Monday, January 27, 2014

I Have a Picture Problem . . . .

I have a picture problem. I admit that. Dave was the one to bring it to my attention. To his credit, he lovingly indulged me. That's how we ended up with these two pictures. Here's the story . . . 

On every cruise Dave and I had been on, we've always had our picture taken as we boarded. I often used that picture for the first page of the vacation album. I was planning on that picture for the boys' first cruise album. Because Caleb was using a stroller in place of a wheelchair, they had us bypass the picture line. 

Later I was in our cabin letting Zach have some "down time" hoping he'd fall asleep for a cat nap. Dave took Caleb out and about to explore the ship. While they were taking in the Lido Deck they encountered a ship's photographer. They posed for the picture and went on their way. When Dave got back and told me about it, I dragged them out for a family picture because that would make the perfect "title page" for an album! I promised Dave I would only purchase the family picture.

When we got to the photo gallery I "just had" to get both pictures - and they didn't end up being the title page. Once again, Dave indulged my picture addiction. I'm so glad he did!

June 2009

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stingray City

Without a doubt, this was one of the highlights of our Western Caribbean Cruise. It certainly was the highlight for Caleb. Daddy and Caleb had no fear when it came to the getting near or kissing the stingrays. I was a little more cautious, and Zach had just woken up from a nap so he was a little dazed and confused, and he didn't know what to make of the big gray things.

This is just one of the many layouts to remind me Dave liked adventures. He wanted his boys to swim with the stingrays and I know it made an impression on Caleb. Before we headed back to the ship we bought Caleb a tiny stuffed stingray. That night he had to sleep with it, and before he even opened his eyes the next morning he was mumbling, "I want to swim with the stingrays." Dave loved that! 

Dave was never afraid to try new things. I know that was one of the reasons he liked cruising so much. So many new ports of call, adventures, sights and sounds - not to mention all the new foods he tried! He also liked to "wing it". We didn't make too many plans before boarding a cruise ship. Once on board Dave liked to talk to people we'd meet and find out if they had ever been to the ports where we were headed. He'd ask them what they had seen, what they would recommend, and then in his own way, Dave would figure out if the activities were accessible for Caleb. Dave loved life - and always was looking for family friendly adventures!

Scrapbooking Tip:
I wanted to use so many full size photos so I had to keep the layout simple. I decided on punching a border along the top and bottom of the pages and then adhered shiny blue paper behind the punches rather then have white show through.

Close Ups:

Daddy & Zach (10 months old)

Caleb remembers this well - we were supposed to be saying, "Cheese," and just at the perfect moment the stingray spit water and it landed on Caleb!

Stingray Kisses

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Three Amigos

Another layout from our Western Caribbean cruise . . . . pictures from Cozumel, Mexico! When we docked there was a long pier, but way off in the distance we could clearly see The Three Amigos Cantina. That was our first stop.

When Dave and I were dating, I suggested we watch the movie The Three Amigos. I had already seen it, and thought he might enjoy it because he liked Steve Martin. Dave loved it!! I can not count how many times we watched it together, but it was enough for both of us to quote it. Lines from The Three Amigos would creep into conversations, and when would try to make me laugh, he would sing, "My Little Buttercup" and mimic the dance Steve Martin and Martin Short performed in the movie.

My boys still have not seen this movie (and I don't plan on showing it to them for a LONG time) but I HAD to take the picture of the three of them. Nana & Papa held up the boys on either side of Dave so I could the perfect shot of my three amigos. 

We made some great memories in Cozumel, but this is one of my favorite.

Scrapbooking Tip:
I used two of my favorite techniques on this page. I tore dotted paper for the base of this border strip. I like the texture torn paper can give to a layout. Then when I added the ribbon I tied a knot. Sometimes I think a bow looks too "girly" for my "manly" pages. A simple knot lets me use ribbon without it being too feminine.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Pirate's Life for Me

This is the first of many pirate scrapbooking layouts I would do. Zachary is quite the pirate lover . . . .maybe because we exposed him to all things pirate at an early age.

These first and third pictures were taken on the first night of the cruise outside the dining room and the middle picture was on our first port of call. Dave was the type of guy who would play to the cameras whenever he could. When we got to Grand Cayman we were met by more pirates and Dave gave his best "Arrrgh" for the camera. Dave had fun no matter where we were or what we were doing.

 Scrapbooking Tip:
To make the pictures flow across both pages I glued half of the picture on the left hand page. I placed it so I wouldn't cut through Dave's or the pirate's face. Then I put the whole page in my paper trimmer and carefully lined it up and cut the picture. I then placed the pages next to each other and glued the right hand side of the picture to the page. It was a little nerve wracking the first time I did this - but it's a great way to include more than one enlargement on your layouts.

I just love both Dave and Zach's expressions!!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sun Fun with Daddy

I have so many favorite pictures - and this is one of my favorites of Dave and Caleb. We were at Paradise Beach in Cozumel, Mexico. My mom actually took this picture - she waded into the water and captured this great moment between father and son. I can honestly say that Dave enjoyed this moment just as much as Caleb did. A daddy and his boy enjoying the surf and sand.

Scrapbooking Tip
This picture was so precious to me I had to keep it the focal point of the page. I kept the sun embellishment and journaling close to the picture to draw the eye to Caleb's sweet expression.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Formal Night - After Kids

This is a layout from the boys' very first Formal Night. Their first cruise was to the Western Caribbean. Caleb was two and Zach was 10 months old. Caleb had recently been diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and we decided that we needed a break from doctors, therapists, and stress. We had always wanted to travel with our kids and after listening to the neurologist and the reality of SMA, we were concerned that it might not always be possible. So we decided to get started. . . . 

The boys loved it!! They turned out to be natural travelers. I was in my glory snapping pictures of every new adventure they had. And of course, they were adorable on formal night. 

This is one of my favorite family pictures because despite the direction our lives had taken, we were still smiling. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Formal Night - Before Kids

We love to cruise! Shortly after our honeymoon, Dave and I began saving to take a trip for our fifth anniversary. Like most newlyweds, we had to pinch our pennies so we started saving right away. 

Our honeymoon was memorable in the sense we go chased out of St. Thomas by a hurricane. The island was beautiful and we wanted to go back, but the most economical way was to cruise there. Our fifth anniversary was October 16, 2004. In February of that year it looked very possible that Dave would be selected to start training at the NYSP Academy that summer, which meant that we wouldn't be able to travel in the fall. So rather than not take the trip, Dave booked our first cruise for March 2004, and we celebrated early. It was a wonderful trip and only made us want to travel and cruise more.

This layout shows a picture from our Southern Caribbean Cruise. That was one of our favorites - five beautiful ports of call and seven days to soak up the sun and enjoy some turquoise water and white sand beaches - and enjoy being with one another. We had some awesome adventures which included a trip to an ostrich farm.

This was the second formal night and once again, Dave looked like a lobster. We tried to be so careful with the sunscreen, and on every cruise we were a little less burnt, but still Dave ended up with a red face. Sun burnt or not, Dave enjoyed Formal Night - even if I made him pose for pictures. His favorite pictures were the candid ones. I was just happy to have pictures of the two of us on vacation that weren't "selfies".

Scrapbooking Tip:
I don't usually do a layout with just one picture, but Formal Night pictures are an exception. Because we were dressed up I wanted to keep the layout simple. I picked a mono-chromatic color scheme for a couple of reasons. First it complimented the color of my dress and Dave's tie. Also, I wanted to keep the focus on the picture not on the scrapbook page itself. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

You Make My Heart Sing

This is yet another Great Escape layout. There was a fountain that would spurt water up at various times from random spots. The boys thought it was hysterical. I wish I could capture the laughter of that afternoon on a scrapbook page.

At first Caleb was on the outskirts just watching Zach. He knew that water was not good for his power chair. After a minute Dave said, "Come on, Caleb! Let's go get your brother!" He wheeled right into the middle of the fountain and Dave figured out which spouts were going to spray when so he could get Caleb out of the direct spray of the water. He did it in a way that Caleb did not realize what he was doing. Dave was so conscious of how much Caleb is left out, and he was determined that wasn't going to happen.

When I was thinking of the page title I remembered how happy I was to see both boys doing normal "little boy" things. It's hard to explain, but it actually feels like my heart is swelling - getting bigger as I feel joy bubbling up from the inside. Now that Dave is no longer physically here with me, I realize that he made my heart sing quite a bit, especially as I watched him being "Daddy". I really miss that feeling.

Scrapbooking - Up Close:
Once again - had to layer those puffy cloud stickers - and I love the effect.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Great Escape - Part III

Much to my surprise, Caleb loved The Scrambler ride. I did not want to let him - I was worried he could get hurt, but Dave said, "I'll go with you, Buddy!" I gave him "the look" and he assured me Caleb would be fine. Caleb was not only fine, but wanted to ride it two more times.

The second time around, Caleb wanted me to go with him. While we were waiting for the ride to start Caleb started singing, "You spin me right around, Baby, right around, " in his best Alvin the Chipmunk voice. Just like his Daddy, Caleb can always find an appropriate song to match the occasion.

Scrapbooking Tip:
I found that the perfectionist in me was taking way too long to create titles when I tried to line the stickers up in a straight line. So to save time I started layering and "tipping" my letter stickers - and for this title that technique was perfect!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great Escape - Part II

These pictures were just begging to be scrapbooked! Zach was so adorable in his rain poncho, and also easy to spot from a distance in the bright yellow. His mission was to step in every puddle possible. He was also fascinated by the grates. He had to stop and look, and if there was anything nearby that would fit, drop something into the water.

Caleb figured out the faster he drove through the puddles, the bigger the spray. When Caleb realized he could splash Zach he started driving circles around his little brother. It was so much fun to watch them doing "normal" boy activities. That's one of the little things we never take for granted!

Scrapbooking Tip:
One of my favorite "go to" techniques is to attach a sticker with dimensional adhesive so it pops off the page. I love how it gives the cloud a "puffy" look.

Great Escape - Part I

Dave and I took the boys to The Great Escape in June of 2012. We decided to go for just the afternoon for two main reasons. First, we're never sure about accessibility for Caleb, and secondly, Zach's sensory issues can be a bit problematic. He was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder in 2011, and sometimes he can easily go into "sensory overload". That means melt downs, crying, and anti-social behavior. We were not sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised! (You'd also never know we only spent an afternoon there judging by the amount of scrapbook layouts I have.)

It poured shortly after we got there. I don't mean rained, or sprinkled, but drenching, down pouring rain. With an electric wheel chair, this is not a good. We bought rain ponchos and draped Caleb's chair, and put one on Zach, who loved wearing it. As fast as the rain came, it went away, but Zach continued to wear the rain gear for a while. (You'll see a cute layout tomorrow with Zach in his poncho.)

We gravitated toward the "little kid" rides, and the boys loved them! Although the truck ride is an easy and slow moving ride, Daddy had to tag along. Caleb's core muscles are weaker and one of us had to ride with him to keep him from falling over. We try to never draw attention to Caleb's disability and Dave was wonderful at making Caleb feel like he was doing Daddy a favor if Daddy could ride with him. Watching Dave squeeze into the various rides was hysterical, and he made so many funny faces at me every time they went around the circle, and he would have the boys wave at Mommy. It was such a fun afternoon.

Scrapbooking Tip:
I had the privilege of taking a stamping class with Stephanie Barnard, who owns The Stamps of Life. Her products are amazing, and I learned so much about stamping from her - so much so I began to incorporate it into my scrapbooks. I used her all4stars stamp set and inks to create all the embellishments for this page. To check out her amazing products and videos go to

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wrestling with Daddy

These pictures bring back fun memories. We were at the Dorral Arrowood Resort for the Casino Night Fundraiser put on by the PBA. Dave and I opted to stay a couple of extra nights so we could take the boys into Manhattan. Caleb & Zach love staying at hotels and swimming in the pool so they were super excited.

We were hanging out in our room and Dave was unsuspecting when Zachary climbed up on him. The Zach Attack was trying to tangle Dave in his “blanky” and then would be distracted by the cartoons playing on the television. There was lots of gigging and laughing and Dave loved every minute of it!

Again, I used a sketch from Scrapbook Generation. I thought the circles would make the page more fun and I added some stitched circles on top of the pattern paper. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Caleb's New Wheels

I know the picture of this layout is a little blurry, but I really wanted to post these pages today. The pictures on this layout were taken at Shriners’ Hospital the day Caleb got his wheel chair back in 2011.

Caleb was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy the week of his second birthday.  SMA is a genetic disease where the body does not make a protein needed to keep motor neurons alive. Without this protein, motor neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord die. As the motor neurons die, the muscles weaken.  SMA affects all the muscles in the body and many SMA patients have pulmonary complications.

Caleb did not really crawl and never walked.  We waited two years to get his wheel chair. I don’t why we did. We tried a gait trainer for him (walker) hoping to see him have some mobility, but sadly, that was only useful in therapy.

Hearing Caleb had SMA was devastating news for Dave and me. There were many tears. Dave had always imagined hunting with his sons, teaching them to play the guitar, and working on projects with them in the garage. Hearing Caleb’s prognosis, our dreams for him had to change.
Dave and I dealt with our grief in different ways. Both of us avoided the topic of wheel chair for as long as we could. We knew that it was going to take great emotional fortitude to see Caleb live life from his wheel chair.

But on that day, August 18, 2011, our reaction surprised both of us. We cried, but overwhelmingly they were tears of joy. For the first time we were seeing our son experience freedom. I snapped pictures while Dave walked the halls with Caleb as he learned the controls. Immediately Caleb was an awesome driver! He loved his power chair – and his only regret was that it was red and not blue.

There would be lots of time for tears – some happy, but most sad. SMA is a horrible disease, that continues to take from Caleb’s body, but it did give Dave and me a new outlook. We learned not to sweat the small stuff and not to take little things for granted. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Impromptu Jam Session

I found this layout today. It was buried in a stack of layouts that need to go into albums. I cried. Here is Dave, jamming with Zach. It all started out with Zach playing the toy drum set my aunt had given Caleb. Dave immediately pulled a chair up close and began playing along. He let Zach take the lead and set the tempo. He coached Zach when to hit the cymbal. Given Zach’s attention span this impromptu jam session lasted only a couple of minutes. I’m so glad I have these pictures, or I would have forgotten this precious encounter.

Dave loved sharing his love of music with his boys. Music was in his blood – he couldn't help it. The guitar called to him. I would tease him and call it his mistress. When he played he was lost in his own world. I loved to watch him. We spent a lot of time together – he playing the guitar while I scrapbooked. This is just one of the many things I am going to miss.

Friday, January 3, 2014

It was the Everyday Things . . . .

As I look back and reflect on Dave's life, his greatness came from all the little everyday things he did for me and his boys. The everyday things showed his love, compassion and certainly patience. I feel like I captured that side of Dave on this layout.

Dave and I have spent a lot of time building LEGOS the past couple of years! In 2012, we were in Minnesota for the Families of SMA conference and were about fifteen minutes from the Mall of America where there is an awesome LEGO Store. Caleb insisted on a massive Dinosaur LEGO set complete with a helicopter. We built it back in our hotel room and the boys had a blast playing with it while we were there.

However, we learned that LEGOS don’t travel well. After the three day drive home the helicopter had broken apart. Dave spent just as long rebuilding it as I had building it the first time!

I made this layout using a sketch from Scrapbook Generation. I like their clean linear looks. I picked the color scheme to compliment Dave and Caleb’s shirts. These pages don’t showcase any spectacular event, but everyday life at the Cunniff’s. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reflections of Christmas Past

Without a doubt, this past Christmas has been the hardest and most painful for me. It was almost impossible to celebrate without Dave - except for the fact Caleb and Zachary were sooooo excited! The day after Dave's funeral Caleb started the Christmas countdown . . . . ,"Mommy, only four more days!!" What a Christmas it was thanks to the generosity of Dave's fellow troopers. The boys were inundated were presents from stations all over! It will be a while before I am able to scrap those pictures, but hopefully, when I'm ready, the pain will have lessened and I'll be able to appreciate the memories.

In the meantime, I was thinking back to past Christmases with Dave. Our first married Christmas (1999) was spent in the ER, waiting for Dave to get stitches! Then there was the year that we both bought each other a DVD player. (And that had been all we could afford!) Then Christmas 2004, the first year Dave was on the job. He had just graduated from the Academy and was stationed in Westport, NY. I spent the day alone in a Lake Placid hotel room watching Gone with the Wind, just so we could be together after he was done working. Christmas of 2007 comes to mind. Caleb's first Christmas - and I was on strict bed rest trying desperately not to miscarry my pregnancy. I had to stay on the couch and snap pictures while Dave helped Caleb open up his presents.

Our last Christmas together was 2012. We were so excited because Dave had worked the previous three Christmas - and he was off for one year! It was going to be the best Christmas ever!! Caleb woke us up early with,  "Mommy, there's a bad taste in my mouth." He had the stomach bug. So into the tub to clean up before Zach woke up and would want to tear into the presents. We managed to create some good memories despite Caleb being sick.

I typically take so many pictures on Christmas I wanted to fit a lot on this layout. When I think of Christmas morning I think of crumpled wrapping paper on the floor, so I tried to recreate that look on my page. I crumpled scraps of Christmas patterned paper and then flattened them. I randomly tacked  them down and then pasted my pictures on top. I was pleased with the results.

I love the picture of Zach hugging Dave. He had just unwrapped some monster books and ran over to Dave squealing,  "Thank you, Daddy!" That was one of Dave's favorite Christmas memories.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My New Year's Resolution . . . To Make Dave Proud

I have been scrapbooking since I was sixteen years old. It has become more then a hobby, it is my therapy and a way for me to count my blessings. I almost gave up this hobby when my older son, Caleb, was diagnosed with a genetic neuromuscular disease in 2009. It was too painful to think that my child would not have the "normal" pages in his scrapbooks - you know, his first steps, running on the playground, and playing sports. My life was now filled with doctor and therapy appointments.

Guilt is what kept me going. My younger son, Zachary, was two months old and there were no scrapbook pages featuring him. I decided I would scrapbook his first year then pack up my paper crafting supplies. But then an amazing thing happened. God used my scrapbooks to begin healing my heart. I realized that even though our life was shadowed by Spinal Muscular Atrophy, my boys were still smiling in the pictures. They were happy and having a good life. What I thought would be a painful reminder of what our life wasn't quickly became a way to count my blessings. I realized that I still had so much to be thankful for. With this realization, scrapbooking became my passion!

My wonderful husband has been bugging me to start a blog, to showcase various pages and cards I have made. I always shrugged him off, saying I didn't think my work was good enough and that no one would be interested.

Dave passed away a little over two weeks ago. He was a New York State Trooper and killed in a car accident while conducting a routine traffic stop. He was my best friend and the love of my life. I adored him and he adored me. Our marriage was wonderful. My heart is broken. For the first time in 18 years, he is not here to ring in the new year with me. I feel so alone without him. 

So my New Year's resolution is to make Dave proud of me! I'm going to do what he had been encouraging me to do for years. I'd love to think I'd post every day, but now that I'm a single parent, it might be a couple of times a week.

The layout featured at the top of this post is one of my favorites. It was a kit from Embellish It! and all I had to do was put it together and add the pictures. The photos were the last "official" family portraits taken of us by Hannah Balta of HB Photography, in December 2012. 

What I love about this layout is the saying at the bottom of the right page, "All because two people fell in love." Dave and I were very much in love. I still am . . . .