Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Longest Journey

Begins with a single step. Trite but true, this saying often keeps me going through my hardest days and darkest nights. Step by step, moment by moment, one by one, the process happens and life in its entirety moves steadily forward.

This morning we arrived at the Rink to discover we were once again banished to the small ice. Mr V was complaining about the group of bigger skaters who were sharing the space and that this was a "wasted lesson." Ms V had the Rosetta Stone of a Practice Ice form and was asking me which clinics Gordon should take, but that she didn't want him skating more than twice a week because it was summer and Gordon needed time to be a Boy. I said I didn't know anything about the clinics at all and that our summer was officially shot to hell and back. (More on this later. Pretty bummed about it.)

I eventually migrated to Fab Skater's mom, who forewarned me about the mess that would be summer ice. "Every day there's a screaming match. Better reserve what spots you want now, and get it while the gettin's good."

Point taken. I completed my form and settled business in the office. Stitch should have ice for the first half of summer. How good it will be I can't know, but it's ice.

I moved into the rink for the last ten minutes, to watch and see what they were up to. Now alone on the rink, Coach and Stitch were working on the half flip. But instead of Stitch landing on his toepicks, she was getting him to land in a glide. And he was getting it. Small steps, one at a time.

After ten attempts, each one better than the last, she said they were going to do something new. I heard Lutz, and I bit my lip. Really?

Stitch got stepped through landing position, pick in, and up, land backwards on two feet. He got that a few times. "Okay," says Coach. "Now turn around in the air."

Stitch protests, but after a few tries, he's on the right path to a Half Lutz. I'm just watching. Time is running over, no one is caring, smaller children in the lower level class are arriving and all eyes are on Stitch. "Look at that little boy," says a dad. "Think you can do that someday?"
His daughter shakes her head no.

Yes, she will. If Stitch can, she can.

Another mom keeps her boy from going on the ice. "Not yet, honey. There's still a class going on."
"But why is he the only one, mommy?"
"Must be a private lesson," the mom frowns.

Once again, luck and chance paint Stitch and I as freespending weirdos. Really, these moments alone on the ice are rare as diamonds. Coach grills him on arm position. "You want to do triples? Quads? Hard to do when arms are not in position."

Stitch is half lutzing, stronger at first but then the skill fades as he tires. He's been at this for forty five minutes. Coach dismisses him and I greet him at the door. "Look at you, Patrick Chan! That was awesome!"

"We were just talking about Patrick Chan," says Coach. "See you tomorrow."

Yes, of course. Why were they talking about Patrick Chan?

Stitch and I walk to the store for a drink and snack, and to get out into the air. He's happy and bubbly, but says he was "terrible" at the new skills. They're new, I assure him. Keep working at it.

Later on, after group lessons, Other Kid approaches me. "Hi!"
"Hello, " I reply. "How are you today?"
"I think Stitch should practice his tricks more!"
"Tricks? What do you mean?"
"I'm practicing my Axel!" and he sets down his things and jumps into an "Axel" (I guess) but nearly lands on his face.
"Keep working on it," I just want to walk away, not wanting Other Kid and his Haxels ruining my happiness at today. Fortunately, Other Kid leaves, and Stitch comes out of the bathroom, having changed out of his skating clothes and into Real Boy clothes.

So it was a morning of me being That Mom, having That Kid, and now we're cleaning and back to reality. Tomorrow I start sewing another costume piece, and my business cards should arrive after Ice Show. If all luck holds, my pieces should start falling into place with Stitch's skills, one piece at a time.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I talk to People

I'm pretty friendly. I talk to whoever talks to me, and I like learning about people. Yesterday afternoon on the train I struck up a conversation with a former competitive skier. He's got eight kids and working on a collection of grandchildren. Really nice guy, beautiful family. We exchanged pictures and he asked me about Stitch.

"So, where would you rank him with other kids his age?"
"It's not really a fair comparison right now. He seems to have some talent for it, but some kids his age are ahead, some are behind. Some started earlier, some later."
"It might not be fair, but that's what you have to do. Keep watching where he is in relation to his peer group. Keep him two steps ahead."
"They all seem to learn differently," I said politely, thinking that skiing was a heck of a lot different than figure skating. (I could be wrong.) "Besides, he may love to perform and count his trophies, but he's just a kid."
"He's seven? Okay, seven. Watch him when he turns ten or eleven. That's when he will make the decision. That's when you will see a burning desire or you won't. In the meantime, push him and get him to learn the skills he needs. Give him the tools. When he decides, he's halfway there."
"True," I mused.
"Even if he doesn't decide to be competitive, he's learned a lot anyway," Man sips what smells like bourbon in a styrofoam cup. (We are all boozehounds on the afternoon commuter train.)
"And it's fun."
"Yes, it's fun. I skied until I was seventeen. Had a bad crash and said I was done."
"Don't blame you."

We wound up the conversation and I got off at my stop.

That was the first reasonable advice I'd received from anyone regarding Stitch's skating. No, "He's gonna go far" vague predictions, no "How soon will he be doing doubles" dares. No forecasting dates, no weird starry eyes from people not involved with words of, "I can say I knew him in Pre-Alpha!"

Just a straight up, "Push him to the skills, and see if he rises to meet them. Look for it around age ten."

Stitch turns eight in two months. I can't wait until he grows out of this negative phase that we've been in for the past year. My reading on children says that seven year olds are often pessimistic and moody. Boy howdy. The skating has helped tremendously, diverting him from his moods and giving him something to be happy about. Hate to say it, but he's happy about winning, and having the ability to win. In fact, I am anxious to begin a new Program. Stitch skates better with the incentive of "Trophy."

So, let's get planning for Round Four.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday Night Lights, Final Weeks

Last night I rushed home to get Stitch from lessons. (For all my Rink Friends: No, my Babysitter is not a Domestic Violence victim. Her husband is serving overseas, but her friend's car has no airbags and they had an accident. She's dinged up, but fine.)

I ran smack into Ms V, Other Mom and Coach talking at the Ice Door. I really had no interest in talking with the other moms, but Coach thanked me for running copies of the Practice Sheets for her other students. I said no problem and just let me know when it needs to be altered. I then relieved The Babysitter, offered her some parting Tylenol and sent her on her way. I stepped out into the lobby to talk with Rink Pal about what he wants to wear for Spring Show and everything went downhill from there.

Stitch came out for a quick hug and pants fixing (I hate that elastic for feet, never using it again) and back out he went. Rink Pal and I looked at drawings and made some decisions, and then we started talking. And talking. And talking. My beads languished in my bag, unfinished thread and all. (I'd say it's 65% done right now.) But we talked, slowly moving closer to the glass as I tried to see what was going on with the kids. I explained about by ban from watching, Rink Pal laughed at me and I stood on the benches to get a better view. Ballet jumps. Edges. Spins. The usual.

Eventually I creeped over and peered over the edge, while Ms V said that she hopes Gordon is "never like that, never wants me to watch him or hug him." Lady, your day is coming. Stitch caught me watching but did not give the Dismissal Hand Signal. I still didn't get to see much, as pretty soon all of us Parents were doing Parental Pantomime, mimicking and trying to figure the kid's moves.

If you've never caught a Parental Pantomime Act, you're missing out. All of us, with the exception of Other Girl's Mom, were doing spirals, hops, ballet moves, you name it. If we'd just had some French Mime outfits we could have sold tickets.

As a Parent, I tend to not realize I'm being ridiculous until it's too late. I'll start leaning from left to right, deeply, while Stitch is doing edges, like I'm using The Force to improve the element. Silly, isn't it? And yet you can't help yourself.

Stitch came off the ice, I made a quick appointment to talk to Coach about July, and we were done. Stitch and Gordon loitered at the Vending Machines, but unfortunately Stitch had spent just about all his allowance and a small Field Trip Bonus at the Nature Museum Trip the day prior. (Hard lessons about money. Sorry, kiddo!)

We came home and turned on Internets World Championships, Men's Short. We did our usual jabs at the costuming and such, but it hit me that Stitch is doing some of the same things these guys do. Stumbly first time tries, but it's the same concepts. Those Half Flips have the same basic concept as a Triple Flip, right? Just a few more times around?


Rink Pal told me that he felt sorry for me, volunteering for costume room duty the weekend before Ice Show. "Why?" I asked.
"Because the costumes never arrive on time!"
"Then it seems I picked one of the better gigs then, right? Nothing to do if the costumes aren't here."

See, this is how I see the breakdown of Figure Skating.

You can't negate that 25% Show Business. The Costumes will never be on time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Meanwhile, At the Vending Area

see more Rage Comics

(Edit: My International Readers might not get this one... Here in the US we still use mostly Paper Single Dollar Bills. Yes, it's silly, but all attempts to start using Dollar Coins have been met with resistance and suspicion. We can get them out of the vending machines, and it's really cool when we do. Yes, Stitch and I have pretended to be Pirates with ours.)

Skating Skills Currently on Vacation

So, remember me saying how some skills will be solid for awhile, to the point of you (the parent) thinking, "Oh wow, just a few more weeks of this and he's got it nailed forever!" and you're bursting with pride and anxious to post your kid to YouTube so all the other wannabe parents will be pea-green with envy? And then the next day that skill is gone-o?

Guess what skill is gone? Just guess. You'll die laughing. I would be, were it not my kid. Go on.



Yes. The Spiral is gone. Where once I saw my little boy raise his foot to the level of his hip and hold it, grinning at competition judges like he owned the universe, now I'm lucky to see that free foot go above the level of the skating leg's knee. Spiral? Hardly. THAT is a glorified one foot glide. Even Coach had to concede defeat on Saturday's lesson; after much fussing and fighting she finally gave up, saying, "Well, at least you stayed on the blue line."

I didn't have much luck either on Saturday Night ice, with Stitch just breezing through it and not even bothering to lower his shoulders even a little bit. "What is that?" I kept saying, with Stitch insisting that he was doing spirals, I just wasn't paying attention. Risking the appearance of being THAT MOM, I continued to badger him. No use. No spiral.

Tonight I came home, relieved The Babysitter and asked how Stitch had been. Stitch comes running out and starts doing spirals against the sofa. I frown. "Skating tomorrow?" she asks.

"Yes, and you won't need a coupon," I reply, as Stitch is bemoaning me as the worst taskmaster ever. I tell him to get his unfinished homework and bring it to the table. During dinner he tells me that he is good at spelling because he doesn't practice, and good at math for the same reason. I drill him on some things and he misspells "pencil." We won't go into math.

So yes, skating tomorrow. Despite Stitch's insistence that he is a competent speller, mathematician, reader and skater without needing to practice, I will continue to be Mommie Meaniehead and make him practice these things. Perhaps soon we can coax the Spiral to come back from the Bahamas.

Also, I heard some crazy rumor that Other Kid is in Axel Workshop. I had to leave the ice for laughing, followed closely by genuine concern. I would kill for a verification of this fact, and pay real money for video evidence.

Oh, Mr. Paulsen with your wacky skates... say it isn't so!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

What do volunteers do?

I got yet another request for help with the spring show, this time trying to outline just what you will be doing as a volunteer. I haven't followed her link yet, I probably should as I have every intention of being there. It just boggles me that people will be involved in the skating program to some degree and yet not give their time to help out with the shows. That's supposed to be a big bonus, right? Being in the show?

In any organization like this, parent volunteers end up being a critical players. Shunned, ignored, largely muted and thankless players, but players nonetheless. If you decide to volunteer, (which you should) do not expect a plaque or party afterwards. Just take comfort and pride in the fact you did your good deed for the year and smile. Just show up, offer to help, and go in the direction you're pointed.

What you will NOT do is; Be in Charge to any Degree. Sorry, someone else has that role, for better or for worse, and even if you vehemently disagree, you just have to smile and grit your teeth. Choreograph anything. Sorry. As a parent you are inherently biased to your own, so you cannot provide an objective and fair eye that will give every child a moment. (Read my endless whining about Winter Show for an example.)  You will not decide on costumes, music, lighting, effects, blocking, rehearsal times, who is coaching your kid, and how your kid performs. Any and all interference from you will be sniffed out and negated. (We had an angel at one point who told us her mom had given her orders to upstage Gabriel. Considering this kid was twice the size of the other angels, we nixed that and warned off mom. For 42nd Street another kid was told by mom to "just go to the center" and ignore the blocking. Faced with the threat of being kicked from the show, kid wisely ignored mom.) Just go with the flow, smile, help out and have some wine when it's done. It's okay. (Repeat this endlessly.)

During Winter Show, I noticed that there were two places where volunteers were missing yet needed the most. One big spot was ID Checker. The other was in the Dressing Rooms. I found myself wanting a stunt double just to help out in there, even though the sight of a dodgeball now puts my eye in a twitch. Beyond the high profile costuming job, the up-top-and-out-of-the-way perch of spotlight, the smiling ticket taker and usher, the "get it done early" gig of painting the sets, there is the rock bottom, down and dirty work of Dressing Room Monitor and ID Checker at the entries to the Dressing Rooms.

Folks, these jobs are critical. Beyond critical. They are vital to the safety and well-being of the reason the show is happening at all; the performers. The kids.

When I was in the dressing room, there were two kinds of parents. The first kind were the ones who loitered in the rooms for no other visible reason than to ensure that their own children were safe from the common rabble. Nutso (remember her?) was chronic at this. When she arrived, she expected her children's costumes laid out and ready, their marked spaces clean. During the show she sat with her own kids and only a few times spoke to other children, usually to warn them away from her own, lest her children mess up their costumes or makeup. At the end of the evening, she departed in a flurry of Coke cans and candy wrappers, leaving her kid's costumes in a pile. Another set of parents brought pizza for their own crew, so the other kids circled them like a pack of wolves at bay. This was just cruel, and of course they left pizza mess in their wake. Of course, the alternative to Nutso and other HawkMoms was the Parental Disappearing Act, where parents would arrive, dump their kids with a bag of snacks and/or stuff and leave the monitor with a kid who has no idea how to tie a shoe, much less a skate.

Dressing Room Monitors need to be aware of just how important they are. They need to be called before the performers, handed a sewing kit, basic first aid pack, pack of tissues, an intimidating ID badge and a flask of Jameson. Dressing Room monitors will be putting little uncoordinated kids in sometimes difficult costumes, often with the "help" of mom, grandma, Coach and possibly a sibling. The child may or may not be crying. They will be resewing buttons, maribou and sequins. They will be applying and tying skates and making sure blade guards are labeled and kept up with. When the blade guards get lost, they will be drying tears and consoling parents about the irreplaceable loss. (Sarcasm.) They will keep kids occupied, safe and contained while the kids wait to go on. (I brought a bunch of games.) They will be listening for the call of Coaches, lining up the kids, and wishing kids well as they go to perform. When the kids come back, they will be checking costumes and kids for damage and reapplying blade guards. At the end of the evening, they will help kids and parents put away costumes; this means back in the dress bag and re-hung or laid over the assigned chair. (Stress to children the importance of neatness and order.) Pick up trash and toys, reorganize the room for the next sucker the following night, and go home to a drink. This is important work, no joke. A bad dressing room experience can sour a family forever on a show. 

The other critical role that I saw ignored was ID Checker at Dressing Room doors. I was never asked for my ID badge. Never. This kind of frightened me, because if I was getting through to where the kids were being stashed, who else was? Don't assume that just because it's a family rink and we all tend to know each other, that everything is safe. While I was running spot I saw two folks who were "sketchy" in my book; Alone, never seen them before, kinda funny looking and didn't speak to anyone. Had they been taking pictures, I would have politely asked which kids were theirs, ya know? If I could breeze by the ID Checker talking on her cell phone, could they? Yes, I know Gramma, Grandpa, Auntie June, Uncle Ernie, Brother James and Sister Jane all want to go see Muffy in the dressing room to bring her flowers. But Muffy is sharing a dressing area with dozens of other little girls who will collectively freak out if they are seen in their panties, and we don't want that. Have all the relations wait in the lobby so Muffy can come to them for flowers. It just works better that way. I don't care if Grampa is loudly threatening to call his lawyer, for the sake of the other children, don't let him pass! (Besides. it's a bit of a power trip!)

What if Muffy tries to leave the Dressing Area on her own, without an adult? Ah, then it's you, Trusty ID Checker to turn her right around and send her back. I don't care how much she whines that she has a dollar for a candy bar or hates the taste of the water fountain in that other hallway, send her froufy little butt back in there! When mom comes looking frantically for Muffy with an Angry Dad and Frazzled Coach, you can easily point to her dressing area and rest easy. Another child, safe and sound for another performance.

With the number of kids in that show, I would imagine that every parent could volunteer only once and there would be an overflow of free labor. But the emails are telling me otherwise. I was a Scout, so volunteering has been beaten into my brain pretty much from day one. I can't sit next to a candy wrapper for more than five minutes before I get the urge to throw it away. Yes, it's dirty and gross. Someone else left it there, and I'm sure he's a jerk. No one may notice at all and I may not get a thank you, but I left the rink that much better than how I found it and that's a good day.

Sign up. At the very least, you'll come away with a hella good story. Just ask me about the time that kid spit on the floor.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I got to Watch!

I show up early on Saturdays, because sometimes we luck out. Today was just such a day. Lessons on the Big Ice plus an additional 15 minutes because Gordon copped out and Ms V neglected to call Coach. Whoops!

Oh well. I shipped off Stitch and chatted with Fab Skater's mom who was Ice Monitor that morning. I explained about not being able to watch, and she suggested I grab a book from the stand and "pretend to read." Ah ha! So I perused the titles, knowing full well I wasn't going to be doing any reading. (I forgot my beads, boo. Two hours wasted.)

There were many good titles fit for a skating mom at the Rink:

"Silent Assassin"
"Prepare for Rage"
"American Psycho"

I chose "Total Control" and headed in.

Stitch saw right through my subterfuge, giving me wry looks as he flubbed through Spirals. Coach kept him working on the basics, not bothering with jumps today. This is fine. He needs to get a solid practice routine going, and this is what I asked for. We can try again tonight on public ice. I talked with Mini Fabulous' mom for awhile, she seems pretty nice.
"Your daughter is way cool, I love to watch her."
"Oh," says Mini Fab's mom. "She makes so many mistakes, sometimes I just turn away."
Wow, really? I never notice any mistakes this kid makes.

He got a full forty five minutes before the next girl, whom I will call Mistress Awesome, arrived. Stitch wanted to go get some breakfast and his allowance from Walgreen's (I gave him oatmeal before we left but apparently this is not enough.) So we walked over to the store.

Back at the rink, he had his muffin and milk, I had a diet coke and we watched the Power class do some relay games. It was really fun; for one of them they had four groups, evenly numbered. One skater races to the end and back, grabs another skater. Two skaters race to the end and back, grab another skater. Three, four, five, then six skaters race to the end and back. Even Stitch was cheering. But when the rink goes from loud cheers to dead silence in a second flat, something is wrong. Someone fell, and tears aren't normal for this class. She was okay, just needed a moment to compose herself, and the races went on while she rested. Surprisingly, Other Kid didn't kill himself, but he was markedly slower and nearly did an incredible flying backwards dive.

It's really starting to bug me, especially when I watch that kid do a Spiral or a Spin. It's just non-existent. Why hasn't someone noticed? Why is he here? Whatever.

It was nice to watch. In lessons, you hit high points where there seems to be something new learned and picked up every ten minutes, and then there are lulls where they do nothing new at all and even the basics seem difficult and tiring. Stitch is in a lull at the moment. But it's a good lull, he's comfortable even though he's complaining every step of the way. After every bitch session, he looks at me as though to ask what I plan on doing about it. Keep skating, you're good at it, is my only reply. (And the alternative is Mario Brothers. Nope.)

We're off again tonight and holiday tomorrow. While I'm not really religious, we did dye eggs. You have to dye eggs. And eat jellybeans.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday Night Lights

Stitch has effectively barred me from watching lessons.

The only time I get to watch is when he's on the big ice, and that's because it's just less chaotic to sit in the rink. The lobby often smells like feet and old sandwiches, so I prefer the rink despite the temperature. Last night I arrived in time to see a very nice set of shoot the ducks (getting better) and to fix his pants. The foot strap boggles the babysitter. Whatever.

I shipped him off to the small ice and went to beading.

At one point, my curiousity got the better of me and I tried to look in. I lowered myself under the windows and peeked in, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was happening. A mom was looking at me funny, so I explained. "He says I can't watch."
"Oh. Is yours the one with the headband?"
"Yeah." (Stitch adores his USFS ear warmer.)
"He's adorable. Gonna break hearts someday."
"Thanks. Wht's he doing now?"
"Uh, spinning."
"Oh. Thanks."
Stitch saw me and began gesturing angrily for me to get lost. I went back to my seat.

Other than that, it was quiet and nice. I got a lot done, looking up to see Gordon and the other kids coming out. Stitch was still on the ice, badgering Coach about something. And bouncing. Coach was nodding and gathering her things, and Stitch came right to me, happy and bubbly.

My slow process to get Stitch to put on and take off his own skates has hit a wall with the actual lacing process, so all I do now is tie and untie. "Okay, Stitch. Get your shoes on and cross your fingers."
"Because the LOW FUEL light is on in the car and I might have to push us to the gas station."
Stitch was playfully terrified of this idea, and of the Knee Pad Secret. "I fell, and it didn't hurt at all!"
"That's good, so they're working."
"Did you ask Coach about your Gamma Delta patches?"
"And? What did she say?"

Hm. Coming from Stitch, this doesn't mean much. He doesn't remember what he had for lunch on any given day."Well, okay. But I'll ask her when we can schedule a Gamma test, and maybe even do Delta at the same time."

The car did not run out of gas, and Stitch likes to help with the fueling up process. This is fine on summer days, but in spring, fall and winter when it's cold, I could die waiting for Stitch's small hands to grasp the gas nozzle tight enough to quickly fuel the car. We traded off for expediency's sake and headed home.

Stitch is off on Friday, so I told Dad to take him to the rink and try The New List. Dad says he skates enough and wasn't thrilled with this idea. Whatever, the list is better done on the Big Rink, it's a holiday so it may be really sparse, and Sunday is a holiday so no ice at all. Hopefully they will go.

Does Stitch skate enough? There are a lot of people who will say No. Emphatically, no. Am I crossing a line? Who knows. All I know is Stitch likes skating, he's pretty determined about this stuff, and he's owning it more and more. These are all good things, working towards achievement and self esteem. Meaniehead classmate may boast that he is eight and Stitch is only seven, but Meaniehead classmate can't spin. Stitch knows this, and I think it gives him some strength.

For better or worse, Skating is a big part of our lives now, and I'm not sure how it happened. In my efforts to figure it out, I made a graph.

It didn't help.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Safety at the Rink

I like kids, and I worry about them. Even kids I don't really like or kids I don't know. If there's a tot on the playground climbing precariously high near me, I'm the one who puts a hand on her back to catch her if she falls. I've never had a parent complain. I offer band aids and neosporin to falls and liberally dispense hugs to kids who will take them. I don't like to see kids hurt. 

Ice Skating is kinda dangerous. I know a Coach who says that it isn't a figure skating lesson until someone cries. (I say the same thing about birthday parties for the under 5 set.) It's a hard truth. No little kid is going to strap blades on their feet and go traipsing out onto ice and come out unscathed after ten weeks. I remember carrying one of Lady Cluck's daughters off the ice, bloody and crying after landing wrong on a loose tooth. Stitch has had more than his fair share of wallops and bruises. No Pre-Free Group Session went without an injury of some kind, it was just up to the coaches to determine what was serious and what wasn't. Most of the time, the knocks and dings aren't too bad.

Parents do their best to limit the damage; tots are in helmets, I've been hiding knee pads under Stitch's skating pants, bigger skaters have the super big hip pads under their tights. Toepicks become the worst enemy of any little kid, especially parents who have made the grave mistake of buying too much skate for their low level skater. Shit happens. But we can't tell the kids that, so we brush them off, dry the tears, inspect the damage, tell them they're okay and ship them back out. They toughen up eventually. It's not much worse than lacrosse, right?

Last week I was watching Other Kid in his new skates, and while I was amused, the thought hit me, "this kid is going to kill himself." He's in a class doing things he really can't do, with people who do it much better than he can, and while I give him props for trying, someday something is going to get really ugly. Watching him twist himself on his "toe loop" is like Evil Knievel. I'm worried.

But who can I tell? His mom doesn't watch his lessons anymore, nor does she sit in when he's on public skate. If I go to her, I'm Jealous Jill because Other Kid got bumped up. If I go to his Coach, I'm Wacko Skate Mom and Jealous Jill. If I say anything to Other Kid, he's going to tell me about his Toe Loop again and I may spontaneously bleed out my ears.

I really wish his mom would stay and watch her son on the Power and Flow class. Then she might see that he's outclassed, and she might do something. Then again, she might not. In the meantime, I'm going to sit and worry and have a splint kit in my purse, just in case.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Today I was in Full On Suburban Mom Mode. First stop, groceries. Then, Ice Show practice. Next, lunch and library. Further, Play Date Dropoff. Last stop, Rink again. I set up shop in the lobby with my beads and my computer, where I waited for Stitch and Lucy to arrive, and Coach to tell me what Stitch needed to practice.

Before long, my good friend Lady Cluck and her two daughters arrived, another of Stitch's classmates arrived with a birthday party, Fab Skater's mom sat down with us and we all chatted about the merits of hip flasks. After the first hour, Stitch and Lucy arrived from their playdate, we put skates on them and all five kids were on the ice. Lady Cluck and I stayed in the lobby where we talked and righted the kids as they came off the ice periodically to beg for candy and snacks and soda, and to whine about their non-injuries.

Coach arrived and told me she would talk to me after Public was done. That's fine. Lady Cluck agreed to take the kids to the playground while Coach and I talked, as I had to take Lucy home afterwards. Everything was going fine until Public ended and the kids came barreling out of the rink, all of them needing help with de-skating. Stitch had that look where he appeared to be close to tears. I knew what had happened but I let it go for lack of time. We could talk later. Lady Cluck and I worked as fast as we could, but Coach was faster so I had to pry off Stitch's skates and leave Lucy to her own blade drying. I threw three dollars at them for snacks and went to talk with Coach.

Lucy appeared just as Coach was going into detail about proper extension. "I NEED A NAPKIN!"
"GO TO THE COUNTER." I pointed.

Three seconds later she tossed her dirty napkin and empty candy wrapper at me, left her Zuca by our table and I was mortified. If Coach noticed, she didn't say anything. Stitch has better manners.

Coach talked me through a large and thorough list of Stuff Stitch must do on the ice. Stroking, crossovers, spirals, spinning, waltz jumping, etc. All stuff I tell him to do, but it hasn't been on a List so he's been getting confused. Now that I have something hard and defined, it should be easier.

I went to the playground, Lady Cluck and I ate cookies and watched the kids play, and slowly rounded them up to take them home. Lucy didn't seem to mind the fact I was driving The Beater that day, only commenting on the mess in the back. "It's my dad's car," Stitch explained. I dropped her off, setting her Zuca on the curb for her and wishing her a good evening. She turned on her heel and walked to her door, leaving her Zuca for me.
"Ahem," I said pointedly.
Lucy rolled her eyes and came back for her Zuca.

On the way home, I asked Stitch why he had been so upset.
"Because Coach grabbed me and wasted all my time to play with my friends."
Yup. "You played with your friends on the playground. You play with your friends every day at school. Ice time is precious, and time with Coach is even more precious. If she's giving time to you, that's pure gold. Don't complain about that, ever. Understand?"
"Yes." But it was a mad yes.
"You want to compete? You want medals and trophies?"
"Then you get them by practicing and doing what Coach tells you. You know that. I won't enter you in competitions if I don't think you have a shot at winning."
"But you signed me up for the July Open, right?"
"That paperwork isn't out. And again, I won't enter you if I don't think you'll have a chance at winning."

We got home and made dinner. I sat down and prettied up The New List. It's long and kind of intimidating. But doable. Stitch and I went outside and I explained things. "You need to do this every time you get on the ice. I will talk to your guard friends and explain that you have to practice first, so they leave you alone, okay?"
Stitch is looking at it.
"Coach says you need to jump higher on Waltz jumps. Also you're not flexible enough, and you need to really work on Shoot the Duck."
"I hate shoot the duck."
"You can't do sit spins without shoot the duck. Right?"
"So let's come out here at night and do some stretching on days you don't skate. Okay?"

Stitch set his lip. He took a Twizzler and pretended to smoke, studying The New List. Then he jumped rope, did spiral stretches, shoot the duck, waltz jumps, then asked me what was next.
"I don't know. I think we're done."
"No, that was only four things. There has to be more."
"I don't think so."
"I'm not giving up, " he says.
"On what?"
"On these twizzlers, or on this list."
"Well, that's good. But we can do more tomorrow."
"I want that gold medal."
"What gold medal?"
"The one with my name on it."
"In which competition? Do you even know?" I'm fearing the answer.
"The one in 2013," he says like I'm stupid.
"Oh. Well, that's a solid goal then. Do I have permission to be pushy on you to get it?"
"You already pushed me over on Shoot the Duck."
It's true, I did. "Yeah. So can I?"
"You don't have a license."
"I'll make one. 2013, huh?"
"Well, okay."

2013 it is.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"They're Freestyle Skates! For Freestyle!"

Last night Stitch and I headed out for Public. He skated, I did beadwork and chatted with Rink Pal. You know me, always talking. I coerced Stitch into some practicing, and while I seem to have reached a marginal impasse with the newer moves, it remains hard to have him actually do something useful. (More on this later.)

All the sudden, Rink Pal comes strolling in and says, "Other Kid got new skates."

"Finally," I threw up my hands. This poor kid has been in Moonboots since I first met him. My first thought is, how awesomely awful is this gonna be?

Sure enough, here comes Other Kid, all straight legs and arms and new skates. "I HAVE NEW SKATES," he proclaims.
"I see that, what kind are they?"
"They are Freestyle skates! Because I'm in Freestyle!"
"Yes, but what brand are they?" I'm asking because I may be in the market for new skates soon.
"They're Freestyle!" and he goes on the ice.

His mom comes in. "He has new skates!" she says.
"Yes, he showed me. He should take it easy while he adjusts to them."
"They are Freestyle Skates. His coach told us that if he doesn't have better skates, he won't pass."
Well, I can think of a million other reasons why he won't pass, and his skates have little to do with any of them. "Hopefully these will work out better."
"The toepick is bigger."
"Yes, that makes sense."
"They are Freestyle skates."
"Jackson Freestyle?"
"Oh, I don't know. They are for Freestyle skating."

Let's just say it one last time;

Okay, now that we have repeatedly established that Other Kid is in The Level That Shall Not Be Named, I settle in to watch. The results are predictably disastrous. If other kid was unsteady on his Moonboots, imagine the new physics involved with a longer, wider blade and a serious change in foot support. (When Stitch got his Reidells there was a period of about a week before he adjusted to the different blade and pick. Lots of tripping.)

Other Kid should have spent his time just stroking and swizzling around, forward and back. Instead, he was center ice, trying all his jumps and spins. Words cannot describe the sight. Rink Pal and I watched at the door, as I wanted to bring Stitch in soon to take him home. We stroked our chins and talked quietly about the sight before us. He revealed some ugly Rink Rumors about coaches and kids being pulled from them, about kids being pushed too fast, and kids who could jump but couldn't do basics. I expressed my concern of Stitch being subjected to a similar fate, but his love of competing would be my insurance policy. "He can't compete without testing, so he's got to test out."
"It's a good plan, but he's a pretty good skater."
"Let's keep it that way."

Other Kid came off the ice and sat next to me for awhile. "I can do a Toe Loop!"
"I know, you told me last week."
Then he tells me what a Toe Loop is. Again. I bit my lip and patiently listened, wondering just what was going on with this kid.

This morning we reported to the Rink for Privates, which was on the big ice thanks to the closing of the Synchro season. Stitch and Gordon skated around, I beaded some more and listened to Mr V badger Fab Skater's mom about how the onset of puberty in girls affects their skating.
"Things we won't have to worry about, eh?" I try to be funny.
Mr V looks me up and down. "But you have to worry about it."
"I did the puberty thing years ago, and I didn't skate. I was referring to the boys."
"Oh. Right," my joke falls flat.

Privates finish up, so Stitch and I sit up in the rafters, eat the breakfast I brought and watch the Flow and Moves or whatever class again. We watch Other Kid nail the wall again while making plans for camping trips this summer. I tell Stitch he's going to have his own backpack this year because I'm done carrying his things. This gets him excited and we talk about identification of poisonous snakes and spiders for awhile.

"I don't think Other Kid will pass," says Stitch, looking down as Other Kid flops around.
"I dunno."
"Hooray, you swizzled, you pass," Stitch says cynically.

Now, I try not to express my frustration around Stitch. I don't badmouth other Coaches or staff. I don't complain about the leaky rink, the broken seats, the holes in the ice, the dirty bathrooms, or the strange lack of skating ability in some high level kids. But I know he sees it. This moment of just how much he sees kind of stunned me.

"It'll be okay," I assure him, and put his skates back on him.

Earlier that day, Ms V has asked me how to get the patches that Stitch wears so proudly. I tell her she has to ask Mysteria, and she can do that anytime.
"Is she hard?" Ms V asks.
"Yes, she's very strict about the standards. She barely passed Stitch on Beta."
"Oh. I don't think Gordon should do the tests then. He won't pass."
"You have to test before you can compete."
"We tried to do that before his first competition, but it didn't work out. We couldn't stay for the test, so he was never tested."
I think; Gordon's first ISI comp was at Alpha! So, he's never been tested, period! This is dangerous information, isn't it? "I plan on having Stitch tested for Gamma and Delta in midsummer, before the July Open." (This way the timing looks more accurate, after the Pre-freestyle session ends.)
Ms V suddenly looks sad. "I think we'll wait."
I suddenly feel a glimmer of vindication, something that might evolve into Victory someday soon.

Coach pressed for advancement, and that's fine. Stitch is doing pretty good in Pre-Free. Tomorrow Coach and I are going to sit down and work out a Practice Routine for Stitch, and I can let her know about Stitch's plans for two events in July. And how I want to be sure he's good for Mysteria's stringent tests before then. Again, Stitch wants ALL THE PATCHES. So, let's help him get them. We'll have a Freestyle 1 Patch soon enough and that trumps Freestyle Skates any day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Today in Raising Homos

A recent J Crew Advertisement has recently featured a mother playfully painting her son's toenails pink.


Apparently this small act of mom/son playful weirdness is enough to turn your son from his Tonka Trucks, BB Guns and a major in Criminal Justice to a life of *special* piracy, high heels and dubious careers on the Vegas Stage. The Conservative Media Research Center is sure to warn all us "indulgent" moms that this behavior could make life "hard" for our sons in the future. While they do not specify exactly what this hardship will be, it isn't hard to spot the thinly veiled threat of harassment, bigotry, and hatred behind the statement. Yes, Pink Toenail polish on your boy is a direct affront to Masculinity as a Whole and you'd better not "indulge," mom. Otherwise we'll make life hard on your son.

The MRC goes on to state that "Propaganda pushing the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls is a growing trend, seeping into mainstream culture. NBC's Today show on January 3 featured a segment on the 'Princess Boy' in which five-year-old Dyson Kilodavis was seen twirling in pink ballerina tutu, much to the delight of his mother Cheryl and host Meredith Vieira."

Perhaps the good white heteronormative men of the MRC haven't walked down the Boy's Toys aisle at Toys R Us lately. Had they done so, they would see the gratifying glorification of violence, sexual objectification of women, and clear lines of demarcation stating what is Boy and what is Not. Action figures of men in crazed expressions ready to kill their enemies are plied to children as young as three, and the true "mainstream culture" sees no problem with this. They haven't been to the bookstore, either, where books for boys are little more than glorified comics featuring poop and fart jokes and very little substance. (Because "studying" is for girls.) They haven't been to the movies, watched the cartoons, or even munched the "action packed" breakfast cereals marketed to the non-pink-toenail-polish wearing "normal" male youths of today. Nor have they witnessed the disturbing female counterpart to this hyper-male picture. Maybe boys aren't "gender confused," maybe the mainline image of what a boy "ought" to be is just stupid.

What gets more disturbing is when you read the comments following any internets article regarding this tempest in a teapot. Reader after reader helpfully comments that their son enjoyed tutus/high heels/pink crap and they turned out "just fine."

"Just fine?" Is this some notion that any other outcome wasn't "just fine?"

What does this have to do with figure skating? At least once a week I will hear some mom or dad decry the application of figure skates to their son's feet. "It's only until you get the basics," or "We'll switch you to real skates soon," or "You will skate in hockey skates or we will leave!"

Yes. You will conform to what is normal, or you won't skate at all.

I caught this J Crew nonsense yesterday, same day as when I caught an article penned by Junior Nats competitor Brian Benton, who caught serious Flak for wearing his "skaters only" souvenir tee shirt from the competition to school. His classmates mocked him. Seriously. WTF. He wrote the article for his school paper, telling his ig'nant bullies exactly what goes into getting a shirt like that. Again, Hockey Boys and Dads, I remind you of who skates in full body padding and who does not. Swarovski may be pretty, but it offers scant little protection from those full-on slams into the ice. Skate on, Brian. Skate on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gender Stereotypes and Advertising

This great pair of graphics is making its way around the interwebs, but for a parent it's not really shocking. We see this every day on crap kid's cartoons. Click the images for the full scale versions.

These are the words used most commonly in toys for Boys.

Wordle: Words Used to Advertise Boys' Toys

No wonder they don't stick with Figure Skating. As much as I'd love to see a Johnny/Evan one on one matchup with whips and on-ice obstacles a-la Flash Gordon when he's fighting Prince Barin, I just don't see that happening.

Aaaand here are the words used most commonly for girls.

Wordle: Words Used in Advertising for Girls' Toys

"Babies?" Really? Also note the word "perfect."

Yes, ladies, if you're not careful this will be your life. First they feed it to you, then you get to clean it up.

Gotta love Genderriffic Consumer Culture!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ice Time

Yesterday, Stitch was the only kid to show up for Boy's Ice Show rehearsal. The only one. Even the Coach was looking at me like I was insane. "Shouldn't you just go??" seemed to be the undercurrent of the afternoon. Nope. Not going anywhere, thank you. If those other kids can't be bothered to show up, then I will gladly take a half hour of private time on the big rink with a free coach, which is about a $200 value. Yessir, I think we'll stay!

Doubtless Free Coach can't and won't do much, but he did pace Stitch through some crossovers and spirals and shoot the ducks. Hey, that's enough for me, and with Coach out of town I won't tell if you won't. I parked my butt on the bench and stayed. Another Coach was looking at me sideways, perhaps also wondering what the heck was going on, but I've earned my lessons. Ice Time is Precious Time.

Towards the end of a group lesson, the next group will start showing up, hanging off the door and waiting. Skaters on the ice and Moms with skaters not yet on the ice are all watching the clock. Watch them dart glances at it every few seconds, cramming in one more jump, one more spin. When that clock is wrong, people know it. Everyone wants their every second. When the time starts ticking past time, Moms will start pacing, and skaters dragging their asses better watch out. Get your tissues, get your guards and get out. It's my time now!

It's worse when there's a coach involved. Then the timer starts running. I have felt the angry vibrations of a mom timing a Group Coach talking on and on and on and on while the students stand still. I've timed one of them myself, and she clocked in at ten minutes of yammering before students started moving. I almost pulled him from that class. Coaches, moms don't have much time for on-ice blather.

If it's a private lesson, then the claws are out before the lesson even starts. I show up fifteen minutes before Stitch's start time, and I have him ready to go on the bench just outside the ice door, waiting. Currently I am hating our lesson time slot because it overlaps with a high level group who unapologetically take up the majority of the ice. I feel this cheats Stitch, so I'm anxious to find another time. (Even to the point of switching with Gordon, even though he doesn't have the speed to keep up or dodge. I've debated bringing it up with Ms V.) I have felt bad when Coach has stopped with another student on a public session to talk to Stitch. She's on someone else's dime, she shouldn't be bothering with Stitch. I've told him not to bother his Junior Coach friend while she's with a student, nor to bother his friends if they are getting a lesson.

Sunday afternoon, though, other girls and moms began arriving, looking out at the one boy with some raised brows. "Just him?" asked one mom. "Why even stay?" she looked at me funny. Nope, I'm not leaving early. Noon is when my time is up, and Noon is when I'm leaving. Stay off my ice please!

That having been said, I'm going to step out and say that I did do something terrible on Sunday. I suffer from Hot Feet, and the suddenly warm day had making my feet miserable. An ice surface seemed like a relief. So, while Stitch was on the ice alone and Other Coach was out talking to someone, I took my shoe off and put my bare foot on the ice. Worst. Idea. Ever. Do not ever do this, no matter the temptation.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dare to Dream

In any given Freestyle class I've noticed there's one, maybe two boys. There's never more than two. Sometimes there aren't any at all. This is kind of odd since in the Early PreStyle classes there's usually an even mix of boys and girls.

So, what happens? Where did the boys go?

Maybe somewhere along the line, a boy looked up and saw himself surrounded by tutus and glitter and shirts with "GIRL POWER," and doing a quasi-pirouette and realized, "I don't belong here." It's true, coaches in the PreStyle levels tend not to think about the boys when they make them do "arms over the head" ballet moves in Pre-Alpha, which delights the girls but makes the boys twist their faces. Fortunately there's no time for that kind of silliness in Freestyle classes. By then, though, the boys that remain are clearly there to stay.

In my ideal world, my ideal "never to happen ever" learning to skate world, boys would be pulled into their own class from Beta to Freestyle 1. Maybe 2. Just give them a two hour slot on the big ice, let them have an hour of free time all with themselves and then an hour with coaches. Pair Beta/Gamma and Delta/PreFS boys in the same groups, so they can egg each other on. Let the FS1 and FS2 boys help out with the little ones. Boys like older boys who help. Just clear out the Tutus and let the boys have it. Stop playing Katy Perry and turn on some Boy Music. This would be cooler if it was a drop-in thing; turn in two coupons and let the families who show up share the coaching costs.

I've noticed that Stitch and Gordon, when sharing an hour with Coach, do more together. Coach will leave to go fetch something, and those boys will keep working. Sure, she told them to, but a Group Class Coach will tell Stitch to "keep working" too and he will hang off the boards while the girls skate on.

I'm not alone in this train of thought. Jason Brown's coach feels the same way.

For now, we'll keep soldiering on among the tutus. I was thinking of investing in knee pads for Stitch's poor bruised knees, and the main caveat on the reviews was "shows through tights." Wow, with a pair of skating pants, no one will ever know they are there. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I am a Poor Role Model

While Stitch did not have early morning lessons, I did agree to sell his old skates to a Pre-Alpha kid taking an early class. So I dragged a grumbling and irritable Stitch out the door and to the rink for a quick ten bucks. I brought breakfast with us, and after my business was done I headed into the big rink to sit with Stitch and watch the Power and Flow or Something class. We ate and watched the bigger skaters skip and the not so big skaters try to skip on the ice. On the ice was one of Stitch's "rival" skaters. I use the term loosely, but this is one of those kids I can't stand. He was with the lower end skaters, as he should be, trying back crossovers super fast. Too fast, and to a rhythm. Other Kid nailed the wall, backwards. I laughed, I just couldn't help it.

You know those wooden toys you had as a kid, where you push the bottom and the bones fall out, and the animal or doll on top collapses into a jointed heap? That was this kid, only nailing a wall. Backwards. And then he did it again. I was trying so hard not to laugh too loud, but damn it was hard. Stitch of course noticed what I was laughing at, and then it became a game. We were snorting and giggling and this kid just kept doing near misses or full on bodyslams into the boards. Backwards.

And after that was over, they were doing some other moves that caused this kid to collapse onto the ice into a gangly mess, blades and limbs and snow everywhere. It was too much. I was about to leave, when the kids began to exit the ice and I was finally safe from being an embarrassment to myself. Then, as though to offer a salvation to the other skaters and a parting gift to me, Other Kid did a lame waltz jump attempt on his way out the door. What the hell was that all about? I shook my head and put skates on Stitch.

I open up the bag of gloves and stuff, and the smell of mildew about overpowers me. "Oh, god, I need to wash all this."
"Why," asks Stitch.
"Smell that glove."
"YECCHHH!!" he makes a face and laughs.
"Take the black ones, they don't smell as bad."
He smells a black one. "YECHHH!!"
"Well, you don't smell the gloves during class anyway. Okay, mid-term evaluations so skate your best, okay?"
"Yeah. It's okay, just do your best."
"But these gloves have holes," he holds up his hand. "You expect me to skate like this?"
"YES. Just GO."

So I shipped him down to the ice surface and I retreated to the stands, which I renamed Land of Forgotten Siblings. I beaded and watched for trouble points with Stitch; the power 3, actually doing crossovers and please do honest attempts at Shoot the Duck and not just fall down for the hell of it. Stitch was skating well, so for the most part I was relaxed and getting a lot done. (I am in bead heaven with this vest.)

There was a mom next to me with a tot, and of course she had a purse stuffed with toys and things for tot to play with while they waited for the Sibling to get done. This is a Boy Tot, so of course all his toys involve wheels and projectiles. What happens to a wheeled toy at the top of a flight of Stairs? Right. So Wheeled Toys are going sailing down the steps, and me, still giddy from watching Other Kid bodyslam repeatedly, start laughing. This sets off Tot, who sends another toy flying down the stairs. Other Mom shoot daggers at me, "That's not funny, Nate (or whatever his name was, but she's clearly speaking to me.) NOT. FUNNY."

Yes it is. I bite my lip and keep beading. "I'd get up," I say. "But once I get settled with the beads, it's hard."

"I'll get them, it's fine," she continues to glare and be passive aggressive. "Yes, Nate, MOMMY WILL GET THEM."

I try not to laugh because I'm sure if I do I'll get a Thomas Train where the sun doesn't shine.

Other Mom then takes the wheeled toys away, which sends Tot into a crying fit. This is clearly being made out to be my fault, as Other Mom keeps glaring at me every now and then. I'm positive this crying child is creating a distraction but I think Other Mom is keeping him around to make some kind of stupid statement.

Okay, murder in the stands notwithstanding, Stitch is doing okay. He's mostly paying attention, sometimes drifting off into neverwhere while the Interim Coach is explaining things and getting them to do their tests. He may hate lessons, but he does pretty good at them today. I finish up a thread and decide there's not enough time to start a new one, so I pack up and just watch the last ten minutes. Stitch is doing Waltz 3's I think, sometimes two footing them but he's getting better at height.

Other kids start coming off the ice so I head down. Stitch comes off and hands me his paper, and again it looks good for mid session. "I think you may pass this one, kiddo. You got a seven on the backwards glide thingie."
"Ugh," says Stitch. "I won't pass."

Other Kid walks over to us as we're packing it up. "Hey! I learned a Toe Loop today!"
I want to laugh so bad, but I hold it in. "Oh yeah? How does that one go?"
"Well, you three turn, and put your toe in, and jump, but you *blahbittyblahblahblah something about toes* and that's a toe loop," he's talking and all I can see is him going backside first into the penalty box.
"That's great. You'll have to show me sometime," I bite my lip, begging him to please go away.
Stitch is just drying his skates, looking annoyed. "Mom. Are we done here?"
"Hey, flea market today! Let's go!" Did I mention I'm an Aquarius?

We drop off the skate bag in the car and hit the flea market. I score some sewing patterns on the cheap, and an old sewing kit in a roll up case. I bought it to knock off the design and make more from all the scrap fabric I have lying around. Stitch bought a wallet, which ironically he didn't have any money to put in after he bought it.
"You need to learn to haggle," I said on the way out.
"I'm going to put my credit card in this slot," he points. "And my driver's license in this one."


I had some errands to run after skating. The earlier time is much more convenient, I can actually get stuff done on a Saturday again. I decide that his good behavior while I bought pants and that Seven on his mid-term earned a new comic book, so we dropped by the Comic Book store where he picked out a new Simpson's and a new Series, "The Amulet." Looks pretty good, I'll have to read it myself.

And I washed all the gloves and stuff. Maybe I need to rethink keeping all that in a Ziplock bag.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Two Faces of Stitch

It's Stitch's Spring Break this week. He's been lounging at home, trainspotting with Dad, and went to work with Dad today. I got a call towards the end of the day with a status report. Dad told me he did fine, that he was with The Sitter and about to head to class.

"He says he hates lessons," said Dad.
"I know."
"He told everyone he likes skating, just not lessons."
I rubbed my head. "Yeah. I know."
"They asked him if he would remember them if he went to the Olympics."
"What did he say?"
"He didn't really say. But then they asked him if he would let me hang his medal in the booth."
"Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. He said 'If I'm not going to give him my stupid second place trophy, I'm definitely not giving him my gold medal.'"
"He didn't."
"Something like that. I like how he just assumed gold."
"Uh huh."

The Stupid Second Place Trophy. According to Stitch, this trophy is stupid because it doesn't have his name on it. At both of the other comps, there were engravers on hand. Not the Bad Mojo Comp. So Bad Mojo Comp gypped him on the Boy's Goody Bags (a bag of pretzels and a bottle of water), gave him the apparent horror of second place, and to add insult to injury, they did not give me the chance to have his name engraved on the trophy. This Trophy is now forever known as The Stupid Second Place Trophy.

While Stitch claims to hate lessons, he will use elements, moves and bits he picks up from his time in Group Lessons and with Coach. After a few dozen times running into little kids and having Coach fuss, he is finally starting to look over his shoulder on back crossovers. Gordon and Stitch have turned Shoot the Duck into Who Can Fall Down the Most, yet he tries them much more than he used to. They are no longer his "Arch Enemy." (Direct Quote.)

Dad says he spent the day, whining and moaning that "Mom is wasting all my spring break" with my insistence he do math drills, read a book every day, and continue skating. He says Stitch claimed to hate Wednesday the most. I fully expected to pick up a whiny, tired and nearly intolerable child this evening.

Nope. Stitch was gleefully skating, was upset only a bit at the "surprise" evaluation (I forgot to tell him), and was laughing and playing with Gordon after it was done. He did really well, a lot of 5's and a few 4's. I told him he did good, while another mom was talking Salchows and Axels, how the Coaches flunk all the kids on purpose during mid-session evaluations,  and something else about "getting all the rotations in." Ms V was asking me to translate the scores into school marks of A, B, C and so on. I said that 10 was A+, 5 was a C (passable average) and take it from there. Was this right? Probably not, but maybe she'll learn not to ask me this stuff. As it was, she began fretting because there were "D's" on his "report card."

Stitch was talkative, joking, happy and playful on the way home. This didn't seem like the same kid who was complaining loudly about being "forced" to do lessons earlier. This was the kid who was saying he would tell Coach that I was forbidding him to learn Death Drops. "I'll just have to tell Coach to teach me!" he was laughing at me. This was the kid who said, "I'll just have to learn how," after watching Plushenko do some weird backwards skip thing on the Youtubes. (And he tried that night, nearly succeeding.)

I believe this is part of Pushy Parenting. Any other adult in hearing range would hear Stitch complain and probably think I should pull him from skating. Yet I see him skate, and I know why he's complaining. He's complaining because it's hard. I just remind him that what was once hard is now easy, and the things that are hard now will eventually become easy if he continues to practice. Push him through the rough spots, the hard places, and watch him forget about the trouble when it becomes easy.

For now, Stitch and I are looking forward to TWO WHOLE DAYS of sleeping in, as Coach is out of town. Spring Break, indeed!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Word on Crystal

Confession: I was a Raccoon in a former life. There is simply no other explanation for the large trunk in my room, full to bursting with shiny rocks, bits of glass, and yes, Crystal. I have high taste in glitter, going only for ultrafine, holographic print or hexagonal cut. I can inspect different trims for hours. Anything shiny attracts my attention, and this includes figure skating costumes.

That having been said, I think there are good and bad ways to put sparkle on a skater's outfit. I think there's economical ways to go about it, and there's a definite art to it.

First off, I don't think lower level skaters (this includes Stitch) should be going whole hog on the crystal. I'm saving my crystal workings for Stitch for when he's at least in the Freeskate levels, and even then, I'll keep it low key. (And unfortunately those marguerite flowers I've been squirreling away probably won't work on a boy's outfit.)

Higher level skaters? I think they've earned enough bruising and scarring and hours in the rink to wear whatever they damn well please. I got asked to make a vest, so I sketched out a nice scrollwork pattern with leaves and birds, nice fall colors. He approved it, and so I'll get going once the beads arrive. (Only needed to order three colors...) There's only two colors of crystal, they aren't big ones, and there aren't too many in comparison to the rest of the materials.

Swarovski isn't really crystal at all. It's simply leaded glass. The misnomer "crystal" is kept purely for commercial reasons. When you buy it, you're paying for the name, and the name is the cut. Swarovski was a Czech glasscutter who figured out that by making incredibly precise facets, he could really enhance refractive index of the leaded glass he was working with. Refractive Index is Sparkle factor, and Leaded Glass has a lot of it. (As much as Sapphire.) More than that, it's got a really high dispersion index, and that's what gives you the prism effect. You can buy cheap Chinese crystal and still be getting leaded glass, but it's the amount of lead content that determines the Sparkle factor, this can vary in Cheap Chinese crystal, and the cuts won't be as clean. Best way to tell? Take a loupe to it.

Crystal works in ice skating costumes because of the Crap Lighting situation. Next time you're in the rink, look up. What you'll find is a bunch of floodlights, typically of a mercury vapor or some other arc source that's generating an ugly, cold, harsh and noisy light. There's no direction to it, no warmth, no soul. Glitter, sequins, and other sparkly things like that don't work well with an undirected source. Sure, toss a spotlight on them and *blammo!* they look amazing. Not so much with cold floodlights.

But Crystal, with all her facets and high RI, can take that crap light from wherever it comes from, break it down into it component colors and shoot it back out to the audience in a way sequins could never do. In short, they are the fastest, dirtiest way to get high shine with crap lights. Just glue and go. (But it's not perfect. Put that same crystal in sunlight and the effect is vastly improved over crap stadium lights.)

It's also the most expensive. Even at a few cents per 4mm piece, this adds up fast when you realize how many 4mm bits it's going to take to scroll out a single leaf. The bigger the mm, the more you will pay. On other blogs, I read in horror of people boasting about buying crystal by the gross. 144 pieces really isn't a lot.

This is 144 4mm Bicones, Crystal AB Coat. Not even a handful.

Let's take a recent example of Too Much Crystal. Think back to Nationals, and I was tweeting about the dude, "SparkuhlSnakes?" Yeah, this guy (can't find an image) had two crystal snakes wrapped around his collar and down his chest. It was okay, but it could have been better. Done just in crystal, it was just pointless pointillism. Snakes aren't points, they are all scales and movement.

Let's look at someone else. Take Yu-Na's James Bond dress. Pretty sparkly stuff, and it moved with her. It wasn't sparkle for sparkle's sake, there was some thought put into it. Did you notice that the seeming scatter flowed down into tumbling squares? The geometrics flowed through the outfit, from the cut up the thigh to the triangles on her back. Best, it didn't overpower her or her program.

You can get sparkle without crystal, and you can do it in a way that may create much more visual interest, color, movement and pattern than just dots of glass. But it takes work. I've done this with jewelry, now I'm curious to see if I can pull it off on a really big applique. AB Coats, faceted seed beads, two color and silver-lined, and yes, some crystal in strategic places. I'll keep you readers informed of my progress, and my rink friends are bound to catch me in the act. I anticipate at least eight weeks. But Beading sure beats knitting as a Momtivity in the stands!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sometimes I can't stand your kid.

As a whole, I like kids. I think they're fun and cute and hilarious to listen to when they get going. When they're kept pure, and I don't mean innocent, but pure in the sense that they aren't pumped up with weird notions of their weird parents, they are our best reflection of the job we do as adults. Last night I watched Stitch and Sweetheart skate and dance, and I listened to her tell me about her lost tooth for a good ten minutes. I played with Stitch's other friends and had some fun. I refer to Other People's Kids as OPK's.

But there are some kids I don't like. I keep my thoughts to myself and I'm as polite as I can be to them and their parents, but deep down I'm thinking, "Oh, god, please stop talking before I say something horrible."

Yesterday there was one OPK in particular I wanted to nail with a blade guard. He was doing his normal flopping on the ice, mouthing off to the coaches, and while I couldn't really see any difference in his skating, apparently he learned a Salchow. The kids came tearing out of the rink, and OPK was running up to everyone and anyone saying, "I learned a Salchow! Can you do a Salchow? Wow! A Salchow!"

Okay. Little figure skating boys are kinda gawky. Point blank. They just don't have the same elegance you see from girls of the same age. So, this little gawky kid, running up to a girl in her Chloe Noel best on her Crystalled Zuca, trying to brag about something she probably learned three years ago, just doesn't work out. The girls kind of looked at each other and largely blew him off. Good for them. I managed to keep us hidden in plain sight, keeping Stitch in his books and writing exercises.

But it couldn't last. Eventually Stitch had to get back in skates and heading out for group class, where OPK caught him. "Hey! Stitch! I learned a Salchow today! What level are you? Can you do a Salchow?"

Stitch has grown weary of this. OPK has consistently badgered Stitch about the quality of his crossovers, stating that "Judges won't give you any points for that!" and other strange comments about BS Comps. So, he ignores OPK. Just, walks by. I move to the stands, trying to avoid OPK. This doesn't work. "Hey! Stitch's mom! What level is Stitch!?"
"He's Pre Freestyle. I've told you this before."
"I'm freestyle one!"
"I know. You've told me three times already."
"I learned a Salchow today! Can Stitch do a Salchow?"
"Not if he's in pre-free. You should know that."
"Salchows are easy!"
"Is that what you were doing in the studio?"
"Looked like a Sowplow to me."
"Your class is starting. Go warm up."

I walked away. I don't know if OPK heard me or not, but god that was just so annoying. This kid is really starting to bug the shit out of me.

Two weeks ago he was pestering Stitch, "Can you do a lunge? I can do a lunge!"
Stitch was clearly irritated. "Yes, I can do a lunge."
"Do you think they're hard?"
"Yes, they are hard."
"You think they're hard? I think they're easy! Fab Skater, do you think lunges are hard?"
Fab Skater makes a great answer. "To some people they're hard, to some they're easy. It doesn't matter."
OPK is undeterred, and now has Fab Skater's attention. "Do you think a triple axel is hard?"
"Uh, yes," she gives him a weird look.
"That's where you have to go around three times!" he's all excited.
"I think it's actually three and a half," I comment, seeing an opening.
"Three and a half times around? That sounds easy!" OPK is just making this too simple for me.
"Oh, so you'll be doing that next week?" I ask.
Stitch laughs and I laugh, and we leave quickly.
"Why was he asking me all that?" Stitch asks me in the car.
"I don't know. Don't worry about it."

Fortunately we only see OPK twice a week now. And if OPK stays at a higher level then I won't have to worry about Stitch competing against him any time soon. That's all I need; the stress of a competition AND OPK's ongoing stupid "better-than-you" commentary. But hey, if OPK competes and Sowplows in his moonboots, that will make me giggle for weeks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Odd Place for Skating Supplies

Stitch had privates this morning, same as always, but again he looked off his game. A bit unsteady, unsure. I was talking with another mom, but glancing in on them every so often. Two weekends in a row, this was strange.

He came off the ice and ran to watch the vending machine being refilled. I wound up my conversation and went to fetch him. As he walked back with me, his feet made an uncharacteristic *thump*click*thump*click*thump* pattern. Thump, click? What's that click? "Stitch, sit down. Let me see that skate."

I wiggled the blade, and the blade wiggled back. The heel plate was loose. "That explains it. Has your skate felt funny?"
"Sort of."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
He shrugged.

I borrowed a screwdriver from the maintenance fellow, but half the skating parents dove into their bags for their own screwdrivers for me to use. "I thought I heard his blade was loose," commented one.
"So you guys just have one?" I asked, referring to a screwdriver.
"Oh yeah, blades come loose all the time," said one mom.
"I guess I need a screwdriver."
"You will," a dad nodded.

I screwed the heel plate down tight, and tightened the rest of the screws which were all loose by a half turn or more. Stitch and I hung out, I made him do writing and spelling, "speed" drilled him on singles addition, and then it was time for group lessons. I missed Rink Across Town.

With the blade fixed, Stitch was back on his game. Everything looked better, but it was very nice to see him smile again. His jumping was much more confident, and spinning lasting longer. He came off the ice, happy.
"So, does it skate better now?"
"Oh yes."
"I can't believe that came loose. How does that happen?"
"Maybe it's because I'm doing real stuff now."

Mystery solved, I packed him up and we headed down the road for lunch and our very own screwdriver. Stitch smelled the flowers at the hardware store, and I stayed away because of my Brown Thumb. We priced out concrete and gravel for my upcoming summer project, with Stitch getting excited about the prospect of using a trowel. And of course, I bought a small screwdriver. Who knew? The waitresses at the lunch counter "accidentally" made him the adult sized shake, but I have a feeling it was because of the cute way he asked for extra pickles on his sandwich.

Then we were back to Home Rink for (dun dun, duhhhn) Ice Show Rehearsal. Yes, Stitch and one other lone boy circled the big rink for what seemed like ages as I waited to hear and see just what silliness they were going to put the boys through. At first I thought it might a construction worker thing, but then coaches played the theme song to a local football team. A not-so-great local football team. Okay, so we have two boys, one of whom does not play team sports at all, both on skates, tossing a ball around and pretending to do a Football drill. Yes, this is awesome, yet I worry about the boys being the brunt of a joke. And how ironic, my reading of boys and sports and masculinity and ice skating, to be doing this of all things. Fortunately the program is loose enough so that boys can do what they do, and Stitch gets to do a lunge and a Waltz Jump for it. This is fine, and I can work on throwing and catching on the playground. Stitch says he likes it, and he's now humming that interminable song endlessly while he "cleans" his room.

We're back again tonight, to play with Stitch's friends who need the practice for crossovers and backwards stroking. I'm trying to think of some games to get them to play, maybe I can trick them into practicing for a change. If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review; Packaging Boyhood

I just got done with this one. Being the mom of a boy, I spend a good amount of time reading and trying to figure out just what the heck I'm supposed to be doing with this kid.

I think we're all well aware of the Cultural Wasteland's effective hyper-genderization of childhood. This book is a companion to "Packaging Girlhood," which examines how the culture steers girls to be little bitches who shop a lot. The "Boyhood" version explores the clothes, books, movies, music and games that steer boys to being tough, unfeeling, super hetero examples of machismo that few boys can live up to, so they can revert to Slacker mode where nothing is expected of them. Most people are aware of the violent video games, the "music", the heavily advertised media world they wander in, the excessive fart and poop jokes that everyone assumes boys like, and so on. What this book doesn't do is advocate shielding a child from it. Instead, it encourages a "Reality Based" parenting model, which acknowledges the existence of this media and tells parents to use it to start dialogues on what boys really do and how they feel about all this subtle messaging. We should teach our kids to be smart consumers of media, not passive slugs eating everything at the buffet of media lunacy.

This is pretty close to what I've been doing with Stitch. When he came home asking me what a collection of profanity and obscene gestures was all about, I honestly told him. Watching toy advertisements, I point out that there's special lighting and camera tricks to make things seem more exciting than they really are. (It helps that we can get him up close and personal with these special effects.) While I do make some effort to limit what Stitch is exposed to, I don't go out of my way to ensure he doesn't see certain things. I won't take him to an R-Rated movie, but I will explain the trailer of one if we happen to get stuck with it while waiting for "Happy Feet" to start.

Figure Skating did get a mention in this book; "Blades of Glory" was offered as an example of the ridiculousness and ridicule of men who dare to step outside of the accepted male model. Don't get excited, that was pretty much it. But it was true. Figure Skating in this culture is not a male activity. Period. While running spots for Ice Show, I overheard a father say to his son, "They play hockey, that's how they can skate like that," referring to the male soloists doing doubles and spins. Little boys who dare to Figure Skate and not play Hockey, like Stitch, get some eyerolls and funny looks from the other Moms and Dads who are buying into our hyper-gendered culture. This is kinda sad, and sometimes I wonder what would happen if I intimated that their daughter was a lesbian because she played hockey and didn't figure skate. (I haven't done it. Yet.)

This book also took on the "F" word. "F" as in "Faggot." I have a coworker who made the comment of "fagure skating" to me once. I laughed and asked him why he said that. "Because they're all gay," he replied casually. So? Who cares? This book takes on "faggot" as the slur that it is, and that it needs to be removed from the cultural vernacular to describe anything that is ultra feminine, froufy or just plain "not hyper male."

It's sad that the Culture children grow up in does so much to shortchange boys of their potential, and this book offers up a lot of ways to counteract that. It's not easy; it involves a lot of talking, a lot of honesty and a hell of a lot of time. It involves taking your child as he is, not as what others project him to be. Stitch has defied convention for a long time, but he's never realized it. In Pre-School he was the lone Dragon among three identical Transformers. (Did anyone wonder why a PreSchooler was dressing as a character from a movie they shouldn't be seeing?) At the craft store he gets mad that all craft kits are geared towards girls. We just don't buy the kits and he enjoys making things all the same. He's passed over the "My Weird School" series for "Junie B Jones," which features a girl as lead. He loves his trains, but the Hot Wheels got played with maybe once or twice, and the Spiderman stuff got dusty really fast. (Did anyone ask why toys for 5 year olds come from an R rated movie?) People ask me what he's "into" so they can buy birthday and holiday gifts, and I don't have a pat answer like "Superman" or "Batman" or "Cars." I have to get creative to match his ever widening and expansive interests, and this makes the relations crazy. I once sent my mom on a scavenger hunt to find the elusive "Owly" comic series. (I HIGHLY recommend this series for young children, it is THE BOMB. Even for non-readers, GET IT!)((Edit, Owly Link, Free Comics!! But buy Andy's books because Andy is awesome... )

Every child is unique, and Popular Culture is going to try and fit them into a stupid box. This book offers up some great strategies to help you and your kids avoid that box and stay special. I got my copy at the library, but I imagine Amazon's got it, too.