Friday, July 30, 2010

Fix-it Friday #64 at i heart faces

This Fix-it Friday photo was submitted by Michelle Johnson, an IHF contributor. What a beautiful little girl! Here is her before:

And here is my edit (image is clickable to see it larger):

I wanted to try a clean edit adding just a little punch to the overall contrast, making the image look sun-kissed, and making her eyes sparkle.

My workflow, using Photoshop CS4:
~levels adjustment to brighten image and add contrast
~noiseware at low opacity, then used art history brush to paint freckles back in
~curves adjustment layer set to screen, masked, set to 30% opacity, brushed at 20% opacity over eyes to make them sparkle
~hue/saturation adjustment layer to brighten light tones and reduce yellow, masked, set to 30% opacity, painted over teeth to make them a bit whiter
~yellow fill layer at 25% to add a touch of sun haze
~high pass layer to sharpen (the size reduction to fit on the blog made it look a bit sharper than the original)

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Six Things

Happy 6th Birthday, Dominic!!!

Six years ago today you made your way into the world and when you were ready, there was no stopping you! (The nurse made me push once before calling the OB-GYN and after proving you were *right there*, she said, "Okay, okay, don't push! Put your knees together!" It was nearly a nurse-delivery!)

In honor of your birthday, I want to tell you six things you love right now and six things I love about you.

Six things you love:
1. Pokemon and Mario.
2. Annie, our 10-year old neighbor.
3. Chicken nuggets and french fries.
4. Funny cat videos.
5. Wipeout, the TV show.
6. Jenny... the two of you are best friends.

Six things I love about you:
1. Twisty love hugs... now a family tradition!
2. When you don't the definition of something, you ask (yesterday it was, "Mommy, what are chemicals?").
3. Your amazing aptitude for video games and reading. Yes! Just like momma. ;)
4. How your little hand fits into mine.
5. Your giggle when I snuffle your neck.
6. Your soul, spirit, and essence. I celebrate you today!

I hope to make this a wonderful day for you, my sweet boy! I love you!!!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Neighbor

An Open Letter to all Neighbors, Everywhere

Dear Neighbor,

Perhaps you've seen us in passing.. the "special" family on your street. You've seen me struggling with my special needs child, you've seen her run away from me, you've seen her yelling at me or hitting me, and you've thought to yourself, "I don't know how she does it." "I'm so glad I don't have to deal with that." And without a second thought, you walk back into your typical life.

You're a good person and you know you are lucky… you have a beautiful family and healthy children. You've taught your kids to be respectful, to play nice, to "include" us. Perhaps you've even taken it a step further and have gotten to know me as a person and have listened when I talk about my special child.

Here's what you don't know.

When I'm outside with my special needs daughter, your children avoid us. If they spot us coming, they duck behind bushes or run away if they think they have an escape route. Nearly every day, we see all of your children playing together for hours on end; we come to each of your front doors, knock politely (I wait on the sidewalk to encourage her independence) and listen as your children say day after day after day, "No, I can't play right now, I'm busy." I've even resorted to calling ahead of time, programming each of your numbers into my cell phone, only to have the calls go to voicemail and never have them returned.

You don't see my child's face fill with disappointment. You don't see the two previous hours of perseveration where she is asking me over and over again, "Can I go up the street now? Can I play with friends?" You don't see my heart shatter into a million pieces when I see your child stiffen and turn away when we come into eyesight.

I made it a point at the beginning of the summer to talk with each of you about summer plans. I continually invite your children into my home. I engage them in conversation, I play with them. I feed your children healthy snacks and give them something to drink. I arrange play areas in my home… video games, arts and crafts, imagination play… and encourage them to rotate and take turns so that my younger son doesn't feel left out. I listen to your children. They like to talk about all sorts of interesting things. I am interactive with them because my child doesn't know how to play appropriately so I have to teach her. Every minute of every day is a guided interaction. There is no break or down time unless I hire help or rely on family members. Generally speaking, your kids are very patient with my child and understand her quirks. You have taught them well, mostly.

Here's what you don't know.

When they are done playing, they leave abruptly. I don't know why. I am often left with two very unconsolable children and a messy house.

It hurts me (and if I can be brutally honest, it angers me too) that you NEVER reciprocate. You have not once invited either one of my children into your homes for playtime. Only if there is a party or special occasion where all of the neighborhood kids are invited, do we get a knock on our door. I even asked one of you to maybe take my special girl swimming once or twice, she loves the water and is a very, very good swimmer. Yet I see you take the rest of the kids to the pool and never think to include her. Do you have any idea what it feels like to see all the kids running to your house in their swimsuits, carrying their pool bags and pool toys? Do you have any idea what it feels like to hear all the kids playing in one of your backyards as we walk by seeking just one child with whom to play? Do you? Your children spends hours at my home, sometimes the better part of a day. What do you get to do while they are with me?

I understand that she is not easy to play with. There are times when she gets very upset and she is unpredictable. She may have even hit your child ~ out of fear ~ but she has never hurt anyone. I am always watching. I understand that her play skills are limited and that your child might not want to come play with us because they are tired of only playing one thing. I get that and my expectations are not unreasonable. I don't expect that we'll see your kids every single day. It would be nice to have one afternoon every once in while that we could count on. One afternoon. I don't even mind it always being at my house. If you're not comfortable having her at your house, you could ask me to stay or ask to call me if you run into a situation you can't handle.

My daughter has autism, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive challenges. She wants to play. She didn't always want to, she used to be scared of other children. But she does now.

I also have a younger child that is typical. He longs to play too.

My daughter represents all of the special families in your neighborhoods. It doesn't matter if your neighborhood child is nonverbal, in a wheelchair, or has autism or any other different abilities… they are still children. It's such an isolating life as it is; as mothers, we have to fight for inclusion at school, we have to advocate for them with medical professionals, we have to endure judgment when out in public; it would be nice to not have to fight to have a friend.

Reach out and include a special child in your life and your children's lives today. Even if it's for just a few minutes. It could have a lasting impact on someone's heart.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

i heart faces ~ purple

This week's photo challenge at i heart faces is the color purple. I made Jenny put on purple eye shadow today and photographed her in front of my mom's purple ground cover flower thingys but I just don't have enough time left in the day to process them. So instead I'm going to submit this picture of Dominic from a recent 365 day. I love the tones in the photo and I also love how absorbed he is in playing his Nintendo DS. We were at a local Mexican restaurant.


Thanks for looking! And go check out all of the other fabulous entries at i heart faces this week!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fix-it Friday #63 at i heart faces

This Fix-it Friday photo was submitted by Angie Arthur Photography, an IHF contributor. Here is her before:

And here is my edit (image is clickable to see it larger):

I wanted to go black and white on this image since the pink shirt felt out of place to me. I also wanted something very gritty in feel to go with the scratchy texture of the grass and meadow.

My workflow, using Photoshop CS4:
~recover highlights
~add contrast and darken midtones
~convert to black/white using sliders to tweak each tonal range
~unsharp mask to increase contrast (20/30/5)
~high pass layer to sharpen and add grain

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday: Mean Mommy

Anna is in a bit of a bratty stage. I'm happy to see this typical behavior and I understand it, even though it's a few years later than average. But when she acts out, these behaviors are more intense because of her age and size. And she doesn't understand consequences the same way my other children do.

We ran a few errands today, one of which was a trip to Target to order Dominic's birthday cake (one week from today! we're getting a Pokeman sheet cake with buttercream frosting, mmmm) and to get a few dorm supplies for Jenny's upcoming move. Anna wanted to look at toys which I was very clear wasn't an option on this trip. She was doing pretty good and I even let her pick out a new backpack, but then on the way to area rugs, she got angry that we weren't stopping in the toy section. I won't get into every nitty gritty thing that happened but I did end up putting her in a timeout in the middle of the store. I made her sit down and take some deep breaths... I just wanted three minutes from her in the hopes that she could turn it around on her own. She threw her shoes at me. Threw her shoes.

Then it escalated.

We went to the car. Actually, I had to physically move her out of the store while she was hitting me and calling me names. She was also knocking items off the shelves as we walked past. I stayed so calm on the outside.

Once we got home, I talked with Curtis first... she had a similar incident with me a couple weeks ago... I felt like we needed to do something different than just timeouts, grounding, and taking away privileges. So after discussing it, we decided to take away her baby dolls. All of them. She has to earn them back one at a time. I feel like there is some trigger in there... not getting what she wants and feeling powerless. She was worse when the Risperdal was failing but those behaviors felt different to me, like her lack of impulse control was truly out of her control.

I had her help me box up her precious dolls. I think she understood what we were doing but I felt so mean. This is one of the hardest part of parenting... disciplining with love. I cannot allow her to behave like she did today and I have to find a way to teach her to stop. This is so hard. Because of her attention span and play skills, we're letting her earn one doll back at lunchtime and another at dinner based on good behavior. I hope it works.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Morgan's Wonderland, so much fun!

Though we didn't get to meet Shannon and Mimi yesterday at Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio (they got delayed then ended up having to cancel), Jenny, Anna, Dominic, and I went ahead as planned and I'm so glad we did! This park is AMAZING!!! Built specially for children with special needs, everything is very accessible and built just for our SN kids. Everyone is super friendly and upon checking in (which I have to mention that you must reserve your time online and pay ahead of time so it makes checking in super fast and easy!), each person gets a GPS wristband. If at any time your child wanders off, there are multiple places in the park where you scan your wristband and it locates each member of your party and tells you where to find them. There is only one entrance/exit, so it is completely safe.

Walking in you notice soft, zenlike music playing. It's so relaxing. There is a huge carousel to one side that has wheelchair accessibility and the staff lets you take as long as you like to get on if your child has anxiety. We actually ran out of time and didn't get to do the merry-go-round. Definitely next time.

We packed a picnic lunch and ate at one of the many areas which had sailcloth coverings. After eating, Anna wanted to push Audrey in the swing so we did that for a little while, then went on the car ride.

This track is so cool! Anna got to drive first and she was so excited! She could steer a little bit and bump the wheels into the center track but mostly it's remote controlled.

Then Dominic got a turn. He had a blast! At the end, he decided to steer with his feet. Can I say I was stricken with a premonition of him doing this in just a scant 10 years with a real car?! Yikes!

We then wandered around one of the many playscapes. Oh my gosh, they have everything you can think of. Slides, swings (I think there were at least 5 types and one just for wheelchairs), teeter-totter things, a huge sand pit area, and even a music park! Dominic had fun there, banging on all of the xylophones. Anna loved the giant seat swing and really stayed on it a long time.

We got pretty hot so we went indoors to the sensory village. Again, anything you can think of, this place had it! It was very interactive and kid-oriented. There were even rooms where you scanned your wristband and it would bring up the child's name on the screen to make the experience very personal! We spent a long time in one of the many rooms there playing grocery store. The kids had fun pushing the buttons on the lobster tank to create bubbles, then they filled up their carry carts with all sorts of goodies. Then it was time to check out at the scanner and register! So much fun!!!

Unfortunately we were running out of time because Jenny had to get back to go to work, so we did a quick walkthrough a few more areas, including Pirate Bay where you can fish, play with water cannons, and operate remote-control boats. They also have a train that goes around the entire perimeter of the park (we didn't get to do this but will next time). On our way out, we checked out the Waterworks exhibit where you can manipulate pipes and walls to make water do all sorts of cool stuff.

All in all, an amazing place. Anna was free to get in and the rest of us were only $5 each. WOW! Thanks for sharing in our fun!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Introducing a new friend, Mimi

On Sunday, we had the privilege of attending a special fundraiser for a special little girl, Mimi. Mimi is 10 years old and lives very near us. She has a rare chromosome disorder called 9 p minus syndrome which causes sensory issues and daily seizures. Mimi's mom, Shannon, is trying to raise money to get Mimi a seizure-alert dog from 4 Paws for Ability. The cost of this service dog is $15,000 and could potentially save Mimi's life. The family has raised $3,000 so far and our family wants to get involved. After their goal is reached, Shannon is going to start a foundation to help other families get service dogs.

When Anna and Mimi met on Sunday, it was an instant connection. Both girls wanted to have a playdate immediately so I gave my contact info to Shannon and was thrilled to hear from her yesterday. Our families are going to meet in San Antonio on Friday to go to Morgan's Wonderland, an amusement park for special needs children. I feel so fortunate that Anna's seizures are so infrequent now and really want to do something to give back all the love that has been sent our way. I still hope that Charlie, our Labradoodle, will alert to her seizures, especially in the middle of the night, but also hope Anna continues this long streak of being seizure-free.

If this story touches you, please consider donating to Mimi's family. Even $5 or $10 can make a difference. The local news attended the fundraiser and covered the story with a short segment: Fundraiser hopes to buy service dog for Austin girl.

To learn more about Mimi, visit her website, Help Mimi. Thank you so much for getting involved!


Friday, July 9, 2010

New Release by AnnaBV Designs

Anna is releasing Sun Kissed today just in time for scrapping all of those fun summer memories. There are so many cute elements and the color palette is gorgeous; you can use this kit for all kinds of photos. She's also made a coordinating alpha so head over to ScrapOrchard and pick them up!

Sun Kissed

Sun Kissed Alpha

My Layout

Ready for Summer Fun!
This picture of Dominic makes me think of yearning… that deep in your gut feeling of want. My sweetheart has been wanting to go to the beach this summer which is what prompted this layout.

My journaling reads:
You are so excited to go to the beach. We’ve had beach toys purchased since the end of May. I hate that we’re 3 hours away from the gulf but we will get there this summer, I promise!

Thanks for looking!

Fix-it Friday #61 at i heart faces

This Fix-it Friday photo was submitted by Angie Arthur Photography, an IHF contributor. Here is her before:

And here is my edit (image is clickable to see it larger):

I knew there would be a lot of really beautiful edits on this image and I wanted to do something different... something that popped, was a bit edgy, with an urban feel.

My workflow, using Photoshop CS4:
~a little levels tweaking
~ran Florabella's Sapphire action from the new Luxe collection, customized adjustment layers and reduced overall effect
~Noiseware at low opacity
~high pass sharpening layer, masked out on skin
~texture (Concrete Jungle from pareeerica on Flickr) added on an Overlay blend mode, masked out woman

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

So so so excited!!! New Florabella Luxe actions!!!

I have been making some money lately doing cards and photo editing so I treated myself to Florabella's new action set called Luxe. Wow! There are some amazing actions in this set and I'm super impressed. I can't wait to take some pictures of the kids and start playing around. Here is a shot of Dominic that I took in June, SOOC and then processed.


Processed with Florabella's Luxe, Starlet + Vignette

I'm so happy with this purchase!!! I would highly recommend this action set to anyone who uses Photoshop (the Elements version is not available yet, fyi). Thanks for looking!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

4th of July photos!

We have an annual neighborhood 4th of July parade that lasts all of 20 minutes, it's so small. But it's the perfect slice of hometown America and the kids love waving at the floats and grabbing candy. Enjoy some pictures!

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