Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I know I've been quiet on the blogging front lately but that's because I've been enjoying my family, my real life, and my children... we've been busy making memories! Today was filled with lots of traditions. Everything from making my famous cheeseball, to scattering reindeer dust on the front lawn, opening Christmas stockings, and leaving milk and cookies for Santa... what an amazing day with my loving family!

Jenny came home from college last week and after changing her major from marine biology to forensic science, decided to move back to Austin to be close to family. We really have an awesome family with so much love for each other! And we all really, really like each other too. My mom is my best friend and lives next door. Now Jenny has moved in with her! She's signed up for 18 credit hours next semester at the community college and will transfer to Texas State or UT next fall.

My mom and I divvied up Christmas duties this year. I did the shopping and she did the wrapping. She is a master gift-wrapper. Every present is beautiful, with ribbons and bows. I am so grateful for her connection to us and her presence in our lives.

The kids are doing great at school. Dominic is just SO smart, it's so much fun listening to his day-to-day musings. A few weeks ago, we were doing the kids' bedtime routines and I was cuddling with Curtis while listening to Dominic read to Anna (at the moment, there are two beds in Anna's room and Dominic has been sleeping in her room). Then it was time for lights out so we were in the whispering, soft giggles and snuggles stage of night-night, when Dominic pipes up with, "Mommy, what happens if you go to jail?" I'm like, "Ummm, what?" "What happens if you and Daddy go to jail?" "Well, honey what do you mean? What happens to us or to you?" "To me," he replies very seriously. "I guess Nana would take care of you, sweetie. But..." "What if Nana died already? She is pretty old." *inner snort* "Then I suppose you would go with Jenny." "Jenny and Chris, you mean?" "Yes, sweetheart, I'm sure Jenny and Chris will be married by then. But honey, mommy and daddy would never go to jail! You have to do something really bad to go to jail." "Like what?" "Like steal something or hurt someone." He is quiet for a while and says, "Oh, okay." What in the world, right?

Anna is of course having a difficult time with this time of year... the anticipation of Santa coming and Christmas morning is driving her (and us) a little crazy. I can't tell you how many times she's asked when he's coming and if she can open presents. Hundreds. She's had a daily meltdown for the last 2 weeks that runs about 20-30 minutes of intense crying in her room. It's like she reaches a boiling point of managing her emotions and just needs that release to be able to cope. But you know the coolest thing about Anna and this time of year? That she is excited about Santa. She'll be 10 in March so I'm happy to be sharing this magic with her.

We are very, VERY excited for tomorrow! Anna especially has asked Santa for something super-extra special and I can't wait to see if he's bringing it. I will have tons of photos to share.

I also want to take a moment to think of my friends who are going through challenging times... a child in the hospital, another holiday with a child in heaven, a rocky patch in your marriage, managing the holidays as a single parent, battling a serious illness, whatever the challenge... I'm thinking of you and holding you tight in my heart. Merry Christmas, my friends!


Friday, December 17, 2010

New realease from FizzyPop, a 9&B collab, and a freebie!

Wow, things are hopping at 9th & Bloom this week! We are celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with special goodies each and every day.

Earlier this week to celebrate the 1st Day of Christmas, the 9th & Bloom Design Team put together an amazing collab called Candy Cane Lane. This is a fabulous Christmas kit filled with oodles of cute elements and wonderful papers. I used this kit to scrap with FizzyPop's new Sidekicks Template Pack No. 19.

Sidekicks Template Pack No. 19

Candy Cane Lane

My Layout (I used the first template in the pack)

Today is the 5th Day of Christmas which brings you a free mini-kit called Silent Night by Dayamanti!

Silent Night

Thanks for looking and come on over to join the fun at 9th & Bloom!

Fix-it Friday #81 at i heart faces

This Fix-it Friday photo was submitted by Michelle Johnson, an IHF contributor. She took this gorgeous photo of this gorgeous couple at a photography workshop. I love this capture, it's so evocative! Here is the original photo:


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


I wanted a very warm and vintage feeling look to this. Using ACR and PS CS5:
~ adjusted the exposure and white balance (warmed it up, brightened, added a touch of fill, and decreased contrast)
~ ran Noiseware at very low opacity
~ cropped to the ROT focusing on woman's left eye
~ slight levels adjustment (wanted to keep as much detail as possible in the shadows)
~ sharpened details, set to soft light at 35%
~ added warmth and a touch of haze
~ increased saturation
~ added vignette set to overlay at 30%
~ sharpened

Thanks for looking and come check out the other edits at i heart faces!

Monday, December 13, 2010

i heart faces ~ pets

This week's photo challenge at i heart faces is pets! So I'm going to cheat a little and use this photo of Charlie that I submitted to Pioneer Woman's photography contest last month (and it made her Group One standouts!). Anyone who is a regular of mine, please forgive the repeat blog entry. ;)

We got this dog last summer... a Labradoodle puppy from Cheyenne Valley Labradoodles. We named him Charlie. The breeder donated him to our family because of Anna's special needs. I was hoping he would bond with her and I was planning on taking him all the way through delta training to be a service dog for her. But he bonded with me more intensely and he also ended up much bigger than we anticipated, so he's really turned into my dog. Last month, I upgraded my camera from a Nikon D40 to a Nikon D300 and the very first picture I took for that day's photo-of-the-day for my P365 project was this one of Charlie:

(Image is clickable to see it larger.)


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

Monday, December 6, 2010

My "baby" is 19 today!

Gulp. 19 years old. Can you remember being 19? It doesn't seem like that long ago. I can remember being pregnant with Jenny and daydreaming about PTA meetings, driving her to school, and worrying about her being a teenager all the while having no clue what parenting was really going to be like. But the moment I held her, I was smitten and everything just fell into place. I was meant to be her mom.

Jenny has turned into the most amazing young person I know, and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. She stands up for what she believes in and I have to tell you that in this society, that is a very brave thing. She is smart, caring, and kind. She loves generously and has a playful soul. I'm so happy she came home from college this weekend so we could celebrate her birthday with the whole family. Saturday morning we went over to the high school for an arts and crafts show because Santa was going to be there taking photos. Anna and Dominic both got to talk with Santa and get a photo tho' I couldn't talk Jenny into sitting on Santa's lap too. ;)

I did get a nice photo of Jenny and Chris together! Aren't they cute?


And one of Jenny alone.


After we got back from that, we were waiting on Curtis to finish a conference call so Jenny could open her presents. So I had the little ones start on some homework and Jenny joined in too. They look soooo bored!


Finally it was time for presents! The whole family chipped in together to get Jenny one big gift with some accessories... a new Nook!


She was so surprised, she had NO idea what she was getting. This girl loves to read more than anyone I've ever met in my entire life. She always has a stack of books and magazines with her. Needless to say, she loved the gift! :)

Here she is checking it out. Nana gave her a generous gift certificate for some ebooks.


My mom usually makes all of our family's birthday cakes from scratch. This was a four-layer (!) white cake with homemake vanilla almond frosting. Yum!!!


Jenny making a wish before blowing out her candles. I wonder what she wished for?


Then it was off to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco! My camera battery died part way through the trip, but Curtis brought the D40 along so I took a few photos with that as well as my D300.

The giraffe enclosure at the zoo affords a wonderful view with no fences or glass in the way. Curtis broke off a leafy branch and was holding it out to this giraffe so I snapped this photo of him looking at us. Doesn't he look like a bat or a little kid? I love his expression!


The little orangutan walking in the sunshine.


This old orangutan was eating grass near the fence. I was captivated by his hand grabbing onto the fence. Look at his fingernails! So human-like.


The lion was majestic!


This lioness heard a helicopter overhead and looked up to find it.


There was only a thin sheet of plexiglass separating this lion from us! Wow! What a view!!!


Chris and Dominic sitting on the park bench at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco. I have a better shot of them techncially where there's no head and hand chop but I love their expressions in this one and I'm a sucker for close-ups.


There was an area in the zoo with bells and chimes and one section had them built into the ground. Each of my children took a turn dancing on the bells and this shot is of Jenny's big finish!


One of my favorite shots from the zoo. Look how Dominic has his hand protectively wrapped around Anna's arm. Awww!


So I want to say Happy 19th Birthday to my sweet Jenny!!! I love you sweetheart. Here are 19 things I love about you right now:

1. You smile a lot.
2. You have the best laugh I've ever heard.
3. You love your family.
4. You don't cave to peer pressure.
5. You are brave.
6. You get excited by little things.
7. You always smell good.
8. You work hard and study hard.
9. You don't talk badly about people.
10. You adore your siblings.
11. You adore your boyfriend.
12. You appreciate gifts.
13. You are a first adopter of technology.
14. You have an amazing music library.
15. You are empathetic.
16. You are really, really pretty (I know that's superficial but I'm your mom so I can say it).
17. You are a voracious reader and always have a book to recommend.
18. You talk to me about everything.
19. You are my best friend.

Happy Birthday, Angel!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

i heart faces ~ self-portrait

This week's photo challenge at i heart faces is a self-portrait! I actually had this same challenge at 9th & Bloom last month so I will use the photo I submitted for them. :) Makes it easy, right?

For this self-portrait I wanted to get creative. So I first shot myself holding a frame, then another shot smiling. Then I composited the two photos, converted the portrait to black and white, then added some dramatic lighting effects.

Image is clickable to see it larger.


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

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lots of new goodies and challenges at 9th & Bloom!

Hello friends! I'm having so much fun being on the Art Crew at 9th & Bloom. I have a couple of new kits to promote and I also want to tell you about the fabulous challenges the forum offers. First up, a beautiful winter kit by guest designer, Bluebell Designs. Winter Breath has a simple color palette with lots of natural elements. It was so easy to scrap with this kit!

Winter Breath

My Layout

9th & Bloom offers monthly challenges in which you can earn points that can be redeemed for gift certificates in the shop! To get all of the details, visit the Challenge Nitty-Gritty thread in our forum. Challenges include Template Fusion, Vintage Corner, Trendsetter, Inspired Impressions, and Shutterbug. These can really spark your creativity and I highly encourage you to come check them out!

One of my all-time favorite designers is MK Designs. I use her kits in a lot of my siggies and cards. She has a new release this week called Pieces of Christmas. This kit is filled with gorgeous hand-painted, whimsical elements. I chose to scrap this kit for this month's Trendsetter challenge in which we were to tell something we really love about Christmas, make the layout look modern, and not use a photo.

Pieces of Christmas

My Layout

I also made this layout with By Becca's Magic Moments for this month's Template Fusion challenge. The template was fun and really easy to use.

Magic Moments

My Layout

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating Stasis

It has been a long time since I've written a Thoughtful Thursday post and quite a while since I've blogged about Anna. The thing is... she's doing well right now. I say that with a whisper in my voice and hesitation in my heart because with her, things change rapidly and dramatically. It's easy to blog when things are rough but finding that appreciation for stasis and celebrating it should be just as important.

The school year started off really badly. Six weeks of misery for her and the staff at school. Countless specialist appointments, endless meetings, daily reports. Changing her placement from inclusion to life skills has made an immense difference. She is participating in class, she has befriended Caroline (Anna reads her stories and gets to push her wheelchair to the bus at the end of the day), she has not been back to Room 300 (the in-school suspension room), and she is happy to be at school. Her body has finally recovered from its premature thrust into puberty last year; changing from Risperdal to Abilify is what turned that around. She hasn't had a seizure in 17 months, a new record. She is on a good cocktail of meds now too. For the first time in ages, she is stable. Stable. Most parents have no idea what a blessing this is. It's easy to take for granted having a happy kid, one who is generally healthy and well-behaved. It's agony to watch your child endure psychiatric issues, health concerns, academic problems, and social missteps. Feeling helpless is the worst feeling... as a mom, your instinct is to do anything and everything to have your child be happy.

stasis |ˈstāsis|
noun formal or technical
a period or state of inactivity or equilibrium.

We're into at least a month of Anna achieving a sort of statis... emotionally, psychologically, medically. Dare I say, there have been moments of feeling normal, even typical, in our family of late. Stability is the core of helping Anna navigate the world. When things are predictable and when she feels safe, she starts to blossom. So even though it seems like Groundhog Day here most of the time, it works. And for that, I'm eternally grateful. So, I want to challenge each of you to think about your life right now. If you are in a zone of stasis, become aware of it. Put some of the memories of this time in a bubble... write about it, take photos, record it in some way. Because the thing about stasis is that is doesn't last. Things change in a heartbeat, regardless if you have a child with special needs or not.

My nephew's father passed away last weekend. He was 39 and suffered a stroke. Curtis went to Ohio this week to be with his sister and our nephew and it's been a profound experience. Our nephew is only 12. Can you imagine having to tell your child that their father has died? Curtis has been helping the family... they've been at his house (SIL is divorced from him) gathering mementos for our nephew and cleaning things out. I got this text from Curtis yesterday morning:

"We are cleaning out his house right now and it is so striking. A life unfinished. Everywhere I look is something half done. It makes me a little ashamed for my procrastination and what people would say of me if I were suddenly gone. Umph, so heavy."

So if you have stasis in your life at the moment, celebrate it. Celebrate the routine, the mundane, the boring. Make today a thoughtful day in your life.
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