Sunday, May 24, 2009

We love painting murals

If you asked Brooks what his favorite subject matter to paint is he would tell you murals. And if the truth be told it was a mural that was the gateway into the faux painting business for us. When we were dating he would draw cartoons for me on cocktail napkins. I was definitely impressed and could tell he had some raw talent. His favorite recurring character was a cowboy smoking a cigarette. It became kind of his signature character like Charles Schultz's Snoopy. So fast forward, we had been married a couple of years and were expecting twins. When it came time to plan the nursery, Brooks decided he would paint a mural. We decided on a circus theme since we knew the next few years of our lives would be total chaos trying to care for two babies. I was a little apprehensive and secretly hoped that no one in the mural would be wearing a cowboy hat or smoking a cigarette.

Oh ye of little faith; I was completely surprised by the final product and I am including a picture of it here. This mural was the start of all things Faux Daddy. People who visited our house started asking if he could paint something for them, they started telling their friends and word got out. We are always happy when we get calls and referrals for murals. It reminds us of where it all began. Brooks recently completed some murals and I have included some pictures of those as well. And you'll be happy to know that no one is wearing a cowboy hat or smoking a cigarette.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tribute to a life changing teacher

Today is the last day of school. This would normally be a day full of angst and anxiety for me. Our son, Zane has severe autism. He is non verbal and has many behaviors that would cause the most skilled and patient teacher to run for the hills. Today I feel compelled to tell everyone what a fabulous teacher my son Zane has had this year. He attends Walnut Grove Elementary in Franklin, TN and by the grace of God has had the best school year of his life under the guidance of Mrs. Karen Wight.
I should have known this would be an extraordinary year when I was told last year that there was a second grade teacher who had actually requested to have Zane in her class. At the time last year that she requested him he had some very severe behaviors including running out of the classroom into other classrooms and disturbing classes in progress. He would also throw himself in the floor and lay there knowing that the teachers were not allowed to pick him up. Because he could not sit in his seat for more than two minutes he spent most of his day in the special ed classroom. He had no consistent method of communication. Although I was relieved that a teacher had requested him, I was hesitant because I didn't think she knew what was in store for her in the coming year.
Throughout the course of this year and the intervention of Karen Wight my son now spends most of his day in the regular classroom. He can sit in his seat for extended periods of time. He can actively participate in class through modifications put in place by Mrs. Wight. He is typing spontaneously thoughts on the computer. For the first time he is able to express some independent thoughts. She regularly takes him on walks around the school to visit other teacher's classrooms which has eliminated the running and the throwing himself in the floor. This teacher who had a classroom of 21 kids saw my son as a person not as a child with autism. She saw that he was capable of learning and she didn't stop until she found a way to make him show her what he was learning.
She was a great communicator and for the first time in Zane's academic life I actually knew what he was accomplishing on a daily basis. I cherished her e-mails and have them saved in a file. She was also journaling about her year with Zane. It is my hope that one day we can co-author a book on how to love and educate a child with autism. Here are some experts from her e-mails:
"On one last happy note, Zane and I were talking/playing on the rug today. We were goofing around with the word walls and he was spelling his name. I was lifting him up to spell Tucker and he had the sweetest smile. When we finished I told him that I knew today was a rough day for him and that tomorrow would be better. He instantly said "Yes." When I told him that I knew he was a smart little boy and that I hope tomorrow there would be better choices, he said yes again on his own. These are the moments that make it all worthwhile!"
"He had a fantastic day today! He was so focused and worked so well with me. I don’t know where to start because so many good things happened today. We worked together in math especially and he did so well. We spent a little time on money and he knows how much each coin is. He isn’t to the point of being able to add the coins up in his head that I can tell, but it’s a matter of time. He did do some two digit addition and got it right every time. Amazing. We read together for fun and he answered questions."
"As I’ve said all year, I feel that Zane has made me a better teacher by pushing me and I’m so grateful for that. It’s been an honor to have him in my class this year! "
So, usually around this time of year as I said I would be very anxious about the summer and also about getting a new teacher for next year who would have to take several months to get up to speed on Zane and his learning style. This year I received the most unexpected blessing. Mrs. Wight has made arrangements to move up to third grade and she is taking the whole class with her. She has also offered to work with Zane on her own time this summer to make sure he doesn't lose any of his skills he has acquired this year. She says that this is the most caring and compassionate class that she has ever had. I say it is due to her leadership and example and I am unbelievably moved by her decision to move to third grade and give these children another year of herself. The lives of these children and their families will be forever changed.
Raising a child with severe autism along with his sister who has mild autism is the hardest thing we have ever been tasked with. Our faith and God's divine intervention are the only things that are seeing us through this journey full of bumps, struggles and disappointments. My mom reminded me this morning that God has given us a chance through Zane to be extraordinary. If we didn't have life with autism we would just be ordinary. The Lord knows how often I get on my knees and pray for "ordinary". I am sent reminders on a daily basis that God has his hand in this and he will see us through. He is also working through us to change the lives of people who come into contact with us along the way and we are humbled.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Paint your laminate cabinets

No, you are not stuck with white laminate cabinets. When we moved into our house almost 8 years ago I wanted an all white kitchen. This was very much the trend back then. Homes were advertised as having "white kitchens". We moved from a very dark, boxy, log cabin. Everything in the cabin was wood or brown. So, when we were looking for a new house I was dead set on an open floor plan and a "white kitchen". I got my wish. After 6 years of living with my "white kitchen" I was ready for a little drama, a little warmth and intrigue. I scoured home design magazines and watched HGTV looking for inspiration. I settled upon a tobacco stain look for my kitchen cabinets. Paint products have come a long way in the last couple of years. Everyone told me that you couldn't paint over laminate cabinets. I am here to tell you that you can paint them and that with a little elbow grease or the right painting contractor you can have a whole new look and feel to your kitchen without a huge investment.

The first step is to thoroughly clean the cabinets with a degreaser. Years of cooking in the kitchen can build up layers of grease on your cabinets. You need to clean that off or the paint wont stick. Remove and label your doors so you know where to put them back when you are finished. Next you apply a really good primer. There is a product called Prime Etch that is a saviour for laminate cabinets. Next apply your base coat. Then apply some tobacco stain glaze in the corners and grooves of the cabinets. Let dry and apply a top layer protective coat like a non yellowing polyurethane. Make sure not to skip this last step. Kitchen cabinets take a lot of abuse. To ensure that they stay looking fabulous for years to come make sure you give them that final layer of protection. This project will cost about $500 if you do it yourself. If you hire a faux painting contractor the price will start at about $2500 depending on the number of cabinets in your kitchen. So for about a fifth of the cost of new cabinets you can transform your kitchen. Don't forget to change out the cabinet hardware for a complete up to date look.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bringing the Ocean Home

My family should relocate to the ocean. To be more specific, Seagrove Beach, on Highway 30A in Florida is our happy place. We discovered this little gem of an escape about 7 years ago before the twins' second birthday. It is a little piece of heaven that is unspoiled by high rises and tourists. It is a place where my slightly dysfunctional family can blend into the environment and enjoy the outdoors without the skeptical eye of the commercial vacationer. Zane tends to make a lot of noise, run away from us and eat a little sand. We can achieve a semblance of privacy and security on this stretch of beach that has been unattainable to us on any other type of vacation. It was this beach where we ventured out to our first dinner in a restaurant as a family. This beach where we allowed him to roam further than 5 feet away from us without worrying whether or not he would come back. And this beach where he willingly wore his first Halloween costume and attended his first Halloween party.

There are a lot of firsts for my family at this beach. It always feels like we belong there every year when we venture back. I always want to bring a piece of the beach home with me when we go. I have collected shells and local art that I have incorporated into the decor of our home to remind me of our happy place. Now, I want to share with you my new favorite room in my house. Brooks has created a "beach room" in our house to extend that happy feeling year round. I hope you will be inspired and get some ideas you can incorporate into your own "happy place". Better yet, come for a visit and we will put you up in ours.