Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Day Wherein I had to Leave

I haven't been to Practice Ice in about a week. We were supposed to go Monday, but after such a rollercoaster weekend (Surprise Party, then the cat finally died, which I'm sad about but relieved with at the same time) I needed a night off.

So we went tonight. The usual suspects were there, doing the usual things. Nothing seems to change much until it does, I guess. I saw Ms V, and went to say hello wince I hadn't seen her in weeks. She greeted me and said they were just chilling for awhile before heading home. I said we were doing Practice ice. All was fine until she mentioned Gordon's skate. "I think it's broken, I don't know what to do."
"What's wrong with it?"
"The sole part is pulling away from the boot."
Uh..... "That sounds serious. Can I see it?"
"It's in the car. I'll go get it." So she traipses out to the car and Stitch is asking if he can get on the ice and the monitor is saying no, so I'm deflecting him from getting ice cream too soon. (After practice, please.)

Ms V returns and digs out the offending skate. "See?" she pulls back gently, the heel part pulling away from the sole.
I take the skate and turn to the nearest Coach. "Coach Q? Um..." I hand her the carcass of the skate.
Coach Q's eyes get wide. "Oh my god, I've never seen that before!" She looks up at another Coach. "Coach S! Look at this!"
Coach S gives the skate a look. "What brand is that??"
"Reidell," says Ms V. "It's supposed to be good quality, but we got it secondhand..."
"He can't skate in this," says Coach S.
"But we can't get new skates so close to competition," says Ms V.
"Call Coach H," Coach S says. "He's good at skate repair. But it may not be done by the competition."
"I guess Gordon is rough on his skates," Ms V is kinda freaked out.
Yes, he's rough on his skates. But he's rough on his skates because you let him tear around the lobby for a half hour after lessons are done with the skates on. They aren't jogging shoes. That's also why his blades are in such bad shape. But I didn't say anything. What was the point?
I excused myself to help Stitch practice. I was watching him do forward crossovers when Ms V came back in. She looked resigned. "Coach H says he can't skate in them, it's not safe. I don't know what to do."
Me neither, but can I be a fly on the wall when you tell Coach Y about this? "Something will work out, you can get new skates or borrow some." (This is a lesson in equipment maintenance, folks! That didn't happen overnight!)
She talked with me forever, while Gordon was tearing all around, poking at Stitch whenever he came to the ice door. At one point, Stitch fell and Gordon was prancing all around.. "Stitch went boom! Stitch went boom! Stitch went boom!" I swear my eye got a tic.

Ms V was complaining about how the boys will be separated from the girls for this comp, so it will be harder for them to win. This is funny, because she used the exact opposite excuse as to why it would be hard for Gordon to win at the USFS comps. Just as I was longing for a flask of vodka to help me with my Diet Coke, she and Gordon departed.

But wait, there's more!

Other Kid walked up. "What level is Stitch competing at?"
"Freestyle one," I hope.
"I'm at Freestyle two. So that means he's going into Freestyle one."
"No, that means he's going into Freestyle two."
"No, he's going into Freestyle one."
Kid. I'm going to stash your body either under the stands or between the speedskating mats. "Well, he's competing at Freestyle one."
"My coach says that if I do a good job at the July Opening (sic), I can skip Freestyle three and four, so then I can get a solo in winter show."
"Do you think that's a good idea?"
"Oh yes! I can do a solo!"
"Excuse me for a moment." I bolted through the lobby, dying. I had to find a safe place to laugh.

Skip Freestyle three and four? Just like that? I mean, it's one thing to skip Beta maybe... but something else to jump two freestyle levels just because you managed to get through your competition without breaking your butt. Secondly, I don't know what solo this kid has in mind, but it won't be a lead role of any kind! If any of that happens, I'm complaining. Especially since Stitch is being put through the wringer on backwards inside edges and the steady of his spiral. 

Finally, with three wet runs of his program, a full six minutes of backwards inside edges and spirals later, Stitch and I headed out. He bought some candy and a Diet Coke for me, what a sweetheart. He was in a good mood, but I reminded him that he needed to be polite tomorrow for lessons lest he risk losing all his weekend activities. He was okay with this, and we had a minor disagreement as to which run of his program was the best, first or third. I also mentioned that it was probably a little odd to start dancing to someone else's program music. He didn't see a problem with this.

Can someone explain what's going on?

Okay, for more than a year now, I've watched kids skate in class levels that made no sense. I didn't say anything at the rink, I kept my ranting reserved for this space, and I kept going. No skin off my teeth.

Stitch passed Gamma and Delta yesterday. According to Dad, he was close to passing FS1, but his backwards edges were not "on the line" and while his spiral was high, it wasn't steady. I get the feeling we're being messed with or something. Mysteria is giving him a second chance to pass FS1 on Friday. Dad days Coach worked with him on the missing elements, which we all know are there, but for some reason decided to not happen on this particular day.

I was mad at Stitch because Dad reported he was sporting a rather sour attitude the entire time. I can understand why; having three skating tests tossed at you by surprise is upsetting. But the way to deal with it is not to get angry. (And had we done this my way to begin with, it wouldn't have been an issue at all.) The fact that Stitch chose this moment to wear his best "Mouthy Boy" attitude was what upset me more than the test situation. I came home and had a chat with him, threatening him with a grounding if it kept up. This means no friend's birthday party and no selling flowers this weekend. "Just do the test, I don't care about the result. Do the test and do your best, don't be mean about it. It's rude."
"I did my best, mom, but she just didn't care."
"She cares. She just thinks you're capable of better, and so do I." 

Dad is using this moment to call Skating a subjective non-sport. "Coach said she would have passed his spiral, but Mysteria said it wasn't good enough. It's so subjective."

Right, but there's a reason why Coaches can't judge their own kids. I understand the rules, and while it sucks when they don't work in your favor, they stand. Because you know and I know that if Coaches could judge their own kids, chaos would erupt.

Dad tells me that there were somewhere around 25 elements that Stitch had to polish up, remember, and ID on his own to perform for some strange woman we hardly ever see. Mysteria's nice enough, she's just so absent as to be a relative stranger to the kids in her own skating school. Stitch probably sees her as "the woman with the clipboard and patches." And again, had we done this my way, the elements would not have stacked up so high and the test process not as arduous.

**taps head** See, I'm figuring this stuff out. Now I have real ammunition.

After all that, Dad says Coach wants me to cut more music for her. Um, okay, but I'm going to start charging for this stuff. She probably didn't get the memo, so no problem this time. I'll let her know when I see her next. Dad hands me a CD and says, "It's either track 32 or 33, I can't remember."

I play track 32, and I can't get through it without falling off my chair in laughter. It's some ridiculous Techno/Russian/Latin/Can-Can mix. I can't make this stuff up. No. I'm not cutting this because I won't let anyone skate to it. Track 33 is a much better Pop Jazz mix. I cut that. If they come back and say they wanted the other track, I'll have a talk with them about music genres.

I want to know if this was a blanket sweep of competing kids, or was it just a few? Because I can think of a dozen kids right off who would have gotten caught in this dragnet. For one kid in particular, it's a safety issue. No one in good conscience can allow this kid to start doing jumps when he falls on mohawks and runs into the boards on back crossovers out of control, but it's happening. I mean it when I say this, I don't give a rat's ass about him being some kind of threat to Stitch. What I worry about is this kid breaking his neck, and putting a stop to it would be the best thing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Test? What Test?

I called home after I was sure lessons were done. Stitch answered. "Hello?"
"It's just me. How was skating?"
"Eh. Hard."
"That's okay. Anything new?"
"No. I have a test tomorrow."
"I have a test at ten o'clock."
"Oh. Did Coach tell you what to do?"
"Okay. Do you think you'll pass?"
"I don't know."

Hm. I leave it be for the day, and interrogate Dad when I get home. Stitch's comp form got returned, because he hadn't officially passed the levels. This is okay. He gets a second chance. It's tomorrow at 10am.

I asked Dad; "So, what happens if he doesn't pass?"

Dad didn't know. He said Coach went over everything with him and he should pass. The fact that this is Round 2 for is might help. It isn't like we aren't trying.

But if Stitch doesn't pass, then he can't compete at the level we thought. That's okay. A disappointment, but okay. I have nothing against Official Tests, in fact I love them. So long as Mysteria is coming down on everyone and not just Stitch. 

So, a cliffhanger for my readers this evening. Will Stitch pass the official tests? Is Mysteria coming down on all the kids and not just mine? Have we instigated a rebellion of sorts? Will this affect Other Kid, or what? What about Gordon?

I will let you all know as soon as I do tomorrow!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Southern Girls need your Gossip

Admission: Yes, I love a good Gossip. The only secrets I hate are the ones I don't know. I'm from the South, we drink gossip like other people drink merlot. The good news is that I'm largely a dead end for it. I just like to know stuff, not necessarily pass it on. The bad news is that I'm a hopeless addict.

I learned all this when I was a kid, sitting in the back of my grandmother's giant Buick, listening to her and my mother tersely whisper about the doings of my no-good cousins. Who was in trouble with the law, who owed who money, and who was sleeping with that girl "just like cats." Then when you actually see the aforementioned cousin, because they were talking about him while driving to the family event where we'd be having a dinner, I would have to bite my lip and think "I know you're hip deep in it!"

I still get lots of fun gossip from my Southern family, like the preacher's kid who dropped out of the Ivy League school his parents bought him into even though he couldn't spell his name and he's now living at home and working at the Food Lion, but it's different now that I live so far away.

The Rink has proven to be a fabulous Dealer.

Yesterday I got involved in a great conversation about some kids at the rink. Who's dad is crazy, who's mom is a nut (that's easy, we all are) what kid is competing too high for his skating ability and who on earth is allowing that to happen, and so on. I might as well have tied a rubber band to my arm and lay there like I just shot heroin.

Few things: One, I'm glad other kid is not at Stitch's level. Not that I was worried about his competing with Stitch, it's no contest, but it keeps him out of our hair. Two, I'm validated on my opinions of people. I know I'm not alone in my caution. Three, I'm leaving alone. I have some thoughts, but I'm leaving it alone for now.

In the meantime, Stitch and I share something special; A Love of Disco. When he was a baby, the only way to quiet his crying was to rock to the beat of "Dancing in September" or "Jive Talking." Well, all the "Disco Party" stuff was on sale at the party store. I have two 30" mirrorball decals and two albums of Disco mixes, and I'm not afraid to use them. Stitch heard me reviewing the CD's for quality this morning and was doing spirals to the bridge of "Turn the Beat Around."


Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Hitch with Stitch

Stitch has been actively engaged in Off-Ice conditioning for the past two weeks. Not the "front yard running" and "stretching with mom" stuff, but hard core jumping and running and lord knows what else. I don't know because I haven't been there. He says it's hard.

Dad got to go to one of the classes last week. I called when I was sure it was over and asked how it was. Dad sounded a bit terse.
"What's wrong? Is everyone okay?"
"Yes. She made me do it."
"Who made you do what?"
"Coach. She made me jump up and down the stairs."
When I collected myself, I picked the phone back up again I asked why.
"Because she says I need to show him how to do it. He can't do it on one foot."
"Can you?"
"I threw my shoulder out."

The mental image of Dad affronted by a pack of tiny figure skaters who can jump up a flight of stairs on one foot, versus a hardy stagehand who is quite capable on both feet, is hilarious. Dad had given it his best shot, and made it up three.

It's true. Stitch can't quite manage it yet. Coach is telling us, "All the girls can do it. Why can't he?"

Well, I have some ideas. One, this is new. Give it time. We have all summer. Two, either he doesn't see the point of this exercise and can't understand why we're insisting that this is fun (it clearly isn't, jumping in the front yard is fun), or he sees pretty clearly what's coming down the pike and he's a bit scared. I understand both of these things. Three, he's a boy and doesn't possess a girl's innate desire to please her teachers. Boys do things on their own terms, so we have to figure out how to meet him halfway.

Last night after Public Skate, Dad was studying the benches. "Coach says he has to hop from the floor to the bench," he told me. "That's half his height. Is she kidding?"
"No. I've seen kids smaller than him do it."
Dad took both Stitch's hands and got him to jump, with Dad pulling him midway. Stitch was laughing and protesting, wanting to play with one of his friends and eat cookies. Now was not the time, so we headed out. Dad, in his manhood or something, was determined to prove that this either wasn't possible or that he was manly enough for the task. While Stitch and I went for the car, Dad began looking at the landscaping boxes that bank the building. The cement walls are about mid-thigh on him, almost the same as Stitch's "jump the bench" challenge.

Stitch and I watched, and I waited. This wasn't going to end well. Dad jumped the cement wall, landing squarely on both feet. "See! I can do it!" he's obviously proud of himself. "Now you have to do it, Stitch," he jumps back down.
Stitch rolls his eyes and gets in the car.
The moment Stitch is out of sight, Dad crumbles. "Oh, god my knees."
I'm dying with laughter.
Stitch is absorbed in birthday presents that arrived in the mail, done with all the jumping for the day. He laughs at us both and we head home. One of his gifts was a new Owly book, signed by Andy Runton himself with a beautiful illustration of an Owly birthday party. A good day.

What began as an exercise to prepare Stitch for the arrival of single jumps in the fall has evolved into a Family Challenge. Dad's jumping, I tried it but I'm not sure I can get too far with my heart being what it is, and Grandma looked at us like we expected her to flap her arms and fly to Venus.

According to the ISI curriculum, the first single jump learned is in Freestyle 3, The Salchow. I know it's an edge jump, but please don't ask me to ID it in competition. After single jumps they all become "double twist things" to me, even if they're quads.

Stitch can make it all the way around on both feet, even on the ice. He does it to scare me senseless, and he knows it. I think I can use this.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Me and the Zuca Bag

Stitch has been really depressed about the "no party" scenario before him. I had some plan to surprise him with the Zuca bag, but seeing as how he seemed to need a bit of sunshine in his eyes, I decided to give it to him early. "Unless of course you want to wait until your actual birthday," I said.
"No! I want it now! What is it??"
"I won't tell you. Try and figure it out as we go."
I didn't tell him where we were going, but as we pulled into the Skate Shop parking lot, I said "I'm surprised you haven't figured it out yet."
"I think I know! Let me out of this car!"
He bolts into the store and looks around anxiously to the row of Zucas there. "They don't have mine," he says warily.
I go to the clerk and ask for the bag I've put on hold. He brings it out, and Stitch is all smiles. He sits on it, drags it around to light the wheels, and sits on it again.
"You haven't changed your mind?" I ask.
"You still want this?"
The clerk asks Stitch if he has a Coach, and Stitch says yes. "Wow," says the clerk. "She's tough. Is she tough on you?"
"Oh, yes," says Stitch.
"I think he's earned this," I tell the clerk, and he agrees.

We get it home and load it up, and now I have to admit that I like the stupid Zuca Bag. I like it a lot, and now consider it a good investment in my sanity.

Here's why I'm eating Humble Pie:

1. Holy mackerel does this thing have pockets! Every available bit of square footage on this thing has a pocket! If you're the type who believes, "a place for everything and everything in its place," this thing is amazing.
2. The Pockets themselves are well thought out. There's a pocket hangs from the top inside, and it's mesh. I'm thinking wet gloves and boot covers go here, so they dry out. No more mildewed gloves!
3. The Door Opening; It swings out, not down on the ground. And there's three pockets there, one the size of a small notebook. Genius.
4. The handle doesn't move unless you want it to by pressing a red button, which means you can hang costumes on it. Brilliant.
5. The seat. I know, we all laughed at the "OMG IT HAZ A SEAT!" feature. But now that I see the honor of a private seat on command, it's really sweet! In fact, Stitch ate breakfast this morning at the dining room table on his Zuca seat.
6. It's built like a damn tank. From the zippers to the bag to the frame, it's solid construction. One of my colleagues, who has nothing to do with skating, uses her Zuca as a tool bag for shows. Her bag has been shipped in roadcases back and forth across the country while full of wrenches and hammers, and it looks practically new. While this is no promise that the bag will withstand an eight year old boy, it's encouraging. (She's the one who actually introduced me to Zuca's, not the skating community. "Hey, no one will steal my tool bag because the wheels light up," she says.)

My only concern is the warranty. Zuca makes two kinds of bags, one for general luggage and the "Sport" model which is what the skaters use. (The Sport model has the front door and doesn't come with all the inserts.) The Luggage variety has a lifetime warranty, while the Sport model only has a one year warranty. You have to register the bag on their website to get the warranty. (Yes, I registered the bag.) Why the difference in warranty between bags? They seem to be the same basic thing.

So, here's the ultimate question: Do you need a Zuca Bag?

Well, let's put it this way:

Stitch's friend has a Zuca bag, and it only has skates and hard guards in it. She skates once a week at group lessons only.

Stitch's Zuca, within twenty minutes of getting home, was crammed with four CD's, two notebooks, six pairs of gloves, headband, hard guards, Bunny (ugh) soakers, skates, hand warmers, skating jacket, skating pants, trouser socks, jump rope, his BS sticker book, stopwatch (for racing himself), $1.35 in odd change, various membership cards, screwdriver, boot polish, lint roller, sewing kit, Tide Pen, ice coupons, and a stash of candy that I technically don't know about.

Let your skating, not rink culture, dictate your needs.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Ice Skating Party

Last year we did a skating party on the Public Session on the big ice. The kids had fun, but it was tough to round them up amid the crowd, we couldn't do anything special, and we noted that the kids separated themselves into skaters and nonskaters, which made things a little awkward.

This year, we have the small rink to ourselves. Dad and I discussed the lessons from last year, and so I have a plan to make this year more inclusive.

Hospitality: One Parent is in skates, on the ice with the guests. The Other Parent (or Friend to Whom You Owe Beer for the single parents out there) is in the lobby, greeting guests, tying skates, running down safety and ensuring everyone is comfortable. I was Lobby Parent last year, Dad was Skate Parent, so I'm assuming we'll switch roles this year. Bring extra gloves for kids who may need them.

Food:  Kidfood. Pizza and Cake. Always a win. Don't cast pearls before swine, just give them what they want. Non-spillable drinks. Hand Snacks I'm avoiding, as I don't want food on the ice, and I don't want to be Food Police, watching for someone chewing while they skate.

Treats: No gum or hard candy until they're walking out the door. It's too easy for someone to be tempted to waltz onto the rink with a lollipop and suddenly we're doing the Heimlich instead of swizzles. Also, small candies get dropped on the floor, waiting to be picked up by a skate blade and then dragged on the ice. So, while I love candy, there won't be any for the duration of the party.

Favors: Again, nothing until they're walking out the door. At least nothing small and easily dropped or ferreted onto the ice. (Kid Party Favor Rules apply: NO WATER GUNS and NO WHISTLES.) For some On-Ice fun, I'm thinking of handing out ribbon batons to the girls, and I can make a second billowy cape for my other Boy. Who knows, I might get an impromptu Ice Capades. Small goodies can wait until it's time to go. Typically I buy the bag of Pinata Mix and distribute evenly into cheap bags tied with a pretty ribbon. No one's complained and it's half the price of prepackaged favors.

Contingency Plan: It's not a Kid's Party until someone cries, and since we're all courting disaster by skating in the first place, it's double the fun. The Rink has ice packs on hand, but I'll bring my first aid kit all the same. If any parent leaves, and they're welcome to do so, they need to leave me their phone number. I think everyone this year has skating experience to some degree, but last year we kept an eye on the first time skaters, helping them as they needed it.

Games: Since we have skaters and nonskaters in attendance, making sure everyone has fun is a challenge. This year we can actually have organized games. While I don't intend to take up the whole party with them, they are a good way to break the ice with kids who don't know each other very well.

Beanie Baby Relay: Just like a relay race, but instead of batons, the kids have to make it around the rink with a Beanie Baby on their heads. (Tip: for any racing game, outline the course with cones. Kids are smart, they will cut the middle unless it's marked.) Among the Skaters, I know who has terrible posture, so I can make this a fair fight.

Pairs Race: One goes forward, the other backward, and see which pair makes it around first! We can pair a skater and a nonskater for this game, evening out the odds.

Flag Tag: I don't like Tag Games on the ice since kids get carried away and end up checking each other. This isn't safe for the nonskaters, so let's change it up. Each kid gets a belt with a flag on each hip attached by velcro. When those two flags get taken, they're out. I can make Flag Belts pretty easily with scrap material I have now.

After some rounds of games, we will eat pizza, cut cake, and they can skate free until the end of the party.

The idea at any gathering is to keep everyone comfortable, safe, well-fed and feeling welcome. It can be a challenge when dealing with kids who have varying degrees of skill, but I think we can pull it off this year.

Stitch is still super bummed thinking there is no party, and it's so hard to not clue him in. I keep telling him to wait, sometimes Life surprises you. Sure as hell surprised me. His Zuca bag is on hold at the Skate Shop. I know it's dumb but he's going to be so happy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Things that Bug Me

This past weekend we had a local street fair, with music and food and local craft vendors. Stitch, Grandma and I of course wandered down to sample things. This fair is slowly being taken over by Peruvian Flute Bands, who seem to purchase at least twenty spaces and fill them with cheap beanie toys, terrifying bows and arrows made of PVC pipe and a gnarled matron to scare the shit out of the kiddies tempted to lift something, but there's also some nice local craft folks who have cute things.

Grandma and Stitch were sharing a funnel cake, and Stitch looks over and catches the sign of a vendor. "No Boys Allowed?" he reads. "Why do they have that?"

"Oh," I glance over. "I think they just sell tutus and tiaras. I guess they figure boys wouldn't be interested anyway. Do you want a tutu?"

"NO! But it's still rude!"

"You should go tell them. I'll go with you."

"No," he sighs, and goes back to the funnel cake.

I've said a lot about the hyper-gendered culture we live in, and what happens to kids who step outside of those lines. The marketing concept of "No Boys Allowed" for a business that specializes in Tutus and Froufrou assumes that no Boy would ever in his right mind would ever play with a Tutu. Also that they sold nothing in shades outside of pastel was kind of freaky. Stay in your lane kids, no deviations.

Stitch had wanted to invite a boy to his party last year, so I was only assuming that Stitch wanted him this year. Yet I was hesitant to make the call, as this boy's father was the first to directly imply that Stitch is gay. How do I invite a Hockey Dad to what will turn out to be a Figure Skating party without inviting the asshat commentary? Should I even care?

There's some weird assumption that Feminists want special rights for women, to the detriment of others. Few things are more short sighted than this belief. Gender Stereotypes hurt everyone, even the little ones. I'm glad that Stitch is aware of the bias. I'm glad he can walk into a store and ask, "Why are all the boy's toys so lame? Why is there so much craft stuff for girls and none for boys? Don't they think boys like to make things? I don't want the Happy Meal Toy. Why do they think I just like action figures?" I'm happy he has this awareness. I'm sad that he notices so much of it.

I also find it sad that the "we don't use paper towels" and "I only buy organic" crowd is buying into this stuff, hook, line and sinker. Because that's the crowd that was buying and selling the "No Boys Allowed" tutus. You'd think a bunch of monied hippies would see the insensitivity in a company name "No Boys Allowed." Why reference gender at all? And what about the girl who isn't into tutus and tiaras? What's she supposed to think of these wares? Talk about your pigeonholed kids.

I dunno. Maybe I'm making too much of something that momentarily annoyed me, but I get momentarily annoyed a lot by this shit. The gendered Happy Meals. The dramatic color difference across the aisle to the girl's clothes at Target. The mean expressions of the action figures. The HerpaDerp persona of male comic characters in media. It bugs me, and the fact that it's getting down to the grassroots level bugs me even more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Humming more Abba Songs

It's been working up to being a tight summer at this Skating Family household. With Dad scrambling for work, and me already working full-time, there's little room for extras. In fact, I had already decided that Stitch wouldn't have a big birthday party this year. A cake and things at home, but no party.

The decision came at the end of a hard week. Work was and still is a juggling act of tight deadlines and manufacturers. At home, our eldest cat is slowly going downhill. I've been misty eyed, because while she had her issues, she's still my kitty. It made me even sadder to tell Stitch that we would celebrate quietly this year, and he was sad to hear it, but nothing I could do.

Then on Friday afternoon, my boss asked me if I had a few minutes to talk about "things." Well, what else can go wrong. He explained to me that the company was spoiled, and had relied too long on just waiting for customers to call. It was time to get an Outside Sales Person, and that they wanted me to do it. The position would be created slowly in the next few weeks, as people were moved around to compensate for me going on the road. I'd spend four days out of the office visiting people, and one day in the office doing officey things. While it wouldn't mean an immediate pay increase, the subject would be revisited later.

Then, a friend contacted me, needing some help clearing out an old theatre. One of the old tenants had passed away, the partner had decided he didn't want to do it anymore, and so the place was now in the care of the original organization who didn't know what to make of the piles of ancient theatre equipment. He said he'd pay me. I agreed to give him as many hours as I could.

Then, I got a phone message from someone wanting some beadwork done. She said she'd pay me. I agreed.

Then, Stitch got his birthday party. While I can't go into details, he's getting his party. It will be a surprise party on the Small Rink. With the hours I've worked this weekend, I can get his Zuca, too.

Saturday night I watched as five kids play around on the ice, pushing cones and shooting a pilfered water gun at each other, and I fought tears. Stitch was playing with his growing harem of girls and two hockey kids, all of them playing beautifully. It just felt so unreal. After all my worry and concern, everything began working out.

Coach gave Stitch a freebie on public ice this afternoon, and his skating has improved by leaps and bounds. I can't wait to see how he does for the Home Competition in a few weeks. I guess I should try to stop worrying about things and just keep going. When it was over, Stitch was still skating, spinning and jumping and laughing. One of our rink friends shut the ice door and Stitch didn't care. He laughed and kept going.

Everything is going to be okay.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Running Shoes

Stitch, if you will recall, is not kind to his shoes. He will tear through a pair in a matter of weeks, shredding the soles, flattening the shoe and destroying any lacing or velcro. That's just how he rolls. The last pair of shoes I bought for Stitch was a pair of heavy duty boots. I figured those had a fighting chance, and they've held up pretty well. I was happy, until Grandma told that Coach had ordered "running shoes."

"She says those boots are too heavy for running the stairs," Grandma says.
"The weight builds leg muscle."
"Just get a pair of running shoes, because I'm afraid she'll hurt me."

So we head out to Target and the craft store. Grandma wanted to find some quilt batting, as she's making a commemorative quilt to celebrate Pink Panther. I think this is fine, given the extraordinary amount of work that's gone into this one. (But I have to say, I'm on my tenth quilt that the quilting grandmas have made. I don't have much in the way of luxuries, but I do have a shitload of quilts.)

"Oh, and I found boy figure skater fabric online," Grandma tells me in the car.
"Wow, that's cool."
"It's been discontinued."

Stitch is in the back, playing DJ with his MP3 player and the car radio converter thingie.
"Can I get something from the craft store?"
"Maybe. Depends on what we find."

So we're in the store, wandering, while Grandma is inspecting batting. "Can I get this?" Stitch holds up something random and terrible.
"Can I get that?"
"You always say no."

And then he laughs. We get to the summer toys aisle and I grab him a tube of glow sticks and a bottle of Giant Bubbles. (The wand is bigger.)

We're off to Target, and Stitch has been bunny hopping through all the parking lots. He is hopping and spinning. "For someone who claims to be so tired during lessons, he's full of energy the rest of the day," Grandma observes.
"Stitch, we know you're acting," I clue him in. "Even Coach knows. She told me."
His eyes get wide. "My secret is out!"

I get him a pair of running shoes, and he was gleeful that they lit up. "We have to get these!"
"I don't know if the light up thing..." I waver on the flair.
Grandma looks at me. "Get these. She deserves these."
I realize she's referring to Coach and it's settled.
Stitch bunny hops back through the store, I get him a treat at checkout and suddenly I'm "best mom ever" again.

Back in the car, Stitch plugs in all his music apparatus, eats candy and plays his Skating Theme Song.

"Coach says we have to go back tomorrow," Grandma sighs.
"Yes. But the street fair is on, so you can hit that afterwards."
"We're usually wiped out after skating."
"I want to go to the street fair!" Stitch says.
"Fine," I say. "But wear your boots. Save your new shoes for skating things, okay?"
"Because I said so." And so they last longer than two weeks.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summertime Skating

Practice Ice. Stitch and I are in the car, heading to the rink. Stitch is reading his Basic Skills book. "Someone needs to put a sticker next to 'waltz jump'," he says. "I can do that."
"You can do a lot of things in that book."

We get to the rink and watch the last of some lessons, and then it's practice time. I send Stitch off to start forward stroking and Another Mom hits me. "Haven't seen you in awhile!"
"Lovely skirt, nice to see you again," I really do like the skirt.
"Daughter has lessons, what are you doing here?"
"Practice, nothing special."

Coach arrives and speaks to Other Mom. "Do you have music?"
"No," says Other Mom. "I don't know how to do it. Do you have anything we can use?"
"She'll do it for you," Coach points to me. "She does a nice job."
Other Mom whips on me. "Can you? My friend can't do the fade in or out. We couldn't make it sound nice."
"Sure. Just tell me what you want."
Other Mom is now ignoring me and talking to Coach about something else. Stitch has come off the ice for his next task, backwards something. I send him back out, Coach goes out with Daughter, and Other Mom turns back to me. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"Just tell me what you want, what she likes."
"Can you do Love Shack?"
"It's got to be ninety seconds, and I forget what the leeway is..." she turns back to the ice, looking for Coach.
"It's plus or minus ten seconds," I say. "No worries."
"I should check," she keeps looking out.
"No, it's fine, Stitch's is the same."

Other Mom and I settle business and they depart. Stitch is skating, playing around, doing his program. Another Mom approaches me. "Nice to see you!"
"Oh, hi," I realize that this is pretty incriminating, me standing there with a notebook and stopwatch.
"Where is Stitch?"
"On the ice."
"What is he doing?"
He's knitting socks. "Just practicing today."
"Oh. My boy is having lessons. Is Stitch having lessons over the summer, too?"
"For part of the summer, and then he leaves for a few weeks."
Other Mom gets that awful look. "Oh. My boy is only skating once a week over the summer."
I look out and he's having lessons with a Coach. But just once a week? Here? My brain quirks a bit but I nod and smile.

"Mom!" Stitch calls me over. "What's next?!"
"Choice," I go to him. "Program again or Stupid Duck?"
Stitch finds the new misnomer hilarious. "Stupid duck!"
"Two laps, go!"

Other Mom comes over to inspect. "What is this?"
"Oh, practice routine. Nothing special."
"You got this from Coach?" Other Mom is taking a hard look at the notebook.
"That's nice."

No two words were ever more dangerous coming out of a mother's mouth. I know, because I say them a lot, too. Other Mom retreats to the lobby, and I time Stitch to see how fast he can do a lap of Power Threes. He beats his old time by seven seconds, and this makes him happy. "This ice is too crowded," he says. "I keep running into people when I do my program."
"Well, you've just got to work with it. Nothing I can do."
He rolls his eyes, and tries again.

We head home and I cut Love Shack, omitting the parts about dancing naked and glittered mattresses. I save the start and ending, coming in at 1.27. Not bad. Stitch and I watch some TV, and he's up until well past nine again. Summer is definitely upon us. Tomorrow they go to the rink again without me, and I can't wait to hear how that goes. Grandma will deliver the music to Coach, and Other Mom will have Coach deliver payment. It's not much, but it buys me a coffee treat.

All in all, a good day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stairway to Somewhere

For the past year and a half I and many other parents have all bidden our children, "Do NOT run up and down the stairs!" We usually do this in loud voices and admonish them with tales of newly brain damaged kids who ran and fell down the aforementioned stairs. Every time I see one of those bigger Skaters running up and down the stairs to warm up, I cringe and pray that they don't trip and fall. Even I can't make it down the stairs without careening every so often.

Yesterday, (and this is told through Grandma, I wasn't there) Stitch became one of those kids. Coach apparently had him run the stairs, jump the stairs, jump some of the stairs on one foot, and then do push-ups. He has been directed to do this, and "practice his jumps" every time before he skates. "She says we have to get there early and do this," says Grandma.

Great, I will buy him a bubble wrap suit and a helmet. I hate those friggin' stairs.

"Oh, and Coach is a year younger than me," says Grandma.
"I knew she was older, but she sure as hell carries it well," I said, making dinner. Grandma has some issues, including bad knees and age denial. We joke about it constantly.
"Yes. She told me. Then she told me I had to be in shape, because I had a young grandson." Grandma was not amused by this remark.
I laughed for five minutes solid. When I dried my tears I returned to stirring chicken. "Well, you could walk more."

Grandma told me about the workout, the skating, how she had to traverse the stairs once for a moves ticket which I was unaware of and again for music. I didn't think they were going to do the program, but whatever. "Oh, and Coach yelled at the people in the booth."
"The ice monitors? Why? What were they doing?" Oh god, I miss everything good.
"They didn't see Stitch wave. They were too busy talking."
"Yeah, that's lame."
"Then they didn't see Coach wave."
"Uh oh."
"So she yells, 'WOMEN! STOP TALKING!'"
Again, I collapse in hysterics.
Grandma keeps going. "And then some other lady walks right up to me and demands to know who I'm with."
"I point to Stitch and suddenly she's real nice. She says, 'Oh! He's good! How long has he been skating?' and I tell her about a year and she doesn't believe me. But she seems to know him."
Damn, I'd give money to know who she was talking to. "Well, that was nice of her to say."
"That place is crazy."
"Just a bit."

That was just her first day at the rink, and Stitch's first day of actual conditioning. Apparently they came home and collapsed into word puzzles for the afternoon, exhausted. The two of them may have some really good stories by the end of the month. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is Coach Scary?

Short answer: No.

Well, at least Coach shouldn't be scary.

Last night at Practice Ice, Coach was with another little boy and occasionally grabbing Stitch for a quick demo. Stitch was doing his warmup routine and his program, but was acting crabby for reasons unknown. Grandma is in town to watch Stitch while Dad catches some work and I'm at the office, so Grandma was sitting with me and we were chatting.

"He's talking back to her," observed Grandma.
"Yeah, I'm working with him about that."
"Kids got some gumption, I don't think I could talk back to her."

Afterwards, Coach introduced herself, knowing that Grandma will be the one handling Stitch during the day and not me. She said she'd tie his skates and not to worry, very friendly. I told them to have fun without me.

Grandma, on the other hand, felt intimidated. "I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the accent."
"She's really nice."
"I'm sure she is. But she scares me."
"She gives the little kids stickers, she's fine."
"Oh, sure, she's from a war torn country and stickers are a reward? What was her reward for skating well? Eating?"
Well, this just sparked an evening of hilarity that hopefully dissipated some of Grandma's intimidation.

But I know a few parents who find the Coaches a little intimidating. I know I used to. And some Coaches act intimidating. My response was to be friendly. If any Coach wants to roll their eyes at my lack of skating information, I'd be happy to avail them of my vast knowledge of lightbulbs and polyester color media. We all have our specialties, but most people come together with smiles and self-deprecating humor.

What about you, dear readers? Do you or did you ever find your skating coach intimidating? How did you handle the situation?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Search of Non-Toxic People

I've made a life decision in the past year, and that's to stop allowing Other People's Problems to encroach on my life. So far, it's worked well.

Now, this isn't to say that I don't care about other people's problems. If a friend has a real problem and needs someone to unload on or a little help, that's fine. What this new rule refers to is Other People who don't really want help, and who don't want to change themselves to end their ongoing problems (Anger, Illness, Codependency, any form of Addiction, you know what I mean.) These people I now simply tolerate and move on from. I'm polite, but I'm no longer getting personally involved. 

I'm going to have to add a new Persona to my list of Other People to avoid, and that's Toxic People. People who raise my ire in some form to the point where it distracts me from my goals and my family's goals, and I get confused. At the Rink, this confusion takes the form of Parental Competition. I can't get involved in that.

Yesterday after I was done with my volunteer shift at the school carnival, I found my friend Lady Cluck. "Someone was looking for you!" she says.
Well, there's a blast from the past. I haven't seen Nutso since Rink Across Town shut down for renovations. "How is she?"
"She's fine. She wanted to know where you were."
"Stitch is only going to be here for four weeks of this session, so he's not enrolled. Plus he'd be in the earlier timeslot anyway, she wouldn't see us even if he was in it."
"She was asking about you. And Stitch."
Of course she was. And I could feel those old hackles raise when Lady Cluck told me that the eldest daughter was now in Gamma, but taking the Beta course again since the two younger siblings were still in that later timeslot. That's not so bad, back crossovers are important. I started to ask where Shuffles and That Other One were, but I stopped myself. That is not important. None of this is.

I felt my competitive self thinking, "but I could get him in a group class for just a little while, just to show her." Then I remembered that while Stitch isn't in Group Classes, true, he will be in Coach's day camp just about every day for the four weeks he is here. Stitch will be skating almost every day, while Nutso's kids will remain in their once-weekly 45 minute class. This is no contest, it's a slaughter, and Nutso has no idea. But that doesn't matter anyway, it's none of her business.

All the same, it was hard to forget Nutso's roving eye and sickly sweet commentary on Stitch as her eldest daughter looked at him with daggers in her eyes. The way Nutso complimented Stitch, I somehow got the feeling she'd grind off his toepicks if given half a chance, because it was all she ever said to me. Whenever I tried to talk about Non-Skating things, she'd gravitate right back to her kid's skating and how the skating school was failing them, and only kids with natural talent like Stitch could do it "at this low-quality place." I felt the need to keep him away from her then, and I still feel it now. For both our sakes. The only thing that made me happy about the jump to Pre-Free was that I'd never have to watch the Oldest Daughter glare at and be snotty to Stitch again. Nor would I have to answer questions and give advice about practice that I knew she wouldn't heed.

Nutso was definitely Toxic. From the lies about hockey, to the endless blaming of the Skating School for her son's lack of progress, the ridiculous Coach Hopping, and all the Rink Door Hovering in between, she was a piece of work. I'm sure I'll see Nutso again at Winter Show, or perhaps at Public Skate if she ever brings her kids to, I don't know, practice?  Something. But I won't tell her our summer plans. She doesn't need to know. I don't need someone else thinking that with Stitch on hiatus for six weeks, their children can "catch up."

(Okay, the thought of Shuffles jumping makes me giggle, so I'm still going to hell.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Signs of a Poor Volunteer Effort

1. You receive three Facebook invitations from three different people, all and none of whom are claiming responsibility for the event.
2. You ask about volunteer needs to all of these people, but someone entirely different sends you an unsolicited email asking about volunteering since "you did it last year."
3. Your receive the aforementioned email three days before the event.
4. No one informs you as to whether or not they actually need your help until the day before the event.
5. While you told this person you were good at Activity X, she informs you and a dozen others in a mass email that she will try to honor activity requests, but "you will be assigned based on specific needs at that time." In other words, you have no idea what you will be doing.
6. A few hours later, you receive a different email from a new person asking for your help. This one confuses your husband and son's names.

Given my current non-relationship with this group, I'm probably going to be shoveling pony poo for three hours. You know, I think we have Practice Ice that day. Yes, I'm sure of it. Practice Ice. For six hours. Skating is tough, you know. Practice practice.

The Stuff of Figure Skating

My old college backpack has more miles on it now than was ever intended. Between short trips through parking lots, to now walking to the Rink on weekends, her wheels are rough, her fabric is tearing, and there's big holes on the sides where Stitch has dragged it along the cement walls. It still has salt stains from Winter and mud splotches from this wet Spring. She won't last much longer.

I think it's time that he got his Zuca. I've already initiated conversations with the grandparents, who have never known what to get him. Ideally he should have one when he gets back in the fall. I think that would be a nice, "Welcome home, Get Back to Work," gift.

I've been watching every secondhand site I know for a used frame. One would think with the number of girls who drop out of skating, there would be plenty of used Zucas on the market. There aren't. In fact, I have become convinced that the Zuca manufacturer either has some kind of agreement that you won't sell the item after you buy it or they buy all the used ones up and refurbish them. And I just need the frame. I don't care if the used one comes with a purple glitter cover, I can tear that off. I don't really care if it's white, I've got a friend who can powder coat for me. Stitch's cover of choice is one of the cheapest options. (I'm bidding on a used Zuca now on eBay, but if history is any judge, I'll be outbid at close to retail price which I won't do. I try not to pay retail. If any readers are hoarding a used frame, please let me know. I won't tell Zuca and get you in trouble!)

And it's not just Zucas. It's Chloe Noel, the "uniform" of the skating girl. It's Sparkle soakers. It's Zeets for your Zuca. It's the glitter velvet dress. It's Joshua Jewel. (Google it and weep.) It's crystal encrusted gloves, which they lost the mate to so one hand looks like Where's Waldo and the other looks like Princess Aurora. It's the skates themselves, which are expensive to begin with but you can trick out with glitter treatments and the Skate Techs are always trying to upsell some kind of marine waterproofing treatment for them which I totally get but would think that would be part of the general package of buying an expensive pair of skates. It's headbands, crash pads, special tights, special journals, spin trainers, jump ropes, some kind of special bungee cord set that comes with a video, and skate towels because that old washcloth you were using just isn't good enough. I'm shocked there's no special skate polish for boys and I can get away with basic Kiwi. I escape a decent portion of the Skating Gak simply because I have a boy, but commercially produced boy's skatewear is insanely priced.

Skating is an expensive sport. But I've come to understand that there are things that are priority, and everything else is detritus. Number one is skates. Number two is coaching. Number three is ice time. Then there's a mysterious Fourth Element which I can't buy at all and that's Discipline. I get to teach that one.

I've observed that the amount and cost of Skating Gear on any particular skater exists in reverse proportion to actual skating ability. The girl who owns a crystal Zuca, some pretty high test skates, a coordinating Chloe Noel outfit, and LED guards? She's in Beta and she's been there for awhile. The young woman skating in torn tights, warmup capris and a t-shirt, carries her battered skates in an old backpack and I've never seen her with soakers? She's getting ready for Regionals. The little mite in the pretty skating dress is struggling with edges, but the kid who looks like she's just in her play clothes has them down. Now this isn't always true, but it's a pretty good general rule. So, anytime I see some chick with a super-fancy Zuca and super fancy accessories, I never assume she is a halfway decent skater. In fact, the more stuff I see, the more I roll my eyes and wait to watch her skate.

My hesitation in buying a Zuca for Stitch is only halfway about money. Yes, I'm balking at price, but I want Stitch to understand that having the accessory doesn't give you the skill. As Dad says, "I could own a BMW, doesn't mean I can drive." Gordon will be getting his pretty soon, and I kind of want to ask Stitch if the Zuca makes Gordon skate any better. Does the Zeet smooth out the back crossover? Do LED Guards make the jump higher? Does the glitter soaker make edges easier? I think it would be cool to be the kid who shows up with an old bag, nothing but skates and a killer mindset. But then, I'm not (nearly) eight anymore.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yesterday I got to watch lessons that originally The Sitter was going to handle. It was a nice treat, since I typically like watching Practice Ice, and the cool rink was a nice respite from the heat wave.

I was putting Stitch in skates, and he kept taking off one and fiddling with it. "Stitch, what's wrong?"
"This thing inside is folding over. It hurts."
"Oh." So myself, Rink Pal, and an Ice Dance guy who happened to be nearby all fiddled with Stitch's skate and the problematic insole. The clock was ticking, and I had to turn in a coupon and music, so I finally just removed the insole entirely.
"How's that?" I asked.
"Much better," Stitch rolled his eyes. "These skates hurt my toes. I want new skates."
I frowned. "What do you mean? Are these skates getting too small?"
"Stitch, I ask you all the time, 'how do your skates feel' and you always tell me they're fine. Now you say they're too small?"
"Yes! I need new skates!"
"I'll deal with this later. Go get on the ice, Coach is out there and so is Gordon."

I watched the boys learn a small step sequence and thought about this. The New Skate Fund is pretty healthy, the question is timing. Realistically, I can't get new skates just yet. My plan is to order new skates after the competition, we would wait for them while he's away and he can have them when he returns in August. I'll run this by Coach and ask for suggestions on what to get. In the meantime, I can just remove the insoles on these skates and make a little more room. (I learned after the lesson that one skate was already missing the insole.)

Coach seemed to be yelling a bit more than usual. Gordon was oblivious but Stitch was fighting back. I could see him whirling around after an attempt and throwing up his hands like, "what? Wasn't that good enough?" and Coach would come over and correct him. I have to give him credit for balls, but I need to talk to him about manners.

They ran their programs once, and Stitch tripped on a toepick, falling hard on a damn bunny hop of all things. He got up slowly, seemed to look for Coach to save him, but she just stood there. And Stitch kept going, finishing the program slowly and clearly painfully. At that point, Coach saved him, taking him to the boards where he relaxed for a bit.

It seems harsh, but it's necessary.

At the end of the lesson, Stitch was working on his kneel slide, finally parking his butt on the ice in frustration. Coach grabbed him by his skate blades and dragged him around, much to the boys' hilarity. The mood seemed much lifted after that, and she gave them some laps to race as the Ice Monitor kicked everyone out.

I was nursing a headache in the rink, so by the time lessons were done I was anxious to get out of the processed chill and back into some fresh air. Gordon and Stitch were once again hitting the vending machines, Stitch infecting Gordon with a love of all things automated. Coach told me she'd see us Sunday, and she'd take him if one of her Sunday crew didn't show. That's fine. She then began talking to Ms V about more ice, Ice for Moves, telling her that Gordon needed to skate more. I left. For some reason, I just didn't want to witness the hand-holding that day. They talked for a long time, while I just got Stitch to change clothes and put on real shoes.

I forgot to ask about advice on new skates.

In the car on the way home, I asked Stitch, "I saw Coach drag you around, that was pretty funny. What prompted that?"
"Oh, I was saying that I was a dummy and she did that."
"Why would you call yourself a dummy?"
"Because I couldn't do it right."
"So? That's why this is practice, and lessons, and learning. You're not a dummy, you're learning. It takes time to get it right."

We then talked about his field trip the next day, and everything seemed fine again. I let him play with the hose in the front yard for awhile, and thought about his apparent insecurity.

The end of the school year is when all their journals and notebooks and papers come home. In one of them, Stitch had written a list of what makes him happy. Right at the top was, "First place in Computishun," and "Trophys."

Stitch may not have the most expensive toys at the store, but I think the things that make him happy are a lot better than toys.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Skating Toys

Yesterday was lesson day, another shared hour. This is fine by me, really. As much as the Valiums annoy me, I appreciate the friendship the Boys are cultivating, and I know that all of this could serve me very well if they continue to progress at about the same rate. Yes, this is fine. I sat up in the stands with the Other Moms, right at that magic point where we could see over the condensation in the glass yet still get cool air off the rink.

I ran into another Mom who's little girl is competing next weekend. They were doing dress rehearsal, with a pretty little velvet number, swizzles and a spin. The Other Mom was expressing some concern. "Why are they changing the choreography? It's next weekend! Why is the coach doing this?"
"I don't know, but the music is cute." It was a jazzy little number about bugs that had a old-time feel to it.
"Yeah. Is it just me, or is everyone skating to 'Dynamite'?"
"It's not just you. Everyone is skating to 'Dynamite'," I assured her. "Everyone."

Stitch ran his Pink Panther number, scoring four runs with his music thanks to an Ice Monitor change mid-session. "That's her kid," Other Mom pointed out Stitch to Other Grandmother. "What's he at now? Delta?"
"Uh, this is at Freestyle One."
"Oh. He keeps skipping levels on me. Our Coach won't pass Our Kid out of Alpha until her crossovers are clean. How do you get those patches?"
"Talk to Mysteria," my plan to sabotage the Fake it till You Make it culture is starting to take root! "She'll help you get them."

Ms V was all cheery with Gordon's music. "It's so upbeat! Thank you so much!"

And actually, the "Tail Feather" part works really well with "Shoot the Duck." Most importantly, it's not "Dynamite."

"Did you cut Gordon's music?" asked Other Mom.
"Yeah, I think it's gonna look good. It's a popular song," I would have to give Ms V some costume pointers. No blue shirts this time, and might need a black fedora.
"How much do you charge to do that?"
"Um. Ten bucks?" I don't know, it doesn't take me very long.
"Good to know."

Well, okay, sure. Whatever. Ms V was already promising me something in return for my favor. "What should he wear?"
"Black pants, white button down shirt, thin black tie and pin it," I said. "Everyone will recognize him."
"Are you sure?" Ms V was getting nervous already.
"I'm sure." In fact, if Gordon can get up some speed and a smile, he'll bring the house down.

The lesson ended, and I took Stitch's things out to the stifling Lobby. The Rink is on day five I think of no AC in the lobby area, so only the rink itself is cool. I've been going from one temperature extreme to the other, and I'm taking precautions for Stitch's health and mine.
Ms V came out and looked anxiously for Coach. "I guess it's done... is she..."
"She has another kid on the ice, she may not have time today," I was taking off Stitch's skates. I'd left a note for Coach earlier in the week with the comp papers and my decision about Pre-Pre MIF testing.

But Coach came out anyway. "Will you be here tomorrow?" she asked me.
"Planning on it."
"I may have some time for him."

She then moved to Ms V, taking some time with coupons and scheduling. That explains why Ms V had been quizzing me about Stitch's practice habits earlier. "But Stitch can practice on his own? You don't have to tell him anything?"
"No, I tell him what to do," I replied, and she looked crestfallen at this information. No, I don't sit in the stands and read just yet. I'm rinkside with a list of stuff and a stern expression, reveling in my Inner Joan Crawford. I've decided to embrace this role, at least for now.

I hear Other Moms lamenting as their daughters spend an entire hour spinning, "Why doesn't she practice anything else? She says she doesn't know what to practice!" Well, I had that same problem, and I solved it. If Other Moms want to think of me as a tyrant and a Stage mom, so be it.

As Coach lingered too long with Ms V, I watched the clock, knowing that some Other Mom was doing the same thing in the Rink. Coach dismissed herself quickly, with a "See you tomorrow" at me. Sundays are usually the best time to talk with her anyway.

That night, Stitch ran his program a few times, practiced the Kneel Thingie, and was looking much improved. "Work on those backwards edges," I told him. "Those are your weakest point right now, and those are judged. So, take some extra time on those."

Stitch did them, then went to play. He danced, spinning and jumping, and I finally saw the Bunny hop with a hand clap under the knee. His waltz jumps were higher, and I could see he was testing himself. Then he did a two foot hop, full rotation, and then he grinned at me like "did you see that?"
I see you, and you're awesome, but I may have to leave your practices when you start doing that with Coach. Mommy has a weak heart.

Dad and I have discussed Stitch's general negativity towards formal skating instruction. If he just wants to skate for fun, then why do lessons? Couple of reasons: One, Stitch clearly wants to do the cool Big Skater moves, and the only way he can do those safely is with a Coach at his side. Two, he loves to perform, and to learn moves worth performing with, he needs the formal instruction. Three, no matter how much he complains about new moves, the moment they enter his Skating Vocabulary, he will use them. The Three Turn, back crossover, waltz jump, half flip, all of that he now does on his own in his Improv Skating routines. And last night he did the Kneelie Thing, over and over and over again. It got better, every single time. In fact, if this keeps up, he'll have a smash ending to that program. New Skill; New Toy, and the kind that won't take up room in the closet.

I have a feeling that once we get out of this developmental Stage he's in, I'll be reading in the stands more often and spending less time rinkside. But I may keep on scowling, just to keep up appearances.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Unintended Performance Snafus

Every Performer will do something that doesn't look the way they think it does. That's what Directors are for; they see your performance from the front and can give honest appraisals. For example, during a play I was performing in, I decided to fling my hand aside while chastising my imaginary "son." The Director yelled at me, telling me that this bit of business was indicative of me "throwing away" my son. You don't fling your hand aside unless there's something in it you want to get rid of. Thank you, Mr. Director.

The Kneel Thingie is hard, so last night after Stitch was done with The List I told him to do ten attempts. Stitch dutifully tried, but instead of remaining on one skate, he dropped to both knees, spun and looked back at me with his hands up. I tried not to laugh.

Then he did it again. And Again. And again. I try not to coach my kid, that's not my job, but I had to put a stop to this.

"Stitch, hold your arms out, not up."
"I AM!"
"No, you're not. You don't look like you're a skater, you look like you're being arrested."
Then Stitch once again did a move where it looked like a SWAT team had descended into the Small Rink and told him to reach for the sky.
"Again, are you finishing a program or are you going to the Big House?"
And then I started thinking that we could change the music and it would work fine.

I let it go. Let Coach handle the Prisoner.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Rule of Figure Skating; Don't Talk about Figure Skating

I've been mulling all day. I know this isn't good for me, but I'm stuck and I can't talk to anyone about it. I can't talk to any Professionals because they are bound to some Ethics. I can't talk at the Rink because Some People might get mad that I went to the "wrong person" for help. I can't talk outside the Rink because Other Parents don't know Stitch the way I do. I can't talk on this blog anymore because it's not as anonymous as I'd planned. I can only marginally talk to Dad, because he's only vaguely aware of the kind of pressure Suburban Moms and Some Women can exert on each other. I'm stuck.

This morning I ran into a Coaching Friend on the way to work, and he asked me how Stitch's Power 3's were. Good, I said. Better all the time. And before I knew it I was close to spilling just about everything in this poor man's lap. I stopped myself, saying that I just needed some outside third party advice on Clubs and Tests and stuff, and he said he could help me with that if we kept it quiet.

God, what is with this sport, anyway?

In my heart, I know that none of this really matters. Whatever levels there are, Stitch can get them as he gets there. Whatever tests to be taken, Stitch can take them whenever. It's all going to be okay.

But I feel a tremendous pressure from around me to get moving, and I know why. It's because I don't have a twelve year old. I can't even imagine what PrepSchool's Mom must be going through, he's ten. No wonder he's doing Haxels in the lobby, he has to.

I asked Coaching Friend what my first steps should be. Figure out what Stitch wants, he said. Go from there. Well, okay.

So I talked to Stitch tonight, and it wasn't pretty. I set down the USFSA structure in front of him. "You are here," I pointed to Basic Skills. "Coach wants you here," I pointed to Pre-Pre, "by the end of summer. I don't think that's realistic, so we'll say end of the year."
Stitch studied this thing.
"This is how the Skating thing works," I tried to explain. "If you really want those gold medals, to be on TV, and to have girls throw things at you, then this is how you get there," I pointed down the list. "Fab Skater is here," I pointed to the level I was pretty sure she was at. "So, people at Home Rink can do it, but,"
"Yeah, and she struggles at it," he said sagely.
"Well, yes, skating is hard. We've established that."
"I don't want to struggle like that."
"What do you mean? You say you want gold medals,"
"But you don't want to work hard."
"But that's how it works. You have to work hard to get that medal."
"It seems scary."
"Why scary?"
And he ran down a list of things he was scared of from the dark, to hockey pucks hitting him, to people saying "boo" when he fell, and wound up back at "hard work."
I studied him. There are times when you hear your child and times when you listen to them. I was hearing him now, telling me that this was scary and too hard. But on Saturday night I was listening, while he danced and laughed and tried all sorts of hare brained stunts. "Stitch, we have to work for the things we want. You tell me you want to be a famous skater,"
"But you aren't willing to do the work to become famous."

And here we were, back at the disconnect in Stitch's mind, that gap between getting first place and working hard to earn it. I thought about this while we sat outside for awhile. I thought about it while he fought me on Spiral stretches yet willingly did near full rotation hops.  I remembered the previous evening when he made up his own program to his music for the first time, doing little hops and looks and spins. That gap is fucking huge, and he has to cross it. Not just for the skating's sake, but for Life. I was thinking of all this in the front yard when a man and his two year old wandered into the courtyard. The boy had a toy golf set.

We struck up a conversation about neighborhood schools and parks and things, and the man asked me about the local recreational programs. I said they were fine, but Stitch only did the skating thing. The man expressed concern about broken legs, then asked me if his son should specialize in a sport. Namely, golf. 
I looked at the cute kid, throwing golf balls every which way and said no. "He's too little. Let him explore, let him play. Sure, do the tot classes that the parks offer, but don't specialize."
"Oh. So when do you think he can start to play golf? Maybe four or five?"
"Even that may be too early. He won't have the attention span until at least six."
"Do you think any coaches would take him sooner?"
"Probably not. Attention span."

I believe that the Universe puts people in my path for a reason. This Man came along to assure me that my next steps were not completely insane.

I was putting Stitch to bed and I asked him one last time. "Why don't you think you can do it?"
"Because I have no talent."
Well, there's a moment of blunt honesty I wasn't expecting. "What makes you say that?"
"Because my spin is terrible, everyone hates my waltz jump, and everyone yells at my spiral."
"Your spiral is in the Bahamas, but your waltz jump and spins are fine."
"See?!" he laughs at me. "And Coach is always yelling, 'Higher! Higher!'"
"Yes, but she has a valid reason for saying that."
 "I just can't do it."
 "Nonsense. You have a lot of talent. But I will tell Coach what you told me; that you think it is too scary and that you can't do it. I think you can, but we'll see what she says."