Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Trimmings: What Kind and how to Sew Them

If you've ever taken a trip to your local fabric shop, you've likely seen the rows of carded wacky things that come on strings. They come in all colors, widths, materials, weaves and materials.
I spend a lot of time here.

They can range from a woven heavy metallic thread, to a simple string of sequins, satin ribbon, heavily beaded fringe, elastics, and crystals in metal settings.

Trims aren't just decorative. There are functional trimmings such as hook and eye, zipper, and grommeted trims. In short, it can be overwhelming.

Trims are sold by the yard and very in price according to their make, materials, country of origin, and a bunch of other factors, but the simplest way to judge is by how fancy it is. The fancier the trim, the likely the more expensive it will be.

If you need a long length of elastic in an odd size, the Trims Section is where you look.

What is not a constant is the more expensive the trim, the more tasteful it is. There's a lot of trims that are quite expensive, yet are horrific to behold.

$20.00 Per Yard Seashell fringe for a Snowplow Sam "Under the Sea?" Falling shells as an artitistic choice or Competitive Advantage?

So, how do you choose a trim?

Well, my process starts long before I even enter the fabric store. The music must be chosen first, so with music in mind, I'll sit down with some paper and draw out my ideal costume. What I would like if money were no object, if I were the most talented seamstress alive, what would I create?

Now, provided you aren't too ashamed of your art, take this to the fabric shop. Here, your design is going to get the ax hacking of a paredown as you shop for what kinds of materials are available, how much they cost, and what your skills are capable of actually doing. This isn't always a bad thing. Your design isn't going to get necessarily worse, it's just going to evolve to fit your reality.

With fabrics chosen, take a look at the design and see where a trim would accent, fit and work your design. We need some shiny things on the pants, so let's look.

This is an old pair of skating pants, you can tell by the worn-out knee. But layering Slung Sequins can add some Drama!

Don't be shy. If you walk into a fabric store, lay down some drawing and a pattern and a bunch of fabric, you'll look like a total pro and own the place. Your actions indicate, "Hey! I need some mofo trim here!"

This is also pretty for color and texture.

Unroll a foot or so of what you think might work and lay it on your fabric. Think of it in context of the overall color scheme and theme of the program. Does it work? No? Try again. And again. And again. Mistakes are imperative in the design process. Without knowing what doesn't work, you don't have a firm grasp of what does. Make mistakes.

Okay, so I find one I like best. I know Stitch's leg is 26" long, and he has two of them. I need 52" of this, minimum. I'll buy an additional 6" in case I, yes, make a mistake. It's sold by the yard, a yard is three feet or 36". A yard and a half is too short, so I'll bite the bullet and get two yards.

Next up: How to Sew the Stupid Things Once you Have them!

Friday, January 27, 2012

We Take a Break for a Moment...

A brief Shout Out to whomever was searching for someone to give them, "a hug and tell me it's going to be okay."

These terms appeared in my Search Words this week.

I'm giving you a hug.

It's going to be okay.

Hang in there.

People Ask Me Things: Trims and Stoning

My email this week included this note from the UK, regarding Trimming and Stoning! Let's take a look:

Dear... Um... Stitch's Mum:

In the near future I am going to get some new skating trousers. The plan is:
- Sophie buys pattern.
- Sophie buys material.
- Sophie drives 100 miles.
- Sophie's mum makes trousers.
- Sophie hops, skips, jumps 100 miles home (while driving?)
- Sophie attempts to put some sort of decoration on trousers.

My question is: What would WWWMSLD? I know I can glue gems on but that will likely end in me sticking my fingers together/sticking fingers to gems/sticking fingers to face/etc.

I was wondering if you have an reccomendations to sew-on tye things as I can hand sew? (You should see me with a sewing machine... Who needs straight stitch when you can be... artistic about it? Anything more than 1 stitch per second is way too fast.)

I know people use these types of things but I'm thinking they'll be floppy and not lie more-or-less flat?

Oh, and I tried your tutorial think on how to sew little beads! I used quite-flexible tiger tail (something like that) wire on a hankie for my nan for Christmas! I don't think she'll ever use it to blow her nose on asn she may end up snorting beads... Imagine explaining that to the doctor!

Many thanks-
Confused in the UK

Well, Confused in the UK, your question is actually a bunch of questions rolled into one!

Let me start off by saying that when I visited the UK, I had lunch at a Buttery. As I hail from the American South where Butter is a staple, it was a bit of a disappointment. (Just kidding, I loved the sandwich.)

What I'm reading here is a question on Trims, a question on Applique, and a question on Stoning. How do we buy these things, and what do we do with them once we have them?

What I propose to do is that we break this down into a series of posts on how to trim and accent skatewear. A common practice is to buy commercially available dresses and bedeck them ourselves, so a tutorial would be helpful here.

Let's plan a trip to the Trimmings section of the Fabric Shop first, then learn how to sew on or glue those on. (I've done it both ways.)
Then we'll work with some Appliques. Those can be a lot of fun and a great shortcut.
Lastly, we'll work with Crystals and Stones.

So, Readers; If you have any questions, advice, or stories about your experiences with these Decorative Thingamabobbers, send in your emails now! They will be featured in upcoming posts to come to the aide of your Fellow Skate Moms! Next week we will be educational!

Thanks for the posting ideas, Confused!


You must have a very nice Mum to sew a pair of pants for you, as when I asked my own sewing mom to do the same for me, she sent me a very, um, polite email back. She sewed two pair of pants and then she was done with skatewear. I don't blame her a bit.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ice Moms: This is a Very Bad Idea

So, as it turns out, the show "Kids on Ice" will not really be called "Kids on Ice." Guess what they're really calling it? "Ice Moms." Are you shocked? I'm not shocked.

Read about it here. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/dance-moms-lifetime-ice-moms-285090

I've been reading various mom and culture blogs about the notions of the shows "Toddlers and Tiaras" and "Dance Moms" as Exploitative Child Abuse, and I have to say that, after some thought, I agree with this notion.

But, Skate Mom, aren't Child Abuse and Exploitation strong words to be using?

Nope. Here's why, and here's why you should not watch the upcoming Lifetime travesty "Ice Moms":

You know your figure skating child. You know how many hours they spend in lessons, in practice, doing the same move, over and over. You know how frustrated they get when they get stuck on something. You know how much heart they put into competing, how much they want to win. Agreed, emotions and tensions can run high. The Good Moments are really Good, and sharing them with the world can be a great High.

But, consider this: Imagine your child suffering a devastating loss. When Stitch was in that dressing room, berating himself for an all-too-human lapse in memory, nearly in tears, how horrible would it have been to stick a TV Camera in his face and show this agonizing process for all the world? And do you really believe my positive encouragement would have made it past the editors? Or, looking to make me a monster in search of ratings, they showed only my strong words of "get over it, focus on next time," and left my words of love and encouragement on the cutting room floor?

Imagine your daughter throwing her heart into passing that Freestyle test, giving it her all, and coming up short. You've seen the tears. You've held the little sobbing body. Now, invite a TV Camera to join in. And then you can read about how everyone in the process is a total failure in the gossip rags the next day. How does that sound?

How would you feel if, during a time when you were at your worst, felt your most low, someone, without your permission, authorized a TV camera to show up and broadcast your agony? And there was nothing you could do to stop it?

That's what these kids are being subjected to, and I consider it abusive.

Part of my Parenting Philosophy is to remember how hard it is sometimes to be a child. When I remember some of my "Hard Moments" as a child, I am sickened at the notion of someone putting that on TV.

But that's not my only opinion:

I think this show is going to do nothing but solidify the Mythology surrounding this sport that keeps many from being involved: That you Figure Skate Competitively or you're wasting your time. The Recreational Figure Skater, as I predicted, will have no place in this show, and that's a crying shame. It's leaving out the Adults as the Friendliest Folks at the Rink, the Older Teens who knock you dead during Ice Shows, the Synchro Girls with their snappy swishes of skates moving in unison. Nope. No place here.

We want Singles, and we want them with an "Explosive Dynamic!"

I think this show will give what the general public expects of Figure Skating: The Miniature Dynamo with Unlimited Funds, with the Pushy Coach and a Starry Eyed Mom who misses the entire point of Parenting.

It will not, in any way, present the wonderful positives that can come from learning and excelling in a challenging sport for the Average Kid and their Average Family.

Folks, I'm asking you to Boycott TV Shows that get their ratings from Child Exploitation. This means "Toddlers and Tiaras," "Dance Moms," and yes, "Ice Moms." If someone wants to stuff their house full of crap and eat couch cushions ("Hoarders", "My Weird Addiction") that's their business. They aren't hurting anyone but themselves.

But to put a child's delicate and developing psyche on public display is an egregious offense. I'm calling on USFSA and ISI to come out against crap like this. I have no issue with people raising their children to be Competitive Figure Skaters if that's a shared objective. What I have a problem with is exposing them to the harsh judge and jury that is Reality TV.

Do not watch. Boycott.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is Coach Scary; Redux

My Mother in Law visited recently. And she had lost a lot of weight. She informed us of the obvious success of her recent dieting efforts, and congratulations went all around. This was a battle she had been putting off for some years, and to see her fighting and winning it makes me happy.

When we asked what had influenced her to suddenly diet and lose the weight, MIL cited a recent doctor's visit which was all bad. She knew she had to make a change, and soon. But then she said something that made me laugh: Coach Y.

When MIL was taking Stitch to Summer Lessons, she would sit in the stands and sew, much like me. And one day Coach Y asked her to please take the music CD to the booth. MIL, sighed and said how hard it was to climb the stairs.

Coach Y wasn't having it. "You have a young grandson. You should be in better shape."
MIL whipped out her standard "I'm old" excuse.
Nonplussed, Coach Y revealed that there was only two years worth of age difference between them.

And that did it for MIL. She resolved, pretty much that day, that it was time. She's lost fifteen pounds and is exercising regularly.

We're all proud of her.

And I know she can't wait to finish her diet and go see Coach Y again. Never underestimate the value of a frank appraisal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rockerz Reprieve

As it turns out, people actually do pay some attention to this little blog. After my scathing commentary on the Fancy Guards known as Rockerz, I was invited to try a pair and get my honest opinion. Well, okay. I wasn't paid for my opinion, nor was I paid for getting the opinions of others, but I did get a free pair of Rockerz. Rather, Stitch did, and he's pretty enamored of them.

The packaging is pretty fancy, which I would expect after their expense. The box resembles a box of chocolates, complete with silver tie and label. Open it up, and your Rockerz are tucked inside some confetti.

This confetti will quickly be scattered all over your domicile unless you dispose of it quickly. Learn from my fail.

Stitch took one guard and started doing some weird Conga dance in the living room with it, while Dad and I inspected and measured with the other. Yes, they really do have a wider base; wider by an eighth of an inch or so. Yes, the edges are truly rounder, mirroring the rounding off that happens as "regular" blade guards get old. The tread on them is truly deep, making the old guards seem flat by comparison. They are easier to put on and take off, I've had less struggling with them.

Click to Embiggen

We shrugged, tucked them into the Zuca, and waited for the big test on Saturday.

Saturday morning, we headed out to the rink, I laced up Stitch and sent him traipsing around in the new Guards. He said they were, in fact, easier to walk in. He felt safer navigating the stairs in his skates, and he liked having the "cooler" guards on the boards.

That's well and good, but I snagged them and took them around to other skaters, parents and coaches.

The results were decidedly mixed.

Big Guy Skater, a boy in Freestyle 5 or 6, didn't like them. "They're awful," he said.
"Why?" I asked. "I just need an opinion."
"That wavy design," he pointed. "I don't like it."
"Okay," I thanked him for his time and moved on.

The Synchro Girls, however, adored the wavy design. "It's so cute! I love it!" they passed the guards around. "Does it come in pink?"
"Not only does it come in pink, you can choose the spring color."
They were sold. When I mentioned the price, they looked around furtively for their parents.

I asked two girls heading into freestyle class, but their dad was dismissive of me, saying that they were going to miss class if they didn't hurry.
Apparently he didn't see them attempt to skip class, as they hid behind the ice door and shared an MP3 player until a Coach caught them and shooed them back on the ice.

I asked another boy what he thought, and he looked at it strangely. "Why is it shaped like s seahorse?"
"Huh. I guess it does kind of look like a seahorse."
"Where can I buy them? I think they're cool!"
So I referred him to the website.

A Freestyle 4 girl literally stopped me as I was carrying them. "Where did you get those? They're so cool!"
"Oh yeah? Why do you think they're cool?"
"Because they stick up over the boards, and they have the cool swirlies!"
"They're more expensive than your other guards, though. Do you think your mom would mind?"
"Oh, no..." she seemed convinced.

The Coaches were not too impressed. "It's nice," said one. "But it's a guard."

"I dunno," said another. "It feels flimsier to me." This is weird since Dad and I liked their heft. When we measured, we could see the blade was actually an eighth of an inch higher off the ground than in a traditional guard.

Parents fell into two distinct camps. The moms in fur coats and Prada bags thought these guards were way cool and wanted to know where to find them. Moms like me were shaking their heads and rolling their eyes.

"It's a guard," said one of my fellow costumers. "Do you know how long it takes my son to lose a set of blade guards?"
"Five days?" I ventured.
"Three. No way would I pay that much for something that gets lost in three days."

Another mom handled them while her daugher looked on with puppy eyes. "They're pretty slick," she admitted.
Fellow Mom and I swapped a look. "They're thirty bucks," I said.
"Is anything cheap here?" Mom throws up her hands.

Probably not, but we do have some pretty nifty accessories.

So, what's my Honest Opinion of Rockerz?

They're not all bad. If you don't trust Grandma to buy a dress for your Skater, she can't really go wrong with buying a set of Rockerz. If your skater has worked hard to achieve a goal, pass a test, or win in a tight field, a set of these would be a nice bonus to accompany that victory. As a Gift, they're a nice necessity with a luxury touch.

The packaging helps.

The reality remains that a lot of us are trying to cut costs and corners where we can, and an expensive set of guards just doesn't fit that budget. "Maybe if they lit up..." one mom mused.

Yes, because heaven knows we need more blinky blade guards.

But here's a bonus: The postcard that comes with them explains that they are indeed made out of 100% recycled material, and they're 100% recycleable. If you can manage to hang onto them for a decent length of time, you're buying a sustainable product. Even if you do lose them, someone who likes swirls is bound to steal them out of the lost and found and they will keep on being used.

So, if you're sold on Rockerz, you can buy a pair from the website, http://www.rockerzskateguards.com/, or by emailing rockerzorders@gmail.com.

For the record, I think the wooden blade guards discussed in the comments in the previous Rockerz post sound like the most badass things ever. I would be more than happy to invest in http://www.badassbladeguards.com/. (Not a real website.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Competition Round #5: A Learning Experience

Sunday was a long day. Too long, in Coach's opinion. We got up and headed out; Stitch went to the Flower Booth and I to the stands to watch. I got to watch the Basic Level kids, the Snowplow Sam Kids, the Synchro Kids, and I gained a deep appreciation for those who man these competitions. These are long days.

I had perched next to the Zamboni door, which had an unmanned Com unit nearby. So, I listened. Skaters got mixed up, music lost, CD's not playing, judges missing, skaters gone AWOL, and towards noon the chatter got punchy. I was enjoying myself, keeping count of the pop songs. Two runs of "Dynamite," Two runs of "Firework," Three for "Tonight's gonna be a good night," and one of "Last Friday Night" which included the alcoholic and sex references. Skater was nine.

I hauled over Stitch for lunch, and we ate peanut butter while the Synchro teams finished. We cheered on the Home Rink team, who did fabulously! I put Stitch in his costume, discovering with some horror that he was still wearing his pajama bottoms. The black pants masked some of the lumpiness, but he still looked a bit lumpy. Leave it to a eight year old boy to forget friggin' underwear. But we weren't alone in the Underwear Mishaps; I counted at least three girls with white peeks on their bottoms. Don't tell me not to look, they're skating away from me on a Spiral. I can't not look.

Coach took Stitch to warm up, and tension started. I put skates on him, and left him with Coach's group of kids, all jumping and hopping. Dad arrived, and we joked about the bad wiring job on the houselights again. I looked from across the ice, and Stitch was clearly nervous. When the kids took ice for warmup, he skated around first, then did his program. And he forgot his spin. I could see Coach fussing at him, but with two other students of hers on the ice, her attention couldn't be focused on him as it has been in the past. He tried again, and forgot the spin again. This didn't bode well.

But he skated first, so maybe he'd remember. He skated out, big smiles, started okay. Backspin was the same as always, high waltz jumps, nice spiral, good Dance Step, bunny hops were too rushed, and he forgot the spin. Horrors! He realized it midway through the three-turn-tap-toe sequence, and threw in a scratch spin, but by then he was totally thrown. Two half flips in a hurry, a two foot spin, and he finished with a shrug.

What elements he did were strong, but once he got thrown, it was over. I went down to collect him, and Coach hit me at the ice door. He can't do things before a competition, he can't work anything, he was tired before he started, she was saying. I didn't argue, but I knew the larger problem had been hit on the head for Stitch. Now I had to be the one to clean him up.

In the dressing room, he was close to tears. "I blew it," he said. "I blew the spin."

"You were fine," I changed his shirt. "You have one more to go. Another chance to get it right."

"I'll blow that, too," he was abject.

"Stop it," I said. "Don't set yourself up for failure. You didn't get it right the first time, okay. That's done. Focus on this next chance, okay? No more negative talk."

I decided to wait on my lecture.

I brought him up to sulk and wait for results, where we watched more skaters. Kwanette kicked it out of the park, as expected. I remained chatty and cheerful, which was hard given Sir Sulksalot. After awhile, we headed down. Second place. Not bad, given the Spin Incident.

Stitch was inconsolable. Not first? The judges may well have handed him a dirt clod. I assured him he did fine, focus on compulsory for now.

So, I handed him back to Coach for Compulsory. She immediately began drilling him on elements and order of things. He said he knew it, but they drilled it anyway.

For warmup, he looked a little more steady. There was a lot of going back to Coach for talking, but it looked a bit better. And he did do better. On the half ice for the judges, he knew the order, he knew the elements, but when it came to polish he came up short. Third, out of a flight of five.

Now he was just angry. He collected his trophy morosely, angrily, refusing to speak. I kept saying how good he skated, that I could tell he gave it his best shot, and I was proud.

But his negative talk ended his day. Selling flowers is a priviledge, and after hearing him say "anything other than first is Loser," I decided he was done. I pulled him out of costume, packed him up, and off we went. Although the Trophies were not first, he held them in his lap all the same on the way home. As we got further away, the mood lightened. Pretty soon we were laughing.

Once home, he started his bad talk again. "It's not first," he looked at the trophies which I'd displayed in the window for the evening. "I wanted first."

"Hey, Stitch?" I decided to bust it out. "You want first? Here's a tip: If you want first, you need to want first Every Day, not just on Competition Day. Every time you get on the ice, you need to think of first place. Because that's what every other skater is doing; wanting first and working for it, everyday. Every practice. Every lesson. Got it? No more hanging on the boards, no more phoning it in, no more drifting off when Coach is talking to you. Everytime I catch you doing it, I'll remind you of third place. Okay?"

"Okay," he was sullen.

"So what did you learn today?"

"Practice when you try, and try when you practice," he said, seeming to repeat something Coach said to him.

"Good. Remember that, and you'll do better next time. Deal?"


"Are we done talking about this?"



And then I ordered Thai.

Stitch and I fought our way through the Sandship in the new Zelda game, with Stitch scared of the Robot Pirate miniboss guarding the bow and arrow. I was not impressed, calling Robot Pirate a "soft touch." Stitch said he was "The Judge," grading me on my gaming skills. When I asked how I was doing, he said I was in third place.

"Third place and I'm the only player? Harsh, Stitch."

"Hey, rules are rules," he said.

After awhile he sighed. "I think I'm starting to appreciate my trophies."

"Good. Because you did a good job today," I repeated, fighting an Armos Statue and parenting at the same time. Kind of similar, in this instance. Both things tend blow up in your face if you're not careful.

We played awhile longer, Stitch giving me pointers. He's actually pretty quick on figuring the puzzles and strategy. We make a good team, he just needs me to take out the bosses. "Mom, mom," he says suddenly with some new urgency.

"What? What?"

"My tooth fell out."

"And that's a good day."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

OMG, a T-Shirt Contest!

Well, the Basic Skills Competitions aren't the only game in town! Xanboni is having a T-Shirt contest!

Most of the skatewear out there is for girls, so I've been wracking my brain to come up with a good figure skating t-shirt for boys to wear. Give me time, I'll come up with something!

Someone asked for a coffee mug with the "Skating Graph" on it, I like the notion of a mug or beer stein, personally...

But if you've ever thought of a witty catchphrase like, "Get a Suitcase for that Spin, you're Travelling!" or "Stop whining, Oksana cleaned the ice with her BEAR HANDS!!" and show some awesome 'shopped graphic of Oksana Baiul doing a layback with big bear paws, now is your chance!

Get involved! Submit your design ideas and we'll have some awesome unique shirts for the rink!

Round #5 is this Sunday!

Sunday is the big day and it's going to be a long one. Stitch has asked to work flower sales with Rink Pal for some pocket money, so we will be there at 8am, and staying as long as he can tolerate working. I'll feed him a lunch at noon, and then he'll compete, returning to the flower booth afterwards to wait for results. I'll watch skaters and count how many times I hear Katy Perry's "Firework" in various bad cuts.

When we're done, we're heading out somewhere nice for dinner. Likely our local favorite Thai place.

We've got a decent showing of Coach's kids in attendance; Kwanette (whom I can't wait to watch) and Big Girl, both of whom are sweet kids and their moms are nice. I had a nice relaxing chat with Kwanette's mom last night, laughing about how she can't sew and I can't knit, skating costumes, and our kid's quirks. It was a marked change from talking to MsV, which always left me stressed and tired.

Stitch worked a half hour of Practice Ice last night, running his program just a few times more before he declared the ice too crowded. It was, and he admits he has a "hard time concentrating" when he has to dodge so many people. But it looks good. There's nothing overtly new in this program. Even the Back Spin at this level is just a "give it your best shot" thing, not an expectation of a finished product like the next level up. All Stitch has to do is get the Exit down and he's got the backspin. Give it time. He's a little nervous, but the Flower Sales has given him "something to do," which has taken the edge off his typical jitters. He keeps saying "I'll do terrible, I'll get fifth place," and so on, but it seems more like he's fishing for encouragement rather than actual doubt. Okay, sure, I'll encourage you.

Me? I've been ready for awhile. We did a "dress rehearsal" Tuesday morning and the costumes looked fine. I've had those done since Thanksgiving. The collar on the shirt flapped annoyingly on jumps, to the eye and to Stitch, so I tacked those down. Kwanette's mom couldn't believe I sewed them from scratch. I explained that given the lack of unique boys skating wear on the market, I kind of had to. And once we're done with them, up for sale they go!

Last year felt rushed and awkward. This year feels calmer. Yes, the skillset is harder and not without struggle, but given the light competition schedule and goal of two levels to pass (one of which is halfway done) it feels breezy.
My only concern is Stitch's tooth. He's got a baby front tooth dangling by a thread at the moment, and I wondered last night; if it falls out in the middle of his program and throws him off, will the judges allow a reskate? Or will Stitch have the kahunas to keep it in his mouth and finish? Can I get a picture of Coach's face if Stitch hands her a tooth during warmup?
Can I really convince Stitch that a lost tooth is some kind of good omen?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Blade Guards Revolutionize the Way you Spend Money

Did you hear? There's a new Blade Guard in town! It was designed by a skater, so it has to be good, right?

They're called "Rockerz." The "Z" costs extra. Are they really better than your old crummy blade guard? Read the benefits and find out!

Rockerz has a heavy tread, designed to help you keep your grip on wet or slippery surfaces. Anytime someone starts talking about the dangers of slippery surfaces in the context of ice skating, I get the uncontrollable giggles. Besides, if it's raining or snowing outside and we have to trek from one rink to another, take your skates off.

The curved, rocker-shaped bottom allows you to roll through your walk, reducing impact and joint stress. *snicker* Impact and Joint Stress. And how far are you walking, anyway? Does anyone do the local 10K for Charity in their skates and guards?

The wide base helps keep your stability while wearing Rockerz. *snorfle* Stability.

Indented, ergonomic grips allow you to safely grip the guard while putting on or taking off. While I have induced blood dripping injuries on skate blades, it's usually when I forget the guards entirely, not when they're being put on or taken off.

Build your own? Absolutely! Not only can you mix and match the color halves, which most of us were already doing, but now you can choose what color spring you want! Gold or Silver?


All this for $32 and some change! But wait! If you order now they give you some kind of newfangled Roll Up Towel! This is so much better than that discarded local hockey team towel you picked up out of the lobby and currently use. This fancy towel has an embroidered penguin on it. And rolls up.

These fancypants guards are all swirly and curves, and claim they are "100% Recycleable." That's great, but what I'd really like to see is a guard set that is "Made from 100% Recycled Materials." When you use new stuff to make your stuff, you're missing the point of conserving resources.

Which brings me to the meat of my objections to $35 blade guards; $35 is a skating lesson to most people I know. So, you can spend your money on fancy accessories, or you can, I dunno, actually skate. Considering the pile of orphaned blade guards in the lost and found at the rink, this is a lot of cash to lay down for what I consider an expendable item. This doesn't even include the heartbreak when you consider the time spent agonizing between "Layback Lilac" and "Tangerine Tango," and your lost Gold Spring. (Tip: The Springs rust with age.)

Blade Guards need to Guard the Blades. This is their purpose in life, and I don't think a $35 guard will do it any better than a $15 guard. Same thing with the fancy towel. An old dishrag soaks up water just as good as the embroidered penguin.

I started to qualify the use of these things as, "Well, maybe if you're a high level skater with some pricey blades..." but then I read that these guards "currently" don't work with K-Picks. Oh well. K-Pick people, I guess no "Peppermint Pink" for you. I know you has a sad now. **sad face**

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wrong Ways to Leave a Coach

When I first started out on this adventure, I never understood why Coach hopping was such drama. Now that I've been with a Coach for nearly two years, I totally get why. The USFS Parent's Guide says it's like a Divorce, and they're pretty much dead-on in terms of emotional attachment. But in squicky terms of decorum and manners, switching Coaches is a gray area. You don't want to hurt feelings, but you know you're going to, so people seem to do all sorts of weird, evasive, and sometimes passive aggressive, things to dodge the problem.

Here are some of ways that I've observed Other Parents handling Coaching swaps over the past two years.

The Dissatisfied Customer

As a consumer buying a Coaching Product, this Parent isn't liking what she's getting. What they're getting is Second Place. Or last place. Or any place other than First. You get the idea. Never mind that there are a host of other factors at work at any given competition and skating in general, clearly any loss or failure to progress is the Coach's fault. So, obviously a New Coach is needed. Duh.

The Conspiracy

A Vaguely Dissatisfied Mom is in the stands, and she happens to hook up with another Vaguely Dissatisfied Mom. The two of them start talking, and talking, and watching, and talking, and pretty soon Coach is not only responsible for the Skater's poor progress, we're pretty sure she's delivering nuclear material to Iranian malcontents. Neither of them say anything to Coach, because Coach would just ask them to be Drug Mules, probably. Who knows. Better just leave quickly.

The Slow Withdrawal

They haven't scheduled any private lessons in awhile. They used to have a pretty regular schedule, but now things are up in the air. A few weeks go by, they're rarely spotted at all, maybe at Group Lessons on the Off Day. Another few weeks go by, and then suddenly they're spotted with some other Coach. No one knows why, no one asks. We all just move on.

Magician Mom and the Disappearing/Reappearing Skater Trick

Sometimes some skater drops off the radar for awhile. Just gone. Magician Mom has waved her magic minivan and they stopped coming. Coach asks if you've seen them, and you say no. You just assume they've moved or in some cases hope they've been carted off by gypsies. But no, a few weeks later they reappear. Magician Mom opened her magic minivan and Skater reappeared! With a New Coach! It's magic!

The Surprise

Surpriser just pops up on a lesson day and says, "Well, I guess this is goodbye." Doesn't give a reason or explanation, never gave any indication that she was the least bit concerned or unhappy, just parts ways. Like ripping off a Band Aid. It's okay. No real feelings hurt here, right? .... *crickets*

The Mover

Want to move to a new rink? Clearly, this means a fresh start! Mover believes this method also clears any unwanted and awkward meetings with Old Coach. Because Coaches always stay at their Home Rinks, and never go anywhere else. **snorfle**

The Hopper

This one likely comes with a lot of baggage. Hopper goes from Coach to Coach, never sticking with anyone and always thinks of her kid's private skating lessons as "one-offs." Because she's chronically switching, her kids progress really slowly and Hopper will say it's because she hasn't found the "right" coach yet. Hopper really doesn't fit in with the "Bad Ways to Switch Coaches" list, because she's more a "Clueless Parent" category, but she's worth mentioning because it's just as rude.

Me? If I ever do switch, it will be via Fax. Fax, Voice Mail, or Text Message, these are all the clear winning ways to fire an employee. (This is sarcasm.)

What horrible ways have you seen or heard of when people switch coaches?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Countdown to Round #5

Stitch is getting worked up about this competition, moreso than in the past. I've taken more of a backseat approach to this one, letting Coach and Stitch handle the On Ice things and me just arranging the scheduling and sewing. Apparently I should be stepping in with a bit more cheerleading, as he seems to need it.

Lately he's been carting out his past trophies, setting them and arranging them while wearing the two medals. He looked at the Second Place trophy and called it "an embarassment." Honestly, I don't know where he's getting this from, because it doesn't come from me. I tell him to do his best, and if he doesn't want Second Place, well, he better get it together. No one makes that decision but him.

I talked on the phone with Coach at some length over the holiday weekend, and she reported that during the final days at "skate camp" Stitch did very well. He was engaged and working hard, and this made me happy. She also relayed the disturbing news that Gordon and the Valium Family had left her, taking off for Other Rink and some other Coach.

I was kind of sad at this. While listening to Gordon drive Stitch nutty with his talk of how much better his Tiger Soakers are than Bunny Soakers, the two boys did do well together. Honestly, this wasn't entirely unexpected for me. I'd been listening to MsV rattle on for weeks about "more competitive Coaches" and "will we ever go somewhere with this." I could sense her growing unease with what she percieved as a lack of momentum. I knew why she was going to Other Rink, I knew who she was going with and why they were leaving en masse. MsV had even spent a good half hour encouraging me to follow, stating a bunch of weird things about "Olympic level Coaches" and "getting Stitch evaluated" to see if "he could do 'it,'" but I'd politely declined.

Godspeed, is all I can say.

At any rate, this leaves Stitch as Coach's only Figure Skating boy. (To my knowledge, anyway.) The departure of two boys also thins the field of boys at our rink. At least now I won't have to worry about Gordon's mom actively copying my costume ideas.

I'll finish the bottom hems on Stitch's competition pants this weekend, since the pants I sewed not but two months ago are now too short. I'm getting concerned about skates; while Stitch says his skates feel fine, I'm debating just going ahead and ordering a new pair in the Spring, right after the planned March Comp. He's shot up nearly six inches in the past year, I can't believe his feet haven't grown as well. And the new emphasis on Jumping is starting to take a toll on the boot itself. With a four to five week lead time on boy's skates, it may be wise to plan ahead.

Tonight is Rescheduled Lesson, as neither Coach nor myself wanted to end the Holiday weekend with a 5am wakeup call. Next week we get back on normal schedule, and begin the honest fretting about Competition Day. The weather seems cooperative, so my fears about an event named after Bad Weather are needless.

I think he'll be fine, and his worrying is encouraging to me. A little worry is fine, it riles to blood a bit. Don't lose sleep over it, but worry enough to make yourself prepare, kid.