May 3, 2021

blood boiling, no luck of the Irish

I had to wait until I was calm to share this story. Lots of deep breaths later, here I am. Trying not to LOSE MY MIND. No guarantees.

A little background:  Major Irish dancing competitions happen 3 times a year, in normal times. Thanksgiving - Midwest champs, July 4th week - National champs, and Easter week - World champs

This might be repetitive for regulars:  Longtime readers will remember trips to Scotland, North Carolina, Vancouver, Orlando, and the recent venue change at Thanksgiving that required a hotel stay in Indianapolis (vs the original dance-in-Chicago plan) where Curly puked between dancing rounds, danced amazing, and had one judge apparently on the verge of blindness who robbed her of the podium. 

*I know I sound like a crazy dance mom, and I get that Irish dancing is subjective - but this was not a judge who gave her a slightly lower placement. She placed her at like 43rd when she clearly deserved more of a 5th place. If she gave her 10th, I'd call it subjective. Moving on . . .  

World champs has been cancelled now two years in a row. Last year's Nationals in Nashville was also cancelled. 

Translation:  this is a crappy time to be a dancer. The goal is to compete. See where you place. (me:  wishful thinking - do your thing, and be done so you can go to high school and do the high school thing without juggling time consuming dancing).

In addition to the majors, there are small local competitions, or if you're nuts - road trip your heart out to attend out of town options. Ah, memories of Mini's dancing days. By small, I mean that MANY people cram into a building and spend a long day watching kids dance and breathing on one another. Well, those 'smaller' deals (called feis) haven't happened in forever. 

This is what a typical feis ('small' competition)
 looked like a few years ago. It's a great way to spend AN ENTIRE SATURDAY.

They 're now scheduling tiny feises. Nearly impossible to register for a spot. Ideally Curly would attend one feis before a major. Get the jitters out. I'm not willing to make myself crazy trying to register. *I will let you know if I eat those words.

This July's nationals are happening. In Arizona. The schedule came out in late Jan. 

I booked flights Feb. 8th using frequent flyer miles. Curly was set to dance the 7th. 

March 4th, Mary, Curly's teacher who we love, sent a group message. Nationals were being split to create two competitions. One in Canada. One in the States. In consideration of travel restrictions, etc. 

I texted Mary. Would Curly dance on a different day? I already had my flights. She  thought it'd be the same, but she'd look into it.

She never texted me different information, so I assumed the schedule was the same. 

Last week, I asked Mary when the hotel block would open. 

*If you've never attempted to get a hotel room in the mandatory block for an Irish dancing competition, then I guarantee you that you're doing something right. Living your best life. I've had multiple kids on phones, laptops, landlines, and we still are rarely successful at reserving in our preferred hotel. 

*I once had to stay 20 min from the venue with my 4 or 5 very young dancers ON MY OWN. Rising at 4 am, I got everyone dressed, fed, and out of the hotel so we could get to the venue at the early time the teachers insisted upon. A memory I don't cherish. 

I'm not good at social media. There, I said it. Not a big secret. Remember how I ended up babysitting for one family this year because I accidentally friended the mom when I saw her FB post? I didn't have my glasses on and thought I was just scrolling past.

Other parents pay attention to dancing FB posts. I ask the teacher for information. Call me old school. I've been called worse. This is our 3rd dancing school, and my previous schools (that I literally hated for other reasons that you'll someday read about in my tell-all Irish dancing book) sent email updates with instructions about registering, etc.  

When they split nationals, they changed the name of the competition and the FB page changed. Well, that's not going to confuse me. 

I heard through the dreaded group-dancing-chat (where people respond to dumb questions separately and repeatedly, because that's fun) that the hotel block would open on April 15th at 11 am. I asked the group if anyone had the link to the hotel blocks. No one could find it. Someone said that the leaders (feel free to picture a short guy behind a curtain like in the Wizard of Oz) claimed they'd update the FB page the morning of the 15th. That does me no good as I still didn't know how to access the FB page.

A mom sent a link with info on the various hotels and where they were in relation to the venue, so I could at least figure out which hotel to shoot for. 

At 10:58 am, (2 min before the link opened) I was texting and calling other moms BEGGING FOR THE LINK. One woman said her husband handles the dancing hotel reservations. Fortunately, we weren't on zoom. She couldn't see me faux strangle her from my kitchen. 

Another mom in the group sent the schedule of when everyone dances. As much as I hate group chats, this was EYE OPENING. Curly now dances on the 8th. The day we were supposed to fly home. It was good to know this BEFORE my non-cancellable hotel reservations. With covid, my guess is they'll allow hotel cancellations this year. 

At 11:00 I texted another mom friend, who 'my-husband-handles-this' told me had gotten a room already. Meanwhile, I called the hotel directly. I was on the phone with the Sheraton when she texted me a screen shot of the links. 

The woman at the Sheraton found our Irish dancing group. She put me on hold towards the end of the process. When she came back, she said the block wasn't open yet and she couldn't reserve my room. BUT IT WAS OPEN!

I typed the URL into my laptop from my friend's screenshot. It was only 50 characters long and time was clicking away. Relaxing.

I made this dress for Mini, age  9.
 The teachers at the time were FURIOUS.
I refused to pay over $1,000 for a used
 dress. They controlled the used dress sales.
 All sales had to go through them. Can you
 say fixed prices? So, I made
 my own pattern/dress. Sometimes
 the system can't be beaten though.
I reserved two double beds. After entering my payment:  sad face WITH - 'Something went wrong' (in the movies, this is when people throw their computers). The website suggested that my room type was no longer available. My hands shook as I rushed through the process AGAIN. Racing the clock. I selected a king bed. The reservation went through. 

Now, I just had to change my flights. American Airlines offered me a callback in 4 HOURS. Huh? I stayed up waiting for my call back, hoping I could beg for a date change but keeping the same mileage. No luck of the Irish this time. It cost me an extra 21,000 miles to adjust our flights from Mon- Thurs to Tues-Fri. 

Anyone else force themselves to love their people's activities even if it means you might die trying?


Nicole MacPherson said...

Wow, how frustrating! What an experience. I'm grateful my kids have never been in anything like this.

Kari said...

Holy hell, this sounds like a lot of work! I used to complain about soccer games being twice a week. Locally. I won't ever complain again. LMAO

Martha said...

Wow, I'm totally stressed out just reading this. At the moment I've very thankful none of my kids were ever involved in anything like this!

Suz said...

I am feeling your frustration from here. Why does it have to be so damn hard?
Crossing my fingers that the Love of Irish Dancing will end soon and put you out of your misery.
Also, think of all the extra $$ you'll have.
Yes, I was giggling while typing that part.

1k for a dress? That's more than my wedding dress and almost as much as Lolo's wedding dress! WTH?

Kara said...

Because of your blog, I've been following the Hotel Drama Saga of the Phoenix Dance Finals, on Facebook. I am astounded at how terrible this system is set up. These are hotels who regularly host even bigger events (like The Superbowl, multiple times), and it's far less dramatic getting hotel rooms than this seems to be (caveat, my husband used to work for one of those hotels, so I had an insider view to this).

Pat Birnie said...

Yikes what a challenge. I’ve never had to deal with anything like this. My craziest time was having 3 books playing hockey - all separate teams of course. Each team had at minimum practice and 1 game a week. Often the practices would be back to back at different arena. As a single mom that was a challenge to say the least.

Bibliomama said...

I have second-hand anxiety just from reading that (and my ptsd from trying to book vaccine appointments online). There was a time when Baseball was only ever referred to as Goddamned Baseball(TM), but I usually didn't have to deal with it solo unless my husband was out of the country (which, to be fair, was often in the Before Times). Then again, it's magical enough to me that you can be booking flights and hotels and planning travel, so my sympathy is tempered.

Charlie said...

Like most of your other commenters, I feel stressed out just reading this! You must really be counting the days (and dollars) until this is done! We’ve never had such an expensive hobby, and I can’t say I’m very sad about that.

Ernie said...

Nicole- oh the stories I could tell. I was once more easily upset by nonsense in the dancing world. I don't get AS worked up but these things are irritating.

Ernie said...

Kari- ha! It's all relative. I'm sure there are plenty of aspects of soccer that are annoying. Ed did travel soccer once. While being a very devoted Irish dancer. I would pick him up from soccer and drive to the dance studio. His soccer socks/feet smelled SO BAD when he was changing to dancing socks that I made him hold his socks out the window while we drove.

Ernie said...

Martha- Believe it or not there have been FAR more stressful situations along the way. Namely: when a dancing school kicked us out because I complained when the teacher was verbally abusive to my small children. My kids had no school so they could not compete in the upcoming Midwest champs which was a qualifying round for other competitions. Thus my desire to write a book and expose the idiots for what they are. Current teacher is great in comparison. Took many years to find her. Our 3rd school. Almost unheard of in dancing to jump to different schools like that.

Ernie said...

Suz- Curly played travel basketball in WI over the weekend. It was downright RELAXING. I asked her at the hotel if she was bummed to not be getting leg tanner on and her hair wig-ready and setting the alarm for an unthinkable time. My middle name is subtle. Curly got my point. She's now on an amazing travel team. They won all 4 games over the weekend . . . one by 60 pts. And they only had 5 players. Fingers crossed that she starts to see the light. High school is a year away. She won't have time for it. At least thst is my hope. Could it be thst I am ordering my last dress?

I anticipate feeling like I've given myself a raise when she gives up dancing.

Ernie said...

Kara- It is all nonsense. Of course the dream is to stay in the same hotel as friends in case you find time to swim in the pool or something. That's way too lofty. The hotel stay for these contests are SO expensive. It's too nerve wracking to arrive day before- most dancers like a day to get their bearings and adjust to the time change.

Ernie said...

Pat- the hockey equipment bags are like full size humans. Super grateful none of gang went that route. One year I had 4 boys on different baseball teams and Mini on a softball team. With Coach working late, I once dropped young Reg at a baseball field when there were no parents around that I knew. He was like 8. He laid down on his side like he was 14 and chilling out but I drove off to get the girls to dancing and felt like a terrible mother. I was always relieved to get their rosters and discover that I knew another mom on some of the teams.

Ernie said...

Ali- 'God damn baseball' . . . I believe it. Many meals were served on paper plates as I drove kids to stuff. As a result my car smelled awful most days. Yes, it is great to be ABLE to book flights and have events happen. Who'd have thunk this starved-for-stuff feeling a few short years ago? Still sometimes I look around and go WHAT JUST HAPPENED? *and by just I mean ongoing, over a year situation. Unreal.

Ernie said...

Charlie- we got together with 2 of Curly's besties from dancing. One quit during the pandemic. She REALLY misses it - the friends, not the competing. I know Curly would miss both so waiting for her to bow out. I am grateful for the friendships she's made.

She thinks she might be able to teach private lessons in high school, which would be very lucrative. Still, where will she find the time? She'd rather not caddy so she thinks private lessons is her ticket out of that.