Tuesday, September 25, 2012

...Or Maybe Not...

With great anticipation, Sk8terdude went straight to S.P.I.R.I.T. after school yesterday.  The skatepark was open, as promised, but parts of the park were still off-limits, including the new quarter-bowl and the new element added to the side of one of the ramps.  Rumor has it that they'll be open at the end of the week.

In the meantime, here are some photos to whet your appetite, plus one of the melted vending machines, just because.  And, good news, all of the ramps have new concrete leads, replacing the macadam transfers that were there before, making for a much smoother ride throughout the park.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Back in Business

It's been a spotty return to skateboarding for Sk8terdude, but this time the obstacles have not involved trips to the orthopedist.

Just days after returning from camp, Sk8terdude woke up one morning to the news that our local skatepark was closed due to an overnight fire.  The shack had burned to the ground and the vending machines melted but the ramps, etc. seemed perfectly fine.  Nonetheless, the town decided the skatepark would be temporarily closed.

Three weeks ago they reopened (hooray)...and then last week they were temporarily halved by yellow caution tape as workers arrived to build a quarter-bowl in the back corner of the park.  Yesterday we pulled into the parking lot only to be told the park would remain closed for at least one extra day to let the concrete cure (apparently they also resurfaced several ramps).

Sk8terdude was itching to skate but rejected my offer to head to Dickinson Park in Newtown ("It's too small!"), instead begging to be allowed to skate some street spots for the first time ever.  I admit to being torn.  While I don't really want to encourage him to skate where he isn't supposed to (for example, at one of the local schools), I didn't want to put up with his complaining all afternoon if he didn't get to skate.

So I caved.

I know....bad Mommy.  Allowing him to break the rules AND standing by while he did it (I read a book in the car while he skated) isn't exactly sending the right message.  But I was encouraged by the fact that no fewer than eight other skaters and roller bladers showed up while we were there.  Apparently we all had the same idea, convening at the nearest easily skateable public venue.

Is it terrible of me to admit that it was fun to watch?  This was Sk8terdude's first time figuring out, for himself, what was skateable and what wasn't (yes to olleying the stair set, the curb, and the low retaining wall - no to the handrail on the ramp).  And when he landed the stair set he ran back to the car, grabbed the video camera, and took some footage of himself doing it again.

He came home happy and exhausted - a winning combination - even if it was a slightly illegal one.

LOL - From now on I suppose we'll be adding a dollar a day to his legal fund instead of the proverbial "therapy jar."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fear of Flying (no, not THAT one)

I'm on a plane to California.

[And the fact that I can sit on an airplane and type something and hit a button and suddenly all the wired-world can read it is something too amazing to contemplate - but that's a topic for another post.]

Sitting in the airport waiting to board, I realized that although I'm looking forward to this trip, I wasn't really looking forward to the plane ride. And that realization surprised me, because for years I travelled as often as I could. I loved the anticipation, the take-off, the opportunity (when weather and flight plans permitted) to look out the window and identify landmarks (including once, on a trip back from Richmond, my parents' street and rooftop!).

But today I was a little unsettled, as I have been every time I've boarded a plane for the last ten or more years.

I know part of my discomfort comes from 24/7 coverage (on tv and/or online) of airplane disasters. And part comes with the territory of being a parent ("what will happen to the children if..."). But I also wonder if part of this fear just comes naturally with age.

When I was younger my brother and I often went skiing with our dad. I clearly remember my brother racing down a black diamond trail without me - although we were skiing at about the same level at that point in time (not quite ready for an expert trail, I might add). And I remember thinking that it was because he was too young to know to be scared. (If memory serves...and it might not...he was no more than 7 years old at the time.)

As a child, I believe I thought growing up would mean being less afraid.  And I suppose in some ways I am less afraid of some things.  I still occasionally get butterflies in my stomach before making a presentation, for example, but I am able to draw on years of experience, take a deep breath, and settle those butterflies by remembering that the worst that will happen is I’ll make a fool of myself – and I’m too old to care about that anymore!  And growing older and becoming a parent cured me of my fear of spiders (well…maybe not cured…but at least made me pretend I wasn’t scared so I wouldn’t pass along that fear to my kids).  And I’m less afraid to try new things – at least as long as those things don’t involve my fear of heights!  (I will NEVER go bungee jumping.)

But I’m definitely more afraid of things like falling down (it HURTS to fall down at my age!), getting sick (who’s going to handle the kids’ schedules?), and, of course, flying, which is not so much a fear as jitters (read: a panic) about what would happen to the kids if something happened to me, which is all about parenting, which really is very scary…

If you’re still reading, you must be wondering what this has to do with skateboarding since, after all, this is supposed to be a skateboarding blog or, at least, a blog about being the parent of a skateboarder.  And that’s exactly where I circle back to being afraid.

I wonder if skateboarding becomes more difficult with age – not just because some skills are more easily learned by the young – but because of fear.

When he started at age 5 or so, Sk8terdude had no fear.  In fact, as a parent it was a little worrisome to watch him try bigger and bigger ramps and skate faster and faster without seeming to have a care in the world.  But he’s older now, and a little wiser about things like gravity, and it’s a lot further to the ground than it was when he was younger.

When does this start to become part of the equation for skaters or for athletes in other extreme sports?  For example, if you don’t try the megaramp before you reach a certain age, are you destined to avoid it your entire life?

Is there a point at which skateboarders stop trying to learn new tricks and just celebrate a successful session (i.e. one without injury)?  Is this the ultimate obstacle - the one that skaters need to conquer in order to be great?  Is it that they don’t ever feel the fear, or that they learn to ignore it?  As a parent, how do I teach my child not to let the fear keep him from pursuing his dreams?
I watch Sk8terdude launch himself off the ramp and up into the air over and over and over again and I can’t help but wonder whether there will come a day when he’s afraid to let himself fly.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Jinx or a Career Opportunity?

Earlier this week I received a comment on the blog from Chris at AquaCast, the company that is marketing a waterproof cast material to replace the now-discontinued Gore Pro-Cel.  On Tuesday, as I was driving Sk8terdude to camp, Chris posted a response to my reply.

Sk8terdude read the comment aloud from my iPhone:

Hopefully you won't need any casts soon and/or exhaust your supply of Gore Procel. However, I would like to send you a few rolls of AquaCast to see what you think. We can do all the testing in the world, but what really matters is the opinion of the patients and families who have the practical and extreme experience with water proof casts.

My immediate reaction was twofold - first, I wondered if it would be tempting fate to accept free casting material (although the fact that I pre-ordered the case of Pro-cel before they stopped selling it probably already jinxed us) and, second, I wondered how I could form an opinion about the casting material without actually having Sk8terdude break another bone.

But before I could say anything, Sk8terdude piped up with his own opinion.

"Mom, I have a great idea," an enthusiastic Sk8terdude exclaimed.  "I could ask Aquacast to sponsor me!"

Ah....sponsorship:  the elusive goal of all young skaters everywhere!

For those of you not in the know, many skate-related companies offer sponsorships to young skaters.  In exchange for free product (wheels, trucks, decks, shoes, even grip tape), skaters are supposed to promote the brands wherever they go.  Some companies send branded tee-shirts, stickers, and promotional material for their sponsored skaters to distribute.  Others just bargain that younger skaters will want to copy the sponsored skaters by buying the same products, etc.

I have to admit that my wallet loves the concept of Sk8terdude getting sponsored.  And I have often joked that our orthopedist's office ought to sponsor him (after all, we're practically building a college fund for the orthopedist's kids at the rate we're seeing him).

But I'm not sure how Sk8terdude thinks a sponsorship from a waterproof cast company would work...  Would he go from skatepark to skatepark, hoping someone would get hurt so he could whip out an ad for AquaCast and say something about the value of waterproof casts during recovery?  Would AquaCast design a line of skateboards advertising their products - complete with images of xrays?

Or maybe AquaCast could create a sponsorship group for all sports:  one skateboarder, one BMX biker, one lacrosse player, etc.  They could have an ad campaign with each of the athletes saying something like, "I work hard for my sport - but when I'm sidelined with an injury, I want a casting material that will work hard for me... AquaCast lets me continue my active lifestyle even while I'm recuperating."  Picture the person with cast doing some type of exercise to work a different muscle group than whatever is broken, followed by person drying off while getting out of the shower.  The voiceover says something about how sweat and showers don't ruin the cast, etc.

It's a funny image.  Or maybe it's really smart.  If skateboarding doesn't pan out for Sk8terdude, maybe he has a future career in advertising...  For now he just needs to enjoy summer camp - and not break anything while he's there!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Transferring the Gap

If you watch this video I posted of Sk8terdude back in April, you can see him"transfer the gap" at 2:23.

For those of you who don't know what that means, you will see him skate up a ramp, then ollie (jump) across the opening between the ramp and the half-pipe before he continues down the half-pipe in the opposite direction.

Here at home, this is the time of year when our entire family "transfers the gap" from the school year to summer camp.   This year, because the school year was extended ten extra days thanks to Hurricane Irene in August and the freak snowstorm in October, our "gap" was shortened to three days...and our transfer has been spectacularly less than graceful.  Full of fits and starts and sharpies and iron-on labels, it hasn't been an easy weekend.

School ended Friday for OlderBrother after a long week of exams and, technically, Sk8terdude still has school this Monday, but he won't be attending.  (Before you call the truant officer on me, it's a half-day "field day" carnival type of event - and the school charges a fee to cover part of the cost.  Not exactly a do-or-die learning experience!)  We spent Friday evening at the mall picking up the last few items on their lists, Saturday morning exchanging and/or returning what didn't fit and shopping for the things we forgot to buy or didn't find on Friday night, and Saturday afternoon labeling, creating lists, and packing...and we aren't finished.  (Oh, and did I mention laundry?)

Somehow we've also managed to squeeze in a last-minute trip to Rye Playland for some family fun and (tomorrow) a visit from grandparents, complete with belated birthday cake.

Sk8terdude will head to camp first thing Tuesday morning for 7 1/2 weeks of summer fun.  He's taking two skateboards (one to skate, one as a backup, just in case), his SPoT hat (which I hope he doesn't lose!), and this exceptionally cool, brand new iPath tee-shirt, which arrived today as a gift (full disclosure) from a family friend who works for the company.  (Many thanks, DP!)

Staying home (so they don't get ruined, and because he needs to grow into them just a little bit) are the awesome pair of iPath shoes that were also a gift.  Knowing what summer camp does for a growing boy, I'm sure they will be a perfect fit in September!
As soon as we return from driving Sk8terdude to camp we will pack OlderBrother into the car and head to the airport.  He will spend the next month in Israel traveling with a teen program.  Once he returns we will do a few loads of laundry, repack his things, and drive him up to camp (a few days late) for the second half of the summer.
Phew!  I'm already tired just thinking about it.

Sk8terdad and I are on our last climb up the end-of-school-year ramp (he still has to work a few professional days at school).  We are taking our own leap over the gap - sending OlderBrother overseas for four weeks (on a terrific program and with time to visit our extended family while he's there) and sending Sk8terdude for his first full summer at camp (instead of the half-summer he has gone in the past).

We look forward to an easy ride down the other side:  kid-free for almost all of the next 7 1/2 weeks, remembering what it was like in the beginning, before children, and looking ahead to what life might be like again someday, when they're both grown and gone.

Sk8terdude says the first time he transferred the gap he took a deep breath and hoped he wouldn't fall.

I'm feeling exactly the same way.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Casting Off

If you were paying careful attention, you might have noticed that Sk8terdude's most recent broken pinky (on his right hand) occurred one year to the day after his first broken pinky (on his left hand) during our otherwise-wonderful trip to Kona Skatepark last year.

This time, however, the orthopedist decided to sideline Sk8terdude for the duration of the cast, which made no sense to my very concrete child.  ("But he let me skate LAST YEAR...and it's exactly the same type of cast only this broken pinky isn't as bad as last time.  It's not FAIR!)

Well, it may not have been "fair" but it was the right choice.  To his credit, Sk8terdude tried advocating for himself, calling the orthopedist's office and asking for a return phone call from the doctor so he could discuss the decision, asking questions, and - more or less - accepting the response, eventually.  Many thanks to Dr. C for taking the time to phone, to have the conversation (with me, first, and then, with my permission, directly with Sk8terdude).  But, of course, Dr. C didn't have to live in our house for the weeks of no physical activity, which left us with one very cranky, bored, inventive child looking for ways to circumvent the restrictions.

Thankfully, we all survived.  The cast came off at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and Sk8terdude made it to S.P.I.R.I.T. in time to make up one of his missed lessons later that day.

This morning the skies were overcast and the ground was wet, so we packed up and headed out to Peekskill for a day at Second Nature, where Sk8terdude is skating AND collecting on his belated (by a week) birthday present:  a new skateboard, trucks, wheels, etc.  The old set up will go to camp as his back-up board.  With seven weeks at sleepaway camp this summer, he's bound to need it sooner or later (hopefully later).

Happy Birthday, Sk8terdude!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Time Warp Tuesday

It's Time Warp Tuesday - a Bereaved and Blessed blog-hop in which writers are asked to revisit a previous post and reflect on the journey they've taken since then.  Today's topic is "mothering" and, by chance, exactly one year ago today I wrote a post about my (un)official title as the "Best Mom in the Whole World" - a title I may or may not still hold depending on which of my children you speak to in any given moment in time.

Certainly, from Sk8terdude's perspective, I've done a pretty decent job in the Sk8termom category.  We've been on several skateboarding road trips since last May, including the biggie to SkatePark of Tampa in February.  We went to the Streetleague championship last August (despite the last-minute change of date due to the impending hurricane!).  I've spent countless hours sitting in parent lounges, videotaping, editing, and posting to this blog and, for the most part, I've done it with a fairly good attitude, considering the fact that in a million years I never would have anticipated being the mom of a skateboarder.

But we've also had some not-so-great moments this year, including Sk8terdude's latest trip to the orthopedist yesterday afternoon for what turns out to be yet another broken bone...in the pinky of his right hand.

Don't ask me how many bones he's already broken, because I've truly lost count.  (For those of you considering letting your kids skateboard, the non-skateboarding injuries still outnumber the skateboarding ones, but not by much...).  So after years of people cracking jokes about bubble-wrapping him for safety, I'm starting to wonder:  am I being the best mom by continuing to support his love of skateboarding?  Or would I really earn the "best mom" title by putting my foot down and forcing him to give up his passion?

With Mother's Day in plain sight, and with a look back at the last 12 months, I have to wonder what's really in his best interest long-term.

It was downright embarrassing to show up at the orthopedist's office yesterday.  And I haven't called either set of grandparents to tell them because, honestly, I don't want to hear their reactions.  (I won't be able to hide for long.  My in-laws will be arriving in two weeks for a short visit - and Sk8terdude will still have a purple cast.  My guess is they will notice!)

In preparation for a workshop I'll be running in June, I recently asked a group of parents to tell me what keeps them up at night.  One mom said she worried that she would be "blinded by love and not see something right in front of [her] eyes that would prevent the expected outcome of raising happy, confident, compassionate, and wise children."

Now I'm not sleeping at night, either...but maybe that up-all-night-worrying is the essence of motherhood.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sundays in the (Skate)Park with Sk8terdude

It's Sunday, so I'm back at Second Nature in Peekskill, where Sk8terdude and a small but active group of boys are ignoring the incredibly beautiful weather outside so they can work on some new tricks inside.

And they're not the only ones tackling some new tricks.  (I'll do my best to avoid the old dogs reference here!)

I sat down with the owner for a quick chat.  Yesterday he set up shop at the Tarrytown, New York Healthy Kids Day.  They ran free mini-skate lessons for kids of all ages, handed out information about the skate shop, and encouraged kids to sign up for summer camp at the skatepark (registration is now open).  Sounds like everyone left with a smile...

In the process, we touched on some marketing ideas for the skatepark and some of his plans for the future.  On his wish list:  replacing the upstairs half-pipe with a bowl (that's on Sk8terdude's wishlist, too), getting involved with The A.Skate Foundation, (their mission:  Autism. Skating with Kids through Acceptance, Therapy, and Education), ordering 2ntr-branded tote bags to sell and/or use as gift bags for camps, parties, etc., and providing additional opportunities for homeschool groups (one group already meets here on Friday mornings).

But before they get to the wish list, there are some actual events to oversee, including the upcoming art show opening, Friday, May 11th, at 7:30 p.m.  A sequel to the recent Megadeck 2 show which ran at the Paramount Center for the Arts in February, the show will feature more than 20 local artists celebrating the skateboard deck.  Stay tuned for details...

The skatepark at Second Nature is rolling up to its first anniversary (June 10th).  As the day-to-day details of running the skatepark become, well, second nature, it's great to see these guys expand their horizons, looking for ways to give back to the community while continuing to grow their business.

Now if they would only build me a private parent lounge!!!  (Just kidding...sort of.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Estrogen in the House

After a fun morning with Sk8tergrandma (first visiting The Raptor Trust, then doing a skateboard-related art project), we arrived at GardenSk8 at the appointed hour (according to the website, they opened at 3 p.m. today), only to find the lights off and nobody home.

Well, technically, there was a guy servicing the vending machines and another guy (friend of the owner) skating inside, but we were told there was no one working and they weren't sure if the place would be open today because it was the owner's son's birthday.  Hey, as a mom, I totally get the importance of birthday celebrations.  But would it have been so difficult to post a note on the website if they weren't planning to open?

Fortunately for us, the skater called one of the guys who works here and we were told they would be open shortly and Sk8terdude could go ahead and start skating, which he did.

So I set myself up in the ubiquitous parent lounge (warmer than last December but not as warm as yesterday!), turned on my computer, and then, before I could really get started, in walked C & J, two adorable girls, long hair flowing out from under their helmets.

I've written before about barriers to entry for girls who want to skateboard, so I was interested to hear what the girls, both sixth graders, had to say.  I assumed that most girls who skate start out with older brothers who skate.  To my surprise, C & J told me that their initial interest in skateboarding came from the Naked Brothers Band and, specifically, Alex Wolff, who skateboarded on (and, presumably, off) the show!

So around age six C was given a small skateboard and a mini-ramp from Toys'R'Us for Christmas.  She tried to skate on her own.  Last year a google search turned up the fact that GardenSk8 was located less than 30 minutes from their hometown.  C took some lessons, convinced J to tag along, and a passion for the sport was ignited.

Both girls are familiar with Girls Riders Organization and attended their event here at GardenSk8 last summer.  They also attended the Streetleague finals in New Jersey last summer.  But neither girl was able to name any women pro-skaters.  C said that for vert she likes Andy Macdonald and Bob Burnquist and for street she likes Paul Rodriguez and Ryan Scheckler.

Beyond skateboarding, the girls say they've both played soccer and basketball, they participate in gymnastics, and they've both taken dance.  And they both agree that C is a bit more of a "tomboy" than J.  They were delightful, articulate, and happy to talk about their lives as skateboarders.  [When I said I wouldn't/couldn't put their names or faces on the blog without their parents' permission, they asked me if I would still be here when C's mom picks them up so I could ask.]

Happily, both girls report that they've never been hassled about being skateboarders and that the boys have always been nice and accepting of them.  I hope that their passion for skateboarding won't be squelched as they move into those teen years, when being different becomes more difficult for so many.  And both girls acknowledged that it would be great to have women role models to follow... who knows, if they keep skating, maybe someday in the future younger girls will be talking about the two of them as role models!

In the meantime, I was just happy to see a little estrogen in the house.

Many thanks to Sk8terdude for willingly giving up the "spotlight" for this post!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If at First You Don't Succeed....

For some (many), Spring Break means Florida, beaches, bikinis, and beer, and not necessarily in that order.  And, yeah, once upon a time, I might have thought of those things, too.  But in the interim years, before Sk8terdude and OlderBrother are old enough to appreciate that particular vacation fantasy, Spring break for us translates a little differently.

So while OlderBrother heads to the Baseball Hall of Fame with Skaterdad, I'm back in New Jersey for a mini-road trip to Shields Skatepark and GardenSk8, with a quick visit to Sk8tergrandma thrown in for good measure (and good karma).

You may recall our last visit to the Garden State was a little chilly...  I'm happy to report that it is a beautifully warm 76°F outside and a comfortable temperature inside Shields, where I am not so comfortably seated on one of those metal folding chairs I complained about last time.  But I digress...

It's a great day to be at Shields if, like Sk8terdude, you want to work on some new tricks.  Since it is NOT Spring Break in New Jersey, the skatepark was virtually empty when we arrived for the 2 p.m. opening and, three hours later, there are still only a handful of boys inside - mostly on scooters.  A few minutes ago, Sk8terdude asked me if I would film him.

It took me three tries to get the iPhone video to work properly (don't ask) and then it took him three tries to successfully land the wall push.  But land it he did.  A lesson for both of us to always "try, try again."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sk8terdude Skates...Clip Reel

Sk8terdude decided we needed an updated clip reel from recent (and not so recent) skate trips, so here it is.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Long Island Mini Road Trip

When you think about your favorite St. Patrick's Day memory, what's the first thing that pops into your mind?  Corned beef and cabbage?  A parade?  Beer?  From now on, Sk8terdude's favorite holiday memory will be the glorious weather and the fabulous fun we enjoyed last Saturday at Veterans Park in East Northport*, New York.

[*Personally, I thought the park was in Huntington, Long Island.  My sister-in-law patiently tried to explain the New York system wherein villages and hamlets exist within towns within counties, some with independent school districts, tax districts, and/or governing bodies and some without.  She did a great job with her explanation.  I just didn't do a great job with my comprehension.  So it's beyond me to explain it here.  Suffice to say that we were in Huntington, but we were also in East Northport.  And probably plugging either name into a GPS will get you to the skatepark.]

Designed by California Skateparks (click link for photos), this 18,000+ square foot concrete park, the first on Long Island, is a dream.  It combines a bowl, a flow course, and a street plaza and is open to the public for a daily fee or by purchasing a town recreation pass (details).  No bikes - or children under 6 - allowed.

There's no parent lounge - and certainly no public, free wifi (edited to add: rumor has it there may be wifi access for those with a Cablevision account) - but there is an adjacent playground with comfortable benches, a water fountain, a shaded area, and public restrooms.  Since we were accompanied by my 3-year-old nephew, the playground was a perfect spot for us to spend time while Sk8terdude skated.

Considering the unseasonably warm weather, I was surprised there weren't more skaters.  The park was steadily busy but not impossibly so, and it was an interesting mix of local kids, older (as in adult) skaters (wisely wearing knee pads!), and, amusingly, an entire vanload of skaters from right here in Fairfield County who had taken their own mini-road trip to skate the park.

At the end of the afternoon, Sk8terdude put his skateboard and helmet in the car and then rolled down the big grassy hill with the 3-year-old...who tells us he's "not tall enough" to skate.  (Not yet, anyway!)  A perfect end to a perfect afternoon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring is Sprung...Skateboarding Season Opens in Connecticut!

It's official.

The skatepark in Ridgefield is open for the season.  Skating is free for the weekend.  Sign-ups for lessons have begun.

Sk8terdude is in 7th heaven.

And - hey - there are new benches and picnic tables in the "parent lounge."  That makes me happy, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

SkatePark of Tampa - Day 3

It's almost a wrap.

With one afternoon left before our flight home, we are back at SPoT for a final session, despite Sk8terdude's hacking cough, possible low fever, and probable ear infection.  ("No, really, Mom!  I swear I'm - hack, hack, cough, cough - just fine to skate.)

I'm sure Sk8terdude has a headache and I know I do.  After two days with the music turned down (thank you, thank you, Alex), today I am cursed not only with loud music but also with an interminable soundcheck.  (Dude, the speakers are working.  You can stop shouting "check, check, check, 1-2, check, check, check" into the microphone!)

We're only going to be here for two more hours.  Can't this wait?  (Okay, I know the world - especially the skateboarding world - doesn't revolve around me.  But wouldn't it be great for me if it did???)  Even the guy delivering Red Bull looked annoyed...

Admittedly, I'm a little cranky.  Not only was I up half the night thanks to Sk8terdude's coughing, just as he settled down, the guy in the NEXT room started snoring and, no joke, I couldn't sleep because it was so loud!  As a result, I've given up on getting any work done today, but I thought I would make an attempt at a wrap-up post about lessons we've learned in Tampa.

1.  When calling ahead to ask if there is a parent lounge, be specific.  I should have asked if there are actual CHAIRS, rather than a picnic table.  My back is killing me!  (Yeah, I'm getting old.)

2.  When calling ahead to ask if there is a parent lounge, ask if it's temperature controlled.  (You would think I had learned that lesson after freezing my *(Y&(*^ off in New Jersey, which I wrote about here, but apparently I didn't.)  Fortunately, the weather has been wonderful and the fans, noisy as they are, keep this room reasonably comfortable.  But if it were another 5° warmer, I would have been in trouble.

OMG - I JUST REMEMBERED THAT I HAVE A PAIR OF FLENTS (those little squishy purple earplugs) IN MY PURSE.  It's still really loud in here, but that's MUCH better!!!

3.  Always carry earplugs!

4.  Rely on sources other than the skatepark when looking for lodging.  SPoT has a great list of hotels in the area on their website.  And if I were a 20-something guy looking to spend a few days in the area, I might have been happy to stay in any of those hotels.  Fortunately, I logged into TripAdvisor and asked on the Tampa forum and was warned that this might not be the neighborhood to stay in as a mom travelling with a child.  I'm glad I listened.  We stayed out in Brandon, which was an easy 15 minute drive and a world away from SPoT:  lots of restaurants, shopping, and a Starbucks all around the corner from our hotel!

5.  Always ask about the ingredients in the sandwich bread before ordering lunch.  (Okay, that one might not help the rest of you.)

6.  Be prepared to spend money.  Sk8terdude is going home with a SPoT deck and hat to add to his collection:

Thanks for everything, Tampa!  We had a great trip.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SkatePark of Tampa - Day 2

Another day, another dollar - spent in Tampa, that is...

Since the skatepark STILL isn't open before noon (don't they read this blog????  lol), we started our morning at the Florida Aquarium.  They open at 9:30 a.m., so we arrived at the parking lot at 9:20, ready to park and walk over to the building, only to learn that even the parking lot doesn't open before 9:30!  (Really?  Yes, really.)

Several shark sightings later

we were on our way to the skatepark, with a quick stop for lunch at The Bricks, the SPoT-owned cafe/bar in Ybor City (check out the awesome pressed-tin ceiling if you go).

Delicious lunch, despite the near-death experience (okay, not their fault I have a fatal allergy and, fortunately, I asked to see the ingredients in the whole grain bread before I actually bit into my sandwich).  Sk8terdude enjoyed the hummus, pita, and veggies and took a PB&J to go in case he got hungry this afternoon.  I loved my "Elvis" sandwich (after they switched things up and gave it to me on bread I could eat without dying):  peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon.  Yeah, it sounds awful.  But that Elvis sure knew what he was doing!

The owners of SPoT and The Bricks, ought to do a better job (IMHO) of cross-promotion.  Since they don't have any food at SPoT, except when the snack shop is open for special events and not counting the vending machine, why not post a Bricks menu at SPoT, and hire a "runner" to bring food over from the cafe for hungry skaters.  Believe me, I would gladly have paid a small delivery fee to get something healthy to eat yesterday afternoon.  Or, if that seems like too much trouble, print up a small map with a coupon ($2 off any entree?) and hand them out to skaters who ask about food options nearby.  Yesterday I heard someone ask about food and the guy working the register at SPoT sent him around the corner to 50th Street to find something.  Really?  It's called marketing, people!  Sending skaters to competing restaurants makes no sense to me!

But I digress...

It's Wednesday, which means BMX-day at SPoT.  Mid-afternoon a handful of teenage boys have arrived with their bikes (as usual, there are no girls to be seen).  While they work the street course in the beginner room (the one I can see from the picnic table), Sk8terdude is working the half-pipe just outside.  He's determined to drop in from the top....14 feet!...before the day is over, alhtough it looks to me like he's not quite there.  Yesterday one of the guys here told him he needs to be able to get himself as high as the Red Bull logo before he can try dropping in.

He's just about there, and if we were staying in Tampa a few more days I think he would make it, but I'm not sorry we're heading home tomorrow.  I don't think my stomach could take it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SkatePark of Tampa - Day 1

We flew into Tampa last night.  Although it's been a relatively mild winter at home, we were delighted to walk out of the terminal into a glorious evening:  sun setting over the gulf (no, we couldn't see it, just knew it was out there somewhere to the west) and clear skies at a balmy 63°F or so.  With the hotel directions set in the phone app, we picked up our economy car ("Mom, it's so small!) and headed onto the highway.  One wrong hotel later (phone app sent us to the right chain in the wrong location), we arrived, checked in, and headed back out for a fabulous Thai dinner at a local restaurant.  Sk8terdude was begging to head to SPoT to start skating, but I reminded him that he was still on restricted activities and he would just have to wait one more day...

This morning he was up bright and early and eager to get a start.  Unfortunately for him, SPoT opens at noon during the week except during school vacations and, although it is our school vacation time, Florida operates on a different schedule.

So we took a side trip to the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach where we saw manatees.  Or, should I say we saw PARTS of manatees.  A flipper here, a tail there, an occasional snout or back cresting above the water...at no point was it possible to see a manatee in its entirety.  But that's okay.  We had a great time, enjoyed an hour or so in incredibly beautiful weather, and then turned back north to find our way to SPoT.

With five minutes to spare before they opened, we were here.

And precisely at noon, the magic door opened wide.  After one signed waiver and a swipe of the credit card, Sk8terdude was skating and I was settled, not so happily, in the parent lounge - by which I mean at the picnic table:

Don't get me wrong, it's a perfectly lovely picnic table.  It's in the shade.  It's near a working outlet.  It's conveniently located next to the vending machine.  The free wifi is working.  And from the table I have views of one part of the skatepark

and (looking outside) part of the giant half-pipe.

And now that they've turned down the music (at my request), I can almost hear myself think.  Almost.  But with that big garage door open to the outside, it's a little toasty in here - even with the giant fans that add to the cacophony...

It could be worse.  It could be snowing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Well-founded Worry

Last week I talked about Sk8terdude and his friend and my concern that their typical boy banter would turn into trouble at the skatepark.  Turns out my concern was well-founded (although, admittedly, this could have happened even if he had been skating on his own).

Sk8terdude was working on the wall ride at Second Nature when the wall "rode him" instead of the other way around.  Thankfully he was - as always - wearing a helmet.  But even with the helmet, he came home with a mild concussion, and our plan to head to SkatePark of Tampa next week was in serious jeopardy.

The good news is that yesterday we were given clearance (by the doctor) to go to Tampa.

Look out Florida...here we come!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Double the Trouble and Double the Fun at 2nd Nature

This morning Sk8terdude and I picked up one of his friends and we took the drive - the long drive - back to 2nd Nature in Peekskill, reminding me why we need an indoor skatepark closer to home!  It's 31°F and snow flurries are blowing on this blustery day, so I am thankful for somewhere warm to sit while they skate, but, SERIOUSLY, the distance is really getting to me.

I was glad to have Sk8terbuddy along for the ride.  The boys are the same age and share a similar obsession with skateboarding, skateboarders, and skateboarding videos.  They are equally determined to get sponsored (the ultimate prize for tween skateboarders everywhere) and their discussion in the car was amusing in its own mind-numbing way:

Sk8terdude:  "Hey, did you see skater x do trick y at skatepark z?"

Sk8terbuddy:  "Yeah!  That was sick.  Did you see skater a do trick b and skatepark c?"

Sk8terdude:  "Yeah!  That was cool."

Sk8terbuddy:  "How much longer until we're there?"

This was repeated - ad nauseum - for most of the ride.  But at one point the boys started talking about their own tricks, and I must admit I started paying a little more attention.  What began as a fairly benign cataloguing of their recent accomplishments (hey, I landed the wall-ride - me, too) slowly started to sound like the competitive one-upmanship that frequently occurs between any two boys (can you backside/tailslide the quarter-pipe? - yeah, can you?) and quickly that deteriorated into the type of challenge (you should try this - yeah, you should try that) that, in my experience, often leads to someone getting hurt...and that someone is, more often than not, MY someone.

I tried to step in with some motherly advice.

"Boys, you know, today isn't a competition.  The idea is to go have fun together at the skatepark.  You're each going to learn different tricks at different times, and that's fine.  You don't have to try something just because someone else says so...and you don't have to try anything you're not ready to do."

The disdainful silent response from the back seat was palpable.

So here we are, at 2nd Nature, again.  I'm typing in the parent lounge.  The boys are skating in the park.  I'm afraid to look!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mike Vallely and the Danbury Whalers Do-Over

Last year I wrote (here and here) about meeting Mike Vallely and about his efforts to become a professional hockey player - if only briefly.  You may recall that his first official trip onto the ice lasted less than a minute and ended with a broken arm and a long recovery.
This weekend Mike V. was back in uniform for the Danbury Whalers, hoping for a second chance to live out his dream, and Sk8terdude was rinkside, hoping to meet him for the second time.

In the beginning, I questioned whether Mike V. was really determined to play hockey or whether this was just a publicity stunt cooked up between him and Whalers' owner Herm Sorcher.  And after last year I decided it was a little bit of both.

This year my take is this:  it doesn't really matter.

Mike V. loves hockey.  He wishes he had been good enough to play professionally when he was younger.  He's a canny businessman who knows how to take advantage of an opportunity (that's a compliment!).  And he wasn't about to let this one pass him by.  With his new Elephant Brand Skateboards ready to launch, Mike V. came to Connecticut with a two-fold mission:  to play professional hockey for more than a minute and to continue his quest to have a successful skateboard line.

On Friday evening, with the Whalers in a close game against the Thousand Islands Privateers, he was limited to one 29-second shift in the final period of the game, which the Whalers won 5-3.  Afterwards, Mike V. was overheard saying that the important thing was the team win.  That's a classy remark from a guy who likes to be in on the action and surely would have preferred not to spend most of the game on the bench.

On Saturday, with the Whalers way ahead in their game against the Danville Dashers, Mike V. saw some legitimate ice time:  two or three full shifts plus the final 35 seconds of the game.  The Whalers won 5-1, making them undefeated with Mike V. in the line-up:  two wins this weekend plus the one last year.

Both nights he stayed after the game, greeting fans, including Sk8terdude on Friday and OlderBrother on Saturday, and signing autographs on everything from Whalers memorabilia to skateboards.

Both Mike V. and Sk8terdude ended the weekend with dreams fulfilled.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tampa Countdown

We are counting down the days to our next skateboarding road trip.  In just a little more than one month Sk8terdude and I will fly to Florida for a few days at SkatePark of Tampa (SPoT).

I've started my end of the research (hotels, car rental, other things to do, and the nearest Starbucks).

Since SPoT doesn't open before noon during our visit, I'm hoping for a few non-skating activities, too.

Florida Aquarium, Big Cat Rescue, and the manatee viewing platform at the power plant all sound like fun.  Any Tampa readers out there with advice?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Taking Care of Customers (and their parents) should be Second Nature

Saturday is skate day for Sk8terdude, at least whenever possible.  Today we are back at 2nd Nature which is now our "local" indoor skatepark, thanks to the demise of both Vertigo and Haven Skateparks in Connecticut.

By "local" I mean a delightful 50 minute drive if there's no traffic - not exactly a convenient "drop and go" location for me - so once I again I am hunkered down in the parent lounge.  I'm thankful for the small things they offer....like heat!  A big improvement over my recent sojourn to New Jersey, which I blogged about last week.

In addition to the heat (admittedly, it's close to 60 degrees outside - a rare January experience indeed - so maybe the heat isn't that critical), they also had the good sense to take care of parents with this lovely little setup:  a microwave, a keurig, and a selection of herbal teas and coffee.

Now if these guys managed to get it together long enough to think about the comfort and convenience of the parents (and maybe even the employees?), could it be that difficult for other skateparks to do the same?

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  It's good business to take care of the parents who drive the kids to the park and pay for the sessions (and the merchandise).  Seriously.