Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And so it goes...

See this smile?

The last recorded smile with all his baby teeth.
He's pretty thrilled about his Goodwill find -
the skateboard he's asked for five times everyday for the last four months.
[Forgive the quality - it was captured on my husband's (flashless) iphone.]

Now it looks like this:

Those of you who read my earlier post know my reluctance to meet this moment.  Ironically, this tooth is out by my own hand.  My hand, far smaller than the Mister's, whose fingers were too big to grab it.  My hand, bigger than the boy's, whose fingers were too small.

I'm sure God's having a good chuckle over it.

But, boy, was he excited!  He didn't even notice mommy's tears.

Hopefully, it having occurred on his way to bed won't mean the Tooth Fairy will miss the memo and fail to stop by.  We've seen this happen all too often.  (She really needs a better memory an email-fetching smart phone to get that late-breaking news even when she's on the job.)

And so it goes... the first of many.  Of course, with that new skateboard, maybe they'll all come out at once.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The last first lost tooth

I'm not new to this lost-tooth thing.  My first two not-so-littles have lost plenty.  And I recall being excited at their first lost teeth, diligently recording it in their baby books and snapping pictures.

But not this time.  This time I'm crying.

I'm only a little caught up in his expectation and excitement, checking the wiggle, seeing if he'll dare to let someone pull it or do it himself.  For him, losing that first tooth hangs the moon; the promise of Tooth Fairy bounty mesmerizes.

But for me, this is the last first lost tooth.  The last time I'll get to see this excitement, this rite of passage in the process of growing up.  The Tooth Fairy will not leave me bounty; instead, I'll wake up to see my little buddy's shining smile with a big black hole in the row of perfect, tiny little teeth.  The gap that will remind me there are no more babies in my house, only small grownups in the making.  A gap that slaps me with just how fast this is all going.

It shouldn't surprise me.  I've watched him growing, packed up all those outgrown clothes, grimaced at shoes that suddenly no longer fit.  I've seen him master feeding himself, getting himself dressed, using the bathroom.  But somehow I forgot about the permanent teeth, the grownup teeth.

So I'm bracing myself for the moment it finally falls out, likely today or tomorrow.  A few days left to see that little tooth sitting cockeyed in his mouth, too loose to stand up, too adhered to fall out.  And that's OK.  It can take its time falling out.  I'll use the time to slow things up a bit, revel in that smile of tiny white teeth while it lasts, and try to work up my excitement for what his smile will be when they've all been replaced.  His permanent smile.  His shiny, flashy, grownup smile that will someday captivate a woman other than his mother.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fun with Shrinky Dinks

Remember Shrinky Dinks?  I do.  I remember having great ideas of what they would become and then pulling them out of the oven to see them cool to a bubbled-up, warped mess.

But when I saw what Cathe Holden was able to do with a new breed of Shrinky Dinks you can use in your printer, I had to give it another go.

I had the idea to do something with my kids' pictures when I discovered a method to digitally edit your pictures to make silhouettes.  I decided to do a twist on classic cameos and silhouettes, making unique "mom" jewelry that was more my speed than the little stick figures with jeweled bellies or metal-stamped disks one so frequently sees.

I began by having my kids stand one at a time sideways against a blank wall while I took their picture.

Not having Photoshop, I inserted their pictures into Microsoft Word, cropped/shaped them to ovals, and fiddled with the brightness/contrast settings until I had silhouettes.  To shape them up a bit, I did have to draw freestyle shapes to cover where I didn't want a collar sticking out or to cover places that still insisted on being a color, etc.  (If you do this project, I suggest your subjects wear collarless, solid shirts.)  If you are using a detailed image, you'll need to fade the picture before printing, as the colors will intensify as they shrink.  I used pale gray dotted lines to show me where to cut; if you have a punch the correct size, you can omit this part.

I then designed smaller circles with their names and dates of birth on the same page, and printed the whole thing out onto the Shrinky Dinks for inkjet printers (white sheets).  I followed the directions and set my printer for transparencies and less ink.  My printer was still smudging some and I suspect this is largely due to the medium and not the printer, so I suggest designing your page with multiple copies of each charm image so you can use the ones that come out best.  A clean white eraser, lightly applied, did help some. 

The silhouettes were sized at 2.1" tall by 1.75" wide for a finished size of about .76" tall and .74" wide.  The smaller circles were 1.5" diameter and baked to about .6" wide and .5" tall.  Oddly, the ovals ended up more circular and the circles ended up oval.  Shrinky Dinks are not an exact science, so expect some variation.  Again, preparing duplicates will give you the option to use those most  uniform.

I then cut the images out and punched them with an eighth-inch punch so I could insert jewelry links later to make them into charms.

As instructed, I preheated my oven to 275 and used an oven thermometer to make sure it was at temp when I put them in - and that it stayed at temp.  I put the charms on a single layer of brown grocery sack lining a cookie sheet per instructions and popped them in. 

I checked them frequently, panicking when I saw them becoming teeny tiny bowls.  But the instructions said to wait until they went flat again, so I chewed my nails and waited.  Sure enough, they got flat!  Thirty seconds later, it was time to take them out, and I immediately slid the grocery sack sheet w/ the hot charms onto a cool surface, pressing them gently with some clean paper and a book for a minute.  The baking process took about 5-7 minutes.

Once cooled, I sealed them with a little clear spray enamel and let them dry.  Put a loop of tape on the back of the charm and attach them to the grocery sack sheet to keep them from being blown about by the force of the spray; tape down the paper, too, so it doesn't flip up or go flying.  You can reportedly use clear topcoat nail polish as well, but I didn't want streaks or long-term yellowing.  I played with coloring the sides and backs with silver marker/nail polish, but decided I liked it plain better; it looked more like porcelain charms. 

I had some faceted crystal beads left over from making Christmas stockings several years ago, and a strand of vintage pearls from a necklace restoration.  I made additional charms with these on jewelry pins, to insert between the Shrinky Dink charms for a little sparkle and sheen.  I put the beads on the pin, used needle-nose pliers to turn a loop and cut off the excess.

I couldn't find a basic link bracelet because I was finally looking to buy one.  Before, I saw them all the time, so I figured this would be the easy part.  Why does it always work that way?  I ended up getting a clearance "fashion" necklace from the teen jewelry and cutting off a piece, which gave me the necessary clasp as well, in addition to a sparkly pendant for my girls to fight over (yay).  You can purchase the chain and the clasps at your craft store and put it all together, but using the necklace was half the price and a quarter of the work.

I put links on the charms and added them to the bracelet, spacing them the best I could.  Next time, I'll start with the bracelet and decide how many charms I need.  I'll probably make a few more for this one and fix the spacing eventually.  Or not.

I ended up with this:

I'm very happy with it, and my kids, especially my little guy, love seeing themselves on my wrist.  And now I don't feel like a complete failure as a mom who never has pictures in her purse.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chair makeover

Several years ago, when I started freelancing from home, my father-in-law, knowing I needed a better desk chair, picked one up for me from a sale our local school district was having to get rid of surplus office furniture.  It was a well-made Steelcase chair still in great shape, cheap, and though the color wasn't the best, it would certainly do.

Fast forward eight years, two more kids (who can't avoid using my chair, it seems), and lots of abuse later, and it was a sorry mess.  Still in great shape structurally, but stained and the blue was, well, not "doing" anymore.  I tried slipcovering, but it always bunched, shifted and came off.  Time to devise plan B.

Having seen some tutorials on how to recover similar chairs, I finally knew how to get around that plastic "piping" and other troublesome spots that I thought would prohibit me from making this a manageable DIY project.

The fabric store down the street has a fantastic remnant/clearance room with lots of upholstery-grade fabrics.  What I walked away with was $3/yard, 54" wide, unbleached cotton duck and an idea of something like the French-printed burlap furniture and accessories trend.  Surely the duck would be a better choice than burlap for something one was actually going to sit on daily, and often in shorts.

Draping the fabric on the chair, I figured out how wide and deep each piece had to be and cut them out as rectangles as opposed to matching the seat/back shapes.  I'd be stapling these underneath and could cut off the excess after, so following the shape wasn't important. 

I found a graphic I liked on Graphics Fairy's blog.  Fantastically, she'd already made it available the right size and in reverse, saving me the effort of doing it in photo editing software.

I used HP's inkjet transfer paper purchased some time ago for another project, positioned it on the piece for the back, forgetting to cut off the excess transfer.  Using a hot iron and lots of pressure, I slowly applied the transfer.  After it cooled a bit, I removed the paper and found it wasn't applied quite as well as it could be, so I laid the paper back down and continued to press.  And I repeated this for what seemed like forever in an effort to lessen the floating, rubbery effect of the transfer paper.  I finally reached a point where I decided it wasn't going to get better and it would certainly do; let's move on.

I then centered the fabric on the back piece, flipped the chair over with the back on the floor so I could apply pressure with my staple gun, initially stapling top/bottom and sides enough to hold the fabric in place and taut while I worked on the rest.  I just covered over what was already there instead of deconstructing things further.  Then I stapled around the perimeter and trimmed the excess fabric.  Popped the back plate on again in reverse process of how I took it off.

Inside, I found the names of those who originally upholstered
it at Steelcase.  It took three people to do it,
but only one to redo it.

Then I tackled the seat the same way.  Sprayed it all with some Scotchguard for some safeguarding against those kids.  Voila!  Done.

I was rather disappointed in the "wet" look where the excess transfer paper was.  Although I goofed in not trimming closer to the graphic (they recommend leaving a quarter-inch around the graphic), I would not have been able to remove all the excess and I still would have the discoloration wherever the excess was still intact.  It may look less odd/messy as a rectangle; I don't know.  I do know I'd prefer not to have the slightly "wet" coloring of the fabric.

I'll be testing the Citrasolv/Orange Glo/paint thinner method before tackling the next one, I think, to see if that comes out with a better "printed" look and less "transfer" look.  I'll let you know!

Total project was less than $5.  Woot!