Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cue the "Kneelie Thing"

Summer Ice is the best. The humidity casts a mist over the ice surface and the hockey glass is completely fogged. Requiem for a Skating Dream.

Today Coach choreographed. And true to form, Stitch complained at the introduction of newer elements.The first run of the new program is always rough, so I never take it to heart when he does terribly. Where to go, what to do, putting together some structure while Stitch complains about not doing it perfectly, plus there's an additional thirty seconds to worry about, it's tough.

Coach threw the Kneelie thing at him, plus the Junior Hydroblade. This is a Hydroblade. The Junior version goes forward and not as low down. The Kneelie thing, which I can't find a video of, is one knee on the ice and a turn, so while he was once going forward and kneeling, he ends up going backward. There was a lot of falling involved, plus audible frustration from Stitch. Learning to use his arms as counterweight is becoming critical.

I was taking mental notes. If I can remember element order and general placement, I can ensure practice. Again, there's another thirty seconds to figure in, and that's an eternity. Forward pivot, stroke, stroke forward, backwards into three waltz jumps, backwards the other way into a two foot spin, Bunny hop three times, lunge, Jr. Hydro, Spiral for a long time, Half flip, Kneelie thing and done. Coach is still unsure about edges but will get back to me. No worries. I feel fully confident that Stitch can learn the new moves and put it all together.

Coach also talked to me about USFSA and Clubs and such seriously for the first time. It's been mentioned in passing, something "for later," and it seems that later is now. I'm not sure. Lessons and shows and little comps are fun and all, but the whole Club/Testing/USFSA thing is a commitment. I need to make sure Stitch is fully on board before we go there. That and I need to hustle up some money. The drain needs to balance out somehow, and I think I've found a couple ways it might work.

Does he do anything else? No, and I'm really glad. I don't think I could take anything else. Maybe all you other parents have room for baseball and soccer, but I sure as hell don't. Pre-preliminary? Why don't we just schedule a trip to Venus?

Monday, May 30, 2011

How things Change

Today Stitch and I went to the beach. We didn't talk about skating at all except to mention that he would have a quick choreography session with Coach tomorrow. He played in the sand for upwards of two hours, forgetting about the lunch we packed and just digging holes, playing in the water, being a kid. I read The Time Traveler's Wife and watched the people. City Beaches are always amusing.

Then I had a moment of terror. This beach often has glass in the sand. Stitch had kicked off his beach shoes and was running barefoot. BAREFOOT! Suddenly I was rehearsing the call I'd have to make to Coach... "Yeah, we can't make it, he was playing in the sand and stepped on a piece of glass.... Yes, I gave him beach shoes, but.... I know, I'm sorry... I'm an idiot... No, I don't know when it will be better. The doctor said six weeks, provided the gangrene clears up in a timely manner. It's pretty green now, but it's fading. More lime green than moldy green. The third metatarsal was nicked by the broken beer bottle, but it's more of a fine break than an actual fracture. Maybe he can get on practice ice. I'm not sure. It's not that swollen anymore..."

"Stitch! Put your shoes back on!"
"Because, there may be glass in the sand!" and I don't want Coach to yell at me.
"No there isn't!" he's looking around like I'm nuts.
"Just... put your shoes on. Because I said so." For pity's sake, I think you're an athlete now! Take care of yourself while you build your sand fortress and throw water at it!
"But Maaaawwwmm!!!"

No, he did not step on a piece of errant glass. About three hours later I decided it was time to go. "Come on, Stitch."
"Because you're gonna get a sunburn." I had sunblocked us both but that stuff has a time limit. And while Stitch endlessly whines about being roused out of bed before 6am for skating lessons or school, for some reason he had gotten up at 5:45 this morning for no reason at all. I knew he was gonna go downhill fast.
"Yes. Time to go."

We packed up, stopped at the store for a soda, and headed home. Dad and Stitch played chess, and I am nursing a bad sunburn on my LEG of all places where I did not put sunblock. (Hey, my back and shoulders remain unscathed, my dermatologist will be happy. One little weird mole and they freak out on you.) As predicted, Stitch is crashing, yet claims that a stretching session outside will help revive him.

Tomorrow is choreography day, and if you see me splayed on the ice with my calf face down, it's because of the sunburn. Just go around me. Thanks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Round #4; Determining Rank

For the first time in Gordon's Skating adventure, the notion of "Not skating enough" is being lobbed at the Valium Family. Ms V is unsure of how to take this. During Lesson yesterday morning, she sat next to me and lamented that Another Mom had railed at her to correct Gordon's edgework, that her son, a FS5 Competitor, skated three hours a day and anything less was completely unacceptable. "She made me feel really bad," said Ms V. "She just marched right up to me and said his skating was really terrible, and that it was my fault. But Gordon wants to do other things. His dad is coaching Baseball this summer, but this Other Mom said we had to give that up."

"Don't worry about it," I said. "Do what you feel is right for you. Don't let someone else tell you what is good for your family." Superficially, this is true. But really, Gordon and his family, in my opinion, are hitting a decision point.

We talked about summer and costumes and stuff, while Coach was working the boys. I had brought music, but Coach didn't seem to want it today. I was only slightly concerned. There's a lot of time. I stitched sequins and relaxed.

Afterwards, Coach talked to us both. She had changed her mind. Stitch would skate at FS1, and Gordon at Delta. I breathed a sigh of relief, Ms V seemed flummoxed. Coach was originally talking about FS1 for Gordon, but since Gordon wasn't going to skate as much as Stitch between now and the big day, it probably wasn't a good idea. Ms V quickly changed her tune at that point, suddenly saying that she didn't want to challenge Gordon so fast anyway.

Coach then asked about music. "Ours is ready," I said.
"We don't have any," said Ms V. "Do you?"
"Just pick something," Coach didn't seem to want to bother with it.
"I'll help you," I offered.
"You will?" Ms V looked at me hopefully.
"Sure. Tell me what you like. I can cut it."
"Bring it Tuesday. We can choreograph quickly, I have a little time I can give them." Coach had other students and was running out of time with us.
"Done," I nodded. "Gordon, let's talk while you get skates off."

Gordon talked nonsense and was unintelligible while Ms V was ready to kill him, as I asked about what kind of music he liked. I got nothing out of him. 

Ms V said she'd pay me for the music. Well, that's nice. Maybe I can make a living being a Professional Skate Mom. I told her my offer to make costumes for Gordon still stood, and we were off.

I came home and told Dad that I was cutting Gordon's Music for him. "Why did you offer to do that?" he rolled his eyes.
"Because I'm sick of him skating to goofy music." My motivations are not always clear.
Dad made helpful suggestions like Helter Skelter, Joan Jett, Beastie Boys, Lilly Allen, and The Ramones. While the thought of Gordon skating to "Voodoo Sabotage" seems humorous, we settled on "Shake your Tail Feather" by the Blues Brothers.

That night Dad joined us at Public Skate. I delivered the completed Bird Vest, which won rave reviews. Rink Pal told me that Mysteria loved the Gold Trench Coat, and asked when I was going to join the costume room ladies. As soon as I steel my resolve to, that's when. In the meantime, Pink Panther needs pants and an undershirt.

Stitch danced and played, and at one point Dad skated over to me. "Did you catch that?"
"Catch what?"
"He jumped up and clapped his hands under his leg!"
"No, I missed that."
Stitch was also trying the kneel and slide trick that Big Skater practices.

I'm relieved that both boys were downgraded for the Comp. Stitch will easily pass the FS1 test. If Mysteria makes a fuss about not meeting the June 1 deadline to get tests registered, I can ask why she chose June 1 as the day to come back from her vacation. Ms V and Gordon are on their own. To my knowledge, Gordon has no tests registered with ISI or even a current membership. Not my problem.

And here I was thinking that this Comp would be free sailing. I can't wait to watch the drama unfold!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Theatrical Code of Ethics and Figure Skating

In case you're just joining us, I have a deep theatre background. I did a travelling animal show when I was in my early teens, I was a Thespian in High School (including some acting), and I did Stage Management out of College and some Special Event Production. I still work in the business, but I don't do shows as much since that's real hard with a kid around. (Rehearsals until 12am and such.)

My approach to Skating has mirrored my theatre experience. From my vantage point, there's not much difference, just more athleticism involved. During Ice Shows, I tend to get some funny looks since I'm at every rehearsal, every show, from start to finish, no exceptions. Some Other Parents find me freakish for always being early for lessons and practices, and never missing a Group Class. Ever. I have discovered that I am a weird anomaly. Let me explain.

In theatre, we have an unwritten code of ethics. Well, someone did write it down in 1924, but for the most part actors, performers and stage folk operate by these rules. Let's go down the list, trading out theatre references for skating, and imagine the Skating Utopia that would happen if everyone followed these same unwritten rules.

Theatrical Code of Ethics

1. I shall never miss a performance Practice, Competition, or Ice Show.
2. I shall play Skate every performance Program with energy, enthusiasm and to the best of my ability regardless of audience size, personal illness, bad weather, accident or even death in the family. (Yes, you read that right.)
3. I shall forgo all social activities which interfere with rehearsals Lessons or any other scheduled work Practices at the theatre Rink, and I shall always be on time. (You read that right, too.)
4. I shall never make a curtain Competition, Ice Show or Practice late by my failure to be ready on time.
5. I shall never miss an entrance a Warm up or Start Time.
6. I shall never leave the theatre Ice Rink or the stage ice area until I have completed my performance Program or Practice, unless I am specifically excused by the stage manager Coach. Curtain Calls are a part of the Ice Show.
7. I shall not let the comments of friends, relatives or critics change any phase of my work Skating without proper consultation. I shall not change lines, business, lights, properties, settings or costumes or any phase of the production program without consultation with and permission of my director or producer Coach or their agents, and I shall inform all people concerned.
8. I shall forgo the gratification of my ego for the demands of the play Program.
9. I shall remember my business is to create illusion; therefore I shall not break the illusion by appearing in costume and makeup off stage ice or outside the theatre Rink.
10. I shall accept my director's and my producer's Coach's advice and counsel in the spirit in which it is given, for they can see the production Program as a whole and my work Skating from the front.
11. I shall never "put on an act" while viewing other artists' Skater's work as a member of an audience, nor shall I make caustic criticism from jealousy or for the sake of being smart.
12. I shall respect the play and the playwright Program and Ice Show, remembering that "a work of art is not a work of art until it is finished," I shall not condemn a play Program while it is in rehearsal Practice.
13. I shall not spread rumor or gossip which is malicious and tends to reflect discredit on my show skating, the theatre Rink, or any personnel connected with them, either to people inside or outside the group.
14. Since I respect the theatre Rink in which I work Skate, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to do such work or not.
15. I shall handle stage Rink properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.
16. I shall follow the rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life when I am in the theatre Rink, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre Rink where I work Skate.
17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre Skating because of disappointments.

Did any of that make your head spin? Good. Now know that I am not the weirdo you think I am, I'm just doing what is normal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Competition Guide for the Skate Mom

We're forty some days out from the comp and I'm thinking, "Huh. Hope this works out." For my first comp almost a year ago, when we were forty some days out, I was in full-on freakout mode. Notice the difference.

It's not that I've hit some level of apathy and don't care anymore, it's that I've gotten comfortable with the process, with Stitch's ability, and I'm more prepared. I've doing what I can do to ensure success and the rest is comfortably out of my hands. If we just get one of the two practice ice slots I signed up for, great. If we get both, we're golden. Stitch is out of classes but as far as I know, has lots of time with Coach available. He's shown that he can pick up pretty much whatever she throws at him, and there's nothing terribly new in the level she wants him to be at. My only concern is the "Dance Step Sequence" thing, but if it's anything like The Three Turn Nightmare, my fears are unfounded.

In short, I'm sewing and I'm relaxed. And a Three Day Weekend means I'll complete the beaded vest and the Pink Panther Ensemble easily.

Everyone focuses on the kids for comps, but no one pays much attention to The Moms. Christina Chitwood wrote a great blog post on how to prepare Kids for comps. Make idle chatter, keep the mood light, let them know falling is okay and to keep going, and that doing their best is the goal.

Well, that's the Kids. I'm going to tell you, Skate Moms, how to prepare and handle Comps. We're a big factor in this equation, and we're often overlooked. If you're anything like me, you start to get cold sweats at the slightest hint of your kid being judged, or falling and being embarassed, or heaven forbid some other kids laugh at his attempts. So let's arm ourselves.

Papers. Get the packet from Coach or the Internet, fill it out, get it back to the Coach for signatures and await orders. Sometimes she will turn it in for me, another time I had to mail it myself. In any case, consider yourself responsible for enrollment.

Music. Some Coaches apparently cut music for their kids. I do mine myself, and I'm not alone. I know a few moms who cut their own stuff. Call us control freaks, but I've noticed my music typically stands out, and it allows the Kid greater control. Yes, Stitch has a solid say in his music.

Practice. I used to make Stitch run his program at least twice every time he got on the ice from the time he learned it until a day or so before the comp. He does this now on his own. Just hops on, runs the program a few times, then goes off to harass guards. Keep your eye out for Practice Ice time so they can run it with the music as much as possible. Make sure there's adequate time with Coach.

Costume. I've got this covered. Costume is my stress outlet, but other people just buy theirs and add frouf and glitter to trick it out. Have the costume ready to go at least two weeks prior to day, and have them skate in it a few times. Watch for things that might fall off. Ask "Is it itchy? Can you move okay in it? Does it stick you anywhere? Any complaints?" This gives the Kid time to get comfortable in the Costume and you time to correct problems.

Skates. I sharpen skates about a week prior to a comp or show. It kills me when I see a kid fall and it's clearly a blade issue, not a mistake on their part. That's a Skate Mom sleeping on the job.

Locale. You're probably going to be competing in a different rink. Visit their website, get the Public Skate times, and take a road trip over there. This gets you familiar with the location, the venue, and where key things are like judge location, audience orientation, bathrooms, and dressing rooms. Have the Kid skating on their ice also helps, because there is a difference in feel between hard ice and soft ice. This is all about ease and comfort.

Schedule. You'll get your kid's specific skating times about a week prior to the day. Post this in a place the Kid can see.

Day Before The Big Day. If your Kid is skating today, don't make them run it if they don't want to. I let it rest. Sometimes Stitch will be nervous and want to run it, to which I shrug and say, "If it will make you feel better about it, go ahead." In my opinion, Skate Cramming (or Skramming as I've dubbed it) only feeds nervous energy and doesn't quell it.

Polish boots, pack up the Skate Bag; Music CD's, guards, soakers, sewing kit, Wet Wipes, Tide Pen, Hairbrush and Hairspray, boot polish. Boys are easy. Lay out the costume, bathe the Kid. Have everyone eat well and go to bed early. Don't talk about skating.

The Big Day. Have as nice of a breakfast as time allows. Wash up, brush teeth, look nice. This means you, Skate Mom. Wear a nice shirt at least, but dress up a bit. Your Kid will appreciate you making the effort. After all, they spent hours practicing, the least you can do is look nice instead of showing up in sweats and a ponytail. Stitch will put on his comp pants and shirt before we go.

You need to be at the Rink an hour before your Kid's Warm Up. I like to be there before then, just so we're not rushed. Find the Event sheets, see how many kids are in Your Kid's group and if you know their competitors. Find the competitor's skates and... no, that's poor sportsmanship. Keep the mood light, find your Coach and hand the kid over.

When Coach dismisses you, you're done. Take a minute to visit the Photographer's table. Most of them offer Internet access to their photos so you can choose which ones you want later. Believe me, they do get some awesome shots that you will want. If the Rink brought in a Florist, pick up a few flowers for when The Kid comes back to you. Locate the Awards Table and have a seat in the Rink. Abate your anxiety by cheering for other kids. Be warned, this action may flummox your fellow parents who only cheer for their own kid.

At last comp, Mr V was asking me, "Do you know that kid?"
"Then why are you clapping like that?"
"Because they're awesome."

And they are. All of them. Except that one who is clearly sandbagged, or the one dressed like a harlot.

Talk with other Moms and Other Skaters. If you see someone with a trophy, congratulate them. If there's a kid who did a program you liked, let her know. Be nice. Sitting and roiling in your nerves is the worst thing you can do.

And when your kid goes on, get your camera and tissues ready. If you're like me, you will cry. And shake. Say a prayer to Lidwina that the CD doesn't skip, and the Costume doesn't choose this moment to malfunction. And will them to stay upright, because even though you spent hours telling them that it's okay to fall, suddenly it becomes terribly important that they don't. It's over before you know it, and I'm usually a mess that I have to quickly collect myself from.

When the program is done, The Kid will be shipped back to you. There's going to be a moment of "Is that it?" and then you sit down and wait for results. This can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, and it is agony. Other Parents and Kids will hang by the Event Sheets, which just crowds the place and is annoying. I prefer to wait in the Rink, watching other events. Support the other competitors.

When you're fairly confident things should be settled, head out and see how they did. The results will be taped over Kid's Event Sheet. DO NOT feed excessive boasting or excessive disappointment! DO NOT posit the Judges as being unfair! DO NOT take any of this personally! I've seen kids in tears, moms in fits, dads threatening Coaches, and it's just unnecessary and uncouth. Simply say, "___ place! That's great! Congratulations!"

But Your Kid has probably figured out by now that First Place is Best Place, so anything less than First is going to require some Hardcore Parenting on your part. These are teaching moments. Use them.

Once you know the score, head on over to the Awards Table. Have The Kid give their name and take their prize, you step back. If there's an engraving service, use it. Yes, it's a Scam. Just roll your eyes and pay it. Take pictures.

When you're done, pack up your things and check out with Coach. Thank her. I bring a change of clothes, so if we decide to stop for Ice Cream, Stitch won't mess up his Costume. The rest of the day may feel awkward and anticlimactic, so go for a walk or have a game night. At this point, you can ban the Program Music from your home, as I'm sure everyone is sick of it by now.

Aftercare. When you get your pro pics back, print a nice one for Coach, and give her a Thank You note. While I've never had a problem or concern with competing, this would be the time I would voice my issues. What's done is done, focus on making next time better.

And there you go. A Skate Mom's guide to Your Kid's BS/ISI competition. Stay cool, stay classy, and keep in mind that none of this has any bearing on Your Kid's shot at the Podium. I view these comps as valuable experience at performing, being judged, winning and losing, so just about any outcome is good in my book.

At Ice Show, Stitch told me, "I get flutters in my stomach before a show or competition."
"That's normal," I said. "I think you'll always get that to some degree."
"It feels funny."
"Yeah. I know. Just let me know if you think you're going to barf."
And he laughed. I have a bad feeling that Barf Jokes are going to come up again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Printing Patterns off the Internet

So, the site I linked to earlier offers the option of downloading and printing your pattern at home, which is a little cheaper and serves the over-eager among us who hate to wait on the mail. Anxious to get going, I chose this option. What followed was an adventure in massive floor puzzles, scotch tape, and German.

I was fully prepared for a few 8x11 sheets with the pattern printed small, and I would have to do some math to transfer the pattern onto tracing paper. This was fine by me, a perfect rainy day project for my mother in law and myself. I logged in, downloaded their Document Viewer, verified my identity about six times, promised I wouldn't share it, and repeatedly swore to the website that I had the downloader already just please show me the pattern. Half an hour later, I got my first look at Pattern Part 1.

It was forty two pages.

Well, fortune favors the foolish, so I lightened the printer as low as it would go to save ink, and hit "print."

Stitch was taking the pages as they came off the printer, bearing them on a tray to my dining room/sewing studio, where my MIL and I were trimming the edges and taping them together, piecing them together by the Row and Column markings. As we kept going, we realized in horror that I had printed the Pants portion of the pattern, not the Jacket. But you can't tell because Parts 1 and 2 don't specify what they are, and the instructions don't tell you, either.

I went back to my computer, and clicked on Pattern Part 2, and this was thirty six pages. Sighing, I hit "print." While it was printing, I disassembled the Pants Puzzle and prepared for Jacket. Well, at least I have a pants pattern.

MIL gave up and took a nap on the sofa while I trimmed and assembled the Jacket pattern. I measured Stitch, which is always a chore because children hate to be measured, determining that we needed a size 7 jacket. I got out my tracing paper, and spent the next hour tracing and cutting my pattern pieces. I disassembled the jacket pattern for another day, and finally got to cutting fabric. Pink Satin, (which is funny because the pattern recommends denim, corduroy, tweed, or other hardy fabrics,) and black china silk lining. The pants will be standard skating pants, but I'm going to play with a pink applique stripe down the leg.

I started the process at 10am. I finally had cut, marked and interfaced fabric at 4pm. MIL came over as I was finishing transferring markings and shook her head. Stitch wandered over. "Is that for me?"

"Yes. This is how much I love you."

Stitch bounced a bit and spun.

So. Will I print patterns off the internet again? Probably not. If hadn't had the entire day to devote to the process, there would still be a floor puzzle in my dining room. It is rare that I have a day to devote to any one task.

Lesson for the week? Wait for the mail, or doom yourself to a frustrating day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And then I got to be Mom

After a night where I was a hair shy of dropping headset and storming to the ice to demand where my kid was, I got to be Just Mom.

Saturday night was great. Everyone was skating well, the house was responsive (if loud) and the kids were watching from my side of the house. All good. From where I was, I could see the kids heading in from the dressing room to the ice. Every night, I had seen Stitch heading into the rink and I was reassured that things were fine and proceeding normally. Not Saturday. Saturday I saw two boys heading back. No Stitch.

The Parental Mind has this amazing habit of creating the absolute worst case scenario in the event that a child, their child, is missing for more than five seconds. My mind is no exception. Not only was Stitch not on the ice, he was surely curled in a corner of the dressing room, crying over a broken arm after being hit with twelve dodgeballs at the same time, his skate blades shattered, his eye bruised and no one comforting him because all the coaches were on the ice. This is where Stitch was, I was without a shadow of a doubt. Once my cue was done, I dropped headset and ran to the nearest momunteer, who seemed a Clueless, and asked, "There were three boys in the PreFree number, I only saw two. Where is the third?"
"Wha..." she blinked at me.
"Where there two, or were there three? Boys. Small boys. Specifically a towhaired kid."
"I don't know."
"Little boys. You saw them?"
"How many did you see?"
"Okay." I was out of time, and not reassured since there are three boys in the other Boy Number and this woman seemed confused. I sat on spotlight, ready to lose it if Stitch did not appear.

And he did. He came out and performed beautifully. He just slipped by me is all. Well, now I feel silly. The show ended without a hitch, Grandma and her companion bought him roses, Rink Pal gave him a stuffed bear, and all was right with the world.

Today, last show, Stitch and I walked to the Rink. He had a cupcake at the "Cast Party" or whatever, we hung out and I took pictures because I was Just Mom today. It felt good. Stitch would sit with me in the house for the first act, and then I would take him backstage to get him set up to go. He played in the gym/dressing room for awhile, with several girls flirting and playing with him. They'd run up to him, he'd tell them they were "a beauty to my eye," and they'd squeal and take off running, with Stitch chasing after yelling that he wanted to marry them. I took pictures.

We slipped in the back door with my badge and took some good seats. The LD told me I might have to cover spot for the first five minutes since a guy was running late, and this was fine. I put Stitch on headset and had him check in with the booth for me. He thought this was hilarious. I took more pictures.

The other Spot Op showed up and I got to relax. Stitch and I watched the skaters and I finally got to hear the lyrics and announcements and things. "See that one?" I pointed to the amazing young man doing triple jumps. "I hear he's going for the Olympics. I think he could do it."
Stitch nodded, rapt.
"But don't do the Death Drops he does, you're not allowed," I said.
"Why?" Stitch looks upset.
"Because it will give me a heart attack."
"Oh, I'll learn," he laughs at me.

We headed down before the Synchro girls went on, just to give me some extra time, and headed back to the dressing room. I put him in costume and skates, wished him luck, got a Diet Coke and headed back up. Act II was just as good, with The Boys performing their best program ever. They didn't drop the ball, literally. Stitch was hamming and even dragged out his lunge for added applause. I was proud of him, video'ing the whole thing.

When it ended I headed to get him, and Dad was already there. "What are you doing here," I was a bit surprised, as he was supposed to be home with the In-Laws.
"It's raining, thought you'd like a ride."
Stitch is looking upset. "I lost my blade guards!"
I took a quick look in the rink, only finding one that had been kicked under an ice door. "Sorry, Stitch," I handed it to him. "Give it a day or two and we'll check the office. Even if it doesn't turn up, we can get a new pair. It's okay."
"Stop." If this is the worst that happens during this show, we're blessed. Rink people, if you find a filthy red glitter guard that fits a 8 1/2" blade, put it in the office, please. (See why I shun $$LED$$ guards?)

And that's it. Spring Show is done. It's kind of anticlimactic, and Stitch seemed to be in the post-show/post-comp funk during dinner. We headed to the bookstore and I got him a Captain Underpants book for such a good run, which picked him up. As we were walking back to the car, he told me of his line up partner not listening to a Coach, who summarily put the Boy over his knee and spanked him. How much truth there is in this, I don't know, but it's still absolutely hilarious. This broke the Funk.

 I would get started on the jacket, but I'm tired and I need more time to get involved in it. I'm just glad it's all cut and ready to go. Tonight, I'll just relax some more, being Just Mom, thinking of the great kids at the rink. I'm proud that mine is one of them. Next stop... July!

Tomorrow we return to your regularly scheduled snark.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Are we all still here?

And supposedly the Rapture happened. Needless to say, all the Skating Moms are still here. (Including me, for engaging in the Sin of Gossip earlier.)

That is all.

If Train leaves the Zamboni door at 25 mph...

God forbid any of the Pros get on the Lighting channel on headset. When "Cue Train Wreck" is fast followed by "Choo Choo!!" they might get a reassurance of how awful things are.

Last night went okay at first. I arrived early, bearing glitter and a worklight for the booth, since they seemed to be operating with a stupid flashlight which is dumb. I chatted with the LD/ME, who revealed to me some rather ugly secrets about how the lighting almost doesn't happen at all for this place. Who doesn't return 12 phone calls about critical matters like patterns and color? Hm.

At any rate, I took another spot position to avoid Big Bertha. Dad and the In Laws arrived, Dad reporting that there was no one supervising the Boys Dressing Room and that he would tie Stitch's skates at Intermission. Okay, dumb but not unusual.

Show starts, we're doing okay. Spot 3 goes out and there's a moment of panic, but the guy just tripped over the power cord and unplugged it. No sweat. Since I'm so used to being on #3, I miss a cue for #4 where I now am, but then the LD flubs a call and so I have to do two skaters back to back. As I said over headset, "Holla!" Spot #4 is incredibly dim, I can't even see where I am when I cross the ice, so I'm coming in early tonight and cleaning the lenses. Might help, couldn't hurt. The LD says that they QC their gear better, "I promise..."
"Hey, this thing's older than both of us combined, it's okay." If cleaning doesn't work, I'll just grab the family Maglite and use that.

It's all looking good and then Act II starts. For some reason, Lidwina left the rink at Act II. Skaters are coming out of odd places, kids are falling more than usual, there's more drama in the booth (again, which I can hear some of) and everything feels off. You can tell when a show is off, you can feel it.

The Boys go on and immediately one of them takes a hard dive. He's hurt, holding his face and crying. Mysteria is screaming in the booth, it's her kid. A Coach comes to save him, taking him off the ice, and Stitch and Other Boy are left in a daze.
"Go, Stitch," I will him to move. "Pick it up. Go. It doesn't matter. Just go. No one knows the program anyway, just go."
Stitch takes the football off the ice and moves. The other boy follows. They pick up the program, and I am so proud. He's not happy, but he and the other boy keep going. Stitch hams for the crowd and they cheer. The Boys finish, and their applause was the loudest of any group number.
I know Stitch isn't happy, but I know Dad is and I am. He did great.

Then the Diesel came out of the Far End and the Steam barreled out the Zam door for curtain call. The spots preset for the groups as they come out of the doors, and suddenly no one is where they were last night. Kids are coming from other doors, opposite doors, trap doors, the ceiling, and possibly someone's posterior and the LD almost threw off his headset in confusion. "You know what, just light who you can," he finally said.

Calls were missed, and one of the was The Boys. They were standing by the door, alone, no pro or coach in sight, and their names were called. Okay, these are 6 and 7 year old boys, you need to be speaking directly at them to have their attention. They will not hear someone say, "Pre-Alpha through Pre-Freestyle Boys" over a loudspeaker, to say nothing of knowing that this applies to them. But that got said, and the boys milled around. I threw the spot on them and motioned for Stitch to "MOVE!"
They moved. I was mad but I put that aside for the moment. If anyone got mad for me turning the spot on them at the wrong moment, I could counter with "Where the hell was the coach?"

The show ended. One down. I got off headset and went to the dressing room. Dad was taking Stitch's skates off and talking about the incident. "You did just what you were supposed to do," he was saying.
Stitch was frowning.
"Did you hear that applause?" I was looking on the bright side. "They loved you!"
"Yeah," Stitch had to agree at that.
"Hey," I put his bunny soakers on his skates. "Shit happens. Welcome to theatre. You did perfectly. You covered the accident and the show went on." I didn't realize that the Fallen Kid and his Dad were right next to me as it became clear that I swear in front of my kid, not until it was too late. Oh well. Truth, people. Truth.

We go out for Ice Cream, but Stitch is exhausted. His mood picks up, and he's joking with me as we're pulling into the parking lot at home. I have one more night on spot and then I can watch. Maybe by then the boys will get a solid number in. If not, July is coming. Mother in Law and I are going to the fabric store today to look at trims and she's going to help me start on the jacket today.

At least at a comp, there's only one train.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Curse of the Momunteer

Some Moms love to help. I'm one of them. I've volunteered at the school, at charity events, and at the rink, and sometimes I'll witness what I call the Momunteer. Momunteers come in a few flavors, so we'll go over a few types that you might happen to catch in the wild.

Unskilled Momunteer: This type is the most common. She is eager to help, ready to go, glad to be there, friendly as hell, but she can't do shit. Seriously. No skills. At all. Unskilled Momunteer arrives on the scene, fresh and smiling and says, "What can I do?"
Well, can you do this?
"Oh, no, I don't know how."
What about that?
"I'm not really comfortable doing that."
This other thing?
"You'll have to teach me..."
Don't have time for that, so what about that?
"I can't stay that long."
"But I want to help!"
So, because she's so damn nice, you don't want to send Unskilled Momunteer away, so you find something trivial and petty that she can do, which she usually bungles and you have to fix later.

Power Trip Momunteer: Put this Momunteer in charge of anything and suddenly she's ruling with an iron fist. You told her that there was to be no food in the dressing rooms, and suddenly she's confiscated Muffy's Good Luck Gummy Bears that her Daddy gave her and she's bawling on the floor while Power Trip rails to anyone handy about the lack of discipline in Other People's Kids. Tell her to sew costumes and suddenly no one can sew costumes but her, and anyone who tries is dead meat. Tell her to fill soap buckets for the car wash, and if you dare put an extra drop of Dawn in that damn bucket she will have your ugly head. Be careful of Power Trip Momunteer, because she can often hypnotize other Momunteers with her delusions of The Situation. Because she seems so "in charge," others will go to her with questions about other stuff, so she may virulently spread misinformation.

MIA Momunteer: This Momunteer signed up, but she's not here. What the hell. She didn't call, she didn't send a note, and we're afraid to get mad because what if someone died and we end up looking like assholes for complaining? This Momunteer will drop off the map for awhile, typically showing up a week later with some great excuse like, "The cat went into the vaccuum and I spent the entire day cleaning with a cat in the dustbag. Gawd, it was such a disaster. Belieeeeeve me, I would have muuuuch rather have been here!"

Ghost Momunteer: This Momunteer brought her young kids. Her young kids that need constant supervision because they're all up into the task she's supposed to be doing. "No, no, Justin, Mommy needs to paint the other children's faces, you can't paint yours. No, no, Justin, don't play in the paints. No, no, Justin, don't eat the paintbrushes, we have to paint the other children's faces. Justin, why don't you take the other children's tickets? No, no, Justin, don't eat the tickets. Can you paint faces while I take Justin to the potty? And to get some water? And a snack? And then we have to go..." Her involvement usually isn't worth much because she's really just watching her younger kids. We won't go into Momunteers who bring their yappy little dogs.

UR DOIN IT RONG Momunteer:  This Momunteer will gum up everything by micromanaging small tasks done by others. "Are you overfilling those juice cups? I think those are too full, most of the juice will get thrown away. Well, you may think it's fine, but I think it's a waste. No, no, do whatever you want to do, I don't care. It's not my event. But if it were, I'd tell you those juice cups were too full." UR DOING IT RONG will infect other volunteers with terrifying insecurity, if not murderous rage, so if you find her, give her an individual task. She will usually prove herself to be our next Momunteer Type.

Clueless Momunteer: This Momunteer has no idea what's going on. She doesn't know who is in charge, what she or anyone else is doing, where anyone or anything is, how anything works, or where she is. Ask her a question and get a blank look. Give her a task and watch her pale in terror. Tell her to stand and direct traffic, and everyone winds up in the wrong place. Put her in charge of kids, and chaos erupts, even though she has three kids at home and you'd think this would be a snap for her. Tell her to sort paper slips by color, and somehow she does it wrong. How is this even possible? For god's sake, weed this woman out and keep her away from money!

Clueless Momunteer and PowerTrip Momunteer are a deadly combination. Keep them as far apart as possible.

On the Costumes

If your child is in the Alphabet levels, or a Low Freestyle Skater at our rink, your kid is damned to a Group Number. I say "damned" because it seems that the Group Numbers are pretty low on the totem pole of priorities for Show Management.

A Group Number will involve the children skating in a circle, breaking apart to do a spin or swizzle (pick your level), skating in a circle, crossing the ice in some direction, and skating in a circle. The choreography is not intense, and is usually tailored to the lowest skilled skater of the group.

In a Group Number, you also get the PreFab costumes. These are taken right out of a dancewear catalog. They are cheap, flimsy, and the definition of Flash and Trash, a term which I use lovingly. They are not much better quality than a Target Halloween costume.

For what they are, they are fine. They're made for that one year end recital, on a normal stage in a normal dressing room with normal kids. But no tap dancer ever went sailing into a boobytrap blades that Indiana Jones would be intimidated by while on a gritty, wet surface, then went to go play hockey with dodgeballs in the gym/dressing room for two hours, to say nothing of doing this for four nights in a row.

During Winter Show, I was doing prefab costume repair by Friday. Hems were tearing loose, maribou was coming off, buttons were gone, sleeve caps were shredded, and loose sequins everywhere. By Sunday's end of the run, most of the Boy's costumes were completely trashed. "You get to keep the costume" is not a selling point for being in the show. Again, these costumes were simply not built for this kind of abuse.

Apparently a solution that the Costume Room suggested was that the kids could not wear the costumes except for when they were on the ice. Well, this is okay on the surface, but where, exactly, do you propose 100 or so little girls change clothes easily and quickly without their parents? Twice? Not gonna happen.

So, I don't know what the solution to this problem could be. Some girls will probably shred their outfits and suffer the consequences of playing with those damn dodgeballs that someone keeps thinking is a great idea to have in the dressing room. Meh. My thought is to have them wear long coats or bathrobes or something while they wait. Possibly hot, but protect the outfit. And get rid of the dodgeballs.

I don't know about you, but this outfit just screams "I LOVE DODGEBALL!!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dress Rehearsal - or - Yes, The Director is Critiquing You

I zoomed out of work, already 45 mins late for my call. Nothing I could do to get out of work earlier. (Sorry.) I booked it home, changed clothes, grabbed Stitch and zoomed out to the Rink. I made it just in time to catch my Gold Trenchcoat looking pretty damn awesome on the ice. I got Stitch to the dressing room, got him in skates, and went up into the rafters to learn that someone was waiting for me to relieve them on Spot #3. Okay, done. (Side Note: They were still one operator short, so Dad had been drafted earlier in the day. There was much eye rolling from him and giggles from me.)

Dad's on Spot 1, I'm on 3, and this is cool because these spots often work in tandem on soloists. So we're doing as well as we can, but I can't find the iris on my spot and the chopper is loose yet sticky at the same time, plus it's way too high for me but it can't be lowered anymore. So, I'm doing weird yoga poses to hit Ice Left, plus randomly opening the damn thing when the chopper decides to work. (Dear Altman Family: The Altspot is the worst spotlight design ever conceived. WHY did you put the focus operation as a damn slide pole thing off the back that is stupidly close to the chopper, which is some stupid twisty thing that makes me want to kill people. Did you use the damn thing before you put it out to market? Frack sake!) I'm hot, my hair is down so I'm way hot, and I know there's a hairclip in my purse and a Diet Coke not far off, taunting me with their nearness.

Again, the spot operators are being tasked with lighting "everyone," which I now know to be absolutely true because the "LD" or whatever has left the Com on so I can hear quite a bit of the chatter coming from Mysteria in the booth. Holy crow. Ladies, she sees you. She sees you and she is weary of your screwing around. Frankly, all of the crew is. It is not cute. Do your program and get off the ice. Be cute at the cast party, not now.

Again, the spot ops are being given conflicting and seemingly random instruction. Ideally, the spots should cross the ice in order to get the widest beam angle and cover the most ice. But we're being told otherwise, a lot. I was frankly ignoring stupid instruction and going Ice Right a lot to cover group numbers, and the LD stopped correcting me. Dad was doing likewise. While I couldn't communicate directly with him, I could see it. Mysteria is saying something, but whatever.

Okay, I'm hot. Spots 2 and 4 are lighting someone and I make a grab for the hairclip. I've got a minute. I toss off the headset and throw up my hair, making it in time to catch the next girl. I'm following her and there's a Mom sitting nearby.
"Pssst! Pssst!!" I get her attention.
She looks up at me.
"Can you open that for me," I point to the Diet Coke with my toe. I've taken my shoes off, I'm so hot. Those pars are clearly 1000watts, nothing else explains this heat.
She obliges me and I still can't drink it because the mic is in the way. Damn.

We're redoing group numbers at a stupid rate. What the hell. I can hear Mysteria. "Well, it's okay but there's no finish, I don't get it." Did you not see this at the prelim run-through?? There's talk about the sequins, lack of sequins.... whatever. Why are all the girls in this number dressed differently? Why is Batman's cape not secured to his arms? When he does a jump it's in his face. No Capes!!

Stitch's number goes on. We're a boy short. Seriously? All the boys are thrown for a loop with the absence of a critical one, and so Stitch is quietly giving orders. They do their best, but one takes a hard fall and it's off. Stitch is not happy, I can tell from up here. I prepare to face a grumbly Stitch. 

For some reason the boys linger in the house, and so I wave for Stitch to join me up in the rafters. He's grumpy. Understandable. (The boys were also somehow skipped when it came to the "finale," so they weren't announced at all and were brought out as it was ending. Why don't boys skate? I can tell you why.)

Finally we seem to be done. I drop my headset and suddenly some other girl is on the ice, posing. What the frack. Headset talks: "Uh, she missed her solo in Act 1 so we're doing it now." Yes, this makes sense. We do her number, and if I don't pee soon, there's gonna be hell to pay. I start down and here comes Dad.

"Why didn't you iris down?"
"Because I can't find the damn iris! This thing is dumb as hell!"
Dad comes over, and the LD comes over. I introduce myself and tell them to fix the damn light. They set to work, determining that there is an iris, but a set screw is loose somewhere and is impeding the movement. Whatever. Design is dumb. Full stop.

I get Stitch to the dressing room, now abandoned, and he changes clothes. Things wind down. I talk with Rink Pal, Dad is shaking his head, Stitch has five bucks that is burning a hole in his pocket. He buys chips and we set off into a eerie misty night. Dad says the LD knows that better followspots are sitting in the shop, but the Rink did not want to pay for them. Go figure.

I came home, took in Stitch's pants and added elastic at the feet. With the loose bottoms they look like Marcel Marceau pants. Silly. Mother in Law brought me booze, hooray!

Tomorrow is the real deal, so should be fun. With any luck, all four boys will be present, but I'm not placing money on it.

New Link; Land of Forgotten Patterns

Sometimes you need a costume piece. The kid is asking for something awful, and all you can find is baby peapod patterns, or the standard capes, or animal outfits for boys. The rest of the catalog costumes are devoted to girls. Endless princess variations, from Persian Beauty to Disco Queen. Yes, I feel your pain.

But lo! I have found the website for your specialty costume piece needs! Here I found not one, but TWO patterns for boy's Jackets! HA!

Check this out...

Barring the ghost costume which is a tad on the offensive side, this place is great!

Endless variation, but nix the mask for skating.

I would never get away with this. Never in a million years.

That's it. Everyone is Owls this year for Halloween.

Do people really use Halloween outfits for skating? Yes. I've seen most often on boys, who will re-use their Halloween Superhero outfits and it's a little strange. Little Girls (really little) will sometimes skate in their Disney Princess costumes. For Character Spotlight, you will often see girls in things that are more specialty costumes than skating dresses. It's a legit need.

Just be aware of what you're doing, don't put them in anything that makes it hard(er) to skate...

All things considered, she did pretty good! (Did you catch the blinkie lei? Did you? Blech!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dear Rink Friends,

Dad is not as Stupid as he plays out to be.

Dad simply has less patience for any of this skating stuff than I do, so he merely plays dumb to avoid confrontation. He is well aware that the Moms of the Rink regard him largely as a clueless oaf like the men depicted in the Bounty Commercials, but I can assure you that this is not the case.

Dad knows that he must turn in a coupon, and I will most often have coupons ready. When I don't, he will frequently claim ignorance about the cost of ice. In this way, he will sometimes score a cheaper rate, or at the very least looks of sympathy for his oafish ways and a pat on the head. He then excuses himself to read a magazine.

Ladies, by letting him get away with this, by patting him on the head and sending him on his way, you're alienating half your potential volunteer force. The best conversations I have at the Rink are with the DADS. I've never had a Dad ask me what level Stitch is, or what jumps he can do, or who his coach is. The Dads ask, "He's yours? Oh, he's cool. How are the brownies at the concession stand?"

For the record, they are good with coffee.

Don't buy the Doofy Dad mythology!

Reflections on Learn to Skate

I buzzed out of the office to take a peek at Stitch's Mealworm project, which he was desperate for me to see. Yes, there was one mealworm and one Beetle, just hatched from his Pupae stage. Gross.

Moving on, we headed to the rink for a put-in lesson with MiniFab and possibly Gordon. I like the semi-privates, the kids do really well together and it's cheaper. We got there and just MiniFab was getting skates on, so it would be just the two of them. I checked in with the Monitor and had a seat in the stands. MiniFab's mom isn't anti-social, she just doesn't like the cold, so she typically sits in the lobby.

I watched the kids, with MiniFab taking herself very seriously which is kind of breathtaking for someone her size and age, and Stitch being all Boy and blowing through things when he wasn't under Coach's laser beam. They were jumping and spinning and it's kind of fun to watch a practice ice session where everyone is going backwards. Those early days of forward swizzles seemed miles away.

Folks, I just want to say it outright: Having a kid in Basic Skills and/or L2S is not akin to having Herpes. It's okay. Anyone judging you or your kid based on your skater's level isn't someone you want to be around anyway, so whatever. There's a reason why I don't ask you what your skater's level is. It's because I see the uncomfortable squirm and quiet, "She's just in Beta." Just Beta? Hell, that's fantastic. Your kid is awesome. End of discussion.

The lesson ended with MiniFab and Stitch taking first tries at Sit Spins, with both of them catching on fast. MiniFab's mom was watching with me, and I asked if MiniFab was doing the July Open.

"Oh, no. She doesn't like that kind of thing."
My head exploded. "You don't understand... she would kill at competing."
"She just doesn't want to..."
"Those other girls wouldn't know what hit them!"
"She's the same way with violin. Loves to play, hates recitals. Her teacher has to convince her to do it, but I'm not going to do that here."
"Wow. That's too bad, but if that's her choice then that's what it is."
"Is your son doing it?" she asked.
"Yes, he likes to perform and compete. In fact, he does his best skating for an audience." I was kind of looking forward to see how he would ham things up next weekend.
"That's great. He seems like a nice boy."
And MiniFab is an awesome girl.

We said our goodbyes and Coach hit me up for whenever next time would be. "Bring music," she said.
"Yup, on my to-do list..." along with figuring out how to make a Sport Coat out of satin stretch and beading the sleeves. I was going to offer to bedazzle MiniFab's dress, but oh well.

I miss the other L2S parents, because it felt like we were all confused together. Now I'm in another universe and it's kind of lonely. Some of these moms don't even talk the same language. I guess I'll adapt eventually, but in the meantime I'll be bumbling along and learning as I go. Which makes me wonder, what if we're all just bumbling along...

see more Gifs

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dear Ice Show Coaches

I totally respect what you do. I am in no way dissing or trashing your choreography when I say this, it's a simple fact of the space you're in:

Please do not send your skaters too far down past the Big Red Dots on the ice. Doing so makes it hard for the Followspots to hit them. The hard angle makes the Spots hit the audience instead, and few things are more annoying to a patron than being blasted with a spotlight.

Just be aware of how far downstage, er, down-ice your skaters are. The Followspots are the only specials the Ice Show has, so if the Spots can't get those skaters, they may not be lit much at all. The shorter the child, the bigger the problem. If the Tots wander too close to the Down-Ice boards, the Spots may just clip the tops of their heads. All those kids deserve to be lit, they work hard. Again, it's not a complaint or a "DO IT MY WAY" demand, just a Fact of the Space. From what I've seen, everything looks super cool and awesome and fun and great (considering the material), but just be aware of those two Big Red Dots.


- Skate Mom

A Good Ice Day

Yesterday, Stitch was worn out of the rink by the time Late Skate rolled around. He opted to stay home with Dad and play Monopoly while I went to the Rink to have Rink Pal try on his costume. I shortened sleeves and pinned up where I felt it should hem. We chatted briefly and I came home. Family Movie Night was the first Godzilla movie, and I fell asleep on the floor, which is a feat considering we have hardwood. I'd been going from eight to nine thirty, with just an egg sandwich, popcorn, and rum and coke.

I picked up some pink satin stretch at the fabric store, and I'm waffling between a Jacket and a true Shirt for Stitch's Pink Panther. I'm leaning towards Jacket, even though that would take some severe alteration of my existing pattern, and no one makes a Sport Coat pattern for boys.

Stitch was being lazy and crabby today, and while he rolled his eyes at going to the Rink, ("But I'll be there all weekend next week!") I told him he needed to practice and I was sick of him complaining he was bored. I think he was mostly bummed about not getting his patches the previous day.

As I suspected, Mysteria did not pass him. He couldn't figure out the mohawk combinations, and his penchant for doing really big crossrolls rather than true "test quality" edges is what got him. She said all the elements alone were fine, he just needed to put them together correctly. I took it, and Stitch's mad disappointment in stride, said we'd talk to Coach, and thanked her. "It's fine," I told him. "You can try again. It's okay."

But he was bummed out. And it's understandable. Mysteria told me that he could try again, perhaps after Ice show, that he was really close and that he wouldn't have to test the elements he passed again. The incomplete form is in her office, waiting.

We arrived and as I finished putting him in skates, the office staff turned on Michael Jackson. Well, off he goes, giving me a private ice show again, and it's like nothing ever happened. He was doing his half flips, his waltz jumps, and even trying the mohawk combinations that he missed the previous day. Hey, if MJ makes him practice while he plays, whatever. Coach caught me and arranged for a lesson before the Ice Drought begins, and she tried to get Stitch to do some backwards pivot thing, but he was too involved in doing his "show."

He did some jump from forward to backwards on one skate, which terrified the bejeezus out of me, but just made him laugh. He bought me a Diet Coke, we shared cookies in the stands, and it was just a nice respite from the stress of yesterday and the knowledge that my Mother in Law is coming for ice show next weekend. I like her, she's just... there.

A woman in the stands asked me if he was mine, and she called him adorable. "Does he take lessons?"
"Yes, he does privates with his Coach," I pointed, "And he does the Skating School. Are you coming to the show?"
"No," she said. "My son would just be jealous. He'd love to be in a show, but he plays hockey."
I didn't delve any further.

We're home, I'm about to make dinner, and I'm glad that costume is done. Tonight I do nothing but kitchen duty, and that sounds so relaxing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Rink-Free Summer? Hardly!

With the prospect of Stitch away for six weeks, I was thinking that we'd get a hiatus from the Rink and its dramatics. I thought I'd get some cleaning done, relax a little, but mostly find something to do with myself.

Today was Game Day for Stitch's group class. We arrived, I put him in skates, and set him out. Then I took a walk to the Costume Room. The nice lady there greeted me, I introduced myself and said I was volunteering for the weekend.

"Can you sew?" she asked.
"I can work my way around a machine, yes," I didn't go into detail about the pocket welt mishap the previous evening.
"Any costuming experience?"
"In college and high school, yes, but I mostly do lighting. I was a Stage Manager, so I learned a bit of everything."

She then went into graphic detail about the work for the Winter Ice Show that needed to be done over the summer, and if I could help, it would be a godsend. I said sure, providing I didn't get much commission work which I wasn't anticipating. Needed something to do with myself, huh?

"Oh, I could never sell costumes for these people," she rolled her eyes. "I can't stand these moms."
I think my eyeballs fell out of my head, as she told me a gory tale of a Mom who was endlessly altering her son's outfit, making it worse and worse and worse, with the Mom becoming steadily more passive aggressive to the point of physically barring the Costume Lady from leaving until Mom listened to another round of alteration ideas.
"Wow, that's... amazing...." was my only reply.
"Oh, yeah. They can get awful. Some woman came in with this tacky fluorescent orange number for her soloist. Wouldn't listen to a word we said about colors looking different under spots, then got mad when it wasn't approved to be in the show."
"Lighting is an important part of it. What looks good as competition wear behaves differently under stage lighting." (Remember? Crap Blue Floodlights versus Direct Full Spectrum? Yup.)
"Oh! You get it! We have to trade information!"

I had to go to check in with Stitch, who was doing stupid relay games as usual. He was fine, playing with the other boys, who had all been grouped together for the relays. They came off the ice and I headed back in to give Costume Lady my numbers.

The Boy's costumes do not have helmets, praise Lidwina, but they are lacking in sparkle. Oh well, Pink Panther will be overdone because it's his first freestyle number. He will need an undershirt, because the top for their outfits is an athletic fabric, thin and holey. No problem.

The day isn't over yet. We have a run through to do, a Patch Test and I need to get to the Fabric Store. Busy, busy weekend.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Countdown to Ice Show and Round 4

Last night was the final Wednesday Night Lights. I hurried over to the rink to drop off a note for Coach in case she was busy, and to watch Stitch with Dad. As it turns out, this class doesn't have Game Day on the final day, it has "Fun Skill Introduction Day." I much prefer the latter.

I arrived in time to see warmups, staying floor level rinkside to cool off. The warm weather is suddenly too warm. I said hi to everyone, and Ms V showed me the entry form for July. "Did Coach give you one?"
Not yet, but I'm not leaving without one.
Class broke up, I gave Stitch a hug as he passed by me, and the groups went their separate ways. 

Dad and I were sitting in the small rink to talk, while the other parents were at the glass, presumably talking about Synchro again. (At least that's what they were talking about in the big rink while they stood rinkside.) We were talking about work stuff when Dad looks up. "We're missing someone."
"The instructor."

I look out into the lobby and see that Mr V is holding Coach hostage in the office, questioning about something. "It'll be fine."
Dad shakes his head.

Finally Coach arrives and stops by us. I explain summer, she's a bit confused, but I wrote out a note in case my cold mangled my speech too much. (Tuesday afternoon I was nearly unintelligible.) She said that as long as he got on the ice at some point and did some practice, he should be okay. And Summer will be fine.

I let her go teach, knowing I could get that Entry Form later, and we watched. And it was relaxing to watch the kids while talked about other things. Class ended and the kids came out. Coach waved goodbye and started off, but I stopped her. "Can I get the entry form?"
"For July?"
"Yes." Since it's not on the ISI Website nor the City Website as a download, you're my only source!
She hands it to me and she's off again. She'll have the boys on Friday afternoon.

Okay, for the past three rounds I've gotten a Packet. It's a detailed bunch of papers telling me about the various events, what's expected, the moves in the compulsory programs, all that jazz. This round, I get one sheet of paper, just listing the events with checkboxes. If I were new to this process, I'd be mystified. This morning I checked the city website just to be safe, and there's nothing there at all. No form download at all, much less a packet. Hate to say it, but I'm really glad Home Rink isn't our first Comp experience.

But if I've done this before, why do I need a packet? Because Coach wants Stitch to compete at the Freestyle level. This is fine, but I don't remember how long the music cut is for that. I think it's 1:30, but I'm not sure.

So now I have to be That Mom who is always calling Coach with dumb questions like, "How long is the music?"

I came home and cut fabric. Tonight I sew. At this rate, the commission costume will be done before the Official Ice Show costumes arrive, and that would be funny.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Your Guide to Gossip

Follow the Flowchart to see how far Gossip goes with you!

Click for Full Size Version!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hitting it Home, one Nail at a Time

I come home and find that Stitch is trying to pass off yet another completely unacceptable Reading Response Homework Assignment. He is loathe to show me the paper, stating, "I didn't see the instructions," as he does so.

"You clearly did see the instructions, because you know you didn't follow them."

Stitch was supposed to read a book for thirty minutes, and write two to three sentence responses to various points; why he liked the book, who his favorite character was, and so on. Stitch has written single sentences, restating obvious points in the flimsy little book he read, way below his reading level.

"Stitch, this is awful. You need to do better. Sit down."

I try to go over how he can elaborate on his points, but the book is so thin and lacking in content, there's not much even I can go on. Stitch is nearing tears.

"Don't cry. I don't want to see tears over this." I get up and get Out from Boneville, one of Stitch's favorite graphic novels. "You've read this, right?" I hold it up.

"Yes," the lower lip is quivering.
"How long did it take you?"
"About an hour."
I know this is true, I was there. He read it all the way home from the comic book store and then completed it at home. He ate up every word. "Don't cry. Okay. So, let's use this book instead. Take a moment to skim it and refresh your memory, and start over." I take a fresh piece of paper and re-write the worksheet Teacher gave him.

Stitch goes over the book for about ten minutes and re-starts the assignment. As I suspected, it's easier this time. Stitch easily comes up with plot points, his favorite characters, and finishes with "Mom should go out and buy the whole series!!"

He hands me the paper, now smiling.

"Stitch, this is perfect. This is a fantastic example of what your Reading Responses need to be."
He smiles.
"Stitch, how old are you?"
"Nearly eight. What grade are you in?"
"Stitch, this book," I point to Out from Boneville, "the one you read so easily, and loved so much, is meant for twelve year olds and sixth graders."
His eyes get big. "Really?"
"Do not ever, ever, sell yourself short, Stitch. You are smart, and you are capable. Don't just squeak by. Challenge yourself to do better. Because if you're reading sixth grade books in the second grade, imagine what you'll be able to read in sixth grade."
He thinks on this. "Maybe I'll read books this thick," he throws out his arms.
"Maybe. But for now, I want you to read this," I pull out The Phantom Tollbooth. "It's about a little boy who reminds me of you. Always bored, always saying there's nothing to do."
"I can't finish that!"
"Read a chapter a day, starting tomorrow. You'll like it, I promise. I read it when I was a little older than you."

We eat dinner and talk about our days. Stitch is eating and stands, suddenly doing spiral stretches at the table.
"Let's do that after dinner," I say.
"Can we do it outside?"
"Of course."
"I think I should run around the courtyard three times to warm up," he says.
"That's a great idea."
"Well, I'm full. Let's go out and wake up my feet."

How To Make A Jewel Hairclip

With your leftover beads and Crystal! I've noticed a lot of the little bunheads running around with those snap hairclips holding back wisps of hair. They're pretty standard, but they're also an opportunity. I saw one girl at a comp with lots of Snap Clips and separate rhinestone studs in her hair. Unnecessary! And the less stuff in your hair, the less chance for something to fall out.

Since I'll never make these for Stitch, I'm going to use my first video post with my substandard webcam to show you guys how to make a pretty jewel hairclip with whatever leftover sparklies you've got and can't bear to throw out.

Okay. Start out with your clip, your stuff, and some tape. I used some leftover Miyuki Delicas, gorgeous Pink 24K plated gold. Can't throw those out. I also had some pinky foilback Swarovski Margarita Flowers, 4mm. (Nice depth of color.) You need two beading needles and some beading thread. I used Nymo size B in white for this. I also like jazz.

Open up and tape down the clip. Cut off a length of thread about 3 feet or so, but whatever you're comfortable working with. I cut this piece a bit too short, as evidenced by the frequent rethreadings of the needles. (Sorry.)

With one needle, go under the body of the clip, and go around with both needles to loop around the clip at least once. Put three Delicas on one needle, then send the other needle through them going the opposite way. Trust me, this is going to make sense real fast, and which is why you need to be using a good quality seed bead because we're going to go through these guys a lot with needle and thread. Pull the three beads down onto the clip so they sit nice and flat and uniform. Send both needles back under the clip again in opposite directions. Put three beads on one needle again, and repeat the process. Make as many rows as you want, but I only did this four rows to just give a nice base for my margarita flower. You can certainly go down the length of the clip, just subtract beads as the width of the clip goes down.

When you're done, go back through all the beads, again going in opposite directions with your needles, back and forth. Where you want to drop a crystal, come up through the first delica on a base row. Thread a margarita and one seed bead onto your needle and put it down onto the clip. Thread down through the margarita, ignoring that other bead now on top, and then pull down through the third bead on the base row. The margarita should stand straight on the base. Continue going through the base work as normal.

When you're done, pull up the tape and let the clip loose. Bring both needles to the back, and tie a surgeon's knot on the back. Clip off the excess thread, and seal the back and side threading with clear nail polish or Elmer's. Voila! A hairclip that you can make in about fifteen minutes using materials you already have and that will match your outfit. But since I don't skate, I wear mine just for fun.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Post I've Been Avoiding

The end of this class session, and Coach telling me that Saturday is out now, just hammers home that this is the end of the Saturday Routine as I've known it for about the past year. From here on out, the Skating Schedule will be catch-as-catch can, barring divine grace by Lidwina herself. Worse, even that only lasts until Mid-July, and after that I can't promise he'll be on a rink at all until September. During those six weeks, I'll be lucky if I see him myself.

What happened? Life happened.

Dad works at a theatre, so his schedule is always a bit wonky, but we've had the benefit of some regularity because of where he works. This summer, the show that has scheduled itself into his space suddenly cancelled. This means Dad is effectively out of work for the summer.

Now don't panic. This isn't the end of the world. Dad has the fortune of being able to get freelance work, but the bad news is that we won't know where or when or for how long or how much until twenty four hours before it happens. Which means we will have twenty four hours to scramble daycare if we need it, or Skating Lessons if we can. We're keeping Stitch here through Mid-July so he can compete at Home Rink.

After that Competition, we're forced to send Stitch off to his Grandparent's so Dad can have more hours and more freedom to get that freelance work. We'll be fine, but it sucks beyond words. Not just for the skating, but for Us in general. I've been waking up in the middle of the night, feeling near tears, facing the fact that I won't have my son at all or my husband around much for six weeks. My floor is giving out from under me.

We're going to try to bring Stitch home as much as we can for that six weeks, but with gas prices going up as high as they are, it may not be feasible. We may only get two weekends, tops. Grandparents tell me that they will take him to the rinks in their neighborhoods, and I'll tell them and Stitch the neccessity of keeping up practice, but without the regular instruction it's just Life Support.

Bottom line, I don't know what's going to happen. And I can't tell anyone at the Rink because you know the old adage. I mentioned it to Ms V and she seemed thrilled because Gordon could "catch up." I need a hug and a reassurance that it's going to be okay, not words of happiness at our misfortune, thanks.

Here is the Old Adage I was referring to.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Fellow Skate Moms

I'm sharing my favorite cocktail recipe; French 75, named after the gun, which we may find we want sometimes at the rink.

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 1 oz. simple syrup (or 2 tsp. superfine sugar)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • Brut Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
  • Combine gin, sugar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an iced highball or collins glass. Fill with Champagne. Garnish with a twist of lemon. 

    I thought about writing some fancy toast we could share, but when you start to tally all that a skate mom does, it gets unwieldy. So, from Tot to Freestyle Whatever, here's to you, Skate Mom.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    And I about had a Meltdown

    For anyone following my Twitter feed, this morning was just pure angst. I thought I was used to testing days; I suit him up, tell him to skate his best, and it's all okay. I didn't realize that Freestyle parents were an entirely new factor in this equation, and one that I'd have to deal with.

    Private lessons were fine. I didn't watch too much, I was talking to Fab Mom in the lobby. She was saying how awful the music was that her daughter was skating to in the show, and why all these lesser rinks had such great shows and ours were so awful. "I mean, the costumes aren't here yet."

    (25% show business, it's all good!)

    I'm not totally in love with the boy's music, but they're having fun. Things could be worse. There could be animals involved. I just took this information in stride and then worked a knot out of a muscle in her shoulder.

    Stitch came out, talking again about that Toe Walley, and we walked to the store for a drink. I got orange juice, since I was feeling ill. We ran into maintenance friend out walking his dogs, and I let Stitch play in the field while the weather was nice. It made me a little sad that these are the final days of this routine. Once you get used to something, it all changes again. He read a new Junie B book while we waited for the Power Flow class to finish, and let him know I was proud of his patience.

    When it was time, I got Stitch in skates and sent him downstairs. And that's when my morning went downhill. The kids were skating around when I saw Gordon at the door. WTF, he's not here during this class. Ms V came in and spotted me, so she came on up. "Has Coach talked to you?"

    "About what?"
    "About summer. She's not doing Saturdays this summer."
    Um, this is news. "No, I didn't know about that."
    "So when is Stitch going to have his lesson?"
    "I guess I'll have to find that out."
    "Coach told me to get thisandthat ice, so that's when Gordon can take his lesson. Did she tell you anything?"
    "No." In fact, no one helped me with the practice ice form.
    "And Coach Diamond passed Gordon, so Gordon can have his Zuca now!"
    My ire is rising. "That's nice."
    "Coach X didn't want to pass him on the power three turns, but they eventually decided to just do it. And Coach told me to sign him up for Freestyle 2, so I guess that's what we'll do."
    You guess? I just nodded and smiled, having nothing at all polite to say at this.
    Near us, two other moms are giggling and chattering away at how their daughters are moving up so quickly, and how they didn't waste any time at all in "the baby classes." They provide the background noise to Ms V's vile spewing.
    "Do you think Stitch will pass?"
    "I'm pretty confident."
    "Do you think she will put him in Freestyle 2?"
    That doesn't matter. Since Coach hasn't asked me about summer, she doesn't know about summer, and summer is going to throw a wrench into whatever plans she's got that she hasn't filled me in on. "I don't know, we'll see." Why have none of these things been mentioned to me?

    The kids are doing okay, Stitch has the strongest half flip and Power three's of all of them, but I realize that of the four kids total, three of them are Coach's private students. The fourth is along for the ride but she doesn't know it. Stitch flubs the spiral, again, refusing to lower his shoulders. I don't know what's going on there, but it's not me doing it so what am I supposed to be mad at? Ms V is chattering on about the other coaches and Freestyle and my ears are surely bleeding and I'm out of beads so I can't escape. Finally her phone rings so she has to leave. The other women are still laughing about something, pointing at their daughters who are flummoxed by a sit spin but at least they aren't stuck with the babies anymore.

    I watch, and I worry, and I plan.

    Sure enough, Stitch and the kids come off the ice with their papers. As I suspected, Coach has passed most on Pre-Free and Freestyle 1. She has recommended Freestyle 2 for Stitch.  Most of his scores are 5's, which I consider "passable average."

    I didn't stay for the "congratulate yourself with Coach" moment that the other moms were sharing. I walked out, parked Stitch on the floor with orders to get his skates off, and went to the office. I left a note for Mysteria, asking for a Gamma and Delta patch test the following weekend. Let's see how that goes, because that jacket has two big empty spots, two big goals that supposedly have been reached but Stitch doesn't have the goods yet. If I don't hear from her today, I've been told she's in tomorrow so I can ask in person. I don't care if she doesn't like me, this has to happen.

    I came home and talked with Dad. Stitch can't register for summer session since I can't promise him to be there every weekend. He will be all Coach's for summer, once a week when he's around, plus the practice ice he's hopefully got. At the end of summer he can take the Freestyle 1 test, and register for FS2 in fall on schedule. Can it work? Sure, but only if he passes the tests. Dad then called the Gamma/Delta test "Damma" and we laughed. Damma indeed.

    It saddens me that Stitch is in the middle of this. Is anyone thinking of him and his Patch Quest but me? Yes, he can do the stuff better than the other kids, I see that plain as day. But this doesn't mean he can be thrown in over his head too fast. The other kids are awful because that's what they did. Stitch can do better. We all owe it to him to be better. I'll make sure of it.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    OT; The Beaded Vest

    I'm just about done with the front panel embroidery work. While I'm not entirely happy with the uneven laydown of the green hex cuts, I think this is the nature of the bead shape and I need to adjust my technique to compensate. Perhaps weaving a peyote or modified brick stitch between rows to force them into position, which is what I did on some of the sharper turns with good results. (My Facebook friends have been more than patient with my endless progress shots and I thank them for their kindness. I just get so excited about the Shiny.)

    At any rate, Bird #2 is going to hit a stop point soon, because when dealing with more than two colors of beads I like to be at a table. Once he's done, I will affix the crystal and begin on the back embroidery. This is much, much smaller and shouldn't take more than a few hours. Ripping out the interfacing proved to be just as time consuming as the embroidery, so I'm going to look for an alternate material for pattern work.

    The back of the beads will be sealed with a 50/50 mix of polyacrylic and water, which will allow the appplique to retain its flexibility and ensure all my knots stay down. I was unable to find a suitable matching buckle for the back, so I'm just going to make one. Since I ordered the larger bag of gunmetal grays by accident, I have more than enough to create a buckle from a cubical right angle weave and plenty left for Stitch's Pink Panther outfit. (Will need Fuschia crystal as well...)

    All in all, this has been an incredibly enjoyable project, and as it's winding down I feel a bit sad. I can't wait to see it on the ice, yet this means I will soon say goodbye. Ah well, lots of pictures. I will embroider another bird to keep in the portfolio as a hard example of my work, and hopefully get some commission work out of this deal.

    Jumping, Part 2

    I've been talking about the various half jumps that Stitch has begun working on. Right now he's learning Waltz, Half Flip, Half Lutz, and some weird step thing called a Half Toe Walley which invited an evening's worth of Wall-E jokes during dinner one night.

    In Skate Parent Land, that weird place in the stands where everyone sits and stares and asks, "which one is yours" and "how old are they", Jumping is the first and final measure of your kid's skating ability. If your child is not jumping, then they cannot skate. Period. That is the culture of the Stands. Do you remember The Two Questions? Well, now there are three. Age, Level, and what kind of jumps can they do?

    Even I find myself sinking into this warped mentality. When other parents ask me what level he's at, and I say Pre-Freestyle, I've been quickly following up with "Oh, but he's learning that Lutz thing!" as a qualifier.

    Of course, this is silly, and it's not all about jumping. Today I read a fabulous interview with Patrick Chan, who says that his best coach was the one who taught him how to use the blade properly, and not focus on jumps. I also recall reading somewhere that within a four minute program, a skater spends about thirty seconds total in the air. Me, I love to watch the dance step sequences the most.

    I've heard Rink Gossip of kids who could jump like demons but had terrible technique otherwise. I had a chat with one mom where she bemoaned that Figure Skating had become so ugly, and that it was the focus on Jumps and Extreme Gymnastic Poses that was doing it. We then did a Parental Pantomime of the A-Frame Spin together, perhaps as a token of our shared opinion.

    So, as of today, I am making a promise to myself and to Stitch to not participate in the Jumping Contest. When Other Parents ask me, I'll say I don't know what jumps he can do and I don't really care. I'm getting weary of the insinuation that Stitch can't skate simply because he's not making full rotations yet.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Hey, I have another suggestion!

    I'm just chock full of great ideas! Did you know that you have to provide your own music to competitions? Yes! They like them on CD's with your skater's name, skating level and whatever written on it. So, you can have them professionally cut and labeled, which is what I've seen from Big League skaters in our rink, or you can cut them yourself and scrawl on them with a Sharpie.

    Most of us already spent our money on ice and coaches and whatnot, so the DIY and Scrawl method is pretty popular.

    But it's not foolproof. We get undone by the CD player in the Rink. Yes, the ice monitors tell me that 50% of the CD's provided do not work, and this includes ours. The Skating Director tells me that it's because "so many different CD's cut by so many different computers make the machine dirty." I went so far as to donate a CD player that we had lying around, but I don't think it's being used. In fact, I worry that the July Comp may be undone by the fact I can't get our CD's to work at Home Rink. (They work fine everywhere else.)

    But you know what? CD's are dumb. They're too easily damaged, kids wind up sorting through dozens of them like cards, (I once showed up to practice with the wrong music) and between cutting software to burner to player, there's too much room for error and I can't whistle like Woodstock in the event of a malfunction.

    Here's a tip: MP3's on Flash Drives. If a family can cut their own music, they can bring a Flash Drive. Get a Netbook or cheap laptop, (you could probably score a used one off a skating family willing to donate) hook it up to the sound system and take Flash Drives. Tell the kids to bring them with luggage tags on them, and only have the one MP3 file on it which has been named SKATERNAME-MUSIC.  Ice Monitor loads up the music of the kids on that Practice Ice session, and it's just a click to cue it up. Delete everything when that session is over. No muss, no fuss, no loading and reloading, and Flash Drives can be re-used more easily than a RW CD.

    Am I being overly simplistic? Has this been done before and failed miserably? Should I just go sit down?

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    "Should my child Compete?"

    Here's another question newbie moms ask me.

    My opinion? Sure! Why the heck not? If your kid has more than a passing interest in skating, then yes. It's not any different from a Little League game at this stage. Stitch enjoys it, it's an "end result" of all that falling they do, and everyone gets a cool prize at the end of the day.

    But should you and your child? Here's a handy questionnaire to help you decide.

    1. Does your child really enjoy skating?
    a. Yes, he says he's having fun.
    b. The Rink Guard had to pry him off the door when public skate ended.
    c. She only likes skating when she doesn't fall down.

    2. Can you garner critical information from people who may be obtuse, unavailable, arrogant or nonsensical?
    a. I can usually make sense of random bits of jargon.
    b. I don't leave until I get what I came for.
    c. Fight fire with fire, is what I always say.

    3. Do you enjoy being ignored or patronized when it comes to your child's interests and progress?
    a. Just so long as he's learning to own his interests.
    b. What? I was getting some coffee..
    c. I have tattooed her school records and growth percentiles on my shins.

    4. Are you always feeling too hot?
    a. I tend to dress in layers.
    b. Only my butt.
    c. Are you going to use that scarf?

    5. Can you watch your child crash and burn repeatedly? Not just in practice, but during the actual competition? Can you do it and not intervene?
    a. I would be a little upset and scared for him.
    b. As long as he doesn't do it worse than that Other Kid.
    c. That won't happen, I took notes during practice and I can give choreography moves from the stands.

    6. Are you prepared for a frank estimation of your child's abilities?
    a. Put it to me gently, I think I can take it...
    b. Why is the concession stand always out of Splenda?
    c. My child is above average in every way, and I love to hear about it.

    7. Can you listen to the same song more than six times in a single morning?
    a. Sure, I like pop music.
    b. Only if I remembered to refill the flask before I left.
    c. Is it Berlioz? We played that for her in utero, so I'm used to it.

    8. Do you enjoy surprise expenses?
    a. No, but as long as I know what they're for...
    b. I don't believe in surprise expenses.
    c. Do you take cash?

    9. Are you prepared to face children cuter/more talented/smarter than yours? Will you be able to speak civilly to their parents?
    a. I was raised to be polite, so yes.
    b. Time for more coffee.
    c. I feel more sorry for those other children who will have to compete against mine.

    10. Can you lose a crucial item and not freak out?
    a. I try to carry spares of everything.
    b. As long as there's no bleeding stump, sure.

    11. Are you ready to witness clear instances of cheating where your child loses because of it?
    a. Sometimes life is throws curves.
    b. If I find that kid's shoes in the lobby, I'm gonna need to take them into the bathroom with me.
    c. Only if I can berate every coach and official I meet, demanding to speak to the ISU president about this gross injustice.

    12. Finally, are you prepared to face your child's massive post-competition ego complex?
    a. If I can temper it with a lesson on good sportsmanship.
    b. "Ask the nice man for a Shirley Temple. Mommy's gonna get a French 75."
    c. Of course! She's earned every moment of it!


    Mostly A's: You are probably good to go. Just keep reminding yourself that no matter where your kid places, the sun will rise the next day and he will live to skate again.
    Mostly B's: Yes, and when you get there, please sit next to me. Don't forget to take your kid home with you when you leave the rink.
    Mostly C's: Competing is probably not good for you or your child, but your pharmacist will love you. Maybe you should find another activity. Try pottery.