Here we go!

I’ve been working all summer long on some fun Halloween stuff, and if I counted correctly, I believe I’ll have a project to share for nearly every weekday in October!

It was part of my crafty goal list to create a Halloween tree this year, but I just couldn’t decide between a sophisticated, white and black, gothic tree or a whimsical, glittery, orange purple and green tree, so I made them both. I have Halloween ornaments coming out of my ears, but I hope you’ll like them even if you don’t want a Halloween tree. I think they’ll be cute whether you hang them on a tree, string them together for a garland, or just place them on a mantle for a little spookiness.

I’m going to continue doing my Year of Pleasures series on Tuesdays, but the rest of the time it will be all Halloween crafts all the time. I’ve got some good paper ones, a bunch of sewing ones, and most will be completely free tutorials. Since some of them require specific patterns, I’ve decided to offer pdf downloads for them. I’m hustling to get those ready as early in the month as I can so you have plenty of time to make your own.

I’m really excited to show you what I’ve been working on. I can’t wait!

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2009 Year of Pleasure #38

One of the many many photos I took of the food I ate during my beach vacation two weeks ago. It was seriously one of the best parts of the trip.

Gelato on the Beach

Chocolate Hazelnut gelato.

I felt like That Girl, strolling down the sidewalk, looking into gallery windows, eating my fancy Italian ice cream, wandering down to the beach and eating this creamy perfection with my toes in the sand. Seriously, a pleasure.

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Mama Bear in action

Koala Bear
Who could discriminate against this face?

I know I shouldn’t blog this…there enough people I know in person who read my blog that this might come back to the source, which really wouldn’t be very productive, but I just can’t hold it in. I haven’t been able to do anything since it happened but pace around the house and say, “A BABY! THEY KICKED OUT A BABY!” So let me try to tell the story while being a little vague to protect the (hopefully) temporarily stupid.

Last week Atti and I were at a playgroup. It’s one of those situations where the parents bring the kids, leave them with an attendant, and then go in the other room to hang out with the other parents while the kids experiment with a little autonomy. Many parents leave altogether and go run to the bank or something until the time is up. We signed up for the multiple week session, and when I signed up I talked to the lady about Atti’s disability. She assured me it wouldn’t be a problem, but I was welcome to attend with him to make sure.

Since then I’ve been pretty disappointed, but it was really important to me to make it work. For a bunch of reasons, but the biggest one was that it was recommended by his therapists that he spend time with typically developing kids to get motivated by seeing how they were able to move their bodies. It’s been challenging for me to see the gap between what he can do and what they can do, but I know I’m doing Atti no favors by sheltering him. So I sacked up and did it. In all the times we’ve gone, I’ve never had one of the teachers ask me about his needs. He just plays near the other kids, sits there for the instruction period, but is otherwise pretty much ignored. I tried not to think much of it because he had me with him and wrangling 20 two year olds is not an easy feat. It’s easy to ignore the one that’s taken care of.

Last week one of the attendants I really like was there, and she shooed me out the door. She promised that she would grab me if he needed anything but told me that I deserved a break and he could totally handle some independent play. I was a little hesitant, but I thought again about my instinct to shelter him, so I let him go without me.

I’m not even kidding – not five minutes went by and one of the other attendants was bringing him back to me. Kids often get brought out for stinky diapers, tantrums, separation anxiety, so I figured he just didn’t handle being alone very well. Until I saw my favorite attendant and she told me she got in trouble by the director. The director came in, saw Atti without me, and just said, “He can’t be in here without a parent.” and made another attendant take him to me.

We finished the rest of the lesson, but the more I thought about that the more it stung. I’ve never even met the director. She’s never even asked what Atti was capable of, she just must have known that on his chart it said DISABLED. I read the rules thoroughly. Not only is it nowhere in the rules that disabled children need a caretaker, it specifically states that they will make accommodations for children with mobility issues. If she had bothered to ask I would have told her that the only help Atti needs is a special chair to sit up in. He is perfectly happy to play lying down while the other kids play sitting. It’s not like I’m asking for something that would change how they operate.

I just continued to fume until the time was up, and on my way out to the car I caught up with my favorite attendant. I wanted to hear more about what happened before I went off on a tear. I could barely even say hello before she was all, “What was that, right? I’ve already called her boss and told him all about it. I couldn’t believe she said that, I was so taken aback I couldn’t even stand up to her.” A little while after I got home I got a call from the director’s supervisor and he was apologizing all over himself. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to convince anyone that what happened was wrong. He promised me that this “would be addressed.”

So in reality, I didn’t even have to make a big stink to stand up for the rights of my child. The people working there took care of that for me, and that’s probably the only reason we’ll finish out our time there. But I just can’t shake this…shock, I guess. I mean, the director is like a cartoon villain, right? She kicked out a DISABLED BABY.

I guess it’s hard for me to come face to face with the fact that Atti is going to face bigotry in his life. He’s so perfect to me, it’s hard to accept that there are people in this world who are never going to see him as anything but disabled.

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Crafters get blisters in the weirdest places

Paper cutting blister

See? How do you get a blister on the outside of a knuckle? By having calluses on all your fingertips and spending a solid week with an exacto knife in your hand. Although I’ll tell you, the Martha Stewart knife is sooooo much better than any other. It’s remarkable how much easier it is on your hands.

Anyhoo, I’ve been working on a Halloween papercutting at night in front of the TV, and during the day I was working on this beauty, so that’s a lot of papercutting.
Peacock Papercutting

One of my ill-fated plans for this year was to address all my naked walls. That hasn’t really happened too much, I got the staircase handled, and my little home office has some, and my studio is getting more fleshed out, but that still left a *whole lot* of naked house to address. The cheapest of my plans was to do a big papercutting for my entry way. I thought it would be cool to walk in, see a big art deco peacock, and you’d instantly understand what I was going for with the rest of the house.

Peacock Papercutting
I used a poster sized piece of green art paper, drew out my pattern and got to cutting. Then I got another poster sized piece in white and painted the background with watercolors.

Peacock Papercutting
I like how it’s just big enough to line up with that bookshelf. I cheaped out on the frame, again, and the picture hangers mounted on it were absolutely unusable, so it’s kind of just balancing there on the lip of the frame. I keep glancing over after I shut the door to make sure it hasn’t fallen over and crashed to the floor.

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Christmas Tree skirt recovery

I’ve been working on the tree skirt for our Family Traditions tree for years now. Like, lets see…holy cow. Six years. I just counted. It took a few of those years to get the beading finished in between other projects, then I had it sitting in the Work in Progress drawer for a few years waiting on a backing, then a dry cleaner broke a lot of the beading and it needed to be replaced, and finally. Just when I had it all done save for buttons. The worst of all. Cat pee.

This tree skirt has a voodoo doll out there somewhere. It’s cursed.

On my list of Crafty goals, I thought this was going to be a gimme. Just a little binding to finish. But in trying to recover from the cat pee, which turned into taking off the entire backing and starting over, then soaking the skirt in salt water and vinegar to try to set the color, and soaking again, and soaking again, then finally giving up on it ever being colorfast when you notice that even the beads have turned red, then taking the red beads off and redoing them all, then redoing the backing, redoing the binding, and following through with the buttons that got me into this mess in the first place…..

It’s finished. It took half my year, but it’s finished.

Family Traditions Tree Skirt

The good news is that my cats are very predictable in where they’re going to act out. They never pee on a made bed, or fabric that is neatly folded. They get seduced by a nest. As long as I only have this skirt available when it’s carefully spread out, I think I’ll be fine. And if *ONE MORE* thing happens to it, I’ll know it’s doomed, throw it in the trash, and cleanse my house with sage.

Family Traditions Tree Skirt Buttons

The buttons are cute, but so not worth all the trouble they caused.

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2009 Year of Pleasure #37

So You Think You Can Dance!

So You Think You Can Dance!!! I am so obsessed with this show. Man I wish I could do ANYTHING like these guys. Just amazing. I will have to be content to live vicariously through them while I eat my ice cream.

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Beach Paradise

So. Relaxed. Can’t do laundry.

Beach Bum

We were put up at this fancy hotel right on the beach. And bizarrely, I was the only spouse who came. Poor Bear and his colleagues got beautiful ocean views, but they were scheduled from sunup to sundown and didn’t even get their feet wet, so all these fancy hotel rooms just sat empty for two days. I meanwhile, got to walk down the hotel’s staircase and on to the sand where a beach attendant brought me a chair and umbrella.

Laguna Beach

I’m not really a sun worshiper, but I’m also not stupid. Who could resist this?

Beach Sunset

I spent most of the two days alone, but I was totally down for that. I did a lot of reading, a little shopping, and a whole lot of gallery walking. Laguna is like the art capitol of the West coast, and you can’t spit without hitting a canvas. There’s even art in the sidewalks and fences.
Art fence

I also ate like a pig. It was such a rare treat to be able to eat whatever I wanted without a single consideration for another person…I ended up taking all these pictures of my food as one of the best parts of the trip.

Me and Bear
Lousy picture I know, but I had about ten minutes of time with my guy, I didn’t get to be picky.

Atti had a party at Grandmas and now we’re both trying to return to real life. A lot easier said than done.

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Decorated Bath Towels

Amy Butler’s In Stitches has a really great pattern for embellishing bathroom handtowels with a band of great fabric and a hook to hang it coming out of the bottom. Not content with perfection, I decided to create my own version. I think Amy’s method of including the fabric (it covers the whole bottom, front and back) is better than mine, but the way she has the hooks set in wouldn’t really work with what I wanted to do, and mine doesn’t require as much fabric, so, you know, pros and cons.

Decorated Bath Towels

It was seeing that hook on her design that inspired what I wanted to do in the bathroom. I really don’t like traditional towel bars so I wanted another way to bring some color and some utility into our guest bathroom. Guest bathrooms always seem to have the same problem. If the towels look remotely elegant, people don’t seem to want to use them. In the bathroom off the front door I’ve got a bunch of towels rolled up in a bowl and I can’t tell you how rarely those get used. People always seem to come out wiping their hands on their pants rather than disturb those towels. Since this would be a guest bathroom for overnight guests, I wanted to make sure it looked comfortable, but still nice. Once I saw that loop she put on her towels, I thought of a bunch of towels hanging up in a locker room on hooks, and I thought I could do it in a way that bridged that formal/informal divide.

The coat hooks came from Cost Plus Imports. I mounted them pretty high on the wall, maybe five feet up? My artist sister is making me some watercolors to go up above them at the very top.

The towels are pretty darn simple. A set of two took almost exactly 1/2 a yard of fabric.

Cut 2 pieces 31″ x 4 1/2″. The longer measurement is the width of your towel, so you should probably measure the towel you’ll be using and adjust that measurement if necessary.

Decorated Bath Towel closeup

Iron over a 1/4″ seam allowance on both long sides of the band of fabric. Pin in place on each edge of the right side of the towel, and sew down as close to the edge as you can aim. Push the short side ends in between the fabric and the towel, and press in place. Sew the short ends down.

Cut one piece of fabric 3″ x 8″. Match right sides together and sew down the long side to create a tube. Turn the tube right side out and press down with the seam in the middle of one side. Turn the raw edges into the tube about 1/4″ and press to make them stay.

When I student taught a kindergarten class, we would say for the next step: Fold the towel hot dog style. So the towel would be folded down the middle to make it long and skinny. Short sides matched in half. Make sense? You have to make those sewn bands of fabric perpendicular to the loop so that as they’re hanging you see as much of that fabric as possible. When your fabric is folded this way, pin your loop onto the middle of the towel.

Decorated Towels, Hook

Sew in place by sewing a square, and then crossing diagonally. This looks nice and finished, but it also makes the hook way strong so it won’t rip off the first time someone needs to grab a towel.

In honor of my inspiration, I used fabric from Amy Butler’s Daisy Chain line, contrasting the band and the loop.
Decorated Towels, Band and Hook

I’m really pleased with how these turned out. I think it’s an appealing display, but something about it doesn’t seem as untouchable as a set of neatly hanging towels in a color that matches the bathroom. I think someone might just get up the courage to wipe their hands on these.

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2009 Year of Pleasures #36

Laguna Beach

Today and tomorrow Bear is trapped in a big work conference in Laguna Beach where he has to sit in lectures and eat rubbery chicken while they all make stale nursing home jokes.

I, meanwhile, will be here. Or maybe poolside, or maybe just in my hotel room bed, reading an honest to goodness book.

Atti will get to spend a couple more days with Grandma and she promises him that she won’t feed him gross stuff like the hummus his mom tries to make him eat.

The past two weeks have been a couple hard ones. Multiple doctors visits, driving all over the county, a suddenly tantruming toddler, Bear at work until 7 or 8. When Bear reminded me that this was the week of the conference, and everything suddenly fell into place to free me up enough to get away, I broke down in tears.

One of my favorite people is studying in Laguna right now, so I might get to meet up with a beloved old friend, wander through galleries, sun myself on the beach…but I might just be too intoxicated with the quiet of an empty hotel room to ever bring myself to leave.

You guys? Two days! Alone! Can you even imagine the thrill?

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Personality vs. Disability

Atti learning to walk
Atti in his little red walker. If it wasn’t rented I’d paint flames on the side.

Sunday’s are getting harder and harder around here. Atticus is now old enough to go into the children’s nursery and play with all the kids at church 18 months to 3 years old. Bear and I take turns staying in there with him because there are never enough people to go around, and with a roomful of wiggly bodies and wooden blocks, Atti requires full time attention.

The first few times we’ve taken him went fairly smoothly. He doesn’t exactly play with the other kids. He barely even seems to register that there are twenty other kids in the room. He’s just been busy scoping out the new environment and laying on his back while he entertains himself by staring at his hands moving in front of his face like he’s on an acid trip. Now that he’s a little more familiar, he’s starting to engage more and getting really pissed off to discover all the cool tricks the other kids can do that he can’t.

Yesterday he threw a screaming hissy fit until I held him up on his feet in a standing position. But since he can’t stand on his own, it meant I had to hold this 20 pound kid aloft for an hour.

When my arms finally gave out and I couldn’t hold him suspended any longer, he stretched out on his belly and threw a full body, back arching, screaming, head banging on the floor, tantrum. I just tried to not burst out in sobs as I caught his head before he smashed it in the carpet.

Interacting with typically developing kids is good for Atti. It’s good for him to get pissed off when he can’t do something he wants to do. It’s good for him to see these behaviors modeled so he’ll work towards them himself. But holy crap is it depressing for me. Just the ease with which these kids go from sitting to laying down, or the way they can manipulate a toy with both hands, the way they interact with each other and the leaders, it’s pretty hard to deny how much work is ahead of my guy.

When my turn was up and Bear took over baby duties, I had to run to the bathroom to have myself a little cry and wash up before I went to teach my teenage girls. I splashed some water on my face, touched up the runny mascara, and went off to class where I sat by my friend EmaLee who is the mom of the most adorable little red headed two year old. I told her how hard the last hour was for Atti and she said, “Oh my gosh, that was us during Sacrament meeting! Did you hear Erek screaming? Last week it was so bad I had to go into the bathroom to have a little cry!”

Atticus is now 19 months old, which would make him 16 months old adjusted age. Although we are rapidly approaching that 2 year birthday when they stop adjusting his age, hoping that any prematurity delay will have worked itself out by then. He has such a strong little personality, just as I expected from day one, and it’s hard to know what he can’t do vs. what he can but won’t do. He’s always been a reserved baby, stingy with his smiles, taking his time warming up to people but especially new surroundings. Maybe what looks like a delay next to another kid is just his little personality. Maybe instead of the tantrums being a result of frustration born out of his disability, it’s typical toddler frustrated at the world behavior.

I just wish I had any kind of an answer, about anything at all really. One of the other moms on the panel I did last month told me that a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy is like a diagnosis of bleeding. It could mean anything from a gaping wound to a papercut, and there’s no way of knowing which you’re looking at. I would really love to know what Atti’s ultimate abilities are going to be. Maybe then I could relax and just accept what he’ll be able to achieve. But knowing me, I’d just be even more impatient for him to get there.

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