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.

Newbie: hockey locker rooms

After a busy Learn to Skate session on Tuesday, I was hunting around for Ice Girl among all the parents and shrimpy little hockey squirts (they're so cute in their little helmets and oversized jerseys).

I asked a friend of mine where Ice Girl was. She told me that Ice Girl was in the locker room.

We used the locker room for the skate show a month ago, so I was familiar with it. The locker room is located at the base of the rink, where the teams enter and exit the ice, directly across the bottleneck of parents and swarming hockey squirts.

I entered the locker room and the door shut behind me. In front of me was a team of half-dressed high school hockey players. They screeched. I screeched. Then I turned tail and fled.

When I exited the dressing room, two figure skating coaches were staring at me, wide-eyed. It was pretty clear that they had heard the screeching. There was no ducking out of it, so I laughed. They laughed, too. It was pretty funny, actually.

I led the laughing coaches away from the dressing rooms and out of the rink to the club room. I figured they'd follow me to hear my outrageous story and I thought that none of the hockey guys would be able to identify me if I made a quick get away.

Naturally, the coaches have told every figure skating parent and her child about this. Embarrassing stories travel fast.

Two good things:
  • The coaches and parents had an interesting discussion about those hockey players and their modesty issues. It's pretty ironic that the boys were screeching (high-pitched and girly) when I entered the locker room. These boys are the same ones who walk around in towels after a 6 a.m. Friday morning hockey practice. They seem to believe the entire lobby is their locker room. Coaches and parents are uncomfortable with the towel prancing and I think we're going to approach the hockey coaches. (Outside the locker room, of course.)
  • Ice Girl, 12, was not in the locker room with the half-naked hockey players. *whew*

Newbie lessons:

  1. Um. Ask a coach if the dressing room/locker room is occupied. Duh, Ice Mom.
  2. Laugh. This isn't a figure skating lesson, but it's a good thing, anyway. As a newbie, I'm making mistakes all over the place. This one won't be the last, so I might as well enjoy the journey to enlightenment.
  3. Mustache. I know where they sell those fake, stick-on mustaches. Maybe the entire team won't know it was me if I show up at the rink with one of those above my lip and another across my eyebrow. In fact, maybe I should buy fake mustaches in bulk.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Newbie: summer gear

The weather's warmer and I'm getting wiser. I've made the transition from winter figure skating Ice Mom to summer figure skating Ice Mom.

I remember when Ice Girl played soccer (well, picked dandelions) and I had a soccer mom kit in my trunk. You soccer moms know the kit, I'm sure. Kids play soccer from March through late October, so they play in snow, rain, and hot sun. My trunk contained a folding chair, a blanket or two, a big umbrella, a jacket, sunscreen...I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Ah yes! A glass bottle that served as a vase for the dandelion bouquet.

Now that I'm a figure skating mom and the weather's warmer, I have to outwit my summer self before I leave my driveway. I will not shiver through another 6 a.m. Friday morning lesson in sandals and capris with no jacket.

My car now contains:
  • Two blankets (one stylish that I swiped from my mother, the other an old Hello Kitty blanket). I sit on one blanket (Hello Kitty) and cover up with the other.
  • Socks. When I wear my Birkenstocks, I can throw these on my feet when I get to the rink.
  • An old jacket. I think it's been in my trunk since Ice Girl's last soccer season years ago.
  • Gloves. I put them there for me, but let's face it: Ice Girl swipes them up every time. Where does she get this behavior?

It's a pretty small kit, compared to the soccer kit I used to haul. I'm very grateful that I don't have to watch Ice Girl in the rain or snow. It's actually quite nice to cool off a bit at the rink when it's warm.

Friday, May 2, 2008

accessory review: spin trainers

I've been putting off this review of figure skating spin trainers, or rotation trainers, because I was waiting for my refund for the "Ultimate Rotation Trainer with Resistance Cords" and the $15 DVD that I ordered from a vendor.

I was interested in purchasing a spinner or spin trainer for Ice Girl because in late March she became so dizzy spinning on the ice that she fell and whacked her head. Through her tears she pleaded me to let her back on the ice, but there was no way she was going anywhere but to Urgent Care. The bonk was loud and every coach came to check on her. Are you kidding? Put her back on the ice? Someone would revoke my mother-of-the-year card. Nope. I took that kid to the doctor to make sure she didn't have a concussion. She didn't.

Coaches, with their sympathy and ice packs, told me that a spin trainer would help ice girl become more comfortable with spinning and she would be less dizzy and less prone to bonking her head on the ice (it's a terrible sound, I tell you.) That night I surfed the web to find a spin trainer for Ice Girl.

I surfed and found an ultimate rotation trainer with cords. I have no idea what the cords were for, but the endorsements looked good, it came with a brochure, and I could buy a DVD. The whole bit set me back $85, but I wanted my baby to spin safely, right? And it was ultimate, so it had to be twice as better at the traditional model that cost half as much.

The package arrived in a timely fashion, but here are the reasons I returned the item:
  1. The brochure/instructions were mainly for the rotation trainer that isn't ultimate. That is to say, the trainer that has no cords attached. Yeah. Not really helpful since letting the cords trail on the floor doesn't allow the rotation trainer to move.
  2. The cords don't come off, so there's not use trying to use it as a traditional spinner.
  3. The DVD quality was terrible. I don't know what wind tunnel they used to complete the voice over, but $15 is way too much to pay for a DVD that was painful to listen to.
  4. The DVD wasn't about the ultimate trainer with cords. Not helpful at all.
  5. The rotation trainer was plastic and slid on the floor, which I thought was pretty unsafe.

So, I boxed the stuff back up and returned it priority mail the next day. This was early April. After several e-mails, I received my refund today, one day shy of a month since I'd received the product.

In the meantime, I purchased the traditional metal spinner that you see above. I think it set me back $35 or so, including shipping. It has a coating on both sides that give it a non-slip surface. It didn't come with a brochure and DVDs weren't an option.

Even though the traditional spinner doesn't have high-tech or low-tech instructions, I'm much happier with it than the other one. Ice Girl stores it under the T.V. stand upstairs and spins on it while watching programming that will rot her brain one day, I'm sure. Ice Girl did manage to cut her toe on one of the inside edges of the metal spinner. Let me tell you, you'd have to really work at it to cut yourself on the spinner, but Ice Girl has a gift.

Bottom line: Save your money and buy the traditional metal spin trainer. Maybe the rotation trainer folks will come up with better support materials or removable cords for their ultimate rotation trainer. For my money and time, I'm sticking with the plain ol' model.