Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Let's go Ice Skating!"

(It's two for one day here at St. Lidwina's, since my Scheduled Post didn't happen!)

I love having new people at the rink during the holidays, and really hope most of them stick around for the rest of the year. When I'm in the lobby at public skate sessions, and people see Stitch, they'll sometimes ask me about classes and things. I'll happily answer, tie skates, and loan gloves.


But Public Skate sessions around the holidays can get a little crazy, simply because everyone and their dog shows up. Literally. I spotted a cocker spaniel puppy in the lobby not too long ago. The sheer mass of people who don't skate can make things a little dangerous.

So, let's say you're a family on holiday break, wanting to visit the rink up the road for some funtime ice skating. How do you make sure it's actually fun and not a trip to the ER?



Did you just get some new skates as a gift? Great! Make sure they're sharpened before you hit the ice. Some poor little boy showed up in new hockey skates and collapsed for ten minutes before his mom asked me to check things. They still had the weird "Factory Edge" on them, not a proper edge.

Are you renting skates? Make sure you get the right size, and make sure you tie them properly. And when I say, "tie them properly," I don't mean that you do some awesome macrame job on the excess lace while leaving the lace hooks sad and empty.

Tie them properly means: Loosen the laces all the way down the foot. Stick your socked foot in there, and tighten the laces, one by one, so you're comfortable. Don't cut off your circulation in the name of support. Lots of lace? I bring the laces OVER the lace hooks and around, all the way up the ankle (again, tight enough to support but don't make a tourniquet) and bring them down and around the lace hook set to eat up that extra lacing. Or tuck the excess into your long sock. But don't wrap it around the ankle of the boot, because that interferes with movement, and don't let it drag. You will trip over it. It's one of those Murphy's Laws of skating; what can be tripped over, will be tripped over.


Dress in layers, so you can peel off accordingly. Our rink gets Polar in winter, but most days it's comfortable in a light jacket. Pants, please, and gloves for when you fall.

While that cute little skating dress is very cute, she's shivering. This is one of those parental moments where you make them wear a jacket, no matter how much they protest. 'Kay? Oh, and if you put her in that cute skating dress, know that the Big Skaters wear thick skating tights to cover their legs. Not a one of them goes out bare legged, so please don't let your little girl do it! (Seen it!)

And while you may want to get your budding Wayne Gretzky "used to the helmet and pads," it seems counterproductive to send your three year old out in full hockey gear to learn to skate. One thing at a time, maybe?


This seems to be the single biggest challenge for our Holiday Public Skating sessions.

So you can't skate. This is fine. Go slow, hold onto the wall, and take it easy. You'll start getting it eventually.

Please don't march on the ice, flail wildly and start imitating Plushenko as you enjoy some self deprecating humor. While it is comic, it's very dangerous to yourself and others.

Please don't scream at your little skaters to get off the wall/do something cool/"gliiiiiiiide!!" or whatever. They'll let do it when they're ready.

Please keep a sense of Situational Awareness. Stay alert to slower or faster skaters around you, and don't think others are automatically watching out for you. They likely aren't!

Please don't assume Rink Staff are just a bunch of meanie heads out to spoil your fun. Obey rink rules. You wouldn't challenge a Lifeguard, so don't challenge the Rink Guard.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not pick up and carry your little skaters. One of my greatest horror stories is of a mom who picked up her tot, lost her balance, and fell on her tot's head. Other parents have fallen while carrying kids, but this one was the best. To this day I get the serious heebie jeebies when I see a nonskating mom pick up a reluctant tot and carry her while skating.

On the sidelines? This is okay, but please don't walk on the ice with your camera. Yes, I know, you've likely been introduced to that other Murphy's Law of Skating; If they do anything cool, someone or something blocks the view. It's just something you have to deal with.

Remember Budding Wayne Gretzky? Please don't yell at him. Or push him down. Or snowplow him. Or fling him across the ice. This is just sad, really. Unless you're looking to make Figure Skating Moms look like Angels, please don't engage in abusive behavior towards your Little Hockey Boy.

I've seen some great things at Public Skates, and I've seen some pretty awful things at Public Skates. Bottom line, it's what you do that makes it fun or not.

Oh, and Please buy something from the Concession Stand during resurface! Support the Rink you're at, and nothing makes a skating memory more fun than popcorn and hot chocolate to warm chilled fingers!

"No one can Progress!"

Last Saturday I was watching the kids, saying hello to some people and joining in the wondering chorus of "Why bother" for the one lesson that the kids get before a two week holiday break.

I'm sure it's a scheduling thing, and was about to say how glad I was for the private lessons in the interim, when some Plastic Mom appears by the door and begins a tirade.

"Look at this! Look at these coaches! They stand in the corner and talk while the kids goof off during warm ups!"

Other Mom agrees. "Oh, I know. It's terrible!"

"They need to have a coach at each corner to direct the kids! But they just stand there and talk!" Plastic Mom hurries off, and a moment later, a coach gets paged to the office.

Plastic Mom and Coach come out the door, with Plastic Mom railing and Coach saying she'd talk to people. But Plastic Mom is not satisfied. "Look at this. This is ridiculous. They aren't learning anything!"

Now, I have problems with the warmup, too. But I'm pretty confident that 90% of the warmup problems are Stitch not taking it seriously, so I'm talking with him about that.

But Other Mom and Plastic Mom were on a roll. "It's awful," says Plastic Mom. "How are they supposed to progress on an hour a week? And then They'll tell you that you have to buy private lessons and special ice to progress, and it's just not fair! They should progress in the regular classes we pay for!"

Okay. Let's review.

Plastic Mom is sporting a Prada Bag, a BMW key fob, a fur trimmed jacket and some pricey looking boots. Her daughter is sporting a full Chloe Noel getup complete with the Crystal accents. I'm pretty sure she can afford a private lesson and some practice ice.

Regardless of any of that, it's silly to say that "no one can progress" on weekly skating lessons. There's a boy in Stitch's FS3 class who's never seen a private coach or practice ice, skates about once a week, and he does fine. (He also has a big brother who is a killer ice dancer as powerful motivation.) But he's progressed. He spent two rounds in Pre-Free, two rounds in FS1, and a half round in FS2. He also got lucky in a lot of his classes, as he ended up being alone a lot. Score!

I've never heard of any kid languishing in any level for longer than two or three rounds, and it's usually one niggly thing that's hanging them up. (Except Shuffles, who is still in Alpha 1 after a year. But he's the lone exception.) Since the coaches will teach higher skills to break the monotony, by the time they do pass, they're halfway through the subsequent level anyway.

But your kid will progress. Will they progress as fast as you want them to? Who's to say? Why the rush? What are you after?

If you're just wanting your kid to skate recreationally, have some fun skills to show off to friends, or "to skate on dates" (the reason boys skate, according to the parents I talk to), I think a once weekly lesson and some practice time on public sessions is fine. But like any challenging skill, they won't get it unless they work at it. A Coach can't give your child a gift wrapped Waltz Jump.

I really wanted to ask Plastic why it mattered. But since I was someone who was getting Privates and "special ice," I decided to keep out of it. I noted that the FS3 coach was spending an inordinate amount of time talking himself, and I mentioned it to Coach Y later. She said she'd help.

But what if I didn't have a Coach to help me? What would my options be?

Talk to Problem Coach? I've seen this have mixed results. As a parent, you have to handle this with a lot of diplomacy. You don't want to come across as telling someone how to do their job, but you do want to bring up an issue. I'd use the "compliment sandwich" method. "Hey, those scratch spins look great! Everyone's doing so well! But my kid's having a problem with dance step, can you help him with that? And his toe loop is getting so much better these days! Thank you!" The trick to a compliment sandwich is that you have to be sincere. Don't BS it, and don't be combative yourself.

Some coaches will get all prickly and weird anyway, though, so good luck!

Switch classes? If Coach Talksalot teaches the Saturday Group, and Coach GitRDone teaches Tuesday nights, I'd try to make Tuesdays work and discretely switch classes.

Go ahead and supplement with Privates? I see nothing wrong with this. A Booster Lesson on a low key Public Session is no admission of defeat. I'd just make it clear to the Coach that "we're just trying to get those three turns down." I also think a Junior Coach at a lower rate is perfect choice for this problem.

Switch Rinks? If the problem is ongoing, and I'm chronically getting stuck with a talker, I could move to another rink. Other Mom does this. She supplements with lessons at CityRink down the road. For me, my other option is farther away and more expensive. Right now, this is not a good option.

But what about you? What would you do? Or what have you done when Coach Talksalot is talking, talking, talking...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Off Topic: The Advent Calendar

With Ice Show behind us, I can finally concentrate my domestic efforts on a Family Holiday. We typically don't travel, as Dad's show schedule keeps us home, so we just settle in and enjoy the day. I've been slowly moving away from a Consumer Oriented holiday, focusing less and less on gifts, and more on creating new Traditions and Family. We're not exactly Christian, either, so I'm going to try my hand at some other Holiday things like Latkes and Dreidels.

We also switched up the Christmas Tree in favor of a Christmas Ladder, painted green and decorated. Stitch and the Cats love it. With less stress on Gift Giving and Budget Straining, a break in the Gotta Do Tradition monotony, more focus on tasty treats, friends and family, I'm more in the holiday spirit than I've been in years.

My well-meaning Aunt had sent me a Playmobil Advent Calendar last year, and last night I got it into my head that this would be a great new tradition to start. Yes, an Advent Calendar. Never mind that we're halfway through the month, let's do this.

Stitch was in bed, I had a hot toddy in hand, holiday music was softly playing, and I bust out this Advent Calendar.

Ours is not the cutesy animal one, but you get the idea.

The premise is simple: For every day there is a small box with some pieces of the final "scene" to be assembled. A hat, the snowman, a park bench, a person, you get the idea. The set comes with 24 tiny numbered boxes that you have to assemble, and fill with the proscribed toys as per the instructions which are in German. There are also two unnumbered boxes and three boxes printed to look like wrapped gifts.

There are four large bags of toy pieces in various states of assembly. Medium size pieces like people and furniture are ready to go, small and large bits like hats and sleighs you have to put together.

There is one big cardboard display board, to which you will presumably affix the loaded toy boxes to. There is no sequence to the numbers, they are scattered haphazardly across the board. The final toy "scene" is a town square with three kids playing hockey in the middle. Hockey, go Figure right? (Get it, go Figure? Hahahahaha!) Santa is presumably involved.

I sit by the light of my Christmas Ladder, and spread out the cardboard scene, little boxes, small toys and instructions. I set to identifying which tiny bits go in which tiny box.

The first few days are pretty simple. Week one, we were supposed to get the big things like the Snowman, the Park Bench, and the Hockey Net. We also got a little girl, but I couldn't find her right off so some other kid went in her box. Whatever.

Week two, things got a little more complicated. We got two more kids early in week, some fences, a patch of ice and a warning sign. Then one kid got his hockey stick, little tiny hockey guard things, and some tiny hockey pucks. I know full well I will be scooping tiny hockey pucks out of the catbox come New Year. The second kid doesn't get his hockey stick or guards or pucks until three days later, so he better steer clear of that other kid in the meantime. Our little girl doesn't get her tiny scarf or hat until two weeks after her arrival onto the scene, so let's hope that snowman she's building is actually made of polarfleece.

Week three, things got bizarre. In one box went a Star of David on a stick. For a few moments I was concerned that this yellow Star of David was supposed to go on someone's sleeve, but then I found the corresponding stick. This is a lantern of some kind. The sleigh arrives in week three, which must be assembled with stickers, runners and harness. But it doesn't fit in the box with the harness on, so I had to take it apart right after I figured how to get it together.

At this point I decide to start putting the little loaded boxes on the cardboard display, but after having them fall off pretty consistently, I decide to forego the display board. I instead just stack the little boxes on the Cardboard Scene display, be done with it, and make another Hot Toddy.

Week four, our little hockey players finally get their skates. I note with some stupor that they are double runner skates. Why would hockey players be in double runners? The sober corner of my mind says, "So the toys stand up," but then I wonder why the skates were not molded to the feet in the first place. What were these kids doing, playing hockey without skates for two weeks?

Then it hits me; Broomball!

I'm instructed to put some tiny ski poles and skis into a box, and I'm wondering who the hell is skiing. I don't remember a skiier. Maybe it's Snowman Builder Girl, she needed something else to do after freezing her butt off for a week. Then the instructions tell me to put tiny wheels on a tiny car frame, followed by a tiny car body, and put the resulting toy of a toy into one of the preprinted gift boxes and put that into one of the numbered boxes. The thought "TOYCEPTION," comes to me, my mind is momentarily blown and I make another Hot Toddy.

The toy car is apparently remote controlled, but by the time I found the remote, I was boxing up the toy bear so I just threw it in there. The toy bear is now remote controlled.

The Reindeer arrives on the 23rd, but he doesn't fit in his box unless you bow his head down way low so he's nibbling his hocks. He's also stunningly realistic in comparison to our stylized people, and boxy looking Santa, who also does not fit in his box unless you take the hat off.

At this point I see the purpose of the two unnumbered boxes, as I have a smattering of hats, a part of a harness, a tiny baby bottle, and a hockey puck leftover. I put these things into Grab BagBox and clean up my mess.

Dad comes home and notes the stack of tiny cardboard boxes. "It's supposed to be an Advent Calendar," I explain. "But I messed it up. It will still work."

"We're halfway through the month," he seems confused.

"Better late than never."

As I head to bed, the thought occurs to me that the tiny Playmobil hockey skates will likely fit on our Playmobil Pirates. Pirate Hockey must become a new Holiday Tradition. Why else would there be so much rum?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Old Spotlight is Old

The show seems determined to have only three spotlights. Friday matinee, they had only three operators. Friday night, a lamp blew. The lighting dude, (who is a freelance video guy by actual profession and needs money so he took this gig) was fussing for the op to pull out the blue gel, when in reality that was a 1000 watt lamp in her death throes. They removed the unit, moved my trouperette, and I pulled double duty for Act 2. No worries.

Saturday matinee, the lamp was replaced, but went out again at the top of Act 2. The Lighting Dude and the Op were fussing with it, turning it on and off again, and so I stepped over. The lamp was good, the fan was on, so my head said "bad socket." Sockets do die after a time, and this light is easily forty years old. She's likely overdue for a new socket. I took off my jacket to handle the lamp, reseated it firmly, and it worked.

But it kept dying throughout Act 2. It would die, then work again, die, work again, and then die. I watched the operator. When it died, he'd nose it up in frustration, and then it would start to work again so he'd aim it down, and then it would die. That lamp is slipping out.

When the show was done, I stepped over with a flashlight and a paper clip. I pulled out the lamp, still fine, and pulled out the spring latch inside the socket, which should better hold the lamp. I turned it on and flung it up and down a few times, trying to unseat the lamp and I couldn't do it. Win.

At the evening show I told the Lighting Dude what I had done, and how to avoid the issue. Whenever the spot is not on someone, she needs to be nosed up, using gravity to help keep the lamp in place. I'd also be around to pull the latch again, but she should hold. When Spot 2 didn't die at all Saturday night, the other Ops said I threatened it into working.

Today I get to watch Stitch for real. I'm not working supposedly, but I do have a dress to re-iron and drop off this morning.

He's been having a grand time, bouncing around, humming the music, playing in the dressing room. The boys actually got their own dressing room this time, not a corner of the gym, and it's beautiful. I love it. They're making Zuca trains, which is great for them but bad for the wire hangers they're using as couplers.

He's been imitating the bigger skaters, trying their off-ice jumps. He says he'd like a solo next year. I said he'd have to work hard, but I think he could do it! Coach wants him to have one, too. She's stated before that one of her goals is a solo for him next year. There's a lot of freestyle boys around, their number is pretty big in comparison to last year, so the competition for it might be pretty stiff. Of course, if they gave back more solo parts that actually belong to males and not gender bend to accomodate the girls, things might be different. We'll see.

I was thinking last night, remembering why I put Stitch in the shows. He always says that he doesn't want to do them, yet when he's actually performing he's having a ball. He's good as gold, too. When I put his skates on him, I reminded him to take his watch off before he went on. Last night when I went to go collect him, he looked at me in horror and said, "Mom, I forgot to take my watch off, so I hid it undr my sleeve! Do you think anyone noticed?"

I said probably not.

The coaches seem to be getting some fun Stitch moments as well. Someone told me about a moment where Stitch asked the group at large, "Raise your hand if you fell!"

Through it all, I'm glad we did it. Perhaps next time my railings about badly dressing the boys will have had an impact. They deserve more and better than what they currently get. And yes, I do spot the Tot Boys as long as I can.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ice Show Bingo

In an effort to lighten the mood, I've decided to offer up Ice Show Bingo! Rules are like classic Bingo, except when a Skater runs into scenery, the first one to shout "Bingo!" wins regardless of the card. In this respect, it's more like Sudden Death Bingo.

I appreciate all the support I've been getting on this issue. Hopefully my freakout will not be in vain!

Plain Red Turtlenecks

The costumes arrived Wednesday in a flurry of tulle and glitter. When I stopped by to drop off some sewing, I asked what the Boy's outfits were, and I got handed a metallic red button down. Plain, but okay. I could live with it.

Imagine my horror when the real outfit was not a metallic red button down. It was a plain red cotton turtleneck, bought at Target. How do we know? The tags were still on them. Worse, they were all too big. Stitch's hit him at his knees, and he wasn't the only one with that problem.

Soak this in for a minute. We parents of boys paid our money for a costume, not an outfit we could have picked up for school wear. Here were all these girls in glitter and frills, and here come the boys in ill-fitting plain turtlenecks. Dumpy, frumpy, and stupid looking, and all the boys knew it. Even thenTot boys were in plain white turtlenecks, sorely out of place with their glittery, fairy winged girls standing right next to them.

So, with a heavy heart, I went to join the ranks of the complainers. I knew the people I was complaining to were not the right people, so I kept it to a short rant and a "We need to do something."

When the boys were done with their number, we hijacked their shirts. We trimmed them, no time to hem, glittered and painted them. I stayed until roughly midnight, and I had to leave so Stitch could get to bed. He had school in the morning. They look better, more like an actual costume and not a Target purchase, but I still hate them. I hate them because they are everything that isn't fair about that show. Not a soloist? Go away. In a Group Number? No one really cares about those. Have a suggestion? Screw off. Want to help? Don't call us, we'll call you.

I glued appliques and stones on the Tot Boys turtlenecks, too. Someone has got to advocate for these little boys.

Notes were left on the costumes, stating "unavoidable delays" and "everyone will look great." Nonsense, don't buy it. A City Manager with his head up his ass is not an "unavoidable delay," and nothing says "fresh out of the package with no time to fall" like a girl with a tutu up around her chest.

But I'm just a Lunatic, Neurotic Mom, so I'm fairly sure that my complaints won't go far. I don't know how many more shows Stitch can do. I don't know how much more I can take of watching him do short choreography in a crap outfit, knowing I'm paying out the ass for the privilege. And there's only so many times I can be accused of being a lunatic before I become one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why We Won't Light the Ice Show

It may have come as a bit of a surprise to some that my company won't bid the lighting for my rink. There's a reason, and the reason is that the company needs to earn an income.

I've stated before that our area is saturated with Ice Rinks, and most Rinks will do two shows a year. On the surface, this could mean a lot of money.

Trouble is, our area is also saturated with Lighting Companies, and the Ice Rinks know this. The Rinks, run by municipal Park Districts mostly, will all run out and get competing bids for the lighting and labor, with the lowest lighting company winning regardless of the quality of lighting package being delivered. (This is why you get trashy silver parcans and Big Bertha the Spotlight.)

To make matters worse, Ice Rinks have all the Teapot Tempests of Betsy Ballet, but in a space that is tremendously difficult to work in. For a Freelance Lighting Technician to get called "work an Ice Show" in our area is one of those nightmarish rites of passage, reserved for the newbies right out of college, or folks we only call if we have to. Everyone else turned it down. The call always takes longer than stated, since the Ice Rink People always lowball the time they need, the pay is slow since the Ice Rink People aren't fast on cash, (Dad did an Ice Show in the late 90's and still hasn't been paid) and the call is awful since, well, you're in the rafters of a cold ice rink all day.

Our company used to do a lot of ice shows, but it's been company policy to slowly remove ourselves from them. That became policy for a lot of lighting companies, actually, and now only a small handful of lighting companies tackle them. Simple truth, they were unprofitable and a total pain. The Ice Rinks were demanding more, but unwilling to pay more than they had in previous years. Labor costs were going up, but there was no increase in what we were able to charge.

When the owner of my company sent a letter to the Rinks, detailing a sudden increase in what the rinks were going to pay for their shows and why, the Rinks screamed foul and most of them left.

It wasn't a big loss. In talking to the guys who have done the lighting for the Ice Show, I'm glad I'm not involved. They've both described Rink Management as uncommunicative, difficult, and blase until something goes wrong. Typical, really. I've seen this kind of behavior before, and it's hard to do a show under people like that. And to know that sometimes their checks arrive six months after the final curtain, I'm happy to stay a part time volunteer.

Again, if I were asked, I'd be happy to provide advice on cheap methods of good design. But whatevs. So, no, it's not my company doing the lighting. We just don't want to work for cheap anymore, but for some reason I do work for free.

I can't explain that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

T-Minus Five, Four...

Thursday is Dress Rehearsal, and with any luck we'll have costumes for the little kids. If not, Dad had the great idea to switch the plot of the show to a mysterious uncle who, instead of giving out toys to his niece, gives her clothes. This is just crazy enough to work.

I spent a lot of time in the costume shop behind the rickety old sewing machine, coaxing a few more stitches out of it, listening to the chaos around me and keeping my head down. Parents were told again and again; no colored underwear, no flesh colored leotards, bring your own tights, yes you were told, you just forgot, no your outfit is not here, and fussing on your way out the door makes us not like you. You want us to like you.

I altered four dresses, embellished four dresses, reseamed a pair of pants, hemmed a bunch of stuff and repaired a lot of trim. And the group costumes aren't here, so if they don't fit, those kids might be SOL. That sucks, because they paid their monies to be involved as much as any soloist, so it's not fair that they get shafted like this. If Stitch's costume doesn't fit, it can come home with me for a fast tuck and hem. But not every parent can sew. I'm temoted to bring in Johnny Weir and set up shop in the gym, just to get what I can done.

But wait, there's more! Early last Tuesday we got a Fax from the rink. It was the lighting rental list. We won't bid it since we don't do many ice shows anymore, but I dropped an email to the people who usually provide the rink's show lighting. He said they had not gotten a confirmation of anything yet. Suddenly I felt a distinct longing for my old nemesis, Big Bertha. Not one of the sequins we'd sewed would matter without her.

My stomach began to revolt late Friday, and when I wasn't sewing I was queasing around, looking for something to do. Or worse, something to eat.  I got locked in a vicious cycle of cookies to nausea to cookies to nausea and back to cookies again. And those Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. Stitch was enjoying my sudden junk food spree, not questioning it. He practiced and skated and rehearsed and had a grand time without me.

"How was rehearsal?" I'd ask him.
"Fun!" He'd say, and tell me all about how the other kids fell or messed up or made the coaches crazy.
I'd cringe at the pile of repairs on the sewing table, wondering if we'd have to bust out old costumes from the Sale to make do, to say nothing of doing it under stadium lights.
"Can I have a dollar?" He'd ask.
"For what?"
"A snack."
"Sure, here's a ten. Get me a bag of chips, a diet coke and a snickers bar."

Finally on Sunday I'd had enough of the Junk Cycle. I had to break it and soothe my tummy. Everything is going to be all right. Stitch and I bought two pounds of fresh ginger root, a bag of sugar, and went home to candy it.

Ginger, as you may know, is good for settling one's stomach. It's also spicy enough to keep you from mowing through it too fast. Using equal parts sugar and water, we boiled the sliced ginger for about a half hour and dried it for five hours after that. (We did errands and public skate while it dried.) We tossed the sticky slices in dry sugar, and we had the perfect show snack. The leftover syrup we kept in jars, and we're mixing that with seltzer water.

It's going to be all right. Next year we'll have a new set of disasters, and we'll laugh about those, too.

Oh, and my in-laws are coming in Sunday to see the show. They're staying overnight, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Counting Down to Showtime

For a month now, I've maintained the line that the reason why Stitch is only in one show number is because it would be too much for us to commit to two rehearsal schedules and prepare for a competition right behind the show. Other mothers gave me small nods but I could hear the subtext. I shrugged it off, choosing to listen to Stitch who repeatedly thanked me for my executive decision and said "maybe next year" he could be in that other number.

Imagine my chagrin when I listened to another coach wonder out loud if it was time to boot some kid from a number, because he'd only been to one rehearsal out of five. I said he'd been at just about every rehearsal for the other number he was in, so perhaps doing two was a strain on the family schedule.

Then, talking with MsV in the booth one morning, she said they were dropping out of the January Comp, because the dual rehearsal schedules and holiday vacations (of Coach and herself) simply wouldn't give him time to adequately prepare.

I nodded and sympathized, but deep down I was patting myself on the back. Would I have liked to see Stitch in more than one number? Sure, but I don't want to kill him or make me crazy in the process. Perhaps someday when he has a solo for one night, then he can do those two numbers; his solo and the group. (Besides, with him in Act 2, he can hang with me for the first half and avoid the chaos of the dressing room.)

The show date presses closer and there's a lot to do. Rink Friends who read this: When asking where the Group Number costumes are, call the City Manager and ask him. He is the one who refused to front the money for them, and so they were ordered when all the checks cleared, which was late last week by my statement, so those outfits will be showing up maybe in time for dress rehearsal. Again, don't ask us, call the City Manager and bitch at him. I'll have his phone number handy for you. You can even use my cell phone, I have unlimited minutes.

In the meantime, soloist outfits and the costumes we do have are being repaired, bedazzled and tailored. I have two right now waiting at home. Honestly, they all look pretty good. Some more worn than others, but all in all, not bad. (But it's clear when someone had a pizza party in the dressing room, by the staining on a few choice white satin leotards.)

I'm glad I'm in the costume room, because I'm blissfully isolated from all the Coach Hopping talk going on in the Rink. Honestly, I just don't care. I feel bad for the Coaches who are being blamed, pared back, or left behind as their students seek to "go somewhere" (wherever that is) but I'm keeping us away from it. I've had enough rink drama for now, and I'm sure the next two weeks will be more than enough.

I stepped out for awhile to collect Stitch from rehearsal, only to find the Coach doing a Boy Practice. The boys were goading each other on, counting spins and jumps, teasing each other and being boys. It was a rare sight, and the Coach came over to explain things, "Just a little fun," he said. I told him to have as much fun as he pleased. Tell Stitch to report to the Costume Room when they were done.

Stitch is enjoying the notion that the frilly skating girls are really quite nasty. I told him about the crusty and stained leotards, which sent him into fits of laughter. One morning as we were heading out the door, I told him he would be spending the first hour with me in the Costume Room while girls tried on their outfits.

"Oh good," he takes a pad of graph paper.
"What are you bringing that for?"
"So I can make a Beauty Scale. You know, one hundred percent, ten percent, how pretty they are."
"Please, for the love of pete, don't do that."
"Why not?"
"They have enough issues."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Embroidery Finishing

The embroidery has been done for awhile now, and here's how it looks. I think this took me about twelve hours. (I spend an hour on the train every day, which is when I do a lot of beading. So, figure twelve or fourteen days.)

I've torn away the paper, trimmed all my threads, and now we're ready to reinforce the back with our flexible acrylic.

This is Rosco Crystal Gel, and I love this stuff for crafting. Unfortunately, they only sell it by the gallon, and it's $57.00 per gallon. A gallon will last me two years, just be sure and lay down plastic wrap over the unused amounts and always use clean implements, lest the nasties take over your supply.

But this is a sample jar. It's plenty for these purposes. (I've asked the manufacturer about smaller size containers, and I've been told no. The product is hand-decanted, and a smaller package takes away profitability, which is understandable.)

This polymer acrylic stuff is permanent, clear, flexible, stretchable, water soluble, dyeable, washable, and holds just about anything. I've gotten it to adhere to smooth finished stone, but it does have trouble with painted metals. After you use this, you'll forget all about Hot Glue (ouch!) or two part epoxies (toxic!) You can get this sample jar from a local Rosco dealer, find one at their website,

Using a clean paintbrush, go over all the back stitching. The Gel won't go through the fabric, it's nice like that.

Find the knots, hit them well. A thin coat will dry to the touch in about fifteen minutes, and it's 24 hours to a complete cure. When it's dry, take some nail clippers and clip any tails sticking up.

Stitch claims that the threads still feel sharp, so an undershirt may be in the works for this one.

I used the Gel to stick on the red crystal, applying those when the machine sewing was done. Instead of a paintbrush, I used a small piping bag and tweezers for crystal.

And that's that. We're all done, and we're weeks ahead of schedule, which is probably a good thing since I'm currently drowning in sequins for Ice Show.

If anyone wants a sewing tutorial, a more detailed bead tutorial (what kind to buy for best results) or a sequin tutorial, let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Costume Conundrum!

Disclaimer: I find all Parties in the following post to be perfectly likable, agreeable people. This post reflects my opinion on the given issue, and should not be construed into any negative opinion of anyone.

My lack of posting lately is not for lack of content. Between competition prep, finding a new and sane mom to talk to, and the gathering forces of Winter Show approaching, I have lots to think about.

But it's touchy. People are at odds with each other and I am loathe to take sides. Coaches are complaining that they are being accused of favoritism, parents are complaining that the rehearsal schedule is being switched around, and kids are being kids.

In the Costume Room, there is a particular heated debate going on over the nature of Winter Show, and how that affects the costuming of the skaters.

Last year, I noted that most of the soloist costumes were the same, which made sense to me. The ones that didn't have a similar costume to the soloist in the same role the previous night, I figured that there was not a costume of that type in her size, so the costumers were making do.

I was only half right.

Costumer A comes to me and says that Moms and Daughters are being overly picky about the costumes being assigned to them. Costumer A says that "This is the role, and this is the dress for that role."

Costumer B says, "If you don't like the dress, feel free to choose something else. We want you to have a good show experience here!"

I stand with Costumer A, and here's why:

Spring Show and Exhibition are a series of fun skating numbers strung together. In a show of this kind, sure, feel free to wear whatever looks good on you. That's fine. You're not telling a larger story, you're not performing with others, you're just you. Please, by all means, look as good as you can.

Winter Show, however, is telling a story. Specific characters are supposed to do specific things and look a specific way to further the story. Remember the "performer" bit, where everything you do adds to or detracts from the Performance? Yeah, that applies to what you're wearing, too. If you're a Housemaid, then maybe you aren't supposed to be cute and frilly. You're cleaning the stupid house. Only women in Pledge commercials look cute and frilly while housecleaning. Real people look a bit dowdy. Now, of course a "dowdy" outfit at a skating rink will be all black sequins with silver trim, so take that with a grain of salt. If our ingenue showed up one night in heavy purple eyeshadow, false eyelashes, overdone rouge and fire engine lipstick, (because she thought she looked good in it,) that would be completely inappropriate for the "Young Child" role she was playing.

But Moms and Daughters are coming back with their assigned Winter Show outfits, complaining that they don't like them and would like to choose something else. This has Costumer A in fits, Costumer B scurrying to the racks to find something "suitable," and my fellow Skating Mom and I in hysterics. (She's new, too, and also a Theatre Person.)

Our resolution?

We will be patiently explaining to Moms and Daughters that this is the outfit for the role. You wear it or don't. And when we say "don't," that means you can forfeit your solo to one of the dozens of eager little girls who would be happy to have it (and the dress.) They're right outside, I can go get one of them now.
In a Real World situation, a skater in a professional ice show is going to have no say at all in what she wears. ("You're in the giant Nemo head," sparked some rather lively laughter.) An actor in a play has very little say about what they will be wearing. I don't know about competitive skaters, but I would imagine the same holds true for them: They may get some say, but the final decision rests with someone else. (Any Pro Skater stopping by, please fill us in!)

Kids, this is all part of being a Professional. A Professional doesn't waste time whining about their costumes. They put them on, play their part, and years down the road they will laugh with their friends, "You wouldn't beleeeeive the crazy thing I wore for that show!"

But what do you think, Readers? Do you think an Ice Show that tells a story like a play should allow the skaters to dress themselves? Or should we keep wardrobe in the hands of those who are seeing the larger picture and not just individuals? Take the poll in the sidebar!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Starting to pass the torch

For all this time, I've dictated the practice schedules, which have always been, "skate whenever he gets a good chance."  But lately that's led to some resistance on Stitch's part. He simply doesn't see the value in skating so often. There's been some quabbling over the matter of How Often to Practice, and I was debating how to handle this.

MsV approached me over the whole Parenting Thing. "I don't know what to do, he fights us over every little thing! But I'm reading this book, 'Parenting without power struggles,' and I'm hoping that will do something. Its very highly recommended, you should read it!"

Power struggle? Is that what this is? The light came on.

Kids start to assert some demand for power over their little lives from age two. I've always ascribed to the method of allowing limited choices where appropriate (what clothes to wear, what to eat, what activities to do.) But for some reason the skating had slipped from "limited choice" to "non-negotiable," on the same plane as homework.

Last night over dinner, Stitch and I had a chat.

"Okay, so you've got this new program to work on and a competition in January."
Stitch nods.
"How often do you think you need to practice?"
He thinks. "Twice a week."
That's once more than what I thought his answer would be, so I'm encouraged. "Great. Your options are Friday night Public, Saturday Night Public, Sunday Afternoon Public, or Sunday Night Practice Ice."
"I don't like Public Ice. It's too crowded and distracting."
I almost fell out of my chair, one for the honesty and two for the cost. "Thank you for explaining that to me. Do you prefer the Tuesday morning ice over the Wednesday night?"
He sighs as though he hates to admit it. "Yes. It's much less crowded."
"Good. So, let's make a plan. I'll take you to practice on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons or Sunday night whichever you prefer. As we get closer to winter, the Sunday afternoon public will fill up, so we may call it quits and do Sunday nights. Okay?" Plus on Sunday nights he can get his music played.
Stitch agrees that this is a good plan. A good plan that he had a big hand in setting.

I then laid out his options for the evening; TV time, video games or a board game. He opted for video games, and I gladly spent the next hour being his Legend of Zelda Coach. "Go in there, target the spider and hit it! Ignore the heart beeping, you'll come back, hit it!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Staying on Target

Yesterday's Practice Ice, the first ice on an early morning on a weekday, went shockingly well. Stitch was engaged, listening, working, and skating better than I'd seen him skate in awhile. In fact, the first time his music gets played, Coach lets him improv for awhile, then builds a program around his antics. His Antics looked so good, I was thinking it was the real deal until he did some bizarre catch-my-blade-under-my-butt manuever. The new program looks pretty solid already; challenging enough to give him something to work for, but not so hard as to send him into a spiral of self-doubt. I was pleased. This matches the Slowdown I'm implementing at home right now. Putting him at Freeskate 2 eases the pressure a bit.

Coach and I noted his good work, I packed him up and took him home. I gave instructions for school and set off for work, happy.

Imagine my shock when I got an email from Teacher D, telling me Stitch had just lost focus completely during a writing assignment. He had thirty minutes to work, but turned in a totally blank sheet of paper.

When he got home, he got out his math homework and gave me a whipped puppy look before telling me "You won't be happy with the math test."
I let that sit until dinner was done, and then I looked at it.

And we had a talk.

"Stitch, tell me what happened with the writing assignment today."
"We didn't have one," he evaded.
"Yes, you did. Mr D tells me you weren't focused, and then you had trouble with the writing portion of it. You didn't write anything at all."
"Well," Stitch is thinking. "Mr D said to write nothing, so that's what I did!"
"You wrote nothing, even when everyone else in the class was writing something?"
"Yes! But Friend S told me to write what I knew about the Native Americans..." he's thinking.
"Stitch, did you zone out while Mr. D was giving instructions? And when it came time to actually do the assignment, you didn't know what to do?"
Stitch is crestfallen. I've seen right through him. "Yes."
"Hm," I say patiently. "This seems to be a recurring problem. It happens in class, it happens on the ice, and it happens at home. So what can we do to help you focus on the task at hand?"
"I don't know," he says unhappily. "But sometimes things are just not interesting! Like math."
"That may be, but you still have to pay attention in school. Like this Math Test. These are really simple concepts; measuring to the nearest half inch, and perimeters. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do this, yet you got all of them wrong. Were you paying attention when Teacher D explained how to do this?"
Stitch sighs.
"Stitch, you'll learn at school, or you'll learn at home, but you will learn these things. I advise paying attention and learning in school, so you have time for fun things at home. Okay?"

So, after he had done his regular homework, I printed off some worksheets to reinforce the concepts he'd missed on his Math Test. And, as I suspected, it was simply a matter of focusing on the subject matter and listening to what I was saying. Once he understood, he got it handily.

Last Friday, I stepped in for the last few minutes of the Workshop. Stitch was having something new thrown at him, a Flip. And he was struggling mightily, doing his best, but it was escaping him.

He came off the ice, frustrated. Coach came over to chat with me, and I asked, "So, what can we do to help this happen?"

She stepped Stitch through an off-ice jump, showing me a finished product. Stitch struggled, and I could see that there was a lot going on with this jump. Stitch simply needed to get each piece before he could see the finished product.

I nodded.

A day later, in the courtyard, after Spiral stretches and Shoot the Ducks, I asked Stitch to jump up and turn around. Stitch immediately tried the full Flip and failed.

"No, no," I stopped him. "Just jump up and turn around on two feet. You've done this."

He jumped up and turned around a few times.

"Okay, now hold your arms in and do it. Just like Coach shows you."

He laughed and did this a few times.

"Okay, now push up with your foot, hold your arms in, turn around and land on two feet."

Things got fun as we slowly added each physical element to the mix. We got to "Push up with your foot, hold in your arms, turn around, land on your left foot and put your arms in landing position," and that's as far as we got. We're still working on it, but by breaking the element down into manageable bites on dry land, Stitch was doing better. If he keeps this up, by the time the Workshop starts again in four weeks, he should be in good shape to try it on the ice.

Coach was exasperated again a week or so ago, "He's so gifted, he could do anything if he'd only focus!"
"I know," I said. "You're not alone, it's not just you. It's all his teachers and me. So, stay with him, slow down. We'll get him to see himself."

As I'm working with Stitch on Staying Focused, what runs through my head is a scene from Star Wars...

Those sequins came from behind!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Typecasting and Figure Skating

I was reading Xanboni's posts on how to look while skating (What to wear, how to look, same thing) and I thought, wow, how glad I am that I have a boy and I don't have to worry about panties.

Then it got pointed out to me that the same thing happens with boys, just in different forms. A boy got passed over for a leading role in the Holiday Show, not because he couldn't skate, but because he wasn't cute enough.

Well, a Prince has to be cute. Our cultural expectation of a Prince is that he's cute. (And interested in Princesses.) There's a name for this, and it's called Typecasting.

Now, don't get me wrong. At a publicly owned ice rink doing their yearly pageant, by and for the local community, I roll my eyes at typecasting a "cute" Prince. But in a truly professional situation, only the Cute Guy is gonna get that role. You can teach skating (acting/dance/whatever). You can't teach cute.

As a Performer, every niggly detail of what you're doing or wearing adds to or detracts from the total picture. If a dancer is performing a graceful rendition of Swan Lake, and she does some pirouette and the audience can pick out a run in her tights, loose wisps of hair and a big W on her butt from her UnderRoos, she's not a Swan anymore. She's a disheveled wanna-be Wonder Woman. Big difference. It doesn't matter that we "shouldn't be looking at her butt," it's on display and we're going to see it whether we want to or not. Doesn't matter that her regular hairstylist was out of town and the CVS was out of tights. It's too late. The spell has been broken. She's a mess, and she won't get cast again because of it.

I fully grasp and understand why Typecasting is done. I've done auditions where an actress was cast because she had "the look" of the part. "She just looks like our character," we'd say, and I'd agree because she did. I could easily see this person as a villainess/ingenue/whatever.

But this isn't theatre. This is a sport. Right?

It's a sport that blurs the lines between athleticism and art, so much so that some people can't, won't or just have a hard time discerning the difference, and I think this mentality can be damaging.

A Coach showed me a picture of his dance team, and I noted the boy's very red cheeks.

"He has rosacea," the Coach explained.

And without even thinking, I said, "Oh, some foundation will fix that."

In hindsight, that response didn't come from any skating experience, it came from my expectations of a performer. I don't like my dancers to be too red in the face. His red cheeks had nothing to do with his skating, yet my instinctual response saw them as a "problem" to be "fixed," because I'm stuck in a mindset that appearance matters.

I blame this person.

And it's not just sheer lookism. There's attitude and stage presence. Note how when a lady exudes a strong presence on the ice (something else that is hard to teach), the commentators will laud her. Yet, when a guy does the same thing, just in the "wrong" way, there's a collective cringe. Johnny Weir is one of the most exciting skaters to watch. He owns not just the ice surface, but the whole arena and demands to be watched. It's fantastic. But... he smacks his rear on Camel Spins. I think it's great, but it's definately over-the-top for some. And I think the great quality of Johnny's skating gets overlooked because of it.

Would you tell a dancer to "tone it down, please?"

Caution; Opinion Ahead!

If Figure Skating wants to be taken more seriously as a true Sport, then I think it has to start moving away from such heavy emphasis on Typecasting Appearances, what The Skatekeepers think Skaters should look like, behave like, or be in general. If that means Team Uniforms, similar to what's used in Gymnastics, so be it. If it means everyone gets similar music, or a de-emphasis on "performance" marks, okay.

There's plenty of room for Typecasting in Ice Skating Shows, Exhibitions, and Theatre on Ice, but when we're talking Strictly Competitive, I just don't see a place for it at the table.

This outfit alone makes a tight case for a Skating Uniform.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sitting Pretty

As I expected, Stitch did not pass FS3 on Saturday. I'm more than okay with this, I'm actually relieved. To throw more at him at this point would be disastrous. I spoke with Coach and begged her to "let him own it (the skills) for awhile." I do believe she saw what I was saying, and gave him almost passing marks on his most troubled spots. Enough to encourage, but not enough to pass.

The Back Spin improves, slowly but steadily. He's getting there, and this added time is a blessing and a relief from the pressure he's been feeling.

Nonetheless, he was bummed about not passing. "I knew I would do terrible."

"You did great," I said, very happy about things. "That Dance Step was good, and you just need to get those toe loops off the ice a bit more. You're doing fine!"

"No one passed," said Stitch, as the idea dawned on him that maybe this isn't easy for everyone but him. It's hard for everybody.

"That's okay, too," I shrugged it off. "More time to learn things, get them right and polished. Let's go home to change clothes, I've got a skate sharpening appointment for you today."

Sometimes I think I'm the only person in the rink who isn't in a rush, and who isn't interested in holding the class levels as a ranking system. And even as I was happy Stitch would have more time for instruction in things that he needed to work on, I was anxious lest others judge him for what they might perceive as a failure.

I've given up judging other kids. I just don't care anymore. My view has become focused as a laser on Stitch, and so long as he's doing well in relation to others in his peer group (as in, everyone seems to be on par with each other) I just don't care. But I know others don't think that way, that there are people who may hold this against him in some way. He's just a kid. Be catty at me all you want, I'm used to it, but don't look at my kid.

At any rate, I cut music and costume pieces, I delivered CD's to Coach and we rescheduled the weekly lesson time to morning.

That's right, we're on for Tuesday mornings. After watching two girls collide on two backwards spirals one Wednesday evening, I decided I'd had enough of crowded ice, grumpy monitors, oblivious skaters and irritable coaches. Stitch isn't pleased with the idea of getting up that early, but I told him it's just one day a week and I'd do whatever he needed to help him with the early hour.

I'm seeing a lot of pancake wrapped sausages in my future.

Stitch would walk through fire for one of these.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Let's do some Embroidery

Seventy two days away, so I need to get going on costumes. My last embroidery project took about 48 hours, but this one is less involved so I'm guessing twenty. We'll see how accurate I am.

I cut the pieces for the two shirts; a white collared long sleeve for the solo program, and a blue velvet short sleeve affair for compulsories. What won't be sewn for awhile went into a storage size ziplock bag to keep it pressed and clean. After talking with another Coach who gave me this look of, "don't even try it in nonstretch," I changed my mind and decided to go with a lycra for the white shirt. Maybe with some good pressing I can get a clean look.

The thing to remember in sewing stretchy things is not to stretch them while sewing. This means no tugging, pulling, or coaxing it through the feed dogs. Just let it feed itself, watch it close, and go slow. When you are called to stretch the fabric while sewing, think of it the same way as crossing the streams with a proton pack.

It can work, you just have to be careful.

I don't have a serger, so I overlock everything and I get great results. But we're not sewing today. We're getting the bead embroidery started on the back panel.

Okay, here is our back panel. We're going to double overlock the edges to stabilize them before we start. This may not be totally necessary, but it makes me feel better. (Also, as this is a snowy white, wash your hands before handling it. This is going to get handled a lot in the coming days, so the last thing we need is this getting some gray tinge because my hands were dirty.)
Here's our overlocking in action. Note that I've got my Edge Foot on there to make things easier.
Here's my design, transferred to a piece of tearaway embroidery interfacing. You're going to sew the beads right onto this stuff, and pull it off when you're done. (It works, really.) Center it where you want it, and pin it down.
With the straight stitch setting set to the longest it can go, baste the paper design onto the back panel. Go slow, don't stretch, and try to make sure everyone lies flat together.

Here's our paper design basted onto the back panel. There's a bit of puffiness towards one edge, but I'm not worried. The beading will take care of things as we go, provided we pay attention.

These kinds of small errors are also okay, provided there aren't too many of them. As the beads go on, things will flatten out.

Here's all my beads and materials. My beading thread is a white Nymo, size B, a smaller gauge of the stuff they use to make shoes. Everything is packed up in baggies so I can easily take it with me, and I don't carry all the beads of the colors around, lest disaster strike and I spill a bag. (It's happened.) I only carry manageable amounts. Keep it organized, and work only with one color at a time to save your sanity, not going through multiple bags for one bead of one color and two beads of another.
Start with one bead. Just pick a point, sew it on, and secure it on the back with a surgeon's knot.

Here's the back view, and the knot. Don't worry too much about knots not holding, we're going to secure every stitch and knot when the entire piece is done with a flexible acrylic.

Bring your thread back up behind your first bead, and thread through it so you're coming out if it, as shown here.
Pick up three beads of the same color, and snug them against the first bead. Send your needle down through the fabric so the beads sit nicely against that first bead. They don't have to be really tight together, doing that can cause puckering and mounding. Just try to have them lay flat against each other.
Bring the needle up between your first bead and the new beads, and thread through again through the new three beads.
Just like that. After this, it's lather, rinse, repeat, over and over again. Fill in, three at a time. When you need to add thread, tie off and back on again with sturdy surgeon's knots. Get rid of the tails, they'll drive you nuts.

Flip it over and look at the back every now and then. The back does matter. You want it clean and neat. Places where the thread has knotted, gathered, frayed or whatever else thread does to irritate you means weak points in your beading. Weak points mean things can fall off, and that means disaster. When you make  mistake, (this is going to hurt) rip it out and start again.
And we're on our way! See you in a few weeks!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What kind of Soakers should I buy?


How do like those apples! Don't buy soakers! I find them to be a waste of time, money and effort, and sometimes even counterproductive.

No, Flipper! Nooo!

I know. I know. Stitch has soakers. Worse, he has the Bunny Soakers. You know why? Because Rink Culture dictates that the kids need Soakers. Rainbo Sports has an impressive array of bejewled, bedazzled, cute, and stupid soakers. I bought them in a moment of weakness, and he'd been begging since we bought his first pair of skates.

Because Pink Ribbons that say "Princess" make everything better.

I once had a vendor at a comp spend ten minutes detailing the soakers she made by hand, made with terry cloth of such high quality I swear she was making them out of towels she swiped from the Hiltons she stayed in. I passed. Because I hate Soakers.

I know what you're thinking; I need something to absorb the moisture off my cold blades when I come off the ice.

Send in the Clowns.

I hear you, and here's what we did for the first year of Stitch's skating: I laid an old towel at the bottom of his skate bag. It worked beautifully, and we had less instances of rust than we do now.

Soakers need to be removed from the skate blade when you get home, and put out to dry, or else the blade develops a film of rust and the soakers mildew. Frankly, there's enough gross stuff in that Zuca, the last thing I need to do is add something else to the mix. Even worse, the larger, puffier soakers trap moisture against the bottom sole of the boot, which appears to hasten its demise. (Unless you have a Starter Level skate with a Vinyl sole.) Also, the more fluff, bling and doodads on the soaker, the more disgusting they become. I can't begin to describe the horrors I've seen on a "tricked out" soaker showing its age.

If Scarlett O'Hara wears things made out of Curtains, why not you?

Soakers give me something else to worry about, one more thing to do, something else to wash, something else to lose, something else that breaks (the clip on ours has broken and snags on dang near everything) and something else that has to stand up to the judge and jury of preteen kids who are always looking for someone who stands out in any kind of weird way.

Is it a caterpillar or a severed calf's leg?

That having been said, you're going to get scammed into buying Soakers. So, what kind should you buy?

They're all terrible. Just buy whatever the kid hands you.

Except these.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Our Jump Rope is SubPar

At this point, Stitch is pretty well outfitted as a skater. He's got the pants, the jacket, the Zuca, the guards, the soakers, a billion gloves, thin socks that he always loses, and some trophies.

His jump rope, however, is apparently not appropriate.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to locate a simple, reasonably priced jump rope for a child? Not a "yoga" jump rope or a weighted jump rope for adults, but a simple child's toy.

I wanted this.

I do not need this.

I searched Target for what seemed like hours, before giving up and going to World Market for some wine. We actually found one there, a playful business with little children painted on the handles. Sure, why not.

On arrival at Practice Ice one day, I handed Stitch his jump rope and told him to go at it. Stitch starts jumping and Other Kid is on him. "Why do you have a jump rope? You don't need a jump rope until Freestyle five!"
Stitch ignores him, so Other Kid hits me.

"Our Coach says differently, that's all. So he has a jump rope. If your Coach says you don't need one yet, that's fine, too."

Other Kid is flummoxed and starts asking Stitch if he can try it. The two of them start goofing off, and some other Cute Girl Skater comes over with her jump rope to join them. Her Jump Rope is more professional, red plastic and no kids painted on the handles. She notes Stitch's jump rope, and says he needs a better one.

Stitch, eight year old Stitch, thinks this is insane. "It's a jump rope! You jump it! Does it matter?"

Cute Girl Skater insists that it does.

I'm overhearing all this and laughing.

No matter what you've got, someone else has something better. As the song goes, it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Curse of The Mummy's Back Spin

Stitch has a really good spin. It's one of his strongest elements, which is good in that it is so good, but bad in that he often relies on that to save him in competition. (And it frequently works. Judges, please look at everything, not just one thing.)

It's also turning out to be bad in that he's so strong in his forward spin, that his Back Spin seems cursed. I watched them work on it for a solid ten agonizing minutes of complete trainwreck before moving on to something else. He and Coach had some kind of chat after all that was done, leaving me wondering what all that was about.

It was a good lesson overall, and a good practice. I was giving directions on the sidelines, Stitch kicking the boards when I took too long. At the end I gave him the eighty cents I could scrounge from my pocket. He came back with a Push Pop, which I knew cost more. "I didn't give you that much."
"The guy behind the counter took a dime from the tip jar to pay for it," Stitch explained.
I immediately got a dollar from my wallet. "Go put that in the tip jar!"
"WHAT?" Stitch's sense of justice is outraged. He wanted the dollar.
"When you work for tips, you'll understand. Now GO!"

I was getting ready to leave Coach a note, thinking she'd gone already, when out of the office she came. We settled business, and I said Stitch was on for Friday. This made her happy. "The back spin," she lamented. "He needs so much work with it."
"We'll get there. In the meantime, he'll be here Friday, but he's yours. The babysitter will be dropping him off and leaving him."

Coach was fine with this, and in fact, this is something she's offered to do for awhile.

"I'll be here as soon as I can be," I continued. "But hopefully this will help that spin a bit."

She agreed and we went our separate ways. I had some other people to speak to about Friday, but I was confident things would be just fine. With a little "looking out for", Stitch would be fine on his own at the rink.

We picked up some frozen Chinese food on the way home, as both of us were famished, and as we walked by the bakery case I noted the fancy cakes and pies.
"Stitch, let's make a deal."
"When you get that Back Spin, I'll buy you whatever cake you want out of that case, and I'll let you eat it whole with a fork."

Stitch was intrigued by this notion, gravitating towards some strawberry lemon affair. We pinky swore on it, and went home.

"What were you and Coach talking about out there?" I aske casually. I didn't really care, I was just curious.
"Oh, just Halloween. What we were going to be."
"Did you tell her about the Mummy Outfit?"
"Yeah, and I was praying the entire time she didn't say to just wrap me in toilet paper. She didn't."

One of the points in the USFSA book on how to be a skating parent is that one about "Sharing your child." I don't know why, but Coach asking about Halloween seemed like some kind of encroachment on my turf, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I know very well that Stitch skates a lot differently for Coach than he does for me, and I know he values her opinions, takes her more seriously, and the two of them have a vibe going on. Even as he's disciplining the cat in her accent, he respects her in a way he doesn't with me. I don't think "Sharing" is the right term. I don't know what is.

Yes, the Mummy outfit is complete. I blew through it in a day and it was an absolute blast to create. Using thin gauzy scraps from the remnants table, I basted on layer after layer of wrappings on the arms, legs and trunk. I did Greek Key decorative stitching around the arms, and while I know Greek is not Egyptian, it's Halloween and Dark, and if anyone challenges it I'm walking away.

Mommytime, I hear what you're saying about the bigger neck and armholes, but I think the size I cut is going to be fine, given that the fabric doesn't stretch. When I basted on the strips, I negated the stretch of the base fabric, so it mimicked a nonstretch fabric pretty well. Actually, the arms may need to be cut a hair larger, as The Mummy's arms are a bit snug. We're going to do a lot of fitting this weekend, just to be absolutely sure before I cut anything. Worse, I may need to learn how to do a buttoned cuff sleeve.

Stitch changed his mind on the music, but the design I have in mind will still work. I set my countdown clock today.

We're eighty days out. Plenty of time.

On an unrelated note, upon trying on his costume for the first time, he immediately began clinging to Dad, moaning and growling. Dad dragged him around, Stitch firmly affixed to his leg, and said, "Mummies don't hang on people!"
"The ones in Legend of Zelda do!" Stitch says defiantly.
It's true. Those Mummies in the Shadow Temple are freakin' terrifying.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time to get Crackin'

Whenever Coach doesn't talk to me I feel a bit bereft, but then when she does I feel overwhelmed. Today after lessons she found me and gave me the comp packet for January. Already? I told her we'd narrowed down music, and I'd cut it and see what she thought. This also made me realize that this year's comp outfit was going to be a challenge, and I needed to get going.

There's no boy's skatewear on the market, unless you count the black velvet uniform, er, shirt. This is expensive and boring. And boring. So let's make one.... it's not all that hard.

Tonight I did the first steps. I know that the fabric we liked doesn't stretch much, but I hate the way knits look on the ice. They don't look crisp. Boys need to be crisp. So my plan of action is to cut the shirt a size or two too big, and alter from there to allow room for movement yet give me the look I want. And yes, there will be bead embellishment. Beads go on before the shirt gets pieced together. So, to put a fine point on it, I only get one shot to get it right.

I've decided to try this plan first using the Halloween costume. Let's see how big that shirt turns out, and we'll see if it will work for the not so stretchy fabric later.
Let's get out our Jalie pattern, shall we?

Oh that's confusing.

What you need to do is match the size you are to the size on the pattern. So go measure your subject. Stitch is technically a size 7 with the waist altered in, but today I'm going to cut a Size 9, or pattern size M.

Wait! Don't cut this pattern! You're going to trace your size, saving your pattern paper for another day! Get out your tracing paper, which is about $14 a roll from your fabric store.

Now, even though I'm not going to do the gathered sleeve, I'm still going to cut out the whole pattern for it, just in case I can reuse this later. I'm also marking the short sleeve cut, since I think the compulsory outfit should be short sleeved. Transfer all markings, fold and grainlines. Also mark which piece this is, how many to cut, and what size it is.

Finished? Great. Now cut everyone out. Again, even though I won't be using the cuff or some of the other pieces, I cut them all the same, just in case. As this is a size too big, I may be able to use it later. Here is tonight's finished product, bagged and marked and ready to go. Tomorrow we will cut fabric for the Mummy costume, and see if the "slightly bigger" plan will work!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Strange Days

The rink has felt awkward lately. There's just a general awkward, strange, silent vibe going through the building. I think people know what happened, or have some clue, but no one wants to acknowledge it. Those that have details aren't talking and those who are in the dark probably want to stay there. Honestly, as someone who seems more in tune to emotional undercurrents, I've been dreading going to the rink for the past week.

But I've always lived by the "fake it till you make it" mantra. None of it affected us directly so what really do I have to complain about? So things are awkward, so what? Keep going.

I talked about things with my Neutral Third Party (who knows no one at the rink) over lunch on Tuesday and I felt better. The waiter brought us the House Salsa and some on the house beverages to wash the hot-as-lava vegetable mix down, and all was right again. (Carrots should never be that hot.)

Newly resolved, Stitch and I went to Practice Ice last night.

And we had fun. I talked with my rink friends about the upcoming show, Stitch had his lesson (lots of sit spins and jumps), we laughed a lot and wasted a fair amount of time, but I felt it was okay in light of how weird the past week had been. My rink friends are determined that I be in the show. I assured them that it would be a cold day in hell before that happened, then I remembered where I was.

Stitch and I headed home, and as much as I have high hopes for evenings after Practice Ice, both of us are too shot to do much but drink hot chocolate and watch TV. So that's what we did; watching Esteban, Zia and Tau search for the Mysterious Cities of Gold on Netflix.

This morning I found two wet little boy socks in my jacket pocket, and an errant glove. Now that I know his number, I'll put Stitch's rehearsal schedule on the family calendar, and this weekend we may be cleaning the Costume Room. Or, at least we need to before work starts on Winter Show.

Literature, movies, TV shows, they all have us spoiled by their endings. The Ends are always neat, wrapped up nicely and clearly defined. But in real life, that doesn't happen. It doesn't happen that way because nothing ever really ends. It just keeps going, for better, for worse, like it or not, one foot in front of the other.

My Rink Friend expressed some desire to see me step up more at the Rink. I said I'd do whatever was needed of me. Again, for all my crabbing on this blog, I wouldn't be doing this if I truly hated it. I really do like spandex and glitter, wet blades, bad spills, high egos and drama. If it weren't for the crazy in my life, I'd be pretty bored. And let me tell you, Rink Life comes pretty darn close to working the exotic animal show when it comes to the ridiculous factor.

I still miss the exotic animal show. Lion pee, possum puke and all.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spooks and Specters!

Yesterday while Stitch was in lessons, I was in the lobby with two of my fellow skating moms, selling costumes. Yes, the bagged glories of prefab dance outfits could be yours for a paltry ten dollars each. For a halloween getup, or an addition to a girl's dress up closet, or even a low end competition dress they were a steal. Most tutus come with a leotard of some kind, but we did have a box of "orphan" tutus in various colors.

I hate tutus. Yet, there I was, looking like the planet Saturn in a red tutu, hawking spangles and glitter, trying to talk seriously about the merits of marabou. I consoled myself by thinking that when I was twelve, this was the look I'd dreamed about; Cyndi Lauper in "Girls just wanna have fun."  Lesson for the day, be careful what you wish for.

The boys came out for the break, with Stitch eyeing me like I'd lost my mind. I threatened him with a superhero cape and told him where his snack was. He and Other KId enjoyed a moment of giggles at the sheer number of spangles before heading back in for lessons.

Tot costumes were the first to go, with moms hauling off armloads of outfits to try them on their squirming kids, endlessly flummoxed by the cryptic sizing system, and constant searches for "just one other size" of some outfit they really liked but didn't fit. Sorry, cash only. No, no credit cards. Please put your Amex away, and there's an ATM around the corner.

Girls were making does eyes, dads were drifting off, moms were fluttering. Moms of boys were looking sad as they realized the pickings were nothing but an assortment of red plaid shirts. "But what about the boys?"

I realized I should have brought Stitch's old things and sold them on consignment. (I'm still loathe to part with that Pink Panther Jacket.)

The boys came back out as lessons ended, and Other Kid comes traipsing out with this mischevious look on his face. "I want to try on a tutu."
"You do?" I was laughing.

I've been around enough performers to know when one of them is going to give us a show. "Take your skates off."

So he goes and gets his shoes on, and he picks out the spangliest tutu of them all. And he puts it on and flounces through the lobby, much to the delight of all the girls and boys, everyone laughing as Other Kid spins and twirls. "THIS IS SO EMBARASSING!" he's laughing, too.

Anyone who knows boys knows that boys will play around in girlie clothing, just to mess around and have fun. And this is what Other Kid was doing. He had the rapt attention of every girl in the place, he had us all smiling, and it was a great joke.

But against the wall was a dad making this expression of sheer terror. The blood had drained from his face, his lips curled back, his eyes wide, the only one among us not laughing at this terrible affront to all things masculine and holy. While everyone else was giggling at Other Kid, I was laughing at this guy.

Other Kid took his tutu off and things got back to "normal," but I wonder what kind of nightmares that guy had last night. I can just see him, clutching his infant son in the middle of the night, crying and in a cold sweat, "It's okay, Johnny," he sobs quietly. "Daddy won't let the tutus get you. Daddy will protect you from the glitter." And somewhere from the corner of a closet he imagines seeing a wisp of organza, and he shudders again.

I've beaten gender conformity to death in this blog, so all I can do now is laugh at it. Girls can play hockey, speed skate and figure skate. Boys can play hockey or speed skate. No Flouncing allowed, not even in fun. Nothing to see here, folks. Please move along.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stop talking about Axels!

Last night in the stands, I was looking for one good toe loop. The boys were doing great, but MsV kept asking, "Is that an Axel? Are they learning Axels?"
"No, looks like a toe loop."
"How can you tell?"
"It's got a toe assist. Watch."
"When do they learn Axels?"
"Freestyle five. Not for awhile. All the other jumps come first."
"Oh. Why is that?"
"Axel has a forward entry, so it's a rotation and a half. It's a half rotation harder."
"What about double Axel?"
"Two and a half. Then they can start triples. But that's not now." Or possibly ever.
"But olympic boys do quadruple jumps, right?"
"Yes, some olympic men have quads."
"Is that a triple Axel?"
"No. Triple Axel is three and a half rotations."
"Do girls do quadruple jumps?"
"Some can, but not many."
"But they all do triple jumps."
"Yes. Anyone who is serious does triple jumps."

At that moment one of the Primo Skaters flew by into a double or triple jump. "He's so good," said MsV wistfully.
"His jumps aren't high enough," my mood was soured. "Watch. He's not getting high enough in the air, so it borks his landings and screws up his combos."

Sure enough, Primo Skater jumped into a wonky double, landed badly and fell on the second jump which he singled.

"He's got a good spin," she said.
"His sit spin isn't low enough."

She then started talking about how she ran into Coach at opening night at the Opera, then about waiting lists for private schools and how it would be so hard for a private school child to transition to a public school and I was done. "I mean, it's such a different environment," she must have realized what she was saying, and I was so tempted to say, "Oh yes, in with the riffraff like us. It's awful. We're all dealing drugs and none of the kids can read so we just have cage matches in the lunchroom." I wanted nothing more than a beer. A cheap beer.

"Another student goes to private school and does five lessons a week," remarked MsV. "She's so very good."
"I can't afford that." And amazingly, Stitch is still good.

And at that, the conversation ended.

I don't know why all that depressed me so much.

Rink Pal came to my rescue, giving Stitch a skating Snoopy pin for his jacket. I may not have much, but I do have a lot of friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stitch is Growing Up

"So, mom," says Stitch over dinner. "Ms. Music Teacher says we can get one recorder for seven dollars, or two recorders for ten dollars. I think we should buy two."
"That does make them cheaper overall, but why do you need two recorders?"
"Well, in case I leave one in my locker, I can still have one here," he's using appropriate hand gestures, "and I can still practice."
"Ah. That does make sense. When is the money due?"
"We haven't gotten the slips yet," he sounds disappointed. "I can't use my other thing," he's referring to a wooden recorder he bought from the Peruvian people at a summer festival. He played it so much he wore out the glue and it doesn't work anymore.
"Well, when you get the slip, bring it to me and we'll see what we can do."

I intend to buy two. Music is sparking his interest, and with a professional musician in the family, this can be a win. But I anticipate the challenge of learning to read music to be much akin to the torture of backwards wiggles.

"I can't do it!"
"Yes, you can. Keep trying."
"I will never skate backwards!"
"Of course you will. Don't be silly."
"The only one saying that is you."

And of course last week I watched him fly around, his hair flipping up as he skated faster and faster into a pretty good salchow. Backwards.

What also pleased me about this conversation was that he's starting to acknowledge the concept of "practice." We'll see how far this flies in reality, but I think this is the first time he's said the word without a whine in his tone.

Monday night I realized that I'd forgotten to turn in Stitch's Ice Show form. I ran home to grab the boys and a measuring tape, and ushered them to hurry out the door. "We have to swing by the rink, get this form in since it's the last day!"
Dad looks confused. "Stitch, you said you didn't want to be in the show."
"I changed my mind!" Stitch says happily.
Typical, I think.
"What made you change your mind?" Dad is still confused.
"Mr D, my teacher and the class. I want them to see me skate." Ah, the School Matinee. It also gets him out of class for the morning. The thought crosses my mind that next year he'll likely be eligible for a solo. For the moment, I'm happy he's starting to take pride in his skills.

Stitch also presented me with the permission slip for School Choir. Last year he had thought about it, but determined himself too shy and not good enough. This year, he was going the Nike way and "just doing it."

Last night I put Stitch to bed. "Don't forget, skating lessons tomorrow. I'll lay out your skating clothes, so have them on when I get home."
"Ugh, I hate lessons," Stitch rolls his eyes.
"You always say that," I feign confusion. "Yet when you're in lessons, you look like you're having a blast, and when you get done with lessons, you say you had a lot of fun and you don't want to leave the rink. And then when you skate on your own, you skate the things you learned in lessons. You've got to stop with these mixed messages, kid," I tickle him.
"It's just what I do," he says. "It's how I roll."

Yes, that is indeed how you roll. Funny how the impossible slowly happens.