Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This is my Brain on Ice Dance. Any Questions?

Let's face it folks, ice dance isn't for everyone. It takes a particular degree of patience and a very focused mindset to spend that much time on...edges. But it's that unwavering attention to detail that draws me to it. The pattern dances at Nationals...oh my god they were like crack. I stared unblinkingly at the screen watching the exact same dance pattern and seeing such different skating. Differences in speed, edge depth, extension, confidence, strength, everything! could be seen much more clearly without the distraction of ... um ... programming?

I'm not a big fan of theatrics in skating, which you'd think would discourage me from liking ice dance. But the quality of skating in dance and the comparability of the pattern dances was addictive. Consistency produced competitive clarity. (Does that make sense or are the repeated drug references frying my brain?)

As I sat at my computer last week watching waltzes and pasos, I couldn't help but reflect on my own skating experience. I guess I didn't think about it at the time, but working on those pattern dances was everything. The details, the timing, the rhythm of my skating lessons - do the pieces, put them together. Faster. Now that I've taken a step back from it, I realize how much I loved the process.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's Your Fantasy?

The 2015 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships are right around the corner (do I get extra credit for using the product placement title for Nationals?), which means the Kid and I huddled up with my computer to make our fantasy picks. Hard-core figure skating fans that we are (absolutely no) thought went into these picks.

  • Ashley Wagner - Gracie Gold was a strong contender for the Kid because "you have to admit, Mum-mum, she's pretty." But in the end he felt more of a connection with Ashley because she's been known to skate at one of his practice rinks when she comes to town.
  • Ashley Cain
  • Caroline Zhang  
  • Jason Brown - Nathan Chen and Jeremy Abbott were close contenders. 
  • Adam Rippon
  • Jimmy Ma - Not gonna lie, I have no idea who this is, but I'll be looking for him now. Dude, pressure's on. 
  • Haven Denney / Brandon Frazier - I've said it before, the Lion King is a ridiculous choice of music for adults, but I'll be damned if they're not making it work. 
  • Marissa Castelli / Mervin Tran - Name recognition pick
  • Cali Fujimoto / Nicholas Barsi-Rhyne 
  • Madison Chock / Evan Bates - The Kid fought hard against this one. He's Team Shibutani all the way, but I had given in to all of his other choices. This one was going my way. They better win big because nothing's worse than a 10 year-old getting an I-told-you-so opportunity against his mother.
  • Elicia Reynolds / Stephen Reynolds
  • Kristen Nardozzi / Nick Traxler
I've added the competition schedule to my calendar and will try to catch as much as possible with a primary focus on dance and pairs. Who knows how much I'll actually get to see live and how much I'll have to catch on the fly. I do know very little will be getting done around here until January 26th.

Anyone else out there got fantasy picks and viewing plans?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let's Go Caps/Blue!

The Kid's hockey team is really struggling this year, so it was no surprise that they suffered a 4-1 loss to the Piedmont Predators. The boys tumbled out of the stadium elevator, sweat-matted hair, cheeks glowing red, and huge smiles. So much for the agony of defeat.

"Mum-mum!" the Kid raced over to me as quickly as he could given that he was hauling an over-sized hockey bag. "I saw Matt Niskanen and Tom Wilson and I fist-pumped Jason Chimera!" he exclaimed.

Thanks to our very resourceful team manager, the Kid's hockey team got to play at the Verizon Center and I'll tell you what, the Washington Capitals did a great job for us. The Kid is totally into sports broadcasting so going into the arena through the media entrance was pretty cool. Cooler still was running into John Walton. And it only got better.

It's hard to see, but the scoreboard at center ice has the youth teams on it.

The stadium was set up for the squirts almost exactly like it is for the Caps. The teams were on the scoreboards, both the jumbotron at center ice and the along the perimeter of the seating areas. As the teams took the ice, their names were announced over the PA system and each goal and penalty (including the Kid's) was announced just like during NHL games. Music was pumped through during warm ups and after each goal. The Caps did a fantastic job of making this as close to the real deal as possible. Very well done.

As part of the deal, we were required to purchase tickets (fair enough) in the 400 level. I sat in the top row, leaning against the wall. Not gonna lie, I got a little dizzy walking up there. The perspective up top is so different from what we experience in our regular seats. From up top you see plays develop so clearly it's easy to get frustrated when players miss a shot or make a bad pass. Seriously dude, the puck was right there! From down below you get a much better sense of the chaos that ensues when big men play fast hockey.

The Blue Devils lost. The Caps won. Everyone had a blast. Big thanks to the Washington Capitals for creating a great experience and to the individual players who took the time to interact with the team.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

I was leaving for my ballet class when I got an unexpected (and pseudo-urgent) phone call. So much for class. I did a little barre work in my home gym and on a certain level was grateful that I wasn't going out into the brutally cold night. I had enlisted DCGiant to take the Kid to hockey practice so I could go to class, which left me alone in a blissfully quiet house. I did what any self-respecting hockey mom does - poured a big glass of shiraz, curled up under a warm blanket and settled in with my tablet to check out the figure skating blogs.

What happened to all the skating bloggers?! It occurred to me that my ballet feed gets a whole lot more play than my skating feed and I'm not following many ballet blogs. As I reviewed my skating list I realized just how many people have fallen off the grid. Skaters, coaches, parents and fans who were fun to read, provided fantastic information and told great stories. Gone. I miss them.

Recently, one of my fave ballet bloggers put together a list of recommended ballet reading. As crazy as it sounds, I kinda need this for figure skating. I feel like I'm an old-school blogger separated from the folks I grew up with. Remember Axels, Loops and Spins? I feel so out of the loop! (And axels. And spins.)

I love reading about the experiences of other skaters and I'm sure I'm missing out on some really great writing. So, I'm on a mission to update my feed. And while I'm at it, I need to brush the dust off the blogroll I used to have here and get that up and running again. I think we all know I need very little incentive to mix a cocktail and get lost in the skating Interwebz.

So folks, what are you reading (and drinking) these days?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Time Machine

Today, I went back to where it all began. The rink where I took my first skating lessons. The rink where Dmytri teased me that I would never learn how to skate and where he later pulled me out of a crowd to help me with backward crossovers. And where he patiently guided me through my ice dance test, the crowning achievement of my figure skating career. It was like a time capsule. I ran into a couple of people I haven't seen in years and surprisingly, the rink staff remembered me.

My mission was simple: to see if my unstable experience on the Winter Classic ice was my equipment, the ice or me. Turns out it was all three.

My Equipment. My skates do need sharpened. They're not so bad that I can't skate on them, but there was some noticeable slippage. If I were skating regularly, I'd definitely get them sharpened.

The Ice. The Winter Classic ice was different than what I'm used to. The bumps from the rain were a slight nuisance, but the hardness of the ice made it hard to get my blades to dig in. At the rink today, with softer ice, I had no problems getting my moderately dull blades to grip.

Me. With the exception of one 30 minute "lesson" when I told Dmytri I was quitting, I haven't skated in about two months. It took some time to get my legs under me, but eventually, I was coasting around just fine. I tried skating on my edges and snuck in a few crossovers. Nothing fancy. I felt rusty, but oddly stronger than I have in a while. Mostly, I was just having fun again.

Maybe I'll get my skates sharpened...just in case.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Just for Skate Maintenance

I brought the skates out of mothballs this weekend. The Kid and I had the opportunity to skate on the ice the Caps and Blackhawks faced off on for the 2015 Winter Classic. It was raining and a bit cold, but oh man! This was seriously the second coolest skating experience I've ever had.

The rink itself was built between first and third base. Much of the infrastructure had been dismantled already, but some remnants of the big game remained. The players' benches and penalty boxes were intact. And pieces of hockey tape lined the boards denoting where big-time media cameras had been set up ... NBC, Epix and the like. The baseball scoreboard projected the Winter Classic logo.

The Kid and I sat on the wet benches to put on our skates. With thoroughly soaked asses, we stepped timidly onto the ice. Whoa! It was bumpy from the rain that had been falling all day and it was hard. The Kid found his footing pretty quickly but my blades struggled to grip the ice. They skimmed the surface as if they were in desperate need of sharpening, which they aren't...I don't think...

We took a couple of laps, pointing out where on the ice things had happened on New Year's Day and discussing how different the ice felt. The weirdest part was trying to reconcile the disconnect between what we were doing (skating on NHL ice) and where we were at (a major league baseball stadium.)

Eventually I traded my skates for my cold, wet tennis shoes. As my feet froze into size five ice blocks, I watched the Kid continue to zoom around. He was in heaven, loving the convergence of his two favorite sports. We left Nationals Park hungry, cold, wet and completely happy.

"I can't wait for my next practice," the Kid said.

I just might hit the ice this week too...you know, just to see if my skates really do need sharpened. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

When Nature Calls...

"Mum-mum! Mum-mum!" the Kid called as he came into the house. "Remember that time I peed in your Winter Classic cup?"

Back in January 2011 my mom and I attended the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. While there, she bought me coffee in a cool commuter mug, which I used pretty much every day until...August 2011.

I was in the restroom at a Panera in downtown D.C. when everything around me started to shake. I stumbled out of the restroom and stared wide-eyed at DCGiant. "Yes, it was an earthquake," he confirmed.

Traffic home was horrendous. We were at least two hours in to our 45 minute commute when the Kid informed us, with more than a hint of panic, "I have to go to the bathroom."

That was the last time my favorite mug was used.

Fast forward to the 2015 Winter Classic here in Washington. The Kid and DCGiant had a blast at the game. There's something about outdoor hockey that is just magical and an exciting win makes it even better. When they arrived home the Kid came into the kitchen and reminded me of the demise of my favorite mug way back when.

"I got you something," he said with a mischievous grin. And he slid a surprise from underneath his coat.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Step Away from the Xbox

Since Christmas day my son has been camped out in our family room playing endless games of NHL14 on his Xbox. I've been fine with the increased screen time because I totally get wanting to play with a new toy and besides, he has a hockey tournament and the 2015 Winter Classic coming up, so he's going to have to break away from the TV next week.

Perhaps you don't have hockey tournaments and outdoor games in your future, but the weather has been remarkably mild, so why not try some outdoor winter sports? You know, like ice skating. Lucky for us, there are plenty of places in the Washington, DC area to go. And you can find them by clicking here. (Yes, I'm totally cheating.)

If you hit up any of the outdoor rinks, I'd love to hear your experience. Have fun!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Starvation Diets

"Do you ever skip meals?" the pediatrician asked the Kid. He looked at me.

"Dude, you're so busted." I said.

The Kid has been getting sick a lot the past few months. Then, for about a week straight, he was having recurring headaches and feeling fatigued. Worried, I took him to the doctor. After an intense interview (youth hockey players with headaches get very focused attention) and a variety of tests, the doctor felt pretty sure we weren't dealing with head trauma. We were dealing with malnutrition and dehydration.

Yeah, that pretty much makes me a shoe-in for Mother-of-the-Year.

I never wanted food to be a point of contention in my family. I prepare meals, the Kid can choose to eat or not eat what I serve. He often chooses not to eat.

"Don't worry!" people would say to me. "Eventually he'll learn to eat at meals so he's not hungry later."

But he didn't.

"All it will take is one hockey practice on an empty stomach and he'll learn," they said.

But he didn't.

"If he's hungry, he'll eat," they said.

But he didn't.

"What's for dinner? I'm so hungry!" he'd say. And then he wouldn't eat one bit of the pepperoni pizza I made. PIZZA!

I talked to him about how not eating would cause his body to shut down. And as a very active athlete he really needs fuel. Even positioning it as sports nutrition didn't get through to him. I couldn't help but feel a little bit of relief as the doctor reinforced all the messages I have been giving him about food. Maybe now he would see the seriousness of the situation.

My kid is a very picky eater, which makes absolutely no sense given his mother will eat anything that isn't a tomato. He likes shrimp, rice, yogurt, granola, sushi, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and turkey burgers as long as the buns are from our local bakery. He's also a sucker for highly-processed, low-quality foods - Fruit Loops, chips, cookies, Papa John's.

The pediatrician offered all kinds of suggestions: shop and cook together, get a fancy lunch box, serve foods several times so he can develop a taste for them, have him tell me what his friends eat. The Kid and I looked at each other. "We've done all of that," he sighed.

"You need to find more foods you can eat," she declared with finality. After 30 minutes of dealing with this, she was completely exasperated. Imagine how I feel?

"No hockey. No sports," she said. "His body can't take it right now."

For the next two weeks the Kid has to eat whatever I serve him. He hates having lost any say in what he's eating. I thought I would hate it too, but I'm actually finding it to be a relief. At least now I know he's getting the fuel his body needs.

To his credit, the Kid is working really hard on this. He's complaining, but at a level that is reasonable. We haven't had any knock-down-drag-out fights. I think (I hope!) he now sees just how important proper nutrition is. And I hope, at the end of two weeks, we'll return to the doctor for our follow up visit armed with a bunch of new foods the Kid can eat.

He just wants to play hockey again.