Monday, January 31, 2011

i heart faces ~ best face photo

This week's photo challenge at i heart faces is a contest! It's a People's Choice Voting Challenge for the Best Face Photo in January 2011. I'm not sure I'll get many votes, but I'll come back tomorrow with the link for voting. I took this photo of Dominic while I was recovering from knee surgery. My bedroom is dark, so I had to use a high ISO. I decided to convert this to black and white and participate in the Clickin' Moms Photoshop challenge of creating my own black and white action. I think the shallow DOF and grain work well together.

(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! And if you really like my photo, please come back tomorrow for the link to vote. Thanks!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: The Annual ARD

Next week brings Anna's annual ARD meeting. For the uninitiated, this is a meeting that takes place once a year whereupon a vast team of people get together and decide what goals your special needs/special education child should work on for the following year. It can be a daunting, humbling, scary, and overwhelming meeting, especially in the early years. Our ARD meetings usually have 10-14 people in attendance! We started this process when Anna turned three and was placed in the PPCD program (argh, lots of acronyms right? PPCD = preschool program for children with disabilities, ARD = annual review and dismissal). This will be our 7th meeting... the 4th at our current school with her current team. Luckily for me (and through a lot of hard work and research), I have a great team surrounding Anna and there is no friction in the group. I got the first pass of new goals yesterday to review and had a discussion with her Life Skills teacher this morning about them.

I want to take a moment to interject how happy I am that we moved Anna from Inclusion to Life Skills earlier this year. I was scared about this move (remember THIS post?) and was skeptical that it would be good for her. Well, long story short, it has been a good move. She is much happier, her behavior has vastly improved, and she is able to learn and work on her goals.

All in all, the new goals look fine. There are some that are too simple (like in Social Studies, recite the city and state in which she resides) so I pushed back on those and they will be updated, but most of them are fine. Her speech therapist feels like Anna has met most of her speech goals and is now going to focus on social skills. I think her articulation still needs work so I'll inquire about that during the meeting. Her ST is very progressive and is constantly on the look out for new techniques and therapies, so we feel pretty blessed to have her on our side.

It sounds cliché, but it really does take a village to raise a child, especially one with special needs. It's important to have a group of professionals working in the best interests of your child, so as parents it's equally important to advocate for what those interests are. Since Anna is now in third grade and about to turn ten, I've started including her in these discussions. At our last meeting when we changed her placement, I had her join us during the last few minutes. We told her about the plan and got her input and buy-in. We cannot forget that SHE is the center of these meetings, yknow?

I'm glad we're at a place where the annual ARD doesn't beget dread but instead is a relatively easy discourse on how best to help my daughter at school. That's the way it should be.


New release from AnnaBV Designs plus one more!

AnnaBV Designs brings you Lonely Hearts today at ScrapOrchard. It's a soft and dreamy feeling kit that is versatile enough to celebrate the love in your life or even the lack of love. I used it to scrap about a painful time in my marriage. There is a coordinating alpha and even some quickpages, all on sale now.

Lonely Hearts

Lonely Hearts Alpha

Lonely Hearts Quickpages

My Layout

I also had the chance of working with an older kit from Megan Fisher Designs at 9th & Bloom called My Sweet Valentine. I had a photo of my daughter Jenny and her boyfriend Chris that worked perfectly with this adorable, grungy feeling kit.

My Sweet Valentine

My Layout

Thanks for looking!

Monday, January 24, 2011

i heart faces ~ innocent wonder

This week's photo challenge at i heart faces is innocent wonder! Outside playing in early December, Dominic spied an airplane way up in the sky. I swear he gets as excited about seeing one as he did when he was two! You can see the wonder in his eyes... maybe he'll be a pilot when he grows up. Though right now he wants to be a fireman. :) I'm so happy that I captured the beauty of his innocence and curiosity. This turned out to be one of my favorite photos from last year!

(Image is clickable to see it larger... it looks even better at the original size.)


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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fix-it Friday #83 at i heart faces

This Fix-it Friday photo was submitted by Angie Arthur, an IHF contributor. Here is the original photo:


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


I'm so proud of myself! I did this edit using no actions of any kind. My workflow using PS CS5:

~First I duplicated the original and renamed it.
~Cloned out distracting bit (big leaf, bottle?) from the lower left.
~Levels adjustment layer to brighten image and lighten midtones, 0/1.47/241.
~Brightness/contrast adjustment layer, increased contrast +50.
~Select->Color Range->Highlights, copy to new layer. Put a blue to white gradient overlay set to multiply over the highlights to change the sky to blue, then masked off highlights on leaves and boy.
~Added center fill light at 20%.
~Hue/saturation adjustment layer, increased saturation +30, decreased brightness -5.
~Vignette set to overlay at 20%.
~High pass sharpening layer.

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

New Releases from By Becca and AnnaBV Designs!

I have lots of goodies to show off today and it's been a while since I've gotten to promote both Becca and Anna, woot! First I bring you Snowkissed from By Becca at 9th & Bloom. It's a gorgeous winter kit comprised of a soft brown and rose colored palette and filled with beautiful elements.

Snowkissed from By Becca

My Layout

I also got the pleasure of working with an older kit from Kelley Mickus at 9th & Bloom called Fairytale Ending. It's a charming hand-drawn, doodled kit filled with storybook elements. This was fun to play with.

Fairytale Ending

My Layout

And finally, AnnaBV Designs released an adorable bath time kit called Captain of the Bathtub at ScrapOrchard. Anna's whimsical style really shines through with the hippo and all of the bath time elements!

Captain of the Bathtub

My Layout

Thanks for looking!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The monotony of recovery

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since I made the huge mistake had partial knee replacement surgery. If I had any idea what I was in for, I would've taken my pretty little pedicured feet out that hospital door and headed home. My PT says that there are stages of recovery similar to stages of grief. I'm still in the "why did I do this?" stage and will soon enter the "will it ever get better?" stage.

I saw Dr. Brotzman, my orthopedic surgeon, today for my post-op followup appointment. Overall he is pleased with my progress. I'm up to 90-degrees of flexion in sitting position and up to 95-degrees on the CPM machine. Curtis took this photo with his Blackberry while I was still in the hospital. The CPM bends my knee up and down; I input the degree of flexion. My goal is 120-degrees by next week. We call it The Rack or the torture device depending on how much I'm hurting. Last night while attempting 95-degrees, I could feel my incision tear open a little.

That blue thing on top of my knee with the hose is the ice pack. It's attached to a cooler of ice and pumps cold water around my knee to help with swelling. I'm still on the CPM 6 hours a day at this point... it is so tedious. I do a chunk from 9-11, 1-3, and 7-9 but it feels like I'm on it all day. Anytime I'm in bed, I also have the ice pack on. Anytime I'm not in bed, I have the leg brace on. I'm not needing the walker as much this week as last, but I'm not confident without it yet either. I thought I had a lot of swelling still and it was preventing me from bending too much more and Brotzman agreed. So while I was there, he drained the knee in two places after taking out my stitches.

Can I just say that this was icky and leave it at that?

He said my mobility should improve with some of the fluid drained out. The swelling actually shuts down the quad muscle from contracting so I'm hoping to get more strength there soon. The PT puts an electrical impulse device on my quad during therapy; it's pathetic how little strength is there now. My good leg is in the 300s, my left ranges between 20-40. Wow, right? I'll try not to complain anymore, I promise. Doing all of my PT exercises at home and getting in the hours on the CPM feels like a full-time job. Sleep is elusive as is comfort. At least I'll be allowed to shower now that the stitches are out!

I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for my husband, my daughter, and my mom. Curtis is working 12-16 hour days this week, making dinner for the family, taking the kids out on errands, and doing their bath and bedtime routines. He is exhausted. Oh and he is also filling up my polar ice machine 4 times a day which requires running out to the corner store for ice every other day. He has not complained one time. Jenny is doing our grocery shopping, household chores, errands, and taking care of Dominic. She's also brought me treats and magazines and been super duper sweet. She starts back to school tomorrow for a crazy-intense schedule this spring of classes at two campuses and working too. My mom has been my nurse, my angel, and the one who takes care of everything else. She is helping the kids with their homework, taking me to PT (she is a great chauffeur!), freshening up my bedding, managing my medications, keeping the kids overnight or for a meal to give Curtis a break, and doing some of our household chores... all the while working full-time too. I feel so grateful and guilty too, everyone is so tired. It looks like it will be another few weeks of me being pretty dependent though I am making progress every day. I also want to thank Debbie, Serena, and Renee for dropping by for a visit and bringing treats. Your presence brightened my day so much!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Fix-it Friday #82 at i heart faces

This Fix-it Friday photo was submitted by Rachel Durik, an IHF contributor.

Here is the original photo:


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


What a beautiful little girl! I wanted the feel to be light, dreamy, ethereal, and warm. Using ACR and PS CS5:
~ adjusted the exposure and white balance (warmed it up, brightened)
~ ran Noiseware at very low opacity
~ slight levels adjustment
~ sharpened details, set to soft light at 35%
~ ran Florabella's Glam action, reduced to 30%
~ ran Paint the Moon's new free action "Jubilee", tweaked individual layers
~ added vignette set to overlay at 10%
~ sharpened

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

New Releases at 9th & Bloom!

The designers at 9th & Bloom have been very busy this week and there are tons of new goodies in the store! I got the pleasure of working with FruitLoOp Sally's newest kit, Document This - A Project 365 Kit for today's new release. It is a huge mega-kit brimming with versatile elements to help you scrap P365 photos. I love the hand-drawn elements, alphas, and doodles! It is 20% off today and tomorrow so be sure to snap this one up quickly!

Document This - A Project 365 Kit

My Layout

I also got to work with one of FruitLoOp Sally's older kits recently, C is for Cupcake. I really love how soft and sweet these elements are and it was the perfect choice for scrapping a laughing photo of Anna.

C is for Cupcake

My Layout

9th & Bloom is also having it's very first Designer Call! New and established designers are encouraged to apply. For all of the details, visit our forum.

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Do you want to learn more about photography?

As most of you know, I joined a membership site called Clickin' Moms. I joined in May 2010 and plunked down $30 for a 6-month membership. I had a Nikon D40 and was using it in auto mode, macro mode, sport mode, or the P mode when I didn't want the flash to fire. Other than that, I knew nothing about photography. At that point, I had owned my camera for almost two years.

Fast forward six months and I know how to shoot in manual mode, I understand the exposure triangle (how to make shutter speed, ISO, and aperture work together to meter correctly), I upgraded my camera and lens, and I feel like I've found my true passion. I also renewed my membership. What's great about Clickin' Moms is that the community is comprised of over 8000 women, most of them mothers who are professional photographers. There is a wealth of knowledge that is so easy to understand, classes that are small with wonderful mentor feedback, and the group forum support is phenomenal.

So if you have a DSLR and want to really learn how to use your camera or if you are a beginner professional photographer or if you are already established and want marketing tips and business stragegy ideas, please consider joining Clickin' Moms. They have varying membership plans... everything from a few days to check it out up to a lifetime membership. And right now they are having a membership drive! Last week they were offering a 10% discount but today they've increased it to 20%!!!!!

That's a great deal! Click this graphic and enter FRIEND in the coupon code to get a 20% discount! But hurry, this offer won't last long!

Hope to see you soon!

i heart faces ~ smile

This week's photo challenge at i heart faces is smile! I haven't participated in an i heart faces contest in a while so I dug through last year's smiling photos to find this one to submit of Dominic. I took this photo while taking RYC101 at Clickin' Moms, so this was one of my first attempts in manual mode.

(Image is clickable to see it larger.)


Processed with Florabella's Gypsy action from the Luxe collection.

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

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My bum knee

As most of you know from Facebook, I had knee surgery today, specifically a partial replacement (patellar femoral replacement), a meniscus repair, and a lateral release. I've had a few emails about what happened, so I thought I'd give an update here and do the linky-linky thing for those inquiring minds. Plus I'm feeling very chatty on my pain meds and I got the pulse-ox thingy off my finger so I can type much better now. :)

In order to understand why I had to have this surgery, a little history is in order. And I apologize in advance for my complete inability to write short posts. ;) I have a connective tissue disorder similar to Ehler-Danlos Syndrome. It has caused flat feet, a hiatal hernia at age 14 that had to be surgically repaired, and a mitral valve prolapse. It's also caused early on-set arthritis and poor alignment in my knees. A few years ago, I had my left knee worked on... I had a bad meniscus tear (and oh boy, was *that* a story! included firemen and all) that my ortho said, "Um, yeah... that meniscus was flopping around in there so I just trimmed it out." Yikes! That tear had actually happened about six months prior but I toughed it out with a brace until it just got too uncomfortable. The back of my kneecap also had some arthritis, so his plan was to fake out my body to create fake cartilage. He shaved off the crunchy stuff then did a procedure called a patellar microfracture where he actually broke the bone in multiple places by poking holes in the back of the kneecap. Then scar tissues forms making the fake cartilage. Slick, right? He said it would last about five years then we'd need to actually do a replacement. We're three years out now and that left knee is doing great.

At the time of that procedure (which was outpatient with about a 6-week recovery with weekly PT), we got a baseline on my right knee. I had mild patellar chrondomalcia which means the arthritis was mild. It felt crunchy when bending the knee and you could hear it crunching when walking up and down the stairs. My ortho said don't kneel on the knees and take the elevator any chance I could. I started noticing more pain in the right knee over this last sumemr then I had one of those weird pops in the knee in September. After that, I was having more pain and some pressure too. Then in October, the pressure got much worse. So I went back to the ortho, got an MRI and a brace. The MRI showed a cyst, severe patellar chrondomalcia and fluid in the joint. My ortho (AWESOME doctor, btw... his name is Brent Brotzman, he used to be the UT football team doc and has authored the standard PT rehab book for knee injuries) is a minimalist. So first we tried a steroid injection and an injection of lubricant into the joint. It worked for 10 days and it was supposed to work for three months. So back in I went and the knee was so swollen that I couldn't even bend it. So we scheduled surgery. And even here, he wanted to try the minimal approach and first went in with an arthroscope. His plan was to maybe try another patellar microfracture like last time but prepared for the possibility of a partial knee replacement. When he got in there this morning, he found a small lateral mensiscus tear (I knew it!) and found NO cartilage left on the back of the kneecap and the bottom of the femur. It was truly bone on bone.


I wrote all of that on Tuesday, January 4th. It's now Saturday, the 8th. I was supposed to be released from the hospital on Wednesday but we could not get pain controlled at all until Thursday then had to get a series of goals met over the next 24 hours to be released. It was a nightmare. The staff at the hospital was horrible, the room was tiny, no one ever introduced themselves, people patronized me, talked down to me, one PT made me cry and get more angry than I've ever gotten at another human being in my life. At one point, Curtis actually yelled, "GET OUT!" at the man. I will never, ever go back to Seton Northwest for anything, ever.

Because I have fibromyalgia and a connective tissue disorder, I am managed by a chronic pain specialist and I've been on a low dose of an agonist/antagonist pain med for years. It made getting my post-op pain control very difficult to achieve.


This is turning into a journal. It's now Sunday. My days are long, filled with endless PT exercises, and complicated pill time management. I have to spend 6 hours a day with my leg in the CPM machine; it bends and lowers my knee. I have to increase the degree of flexion by 10 degrees every day. Today I'm supposed to go from 50 up to 60 degrees and I've been splitting the time into 3 two-hour chunks. I'm allowed to bear weight as tolerated and I'm walking with a walker. I'm hooked up to an ice machine that pumps cold water around my knee when I'm laying down. I got to see the incision on Friday at PT. It's about 6 inches long.

I miss my camera. I took some photos right before surgery but haven't picked it up since then. I had big plans for Project 52 and a new website... maybe I'll get that going next week. I haven't opened Photoshop or been to any message boards. I've hardly even been on Facebook. It's like everything feels off, my life is surreal right now. If I had any idea the pain and post-op rehab was going to be this intense, I would not have gone through with the surgery. I don't like feeling sorry for myself and I don't like being dependent on people. The hospital stay was humbling, there is no dignity or personal empowerment as a patient. Just getting to pee was an ordeal and took two other people to help me.

A lot of things should have been done that weren't. I was supposed to have a nerve block port put in my leg to block the nerves for a day or two post-op... instead I got one nerve block shot. It was wearing off by the time I was in recovery. The second day was a 9 on the pain scale. I spent the majority of the day doing Lamaze breathing to get through it, no kidding. If my family hadn't been there to advocate for me, I would've been totally neglected. On Thursday night, the nurse assistant was supposed to come in at 4 a.m. to check my vitals and refill the ice in the polar care machine. She helped me get to the potty then never came back. My IV wasn't reattached, no vitals, no ice. She came in at 6:45 in a panic because it was shift change and said that she forgot to come back and had to do my vitals right then and that the new shift would come on and do them again in a few minutes. Seriously. This was the care I received the entire time I was there. Only 3 people ever introduced themselves.

Thinking back to when Anna was little and she was hospitalized twice and had so many tests run, I cringe to remember how people treated her. No one, especially a child, should be patronized, yelled at, and hurt when patience could be used instead. It really does make me want to become a patient advocate. I think about how our population is going to be flooded with elderly in the next 10-20 years and worry about this generation receiving this substandard care. If you have a loved one about to have a procedure, be sure to mobilize family to take shifts with them at the hospital. They will need you!

I really need to start my morning PT exercises, then get on the rack (ha, that's what I call the CPM). Hopefully a few months from now, I will look back on this and think it was worth it. So far... not so much. Thanks for all the support and prayers, I really felt them.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! and Reflections

Every year on New Year's Day, I get into a cleaning frenzy. It's like I *must* start the new year with a clean slate. I also do this mentally too... taking stock of the previous year and setting some goals for the upcoming year. I really don't do resolutions anymore; there are enough pressures I put on myself where I fail that I don't want to add even more. ;)

I did a big recap on the year yesterday when finishing up my 365 Project, so I won't rehash in detail what the year brought us. I also went through the entire year and picked out my favorite ten photos. I captured so many memories! If you want to take a peek at our Christmas season, I created a Flickr set: Christmas 2010.

I feel very blessed to continue to discover new passions. I'm 41 years old and for the last nine years have defined myself as a mom to a child with special needs. In 2010, I found an artist residing in myself... a girl I didn't know existed. Being a science and math geek my whole life, this has been a startling and rewarding discovery. Creating custom cards for clients, scrapping memories with digital scrapbooking, creating for the best designers in the business, and now exploring photography has brought a sense of peace and balance into my life. When so many of my years have been consumed with doctors, appointments, therapists, specialists, tests, ARD meetings, and worrying about my daughter's future, it's easy to lose sight of my individual self. I'm excited to see what 2011 will bring and I hope to share this journey with my friends and family. Thank you for being such a huge support as I went through the ups and downs of this stressful life and for being a spot of sunshine in my life.

Happy New Year!!!
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