Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Ten Things I’ve Learned about Being a Figure Skating Mom

Ice Girl’s been skating for a year and a month. She’s now a beginner and I’m an advanced newbie.

Here's what I learned in 2008. Feel free to add your wisdom in the comments area!

  1. Don’t wear jeans. Geez. I’ll never forget every mom, coach, and skater telling me that Ice Girl shouldn’t wear jeans on club ice. Many told me twice. I get it, I get it!

  2. Pick a good coach. I lucked out here and we are thrilled with Ice Coach. However, it’s important to pick a coach that encourages your skater, has great skills, and works well with you. I know some fabulous coaches that I’m relieved we didn’t choose – snotty comments, terrible relationships with parents, diva attitudes. I also know some that we really like and admire. I tell you, I’m relieved that we have a great one from the start.

  3. Watch your mouth. O.K. Quit sniggering. I’m trying not to write anything about real people here. Well, not anymore. Anyway, figure skating is a pretty small world and tongues wag even when you’re not contracted for ice. Smile, nod, and bring a book to avoid the nasty conversations.

  4. Keep a blanket and coat in the car. This seems obvious, but when temps are in the high 80’s, it’s tempting to box up the blanket and coat for storage. Keep them in the car anyway.

  5. Outwit your skater. Make an extra copy of her music and keep it in the glove compartment. Have some skate socks stashed in the van. Buy gloves in quantity when they hit the clearance racks in May. Keep hair ties and a brush in your vehicle’s seat pockets. Stash some snacks in the van, too. Once a week, have your skater clean out the van/mobile locker room and replenish supplies.

  6. Bring your checkbook. The figure skating world runs on checks. Write ’em out and don’t expect them to clear your account for a month…or two.

  7. Make Learn to Skate last as long as you can. As I’ve written many times, Learn to Skate is the only bargain in figure skating. Try talking the skating director into advanced figure skating lessons during Learn to Skate. Your checkbook will thank you.

  8. Encourage recreational spinning. The $35 we spent to buy Ice Girl a spinner has paid off. She loves to spin on that thing and takes it to sleepovers. I’m told her on-ice spins are good and I credit that spinner. Also encourage putting the spinner away. Stepping on that thing in the dark isn’t funny.

  9. Diversify activities. We’re horrible at this, but multi-sport athletes have fewer injuries. Ice Girl loves to bike, so I’m hoping we’re covered.

  10. Keep ice schedules in the van. This is one I’ve just learned. Sometimes Ice Girl wants to walk-on to club ice. We belong to two clubs and skate at seven rinks. I can’t keep it all straight, so I’ve added the ice schedules to Ice Girl’s skating binder.

My 2009 resolution: learn more about figure skating's rules and mechanics. I want to be able to identify the jumps that I see on TV and be able to speak intelligently about what makes a quality spin or jump. I'm told that Ice Network is great for this, so I'll be shaking out the couch cushions to pay for a subscription.

Best wishes for 2009!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Parenting: American Girl Skates Sold Out

American Girl has it in for skating families this year – the limited edition doll of the year is Mia the figure skater. I posted about Mia about six months ago and you’d think I’d have heeded my own warning.

At nearly 13, I thought Ice Girl had grown out of the American Girl doll phase. She has a bunch of them in various boxes scattered from the basement up to her room. She doesn’t play with them anymore, so I thought Mia, the American Girl’s limited edition figure skater, was no threat.

“Ohmygod, Mom, I have to have Mia and all of her accessories.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I need, need, need that doll, Mom, and her cool room and her overpriced posters.”

“But you’re almost 13. You never play with your dolls anymore.”

“Mom. Mom. Mo-ooom. I love my dolls. What are you talking about?”

So. Ice Grandma popped the $100 or so for the doll, who doesn’t come with skates. On Friday I tried buying the accessory package with skates, a skate bag, and some other overpriced trinkets. Sold out.

Plain ol’ American Girl skates? Sold out.

E-Bay? Yeah, they have ’em, but they’re selling for – get this - $75. On the American Girl site, the accessories were $28. Mind you, these $75 fake skates are for a pretend skater.

Last Friday, Ice Girl skated at the rink near the American Girl headquarters. As I drove from the rink out onto Pleasant View Road (named after Pleasant Rowland and her Pleasant Company), I had an urge to storm the castle and take the skates right from the stock room.

I didn’t though. I made a rude gesture towards the building instead. I’m sure the workers felt my negative vibes.

Parenting Lesson 1: Buy early.

Parenting Lesson 2: Hide all American Girl catalogs before Ice Girl sees them.

Parenting Lesson 3: Purchase a siege engine for the next time I drive by the Pleasant Company. The question is: catapult or trebuchet? I should buy one early, before they're out of stock.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Survey Results: Youth and Organized Sports

In my work as an education writer, I come across a lot of research and surveys. One that crossed my desk in October was a survey commissioned by the Women’s Sports Foundation called Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. You can download the entire report here, but I warn you: it’s 192 pages.

What I thought was most interesting was the bit about why kids drop out of sports. Ice Girl is a gymnastics dropout. She left the sport after nine years because, well, she just didn’t love it $150 worth. When we stopped, she was just fine with not going.

According to the survey, most kids (38%) drop out of a sport because they’re not having fun anymore. That’s pretty legitimate, I think. The number two reason was for studying and grades (31%) and the number three reason was because of a health concern or injury (28%). Coaching conflicts were in the number four slot (20%), number five was outside interests like school clubs (19%), and number six was teammate conflicts (17%).

The troubling numbers come from families in trouble, something we’re going to see a lot of in 2009. Kids drop out because they can’t make it to practice (17%), don’t have the money (7%), or don’t have the equipment (7%).

Kids who drop out permanently from a sport report the lowest family satisfaction, which is a measure of family communication, flexibility, and cohesion. That means that these kids who are dropping out are the ones whose families are in the most trouble. These are the kids who most need sports to give them some sort of positive structure and drive.

The report had an upside, too. Two-thirds of the kids surveyed reported that playing a sport was either the most important (11%) or one of the most important (54%) things in their life.

Kids who are involved in sports report a higher satisfaction with their family and home life than students who do not play a sport. (The numbers are pretty complex and compare single-parent and dual-parent homes with one-, two-, and three- sport athletes.) Sports participation improves family communication and parents and children spend more time together.

So, even with the uncertain economy, Ice Girl will continue with her figure skating. She loves it, it promotes fitness, and it’s good for the family.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Food for thought: genetic testing and sports

"Born to Run? Little ones get test for sports gene"
11.29.08, The New York Times, Juliet Macur
Some parents are lining up to get a new genetic test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths by collecting DNA and having it analyzed for a specific gene. The New York Times reports that DNA is collected by a simple swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums and then the sample is sent to a lab for analysis of the gene ACTN3. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and athletic ability. In this era of genetic testing, DNA is being analyzed to determine predispositions to disease, but experts raise serious questions about marketing it as a first step in finding a child’s sports niche.

Well, I tell you this. I wouldn't test my kid. You need to read to the second page of the article to find the neat quote about the springiest guy in Spain and lining up kindergarteners for a free race.

As I've mentioned in several other posts, Ice Girl was mediocre to lousy in all other sports she'd tried. A gymnastics drop-out (9 years), Ice Girl tried soccer, basketball, and swimming. Lousy, lousy, lousy. She was mediocre at gymnastics.

Figure skating, though. Holy cow. We weren't prepared for her to go from Basic 3 to Limited Beginniner in a year. I don't think any test would have revealed that, either.

So, I'm saving my $147 and throwing it at the ice instead. Even a free race with kindergarteners probably wouldn't have revealed Ice Girl's talent. Of course, now that Ice Girl is almost 13, I bet she'd kick those little kids' butts. Well, most of them, anyway.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

One-sport athletes have a higher risk of injury

In the November 13 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal, the front-page article was about how youth who train rigorously in just one sport are at risk for more sports injuries than their multi-sport peers.

Local doctors from the University of Wisconsin Hospital and the UW Medical School said that injuries can occur from muscle overuse.

The article doesn’t site a study, and, in fact, one of the physicians said that there really isn’t one that proves one-sport athletes have more injuries. However, she said that if you were to ask sports physicians if they’re seeing more one-sport athletes with injuries, they’d say yes.

What does this mean for the figure skating parent? Well, I’m pretty uncomfortable about it, I tell you.

Ice Girl skates eight hours/week and more if she can. She loves to ride her bike, but I’m not sure that balances out the risk. If you’ve spent any time in the figure skating world, you know that eight hours is nothing. Most kids skate 12 + hours/week.

The doctors in the article said that chronic pain is a red flag and the cure is to take time off from the sport. "If you take a break now and you give your body a chance to recover and heal, then you're going to be healthier and happier later," said Dr. Alison Brooks, an assistant professor in the orthopedics department at the UW medical school. "But if you keep trying to push through pain and injury and never give your body a chance to recover, it's never going to recover. Most people, of course, don't want to hear, 'Part of your treatment is not playing your sport.”

Ice Girl’s not having pain and she’s having plenty of fun. I’m hoping recreational biking and swimming will balance out any one-sport injury risk.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sewing review: Jalie shrug/bolero pattern #2558

I haven’t started again on that dress I ruined. I wanted to, I really did. But I needed a shot of courage before bringing out that Specialty Sportswear pattern again. Those Specialty Sportswear patterns aren’t easy, but that’s for a post when I can show you the finished dress, not the ruined mess.

Over the weekend I sewed a shrug from the Jalie pattern company, pattern #2558. The pattern set me back $10.55, plus shipping from Canada. Shipping wasn’t fast, but I received the pattern about a week and a half after I ordered it. The pattern encompasses everyone from tiny tot to big momma, so you’re getting a value for your Canadian dollar.

The instructions, measurements, and pattern pieces are all printed on one big piece of heavy paper. I don’t recommend unfolding that huge sheet of paper while sewing. Jalie provides a .pdf document on its site with the back-of-the-envelope information as well as sewing instructions and diagrams in both French and English. I was able to take that .pdf printout to the fabric store and buy fabric as well as order online. I kept the printout on my sewing cabinet, too, so I could follow the instructions while I sewed.

The pattern is so easy. The instructions are instructions, not hints. It has just four pieces. The sleeve is sew-around, not set-in. No buttons, no snaps, no invisible-freaking-zippers, and no elastic.

I cut that puppy out on Saturday night, sewed it on Sunday morning, and I’m feeling pretty good again.

Ice Girl loves her dance shrug that I bought locally for $34. That shrug lives in the do-not-destroy area of her closet; it's the one she uses just out on the ice before a competition. The other $34 shrug she bought with her own money, wears constantly, and washes occasionally.

Now she has another shrug to add to the mix and she’ll have one made from black PolarTec fleece, too. That one’s called Christmas.

Bottom line: Yep. I’d buy from Jalie again. The instructions are terrific, the pattern pieces have every possible size, and the finished product looks great. Even better: I feel confident again and I didn’t spend my Sunday cursing and seam ripping.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

new skates: diamonds on the soles of her boots

Check out Ice Girl's glitter-ific new boots! The good folks at Rainbo (Renee and Kevin) were just terrific.

We're new to skating, so I had no idea that the varnishing process takes two weeks or that we could have glitter (left), stickers, or Ice Girl's name under the varnish. Very cool.
Half of figure skating's allure might be in the glitter, flash, bling, and crystals.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Newbie: my own theme song

Some of you might remember my earlier blog post about how figure skating is really a small community and eventually everyone starts to know everyone else. That was the post about theme songs and how you should choose a good theme song for yourself, not the theme song to say, Jaws or Psycho. You can find that post here.

You might have spotted the hubris in that post. I thought my theme song might be If I Had a Million Dollars from the Barenaked Ladies because I'm obsessed with figure skating's costs and I dream of a day when I can just thow money at the ice without a care. A big tree fort in the backyard, complete with a mini-fridge, would be cool, too.

Here's the hubris: my theme song is not one I chose, as I had recommended people do. No, no. My theme song is along the lines of Nowhere to Run by Arnold McCuller or If I only Had a Brain by that scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

Here I am all smart-mouthed, blogging about my experiences with real people. Now real people have found out who I am. That post about Psycho and Jaws isn't nearly as funny when someone I know who knows those two people says to me:

"I know who you are."

Me: deer-in-the-headlights look

Other person: "You're Ice Mom, aren't you."

Me: crap, crap, crap.

Hoo-boy. It's all fun until folks hold you accountable. Well, I'm a big girl and I stand by my advice: try hard to pick your own theme song and make it something you can dance to.

Otherwise, you can be like me and wear a mask everywhere you go. Actually, spy music is pretty cool. Maybe I could have some 007 theme song...

Monday, November 3, 2008

How-to: Ruin a figure skating dress with fabric paint

I ruined a dress on Saturday. This is not the fault of Simply Spray, the spray-on color that I used to ruin the dress ($4.99/can). Nope, I was pretty pleased with the initial results. The paint is pretty and easy to use. In fact, I plan to construct another dress and have another go at it.

What I did right:
I practiced a few times with the paint and I’d recommend that to anyone who wants to try a color fade on a dress (ombre effect). I did my test on an old white T-shirt and a scrap of fabric leftover from cutting.

What I did wrong:
I took the advice of someone who’d used an airbrush on some skirts for our club’s spring show. She took the finished skirts to her husband’s body shop and just airbrushed them there. It was simple, she told me, and the skirts looked great.

My experience wasn’t so simple. Before I sprayed the finished dress, I cut out tagboard to fit underneath the layers so the paint wouldn’t seep onto the leotard or make spots on the back of the dress. This worked pretty well on the front, but the back of the dress had a zipper, so the paint seeped through to the front of the dress and made stains that I couldn’t spray out.

After half an hour, I had to remove the tagboard because the paint was starting to stick to it. Once I removed the tagboard, the paint began to dry darker in some spots than in others, which created an embarrassing Shroud of Turin effect along the panty line.

  1. Spray the fabric before constructing the dress.
  2. Spray the fabric on a very smooth surface. My first test was on a box that I’d opened up. The slight dips in the corrugated cardboard made the fabric dry in stripes, which is cool, but not what I was going for.
  3. Start spraying off the fabric and then spray on the fabric in a continuous spray. Don’t shut off the spray on the fabric, either. You’ll get spots.
  4. Watch it at the end of the can. Don’t try to spray the last bits of paint out of the can or you’ll have spots.
  5. Try to do this outside, weather permitting, but be careful of the wind. (It’s going to be snowing/raining this coming weekend, so I plan to spray in my garage. Don't tell Ice Dad.)
  6. Buy more cans than you think you need, but check the store’s return policy. I used two cans to destroy that dress and one to practice on the shirt and fabric scrap.

I was pretty ticked off Saturday night when I realized I’d ruined that dress. After all, I’d struggled with that darn Specialty Sportswear pattern (more on that later) and I finally had the dress constructed and presentable when I ruined it with my purple stains. *sigh* I didn’t cry. Much.

Ice Girl was very sweet and told me that she had many beautiful dresses to choose from and that she wasn’t disappointed. She handed me tissues. Really, Momma, it’s O.K.

Ice Girl wore the dress I’d made last month to yesterday’s Cranberry Classic competition in Rockford. She skated well and is a pretty sweet kid, too.

Anyway, I have $80 worth of violet crystals, four cans of purple paint, and a JoAnn Fabrics coupon. I get paid on Wednesday. Ice Dad flies to Florida on Thursday and I have a half-day on Friday. Ice Girl has a sleepover and I have the house to myself. That dress is mine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Buying crystals for figure skating dresses

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m obsessed with the cost of everything in the skating world. The prices just floor me.

I sew Ice Girl’s dresses and I put the beads on myself. I know that I’m saving money on the dress, but should I be cutting corners on the crystals?

Lots of folks swear by Swarovski and claim that their crystals are more sparkly than anything else. I’ve sewn a bunch of dresses and used the cheaper, machine-cut Preciosa crystals on each one.

Here’s the thing: no one – not one person – has said to me, “What a beautiful dress, but those crystals just aren’t very sparkly.”

In fact, the opposite is true. The last dress I made and beaded had a gross of 42ss and a half gross of 40ss cystals on it. I think the bling blinded folks – including me.

Preciosa crystals are real lead crystals, just like Swarovski crystals are lead crystal. The difference is that the Czech-made Preciosa has fewer facets (8) than Swarovski (12). Some folks believe that the Swarovski has more sparkle, but from a distance, like at an ice rink with no spotlight, the crystals look pretty darn similar.

You’re not saving huge amounts of money buying Preciosa, though, so don’t get too excited. Swarovski crystals cost about 20 percent more than Preciosas. So, if I’m buying a gross of 12ss flatback crystals, Preciosa will set me back $4.85 for a gross of crystal; $7.50 for a gross of colored. Swarovski will cost $5.90 for a gross of crystal; $6.75 for a gross of colored.

I think I saved about $10 in the last order I placed for Preciosa crystals, but I spent $7 for shipping. Buying Preciosa instead of the Swarovski is like getting the shipping for free or paying for an hour of ice time.

Of course, Ice Coach would point out to me that I'm not saving money when I make a dress every other month instead of making one per season.

But, well, I like the sparklies. And I can't resist the pretty fabric.

Resources – all of these are U.S. retailers
Good prices, standard shipping rates. Terrible online color charts.
Competitive prices (some are a few cents higher, some a few cents lower), standard shipping rates. Great online color and size charts. Lots of Preciosa colors to choose from. Good shipping times.
Good prices on crystal, great prices on colored stones. Weird site layout. Shipping unknown. Good online color chart, but blurry. Not as many Preciosa colors to choose from.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Learn to Skate is the best bargain in figure skating

I've written about my deep love for Learn to Skate before on this blog. I swear, I'm really in love today.

Learn to Skate is the only figure skating bargain that I know of. For $90, I can get Ice Girl six 1/2-hour lessons plus 1/2-hour practice ice. Since she's done with the basic lessons and freestyle lessons, it's pretty much a 1/2-hour private lesson. Let's see: that would normally cost $17 for the lesson and $10 for ice time. Through Learn to Skate, I pay $15.

I'll sign Ice Girl up for Learn to Skate until she goes to college, I swear.

Ice Girl is only 12, but Ice Coach (the LtS director) graciously offered to let Ice Girl assist with the little Snowplow Sams for 1/2 of the Learn to Skate hour. Ice Girl is learning a skill - coaching (albiet little ones) - and when she turns 14, she'll be able to receive a paycheck for it. She's already dreaming of the music downloads she'll buy.

Me, I'm such a groupie. I was snapping photos through the rink door of Ice Girl scooping the tots off the ice. Another parent asked which kid was mine.

The one in the blue-striped shirt.

He was completely confused.

Err. The tall one. Blonde. With the pony tail. She's helping that small boy to his feet.

Oh! She's an instructor, he said.

Well, sort of. She's learning. It's her first day.

We chatted. His kid is three. Ice Girl had the little one picking up colored rings, skating over to some cones, and stacking the rings on the cones. When the cone was full, Ice Girl scattered the rings again. That poor kid looked so disappointed that she'd ruined his hard work. Ice Girl, however, looked pleased, gushed about the kid's ring-gathering skills, and scooped him up occasionally.

She called one of her friends when we came home. "I just got home from work," she said. "It was great."

See? I love Learn to Skate. In Learn to Skate, Ice Girl learned to swizzle, then jump, then spin. Now she's learning responsibility.

It's the best bargain in figure skating, I swear.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two figure skating parenting articles: which kind of figure skating parent are you and how much does elite training cost?

Susan at Lifeskate posted a great article "What Kind of Skating Parent Are You?" by coach Bob Mock.

Mock separates figure skating parents into three categories.

I'll paraphrase:

1. The drive-by parent. This person drops her kid at the rink, goes to get her nails done, and picks the kid back up with the car engine running.

2. The nut. Mock writes that these folks try to take over the decisions from the coach, and I think he's right. I really believe that these parents have spent so much money on their kids' skating that it warps their brains. I'm too new to figure skating to call anything an investment, but I've heard parents use that word.

3. The normal parent. Mom or Dad drives the skater, watches encouragingly from the stands, smiles and nods when the coach gives instructions, and writes checks. The normal parent trusts the coach to know skating best and provide the best advice; the coach trusts the parent to bring the skater to practice, be encouraging, and not write checks that bounce.

I would add the malicious gossip, the ready volunteer, the scheduled mom (she takes a kid to the rink, then to soccer, then to piano), and others. However, from a coach's standpoint, I think that's about right.

How much does it cost? Susan at Lifeskate also posted a link to an article about how much it costs to support a figure skater's training in the St. Joseph News-Press. This gal in Missouri is raising a champion at home and she predicts next year's figure skating bills will amount to $80,000 - $100,000.

Yeah. That's a ton of money and, at that level, it's obvious why parents call that kind of spending an investment.

Here's the question: at that elite level, how does a #3 normal parent not become a #2 nut? I'm thinking medication.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

setting crystals with E6000 glue on figure skating dresses

Renee at the Pettit’s Rainbo Sports shop sat me down for an E6000 lesson last time I visited. Her method? She uses a paper plate and toothpicks. I kid you not. So…I tried it on the Ron and Harry pillowcase last night.

It works surprisingly well. Use a small dab of glue on the paper plate (in my case, it was a sheet of printer paper, folded over) – about the size of a nickel. Sprinkle your crystals on another piece of paper/paper plate. Flip them flat-side up. Touch the toothpick to the glue and swirl a small amount on the tip. Touch the glue-y toothpick to the flat side of a crystal. It will stick. Move the crystal to the fabric; flip the crystal carefully onto the fabric so that the toothpick is at about a 45-degree angle between fabric and crystal. Slide the toothpick out and use the dry end to push the crystal into the fabric.

What I like best about this low-tech application is what happens when the glue begins to dry out, which is right away. When the glue begins to dry, it leaves webby strings. I turned the toothpick over a few times and most of the strings disappeared. Any strings that remained I could remove before I touched a bead with the glue. Stray stringy glue is easy to remove from the fabric with a dry toothpick.

Renee uses a lot of glue when she sets her crystals – she makes sure that the glue comes up the sides. Renee does this because sometimes the crystal separates from its foil back. I decided not to do this, but if I see Ice Girl sprinkling crystals over the ice, I might.

I beaded the collar of Ice Girl’s figure skating dress last night with the honking huge crystals (40s and 34s). It took me maybe ½ hour. I have a lot more beading to do tonight. It’s important to remember that, unlike hot fix stones, E6000 requires drying time.

That means I’ll be setting crystals all night tonight. Ice Girl competes on Friday!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cheap freestyle ice: I do not need an intervention!

At club ice last night, I found out that a hockey rink 20 minutes north of my house has open freestyle ice at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, starting in October.

“And nobody goes,” this other mom told me.

She said that for $10, Ice Girl can skate from 6 a.m. until 8 a.m. There might be four other girls on the ice. That’s it.

I was excited, of course.

When I left the rink I called Ice Dad.

“Guess what? Sauk City has $10 6 a.m. ice starting in October and nobody goes. Isn’t that great?”

“You need an intervention,” he said.

If loving early, empty ice at $10/2 hours is wrong, I don't want to be right!

Ice Girl is on my side with this one. She’s pumped because her favorite ice is empty ice, no matter what the time. My favorite ice is cheap ice. We both win here.

“Are you sure you want to add another 6 a.m. to your week?” I asked her.

“Mom. Mo-ooom. Mom. It’s fine. I’d rather get up early so I can do my homework after school,” she said. (She hates doing math in the van.)

I don’t need an intervention. What I need is a map to that rink. And cheaper gas. And a fog horn alarm clock. And to begin a coffee addiction. Tea’s just not cutting it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Harry Potter and the E6000 Glue Experiment

Becky from Sammy Skate Wear suggested on one of my posts that I try E6000 glue to affix crystals to figure skating dresses.

It's something I've wanted to do because my beloved hotfix crystals don't come in the very, very large sizes.

As Becky suggested, I found some syringes to squirt the glue. These are a must because the glue comes out of the tube in one big burp. I bought the entire box of 50 disposable, needleless, dental impression syringes online for $9.99.

I also bought some tacky wax that I found at a modeling store. It's cheap; a whole hockey puck of it set me back $5 and I can't imagine going through very much of it. I wrapped it around the end of a wooden skewer (that's the magic wand thing you see in the photo).

For my experiment I used an old Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets pillowcase. I figured Harry and Ron wouldn't mind some sparkle and glamour.

The experiment went well. I laid out about 10 beads of glue initially and picked up the beads using the tacky wax. The bead released when it hit the glue. The second try with the glue had the glue freezing up a bit and leaving strings. The strings didn't stick to the fabric, so when the beads dried, I brushed them off using a clothes brush. To prevent the glue drying up in the syringe, I dipped the whole syringe in a shot glass full of water. E6000 is magical stuff - it can dry underwater, too. It just does it slowly. I decided to force out a bead on some paper before returning to my beading line.

These beads take about 10 - 20 minutes to fully dry, during which time I could reposition them slightly to make them form a better line. That's something you can't do with hotfix.

I also found that putting the glue on the fabric is a bit like making a soft-serve cone: squeeze a little glue onto the fabric and push down with the syringe instead of lifting up right away. You'll get the same curl-top that you do when you make a soft-serve cone. (I knew that stint in a frozen yogurt shop would pay off some day.)

Bottom line: After the test, I'm willing to risk it on the figure skating dress I just made. Initial costs are kind of high: E6000 glue = $6 at my local, pricey hardware store. Wax = $5. Syringes (50) = $9 plus $4 shipping. Beads = always pricey. If I use the E6000 often, the price will go down, of course, because that tube o' glue will last years and so will the wax. I have 49 syringes, so I'm set for a while, too. It's those beads that kill me. I just bought 3 gross for $66.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Figure skating camp: is it worth it?

Ice Girl’s been back from camp for almost a week. Did she learn anything?

Her flip is better, but most landings are still with two feet. Olympic coach Kerry Leitch called Ice Girl a problem child and suggested that we, her parents, could qualify for some sort of monthly check because of Ice Girl’s problematic two-foot landings. I’m going to check into that…

Olympic coach Alison Smith gave Ice Girl a private lesson, during which she had Ice Girl do seven loops in a row while holding half a hockey stick. The hockey stick’s a good idea because it keeps Ice Girl’s arms moving in the same direction at the same time. Ice Girl said that private lesson on jumping was very helpful.

Ice Girl had a private lesson and classes with Olympian Caryn Kadavy, whom Ice Girl idolizes. Kadavy instructed a class on costumes and Ice Girl has been sketching ever since. I have a dress cut out in my sewing room right now, but Ice Girl has a new design for a competition in November. I’m grumbling, but we all know that I’m going to give in.

Ice Girl had lessons in jumps, spins, and using a rotation trainer. She also raved about a wobble board that Smith used…now we have one of those, too. She learned about costumes, choreography, grooming, edges, power stroking, and goal setting.

Ice Girl ate breakfast at 7 a.m., worked until noon, had lunch, and worked until 5 p.m. Lights went out in the dorm at 10:30 p.m., but the noise continued until after 11. We picked Ice Girl up from camp and she was exhausted. She slept until noon the next day.

Camp wasn’t a magic pill: Ice Girl’s flip is still problematic and her sit spin is more sit than spin. However, she’s energized. Tonight she wants to help me sew her dress so we can begin on the next one (I am a sucker). She wants to do off-ice training in her off time.

She’s hoping to go back to camp again next summer. $500 isn’t cheap, but I’m sure I’ll spend it again next year. Ice Girl made great friends, learned a lot, and came home with drive and energy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

figure skating scoring: that extra something

Aaron wrote about tie-breakers and scoring for gymnastics in his recent Axels, Loops, and Spins Post.

He compared the gymnastics scoring system to the figure skating scoring system. Both were imperfect, he said, but figure skating was somewhat fairer.

This kind of discussion really resonates with me because by day I’m an education writer. I’ve been researching rubrics in education lately and found some interesting dissent.

The rubric in education is much like the figure skating scoring idea. Students receive points for the elements they attempt and even crummy elements receive some points. So, when your kid writes an essay, she’s likely to receive scores for content, organization, and conventions (spelling, grammar, usage).

Rubrics are an attempt to make a subjective process (grading essays) more objective. In that way, you can compare them with figure skating and gymnastics scoring rules.

What Aaron points out in his post is that sometimes a program or an exercise is just better. It’s a quality that goes beyond the individual scores for the individual elements. That gymnast, that figure skater, that student is on during the performance.

It’s the difference between learning the notes for a song perfectly and being an artist. In other words, sometimes the parts just don’t add up to the whole. There’s something more.

In my previous life as a high school teacher, I would give a student a holistic grade before using the rubric on the essay. I combined the two grades (holistic and rubric-generated) to come up with one score.

I don’t think that’s practical for athletics, but someone should put some mind energy toward awarding points for being on or nailing a performance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parenting: hovering over figure skating camp

I am not a helicopter parent. I’m not, I’m not.

I sent Ice Girl a text message at camp yesterday.

O.K. Two.

Do I really need to keep track?

Ice Girl has to leave her cell phone in the dorm between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., so she didn’t receive my texts until after dinner. Shortly after 6:30 p.m., Ice Girl called. My cell phone shows we talked for a little over a minute.

“Hi, Mom! Claire! No, I’m not ready. I’m talking to my Mom.”

“So, Ice Girl, are you having fun?”

“Yeah! I’ve met some new friends. We’re going go-karting after my private lesson tonight.”

“Sounds fun. What have you learned?”

“My scratch spin is faster. I’m coming, you guys. Hang on!”

“How’s the food?”

“Great, Mom.” Ice Girl switched to a gentle voice: “Listen. I love you, Mom, but I gotta go. Call you tomorrow, though, O.K.?”


Um. O.K. Bye.

You know all that concern I had about Ice Girl going stag to the camp and not having fun? Well, I think she’s O.K.

It’s just, well; I wanted to hear about what she was learning. How useful it is. How much she’s improved. I was excited about the call and prepared for a nice long account about the whole day at camp.

Ice Girl’s making friends, though, and having such a good time that talking to Mom was on her list, but not the goal of her whole day.

I’m fine with that. I think. It’s just that my helicopter’s engines were warmed up, its blades were spinning, and I spent all that time washing and waxing it…

Monday, August 18, 2008

Figure skating camp: the long drive Up North

I have the warm, drowsy feeling of a mom who drove four hours up to Winners’ Edge Figure Skating camp in Spooner, Wis. and also drove four hours back. I’m tired. Ice Grandma came on the trip, too, because there’s no way I could drive eight hours by myself – especially at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping, not driving.

Ice Grandma was pretty worried about leaving Ice Girl, 12, alone at a camp full of strangers. Ice Girl didn’t sign up for camp with a bunch of folks, like the nine or so girls and adults from Traverse City, Mich. did. Ice Girl just went by herself. She’s the kind of kid who can make friends anywhere, though, so she didn’t seem intimidated by the idea of being there solo. In fact, she had her bag packed and ready – a week ago.

At 5 p.m. we checked Ice Girl in and saw the dorms. They’re shabby, but clean with new mattresses. The guy in charge seems normal and the coaches seem professional, credentialed, and accessible.

Ice Girl received her jam-packed schedule and vowed to get up at 6 a.m. to walk the track and warm up every morning. She can only use her cell phone in the dorm at night, so I’m not sure how that idea went.

Sixty girls are at the camp from the upper Midwest (Minn., Mich., Wis., Ill., and N. Dakota). The coaches split the girls into ability groups last night and will work the campers’ legs off until Wednesday night.

Here are the classes she’ll be taking:
Off-ice: conditioning, rotation/balance, jumping exercises, grooming, goal setting, international judging system, costuming, conditioning, Pilates, flexibility/stretching, theater, and plyometrics
On-ice: spins, turns/footwork, jumps, exercises, stroking, edges/power, artistry and presentation, spirals, choreography, and balance stroking

Ice Grandma and I watched Ice Girl skate last night for an hour and returned home at 1 a.m. this morning. I’m tired, but happy that Ice Girl is having such a great experience. Ice Dad is going to make the eight-hour trip by himself on Wednesday.

I get to stay home Wed. to work and then let the dog out. Yeah. Dog surprises at 1 a.m. are not pleasant. I thought Ice Dog could make it for 12 hours on his own, but I think he got worried as the night grew late and he just couldn’t last. Poor Ice Dog.

I want this post to be useful, so here's what I learned:

1. Some parents took off work for four days and are staying in a hotel to watch their kids
2. Some parents brought their kid, plus some of their kids' friends
3. Some parents stay in their nearby cabins while their kids skate
4. Some coaches accompany their students to camp. This might be obvious to you who have been in figure skating for a long time, but it was news to me!
5. Very few girls (I didn't meet any) go stag to a camp like this. Ice Girl will be fine, don't worry.

I also learned not to whine so much about my ice time. I met a gal from Mich. whose rink closes in the summer because there's no hockey. Her kids skate an hour away three times a week in the summer. This is not uncommon. A gal from the Milw. area also said that her rink closes from May through September and she has to cart her daughter all over to find ice. One gal from Wis. takes her daughter to Minn. on the weekends to skate.

Trekking all over Dane County from the many rinks that offer summer ice now seems like small potatoes, indeed. I promise not to whine so much. Really. Unless Ice Dog leaves me a gift. *sigh*

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Altering figure skating dress patterns

Those of you who sew often know this little alterations trick, but as I set out my soup cans, I thought that some of you who are new to sewing might not know about it.

What you see in the photo on the left are my soup cans, a multi-sized pattern (but a regular pattern will do), a see-through ruler, and sew-in stabilizer.

The stabilizer is the key to this trick. Buy the cheap stuff ($1/yd), nice and thin, and make sure it's sew-in. (When you wrinkle the pattern pieces, you can iron the sew-in variety. The one with little glue dots will stick to your ironing board.)

Hold the stabilizer and pattern down with soup cans. Trace the pattern using the see-through ruler and Sharpie markers; make your alterations right on the pattern pieces. You can see on the left where I've extended the bodice as well as increased the width of the seam for the bodice. The panties, I know from sewing this brand of pattern before, fit fine, so I'm altering them just where they hit the bodice.

I used to think that altering patterns was a waste of time - I'd just cut that bugger up and save myself a bit of time. What's 10 bucks for a new pattern? Yeah. Only some patterns are close to $20 and gas is close to $4. Ice is $10 an hour and I've come to my senses. I've already cleared the table to cut; I might as well spend the extra 30 minutes to trace the darn pattern and alter it.

Then, when Ice Girl grows, the pattern will live on and I can make it again without wasting money, gas, trees, etc. Oooh. I feel so green. :)

Side note to new figure skating dress sewers: I used to be frustrated that the patterns didn't feature measurements or symbols at key areas like bust, waist, and hip. That was me in normal sewing mode. There shouldn't be any ease on a figure skating dress pattern because it's supposed to fit like a second skin. When I realized this, I bopped myself on the forehead. It seems obvious, but it wasn't to me. Just measure your skater's actual hip, waist and bust, and measure where those places hit your skater. Find the waist on the pattern (where the pattern cinches in) and locate the bust and hip on the pieces. You can then measure the pattern with accuracy. Best wishes for success! Ice Mom

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stretching towards Biellmann: the Maxiflex tool

When Ice Girl competed at Skate Milwaukee in July, I was really surprised at how many girls at limited beginner level were hauling their feet above their heads. They weren’t completing a Biellmann spin yet, but I was impressed.

Ice Girl is a gymnastics dropout. She wasn’t fabulous, but she wasn’t horrible, either. However, between gymnastics and figure skating, Ice Girl hadn’t done much stretching at all.

She’s been working on it, though, so I bought her this Maxiflex. We’ve hung it over our front door and Ice Girl uses it while watching Nickelodeon or Disney Channel and/or talking on the phone.

The principle is this: hang the end with the knob on the outside of the door and let the cords trail to the inside. The cord forks. One fork holds the skater’s foot in a harness, the other helps a skater yank her foot higher and higher.

The Maxiflex should come with a brochure when you buy it. In fact a bit of the brochure is part of the Maxiflex photo that I posted. Heavy on photos and light on text, you can get the general idea of what the stretching tool does in the brochure. Beware! In search of a bargain, the first Maxiflex I bought was off of eBay and it was cheap - $20. No brochure, though, so I had a tangle of cords and no clue what to do with them.

The Maxiflex will set you back $25-$35 bucks online, not including shipping. It’s lightweight, though, so shipping shouldn’t be too bad.

Ice Girl hasn’t achieved the Biellmann yet, but she’s doing it incrementally, which is good. I can see a kid forcing her leg way up too soon and not working up to the level of flexibility she needs. To make sure Ice Girl didn't hurt herself while super-stretching, I brought the Maxiflex to the rink one night. Ice Coach gave Ice Girl advice that I, Ice Mom, couldn’t give (well, couldn’t give and be believed.)

Rating: 3.5/4 stars. I think the Maxiflex itself is a good product, but the brochure is not fabulous. The tangle of cords can be intimidating at first, but the results from working with the product are good. If you don't have one and your figure skater wants that Biellmann, I'd pop the $30-ish for it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sewing review: hotfix faceted rhinestuds

I worked on Ice Girl's competition dress two weeks ago. I again used Kwik Sew Pattern #2796. The small was a bit too tight on Ice Girl, but the medium (below) needed tons of adjustment.

The problem with Kwik Sew is that it's hard to tell where the waistline is on the pattern. Alterations are kind of hard when the pattern pieces contain no references to hip, bust, or waist measurements.

For this dress I wanted to do beading in a pattern, so Ice Coach came up with the beading scheme. I copied the pattern piece onto some stabilizer and Ice Dad drew the beading pattern onto the stabilizer. We cut out the beading pattern and transfered it to the skirt before I sewed it together.

I bought hotfix faceted rhinestuds instead of crystals this time. Seven gross cost me $25, including express shipping. Yeah. I was trying to go the cheap route.

The rhinestuds don't look bad, but they look better when mixed with the tiny crystals that I had left over from the pink competition dress.

Here's what you need to know about affixing rhinestuds: use the flat tip of your Bejeweler, not any of the tips with indents.
Rhinestuds are smaller and flatter than crystals. Using the indented tips will encourage the rhinestuds to stay in the tip and never leave. The
bit of glue will melt and eit
her ooze down the tip or ooze inside of it. Either way, it's not a fabulous solution.

The flat tip, however, is a great choice. Let that puppy heat up and place the rhinestuds directly on the fabric. Press down for maybe 15 seconds and the rhinestud is set.

Sewing review: I'd buy the rhinestuds again, especially if I were to make this kind of concentrated beaded design. Sprinkle in the little crystals so the design isn't too flat. Do not use the rhinestuds for smaller designs. The rhinestuds just won't show up from a distance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

parenting: competition dress stain remover

Ice Girl is clumsy everywhere but on the ice. I'm not kidding. This is the kid who falls up the stairs, walks into walls, and tumbles out of bed at night.

Last weekend was the Milwaukee Open. We had to leave the house at 5 a.m. on Saturday and at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday.

Saturday night I made blueberry scones for Sunday's in-the-van breakfast. I left them on racks under dishtowels to cool overnight. Sunday morning I boxed them up and put them in the van.

I opened the box of breakfast earwig crawled out. Yuck.

Breakfast Plan B was at a little Greek diner after Ice Girl's 8 a.m. practice ice. It was good and pretty cheap: $5 for Ice Girl's big bagel sandwich with egg, ham, and cheese.

The grease that landed onto Ice Girl's new competition dress came at no extra charge.

I did this freak out thing because I had spent the last weekend sewing the dress and the entire last week beading it.

Ice Coach, calm gal that she is, said that she saw a hardware store on our way to the Kern Center. She knew that they sold this stain remover called Tech there. Her mom uses it and it can get out almost any stain.

We found the hardware store and the small bottle of Tech. Ice Coach blotted the dress using the Tech miracle formula and the stain was gone. I stopped freaking out, too.

Parenting lesson: I put the bottle of Tech stain remover in Ice Girl's bag right away. Now her emergency kit contains band-aids, extra laces, and the stain remover. Next time I think I'll also bring an extra competition dress, too. Duh, Ice Mom!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sewing: Serena's deadline figure skating dress

Isn't this dress gorgeous? Susan at Lifeskate blogged about this dress in a post called Serena Williams in an original Carrie Jones figure skating dress.

I didn't know who Carrie Jones was before I read Susan's excellent post and interview. I'm sure that folks who have been around figure skating much longer than I have know Carrie's work and Web site.

If you're into sewing, or your avoiding your next project, read Susan's post about how Carrie created the figure skating dress (left) that Serena wore in a photo shoot.

Carrie and her assistant took just seven hours to sew it, bead it, and ship it.

Seven hours! Geez. No procrastination there.

I am inspired. Right now I'm beading a dress for Ice Girl that is pretty much the same dark turquoise in Serena's dress. The dress took me two days to sew; the beading is taking forever.

Seven hours. I'm just so impressed.

Did I mention how the dress is gorgeous? Holy buckets. I'm in awe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Parenting: Fear of Failure

Ice Girl is a figure skating nut. She waltz jumps down the grocery store aisles. She takes her spinner on sleep overs. She PIC skates at the park.

Ice Girl received a new 1 minute, 36 second program last Tuesday for her first big competition in Milwaukee. She received it with only two weeks to practice because we had a Basic Skills competition in Rockford two weeks ago. Understandably, Ice Coach didn't want Ice Girl to become confused.

Ice Girl practiced and practiced the program's elements, but the new music threw her. It's not really new music, but it's a different cut of the same long piece. It throws her.

I tried to be helpful and suggested that she play the CD in the van on the way to practice while she visualized the program and moved her arms as if she were skating. It's an old teaching trick and I'm an old teacher. I know that stuff works.

To my surprise, Ice Girl balked at the suggestion. I transferred the music to her MP3 player so she could listen to it and step through the routine on the back lawn. Somehow, that MP3 player just doesn't have batteries. Or headphones. Shoot. Someone might have stolen the stupid thing.

My frustration began to grow. I couldn't figure out why Ice Girl was putting off listening to her music and trying to time her program appropriately. I know how much the Milwaukee Open means to her and I just couldn't figure out what was going on.

Ice Girl sure wasn't telling me, either.

So. I put on my old teacher's hat (I'm now an education writer, so it's still a hat that fits, kinda) and tried to remember why some gifted students simply wouldn't put pen to paper. I recently did an interview with Allen Mendler, Ph.D., who wrote a book about motivating unmotivated students. He said that students aren't motivated if they don't have what he calls the three Cs: connection, competence, and control.

I knew Ice Girl had a connection with the ice. That's for sure. She and the ice have bonded.
She was clearly in control; she decided when and if to listen to her music. I don't want to force her; I want to encourage her. (It's a mantra I repeat all the time.)

It must be the middle one: competence. Somehow, Ice Girl was afraid of failure.

In the van on the way to Sun Prairie's rink last night, I talked to Ice Girl about fear of failure. It can paralyze a person. The task ahead seems so overwhelming, so unachievable, that a person becomes paralyzed and unable to face the smaller steps towards the goal. Is that what's going on, Ice Girl?

Big tears.

Ice Girl was afraid that she'd never get the timing right (she'd had the program one week) and that she wouldn't do well in Milwaukee. She's skipped up six levels in Learn to Skate and she was worried that everyone else would be so much better than she. Sob. Sob.

I told her I'd watch her and try to give her feedback. Let's face it: I'm not a coach. I'm not even a figure skating expert. I'm the driver and the seamstress.

Anyway, it was enough. We listened to the music in the van on the way there and we talked about music cues for different elements.

She got on the ice and had the ice monitor play, play, play that CD.

In the end, the program's pretty good. She's got a bit of a timing issue before her final jump, but it's nowhere near the disaster it was just yesterday morning.

Parenting lesson: Sometimes motivation is a funny thing. When my daughter doesn't do what she normally would, it's frustrating for me. I need to see past my frustration and figure out what's motivating her or unmotivating her. Stepping back is the tough part, though.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Newbie: I love Learn to Skate

I love Learn to Skate. I never want it to end.

Ice Girl has advanced so many Learn to Skate levels in the past eight months that Learn to Skate will soon come to an end.

I'm proud of Ice Girl, I really am. However, Learn to Skate is a great scheme.

I pay $90 for the six sessions of Learn to Skate. That's $15 per session, which is 30 minutes of coaching and 30 minutes of practice ice.

In the world of club ice, 1 hour of ice costs me, oh, $11-12/hour. That's not including the $35/hour coach, or $17.50/half-hour coach.

Yep. I did the math, too. Learn to Skate is a bargain.

It's really a bargain when I consider that Ice Girl is in Freestyle 4 and has a coach all to herself.

I can see the end of LtS on the horizon and it makes me a bit sad. Ice Girl's coach, Ice Coach, also runs Ice Girl's LtS program. Ice Coach said we can keep her in LtS for as long as I want.

We all know what "As long as I want" means to me: Ice Girl will be in LtS until she graduates from high school! :)

Monday, June 30, 2008

competition: I need a wacko-skating mom repellent

Ice Girl is new to figure skating. Well, she had taken Learn to Skate before, but in November of 2007 she was in Basic 3. Now, eight months later, she's in *gulp* Freestyle 4.
Yeah, yeah. Go, Ice Girl.
I'm a terrible mom, but her advancement is a double-edged sword: every time she leaps up several levels in one go, it means less and less Learn to Skate. LtS is a great scheme, but that's for another post.
Ice Girl had a Basic Skills competition in Rockford, Ill. on Sunday. As I said, she's new to figure skating and still pretty low level. Well, at least she was. Is. For now. *sigh*
Anyway, when we signed her up for this competition, she had just finished Basic 5. So, we signed her up to compete at Basic 6. Who knew that she'd fly up so many levels by competiton time?
Ice Girl is 12, which is pretty late to be beginning in figure skating. It's not ancient, but it's a bit late. Ice Girl has competed with kids her own age, but this group was pretty tiny. Most were 6 or 7 years old.
Ice Girl placed first in the compulsory (yay) and another competitor's mom asked me how old Ice Girl is. I told her: 12. Here's what she said:
"How can a 7-year-old compete against a 12-year-old?"
"Steriods?" I suggested before I could filter myself.
She didn't get the joke, so I just left it. But this mom started showing me records she's kept of all the girls her daughter has competed against. Some were older, some were younger, but this was, um, Basic Skills. Who keeps records like that?
Later Ice Girl also won the freestyle.
The no-sense-of-humor mom was back. She told me that I should move Ice Girl up because it just wasn't fair to the other girls.
I thought I'd have to hold Ice Girl's coach back: she's short, but surprisingly firey.
Later Ice Coach told me that the reason Ice Girl won was that no one can keep skates off that kid. She practices. We have ice time. She PIC skates. She runs through her programs in the living room. Ice Girl's got it bad. Oh, and Ice Girl loves, loves, loves the hardware (medals).
It's one thing to have kids compete at different age levels, say, in math. This wasn't math, though. This was a skill that Ice Girl has picked up in eight months. Yeah, she's older than the other girls, but they had essentially the same training, right?
Anyway, I'm thinking that I need to go into business for myself. I'm going to develop a spray for parents like these. Some sort of repellent that I can either spray on myself like Off! or Skin So Soft or that I can use like a one-shot deal. Just spray it at the nutty parent and have a peaceful competition.
I think there's a market out there, don't you? :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sewing: pattern review, fabric tip, cheap crystals

I'm finishing up Ice Girl's latest competition dress. It's KwikSew's 2796 and it was very, very easy to sew.

Ice Girl's measurements are very close to size small and I'd made KwikSew size smalls this spring with good luck. This dress, though, is pretty tight on her (the ones from this spring are still fine). Next time I'll make the medium.

I bought the salmon-colored two-way stretch fabric with an iridescent sheen on clearance, but it wasn't really a bargain. The fabric is very light and nearly see-through, so I had to line the whole thing with swimsuit lining fabric. It wasn't hard, but it was a pain.

I really liked how the straps and the binding went on the bodice. It was sensible, easy, and it looks good. I used a rolled hem on my serger for the bottom hem and it turned out better than I thought it would.
The real bargain was the beads that Ice Girl and I are putting on the dress. They're not Swarovski, they're cheap ones from JoAnn fabrics. JoAnn sells them in assorted packs of 300 each: 3, 4, and 5 mm clear crystals. Normally, JoAnn charges about $13 for a package, but I was able to find a bunch of 50% off coupons, so that dress is decked out in crystals.
Sewing Review: I'd buy the KwikSew pattern #2796 again, even though it's a bit small. The binding around the bodice would look good in a contrast fabric; in fact, Ice Girl and I think that the next dress will have a white bodice, a royal blue skirt and leotard panties, and royal blue binding for the armholes, neckline, and straps.
I'd also buy the cheap crystals again. When I really let the glue bubble on the hot fix tool, those suckers are on there for good.
I'm going to be careful about clearance fabric in the future. Lining the whole outfit is good, but I spent just as much on the fabric in the end and more time on the outfit than I should have done.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

parenting: diva control

Up until June, Ice Girl had been a joy to be around. She loved ice, loved figure skating, loved the cute little skirts. She loved jumping, spinning, and even falling on her rear end.

June is diva month.

Ice Girl had 6 a.m. ice at a different rink on June 3. She went to bed early the night before and got up late the morning of. She dragged her feet, grumped, and sulked.

"Are you sure you want to go?" I asked. "We can just stay home." I thought maybe I could go back to bed and get some more sleep.

Tears welled in Ice Girl's eyes. "No, Momma. I want to go."

So, we drove thirty minutes south to a rink we'd never been to before. Six a.m. ice in our home rink is empty. Ice Girl loves empty ice.

However, at this rink, people show up for 6 a.m. ice. Oh, and it is the coldest rink I'd ever been in - even colder than the Pettit when the big speed skating track is icy (it's melted in the summer).

You should have seen Ice Girl. She was incensed that other people were on the ice at this time and annoyed with the cold. She couldn't get her skates on properly and grouched. I went into the lobby to sit with normal people. A few minutes later, my daughter shows up with red-rimmed eyes and street shoes. "I want to go home," she said.

"O.K.," I replied. I don't want to be one of those moms who forces her crying kid out on the ice.

However, I don't want to be the mom who wakes up at 4:45 to drive 30 minutes, puts up with a diva, turns around, and drives home. Oh, yeah. Then goes to work.

"No, Momma. This will never happen again. I'm just tired and it's cold and it's crowded."

It wasn't crowded, but I didn't make a big deal of it. She'd never, ever done this before. I cut her some slack.

Two weeks later, the diva made an encore performance.

This time we had a tough discussion in the van. Ice time is expensive: $11/hour. If we contract, but don't go to the session, that money is lost. I'm not going to be the mom who forces her kid to skate. But I'm also not going to be the mom who throws money away.

Parenting lesson: Set expectations for both skater and parent. Ice Girl and I sat down with the July contract. We selected dates and times and e-mailed her coach. I promise to pay for the ice, arrange to leave work, and drive Ice Girl to the rink.

Ice Girl promises to bring her figure skates and leave the tiara at home.

If Ice Girl turns into Ice Diva, we contract for less ice time the next month, based on the ice time lost at the rink and lost drive time.

I'll let you know if the Diva shows up...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

newbie: Figure skating fight songs

I’m sure you have this type of parent in your club: the kind who should come with his own theme song. Maybe it’s “Send in the Clowns” or “Rocky.”

But maybe…it’s “Jaws,” or worse, “Psycho.”

Yeah. You know that person, too?

I went with Ice Girl to the Pettit Ice Arena in Milwaukee last weekend and I began talking to this gal from Milw. She asked what my home club was and I told her. After a few minutes of ice mom talk, she launched into a rant.

It turns out she knows “Psycho,” too.

I’m 90 miles away from home and this person has managed to tick off members of another club! And from what she was saying, “Psycho” ticked off large portions of the figure skating community from around Wis. and Northern Illinois.

She finally wound down her tirade with an unflattering physical comment about “Psycho.”

When the rant was over, all I could say was, “Wow,” and “Um…”

Newbie lesson #1: pick your own theme song and make sure it’s not the soundtrack from a horror movie.
Newbie lesson #2: Realize that figure skating’s theme song could be “It’s a Small World after All," or "I Heard It through the Grapevine."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Parenting: fitness during figure skating

I know I've terrified everyone with my very serious post last week, so I'm going to lighten things up a bit and talk about my latest plan.

I spend, let's see...10+ hours at the rink every week. I sit on the cold metal bleachers, watch Ice Girl practice, chat with the moms, and read novels.

This week is different. This week I'm finding time to exercise instead. Yup. I feel so smart. Instead of watching the entire time, I'm walking up the hill towards the little league baseball diamonds and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Instead of whining about how I have no time to exercise, I'm carving out some time for myself.

Parenting lesson: I can still watch Ice Girl figure skate, but I can also find time for exercise and maybe drop a few pounds.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

parenting rant: figure skating loses to hockey

Hooh boy. I take back every nasty thought I had about how I can't get my kid on the ice when I want her to be there.

Check out this article about the death of a figure skating program in Plymoth, Mich. The gist of it is that the rink makes way more off of hockey than figure skating, so figure skaters in this Michigan town will stop jumping and spinning at the end of the summer. The figure skating parents are using sexism to frame their argument to keep the figure skating ice time. In this Michigan town, as well as across the country, most hockey players are boys, most figure skaters are girls. Now this town won't let the girls on the ice.

Yeah. It makes my little ice time strife seem very small indeed.

There is a real issue for the rink to stay afloat, but the sexism issue is valid as well. If figure skating made tons of money, but hockey brought in very little, what would the discussion look like?

We encountered this same sort of debate back in the '70s with Title IX sports. The idea was that women should have the same nubmer of sporting opportunities as men in publicly funded educational settings. It occurs to me that the rink in this Michigan town is a publicly funded enterprise. I would think that the club would have a similar argument as women did in the '70s. The municipality has to offer the same opportunities to boys as well as girls. If I were a taxpayer in that town, I'd want to make sure my tax money supported a rink that offered opportunities to both sexes.

This guy blogged about it and he takes a spoils-to-the-victor approach. He dismisses the sexist argument and calls for a death match between the hockey players and the figure skating moms. Yeah, it's a funny image, but we're talking about denying taxpayers' kids access to the community rink.

Unfortunately, I don't think this Michigan town's ice woes are isolated and I'm very sad about it. Communities should work to support all sports and find ways to help struggling programs succeed instead of eliminating opportunities for girls.

Friday, May 23, 2008

parenting: snapshot of rink life

Thanks to Susan at Lifeskate for pointing out this great article at Skating on a Dream.

For parents who are new to skating, the article shows what rink life is like and how much folks pay for their kids to skate: it ain't cheap.

Great stuff, Susan. Thanks for finding it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

newbie: second club for the summer

I'm not proud of it, but I'm having a bit of a melt down. Other parents who aren't as new to figure skating are probably very familiar with how ice times change for the summer.

I'm not ranting about my club. Please don't misunderstand me. Every spring they ask members to vote on summer hours. I completely lost the vote. My hours didn't even make it onto the schedule.

The summer ice hours are 8 a.m. - noon, Monday - Friday. That's actually a good chunk of time. However, Ice Girl has been selected for a summer science program that meets from 8 a.m. - noon, Monday - Friday. Yep. That's so not going to work.

My plan B is to have Ice Girl skate at another club on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 p.m. Well, I'm hoping that she'll skate there. I have to sign on as an associate member and that bumps Ice Girl down on the priority list, but, if all goes well, Ice Girl will have two measly hours of ice time each week, plus the walk-on ice that she gets at the Pettit on Sundays.

A coach warned me that the ice crunch might happen in both the summer and in the winter. In the summer, the hours change and not everyone can make the new times. In the winter, we have to share more of the ice with more hockey teams, so the number of sessions decreases. New and lower level skaters often don't get to skate during the sessions that they had selected.

Newbie lessons:

  1. Scout out that second club membership early and just plan on joining two clubs. Get over the fact that Ice Girl (or your kid) can't skate at the same time in the same place from week to week, season to season, even though that would make your life soooo much easier and predictable. Just count on needing that second membership and accept your fate early on.

  2. Buy those PIC skates. I have an earlier post about the PIC skates I bought for Ice Girl and I really do think they're a terrific investment. They're also my ace in the hole for summer ice times. I might not be able to take that kid to the rink, but she can certainly practice her program and moves in the field up at the tennis courts.

  3. Stuff the ballot box next time the club votes on ice times. Well, probably not, but a gal can dream.

  4. Use that meltdown to make margaritas. What else do you do with slushy ice?

Monday, May 19, 2008

newbie: competition downtime

Ice Girl (I.G.) had a competition in Janesville, Wis. last weekend. She did very well (two firsts), thank you for asking.

Competitions aren't run for the convenience of the skaters; in other words, competitors don't skate all of their events all in a row. This seems pretty obvious, but I.G.'s grandma didn't get it and I hadn't given it a lot of thought. I.G.'s grandma thought I.G. could get on the ice, skate, and go home.

It doesn't work that way.

Ice Girl had practice ice at 7:20, an event at 10:33, and another event at 1:06. Yep. That's roughly three hours between events with nothing to do but sit in the stands and drink watery coffee or hot cocoa.

Luckily, Janesville has a beautiful (and free) botanical garden less than a mile from the rink. We walked the paths, heckled volunteer gardeners, and created wild schemes for running off with beautiful and rare plants. This great activity was free, fun, and ate up about two hours. After the first event, we went back because the gift shop and plant sale opened at 10 a.m.

Why in the world do you care about this great side trip?

Newbie lesson: Plan a diversion, maybe two for competitions. It's fun to watch other folks' kids skate, but my family gets bored and obnoxious after three hours of waiting. I have to get them out of the rink before they're escorted off the premises.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sewing review: rhinestone setters

Embellishing skating outfits with rhinestone crystals is blessedly simple. In fact, I have Ice Girl, 12, embellish all her outfits using a heat-set tool and hot-fix crystals. She uses a common table knife as a spacer between crystals and draws lines on the garment with chalk. It works very well.

If you're going to spend time putting rhinestones on your figure skater's outfit, you're going to need a heat-set tool or a needle, thread, and more patience than I have. A plain ol' iron will work in theory, and in fact, is my choice for embellishing sturdy fabrics. However, most skating outfits are made of delicate, heat sensitive fabrics. They can't take the abuse of a big iron. Worse, they may carry the imprint of your iron plate forever (don't, don't, don't use an iron on anything with a nappe, like velvet).

The heat setter on the far left is called a Bejeweler hotfix crystal tool. It's the one I have and the one I recommend. I bought mine at a local craft store for almost $20, no crystals included. I recommend this one because the many tips allow you to pick up the little crystals from a ceramic dinner plate and melt the glue. Then, it's just a matter of touching the crystal to the skating outfit to affix the crystal. You don't have to worry about burning the material at all and you don't have to place crystals on the outfit with a tweezers (not fun at 2 a.m.). Each tip is split with a tiny channel running down the center of the tip. This is fabulous if the tip gets a bit gummy from the melted glue and won't release the crystal. Just take a straight pin, slide it in the crack, and push the crystal out of the tool from behind. The tool comes with several tips, each one matching the different crystal sizes, so you don't have to worry about not being able to pick up the little buggers.

The Bedazzler is the blue machine, second from the left. If you go to the Bedazzler website, you can spend tons of money without even realizing it, trust me. The Bedazzler works on a traditional rhinestone scheme. There's a metal setting that is on the reverse side of the garment and a dazzling jewel on the front. Snap the two together and you've set a rhinestone in the garment like your jeweler would set a stone in a ring. It's a great theory, however, with the delicate fabrics used in skating outfits, this one isn't my choice. The upside is that you can get tons of crystals on the cheap. The downside is that you're poking holes all over a flimsy garment. These puppies will tear through a skating outfit because they're more for denim than frilly lycra.

The heat setter on the right, by Tulip, is one I purchased and then returned to the store. Orginally it cost me something like $12. The main problem with the heat setter is that the stupid thing didn't heat up at all. I'm sure that it was defective. That's a great reason for returning an item, but I didn't exchange it for another model. The tip of the heat setter doesn't grab the crystals. You have to manually place the crystals on the garment (usually with a tweezer) and then heat-set them. It's also tough to tell when the glue on the back of the crystals has melted. Overall, not a fabulous design.

The last photo is the mini embellishment iron, also from Tulip. I think it costs about the same as the heat setter, but it's in a different shape. I didn't even buy this one. I seriously do not want the imprint of an iron plate, even a mini iron plate, on my $19.99/yard stretch velvet. Again, with these delicate, flimsy, nappy fabrics, you want as little heat contact with the garment as possible. The mini iron isn't even in the running.

Bottom line: Spend the extra $5 or so for the Bejeweler hotfix tool. It works (always a plus), won't damage the dress, and it picks up the crystals on its own.

Now. If you can tell me where I can find those hotfix crystals cheap, cheap, cheap, I'm all ears. All I can find is pricey, pricey, pricey.