Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Gray Rider

Here's another layout featuring my Zach Attack, this time he's dressed up and posing. I snapped these pictures of him outside of the NYS Police Academy. It was May 6, 2014, and they were adding Dave's name to a memorial in Albany, recognizing all law enforcement officers from a NY agency who died in the line duty. Poor Caleb was pretty sick and could not attend, and Zach was upset because he had to go! Once he saw The Gray Rider he enjoyed performing for Mommy. I got some great shots of him, and the oversize Stetson is just too cute!

Handmade Embellishments
I went all out on this layout and even did some hand stitching to mimic the look of the pattern paper. The navy blue color scheme worked with the colors in the photos and fit the somber occasion. 

When Zach saw the statue and went into the Academy and saw Daddy's picture on the wall he told me he wanted to be a trooper. Granted he was only five, and he can change his mind many times over, but the thought doesn't scare me. Somehow I think that Dave would want me to encourage him in this. Dave LOVED being a trooper, and the State Police certainly have been good to me and the boys. I would be very proud to have Zach be a trooper and I know Dave would be too.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Bouquet for Mommy

This layout just makes me smile! My little Zach Attack picked some yellow weeds and was so proud to bring me this bouquet. I had to take his picture and I love this cheesy smile. It's so sweet and I made a whole layout around this one photo.

Title Treatment
I like mixing and matching different different sizes and sticker fonts. It adds some interest to the title, emphasizes important words, and it stretches my "stash". Another way I try to stretch my stash is to use shapes to replace letters, such as the heart for the "o" in Mommy. I've also been known to cut stickers apart and piece them together to create letters I may have already used. For example, I will cut a "d" down to be an "a", or cut apart a "x" to make apostrophes.

Photo Close Up
I love layering stickers. In this layout I created a border of daisy stickers to mimic Zach's bouquet. To make it "flow" with the layout I glued the photo down on one daisy and then adhered some of the flowers on top of the photo. The more I scrapbook, the more I realize that attention to little details really make a difference in the overall page design.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Mommy's Heart

I think every layout I do is special, but some are just a little bit more special than others. This is one of those layouts.

When we were in Washington DC for Police Week, I was very insistent that we go to the FDR Memorial. Dave and I had gone there in 1997, the first year the exhibit was open. They later added the statute of Franklin Roosevelt in a wheelchair. Dave and I wanted to take Caleb there. 

Caleb was diagnosed with SMA when he was two years old. Once he was old enough I started reading him biographies of people with disabilities who went on to do great things - Louis Braille (who was blind), Beethoven (who was deaf), Helen Keller (who was deaf and blind), and Franklin Roosevelt (who couldn't walk because of polio) - just to name a few. Dave and I knew that Caleb would have physical limitations, but we wanted to consistently expose him to those who overcame their physical disabilities. I know he doesn't understand right now, but I'm hoping one day his story will be inspiring. I know he can do great things!

Something really awesome happened when we visited. This statute, which is the only one of its kind depicting FDR in a wheelchair, was right at the entrance to the memorial and a tour guide was actually speaking to a group when Caleb and Zach first saw it. Caleb and Zach went racing to the statute, not caring at all about the audience, with excited shouts of, "Look, Mommy! He's in a wheelchair."I hung back trying to get their attention when I noticed that several people in the group started taking pictures of the boys looking at the statute. I actually teared up a little. I was so proud of my boys, and I have a feeling Caleb might have inspired a few people . . . . I wish Dave could have shared this moment and overwhelming emotion with me.

Journaling Close Up

I scrapbook to capture memories of my boys - I don't want to forget the important moments. A lot of times in my journaling, I write to the boys. I like to tell them what I was thinking, or why Dave and I did the things we did. Maybe one day they will read all my "love notes" to them. I'm so far from a perfect mother or even the mother I want to be. Being thrown into single parenting has created so much stress and I can't do everything Dave and I had planned. I hope, despite the tragedy the three of us have suffered when we lost Daddy, the boys will know how much their parents adored them - that's why I write to them, and a big reason why I scrapbook.

Embellishment Close Up

Hearts made the perfect embellishments for this layout. But I wanted them to stand out. So I took pattern paper scraps and embossed them using The Stamps of Life swirl embossing folder then inked the edges. I adhered them using foam adhesive to add dimension.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Together We Will Find a CURE

This is a layout near and dear to my heart. One thing our family is passionate about is funding medical research for a treatment and cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Dave and I became chapter leaders for CURE SMA (formally Families of SMA) and host a annual 5K / Walk-n-Roll. We promised Caleb that we would not stop until there was a cure for him, and we agreed as a family that we wanted to raise (at least) $1 Million for CURE SMA. No parent should have to sit and hear what we were told, "No treatment. No cure."

Because the day of the event is so crazy, I asked one of my students, Hannah Balta, to come and photograph the event. She donated her time and took some awesome pictures that are definitely scrapbook worthy!

Not only did I have awesome photos to scrap, but I used a lot of fun techniques and am very pleased with the results.

Balloon Bouquets
I used a die from The Stamps of Life to cut balloons out of CURE SMA's colors - orange and purple. I love how they mimic the balloons attached to Caleb's chair. I played around to get a good "grouping". I adhered some directly to the page and then used foam squares on a few balloons to give some dimension to the bouquet. I hand drew the strings then stitched them in black floss.

Title Treatment
I typically use letter stickers from my (plentiful and ever growing) stash, but I shopped for special stickers to match my "vision" for this layout. To make the word CURE stand out, I actually took this photo of my t-shirt to Michael's and found the closest font and color match. I then used simple black stickers for the rest of the title. I placed CURE on the page first to give it prominence and then fit the other letter stickers around it.

Overlapping Photos
I love fitting multiple photos on my page, and the best way to do that is find pictures I can crop down and overlap. I used to think making a photo smaller somehow made it "less important", but I have found that just the opposite happens. It can actually draw more attention to the little details that might get overlooked otherwise. Here the cropped photos highlight a sign my cousin made, Caleb racing his friend, Joe, and a contemplative Caleb.

As long as there is SMA, the Cunniff family will not stop working towards a treatment and cure! That was something Dave was passionate about, and we will carry on not only for Caleb and those battling SMA, but to honor Dave's memory.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Kisses for Mommy

 I love this scrapbook layout!! I don't get to "do" pink and frilly with two boys and an abundance of nephews, but when I saw these photos my Mom took, I knew this was going to be a girly looking page.

We were in Washington DC for Police Week and while waiting for our lunch to come, Zach decided he had to give me some kisses. It was so impromptu and so sweet!

I used a a sketch from Scrapbook Generation - my go to source for inspiration. Then I used papers, stickers and embellishments from all the same paper collection - Simple Stories' Vintage Bliss.

Scrapbooking Tips:
This is one of my go-to techniques - layering stickers. I placed the heart and small flower stickers where I wanted them. Then I placed an adhesive foam square on the back of the larger sticker. I then dusted the back of the sticker with baby powder to keep it from sticking. By only adhering it with a foam square I added some dimension. 

I mimicked the layered circle and sticker embellishments for my journaling spot. This time I adhered a flower sticker directly to the heart sticker, then "popped" it up. In keeping with the totally girly vibe, I used little hearts in place of the o's in the word "love".

Photo Close Up:

Zach told me he wanted to, "Kiss me like Daddy did." It warmed my heart that he remembers Dave being affectionate with me. Dave was such an amazing role model. I'm so sad that the boys won't be able to watch him as they grow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hello My Friend!

Me with Stephanie Barnard
Okay, for some of you part of this story may be repetitive, but keep reading because it becomes even better!!!

In April of 2013 I attended a Creating Keepsakes Convention (CKC) and took a class with Stephanie Barnard from The Stamps of Life. She designs clear stamps and dies. I had always attempted to stamp for card making, but just didn't seem to get the "knack". After taking her class, I fell in love with her products and spent the rest of my birthday money at her booth AND joined her monthly stamp club.

I came home and became thoroughly addicted to stamping and her products. The Stamps of Life website also has a ton of videos with Stephanie demonstrating how to use her products, sharing stamping techniques and projects, answering questions, and "Life with Stephanie" videos where she shares personal stories. She starts every video by saying, "Hello my friends!" I would spread out my supplies on the dining room table and watch video after video while getting my hands all inky.

Well, Dave never missed an opportunity to pick on me, and my new found addiction gave him plenty of opportunities. He would walk through the dining room, mimicking Stephanie's perky, "Hello my friends!" He would then tease me by saying, "You really think you're friends!" At that point I would either stick out my tongue at him or turn up the volume on my iPad.

When December rolled around, Dave asked me to print out The Stamps of Life checklist and circle any stamp sets or tools that I would want for Christmas. Then December 16th happened and I lost Dave. The day of Dave's viewing I came home to find a box from The Stamps of Life and I broke down and sobbed. I knew that was Dave's Christmas gift to me. I put the box under the tree just as it was.

On Christmas morning, I opened my last gift from David, and as I took out every stamp set and my awesome magnetic platform for my Sizzix die cutting machine I started crying. Then I heard Dave's voice echoing through my head, "Hello my friends . . ." and in spite of the tears, I couldn't help but laugh.

A couple of weeks later, still in the fog of grief and depression, I went on The Stamps of Life website and wrote a note telling Stephanie this story, and how her videos had brought some much needed rays of sunshine in some very dark days. In mid January my phone rang and it was Stephanie! I couldn't believe it and I smiled for days. She had read my email and wanted to call me to let me know that her and her family (who are also believers) were praying for me. I told her I would be at CKC in April and she asked me to introduce myself and that's where I took the selfie I shared here. I met one of my crafting "heroes" and it was a genuine highlight for me.

Fast forward to today. . . for the first time in a long time, I broke down and just sobbed. Not cried, but snotty nose, blotchy face sobbed. I was missing Dave and I just lost it. After I had calmed down I was sitting on my bed getting ready to play some mind-numbing Candy Crush when my phone rang. "Amy? This is Stephanie Barnard. . . "

I couldn't believe it!! "I was just driving and God brought you to my mind. I wanted to see how you were doing and let you know I was praying for you." WOW!! I told her how I had just been crying and we both agreed that God was amazing at how, just when I needed it the most, Stephanie was lead to pray for me. 

Once again, my friend made me smile. I can't wait to see Dave in heaven and tell him, "See, she really is my friend!" God is so good! In the midst of heart wrenching pain he sent an unexpected blessing. I'm still smiling . . . .

(I've included pictures of some of the cards I've made using The Stamps of Life products so you can see just how awesome Stephanie's products are!)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Life Goes On . . . .

I haven't been blogging much . . . it's been a few crazy months with very little time left to scrapbook or craft . . . so I thought I would show you what the boys and I have been doing. (Scrapbook layouts to follow later this year!)

Walking & Rolling for a Cure

The boys and I at the Walk-n-Roll

Caleb & George Whalen crossing the finish line - Caleb cut him off yet again to be the first to cross the finish line!

This past September we held our 3rd annual 5K / Walk & Roll for Cure SMA. This was bittersweet. Dave always did a huge amount of the planning and work for this event, but I know that he would be very proud, despite the pain, I carried on, but it was worth it because we're $25,000 closer to a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy! We also renamed the event to honor Dave - it's now the Trooper Cunniff 5K / Walk-n-Roll.

Counting Our Blessings
Caleb wearing Zach's turkey hat. . . Gobble Gobble

Mommy & Zach

Mommy, Caleb, and Zach with Nana & Papa

This was our first Thanksgiving without Dave, and poor Zach had a hard time. In 2013, Dave and I went to Zach's Thanksgiving Feast at school, and Dave volunteered to carve the turkey. The week before this year's Thanksgiving feast, I got a call from Zach's teacher. Apparently when they started talking about the feast Zach raised his hand and said, "Mrs. M., my daddy won't be able to 'harve' the turkey this year because he died." I had no idea he even remembered the Thanksgiving before, let alone Dave 'harving' the turkey. Mrs. M.'s solution was to have Zach ask Papa if he would come and carve this year's turkey. It still didn't stop Zach from talking about Daddy, but at least it got him through the feast.

This episode made me realize that the boys and I needed some new traditions to make it through the holiday season. Instead of cooking, we went to our favorite restaurant, TOPS Diner, for Thanksgiving dinner. Dave and I often joked that TOPS was our "home away from home" so when one of our favorite waitresses suggested we spend Thanksgiving with them, it just seemed "right". There were tears, but in spite of my broken heart, I still had many blessing to count.

Thanksgiving Feast 2013 - Dave "harving" the turkey

Getting Ready for Christmas & Starting New Traditions

Snoopy made his appearance on December 1st

Our new blue icicle lights . . . in honor of Daddy.

Christmas Morning 2014
My face may be smiling, but my heart was breaking.
Even though this past year was our second Christmas without Dave, 2014 was the first time that I had to prepare and decorate for Christmas without him. It was another painful first for me - having to pull out the ornaments and decorations that we had collected over 14 years of marriage and relive all the memories without him.

Some traditions we kept the same, like putting up the tree right after Thanksgiving, going to our church's Christmas Eve service, and making our chocolate dipped OREO cookies. But some things I changed to start new traditions for our family. For example, we strung blue icicle lights instead of Dave's preferred white exterior lighting. At first I didn't think I could bring myself to do the outside lighting - Dave had always loved doing that job. But I changed it - I bought blue lights to represent the Thin Blue Line, which represents law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. We did that to honor Daddy.

Another new tradition we started was the Elf on the Shelf. I don't know who had more fun, the boys looking for the elf each morning, or me finding new ways to hide Snoopy. I didn't do anything too outrageous this year, but I'm already finding cool ideas on Pintrest for next year! 

Appearing on The TODAY Show

Frank Squeo arriving to give the boys some big news!

"You're going to Disney World!"

Me and my "Big Brothers"

December brought the first anniversary of Dave's death, but also some really fun news for the boys. Shortly after Dave's death, Sgt. Dollard was contacted by Frank Sqeuo of Baking Memories 4 Kids. He had seen Dave's funeral on TV and noticed that Caleb was in a wheelchair. He founded an organization that gives trips to kids battling life threatening illnesses. When he saw our story he wanted to give us a trip to Disney, Universal Studios and LEGO Land!

On December 12th he came to our house, along with the local media, a producer from the TODAY show and Dave's co workers to tell the boys they were Florida bound. It was so exciting to watch the boys get some amazing news. We leave in March and while I'm already planning the photo ops and scrapbooks, the boys can not wait to meet Darth Vader and do some Jedi training at Hollywood Studios!

Memorial Services
Sgt. Dollard and Scott with us at the Elks Club, where both boys were presented with a medal in Dave's honor.
I am very honored by all the organizations who honored Dave this past year in various memorial services. I am so grateful for everyone who honored Dave's sacrifice, and as I grieve his loss it helps to know that others remember him. Every service brings the now familiar twinges of pain, but usually there are troopers near by, who have been a tremendous support this past year. They have cried and laughed with me and I now better understand why Dave loved going to work!

Dave's Dream
The most exciting event of this past few months, but also one of the most painful, is seeing Dave's dream become a reality. Dave wanted to build a one level, handicap accessible house to make life easier for Caleb, and for us to care for him. It's been amazing to watch The Amedore Group build Dave's dream house, but I wish he was here to see it.

Our new house takes shape.

Picking out the siding, shutters and stone work for the exterior - I knew just what Dave wanted!

Our kitchen flooring, cabinets and countertops

The roof is on. . . 

. . . and the rooms are framed!

The boys are "super" excited!!

Dave always wanted some type of stonework.

Our new kitchen . . . with a handicap accessible island.

Our new living room . . . complete with the fireplace Dave wanted.

Moving day is fast approaching and I have begun the painful process of packing up the last home Dave and I shared together. I keep finding guitar picks all over the house - each one makes me smile and then I break down and cry because I know that there won't be any strewn about the new house. It's reassuring that the floor plan was one that Dave picked out, and I will always be grateful that he talked so much about what he wanted. I know everything is exactly as Dave would have it.

So this is why my blog has been silent . . . . but not any more. With all the exciting things that have happened and are,coming up, I have a lot of material to "scrap". In the meantime, while my scrapbook supplies are *gasp* packed for the move, I've taken pictures of pages to post. So here's to life going on . . .