Tuesday, March 10, 2015

He's Not a Loner

I'm a substitute teacher and that means I get to spend time with the teachers at my younger son's school quite a bit.   One day my son came up in the conversation (because I find lunch a good time to check and see if he's up to date on his work) and one of the teachers called my son a loner in passing.  The teacher was trying to be helpful and had a suggestion for helping him find friends, but still the comment bugged me.  I let it go in the moment but the longer I thought about it the more it rankled.

First:  my son is not a loner.  If you see him with his friends he's happy and very involved in the interaction.  You can almost see him recharging from the energy of being around people who like him and enjoy the things he likes.  He brings his best friend over to our house nearly every day after school so they can spend more time together.  At home with the family he's almost never alone in his room.  He's out interacting with us, having conversations and looking for hugs.  If he has the choice, he'll chose to be around people nearly every single time.

Does he have a lot of friends at school?  No.  He doesn't.  He has three, and two of those are more in passing friendships. They don't spend a lot of time together.  His other friends are either home schooled or attend a different school.  This has been very hard for him.   Because he is a little different (he's weird and proud of it) and he's so small, he's a target for harassing behavior.  Kids want to touch his head and tease him.  Nothing that would be overtly seen as bullying, but over time it adds up and it tears him down.   He hates it.  He wants more friends and he wants the kids at school to treat him better.

Second:  When you label someone a loner you are saying that you think they are choosing to not have friends.   Loners want to be alone, right?  But that's not always the case.  Actually, a person choosing to never spend time with anyone and not wanting any friends at all is vanishingly rare.

When you say "he's a loner," you're saying: "He wants that.    No one is doing anything wrong.  I don't have to change what I'm doing. We can all just go about our business and continue ignoring this kid."  "Loner" is a way of abdicating any responsibility for the situation.

I see these kids who are alone at school.  I see the hurt in their eyes as they walk the halls without friends.  I see the way certain children latch on to the teachers, desperate for some positive interaction during the day.  I watch them try to interact with their classmates and be rebuffed.  Do those kids sound like loners to you?  Just because a child doesn't have friends at school, it doesn't mean they are choosing for things to be like that.   Most kids want to have friends.  We are wired as human beings to be social creatures.  When our society blocks a person from that social interaction, it's harmful to them.   The pain can be long lasting and affect their relationships long into the future.

Third:  When you call my son a loner you call up all the denotations our society has for that word.   Loner is what we call the guy who hurts other people.  The one who just snaps and makes the evening news with tragedy and pain.  You make other people think of those kinds of loners and associate them with my son.  Then my son suddenly isn't just a boy who sits alone in class, he's the boy with the potential to cause harm.  They might not say it or think it overtly, but you can't live in America and not have that association with the word loner.   Calling a child loner can make other people treat them differently, as if that child has the potential to cause harm just because the other kids don't want to be friends with the "loner" child.  Kind of messed up, isn't it?

Stop.  Stop calling kids loners.   How about instead we notice who is alone and find a way to help them be part of the group?   Instead of labeling, can we try to heal?  Please, for the sake of my son and the sake of all the children who play alone.

They aren't loners.  They are people who need friends.  Be their friend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Family Rules--Geek Style

Yeah.  I don't do cute, overly sentimental sayings.  It's not my style and it's also not my style to have my wall say things everyone else's wall says.

What I do enjoy doing is making sure our home reflects us as a family.   We are a geek family.  We love Douglas Adams and Tolkien.  We spend way too much time playing Minecraft and Zelda and lots of other video games.  We do not choose between Star Trek and Star Wars.   We are a dual Star loving family.   Agents of SHIELD is appointment television here for everyone.  And if we have a couple of hours of time on a Sunday, we may just be playing board games.   

So I made a sign that is all us.  I had the the kids help me come up with the rules so it reflected everybody.  I love it, even though it was the biggest pain to make.  The vinyl didn't cut cleanly.  The board warped.  The stupid clear contact paper stuck too well to the vinyl when I tried to transfer.  It was a mess.  Honestly, I should toss it and start over, but after spending hours on a project that should have taken me 30 minutes tops, it's a victory just to have it done.  So enjoy, wonky letters and badly made font and all.  

Then make your own Family Rules.  What does your family love?  Sports?  TV? Movies? Books?  Board Games?  Make your rules about you.   Have fun, and I hope your vinyl cuts properly and your transfer sheets work right.  Also, the font Episode I is badly kerned.  Skip it even if your family loves Star Wars.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Pasta Alfredo

There are nights when I haven't the slightest clue what to make for dinner.  Sometimes that means we get something basic like chicken Alfredo, spaghetti, or even *gasp* buttered noodles (that's what happens when I don't feel like cooking and the 13 year old takes over.)   Tonight when I was lost for what to make, I just started pulling things out of the fridge and came up with a dressed up pasta Alfredo.

Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Alfredo

1/2 lb chicken cutlets (should be about one medium chicken breast sliced in half)
3/4 c cream
1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 T garlic
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
1 box whole wheat penne, cooked (the company I use packages it in 12 oz packages)

I seasoned my chicken with Montreal Steak Seasoning from McCormick, but a basic seasoning with salt and pepper would be fine.  Then I pan fried it in a touch of olive oil until just cooked all the way through.  I pulled the chicken from the pan and added the garlic.  Cooked it for about 30 seconds and threw in the artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes, frying them until they were just turning brown.  I added the cream and let it simmer until it reduced just a bit.  While that was reducing, I sliced up the chicken into bite sized pieces and stirred it back into the dish. Then I stirred in the Parmesan and the pasta.   Lastly, I spread the mozzarella over the top and broiled it just until the cheese started to brown a bit.

If you start your pasta water boiling right before you throw your chicken in the pan, the pasta should be done right about the time you need to stir it into your frying pan.  The whole dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, which is exactly about as much time as I want to spend cooking on a weeknight.

As to the flavor, it is really rich.  Next time I might cut the cream with a bit of chicken broth.  My family said not to touch it though.  They love it the way it is.  Even my super picky 13 year old ate it and he doesn't eat anything except Hot Pockets, bread, and oatmeal.  Feel free to add as much artichoke and sun dried tomato as your family will eat.  You could up the chicken amounts if you wish, but with the extra protein in the dairy, it's really not necessary.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bling, Baby!

I've been doing a bit more sewing for pay recently.  Mostly just repairs, but a couple of months ago I was asked to make a blessing dress for a baby.   A blessing dress is for an LDS baby.  LDS baptize children at eight, but we still have a small tradition of introducing our child to our fellow church members by having the father give the child a blessing during our church service.  It's usually the baby's first blessing from the father.    A blessing is when the father places his hands on the child's head and prays for them.  The prayer gives the baby's full name, and then asks for the blessings the parents want for the child in their future life, things like having God's spirit with them, finding a good person to marry, blessing the child to make good choices and have happiness in their life. It's very special and sweet.  Traditionally in the US, babies are blessed in a special white outfit purchased or made for the occasion.

This little dress was made from her mother's wedding dress.  I took apart the skirt and had plenty of fabric and lining to make this lovely little number.  The rhinestone accent is straight off the wedding dress.  Luckily they were originally sewn to a small piece of sheer fabric, so I was able to reuse them in the exact same design.    They are even in the same place they were on Mommy's dress.

I'm very happy with the final outcome and it's even prettier in person.  The mom is thrilled and honestly, that's the best you can hope for when sewing for someone else.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Jammies

Thanks to our new son in law and his vowel initial our Christmas Jammy Weasley shirts (my kids names for them) spell the most appropriate word ever:  Jammers.    Pretend that we have a second M in there ok?  I have about five years before we can add another initial in there.

The shirts were super easy.  I cut the letters using the Cameo.  They are all done in the HP font available at dafont.com. I did have the adjust the settings on the machine to the heavy fabric setting.  The flannel did not want to cut nicely.   I don't use Silhouette's special fabric medium.  I just use standard Heat n' Bond.   I left the paper on the back to cut and then "R" did the ironing for me.  I did a super close zig zag applique with my sewing machine.  The whole project took me two days.  One day to cut out and one day to do all the sewing.  I did get some help from the kids on the shirts and cutting project.   "M" tried to help with the sewing.  He did two seams on "A"'s pants before he decided it was too big of a project for him.

The fabric is all JoAnn black Friday flannel.  It's not the greatest quality, but it wears well for pjs.   I am having a harder and harder time every year finding more grown up prints for my kids.   The boys prints are the hardest.  There are always a few that work for my girls, but the boys prints all seem to be for boys ages 1-5 or boys into sports.  Neither works for me.   Some nice neutral plaids, fantasy themes (swords, armor, magic etc.), music, books, etc.  would work for all my kids and it would be great to see them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A t-shirt for my Star Wars fan

My son has Constitutional Growth Delay.  It's not a syndrome.  It's not a disease.  It's basically what we used to just call being a late bloomer.  He grows more slowly than the average kid his age,  but for my son it's a bit on the extreme size.  He looks like a nine year old but he's actually 12.  Needless to say, he gets twitted about his size a lot.  A lot.  Older girls squeal and say things like "he's so cute!" but the boys tease and no one takes him seriously.  It's hard being 4'10" when your best friend is 5'8".

So one of his heroes is Yoda.  Of course.  Yoda is awesome and the fact that he's small makes no difference whatsoever.  He also has some awesome things to say about size.

Matt designed the shirt himself.  He chose the quote and I helped him work out the design.  We had a lot of fun with it.  And he loves it!

He was so excited to wear it to school today.

The design itself was so easy to do.  First I found a picture of Yoda on Google image.  I used this one because it gave me a great silhouette of Yoda and the extreme ears really worked for me. I imported the JPG into my Silhouette software.  Then I traced the image and chose for it to just trace the outer edge.   That was the shape of my letters.  Then I used pretty much the same technique as you would to make a circle monogram.   I stretched and shaped the letters to fill the shape and then used the crop tool.   It's a really fun technique to use and it would work for just about any shape.  I can't wait to use it for other quotes.

I'm really happy with this project and Matt has already come up with another design for me to do.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Still on Wedding Stuff--Table Decor

So, yes, the wedding was back in August and, yes, I'm totally milking this, but I did want to do one last post.   I was super proud of how the table decor came out.  It was a huge challenge to stay in budget and work out the arrangements the day of.  There were some logistics that really caused me some pre-wedding stress.  No worries, though, it all worked out.

We decided to save money by doing eclectic table decor.  That means that instead of all the tables having the same centerpiece, or even four or five repeating designs, every single table would have a different centerpiece.   This way we could borrow and thrift store shop for what we needed, bringing the cost of the centerpieces way, way down.  It helps that my mother in law collects vintage glass and had a storage shed full of pieces we could borrow.  We also did some second hand shopping to fill in the gaps and add in the all important metal pieces that were necessary to the steampunk theme.

The flowers were mostly from a large hydrangea plant in my front yard.  It did it's part for the wedding by producing it's largest crop yet of perfectly colored, light green flowers.

The wire trees were made by the groom.  He's been doing them for awhile and made a few more specifically to be used as table centerpieces.

Nearly every table had a doily from my mother's collection.  She has doilies that she has made as well as ones made by her mother and grandmother.  The purple and yellow flowers were ordered from a local flower wholesaler.

For some of the tables, Sarah and Ashton colored plain water to help bring the wedding colors into the table decor a bit more.  (It looks a little brown in the picture, but the water was a light purple.)

The books came from my mother in law as well.

I made large squares of fabric out of the dress leftovers and did a rolled hem on my serger.  They worked great to ground the arrangements and bring them all together.   For some reason I only have pictures of the green squares, but I did purple and gold ones as well.

We had a logistics nightmare with the wedding location.  Since it's usually 100 degrees in the shade the first weekend in August, we decided we absolutely had to have an indoor wedding.  Around here that means in a church building, or at the local National Guard Armory.  Not kidding.  You have to go more than 40 miles to find an indoor wedding venue, and we didn't have the funds for it anyway.

So we did it at our church, only you can't take pictures if you get married in the chapel and the groom wanted his family to feel comfortable doing so.  So out goes the largest room in the building.  The room usually used for weddings only holds about 75 which was going to be about 75 seats short of what we needed.  So that meant holding the ceremony in the gym,  the room we had to have the reception in, the room that was not big enough to set up for both.

We set up for the ceremony and made plans for how we would work the reception.  A friend came in the day before and helped plan out where the tables would go, then we put them all back.   The next day, she was in charge of making sure the tables were placed properly.  The night before the wedding, my husband, the bride and groom, and I all went up to the church and set up a single table.  We set up a centerpiece, then I took a picture of it, and it was put away in a box.  We did this for each one with every centerpiece grouping being in a separate box.  That meant twenty boxes.   That night I printed out the pictures of the centerpieces and the next day the pictures were put in the correct boxes.

For the actual set up, I had to count on the good will of our friends and family.   As soon as the ceremony was done I asked for help (in my very loud school playground monitor voice) putting chairs up and setting up the tables for the reception.  At first people just looked a bit confused, but as the groomsman and close family took up the challenge, everyone else pitched in as well.  I handed out the centerpiece boxes and people carried them to random tables and set them up according to the picture provided. I was really, really worried, but it went so smoothly.   The room went from ceremony to reception ready in less than 10 minutes.   Yes, 150 chairs moved and 19 tables brought in and set up completed with tablecloths and centerpieces in under 10 minutes flat.

From this:

To this:

My family and friends are awesome.  They didn't even complain about being free labor.   They all just complimented us on how smoothly it went and how the centerpiece pictures made them so easy to set up.

Then we had a lovely dinner consisting of five salads, Caesar, potato, broccoli, tabooli, and watermelon. We also had seven different flavors of home made English scones (half baked by me and half by my mother) and sliced meats and cheese. For drinks we had a lemonade bar with berries to mix into the lemonade.   It was all served buffet style on my my mother in law's glassware as well.  (Told you she had a lot.)  The glass serving dishes made it all look very elegant.   From what the guests said, it tasted great too.  I thought the lighter picnic style luncheon menu worked beautifully with the theme of the wedding and the summer weather.  Since it was a picnic, we did paper and plastic to eat off of.  It made clean up so much easier.

After dinner the bride and groom came back for a party.  She and her father danced to a recording of a song he wrote for her before she was born.   It was awesome and beautiful, and yes, I cried.

Then we played the shoe game to much laughter and enjoyment from the guests.  Steve moderated and asked the guests to ask the questions.   We got some really fun ones that way.  Then we danced.  A lot.  I danced barefoot because by this time my shoes were evil.   

Then she threw her bouquet.  
 And we said goodbye.

It was a good day.