Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 2009 Siggies

I thought it might be fun to share some of the favorite siggies I've made this month and to do this every month from now on. I work very hard on each and every siggy I make, some take many hours. I'm not terribly comfortable tooting my own horn, so I hope this doesn't come off as showing off or anything... I absolutely LOVE what I do and I adore my requesters and clients. Thank you for allowing me to share my passion!

On a serious note, I've had several other designers (not on CrumbSnatchers) plagarize my designs... using the same layout, elements, and fonts. I'm thrilled to provide inspiration but I respectfully request that you ask my permission before using my designs; and please do not claim those designs as your own. Thanks for your cooperation!

My blue-eyed beauty

I got to attend Jenny's band banquet Friday night. It was a semi-formal affair with over 350 people in attendance. As junior representative, Jenny had to present Director's gifts in front of everyone on behalf of the junior class. She did great! She was so poised and confident and I'm busting with pride. I took tons of pictures (of course!) and have been working on composition. This is a SOOC shot of her eyes... no cropping, no editing... just as I took it. I'm very pleased with the vivid colors and yes, that is what her eyes really look like! Gorgeous!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's BOB o'clock! and Pixar's UP

Dominic is so funny. This morning while we were getting ready for the day, he kept saying, "Mom, it's BOB o'clock!" It took me a minute to realize that he was reading our digital clock at 8:08. He cracks me up. A few weeks ago, Pickle (that's his nickname from a former babysitter who called him Dominicle-Pickle) says to Daddy, "Daddy, I need to hiccup. I had the hicc... but the up is missing!"

Only 8 more days until Daddy gets back from India!

Jenny got out of school early today because of finals, so we took Dominic to the movie theater to see UP. What a treat! First of all, Anna was taken care of at school and she hates the movie theater... it's too loud for her and she's never made it more than 10 minutes once a movie starts... so it was nice to take Jenny and Dominic out. The movie was AWESOME!!! I laughed out loud and got teary-eyed at the end. The first 10 minutes there was no dialogue... just wonderful music and the most incredible animation ever. Pixar produces my favorite movies. I couldn't believe that Dominic's attention didn't wander, he was totally mesmerized. I'm still smiling.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm a single mom for the next two weeks

My sweetie-pie left for India this morning for a 2-week business trip. I already miss him. He's never been gone this long before. Tomorrow is our 12th wedding anniversary.

While he's gone, the girls will have their last day of school and Dominic will have his appointment with Anna's neurologist to be evaluated for ADHD (that reminds me, I need to finish his paperwork for that appointment *scribbling in my to-do list*). Ooo, I also need to get Anna's team end-of-the-year teacher gifts (*scribbling more*).

Sigh. Did I mention that I miss my husband?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mayan Families

Curtis and I got involved with a wonderful organization last year called Mayan Families. Mayan Families is a small non-profit group operating in the Highlands of Guatemala. They live and work in the Lake Atitlan region. They operate a variety of programs as a comprehensive approach to give a hand up to needy Maya people and the communities in which they live. The work of Mayan Families is supported completely through donations.

We sponsor a little girl named Irma Isabel. Our monthly donation of just $12.90 allows her to attend school, have shoes, and school supplies. We got an update about her today with pictures and I wanted to share. It's so easy to make a difference in the world. We were inspired by Nikki Cochrane, a remarkable young woman (she's only 19!) who has dedicated herself to humanitarian work. I encourage you to read her blog and get involved!

Irma is 9yrs old. She is in 2nd grade. She lives in a small village called El Barranco. It is an agricultural area. She has one sister - Alicia (student #777) who is 10 years old. She is in 3rd grade. They live with their grandfather, Dolores, 75 years old, and their grandmother, Lorenza, 65 years old. Their mother abandoned them four years ago when she left to marry another man. They have not seen her since then. She has since had other children with her new husband.
Their father left home when they were very little, he went to live with another woman and he has never been financially responsible for them. The grandmother works at home looking after the children. The grandfather works in the fields looking after his cows. He has baby cows that he breeds and then sells. He earns an average of $21 per week when he sells his cows but he only sells them once a year. The rest of the year when they do not have sales and do not have much money to eat, their adult children help them with food but their adult children also have families and are very poor so cannot afford to give them very much.

They live in their own home. The house is made of mud brick, the roof is tin sheeting and the floor is cement. They have four rooms and one outside kitchen. They have a wood burning stove. They do not have an onil stove. They do not have a water filter. They have a pila (which is a 2-sided sink that is a necessity in every family). They have water connected and pay $4 U.S. per month. They have electricity connected and pay $12 U.S. per month. They have one small closet for the childrens' clothes. They have two beds. They have a table and chairs. They do not have enough blankets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Before and After Photo Restoration

I am quite pleased with a project I completed last week that was technically challenging. I recently met another mom whose son attends Dominic's preschool... we made a playdate and were talking about what we do. When I mentioned photoediting, she inquired about an old wedding photo with her grandma in it. The photo had many artifacts on it, especially around grandma's eye. I ended up having to clone part of the right eye, flip it horizontally and merge it with the left eye as well as doing some blending, painting, spot healing, and smudging. I got her permission to use it for my business site.



Thanks for looking!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sea World and my search for acceptance

Curtis had to work all day yesterday, so on the spur of the moment I decided to take the kids and Jenny's boyfriend to Sea World. The season pass was the same amount as a day pass so we got that and will try to make it down there this summer a few times. I forgot that it's a nearly 2-hour drive! Ugh! But the kids were great on the way there and we pretty excited. We rarely go anywhere except our local zoo (which has some monkeys and a couple of lions) or the nature center.

We got a double stroller right off since Anna fatigues so quickly and Dominic runs off. Jenny and Chris looked so cute, I could almost picture them with their own family (hopefully not for a long time, lol!).

Dominic loves maps and he studied this one quite closely, lol!

He is so photogenic.

There were two really cool highlights to our day trip. The first was getting to feed the dophins. Anna wanted to stay with the dolphins all day, it was very hard to get her to leave that area.

The second was the Shamu show. We got there about 10 minutes early and both little kids started crying. Why? Dominic didn't want to get wet and Anna was scared. I'm used to making a scene out in public. We sat in the very back row, high up, and got settled in.

Right behind us was an area for those with disabilities and shortly a girl in a wheelchair with her mom and aunt (?) sat behind us. Anna has a bit of an obsession with wheelchairs and kiddos who ride in them. Soon the questions started... "Mommy, why does she look like that? What's her name? Why is she in a wheelchair?" I said to her, "Anna, why don't you ask her?" So Anna turns around fully and asks, "What's your name?" to the girl. She was not able to respond, she had a trach and appeared to be fairly medically complicated. So I said to the mom, "This is Anna. She would like to know your daughter's name," to which she responded, "This is Caitlyn." Anna starts talking to Caitlyn while I explain to her mom that Anna has autism and may ask some inappropriate or uncomfortable questions. This mom and I made eye contact, and in those fleeting seconds, a lifetime of special needs appointments, heartaches, testing, therapy, worries, and hope passed between us. There is a special bond among mothers who care for children with special needs and it only takes a moment to establish that connection. I also explained that we are continually working on Anna's filters... what is socially appropriate and all that.

The mom responded with a very profound statement:

"YOU are her filter."

I've thought about that a dozen times since then. It's so true. I am Anna's filter. I interpret the world for her, I recognize when sounds will be too loud, when a crying child will set off a meltdown, when she is about to lash out in anger and hurt someone. I recognize how to shift those moments into a silly song to distract her or to take a walk to clear her head. I am teaching her to recognize those clues so that she can take care of herself too.

The mom and I made small talk; they lived locally and came quite often to Sea World. The mom said that Caitlyn seems to like the Shamu show, that the music and lights sparkling on the water seem to get her attention. She said, "You know, I can't really know how much she understands but she seems happy here." I thought about how hard it would be to not know what your child was really feeling or understanding.

Anna LOVED the Shamu show, as did Dominic and Jenny (Chris enjoyed it too!).

Look at the pure excitement on her face!

I got two amazing shots of Shamu jumping out of the water!

After the show, we looked at the flamingoes and sea lions. This photo makes me a little sad because this is so indicative of Anna's attention. She is constantly on guard, looking around for small children who might be crying or loud. It's like she is constant alert and it makes her nervous system edgy.

We had a few moments of tough behavior (Anna wanted to push Caitlyn's wheelchair and got a little angry that she couldn't and walking through the gift shop to exit was also hard [btw, they ought to set up a separate exit for people with behaviorally challenged children]), but it was a pretty good day. Anna did end up crying for about 30 minutes on the way home saying that her eyes, head, and tummy hurt and she wanted to go to bed. That is a classic aura for Anna, and I was worried she was going to have a seizure in the car but she managed through it. I think it was more an overload meltdown from the day than anything else.

I've been thinking about Caitlyn's mom. She had such a peaceful manner about her; when she shared why they come to the Shamu show, there was no sadness or wistfulness, just truth. I feel that I sometimes over-explain Anna, that it feels like I'm making excuses for her or diminishing her being by labeling her. I wish I could just let her BE. I have gotten better about not noticing other people noticing her and I am a good filter for her. But I have a ways to go to get to true acceptance.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

If you have extra P&PT vibes...

A friend's son is in the hospital after being lifeflighted with an hour-long seizure. He has autism but has not had a seizure before. He's a little older than Anna. Please say a prayer for Sam and his family today.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Twisty Love Hugs

When Dominic was only three years old, he loved to stand on the furniture and have me pick him up so he could wrap himself all the way around my body to give me the biggest hug he possibly could. I would hold him like this and one day, he began twisting himself back and forth, probably in response to my unconscious maternal swaying (which I think any mother does when holding a small child). As he gently twisted back and forth, I mirrored his movements and said, "Oh, this is an extra-special hug." Dominic replied, "This is a twisty love hug, mommy. Can you feel all of my love coming from my body into yours?"

I melted.

So our family celebrates twisty love hugs. Give someone you love one tonight. I bet they will really feel your love.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh yeah, baby! I went shopping!

My mom got me a gift certificate for Mother's Day to Shabby Pickle Designs, my favorite digiscrap shop. I bought FIVE kits, all by Holly Designs or collabs with her. Check them out! Aren't they gorgeous???

A Midwinter Dream

Bedtime Stories

Blast Off!

Pixie Dust


Thanks, mom!!! I can't wait to play!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I had a wonderful day today, complete with coffee in the morning, lovely pressies (including a Nikkor zoom lens for my D40!), and a fabulous brunch with my mom. When I got home from brunch, Jenny had cleaned the house for me! My primary love language (The Five Love Languages/) is Acts of Service so this really meant a lot to me. I am so so blessed.

I made this card for my mom and MIL with Kristin Conin-Barrow's Serenity mini-kit.

I spent the afternoon catching minnows with Anna and Dominic. Dominic was so cute... at one point he said, "When I grow up, I want to be God." After I finished chuckling, I asked him why. He said, "Because I could be big and have power." Where do kids come up with this stuff? LOL.

I hope all of my wonderful friends had lots of love today.

New LO

I took these pictures in March at our local lake. Dominic was so enthralled with the view of the water that he spread his arms wide to take it all in.

Credits: Sea Side by Natali Designs.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Independent Time

Anna is 8 years old and I have been working with her for nearly 3 years on playing independently. She likes to be close to me and her play skills are delayed but emerging. I've been using a sticker chart since mid-March for Dominic and Anna. They have a list of chores, tasks, and behaviors for which they can earn stickers. When they earn 5 stickers, they get 30 minutes of one-on-one playtime with mommy or daddy. When the entire chart is filled up (20 stickers total), they get to purchase a small toy from Target; Dominic has been buying Bakugan and Anna likes baby items like bibs and bottles for her baby dolls, George and Audrey.

One of the things they can earn a sticker for is independent time. From 4:30-5:00 p.m. every day, they are required to play independently, either upstairs or outside. They can play together but not with me. At first, Anna would sit at the top of the stairs and ask repeatedly, "Is independent time over? Is independent time over?" They would fight and bicker and tattle on each other. I would calmly and quietly direct them back upstairs or outside and remind them it's independent time. This week, they are staying put for the entire 30 minutes!!! A few times, I've overheard them playing together, imaginary play, and it makes my heart soar. Dominic is so good for Anna, even though he causes her so much stress.

I've been enjoying my 30 minutes of solitude... it's even worth the 30 minutes it takes me to clean up after them (with their help, of course). :)

Little victories.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I've finished my Playground Adventures series!

I love love love the digiscrap designer, Holly Designs who sells at Shabby Pickle Designs. She created the most amazing kit last month called Playground Adventures. I was so smitten with this kit that I took nearly 150 pictures of Dominic in poses that would go with the kit. *Blush!* I made 4 layouts total!

Full credits can be found on my DST pages. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I can't believe Jenny went to prom!

Time has passed so quickly. Just a few weeks ago, Jenny went to prom (she is a junior). She is so beautiful!

This is her boyfriend, Chris. He is completely devoted to her.

Keep your fingers crossed! Jenny applied to a music summer camp called Noise! and should hear back very soon to see if she was accepted. They are only taking 32 students and she really wants to attend.

My first post on my first personal blog!

I am finally starting my own blog... I've been wanting to do this for a very long time but real life has been so busy, I kept putting it off. Here I will talk and talk and talk. I have a daughter, Anna, with special needs and am active in several online support groups for other parents who also have children with special needs. My little boy, Dominic, might also have issues and is getting evaluated in June. My oldest, Jenny, is so so bright and amazing. I feel especially blessed to be her mom. My escape is Photoshop... creating online message board signatures, digital scrapbook layouts, and print work like birthday invitations and holiday cards. I love designing and have found an artistic side to myself that I didn't know I had.

Well, that's enough for my first post. Welcome!


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