beginners, then.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just what the hell is it with skating, anyway?

Can someone please explain to me what it is about this sport that makes people insane?

Every parent harbors dreams of greatness for their little ones. It's just something that parents do. Every scribble on the back of the placemat at Waffle House indicates a future Rembrandt. Every discovery with Legos and Tootsie Rolls means he's Einstein in the making. Parents don't need any help fostering unrealistic expectations upon their children, yet when it comes to Figure Skating, the general public is more than happy to chip in. (For good and/or bad.)

I take the train home, and every so often I run into a nice guy and we chat. It had been awhile since our last meeting and so we spent the time catching up. He asked me how the skating was going. I relayed the Tale of the Waltz Jump and my surprise at the lesson. He waggled his brows and said, "Maybe there's some Olympic Potential there."

It was all I could do to not shake him and yell, "STOP IT!!"

This past weekend we spent some time with the extended family, who were all happy to hear that K was skating. I told them what he was learning, and there was the suitable chorus of "ooh's" and "Ah's". Then some douchebag who we're not related to said with a waggling brow, "He'll be in the Olympics!"

I sighed. "I'll be happy with some success at the local competitions. I'm happy when he's happy," I calmly stated. But my hand clasped my beer bottle with a set of white knuckles, resisting the impulse to bash him over his thick skull.

This whole skating thing already feels like a freight train out of control, and I'm desperately seeking a way to bring some order and pacing to it. My mom already is over the top, my husband is being sucked in, I am easily suggestible, the last thing I need is random comments from relative strangers.

Let's put things in perspective. My co worker's kids play baseball, both of them. Lots and lots of baseball. They play baseball much more than K skates. No one mentions MLB to him or his kids. Maybe they do and I'm not privy to it, but if you could see these pop-tart addicts you'd know that MLB is not going to happen for them. It's just not. I'm not being cynical or mean, I'm being honest. I simply don't believe in fostering unrealistic expectations upon the innocent. The elder boy's team finished their season 4-11. I know everyone has bad days, but when Dad stopped talking about the games midway through the season, we had an idea of how well things were going.

How do you think those kids felt, to know that they had gone from the Golden Children to the Children of the Scorn? This is why unrealistic expectations are bad. Children, despite their capacity for bumps and bruises, are fragile. When mom and dad are disappointed, their world collapses. That's why mom and dad need to save their disappointment for the big things, like shoplifting or drug dealing. Little shit like baseball or music practice, they need support through all of it; good, bad, stellar and not.

Then there's a flip side. Being a Skating Parent, there is an expectation of me that I am a Stage Mom. There's a broad idea that I AM wanting and expecting Olympics. When word got out that I had a Private Coach, (at PRE-ALPHA) other moms around me raised their eyebrows and gave that "Oh." You know the one. That "oh" that your mom gave you when you cut your hair funny, that "oh" your husband says in response to a bad dress choice. That "oh" with a million unspoken words behind it. I was immediately in a defensive position, and there was no good response. I was THAT MOM.

Not every kid who picks up a violin will play Carnegie Hall. Not every kid who takes Ballet is going to dance with the Moscow Opera. Not every kid who performs with the Community Players is going to be the next Julia Roberts. I should know, I was one of those kids. I was involved in drama in High School, and I auditioned for every play between my Sophomore and Senior years. Seven, not including one-act festivals. Guess how many plays I was in? Three. One of those I was "chorus" which means "stand here in costume and react to the real actors."

One of the girls who WAS in every play and who everyone thought had a shot at "real" acting someday, she is still an actress. She lives in LA. She's done some Indie films, commercials, and a few soap operas. Is she Julia Roberts? Nope. Not by a long shot. I'll bet when she's not acting, she's doing something very mundane like the rest of us. Sorry, but that resume is too short for five years worth of sustainable work, and "Cheerleading" is simply not a credible skill for a woman in her thirties. (Yes, I am still bitter, and you HAVE to find this as hilarious as I do.)

I'll be the first to admit, when K started skating and showed some enthusiasm and promise, I was excited. I began envisioning the best. But now we're six months in and discussing competitions. I see what we're up against and I see the odds. I see them very clearly because I have faced them myself, and the odds won. Do I hope for Olympics? Not really. Not anymore. I hope for Olympics in the same way I hope for my own private Island; it would be really fucking awesome but the logistics of such a thing would completely overwhelm me. (Not to mention poor K.) All I'm hoping for now is a happy kid with a trophy or two to be proud of.

Once during Group Lessons, a coach asked the kids at large, "Who wants to be a high level skater?"

K raised his hand.

Well then, that's what we're shooting for.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A discussion on Camping

**In the office breakroom, discussing vacations and camping.**

Me: Yeah, I really wanted to start training to do sections of the Appalachian Trail in two week sections starting next year, but now that he's taken up ice skating that may not happen. I'm spending all my free time in an ice rink.
Him: He can play hockey
"He doesn't want to play hockey."
"He's Gay."
"He's Gay."
"Look, I'm not going to stand here and defend my kid on something that I have nothing against, my point is that I'm spending all my free time at an ice rink."
"Oh. Yeah, that does kind of suck in summer."

**Conversation continues on camping.**


What kind of bloated idiot feels free and licensed to make pointed judgments about a fucking SEVEN YEAR OLD in polite conversation?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vacation Updates

Well, I'm here in the lobby of some Econolodge in Walnut, Iowa. I'm about ready to hit the road for the final eight hour leg towards home, finishing up our weeklong family vacation.

It's been fun. I've enjoyed not thinking about skating too much, but I get the feeling K is ready to get back to normal and back to the rink. He's been practicing his Waltz Jump in parking lots, hotel lobbies, and against the hot tub wall in our hotel. He hops out of the car and spins, then does jazz hands before running for the bathroom.

I've been watching my phone for a message from Coach Y, about a lesson tomorrow if possible. I told her that August is fucked and we'd best not hope for much until September. In September, I will begin worrying. (That's my rule.)

Next weekend we hit the road again for the in-laws, where K and his cousin will be riding in a parade with their grandfather. But that's a short trip, so no worries there. After that, life resumes as normal. School starts (I almost forgot about school) and then the summer is gone.

Anyhow, the breakfast in this hotel sucks balls and I'm going to look for an Ihop along the road nearby. Tonight I'll be home and planning out next week. If Dad is home, we can work in a public session on Tuesday and Thursday before we depart on Friday. Again, I'm not expecting anything but tooling around on the ice.

I need to find a car wash, the bug brigade is thick out here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Brief Shout Out...

To my new friend and his skaters in Lake Placid at the Ice Dance Championships this week; You guys are fantastic, best of luck to you all! K and I are thinking of you. Namaste!!


I have a habit of assigning Nicknames to people I don't know. This is why it's a good idea to introduce yourself to people, lest you find yourself with an unfortunate Nickname. The name I gave this kid is Shuffles, because that's how he skates.

I have to give this kid some props. He's maybe no more than six, and I think there's some developmental issues going on. He speaks and moves very deliberately, and mom seems oblivious to it. I don't know the whole story and she's not volunteering, so until I find out some dirt on the internets, I'm in the dark. He has two sisters, and I call his mom Nutso. They started group lessons at the same time as K. They all shared the same PA1 class.

Remember the post about the first day of PA1? *bam* Down. *bam* Down. *bam* Down. That whole cycle of falling and getting up is dependent on the child moving at all. You can't learn if you don't move. If you won't move, you can't fall down. Logically, if you aren't falling, you aren't learning.

PA1 starts the kids off by "Marching." Marching is directly what the name implies. The kids are told to hold out their hands as though on a table, and they attempt to walk on the ice. It's a brutal process, but within a few minutes most of them have it. Marching involves lifting ones feet off the ice, one after the other.

Shuffles did not lift his feet. He did not bend his knees. His lower body seemed encased in cement. He planted both blades on the ice, waggled his hips in some attempt at forward motion, and moved at no more than one inch per hour with his body and face frozen in sheer terror. His progress was glacial. The coaches brought out the "trainers," those goofy walker-type things normally reserved for the Tots. Shuffles moved no faster. But Shuffles did not fall.

The second week was a repeat of the first. As was the third. And the fourth. And the fifth. Week Five is an evaluation week, and Coach L did not bother evaluating Shuffles. While other kids were getting the hang of a one-foot glide, Shuffles did not lift his feet. He simply waggled his hips like a paralyzed duck, his body solid in his snowpants and full-on winter gear. Nutso complained, whereupon Coach L showed her impatience with him and stated, "He can't skate."

Now, here's where I had a problem:

Shuffles, despite his slow going, WAS progressing. His progression, however, was not measured in the distance of his one-foot glide nor in his ability to stop. His progress was the slow easing of his posture, the smile that grew on his face every week, the minute tick of his comfort level increasing on the ice. He WAS getting the hang of things, he was just getting it ever so much slower than the other kids. This is where and why I think there are some developmental issues that aren't being addressed, and this is a big hindrance to Shuffles' progress.

What Coach in their right minds, especially a Coach for six year olds in a group class, states to a parent "He can't skate" while HE is within earshot. What the fuck, seriously? I personally can't think of anything more damaging to a kid other than outright hitting them. This Coach did it, and this is why if K ever gets her for a Coach again, I will move him to a different class. Had I been Nutso, I would have gone right to the Skating Director.

Needless to say, Shuffles did not pass PA1. He repeated PA1, and he shuffled his Duck shuffle again for ten weeks. Before anyone starts going on about how maybe he can't skate, consider this: Shuffles can now Shuffle backwards. Shuffles can now perform a small swizzle. He bends his knees to dip. Shuffles now LIFTS HIS FOOT OFF THE ICE and attempts a one foot glide. Back in March, this would have been unthinkable. Now, I ask you, how many kids would have heard some Bitchtastic Coach say in angry words to their mother "HE CAN'T SKATE" and take the class again? How many kids would have that kind of resilience to get back on the ice and try again? In this age of "participation medals" and "everybody wins", not many. So, I have a lot of respect for Shuffles.

He wants to play hockey. While I think he should wait a few years for his skating to improve before he goes out for the team, I think he should go for it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Keep your Head on Straight

Today's skate was a great skate. I mean, GREAT. We walked to the rink as it is a splendiferous day and it's a crime to be cooped up. We lay in the grass for awhile and talked about spinach. Just a relaxing afternoon.

We headed in to change pants, Dad brought the skate bags over in the car, and we all were skating for the hour before Coach Y arrived.

I truly love these moments. I love it when we're all there. It's family. We're together, we're having fun, K is showing off and Dad is always proud and pleased. I am reaffirmed in my pride, and for the moment glad that I am not crazy after all. If I could save time in a bottle, this is what I'd keep.

Coach Y arrived as K was getting a drink, and she took off with him right away. Dad and I deferred the ice to them, not wanting to be a distraction as they worked. (And watching is always great.) They did the standard forward crossovers, bunny hops, backwards swizzles, backwards stroking, she started him on backwards crossovers and I was just enjoying watching his face in quiet concentration and determination.

Then Coach Y did a small waltz jump. (Thank you YouTube for educating me.) She beckoned K to try. She helped him as he gave it a shot.

This is a good estimation of us:

A few minutes later the resurface was called, and they headed off. K got his beverage and I promised him a snack after his lesson. I chatted with the good folks in the lobby, got a drink myself, and headed back in just as people were headed back out. K was back with coach Y, and again they were attempting a small flip and a lunge.

The man next to us began talking. "How did you get her to coach for you?"

"Uh, I filled out the form."

"What form?"

"There's forms in the lobby. I filled out the form and she called me. Why?"

"Well, he (the ice monitor) was just telling me that she's a national level coach. She's well known."

Can we show the pig again?

K ended the lesson by attempting a Shoot the Duck and landing square on his ass. Tears ensued, and coach Y called it for the day. She talked about a more local competition in Skokie which would be better for us, and I agreed. We'll begin work on that in September, and K will compete at Alpha level. It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

I'm trying very hard to keep things in perspective, and maintain my rule that August is FUN MONTH, wherein I'm not going to pressure him to practice and we can relax a bit. But when my own husband is starting to talk about squeezing in a session before we hit the road, it's hard.

At any rate, no more skating for two weeks. K gets a well deserved break after literally skating his ass off since March. Enjoy it, sweetie, because it's going to get rough in the fall. (Get it? FALL?? Ahahahaehehsobsob.)

Puffy Soakers for the Concerned Citizen

This is a Puffy Soaker. It is shaped like a rabbit.

Soakers are something else you're going to find that you "need." A Soaker is an item of terry and cotton, and it wraps around the blade to soak up the water that is melting and condensing as soon as the kid leaves the ice.

I know what you're thinking: "I thought we wore blade guards when we leave the ice."

Ah yes, but blade guards trap water against the blade, and that leads to rust, so you NEED PUFFY SOAKERS.

I know, I know. I said the same thing. "Why not just get a stupid dry washcloth and wipe them down before putting the guards on? I mean, you aren't going to have the guards on for longer than twenty minutes, and nothing rusts in twenty minutes."

Right, I know. A dry washcloth or "Skate Towel" is an elegant solution. But here's the number one reason why you need Puffy Soakers: All the Cool Skaters have them.

I bought K a pair of soakers with a gift certificate. Otherwise I would not bother. We have a dry washcloth for blade drying. But K wanted them, I had this money to spend at a Hockey store of all places, so I got some soakers.

Let me tell you something, Soakers are an instrument of the devil. There is no other implement or tool in my life whose purpose it is to get wet and then sit in a bag that gets forgotten in a corner for four days out of the week. This is the definition of fucking dank. Add the Dank Factor to the Lose Factor, and these things score a twelve out of ten on my Annoying and Useless Products list. Every weekend after Synchro practice you can find a host of scattered and orphaned soakers, which leads to some mom traipsing either back out to neverwhere or the internet so she can cough up fifteen more bucks for essentially one soaker.

But the bunny and animal soakers are truly disturbing. I can't imagine a greater horror than a small child tromping around with an impaled bunny on her feet. The only way I would buy a bunny soaker is if the inner terrycloth was red. Then I'd buy six pair.

Blade Guards for the Uninitiated

This is a blade guard. This is something you are going to need if you are going to be hanging around the ice rink for any length of time. Nothing says "NooB" like an unguarded skate blade. Skate blades are not (as some of my coworkers would like to believe) sharpened like a razor. They actually have two edges, (two!) and there's a hollow between them. Those fun turns and snowplow stops are achieved by working those edges. The edges are also fairly easily damaged, so guards are the solution.

These guards are constructed of some very hard rubbery material, and the blade is meant to slip neatly inside for those runs to the bathroom, concession stand, vending machine, or walking on the cement stairs of stands simply because you can and those kids in rentals can't. The floors of our rink are covered in some rubbery material which is fine to walk on in skates, but the SRS BZNZ kids wear guards.

When K first started, the people at the pro shop told me I wouldn't need guards. So I didn't get them. But as we kept skating, K saw the other kids with guards and began asking.

As a treat, I had them sent to him while he was out visiting grandpa over spring break. I thought that would make him feel good. When I asked if the blade guards had arrived, Grandpa said, "Yes, but they're too big. You need to return them."

Huh, the description said "universal," for all blade sizes. I was confused, but I'd figure it out when i got the guards in hand.

A few days later, when K came home, I opened up the guards.

Guards come in four pieces, and arrive with four screws and four springs. There are no instructions. (First Rule of Skating: DON'T TALK ABOUT SKATING.) On the bottom, there are a series of measurements. I looked at K's skate blade. They had "7 1/2" on them. Well, this wasn't too hard to figure out. I measured out to halves of the guard, got a breadknife and my cutting board, and set to sawing. Saw saw saw, plastic rubber dust was everywhere and the edge was mangled and raw. It took me twenty minutes per guard.

When I had the halves cut to fit, I put the spring in the channel, and screwed in the screws in the holes provided. The screws were Catch Screws, catching the rings on either end of the springs. I stretched the springs as far as they'd go, tighter is better, right? Right! I screwed those catch screws with the end of my kitchen shears, which have a flat blade on one end. Kitchen Skate.

I then repeated the process with the other guard, wondering if the sawzall might be a better alternative and easier on my breadknife. These things are fucking HARD! An hour later, I snapped the finished guards on K's skates. I realized that these things actually have a FRONT and a BACK. The BACK side of the guard has the longer upturn, and the FRONT side has the shorter upturn that goes around the toepick. Lidwina was on my side that night, and I had managed to bumble the things together correctly.

Sort of.

That weekend, K was clomping around on the cement stairs, once forbidden territory and smirking at the kids below. Imagine his embarrassment when I took off the guards and one popped apart in my hand. The spring was stretched too tight and the catch screw was straining at the stress. He looked on in horror, the two halves in my hand.

"Go skate!" I hissed at him. He scuttled off for warmups, and I reassembled the mess while picking off the damp and smushed skittles that someone had been kind enough to spill on the upper levels. Dammit. Shuffles' mom came up to me and began initiating some conversation about the class, while I tried desperately to move the screws and springs around in a fashion that would not lead to the guards falling in half every time they were removed from the skate. "Uh huh, yeah, sucks," I nodded in tacit agreement to whateverthehell she was going on about, trying to maintain some professionalism.

Those guards held together with some reassembly required every other day, for about two weeks. Then I lost them. They did not turn up in the Bin of Lost Blade Guards, so I can't help but smirk at the surprise that oh-so-clever mom or dad has when dealing with their "free" guards.

When we got the new (to you) skates, I bought new guards as we now owned some blades with some cred. The nice man looked at me and asked, "Do you want me to put these together for you?"

I could have bought him a beer.

Remember this the next time you see some gilded ice pixie on TV snapping on her cute little guards as she traipses off the ice. Those things are fucked up.

The Swamp in my Car

Tipper: Do not leave wet gloves, socks, soakers and skate towels in the skate bag in the trunk over warm summer weekends. Dry that shit out.

Good Days and Bad Days

Yesterday was "test day." It's the day when all the parents sit in the stands, watching and waiting anxiously to see if our child will "test out" of his or her current level and be moved up. This is where the blades hit the pavement, and any weak skaters are winnowed out, and here in the Pre-Alpha ranks it means doomed to repeat another ten weeks of forward swizzles, one foot glides, and backwards wiggles.

I had been gearing up K to practice for the past two weeks, telling him test day was at hand. He did his backwards swizzles with glide dutifully.

Then came the day. I watched in growing horror as only two coaches led the warmups. Four weeks of this Pre-Alpha run, K had been bunched with the Pre-Alpha 1 kids. It was looking more and more likely he'd test with them this week. Sure enough, a junior coach and an older man who was a stranger to me, skated out and bunched the two groups together. K was mad. He scraped ice, made faces, rolled his eyes, and crossed the ice with the angry one foot glides he normally reserved for me. How could they test so many kids (about 20) in twenty minutes?

Short answer: They can't.

At the end of the session, K skated up to get his paper, and was told, "Come back next week. We'll test you then."

Well, that's a problem, fellas. We won't be here. We had planned our vacation schedule around the fact that the last class session is typically Game Day and easily skipped. As much as I love watching my kid skate, my husband has other ideas about actually getting away from things for awhile. So, what now?

The gentleman huffed and hawed and fished out a paper declaring that K had passed. well, I knew he'd passed, but this lacked the ceremony, the joy, the grandeur of skating on your own in front of a coach that K had loved last time. In comparison to skating across the ice, waving a sheet of assurance that YOU ARE A GOOD SKATER, this felt like a consolation prize and a dismissal. K was mad.

Remember me saying that K makes mountains out of molehills, and one bad event will upset his day? He's getting better about these things, but yesterday was awful. K could have cared less about skating, and didn't want to talk about Alpha 1 at all. I signed him up for the class, pointed to the Xmas show schedule, and he muttered that he didn't want to do it anymore.

One of my skating parent friends walked past me, and asked if K had passed. I said yes. She narrowed her eyes and said that her daughter was being held back. I sighed. It had been an off day for her little one to begin with, and the grouping made it worse. I had to wonder if Shuffles had passed. (Have I mentioned Shuffles? Another post...) If he did, I'd have to question the sanity of this coach.

We went back to skate that afternoon. K had the ice relatively quiet and to himself for the first half hour, and he did some serious "fancy skating." He danced. He did crossovers. He hopped and spun. He then made snowballs and coated his gloves with snow before pounding them all over me, showering me with snow. We both felt better.

Here in the lower levels, things don't seem to be taken very seriously. Pre-Alpha is the lower, lower level of this hell, truly, and I am glad to be out of it. The kids who shuffle and fall, the ones whose ankles bend in perilously and painfully close to the ice, the ones who turn to go backwards and then stand in stark frustration as nothing happens, those are the ones who aren't taken very seriously and need to be. In the last session of Pre-alpha 1, the head coach skipped out at least three times out of a ten session class. In this session of PA1, the head coach dropped the class entirely and gave it to someone else, who skipped out three or four times. Our session of PA2, the head coach skipped out three times. These are ten class sessions, with the last class being a non-learning day. That's a 30% to 50% skip rate for the coaches. Is anyone going to tell me seriously that this happens in Freestyle?

You know, I get that it can be boring. I understand that watching Shuffles shuffle across the ice for the hundredth time can be maddening. It's maddening for me and I'm a spectator. But my job is deadly boring on some days as well. I still show up.

Kids know when they're being dissed. They know when adults don't care or are indifferent. I know that the lower levels are akin to a Skatey Mill, and kids cycle out and through quickly, but there's always that one kid who might do better. I have the benefit of a private coach to make up for bad Group Lessons like this, but other kids don't. I really feel bad for them right now. (And where is Teddy Bear Hat? I haven't seen him in three weeks.)

When Coach Y called me to cancel Saturday's lesson, she had a valid reason and an apology. I explained things to K and he understood. Coach Y had a make-up day in mind, (which is today) and he's ready for it. He looks forward to all his skating lessons, but he truly likes the private lessons best. And yesterday when I watched those few unrequested crossovers happen, I was assured of progress. He's seven. Let him be seven. It's something I say to myself daily. It's one day, but it was a bad day for it.

Today is our last day of skating for almost two weeks, and the month of August is a complete clusterfuck. I have told myself, "DO NOT FRET OR WORRY ABOUT SKATING FOR AUGUST. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING RELATING TO THE COMPETITION DURING AUGUST." That being said, I spent the final days of July learning that I could rent a sewing machine for $15 a week, and downloaded a free music editor off the interwebs. But it's August now. We have a few public skate sessions, which have been specially designated as "play only" (I can't request anything) and two private lessons. Class starts again in mid-September.