Origins Game Fair 2016

So, nerds that we are, my spouse and I trundled down to Columbus yesterday for Origins Game Fair, a convention of sorts for fans of board games and related interests. If you’ve never been to a convention for people with a shared hobby, it’s an experience that I struggle to describe — not because it defies description, but because there’s a plane of emotion there that’s hard to communicate to people who don’t have the same passion.

One of the reasons we went yesterday instead of a different day was for the Foamed Forge youth tournament. Because I’m a teacher, you might assume that I simply enjoy watching kids bap each other repeatedly with foam swords. Really, it’s that my 12-year-old brother won it last year and wanted to win it again this year. There were many, many more kids who participated this year, but he came in second so he still got a prize. The top four kids won swords, but only the first place kid won a fancy-looking sword.

And, yeah, sometimes it’s fun to watch kids let loose in a battlefield context. Hey, if it’s okay to enjoy pee-wee football, it should be okay to enjoy foam broadsword battling for the minor set. There were rules against hitting certain, more vulnerable parts of the body. Kids received a bit of coaching beforehand, since this was an activity they probably didn’t do a lot at home — or do with a lot of structure at home. (In my experience, moms and dads are not as interested in refereeing living room fights between sibs as they are in getting them to stop.) It was interesting to see the choices kids made — some played with longer foam swords, some shorter. Some used small shields, some preferred a sword in each hand. Some played careful defense, allowing themselves to be backed up against the edge of the ring of refs; others went totally aggro and never didn’t charge; along with a whole spectrum of behavior in between. There were no fewer than five adult men in medieval costume refereeing. There were also minimal tears — the only kid I saw crying was the probably the youngest in the tournament, who got out in the first round. And he didn’t even cry when he got out. He cried when his big sister claimed the fourth place prize. (I’m totally with the sister on this one.) (These kids were all there because their families are interested in games, so I’m sure they have ample experience with losing and winning graciously.)


Last year, fam bought a bunch of foam weapons so we could beat each other up all summer long.

I usually skew pretty peaceable. I don’t feel comfortable with a lot of violent words and play in my classroom. I tell students that, while I like video games, I don’t like scary or violent ones. On the other hand, there is a spectrum, so there exists a further extreme. I used to teach improv games in class as ways to soak up the couple extra minutes before a transition; then a principal suggested to me that “knife throw” might be too violent. (We changed the game to “throw the kuh-nih-fee,” because a kuh-nih-fee is a lot like a knife but also isn’t a knife, and also isn’t real, just like the knife was never real, so.) Discussing a hobby some might think is too violent might be a risk I’m taking with a quasi-professional blog. On the other hand, I really don’t see how this is different from many sports — for example, just because football players don’t use weapons doesn’t mean their tackling one another is any less violent. And I’m only picking on football because of its acceptability and prevalence as a sporting interest. I should maybe pick on baseball. That has bats.

I can enjoy foam sword fighting with my family because it’s not happening in my classroom. The entire context is different. I’m not an authority figure to my siblings the way I am an authority figure in my classroom. Families have more freedom to explore one another’s interests, even if those interests are weird. Also, I’m not particularly interested in foam weapon fighting myself (I was the one who took the above photo, not one of the ones posing in it). I just support my siblings in doing it. It’s good exercise, there’s sportsmanship involved, and it’s as good as rock-paper-scissors for deciding whose turn it is to do the dishes. Just do it in the backyard, please.


Ed did own us at giant Settlers of Catan. I think he used his sweet baby face to great effect against his exclusively adult opponents.

How Am I Doing? Sew-Sew

Another thing I decided to catch up on this weekend now that my RESA tasks are done is some sewing. I learned to sew as a preteen, and spent my teenage summers making clothing. I made both my homecoming dress and my prom dress my senior year of high school.

However, garment construction is a straight up pain in the butt. It takes a long time, is not as cost effective as one might think, and the ability to understand a pattern ought to be considered an entirely separate skill set. Mostly these days I use my sewing skills for repair and adjustment, like the ReFashionista I so admire.

Several of my “to be repaired” items have been sitting in my sewing basket for months. A seersucker shirt that belongs to my husband. A linen dress I really like but tore at work. A fabric bag whose strap came off. A pair of hand-me-down shorts from my sister. It’s February in Ohio, clearly the shorts have been there for quite a long time.


The impetus to pull out my sewing machine this week was that a second grader at school ripped the seat of his jeans. Luckily, the school nurse keeps sweatpants on hand for just such occasions. But he really liked his jeans. I asked him if it would be okay for me to take them home and try to fix them, and he said yes.

Part of my thinking was, “If I make these jeans too small or tight for him, at least he has a brother in first grade who would probably wear them.” The next day, the brother in first grade asked me if I repaired the jeans yet. Nope, not before my RESA task was done, little one. But the thought of two kids asking every day if I’d fixed the jeans yet is too much for me. I can’t bear the thought of telling them “no, not yet” more than once. I don’t want to be an adult who promises things and then fails to deliver. So I pulled out the machine this morning and got to work.

The first thing I fixed was my husband’s shirt. It was a straight rip near a side seam so it went fast. Also, it’s seersucker, so I don’t mind the slight pucker. (It’s not my favorite of my husband’s shirts anyway, so maybe my standards weren’t so high to begin with…)

Then I fixed the strap on a fabric bag. I did play around with the stitch settings. So we’ll see whether or not this holds up, ultimately.

Thirdly, I got to those jeans. This is the epitome of a “good enough” repair. On the one hand, this is the only repair I was doing for someone other than myself or my husband, which means I started out with higher standards. But, look at that rip. It’s not quite a straight line, and it starts out close to a seam. Plus, denim is a tricky fabric to work with because it is so thick. That helps it be sturdy and durable, but it means you have to be very aware of your machine while sewing it. It can also fray a lot. Plus (and this is probably why they ripped in the first place) this pair wasn’t evenly thick — some parts of the denim were worn and thinner. But that worn denim is so comfortable! So I did want to at least do a decent job. (Then again, this is a repair for a seven-year-old boy, so it could be literally two seconds on the playground before all my work is undone.)

I had briefly considered using a patch, but I decided the seat of a little boy’s pair of jeans was not the best place for one. I’d use one for a knee rip, though.

On to my dress! I love this dress. It’s just from Target, but I have had it for years. I put a tear in the skirt part earlier this school year when I was getting up from being seated at a desk, and some metal under-part snagged the cloth.

It’s not perfect (the rip was sort of X-shaped, both with and against the grain of the fabric) but I figure I would always cover it with a little decoration if I want to. I’m going to iron it and wear it to work tomorrow and see how I feel about it.

I actually almost forgot to fix the shorts. I only wore them once before I ripped them right below the zipper. (Good thing I always keep safety pins at work!)

The crotch area of pants is a tricky place, because of all the pulling of the seams, in different directions. So whether this repair holds up remains to be seen. I’ll be slipping safety pins in the pocket next time I wear these, just in case.

All in all, it took more time finding my sewing machine’s foot pedal than it took to do any single one of these repairs. Hopefully they all work out in the end!