Exploring options with my new Cricut Air Explorer

My friend Misty has a Silhoutte while my friend Kim has the Cricut. For those of you not into crafting, these machines are die-cutting machines. They can cut paper, card stock, vinyl, leather and poster board.

Misty makes T-shirts and personalizes bags and other items with hers. Kim only has used hers for cutting card stock letters and shapes.

Now I don’t do a lot of crafty projects. No scrap booking. No making cutesy little cards or other craft projects. If I make a custom card it is more likely on my computer than a cut intricate design. Even the party supplies – banners, name cards – that I have done were done on the computer.

But I love the die-cut machine at the school and liked seeing Misty’s shirt designs. I began looking into their differences between these two machines with the idea of maybe getting one.

And then my husband took the choice away when for Mother’s Day this year he bought me a Cricut Air Explorer.

But what was I going to do it?

I installed the software on my laptop and gave the tutorial project a try. (That is the card in the above photo.)

After that, the machine sat on the bedroom floor for the next two months. (What can I say…I was busy with other things, and I didn’t have any projects going on that needed a die-cut machine.)

But in the back of my head, I was planning to make an Imagine Dragons T-shirt for the concert in November. However, I knew nothing about making my own shirt with vinyl or how to use the design program that came with the unit.

So I watched some videos, ordered some supplies and cranked out four projects in two days.

Cell Phone Cover – My very first project was to cut some vinyl and make a decal for my new iPhone 7 Otter Box case. If you have read any of my books, you know I love dragons so that is what I wanted for the decal.

Lesson learned – The fine detail of the dragon’s tail and the curly parts of the letters proved to be a little difficult when removing the excess vinyl. This probably shouldn’t have been my first project but it worked out.

Toiletry Bag – I recently put an emergency toiletry bag together for my husband to keep at work. (He is an attorney but mostly dresses in jeans and a T-shirt. He keeps a suit at the office for sudden court meetings or meetings with clients. I decided it would be fun to personalize the bag. I choose his initials and a Star Wars rebel symbol.

Lesson learned – For my first iron-on project I should not have chosen something as cumbersome as this small bag. Also the black vinyl on the dark grey fabric is very subtle, and if I had to do it again, I would pick a different vinyl color.

So yes, this means the first two projects I did were not the easiest of projects. But the next two were shirts so a tad easier.

 

PTA shirt – This past weekend I attended a PTA conference. I just recently became the treasurer for my son’s middle school. The problem was since it was a new school for him, I don’t have a PTA shirt and decided to make my own.  I loved being able to use a soft lady’s shirt instead of the standard T-shirt material.

Lesson learned – Double and triple check to make sure the design is straight on the shirt. I still can’t decide if it is slightly crooked or if the “Rocks” word just makes it look that way.

Imagine Dragons shirt – As I said before, I wanted to do a shirt for the concert, so I came up with this design based off their latest album Evolve. Again, I choose a unique women’s shirt (It has a crisscross design on the back) rather than a T-shirt. Of course with months before the concert, I may just make another one – perhaps a long-sleeve one in case it is cool in November.

Lesson Learned – Don’t try to double cut the vinyl. I had read this suggestion somewhere, but the cuts didn’t line up properly. I ended up having to use the other half of the sheet of vinyl to get the correct cut.

So there are my first four projects with the Cricut. I am sure I will keep learning new lessons as I find other fun projects to try. Hmmm….everyone may be getting personalized gifts for Christmas this year.

Cursive handwriting will NOT be a dying art in this family

This image is so true! Today, many schools don’t teach cursive writing or spend so little time on it that kids don’t become proficient in it. Cursive writing is after all not required by the national education Common Core Standards.

Even in Texas which currently requires cursive writing be taught in elementary school, my kids still don’t know it. Yes, they did spend a month or so working on it in third grade, but since it isn’t consistently required to be used in the higher grades, it isn’t retained.

Jase just finished fifth grade and couldn’t read what his Nana wrote on his birthday card because it was written in that secret cursive writing. And of course both kids sign their name by printing it.

I am sure there are many out there that don’t think cursive writing is important. With the advancement of electronics in the schools and workplace, those people don’t see the benefit of cursive writing. Even my husband seems to prefer that Jase learn different word-processing software and email programs rather than work on his atrocious print handwriting, let along work on cursive.

Of course, I am one of those who thinks our children should be learning cursive writing. I want my kids to be able to sign their name – even if it is just for signing on those horrible electronic screens at the grocery store. And if they want to read family letters or historical documents, they will need to know cursive.

But there are even more important reasons. Research has shown that people who learn and write in cursive are better at expressing their ideas. It has been linked to better reading, increased brain activation and increased performance in all academic subjects, especially in language activities such as spelling.

And it will certainly help them as they advance in school when taking notes in class becomes important as you can take notes faster in cursive.

My mother (a former school teacher) has already sat down with the kids once this summer and worked on them signing their names. But now that we are back from vacation, I think we will continue working on not only their signature but the rest of the alphabet. I hope to have them reading and writing in cursive before school starts at the end of August. Of course then the trick will be to make sure they keep using it so that they retain that knowledge.

For those of you who want to teach your own kids, check out this website for cursive worksheets to practice individual letters, words and sentences. You can find short educational lessons written in cursive for reading and writing practice at this website. Good luck!

Working while on vacation

My husband owns his own law firm. It is a small group – him, another attorney, two paralegals, a part-time law clerk and a secretary. And while I know that he needs to work (and bill clients) to make a living, I want him to be able to take a break. After all everyone needs a break now and then.

But vacations seem to stress him out. There is the getting everything in order and done before you go, finding someone to cover your work, and then of course trusting that they can handle everything without you.

I’ve come to understand that my husband will never be able to do that last one. He has never been able to go on vacation and NOT check in. He did this when he worked for another law firm and of course it has only gotten worse since he became his own boss.

When he first started out on his own, it was just him and his paralegal. And even though he had an attorney friend who agreed to help out with any emergencies, my husband still wanted to be available for his clients. So when we went on a cruise two years ago, he called in when we were at port and tried to stay in contact using the ship’s slow internet connection.

This week we are on a trip to Houston. It has been in the works for years as we kept postponing it to go on a cruise or to Disney. But four or five months ago we picked our dates. (We always have to do this early as my husband is required to file vacation notices with the courts so they don’t schedule anything during those times.)

It has been on his calendar for months and now he seems shocked that it is here. And of course, he is busy. He is always busy. Working to take time off takes work and he doesn’t seem to appreciate it. Truth be told, I know he would rather not go on vacation.

The fact is he will always be busy. There will always be motions and hearings and deadlines. It is like people who say they will wait until they have money before they have kids. It isn’t going to happen. You just need to do it.

And I think he needs time away from the office. And while I know that a trip with the kids isn’t his cup of tea, I planned a short Las Vegas getaway for just the two of us earlier this year. But it is always the same complaint that he has to work so hard to prepare for even a short trip that he isn’t sure it is worth it. And then, he does not disconnect from work if he is working while “vacationing.”

I worry that working all the time will lead to burnout. And I wish that he would put aside work and truly disconnect. It would do wonders for him to enjoy himself and destress. But he isn’t going to do that. So I have told him that if he needs to, he can work in the afternoons while we are in Houston while the kids and I are at the pool. But I know the kids would be happier if he was out there with him instead of in the room. But hey, we will take what time with him that we can get.

Deciding on getting your kid a cellphone

Jase turned twelve in May and just finished elementary school. Some of his classmates already have cellphones. Jase does not.

As an elementary school student who I walk/drive to school most of the time, there was no need for him to have a phone. His extra-curricular activities (soccer and karate) were done with me in attendance. Only when he stayed after school for violin practice or tutoring did he walk by himself (or with his sister). But we are just two blocks from the school. There was no need for a phone.

But next year, Jase enters middle school. And as I understand it, most of the kids there have cellphones. Teachers send messages via the Remind app. Homework requires different apps, and students even can use their phones during class to watch videos or utilize apps as part of a class exercise.

Now cellphones are not a requirement, but they can be an asset. And as Jase hears about friends who will be getting one, he too wants a cellphone. And we are considering getting him one. But all the talk of cellphones and middle school brought up the question….

When is the right time to get your child a cellphone?

It is not really a question of age. (Some experts say 12, others say 14 and a few suggest holding out as long as you can.) It is a question of maturity and responsibility. And in my opinion, it is also a question of need.

Things to consider before getting your child a cellphone

  • Does he/she have the ability to follow home and school rules?
  • Do they show that they are responsible and won’t lose/break the phone?
  • Do they understand data charges and paying for games and other apps? And will they respect any rules you set up regarding buying these apps/games?
  • How savvy is your child about technology? Does he/she truly understand future college admission staff, employers and colleagues could see anything posted now?
  • How well do they do with limits to screen time?
  • Do your kids need to be in touch for safety reasons? (Some people don’t have a home phone or their child travel a lot due to extracurricular activities.

And while you have to make sure your child is ready for a phone, parents also need to be aware of the dangers or possible issues with giving them a phone.

Risks/Disadvantages

  • Additional charge for an extra line, texting and data package
  • There is a higher risk of online bullies. A phone increases the possibility of encountering child predators.
  • As with any device (such as tablet), gaming system (X-Box, etc.) and a computer/laptop, a phone is another attention-sucking device, which can distract from schoolwork. The main difference is that a cellphone goes with a child everywhere, including outside of parental supervision.
  • A phone can interrupt sleep patterns with late-night texting.

If you do decide to get your child a cellphone, make sure they understand your rules and the consequences for breaking them from the beginning.

Your guidelines should be clear. Things you might want to consider…

  • You need to know their passwords
  • Have the ability to limit screen/phone time
  • Set up times the phone can’t be used such as dinnertime or bedtime
  • Determine what will happen if the phone is lost or damaged (Who pays for repairs/replacement)
  •  Make sure they know you will be monitoring their social media sites (this should be done whether they have a phone or not)

If you want an actual contract to outline these agreements, check out this one that can easily be adapted to your needs.

Deciding on getting your child a phone is a decision every parent will face and the decision will be different in each situation. I think Jase shows a great deal of responsibility and know he will follow any rules we establish as he has done so already with his iPad. So come August and school gets ready to start, he will be getting his first cellphone.

Waiting for a growth spurt

Jase wasn’t a small baby. He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 22 inches at birth. In fact, in those first few months he was quite a chunky baby.

When he became a toddler, those pounds shed as he became active. And for those first few years, he was actually quite average, falling right at the 56% for height for his age.

But as he has grown, those percentages began dropping. And now at 12 years old, Jase is 55 inches which makes him in the 10th percentile for height. In other words, he is short. It means that out 100 boys, 90 of them will be taller than him.

His doctor said he is more the size of a 9-year-old. In fact, his 9-year-old sister is just 1 ½” shorter than he is. She is a bit on the tall side for her age but we know girls typically do grow quicker than boys before they hit puberty. Many times girls shoot up and reach their full height sooner than boys. My mom had reached her full height in the sixth grade. She towered over the boys but soon the boys started to grow, passing her. I have heard many stories of boys growing all the way up until they are 20 years old.

This gives us hope but genetics also plays a role in how tall Jase will be. There are quite a few short people in our family. My dad, brother and husband are all 5 foot 10 or shorter. But my father-in-law, brother-in-law and uncles are all tall (at least 6 feet or taller).

I am only 5’ 2”. My mom and mother-in-law are both about the same height as me. For women, this isn’t a problem. But there is a different stigma for men. Studies have shown that shorter men have lower salaries. And in studies, these men have also reported problems with dating. (I guess women don’t want to date someone as short or shorter than them.) Short men are often portrayed in movies as jealous (think Napoléon complex).

My husband has been quite worried about Jase being teased because he is short. So far that hasn’t happened. Thankfully, he was not the shortest boy in his class. We will just have to see what happens in middle school.

The good news for Jase is that he hasn’t hit puberty yet. My husband was about thirteen when he hit a big growth spurt. And this is what we hope comes for Jase. He may just be a late bloomer.

His doctor said at his next well-check appointment if falls below 5% on the growth chart or if he doesn’t grow at least 2” (he has been growing about 1 ½” a year), then she will request some tests to see if there is any problem. Or it could be that he is just a late bloomer and next summer he will shoot up. We will just have to wait and see.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

The other day while online, I was reading an advice columnist. A woman wrote in about an incident with her boyfriend’s parents. The mom made a comment that she thought was rude. She responded with a sharp remark. When her boyfriend told her that what she did was rude, she didn’t believe him, hence the need to write into an advice columnist for an unbiased opinion.

The columnist sided with the boyfriend. The woman’s response was indeed rude. I agreed with the columnist but when I read the comments below the article, it seemed many other readers didn’t agree. Some of them even thought the woman should have been more direct. They thought she should stand up for herself rather than let the rude comment stand.

I didn’t read all the comments but none of the ones I read sided with the columnist. And I thought, “This is what is wrong with society.” The fact that the mentality was all about getting even or putting people in their place seemed wrong. Since when did two wrongs make it right? Yes, the parent’s comment was rude. She may have spoken without fully weighing her words. But instead of just brushing off the comment or maybe even bringing it to her boyfriend’s attention for an explanation, this woman chose the path of giving back what she thought she got in the first place.

There are many times that I tell my kids that they should not do back to the other one what was done to them. If one of them hit the other, it doesn’t mean you should hit back. An insult does not require an insult back. Being rude does not justify being rude back. I repeat the adage I heard from my own childhood – “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Jase was having issues with a few kids at his school teasing him. My husband talked to him about ways to handle it. On a few of them, Jase said that the response would be the same as bullying. He knew right away that he shouldn’t do back to the kids what was done to him. But it is all too easy for people to want to fall back on that. It is easy to lash out with equal amounts of anger or rudeness and justify that as you are only responding because it was done to you first.

When one of my kids runs to me and says the other was rude or mean, I remind them that they cannot control that person. They cannot control their actions or words. The only thing that they are in control of is their own actions and reactions. So when Jase is rude to her, instead of snipping back at him, she needs to stand up for herself without being rude. She can state that she doesn’t want to play with him when he speaks to her this way, or she can ignore his remark as she knows he is only trying to get a rise out of her. (Because don’t siblings always know how to push our buttons?)

It is a tough thing to learn and obviously based upon the comments to the advice column many people are in need of learning it. But I can’t control them. All I can do is set a good example for my kids and remind them that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Trying to keep the kids occupied during the summer

School has been out for about 10 days. The first few days are heaven for the kids. They sleep in. Watch TV or play. No more getting up. No more homework. The kids love it. But the newness of it all is wearing off.

That means it is time to make sure the kids are busy enough that they don’t spend all their time bickering, playing on their iPads or driving their mom crazy. (especially this last one)

As always, I try to have things for the kids to do. But as they get older, I find it harder to find things that they both like. It was much easier when they were little and the park or an indoor play place sufficed.

We still have our old standbys – the zoo, the children’s museum, Pump It Up, Sea World. We go to the free or dollar movies offered by our local theatres. There will be swim lessons and Lexie still has her weekly gymnastics class.

We can go visit their grandparents or even let them go spend the night – or two. And we have our neighborhood pool as a wonderful free option.

And in between these activities, we do have two trips planned. The first is a short three-day trip to South Padre Island. This is actually work for my husband as he attends the annual city attorney’s conference.  While he hears lectures, the kids and I go to the beach. This year the conference is at the Schlitterbaun Resort, so we will go to the water park at least one day. My brother will be joining us on this trip. The kids are excited to have their Uncle coming to the beach with them.

Our other trip is in July. We are going to Houston for a week. For the past two summers, we have been planning to go here. It is only a three-hour drive from San Antonio and has lots to do. But something always comes up. First, it was a cruise that my parents paid for and then last summer we put it off so we could go to Disney World in December.

But this year we will get to Houston. The hotels are already booked and the City Pass tickets (which let you view five area attractions at a discounted price) have been purchased. We will be going to Houston Space Center, the Kemah Boardwalk, the zoo, the Aquarium and the Natural History Museum. Of course, I totally expect the hotel pool to be the big hit. Heck, my kids just love staying in a hotel room and will be more excited over that than the attractions.

While this seems like we have a lot planned or at least have a lot of options, by the end of July, we will probably be looking for new things to keep us busy. I will check Groupon and scouring the newspaper or Facebook looking for fresh ideas to keep the kids busy and out of trouble as school doesn’t begin until the end of August.

And while the kids will be enjoying their summer, I, on the other hand, will probably be counting the days until they are back in school and my routine returns to normal.