Friday, May 28, 2010

Fix-it Friday at i heart faces

I've been exploring more photography sites and I joined i heart faces a few weeks ago. They have a challenge every Friday to edit a photo and I thought I'd jump in today! Be kind, it's my first time, tee hee.

Here is the original photo:


And my edit (image is clickable to see a larger version):


My workflow looked something like this:
~crop for a different focal effect
~levels and curves adjustment
~hue/saturation adjustment layer colorize, 35/25/0 set to 20% soft light
~convert to b/w
~Paint the Moon Sugar Cookies action with tweaking

Thanks for looking and letting me play!

New Release by AnnaBV Designs

Wow, it's been a busy week! Today is the last day of school and I've been making teacher gifts and getting things ready for Jenny's graduation from high school tomorrow. We have out of town guests too.

But I did have time to scrap a page with The Ice Cream Truck Stops Here by AnnaBV Designs that is being released today at ScrapOrchard. I have wonderful memories of getting a treat from the ice cream truck as a kid and I'm so happy that my kids get to experience it too. AnnaBV is also offering a coordinating template pack and a set of quickpages with this kit!

The Ice Cream Truck Stops Here

The Ice Cream Truck Stops Here Template Pack

The Ice Cream Truck Stops Here Quickpages

My Layout

I want to edit in that this layout got a GSO at DST and at ScrapMatters! What a rush!

Thanks for looking!

Friday, May 21, 2010

New releases today from By Becca and AnnaBV Designs!

Wow, it's been awhile since both designers I CT for had new releases. I've had so much fun scrapping with these kits and it's been just the therapy I needed.

First up, AnnaBV Designs is releasing Showers and Flowers today at ScrapOrchard. It's sweet with vibrant colors and a cute little snail. There is also a coordinating set of quickpages for sale.

Showers and Flowers

Showers and Flowers Quickpages

My Layout

Next, By Becca has teamed up with Designs by Helly again to release Ephemeral Soul today at ScrapMatters and ScrapbookBytes. Easily my favorite kit to date by Becca, this art allowed me to expand my scrapbooking into something intensely personal. This kit has an altered art feel, a little grungy, but still easy to use in everyday layouts. They have also created these wonderful word bits on sale separately. Definitely worth the extra money to pick these up! You'll be using them again and again. I made two layouts with Ephemeral Soul and both have extensive journaling. But first, the kit:

Ephemeral Soul

Ephemeral Soul Word Bits

My Layouts

"An Altered Life"

I found this quote about autism which sparked this layout:
"This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces." ~ Jim Sinclair

And my journaling reads:
My hopes and dreams for you are simple... I want you to be happy, and I want you to be loved and cherished. I celebrate your quirks, ache for your challenges, worry for your future, and embrace this moment with you, right now. I love you, Anna, and I would not change anything about you. It’s an honor to be your mother.

"Redefining Me"

The journaling reads:
redefining ME
project-365 has given me a gift,
not just becoming a better photographer
but a better artist

it feeds my soul,
gives wings to my spirit,
and lets me fly

I am not just a mother anymore.

Thanks for looking!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chinchillas, bad days, and a need to whine

Let me preface this by saying that I love my children. I play with them, I teach them, I discipline them, I love them unconditionally. But there are days when I doubt everything I'm doing as a mother. I guess we all have those days.

Saturday was a day for errands and I took Anna and Charlie to PetSmart to buy some dog food, dog shampoo, and new toys for Charlie. We wandered around the store and made small talk with the employees. Charlie scared the cats sitting in the adoption windows so we went to visit the birds and lizards. Our trainer was working so it was nice to catch up with her. Another employee showed Anna the chinchillas they have. I didn't know anything about chinchillas... but boy, are they cute! Of course, Anna starts asking to have one. After ten minutes staring at these cute little creatures, I told Anna we could look them up on the computer at home to get her redirected (not with any intention of ever getting one of course). She behaved well through the rest of the trip, so I made good on my promise and we looked up chinchillas and watched some cute videos on YouTube. She started getting pretty agitated about having one so I came up with what I thought at the time was a good idea. I told her we could find a plush chinchilla online and she could do extra chores to earn enough money to purchase it. Brilliant, right? She thought it was a great idea and started working immediately while I shopped online. I found one through Amazon for just $4 and by Sunday afternoon, she had earned the money. So I clicked "buy" and then the wait began. Estimated delivery date is next Tuesday, May 25th.

We explained to her the process... someone at the store has to find the chinchilla toy, put in a box, call UPS for a pickup, UPS processes it, puts it on a plane, then they check it in here, then they deliver it. I empathized that it's hard to wait. I thought this would be a good lesson in working for what you want and being patient for the prize.

I think I made a mistake.

This poor child is obsessed. She can talk of nothing else. Literally, every conversation is about the chinchilla. It got so bad yesterday that we set time limits with a timer. Wait 20 minutes, then she could talk about it for two minutes, then wait another 20 minutes. The day was endless. She is so obsessed that it kept her awake last night. It was the first thing she talked about this morning. I sent a warning (and apology) email to her team at school letting them know what this is all about. I was nervous picking her up today.

But Dominic comes out first. When I got to school, Mrs. S (the new substitute teacher that is filling in while Dominic's teacher has her first baby) was holding his wrist with one hand and his backpack with another. Uh-oh. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. She didn't say hi, she didn't introduce herself, she just handed him over with a "He had a very bad day today. I wrote you a note." I stammered an apology with a questioning look and she said that he hit other children all day, had bit another student on the way out of school, and was basically a bully all day. I was genuinely surprised and told her that he doesn't behave like that and I would talk to him. He starts crying, saying that he doesn't want me to take his DS away (which of course I did).

Then I turn around and there is Anna with Mrs. M. She thanked me for the email about the chinchilla and said that it wasn't a big problem but Anna did not have a good day. She was sent to Room 300 (the quiet room, kind of like in-school suspension for kids with issues) after destroying her math teacher's room. She missed a good chunk of time, math, recess, and specials, but was able to turn it around. Anna asks me if the chinchilla came while she was at school and when I say, "no, sweetheart" with sympathy in my voice, she starts crying.

Two kids crying as we walk to the car.


I hate these days. When we got home, I sat them on the couch and asked who wanted to go first. Dominic started making excuses and I got that firm, that no-nonsense, mommy-means-business voice and said, "Stop! Biting is never acceptable behavior. Hitting is never acceptable behavior. You have to control your anger, even when provoked. You won't get everything you want when you want it (the cafeteria was out of ketchup which triggered one of his meltdowns). Remember the anger scale we made? You can't be at a 5, ever. You have to be at a 2. Use the tools we talked about. And take responsibility for your actions." In a very small voice, he said, "Okay, mommy." He is going to write apology notes to the student he bit, the students he hit, and to Mrs. S. I told him if he has another day like today, that his DS would be taken away for a month. That got to him. Then Anna talked but I don't really know what triggered her outburst. She said she was happy about the chinchilla and started throwing things and that it was an accident. I picked up a pillow from the couch and very dramatically threw it across the room. I said throwing is never an accident and that was unacceptable behavior. They are both grounded and have their favorite things taken away for the day.

So the perseveration continues. Now Anna wants me to check email every two minutes to see if the chinchilla has shipped yet. I explained the concept of the tracking number and so now she wants to see if it's on its way. If I'd known what her brain would do with this, I would've paid for expedited shipping.

So tomorrow is a new day, right? Thanks for letting me whine.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jenny was baptized today!

For the four people who haven't seen my Facebook updates today, lol, Jenny was baptized this morning. It was an amazing day. I've always felt that religion and spirituality is an intensely personal experience and therefore I haven't pushed my beliefs onto Jenny. I wanted to expose her to different religions and let her decide what felt right to her. I remember a Buddist phase in her early teen years and Curtis took her to his church in the last couple of years. But it was her boyfriend, Chris, and his family that brought her to Gateway and introduced her to youth group. I have seen such a dramtic change in Jenny recently... a sense of coming home and inner peace. It's lovely. Here are some pictures from the baptism, thank you for sharing this with us.

Jenny was so happy today!

This is Sledge, Jenny's youth group pastor, with whom she has formed a very special relationship. You can so see the connection in this photo.

My favorite shot of the day. So powerful in prayer.

The best picture I've ever taken! Jenny is completely submerged... you can see the water completing covering her face and body. This was snapped just before she emerges from the water. It truly symbolizes the cleansing of the soul and the rebirth of Jenny as a Child of God.

Check out Sledge's fist pump! He is so stoked!

Pure joy and love.

Look at that purity, so much love.

Jenny had so many friends show up for her baptism. I am so proud to be her mom!!!

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The field trip blues...

I accompanied Anna's second grade team Tuesday on a field trip to the zoo. What a marked difference between this trip and the one a few weeks ago with Dominic's kindergarten class. First off, Anna is scared of school busses. The motor noise, the bright color, the exhaust smell, and the sensory input once on board is just too much for her to handle. She has only ridden the bus in the past for a short time in PPCD and when she had to go to kinder the first time across town because our home campus didn't have special education services. So I asked if I could either a) ride the bus with her or b) she could ride with me and we'd meet them there. (It's about a 45-minute drive to the zoo.) She was allowed to ride with me but it required that I sign her out of school, then sign her back in when we returned.

When I first arrived in her classroom this morning, she didn't see me. I was able to quietly steal a seat without disrupting the class and watch her. She looked so typical sitting at her table and looking at a book. After a few minutes she spotted me and the hugest grin washed over her face. That made my heart just about burst. Then it was time to line up and get on the busses; she was assigned to be buddies with two other girls and I was thinking that maybe once we were at the zoo, she would stay with her buddies and I could chat with the other adults.

We got there waaaay before the busses did. And there were at least 6 other schools with multiple classes there. I've never seen it so crowded. We waited in the car until everyone else arrived. Finally we join the class and start the adventure. One of the first things I notice is just how much Anna has grown this year. Granted, she is a year older then her peers since she repeated kindergarten, but this whole mess with the precocious puberty has taken its toll on her growth.


The next thing I notice is that Anna is not interacting with her peers at all. Not even chit-chat or anything. She is sticking by my side or with her special ed teacher. Throughout the entire time of looking at the animals, she only talks with the adults. We were there only about 30 minutes before she started asking over and over and over again when it would be lunch time. So I had a whole hour of "It's not time to eat yet, sweetie… just a little longer." She did eat a few grapes while wandering but she just seemed to want her lunch.

5 minutes into lunch, she started asking over and over and over again when it was time to leave. She sits next to some girls on the picnic bench and there too, she doesn't interact with them. She is worried only about a toddler who is across the table from her. The kids had nothing to do after eating and about 20 minutes to kill before loading the busses. Anna got pretty agitated during this time and wandered off twice then started poking another little girl. I her the girl say, "Anna, stop! I don't like that!" Sigh.

On the way back to school, she fell asleep in the van. The field trip was very stressful for her. I guess it was the sheer amount of children and the school busses too. Because we go to the zoo all the time and she usually loves it.

I spent 40 minutes in her classroom with her before the other students and teachers got back. She was a total sweetie once we were in the class, just the two of us. She read me some books and I was so impressed with how much her reading has improved. Her special ed teacher was telling me that last year, Anna finished her DRA (not sure what that stands for) reading level at a 6; she regressed back to a 2 at the beginning of this school year and now she is testing at a 12!

But overall, it was one of those heart-heavy days for me. Realizing that she is part of the group, but still very separate. The other kids want to interact with her, they want to be a friend to her, but she rejects them. I see her hanging on the periphery, having it cause stress, wanting only for it to be over. This picture really illustrates it to me… how's she's always on the edge of things.


The aggression is so much better now. Switching from Risperdal to Abilify has made a huge difference in that. But the anxiety and perseveration is worse, so I'm going to drop a note to the neuro. I don't know if we have room to go up on the Lexapro or if we need to do something different, but she seems pretty stressed at school. Maybe this is just her normal state though.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

The baby doll birthday party

Anna has lots and lots of baby dolls but two of them are very special... George (named after George Washington) and Audrey (named after a neighbor child that lives up the street whom Anna adores). George and Audrey are twins, though George doesn't smile and Audrey has a big grin... and they came to our family about a year apart from each other. Anna takes George and/or Audrey everywhere with us. They are about the size of a real three-month old baby and we get so many people stopping us when we are out. All the time we hear, "Oh wow, I thought that was a real baby!" I've laughingly joked that we need to put a hidden camera on the babies... they would be a YouTube sensation! We buy them real baby clothes at Goodwill and Santa brought them real diapers, bottles, and other accessories the last two Christmases. They really have become members of the family.

I thought it would be fun to have a birthday party for George and Audrey to celebrate their "first" birthday (which I think we'll repeat every year Anna wants to). We initially had it scheduled for last Saturday but Anna got sick and we had to reschedule it. Since today was an early-release day from school, we had the party this afternoon. We had decorations, snacks, drinks, and cupcakes. We even sent out invitations to the neighborhood kids! (Any excuse for cupcake, eh?) What a fun day! All of Anna's baby dolls attended, and Annie and Audrey brought their dolls too!

Here are some pictures (you can see George and Audrey in the third picture from the bottom, they got matching outfits for the party)...

You know the best part of this day? Audrey (the girl in the Orange Crush shirt for whom babydoll Audrey is named) brought down a deck of cards to show Anna how to play War. She thought that Anna might be able to understand the game and play it in a group. Though Anna didn't quite get the concept, the other girls helped her, and she actually sat there and played cards for nearly 15 minutes. I get misty-eyed thinking about it.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Way Back Wednesday, the search for a diagnosis

We spent the morning in the cardiologist's office for an echocardiogram and EKG on Anna. The geneticist wanted to make sure the connective tissue disease we have in our family isn't affecting her heart like mine (I have a mitral valve prolapse). The echo and EKG were normal so that is one more thing checked off the list. It made me remember when Anna was 3.5 and had started having seizures. I was wondering at that time if we should continue searching for a diagnosis... when we get a new symptom, I always struggle with this decision. How much trauma do we put Anna through and how invasive do we get in order to find out what she has? Here's a post from 11/29/04 on iVillage's Child Hypotonia board:


DH and I are considering opening up the diagnosis search again. Anna had another seizure on Friday (this makes 6 tonic-clonics total, 5 since the end of September). With this new label of epilepsy, it adds a new piece to the Anna puzzle. Could a geneticist now look for something that hasn't been looked at before?

Finding an answer wouldn't change how we are managing Anna's care, except for the seizure control piece. (I'm going to start a separate thread about that.) It would help us know what to expect (what we all are wishing, right?) and maybe help us find more balance in our lives than we currently have.

It means that we would need to seek out someone with more experience or expertise than the folks we've been dealing with, because they've all said, "I don't know." It means maybe putting Anna through more invasive tests. It most likely means that we still won't have a diagnosis at the end of it all.

Her symptoms include: epilepsy, hypotonia, microcephaly, global developmental delays, sensory integration dysfunction, high myopia (-7.5 rx), failure to thrive (resolved at age 3), feeding and sleep issues.

She has tested negative for: metabolic disease, mitochondrial disease, Rett Syndrome through MECP3 gene, Angelman Syndromethrough methylation and UBE3A sequencing, chromosome analysis, glycosylation defect, and 7-dehydrocholesterol. She has had two normal MRIs and EEGs.

I wanted to get your opinions, advice, cautions, and two cents. It seems like with the seizures happening more frequently, SOMETHING is going on, we just don't what. Is the epilepsy a symptom of a syndrome or just plain ole epilepsy? Obviously, we need to control her seizures... more about this in my next post. I need a reality check. Thanks.

Holly and Anna, 3.5, no dx.


I have a whole slew of new tests that she's tested negative for but I would still like to know. Thanks for reading.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

iNSD Challenge at DST

In honor of International Scrapbooking Day (iNSD), DST is hosting a great challenge to win a diamond membership. They have offered this gorgeous kit created by the ScrapMatters Design Team (Becca, you did a great job on your portion, btw!) and you have to scrap a layout with this kit and upload it to the challenge gallery by midnight tonight. I decided to go for it, I'm feeling lucky!

Here is the kit, isn't it gorgeous? And it's totally free!

And here is my layout.

Thanks for looking and wish me luck!

April 2010 Siggies Slideshow

Here are the siggies I made in April!

Thanks for looking!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...