Monday, February 28, 2011

Skate, or Skate Not. There is no Try..

At a recent Public Skate Session I got hijacked by another mother. I'd introduced myself to her awhile ago when I retied her daughter's skates and listened to a short bragging session about her Zuca bag and new Skating Dress. Whatever, your skates are tied wrong.

Imagine my slight shock when I learned her Daughter was stumped at Alpha and Forward Crossovers. (Confession,  I can't do crossovers, either. I'm too scared to hold that outside edge. Whenever I've tried, I'm on my ass. I sympathize with daughter even if I do hate her Zuca and Skating dress.) Mom caught me as I was trying to watch Stitch do an Ice Show for me. "He's so good," she says. "How old is he?"
"Seven." I waited for part 2 of the series.
"What level is he?"
Yup. "Just passed Beta."
"My daughter can't get past Alpha. They won't pass her, but she's been doing it forever. She can't get crossovers."
"Crossovers are pretty critical."
At that point my brain broke. "They just are." I don't know, ask the damn coach!
"All her friends are Delta now. It's so frustrating."
"You have to learn crossovers, it can't be skipped. She'll get there."
Then mom looks back at Stitch. "He's so good. How did he get so good? Does he play hockey?"
"No, he just figure skates. But he skates all the time."
"When you say that, what do you mean?"
"He averages six hours a week."
"Oh, so six days a week."
"No, he does an hour's worth of lessons, group and private, and the rest is public skating sessions on weekends."
"What's better, Group or Private lessons?"
Shit, really? "I like doing both."
"But what's better?"
URGH. "If she's having issues with crossovers, then Privates are perfect just for helping with that. Beyond that, it depends on what she wants."
Other Mom didn't like this answer. She glared at Stitch.
"Just bring her to skate," I tried a peace offering. "Just turn her loose on public ice to gain confidence."
"She's already confident."
Clearly, Daughter was not, as her outside edges were short and wobbly. Agan, I totally sympathize, but if you want to do crossovers, you have to jump that gap.

Folks, I don't have any magic buttons or pills that I'm giving Stitch. He just likes to skate, so I bring him to skate. He doesn't always like lessons, but I remind him that if he wants those patches and trophies, then lessons and practice are the only way to get them. And you, Other Parents, if you want your kid to fly around the rink and cavort, then letting them loose is how you do it.

Here are some objections I encounter:
1. But we live far away. (Well, then you've made the decision for your kid without even asking him.)
2. But I work. (Hey, I work, too. I work 45-50 hours a week at a sometimes emotionally draining gig that leaves me limp and dragging by Thursday. But this isn't about you. Suck it up.)
3. But all they do is skate around. (Yes, getting kids to actually practice is hard. But from Tot to Beta, I don't think it matters much. Just skate. Play. Go fast. And you know what? Eventually going around in circles will get boring, at which point they'll begin challenging themselves or decide skating isn't for them. The decision makes itself.)
4. But he/she already does soccer/baseball/cheer/school play/swimming/tennis/pottery/Mandarin.  His/her schedule is packed already, there's no time for practice. (Again, you're making decisions without asking the kid. If Daughter has been trying her darndest for thirty weeks to get crossovers, then maybe you two need to sit and discuss where Skating sits on her priorities. If it's high, and it seems to be, cut something to make room.)
5. But what am I supposed to do? (Did you know actively skating burns an incredible amount of calories? And again, this isn't about you. Just don't bug your kid excessively when you skate together. Go your separate ways.)

So, Other Parents, you can hate me all you want, but my only "Secret" is Skate a Lot. Stop whining, stop making excuses, stop being a drag, and just get to public skate sessions and go. If you don't, you've ended everything before you ever really started.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The USFS Basic Skills Book

Stitch was all excited to get a Book from Basic Skills. It's pretty neat, but it's not without it's share of wacky skating weirdness. Let's take a look.

This is it. I was told, "This is his forever and ever. Don't lose it, because it's ten dollars to replace it." Okay, so you're being tasked to maintain this thing for at least two years, longer depending on how quick your skater picks up on the skills.

Inside, we find instructions. General instructions are Holy Grails for skating parents. "What do I do? Where are you going? What is that? Why is it sharp? It goes where?" This section alone answers 90% of the questions I get from other parents. I don't know why they think I know these things. Maybe it's the glazed expression. But seriously, common sense tips like "dress in layers" and "Don't talk while you're getting lessons," and "leather skates, not that crap vinyl please." Okay, they don't say Crap Vinyl, but they should.

Open it up, and you get a rundown of what skills your kid will be learning at each given step. Remember, USFS breaks skating down into its basic ingredients, unlike ISI which gives parents the whole cookie. The kids don't go right to "forward crossover," they have to do "forward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle" first. But the kids will start doing cool stuff like spinning a lot sooner. Two foot spins are in Basic 3, while in ISI you have to wait until FS1 for that. (Though most kids learn them long before FS1.)

You also get these. Little gold stickers that look like a cross between a Skater and a Star. I called these "Kwans." The kid gets a Kwan sticker beside each individual skill as they go. You get two sheets of Kwans, and they are hard to get off that damn paper.

Stitch, of course, wanted to put his Kwans on himself. Since they're so difficult to get off the paper, what ended up happening was that most of our Kwans became amputees. Worse, the Kwans wander off pretty easily. I've lost both sheets twice before I decided to just take the whole thing to work and staple them in the back.

The book has every basic skill badge you can get, from FreeSkate to Dance, Hockey, Speed and Pairs. This bit of confuzzlement is a Dance Pattern. Stitch looked at all of these and groaned. "Do I have to do ALL THIS to be a Big League Skater?"
"I don't think so, but talk to Coach. She knows how all this works, not me."

Then there's The Stupid Bear and his Ridiculous Sidekick. Seriously, the kids who love skating really love skating and they don't need some bear who looks high on something bad to keep them interested. This bear scares me. And when I look at the bruises on Stitch's legs, the absolute last thing I'm thinking of is a cuddly bear.

Then on the back page you can color the Ridiculous Bear, and you get a short paragraph on "What's Next." I'm guessing that we get tossed to the Clubs. I don't even know if we'll get to that point, much less if I can keep up with the book that long. Can I get a PDF with some e-Kwans?

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Stitch is asleep. This is what has become our Saturday ritual; We watch bad movies on TV until he falls asleep on the sofa, and tomorrow morning we all sleep as late as we want. I was sewing patches as he was drifting off.

"Stitch, there's not enough room," I was cramming them on, knowing there were two more in this particular set still to fit.
"Yes there is."
"Barely. Are you sure you want all these on here?"

I got up to Basic 4 when I realized he was out completely. That's okay, I put some Neosporin on his ice kiss from the day, as he wouldn't tolerate that awake.

I was suddenly awash with memories of endlessly sewing patches, all the patches I earned from Juniors, Cadet and Senior scouting. I was never a Brownie, I started off in that hideous green. I understand why he likes these. I still have my patches. Most of them are at home Down South, but some of them are here. I have big ones, rare ones, the "why did we do this" ones like the Cosmetology Badge (Remember the Plum Lipstick?) and the "this was impossible" badges like the Knot Tying, and the sheepshank that took me days to figure out. (Everyone laughs at knot tying. It's knot funny. Sorry.) Some of them represented an evening's worth of activities, but most of them were days or weeks of work.

Some of them were blood, sweat and tears. The Red Cross Canoeing Badge especially. I walked around with my hair wet for two weeks, and I swear that me and my pillow were mildewing as the group went from Shower to Cove to Shower to Pool to Shower in 100% humidity. Me and my partner swam to shore as she was crying, "There's a jellyfish in my swimsuit!" Everyone had six inch bruises on their thighs, from dragging themselves back into canoes from the middle of deep water. No easy entries. We all lost weight, all sunburned, all with biceps of iron and we were misery incarnate by the end of it. Until we got that patch. Then we were singing "Make New Friends" in perfect three part harmony.

Stitch has seen my patches, and he asked for them. I said no. "These are my patches. If you want patches, you need to earn your own. That's how patches work." Stitch set his jaw a bit and walked off, angry with me for the moment, but clamoring for his skating patches all the more the next day. Today, he got his set of patches and it was priceless. I've run some patch awards ceremonies and this beat all of them, possibly because it was my own kid, but it's always great to see a big goal achieved.

Looking at Stitch, with his cheek red and knees bruised, I get it. I get it and I'm glad he does, too. So many kids don't. Before I go off on a "Kids Today" rant, let me just say, the things in life that you care about most are hard. Just that little swatch of something that you wear that says, "Yeah, I did it," is powerful. More than people realize.

Today at Rink of the Damned, there were two boys running on the outside of the boards, pointing and laughing at anyone who fell. They were not skating. This infuriated me. You think it's so easy? You do it. Until you do it, Shut Up. This goes for Parents, too. Until you can do it; Shut. Up.

Great Skate Morning and the Road Trip from Hell

This morning was fabulous. I mean, I thought I was dreaming. Stitch was awake and on the sofa without me prodding. He was cheerful and peppy, put up some playful whining but was ready for a full morning. He got dressed in some "proper" skating attire suitable for testing, and off we went.

We arrived early for lesson with Coach, which was great since Gordon backed out. Stitch got a few extra minutes and some clearer ice. I stayed outside, playing Fishbowl and Stitch didn't seem to mind. I listened to Coach Olympia and her fleet of Sparkle Princesses squabble over text messages, passing around phones while they laced up skates. I walked outside for a few minutes to escape them, noting that the Grackle birds who lived in the rafters of the building sounded pretty similar to the Princesses.

I digress.

Coach came out and said that Stitch could pass Delta today. (I believe that.) That's nice, but we're testing Beta today. It's that pesky Gamma, with those critical Mohawks and Outside 3 Turns that are stumping him, particularly on the left side, his weak side. She seemed flustered. She wanted him out of Gamma. I remained calm. Again, here's me, in no hurry at all. Whatever happens, happens, just so long as he gets those damn patches. I know Coach wants that easier ice, but I've made a crap ice schedule work so far, and I can make it work for another few months.

But Stitch himself was still in good spirits and ready to head over to Rink Across Town. Practice Ice! I had him leave his skates on, and off we went. Once more, he took charge of his practice ice. I gritted my teeth and glued my ass to those bleachers while he chatted with another little girl and showboated. This is his ice, This is his ice, This is his skating, This is his ice, I repeated to myself over and over. But overall he worked. I got his coffee on time, and when he was done with Mohawks he took a break. He was doing great until spirals, when he tripped on a toepick and went down hard. The mothers I was chatting with all took a collective gasp. Stitch was crying, but I knew what had happened. For some reason, this kid gets the wind knocked out of him really easy. Just about on every fall, Stitch is getting that terrifying sensation of being unable to breathe, and I can sympathize. That really sucks. So he came off the ice, I did some comforting and then went back to the bleachers. The other moms were pretty impressed when he went right back out and started doing bunneh hops.

Awesome skating Director comes out. "Good morning, Moms! I'm going to punch your cards now!"

God, I love her.

As she punched my card, I stopped her. "Excuse me, I have a silly question."
"I doubt it's silly, but go ahead."
"My son," I pointed, "is registered with Basic Skills through your program. When we watch skating on TV, I tell him he's a member of USFS and he doesn't believe it. Can I get a membership card or something?"
"Oh, then he needs a book and stuff. Come with me."

And I followed her into her office, where she gave me a booklet, a stack of stickers, a Basic Skills Patch, and she asked me what level he was.
"Well, Coach had him compete at Basic 6..."
"Oh, then he needs those patches, then." And she opens a drawer and counts out a rainbow of patches and just hands them to me.
Just like that. "You have no idea, you've made his entire day and he doesn't even know it yet."
"This is just what everyone gets."
We then had a brief conversation about ISI versus USFS, and I fell in love with her, her rink, her program, everything. "You drink Diet Coke," I noticed the two bottles on her desk.
"Love the stuff. And I like it hot."
"Me too!" Can I camp in your lobby or something?

I literally ran back to the rink and called Stitch over. "Look what I got," and I laid out the patches one by one, as his eyes got wider, wider, wider.
"Where did you get those?!"
"Skating Director gave them to you! I can put them on your jacket!"
He was so excited, he spun.

Then it was breakfast on the run, and back to Home Rink. Stitch would have passed the Gamma Test were it not for his weak left side, and I'm okay with it. He was in good spirits and stole a dollar for the vending machine. I wandered around, talking, snooping, typical stuff. I really wondered how Nutso and her kids would react to the skating jacket when I decked it out. Not that I enjoy bragging, but I really get tired of Precious' attitude sometimes. *cough*

So Stitch has 45 minutes left, he's still in a great mood, and the Beta Test seems a sure bet. He wolfed his Honey Bun, I watched my hopes for a healthy lunch disappear with it, and off he went for "warm up" with the other falling kids. He showboated and cavorted, and then he fell. Hard fall. Hard enough that Coach S went to investigate the sound of the wailing. But Coach S is tough, and unless your appendage is at an odd angle or yuor blood is creating a hazard to someone else, you aren't getting off the ice. As it was, Stitch seemed shocked but okay.

The other moms next to me watched as I studied the situation. "Is he yours?"
"Is he okay?"
"Seems to be. He's not crying anymore."

We then talked about coaching and lessons, ice time, all kinds of stuff. The entire conversation was just a reminder of how much the Learn to Skate parents are in the dark.
"It took me forever to figure out the practice ice schedule," said one mom.
"How much is private coaching? Do I pay the park district?" asked the other.
"No," I corrected her.
I showed her my collection of coupons and punch cards. I explained about competitions and such, Ice Show, all that.
"Thanks for the crash course," the one mom said. "My daughter wanted to start with private lessons, but I said no."
"Good plan. Start here. Group lessons are fine." I was trying to quietly video Stitch's test.

This time he got the honor of flying across the ice, waving his paper with a smile on his face. He passed. Now I owe him chocolate, and the tenth and final Star. As I was taking off skates, I noticed that one cheek was redder than the other. "Stitch, where did you fall?"
"On my cheek."
"You have an ice burn on your face." Sure enough, he's got a spiderweb of fine scratches on his face, and it looks like I hit him with a spatula. Hopefully that will heal before next weekend. Or I can sit in the stands, menacing him with a spatula for Parental Bonus Points

He was giddy, positively giddy, and such a good boy for enduring a marathon Saturday morning. I kept repeating my appreciation for his great attitude.

We ran home to grab my skates, then it was off for a sharpening and lunch. Stitch chose chicken noodle in a bread bowl, and despite the Honey Bun, Cinnamon Melts and Sausage Biscuit, he ate most of it plus some of my chips. This means only one thing: Growth Spurt. This and the imprint of his thin socks on his feet left me shivering in the shadows of New Skates. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Then the day went downhill. Did you know I can't navigate the Suburbs? There are some roads out there, that once I get on them, I get locked into this network of unmarked hell punctuated by a series of U Turns. (Most of which are legal.) Rink Faraway is just off one of these roads. Here, in no particular order, is my series of mistakes:

1. I accidentally got on the Toll Road. This is not entirely my fault. My printout of directions somehow cut off Step 9. Step 9 is apparently the critical Step. Naturally.
2. I lost my bearings. Without my large major landmarks, I lost which way was North and East. So I headed down Road of the Damned at least 5 miles the wrong way. I stopped for gas and asked some eye-rolling woman who lost patience with me the moment I said "ice rink."
3. I didn't know the major train routes. So, we got waylaid by a rather large freight train which delighted Stitch to no end, but left me watching the clock.

What should have taken 25 minutes took an hour. Maybe more, I stopped counting. But I eventually found the long and winding road, at the end of which is Rink Faraway and it's stupidly laid out parking lots, made even more stupid by the vast fleet of minivans that can't park. Stitch and I headed in, surrounded by screeching moms, twittering girls, crying infants in big strollers, and barreling hockey boys still in helmets, which was good since they were barreling into moving vehicles. The Devil himself could not have envisioned the hell that is the Northern suburbs. The Hell didn't end at the parking lot. Stitch and I checked in at the counter, beside another mom counting hand stamps for the flock of kids at her birthday party. She was screeching. Why must they always screech?

Home Rink always offers some respite from lobby noise by heading into the actual rink to put on skates. This was not the case here. Hockey Boys (All Boys) and Figure Skating class (All Girls) were sharing the same big ice. Noisy as all get out. I put on our skates and we waited. Stitch was watching everything. "So, looks like the judges might be over there," I pointed to the penalty box. "And you might come out of that door there," I pointed to the ice door on the far end. "Not so bad."
"Nope," said Stitch. "Just don't get lost again."

After a round by the Zamboni and some outlay of cones, Public Skate began. Stitch and I stepped onto the ice and into Complete Chaos. I'm not a great skater, but I've never been actually afraid for both of us until today. I mean, seriously afraid for our safety. This ice was too crowded. Little kids were falling everywhere, gangs of teenage girls were grabbing onto each other and collapsing into giggling, squealing clumps, hockey boys were tearing around every which way, hockey dads were not setting a good example for them, and actual figure skaters were trying to act cool amidst it all. In the middle, Coaches were trying to give lessons while hockey boys skated over their markings and laughed. I kept getting cut off by the same chick in blue, and the third time she did it I decided to trip her sorry ass on the next pass. Some little boy was going the wrong way, like a Salmon out to spawn, only in moonboots. His mom was in the stands, cheering him on.

I lost Stitch on several points, and when I did find him, he was just trying to survive. At one point he caught up with me. "Mom! This place is terrible! I fell, and a guard just skated right by me!"
"Didn't even ask if I was okay!"
"Oh god."

At another point when I lost Stitch, I stepped into the relative safety of the penalty box to find him. I saw him in the stands. Message received. I headed over. "Are we done here?"
"Oh yes. This place is awful."
We took off skates and pointed out particular people who had bugged us. I started wondering if we could just stay and watch the hockey boys bowl over the girls in figure skating dresses and Rentals. We were giggling over the entire affair, leaving a little bit wiser and grateful for the great Rink Guards at Home Rink.

Heading home, I was breathing some relief that the day was over. Was it really over? It's never over until Fate says it is, folks.

The Oil Light came on.

I pulled off the expressway and onto local roads, knowing I had a better shot of actually finding (striking?) oil. I thought that Dad had some in the trunk anyway. I got into a small parking lot to check, but all Dad's bottles were empties. Hm. "Okay Stitch," I closed the hood. "When you get back in, cross your fingers."
"Because we're going to need some luck to get through this one. Ugh."
"Oh, mom, it's okay. This is an adventure, right?"

So, we held our collective breath, I kept the RPM's low so the light stayed off, we found a small convenience mart and bought some oil. "Do you want a funnel?" asked the cashier.
Should have said yes.
Stitch and I popped the hood again, standing in the snow and waiting for the engine to cool a bit. "Okay, where does the oil go," I started quizzing him.
Stitch dutifully located the oil gauge, timing belt, battery and coolant fluid.
"Okay, should be cool enough by now. Let's try." And I tried to navigate a thin stream of oil into the engine. I failed. "Stitch, go bug the nice ladies for a funnel," I admitted defeat.
Stitch ran in with my last dollar, and the ladies found him so cute they gave him a free paper funnel. (I'm sure they were free anyway, but Stitch had asked for a free one.)

I gave the engine half the bottle. "All right, Stitch, you're going to slam the hood. Ready?"
He giggled while I stepped him through the gratifying slam of a car hood.

Four hours from when we started out, we parked in front of the building. "Ugh," I let go.
"Did you have a bad day?" asked Stitch.
"No, not a bad day. Just a stupid day."
"Shhh!" he points up a Neighbor's window. "Neighbor's window is open! She won't let me say 'Stupid'."
"Why not?"
"I don't know."
"Sometimes things are stupid, there's just no other word for it."

We laughed at The Test, Lost in the Suburbs, Rink Faraway, and the Oil Adventure. Now we're finally home, and I'm about to make popcorn and hot chocolate. No more skating today. No more anything. I just don't want to court disaster anymore, thanks. I'm even a bit scared to sew on those patches, frankly.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Competition #3

We're just a few days out from Comp #3 and I'm feeling so "old hat" at this process that it's not even registering for me. No matter how much of a mess Stitch is during practice, he pulls out all the stops when there's a crowd. He did it for Comp #1, he did it for Ice Show, and he did it for Comp #2. Even if he flubs it, coming in second or third would be good for him. A learning experience, if you will. You can't come in first all the time.

This comp is at Rink Faraway, the longest distance we've gone for one of these things. We're going to drive over there for their public skate session this weekend, just to scope out the joint. I think this is important. I'm less likely to get lost on the actual day, we have our bearings when the place is crowded and confusing, Stitch can see where the audience will be and where the judges are likely to be, and he can skate on what might be a harder or softer ice surface. (There is a difference.)

I remember doing One Act festivals, blindly going into a new space and having your mojo thrown by an unfamiliar location. I'd like to remove this from Stitch's skating equation whenever we can. Hey, even at Big League competitions, they get to practice on the actual ice for a few days prior.

This is also the first comp that Dad can't make it to. This means I will be in the stands by myself. I was trying to come up with a way to stay occupied and yet still pay attention (don't want to seem rude), and this is what I came up with.


If I win, I've promised myself a case of beer. If I lose, I get a bottle of wine. I don't know in what instance I will need it more. So, if anyone else is doing a competition soon, print out your scorecards and let's play!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets

Stitch and I were watching 4CC vids on Youtube and working on his stretches when my Stepmother in Law pinged me on chat. She wanted to know when his next comp was, they wanted to try and make it.

I gave her the date.

"What time does it start?"
"It starts at 9am, but he won't need to be there all day."
"So when does he skate?"
"I don't know."
"You don't?"
"No. I won't know for a few days yet."

Yeah. This is one of those things no one explains. I'm a schedule person. I like to know when things happen, so I can be early, and plan out the rest of my life. Skating Competitions were an amazing jolt to my head. When you enter your child in a skating competition, you send in your paperwork, and then you sit in the dark until about a week before and then they'll provide a ballpark time for you to get there. Plan your cooking, cleaning and shopping schedules as though you'll be gone for all that day (or days) because you just don't know.

Don't call them. That only makes them mad. The one time I did call because the schedule was late in coming, I got some heavy sighs and multiple emails that I'm pretty sure were sent out of spite.

For us, the skater and his Manager/Mom, this is actually fine. I work the schedule so that we're busy for an hour or two and the rest of the time is goldenly ours. Movies, anyone? Well, he's busy. I'm in the stands.

For Family, this is going to be problematic. Stitch really loves Grampa, and having Grampa at one of his comps would be an awesome thing for him. But I don't want to get him all excited only to learn he's skating in the morning and Grampa can't come. So, I'll keep it quiet, and if he skates in the afternoon then he can be surprised by Grampa's presence. I can't know for a few days.

As if this wasn't fun enough, the entire fleet of Grandparents has expressed interest in being at the July Comp. When I say Fleet, I mean that. There will be about six people coming. I love all my family, but having everyone together can be *ahem* stressful. I'll only have a few hours of entertainment for them, but it's their grandson so they'll all be in rapt enchantment. The rest of the weekend? I guess I'll juggle oranges or something.

So all you newbie parents out there, I'm letting you in on one of The Secrets. Lower Level Competitions are a lot like everything else you encounter; You won't really know what's happening until it's too late.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Me and My Reality Show

If you're at the Rink and you see me, and I'm muttering to myself, I haven't lost my marbles. I'm simply stepping outside of the situation by pretending I'm in my own reality show. If TLC thinks Toddlers and Tiaras is a hotbed of parental insanity, then they really need to get to the rink. We have everything those tots have, only we do it on ice. If they think that little girl screaming for her NiNi is gold, they should have been around for the High Freestyle Chick flipping out at her mom who was flipping out at her for being unable to practice doubles on very crowded public ice. I enjoy seeing skate bags tossed across the concession area, really. These things validate me.

The only reason I can think of for Evil Skate Mom to bring her Big Girls to practice Doubles on a Sunday Session (which is notoriously packed with beginners) was to show off. There's just no other logic. Evil Skate Mom should know that Public Ice is not Practice Ice.

This same Evil Skate Mom brought her Big Girls to a Studio Rink Session, where she demanded the Little Kids be booted from center so her Big Girls could practice. Seriously. Spent a good twenty minutes arguing with every guard in sight, all of whom told her that The Little Kids were practicing and could not be booted. "But it's a safety issue," Evil Skate Mom tried the high ground. "Someone is going to get hurt." Sorry, said the guard. Practice Ice is available for practicing double jumps. No Camels or Spirals on Public Ice. Meanwhile, Big Girls were sniggering and texting with dry (pink) blades. Evil Skate Mom joined them, all three of them on a bench, texting the ISU President and calling at least six different people to rail about the situation. "This is stupid, just stupid," Evil Skate Mom railed on and on, gesticulating wildly. They did this for twenty five minutes. I timed them. Then they left. What was the point? (And it's hard enough to find ice for PreStyle kids, please don't take the Public Sessions away as well.)

I'm starting to think that it's impossible to be a Skating Parent and escape some mild neurosis. On a Good Day, watching a good lesson, I think, "Wow, he's so cool! So much cooler than those other kids! Why is she holding him back? He can be doing much cooler things! We've done those back crossovers to death, this is boring!" On a Bad Day, watching a Public Session spiral into a useless exercise in making snowballs and chasing guards, I think, "Cripes, why is he doing that? He can skate better than this. Why doesn't he practice? Why doesn't he show off his cool stuff for these other people? This is boring." You really want your kid to do cool things, because it's awesome to have the kid that other parents point to.

More than that, you really just can't avoid the nagging presence of That Other Kid and this undercurrent of Parental Competition that pervades the Rink. Sometimes I have to mentally step outside of it, and by envisioning my actions on display for millions, I'm probably less likely to do anything untoward. Probably. No promises.

Hey, at least we're not throwing the gear at each other.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Sparkly Boy

Stitch likes the Sparkle. His only complaint about the new skating costume is that it isn't sparkly enough. There's a solid logic behind this: When he was little and I'd be sitting around making jewelry with all those pretty, sparkly beads, he'd make sad eyes and ask why I wouldn't make anything for him. No bracelets, no necklaces, no earrings. None of that is for boys.

Well, now he's skating, he's watched skating, and he knows that on the ice, it's perfectly acceptable and expected to have some sparkle. So, here's me, a Raccoon in a former life, now making clothing for a figure skater who keeps asking for more. It's a serious issue for me to tone it down, really.

Friday he asked for a practice shirt with "50% sparkly." Okay, I can do that, and I'd been looking for an excuse to play with metallic thread on spandex for awhile. (It's basically tinsel on a spool. Great to look at but hell on tension adjustments.)

"What color do you want?"
"Red," he says. "So people can see me."

Okay, done. I walked over to the fabric store, had a great chat with the great Fab Guy who works there, and scored some of the brightest red stuff I could find. I measured out the next size up shirt, and off I went. I played with metallic accents on the front and sleeves. I tried some embroidery stitching on a scrap piece, but the metallic just didn't want to play. (I'll try again using a backing of interfacing later.)

As I was sewing, though, the thought hit me. He already catches some minor flak from the snobby little girls out there for being so outlandish. The Hockey boys do come up and tease him a little before they realize he can skate them into oblivion and then they leave him alone. (He literally runs away on the ice and they don't follow.) Just the previous evening, a roving troupe of miniature dicks were teasing every newcomer in the place, "You can't skate! Your skating is crappy!" Some poor girl was in tears as they laughed and skated off. Assholes.

Perhaps putting him in a fire engine red sparkle shirt isn't the best idea in the world. Maybe I'd be opening him up for a whole new dimension of teasing.

Wait. What am I thinking? Why am I considering of shutting this down? No one looks twice when a little girl is out at public skate in a sparkly skating dress. I've even seen a full-on Snow White Halloween costume in July. Why can't a Boy do it?

Stitch used to take teasing very personally. He'd really consider changing facets of himself if his schoolmates teased him about them. I sat him down and explained things. "Stitch, if Classmate doesn't like your Nori Roll lunch, that's his problem. A big part of life is learning to determine Your Problem versus Their Problem. If it's Your Problem, then sure, change things that don't work. But if it's Their Problem, forget it. Got it?"
"I think so."
"If you're in doubt, you can ask me. I'll help you figure things out."

Here I was, some yards deep in sequins, red tinsel and fire engine spandex, ready to abort everything because of what amounted to Someone Else's Problem.

If Stitch wants to do public skate in Glitter, then let him skate in Glitter. If Snotty Girls want to tease, then I'll be happy to point out the fact that they're in last year's Spring Show outfit. If Hockey Boys want to harass, then let's ask ourselves who skates in full hip padding and who doesn't. (There's one in particular who tries to imitate Stitch's spins in hockey skates, and that would be quite ironic if he teased Stitch anyway.) Hockey Dads? How awesome would it be to do a full body check, after all? Momma Bear can get up speed, but she sure as hell can't stop too fast. If people are too wrapped up in what Stitch is wearing rather than how good he can skate, then they're at the rink for the wrong reasons.  If someone wants to question/doubt/examine or forecast the sexuality of a seven year old, then they're perverted. That's a big Their Problem. 

I finished the shirt, minus the sequins due to technical issues but I promised we could affix them later. He wore it all day, even to the grocery store, and then to public skate. Excited as he might have been to have a sparkle practice shirt, the rink was as cold as ever and he kept the jacket on most of the time. The one time he took it off and did some "fancy skating" for me, no one noticed or said anything that I heard. He then put the jacket back on.

Now he wants me to make him a sparkly jacket. Hey, I'm a solid fan of black/white crystal combos, and that jacket we have now is going to be outgrown eventually.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

We Return to Normal Schedule

So, I learned today that watching any Learn to Skate session is made much more lively by listening to Rap music over your headphones. The following video is NSFW.

Yes, Pre-Alpha and Tots suddenly get a whole new dimension.

Stitch started out with Coach in the early morning. I put on skates, was feeling rather chipper, sent Stitch into the rink and ran headlong into Mr and Ms. Valium. "Good morning!" I greeted them loudly.

"Oh, how are you?" Ms. Valium was her quiet self.
Mr. Valium gives us both a look. "Honey, this is the same mom."
"No," replies Ms. Valium. "This is the other boy's mom."
"Are you sure? She looks the same as that other mom."
"Nope!" I say. "Different mom!" (I can't make this shit up.)

We have some awkward conversation before Stitch storms out of the rink and demands my presence inside. "Gotta go, nice talking with you," I relish my excuse.

I waved hi to Coach, and settle myself on the far end of the rink, away from the Parent Parking Bench. I ran music for her, alternating between zoning out, watching the bigger kids get fussed at and trying to listen to the coaches bickering in other languages. PrepSchool was getting schooled, not in skating, but in shutting up. Olympia was trying to give instruction to her bevy of girls, while PrepSchool apparently was talking over her, and she snapped off at him in a big way. (I can't blame her, but it was a bit excessive given the public nature of that lesson group.) She then tossed him off to another Coach, who taught him and another boy backwards edges. I was trying to keep my laughter to myself. Pardon me, but weren't you supposed to have backwards edges down by now, if you're in a freestyle group? Whatevs. So PrepSchool and Other Boy were doing half-assed edgework, goofing off, when the Other Coach flips out and threatens to kick them off the ice. Beautiful.

Anyway. Stitch and Coach were working on a harder spin, doing the program, nothing too serious. I was just enjoying myself, but Stitch was determined to hate the day. He was being excessively whiny and obstinate. Hm.

Coach came off the ice and we had a mutual apology session. Just confusion on both our parts, and everything was fine again. We scheduled some time for the following week, but then Stitch began complaining. "He says he doesn't like to do Gamma, he says it is too much," Coach says.
"That's a bullshit line," I dismissed it.
"Well, I know it's bullshit, but,"
For a moment it hit me just how casual our conversation had become.

She told me her own frustrations with The Prepschool situation, but that it was Coaches trying to force the kids to Freestyle faster because the ice was more convenient. That may be so.. but.... "I know, they can't skate," she agreed, but things were easier once that little bump got passed. A few more profanities later, and I felt reassured and validated. Be patient, just a little while longer. If we stay on track, then Winter is when we'll be sailing Freestyle.

Stitch stayed on the ice to practice awhile longer, but then we headed out for coffee. I figured a latte was in order for both of us, so we drove to a nearby Starbuck's.

"Yeah, he'll have a small vanilla latte, whole milk and easy on the temp," I said to the cashier.
His finger hovered over the register. "You mean a kid's steamer."
"No. A latte."
"No. Regular."
The finger hovered. "Really?"
"Yeah, it's fine. I'll take a grande hazelnut latte skim."

Skating kids.

Back at the Rink, we watched the PreFreestyle kids warming up, PrepSchool flopping around and I sighed. Soon, soon, soon. Be patient. Stitch was watching. "Should I be on the ice?"
"Not yet. Another ten minutes."

Not yet, indeed. There's a decent ways to go. Stitch doesn't just need to learn the moves, he needs to learn self-discipline and respect. Already he's doing better; he politely raised his hand and asked his Group Coach to be excused to use the restroom. Most kids just take off. He's practicing his skating on his own more, without me bugging him. The Stars help, but there's more self motivation going on, too.

Stitch may have whined about doing Gamma and Beta, but he did them both well. When he took a hard fall in Gamma, he stepped out to compose himself and then went back in. I wasn't needed at all. Yes, Stitch is getting that Hard Knocks Maturity that the bigger skaters have, one fall at a time.

In the meantime, Stitch has requested a Bright Red Practice shirt, in long sleeve so he can forego the jacket. "I want people to be able to see me," he says. Baby, they see you. Trust me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Operation TCOYS

The Boys did Practice Ice on Tuesday. I was not there. Usually when Dad does Practice Ice, I'll check and reorganize the Skate Bag, since the myriad of skating accessories don't make it back into their proper places and chaos ensues when I take Stitch back to the Rink.

Sadly, I lapsed in checking the Skate Bag Tuesday night. What followed last night was worse than chaos.

The wet skates had not been dried and no one had put soakers on them. Worse, they had been placed not on the towel in the bottom of the bag, but on the plastic bag that holds all the gloves and socks. There were big nasty rust spots.

"Stitch," I held up an offending skate. "These are your skates. It is your responsibility to care for them, dry them and store them properly after each time you skate. I'm not always around to do it for you."

Stitch threw a mini-fit. "Rust?! I can't skate in those! Sharpen them! Sharpen them now! How can I do crossovers? How can I do three turns?"

"Stitch. The rust will skate off after a lap or two, but this is only a day's worth of damage. Imagine if we had left them until Saturday. You think your little butt is well acquainted with the ice now, imagine working with Coach in this crap. YOU are going to have to take responsibility for this, because Dad doesn't know. I can only have them sharpened so many times before they wear out, so we want to avoid sharpening unless they're dull from skating, not rusty from being lazy."

Stitch whined while I unlaced the skate. The laces were tight down to the toes, which told me that Dad had once again ignored my directive to unlace all the way down. Again. This meant that he had fought the skates on and off, further wearing down the padding on the tongue of the boot.

I don't make up this shit for frunz. I don't do it to complicate people's lives. I do it to lengthen the life of expensive equipment. It's terribly frustrating when The Boys either don't understand or completely blow me off. It's sad that I have to be around in order to assure that things happen. I can tell the both of them right now that I am not going to bother with boots or blades any better than what we have if they won't be taken care of.

Okay, so my next project: Operation TAKE CARE OF YOUR SHIT. I've devised a Post Skate Checklist, which will be put on a luggage tag on the Skate Bag.

1. Dry Skates with washcloth.

2. Put Soakers on blades

3. Skates go in the bag FIRST

4. Put all gloves and socks into the zip bag.

5. Put zip bag and Skate Jacket into bag.

6. Check surrounding area for lost items before you leave.

7. Take skates, gloves, boot covers and soakers out of bag and set to dry when you get home. Put socks into hamper.

Sadly, with Boys, this is what it often comes down to. It's not passive agressive, it's reality. If the list isn't followed, then whine all you want about Rusty Blades, don't say I didn't warn you. There will be absolutely no Bunny Soakers in Stitch's future if I find rusty blades again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

USFSA is Going to Explain it All

I finally got around to ordering my set of books called "The Skating Parent's Survival Guide" as published by USFSA. I had wanted this a few months back, but Stitch wasn't a member of USFSA then, so I didn't know how they'd take that. USFSA seems to be persnickety about the whole "membership" thing. There is no comperable offering from ISI, so I just dreamily envisioned the day when I'd be able to get my set. Yes, these books would certainly clear up everything.

Well, now Stitch is officially a member of a Basic Skills place, so let's order! It's $5 for the set of three, and why they can't just make these a PDF Download behind a paywall I'll never know. Nope, gotta be mailed to you. So I faxed over my order form and now we wait.

The first volume is entitled "Your Responsibility as a Skating Parent." (I'm really hoping there's a chapter called, "So you pissed off your Coach. What now?")
The second is "Keeping it in Perspective." (Please stop debating the music for your child's Olympic Long Program.)
The third is "Support your Child to Reach Maximum Potential." (Perspective? What's that? Do I hear "Carmen" somewhere?)

Will there be sections on costumes? Music? Competition rules and etiquette? A Basic Skills Practice Ice diagram? How to resist the impulse to backhand the woman who won't stop yammering about her daughter's custom boots?

I can't wait!!

Crap, what now?

I think I've made it abundantly clear how much I like Coach. Hopefully I've made it clear to her as well. I'm always saying thank you, I keep her paid up, I'm offering to help if she needs it and staying out of the way when they need serious time. I don't know what else I can do.

Apparently we've had our first misunderstanding. Like in a baby book, but with a touch more drama. I hate drama. Hopefully I've cleared it up a little, and will do so entirely on Saturday when I see her next, but I have to wonder what kind of clientele she keeps if four minute long rambling voice mails that go into way too much of her personal business are standard operating procedure. (Seriously, I 3'd through some of it because I didn't think it was my business to know..)

I'm a bit vexed. I never did anything but be where I was told to be when I was told to be there. I don't think I've been demanding in any way, but Coach interpreted something I said as a demand. Then I got frantic phone calls when there's nothing to be frantic about, with subtle apologies like I might blow this incident out of proportion and leave. What in god's name goes on in that Rink?

I've often wondered what Coach makes of me. I have to admit, when all this first started I was a bit intimidated by her. Okay, more than a bit. Maybe she thought me mousy and weird at first. But as we've gone on, I've gotten more accustomed to it all and realized that she's just people too. We've had some great conversations about skating, where she's from, what I've done, and Stitch. Nothing to be scared of here, and it's the same story with all the other coaches and the skating director. Just people doing jobs. I'm sure that some of my clients can find me intimidating when I start warning them of Keystoning, Rush Charges, and Logistics. I'm pretty sure I intimidated some truck driver when I unloaded a pallet of paint while wearing 3" heels. At the end of the day, Skating People are just people doing jobs. I understand her worry that I will find another Coach, but she has nothing to worry about. This was a simple misunderstanding. I was the one who wasn't totally clear, so I take responsibility.

So. (Buttons)  I have a bit of a mess waiting for me on Saturday. Maybe this will make it clear to her that I don't expect hand-holding, and if I need help I will ask for it. I don't know what other kinds of parents she has, but they're not me. Please don't interpret a casual request as a demand. I can take a "No" and not lose stride. When I'm being demanding, she'll know.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Much does Mom Need to Know?

When I was watching Nationals, I found that I was in the dark a lot. I mean, I like to watch skating because I think it's fun and pretty. I like the costumes and the music, but when it comes down to the actual skating, I really don't know what's happening.

It's like that with lessons, too, more and more. I think the Three Turn will be one of the last elements I'll be able to effectively correct Stitch on, and I can only do those because he mixes up his edges. I can't help him on his spins, Shoot the Duck, Spiral or Waltz Jump. I just get him to do attempts and cross my fingers. As much as I'm done with Swizzles, I was so there on the Swizzles.

I almost picked up a book on Figure Skating at the bookstore. I flipped through it, saw pictures of people in weird 70's bodysuits with diagrams of footwork and tracings, and realized that this wasn't something I really needed to know. I can't tell a Flip from a Toe Loop, and I think that's okay.

How much do I need to know? I think the answer is; Just Enough to be Dangerous.

I need to know enough about Skating to know what looks right and what feels wrong.
I need to know enough about Skates and Boots and Blades to be able to make wise purchasing decisions.
I need to know enough about Coaches to see who works well with Stitch and who doesn't, who can get results out of him and who can't. (Believe me, I know who can't and I know why.)
I need to know enough about Lessons to see which ones are working and which ones aren't. (And I've seen some really bad Group Lessons, most of which involved the kids hanging off the boards for ten minutes.)
I can best monitor Stitch's Progress by watching other kids his level and how Stitch feels about his skating. If every other kid is stumbling on that three turn, then I can know Stitch is on track despite his stumbles. I always ask, "How was class?" If he's consistently saying, "Good," then I can feel assured that things are going fine.

I'm Mom. My role is different, not well defined, and just barely tolerated at Rink Level. At times, I can distinctly feel the vibe towards me as "necessary evil." I'm trying to feel out my way. If I am under-involved, I'd be leaving him to the mercy of the Coaches and the Rink Culture. As much as I like (most of) the Coaches, they aren't parents. That's above their pay grade. (And in some cases thank god.) If I'm over-involved, that's a bigger ball of wax. I remember all too well the over-involved parents of my past, and I don't want to be like that. So, I have to maintain a happy medium; keep up with where Stitch is, make sure he's hitting his goals, check in to see if he's happy and comfortable, prepared for lessons and competition, and keep him healthy and balanced. That's why we sat out today, to give him an added day of rest for what became a stupid cough and cold.

Coming from a Backstage point of view, it's easy for me to abdicate the spotlight to the performer, keeping my support role because I know how vital it is. So, I think all I really need to know about Skating is enough to realize when Stitch isn't hitting his goals or is falling fast behind his peer group. I don't have to worry too much about knowing the toe loops from the flips, that's not my job. Hot chocolate and drawing "bruise people" on kneecaps to lighten up a bad day on the ice? Totally my job.

That being said, that isn't to say I don't get nervous or anxious. He is my son, after all. I spent today being nervous, because I felt we'd lost several hours of valuable practice time to a stupid cold. Now, I know he'll be fine, really. But all the same, my sewing machine got the brunt of my anxiety. Maybe Coach will figure out the code; the more elaborate the costume, the more nervous I am. Right now, my red, black, and silver creation is surely the most insane thing a Basic 6 boy has ever worn. But I figure the Costuming is a better place for my anxiety than hovering near the ice door shouting over lessons. Right? Right??

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Never Mind, He is Sick

Whenever Stitch gets sick, he tends to hide it pretty well. The only times I'm sure he's sick is when he's glassy eyed, slug-like on the sofa and hotter than pavement in July. By then, it's too late and he's down for two or three days. If I can catch it and down him for a day in the early stages, I can limit the effect and duration of the illness by half. The trick is the catch it.

Stitch was sick yesterday morning, he was just doing his normal con job and me, not wanting to cancel on Coach within an hour of the lesson, fell for it. I sent him to school with the orders, "If you feel sick, go to the nurse and go home. It's okay."

Stitch did not go to the nurse. I met up with him and Dad at the train station, and on the ride home he seemed cheerful if tired. This was understandable so I brushed it off. We came home and grabbed skates, and off we went. Stitch didn't complain and seemed really happy that we were going to be on the big rink.

But once he got on, he got that glassy look. He was dragging within a half hour, and then he was off the ice, slug-like in the stands. I called it.

The trouble with ice skating is that my one tell-tale sign of Stitch's fever, Hot Feet, has been negated. His feet were cold to the touch as always, and the rest of him felt cool as well. The Glassy Look was all I had to go by. 

Once we got home, I felt his feet again. Hot. Damn. I stuck a thermometer in his mouth. 101.5. Shit. My rule on fevers is: -101, let it stand. +102, bring it down for comfort. I let this fever stand, gave him some water and sent him to bed. And then I sat there, drinking some rum and thinking, "You slave driver, you suspected it, and yet you dragged him to skating lessons anyway. What the hell is wrong with you?"

This morning, Stitch was up. He felt warm right when he woke up, but he seemed cheerful, was talkative, and ate some Nutella on toast. His temperature was 98.5. (Stitch is like me, he normally runs a cool 96-97.) Huh. Do I do skating lessons or not? If I do it, and he's conning me again, I might be downing him into next week. I was on the fence until he asked me, "When do we have to leave for skating?"
"Why? Are you feeling better?"

Okay, I decided to risk it. I gave him some Tylenol just in case, and off we went. I did it on the condition that we skip all skating for the rest of the day so he can rest.

We went to the rink, put on skates, and I looked for Coach M as I had been ordered. I asked Ice Dance Dad, who gave me a blank look. "I don't know her. Did you look on the small rink?" Am I the only one who cares about knowing the Coaches? I finally asked at the office, all the while watching Stitch for any sign of illness. Coach M finally appeared. "Oh, yeah, they're on the studio. Just go on in."

And with that lack of ceremony, Stitch barged his way into Gamma. The class was with Coach L, my least favorite of them all. Ugh. I watched, coffee in hand, ready to pounce in case Coach L did her "jerk the kids around" act again. Meanwhile, a mom and her son screamed at each other over hockey versus figure skates. "I already bought hockey skates! I don't care if you hate them, I am NOT buying new skates! Get back on the ice!"
"But mom, I can't do it!" he wailed.
"Get back in there! I don't care! You can skate in those or you can leave, that's your choice!"
This was punctuated with several episodes of her dragging him out of the rink while he screamed, and his little sister started screaming too, just to get in on the act.
Boys don't wear Figure Skates.

Stitch was doing more mohawks, or at least trying to. He was watching, attempting them as best he could, but I became more and more set that this was "Gamma Preview" and not the real deal. Towards the end of the class, I actually heard Coach L praise him, something I'd never heard before. Perhaps she got more personable as the kids got better, I don't know.

A mom pushed her stroller a little ways onto the ice, smiling at the toddler inside. "You want to go on the ice, honey? Okay, here we go!" I swear, these moms just take an inch at a time before they just run miles all over the place. The massive stroller fully blocked the ice door, so Screaming Match Mom and Kid were just further frustrated in their argument.

A Young Coach finally comes over. "Ma'am, you can't do that."
"I'm just trying to keep her from screaming," the mom says, using the notion of a screaming kid as a weapon to get her way.
"You can't have the stroller on the ice."
"It's just a little ways on."
"No. You can't."

Mom rolls her eyes and backs off, and Little Kid inside does not scream. Screaming Mom and Kid go on, so maybe we need to edge them in a stroller onto the ice.

Towards the end of the lesson, Stitch was getting the hang of Mohawks. He was smiling. He came off the ice, shivering. "How do you feel?"
"Okay. Can I have a dollar?"
"What for? You hungry?"
"Yes, I want a snack."

Hunger is good. He got a big honey bun from the vending machine and ate the whole thing while we watched the Freestyle class finish. I felt more confident about his quasi-illness. Maybe I hadn't screwed this up too bad.

He went on for Beta. Fewer big jumps, more ice scraping, and he was definitely slower than normal. But he skated well. Dad showed up and we talked about the various skaters; who had bad skates, who was dressed funny, the moms at the ice door like they can do anything from there, and so on. It was nice to have someone to talk to, and Stitch was really happy to have Dad there. He would look up at us from time to time, big smiles and proud of himself.

We hit Target after lessons, where I got a ton of new gloves on the cheap. They had packs of Stitch's favorite color combinations for $.70, so I stocked up. I also got thin black trouser socks for his skates, because apparently his feet are growing and we're out of that half-size of growth room in his skates. He ate a healthy amount in the cafe, was chipper and cheery, but I was still determined to keep him down for the rest of the day. My other rule on Fevers is: You must be 24 hours Fever Free before you are declared well.

We're on hour 20, and Stitch is barricaded in his bedroom, angry that I am not taking him to Chuck E Cheese as I promised last weekend. I said that I was in no way taking him to that germ-hole while his immune system was compromised. He gave me a dark look and stormed off. He's bored and restless and bound to start causing trouble any minute now. I have some sewing I can finish, and a night off will be nice, regardless of how much he hates me for it. He'll be going to bed early whether he likes it or not, and maybe I've managed to avert a potential disastrous interruption to the preparations for March.

Friday, February 11, 2011

And He Survived

Ice Show forms are out, the rules are up, and the skaters are whining about the theme but quibbling over solos. Last night, Rink Pal handed Stitch a form, and Stitch rolled his eyes. The prospect of skating while dressed as a sparkly policeman might be the only thing that gets Stitch in this show, but I can't promise that. For all I know, the Pre-Freestyle boys might be the ones getting "rescued" by some Gamma Girls, and that would be disastrous. Reality is, Stitch won't be doing any of his cool spins or high Bunny Hops for Home Rink until the Open Competition, not without Divine Intervention.

But at last ice show I was driven insane by the halation on the spots and the lack of visual interest on the ice surface, so I want to throw my hat in on the lighting efforts. It can look better, despite the arguments that they were out of power. Well, that's why the good lord made breakups, 90 degree lens tubes and split gels. And watching all these galas on IceNetwork, I figured out that all those spots have a light frost in them, which kills some of the halation and masks when the spot ops lose the skaters.

Anyway, I'll talk to the Volunteer Coordinator and Stitch. Ice Show is on the horizon at least. It's only three performances.

This morning went okay. For awhile I was afraid Stitch had a fever, as he was warm and sluggish. But he perked up a bit when Coach arrived. I warned her about the "might be sick, see what happens" situation, but the lesson was good. I watched from the windows, mostly bored. Then she showed him a mohawk turn, something I know only from Youtube, and I got excited. Something new!

They finished up, I gave Coach her birthday present (a package of pocket pack tissues) and we chatted briefly. Then she tells me to hang on a minute and she disappears. I get Stitch's skates off, give him some money for the vending machine and orders to get water this time. He goes off, and Coach comes back.

"Can you be here at ten?"
"Be here at ten. Find Coach M, and she will take him in the Gamma Class. After that, he can skate in his regular Beta Class. Okay?"
"Uh," My two Shoulder Ghosts are arguing.
"Don't move him up too fast! One thing at a time!" says the one with the halo.
The one with the horns pokes me in the neck with her fork. "Shit, yeah move up! Beta is Boring! And this will piss Lucy off!"

But he's still in the Beta Class, just heading over to Gamma for the four weeks left, so maybe we can think of this as a Gamma Preview. Yeah. "Okay, we'll be here at ten."

Stitch was upset. "But then I won't pass Beta," he says on the way to the car.
"No, you're still in Beta. You will still get your patch, I'll make sure of that." Damn straight. "Besides, now when Lucy says that she's a better skater since she's Gamma, you can say you're in Gamma, too."

Stitch liked this idea. Lucy's been lording the Gamma title over Stitch since December, and it's been annoying him.

So tomorrow we'll skip Practice Ice (As we got up so early this morning and as precaution in case Stitch is indeed working on some sickness bug), and do Gamma and Beta class. I'm really curious to see a group class session without a horde of Pre-Alpha bodies littering the ice.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Little Suffering..

Tomorrow is the earliest skating lesson yet. Coach and I were fretting over dates via phone, and she said that "if he doesn't have a problem with it, we can do morning."
"He won't have a problem with it," I said drily.

So I came home. "Stitch, we have a problem. Coach is taking a mini-vacation this weekend, so the only time you can see her is in the morning. Early. In the morning."
He glares at me. "What."
"That's what it is, and if you want to hit that goal of perfect program, then you'll be there. Get me?"
"So I have to skate before school?"
"But I'll be late for school!"
"No, you'll be early for school."
"That's even worse!"

Uh huh.

So, let's add this up. It will be:
Butt Crack of Dawn
Witch's Tit Cold

Which equals:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You, The Sherpa

When your kid was an infant, chances are really good that you carried a lot of crap. A quick rundown of the things I would carry would be; Baby in the Baby Bucket, Diaper Bag, Umbrella Stroller, Purse, One or Two Coats, and a Bag of Groceries (always out of something). That list changed over the years. I subtracted the Baby Bucket and Umbrella Stroller. Eventually we lost the Diaper Bag, first replaced by a bag of spare clothes and then it was a backpack with an assortment of Kid's Books and Preschool Homework. There was always a coat that someone wasn't wearing. He had a beverage or a snack that he wouldn't finish and so I carried it along for "later." But as the years went by, the list dwindled to Stitch's messenger bag and that ever present bag of groceries, because we're always out of something.

Then he started Skating.

I started out with good intentions: A Skate Bag. Just one, and it just has skates and gloves and the pass, maybe some change for the vending machine. And I had some noble vision that Stitch would carry Stitch's Skate Bag, since this is Stitch's undertaking.

How naive I was.

The skates fast needed guards and soakers, each in quick succession. (Why they can't make a product that is both in one, I can't figure out.) Then he started losing gloves, so I bought them en masse and collected them in the skate bag. Then he started needing Ice Coupons and Punch cards to work with Coach. Then he needed CD's. The Skate Bag grew unwieldy in its contents, with Stitch always dumping everything out to the wet and muddy floor whenever he needed the change for the vending machine, because that always fell to the very bottom underneath the loose plastic plate they put in there. And Stitch never carried it. When I forced it on him, he whined his indignation with pathetic displays of eye rolling, limping, and groaning because I was surely a slave driver. More often that not, I just carried it myself. When Winter came, we added Coats to the equation and my neatly organized world began falling apart into puddles of melted stink water.

The hard lesson came at our first competition, when I had the costume, Coats and Real Boy clothes and then trophies added into the mix. (One of which was a fragile glass affair.) Dad was accusing me of "taking up too much space", Stitch was rummaging around in any parcel he could see for no real reason other than to see what was in it, and the only things I was sure of the location on were the blade guards. I was grasping those in a cold sweat as I watched them eat popcorn, thinking "I swear, if they think any of that's coming home with us, there's a cold day in hell they're going to enjoy."

After that day I dug out my old college suitcase from the closet, and dubbed that the New Skate Bag. It has more room, and it has wheels. Of course, now Stitch fights me to get it, finding it immensely pleasing to drag around, through snow, mud, slush, puddles, down stairs and over grates where he can make a horrible racket, and he can threaten the toes of myself and younger skaters.

But it's still a chore. Stitch will still dump everything out of the Skate Bag if he can't find what he's looking for. He'll come whining to me that he can't find fifty cents so he can get cookies for the Zamboni Driver. (I have to admit, the ice is really clean when Stitch does this.) The CD should always be in the front pocket, but it ends up in the main pocket where the case has been torn to hell with toepicks. Coats and scarves and layers are a magic act of stuffing and zippers. And now we have wet shoes because of all the snow on the ground. Stitch never carries any of this because he's in a race to get on the ice, and it's me in the lobby doing a Jenga act trying to keep all our things together and not vomited all over an entire bench. No Zuca is going to magically save me from these things.

One evening, I was dragging the Skate Bag, toting my purse, draped with the coats, the Wet Shoes were pinched between my cold fingers, and I was thinking "Sisyphus had it better, he wasn't teetering in skates."

But then I thought, "Well, at least you don't have a costume this time. And we're out of eggs. Better stop at the store."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Two Questions

There are two questions that you, as a parent, will be asked every time you enter the rink.

1. How old is your child?
2. What level is your child?

I swear, I can time it. The minute I enter the rink, I start counting. I've never gotten past ten minutes before someone asks me these two questions, and always in that order. It's always the same Brand of parent asking, too. It's never from the mom struggling with rental skates and snowpants, it's always from the mom (or dad) with the kid in leggings and Jacksons and the kid "riding" on the Zuca bag in circles around us as we speak. Sometimes it's not the parent. Sometimes it's from the kids themselves.

You, as a New Skating Parent, need to be prepared for this phenomenon. If your kid is still in Pre-Alpha, be prepared for a condescending smile and some apropos comment about a journey, or an anecdote about their kid's lutz. Never mind that Backwards Swizzles are hard. I can do them, but I tend to get going too fast past my comfort level and try to stop by hitching up on my toepicks, at which point I do some windmilling action with some great sound effects before I barely stop myself from going face first on the ice. Stitch does them like it's his job now, but I won't ever forget those weeks when they were new. Skating is hard, and those offhand remarks about what that other kid is doing can make you feel dumb when you know that your kid is working hard on those damn crossovers and has the bruises to prove it.

I mean, what's the point of The Two Questions?

What is this, Starfleet? I've never seen a bunch of people more concerned and adamant about ranking since Chekov was in that alternate universe and got thrown in the Agony Booth for trying to off Captain Kirk. Never mind that Stitch is starting to land clean Waltz Jumps and spins like a demon, the moment I come out with "Beta," I get a sympathetic look down the nose and the ubiquitous, "Oh." And then they will usually state their kid's (or their own) ranking, at which point I don't know what I'm supposed to say.

I'm always torn between
A.) That's nice.
B.) Oh, okay.
C.) ALL HAIL CTHULHU!! **drool and wave arms stiffly**

I mean, what response is there?

I've even been lied to about Rank. Back when Stitch was a PA, a girl at Public Skate asked me The Two Questions, and I replied honestly. She then comes out with, "I'm Beta!"

"That's nice," was my bland reply. But I watched her do one foot glides and it was like Superman taking off with Lois Lane. She threw her hands up in the air (like she just didn't care), held her foot up for a second or two and plopped that baby right back down. She wasn't like any of the Beta's I'd ever seen.

Guess what? I see her now in the Alpha 1 class at Stitch's Saturday session. So, what was with the "I'm Beta," lie? Was it that important? Is there something I'm missing?

When I've been talking to new Skating Parents, I've been making it a point to not ask these questions. When I get asked them, I find myself uncomfortable. So, I don't do it to anyone else.

Maybe I need to get with the program and start asking. Maybe when I get asked myself, I can state Stitch's Name, Rank and USFSA Number and ISI Number, the cost of his Skates and hours of Private Coaching, followed by close-up photos of his trophies. "Oh yeah? Oh yeah?! Beat this, you Alpha mofo!" Then I can do a Victory dance on the benches. Would that be inappropriate?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First time for Everything

This afternoon I skated for awhile, but the days of snow shoveling and navigating icy sidewalks have taken a toll on my lower back so I broke off early. Just as well, I chatted with speedskating mom and watched Stitch do some high bunny hops and edgework. He does look for my nods if that was a good move or not. The speedskating team has a meet on the same day that Stitch competes next, so we'll book it back from the comp to watch our Speedskating friend do his thing.

I turned in time to see Stitch whale into a spin so fast he blurred. He drew back from it, blinked a bit as if thinking, "Did I just do that?"
He then caught my expression of "What the heck did you just do?" and he laughed. He tried it again a few times, but none were like that first one.

We came home and made a quesadilla dinner, watching the game, when Stitch marches out with his First Aid manual and says, "Mom, what is this?" He sits on the sofa and points to his foot.

There's a blister on his arch.

"When did that happen?" I ask.
"Uh, I think while skating."
"Well, congratulations! Your first skating blister! Does it hurt?"
"Only when you touch it like that!"
Okay, so I stop poking.
"So what do I do with it?" he asks.
"First off, don't pop it," I give him a quick rundown of what blisters are and their valid purpose in life. "Just put a band-aid on it and it will heal on it's own within a few days. You're off the ice at least until Wednesday, so that should be enough time. I'll stop by the store tomorrow and get some thinner socks for you. Looks like you're out of normal socks while in skates. Is that the foot you spin on?"
"No, but it's the one I land on."
"Okay." I don't really know what to do with this information, but it's something to tuck away.

Stitch is just looking at his foot.

"Hey," I try to encourage him. "When I was a backpacker, no one took you seriously until your feet were all torn up. And when I was canoeing, no one talked to you unless you had big strawberry bruises all up your thighs. Some injuries are good things."

Stitch still isn't convinced. Come to think of it, it does sound crazy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Skating Saturday

And I'm tired. We started out at 7:15 with Coach, arriving just barely on time because Stitch was dawdling in the snow. Ms. Valium was there, saying hi to me and how Gordon was upset at having to be at the rink so early. "But he was fine once he got on the ice," she smiled.

"Oh, I'm sure," I said, familiar with the phenomenon myself.

Gordon stormed out of the doors. "Can we just go now?"

Apparently he was not fine. Ms. Valium and I shrugged, and went our separate ways. Sometimes kids are just testy. I sent Stitch on in, dropped off the CD next to Coach's player, and went for a Diet Coke. (Concession stand not open and not in the mood for machine coffee.) I was playing fishbowl, listening to the Synchro team and their Coach go over their routine, enjoying the quiet, when I realized that PrepSchool wasn't there. He should be with Coach Olympia and that bunch. I watched them jump and spin, and realized that there was no way PrepSchool would have been able to keep up with that. Huh.

Then Stitch and Coach started doing Waltz Jumps. I was expecting another go-around of tries and weird landings, but the Stitch landed a nice one. And another nice one. And then he started overthinking it and got wonky, but two nice ones! Another Coach skated over and they were talking to Stitch, all smiles and pats on the head.

Coach came running out. "We need music."
"I left it by the CD player for you," I thought she'd seen me do that, but I guess not.
"Oh," she seemed pleasantly surprised anyway.
Stitch ran his program a few times, and then it was time to move on. Coach seemed pleased and her next student was waiting. The second Coach came to the door. "He's so good, very good!"

Honest fact: Whenever a Coach (or anyone) praises Stitch, I only listen to the first three words. The rest I tune out. If I get absorbed in the praise, it would be too easy for me to go to The Dark Side of being a Skate Parent. So, all I really listened to was "He's so good," and I said "thanks" quickly before scheduling next time with Coach. (That's another thing I like about Coach, she's sparse with the praise towards me.)

She then said Stitch could stay for another half hour, but Stitch said he wanted to go to Rink Across Town. This was fine by me, since it was what I had originally planned. So I had him leave his skates on and off we went. I dropped him off by the front door so I could park the car, and told him to please just go in and get started with forward stroking. Stitch went in, and when I got in myself, Stitch was in the rink like a good boy, forward stroking. I left him the list and the egg timer, and away we went with Practice Ice. Or rather, he went. He's getting really good at managing himself.

Another mom and I chatted before Stitch waved to me to count the revolutions of his spins. This is getting really hard for me, he spins faster now. Shhhh, sometimes I make up the numbers! I left him his coffee, and he took a break, and it was all a familiar and happy routine. He took a few falls, but was up without a problem. Nothing funny today... except when Stitch was doing edges and decided to liven things up by changing foot and/or edge by hopping. This scared the crap out of me, which he noticed and did more of while giggling. He then did hops while trying backwards one-foot glides, which again scared the crap out of me, so Practice Ice turned into Scare Mom Ice.

But he was still confusing edges on 3 turns. I hope it gels for him at some point.

We headed home for breakfast, and then it was off to what is always the liveliest part of my Saturday, Group Lessons.

Stitch took off for warm-up, and started jogging. I mean, high kneed jogging, scaring me to death and making the girls giggle as he passed by. He went backwards, he bunny hopped, he swizzled, he did all sorts of things, which was good since the Coaches really had no interest in assisting with the warm-ups at all.  They chatted amongst themselves, looked a clipboards, and only one of them was helping the fallers and stragglers. Urgh. The kids all separated into their classes having just done a glorified Public Skate.

Honestly, I'm going to miss this session. I have four weeks left of watching Pre-Alpha parents, half of whom are facemashed to the glass watching their Olympian take Learning Dives and the other half would rather be kicked by a mule than freezing in an ice rink watching their kid fall. Beside me was a Dad playing solitaire on his iPhone while his daughter looked up to see if he was watching her do one-foot glides. Above me was a mom screaming "Glide! Gliiiiide!" to her daughter, Purple Tutu, who was duckwalking.

I started thinking. Kids learning to skate I guess is a lot like Kids learning to walk. Think back to all those parenting "manuals" you read while immobile and eating everything in sight. They said that it takes about 1000 hours of practice for a kid to learn to walk. Read that again. 1000 hours. Practice. Walking. Taken in skating terms, at six hours a week (what Stitch averages out to) he'd still need about two years to learn to walk. So, think of it that way, and the progress being made in any given Pre-Alpha class is phenomenal. It's not just forward gliding, it's backward swizzling and balancing on this really thin blade. While they're learning to walk, babies make up all kinds of weird ways to get around, just because it works. Remember the funny cousin who scooched on his little butt for what felt like forever, and everyone said he'd never walk right because he never crawled "right?" Yeah. He walked eventually, and Purple Tutu will glide like a champ someday, provided her mom doesn't yell at her too much.

Anyway, I was freezing my ass off, shivering and cranky. I think I looked like it, as no one spoke to me. After class Stitch went to get some coffee and I went to settle business with Coach. She seemed a bit nervous as I approached, only smiling when she realized I was just paying her. It hit me then that I'd been scowling for the past hour. I hate being cold.

A real bonus to doing these competitions is that it's making this winter go by faster. I'm not concerned with the temperature, I'm now thinking of a day in March and those twenty-odd days now seem short. Who knew.

But we're finally home. Housework is done and we watched the Nationals Gala on TV. Stitch is now doing skating moves, and we're off for late skate tonight. I'm thinking of making cookies for the gang, as the blizzard was awful and knocked out half the spaces in the stupid lot. Parking battles merit cookies, IMO.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


jjane45 commented on my "Pre-Freestyle Hell" post, and it made me think. (I love being made to think, especially after shoveling snow.) My perspective is actually really limited.

What if he gets to Freestyle and nothing changes? What if I'm still fighting Zuca bags for a seat and still sitting alone during Practice Ice and thankful for it. My alternative is just witless conversation about how great some other kid is. What if the culture stays as closed off to me then as it is now? What then?

Is there a way to make the culture more open and inviting? How can we level out everyone's different perspectives so we get a clearer picture?

I belong to a PTA Online Group. Sometimes it's a lot of fun, like the time some mom wrote the principal and cc'd the group about how the kids shouldn't make holiday cards for the troops during a completely voluntary Saturday event, which triggered a massive flood of nast-e-mails countering her flimsy soapbox. That was awesome. But there's a lot of honestly good stuff on there. I know about all the after-school clubs, I download e-copies of the paperwork that Stitch loses,  and I get minutes from the meetings I miss. I'm familiar with the Middle School workings even though that's years off, and I have contact information for everyone who's anyone at the school.

Could we get something like that for the Skating School?

How wonderful would postings be requesting volunteers (with the pitiful "urgent" cry that tugs at me)?
Online shared calendars with Practice Ice Schedules for the various levels? How about color coding, red means "this session fills fast!", green being, "this ice is usually empty!"
Online documents? No more, "Rats, I spilled Diet Coke all over my Ice Show form! Now I have to drive back and get another one!"
Would contact information for coaches be a bad thing? (I can think of a few I'd like to Prank Call.....)
Notices for emergency situations via email?
Postings about skaters who do cool things?
Warnings when certain class levels are getting to capacity? (Call now to get your spot!)
A gear exchange? Skates? Costumes?
A *gasp* FAQ?

Could something like this serve to help out Newbie Parents, help them to feel included? You don't just show up for class once a week, you're in The Skating School!

Am I onto something or is this just crazy talk?

We Interrupt Your Skating Routine...

Yes, we got socked with the snow. We got it pretty bad. The streets are mostly impassable, piled high with crumbly, brittle snowpack. Cars are buried everywhere and the parking situation is tenable. If you have a space, hang into it for dear life until the plows clear the streets. So no car. If it were in the thirties, I would have advocated walking to the rink, but it's in the single digits. Nope.

Stitch approached me as I was making dinner. "Um, isn't there practice ice today?"
"Well, there was, but we missed it. You were playing outside and I thought you'd been cold enough for one day."
"Oh. What about public skate?"
"There's some tonight, but I don't want to move the car and it's too cold to walk."
"Oh. What about this weekend?"
"There's lots of ice this weekend. If we can make it, there's practice ice and lessons, and we can try to make all the public skates we can."
"Okay."  He spins off. Add that to him doing his Spiral Stretching while raiding the last of my vanilla wafers, and I'd say he was missing the rink.

Hopefully this winter blast will be one of the last and won't interfere with his practice schedule too much! Maybe I can appease him byt encouraging him to really work on his off-ice stretches more.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Moment of Rinkside Zen

Stitch doesn't want to go to Nationals. He wants to be on TV, and he wants to be Rink Guard.

He wants to be a Rink Guard, like, RIGHT NOW. Nothing lights up his day as much as when his Guard friends tell him to set out or pick up the cones. Whenever I look up at Public Skate and don't see him, he's usually in the lobby, skates dangling off the floor as he hangs off the office counter and begs for a Guard jacket. The Public Skating Manager can't wait to hire him, but there's at least five or six years before she can do that. "It's really sad when a seven year old can catch the folks with cameras faster than the twenty year olds," she sighs.

It's also sad that the Camera Hazards don't listen to the estute seven year old when he tells them it's dangerous. Just last week we had a cell phone fall and shatter into six pieces on the ice, every one of them a ticket to a broken limb or worse. The Go Anywheres don't listen to him either, as they traipse up onto the concrete, grinding off their edges and making me hate them just for that awful sound it makes. (Their resulting fallfest is Karma for my ear damage.)

They don't listen to him when he tells them not to linger near the Ice Door, which I've dubbed The Maul Zone. The Ice Door at public skate is crammed with parents filming the next Michelle Kwan, moms doing The Bird, boys in hockey skates upending themselves, blades flying everywhere, little girls in princess cotumes hanging onto the wall for dear life and Freestyle skaters just leaping through the throng without a thought to the stroller someone left just inches from the plexi. Yes, there's a baby in it.

They don't listen to him when he tells them not to cut through the middle, because that's for Practice. Is he practicing? No, he's too busy playing Rink Guard. But I don't mind. In fact, I think this is great.

If Stitch is picking up on my Service philosophy, that's fantastic. There's lots of ways he can earn his keep, and not all of them are a shade of green. If he wants to be a Rink Guard but is under the legal working age, let's talk about Work in exchange for Practice Ice. If he's a decent skater in coming years and can help Coach with her Tots, maybe they can work out a Coaching Exchange.

Me, I'm happy to throw myself where I'm needed. If I have something to do I'm less likely to whine and better than that, I'm not stuck listening to anecdotes about how wonderful Muffy is. I'm not really happy somewhere unless I'm being useful. So, sure, I'll pick up trash after a hockey game, let's talk ice coupons. I'll pitch in during Ice Show if it will make the Coaches keep an eye out for Stitch on Practice Ice.

It's not just material, though. I teared up last weekend as we were departing Public Skate. We passed one of the office staff ladies who is in a motorized wheelchair. I waved good night and walked on. Stitch didn't realize she was waiting for her bus, and he stopped. "Hang on a second," he says, running back to go hold open the door for her.

She laughed and explained that her bus wasn't there yet and it was too cold to wait outside, but thanks anyway. Stitch smiled and said good night.

"When we are in the habit of being peace, we naturally go in the way of service." So says Thich Naht Hahn. Be peaceful, Stitch. They'll listen to you someday, and I think the right people are listening now.