Saturday, February 26, 2011

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.


  1. Wow, what a day! Congrats on passing Beta. I totally sympathize with Stitch about the left outside 3 turns, they held me back for the last 6 months.

  2. Way to go, Stitch!! I always remembered the Beta test as the most difficult of the ISI basic skills. It was the T-stop on the "wrong" foot that got me.

  3. I'm telling you, I thought I was going to die. I think I hit every single red light on the North Shore. And it was snowing.

    It's his weak side that's going to nail him, because he just makes himself more and more lopsided by only practicing his good side. It's one of those learning things, "Practice what is hard."
    "But I don't like to do hard things."

    Boys. Yeesh.