Brendan’s Brain Balance Journey: Part 2

“THE VALLEY”

It’s been one month since Brendan started the Brain Balance program!  We had our official one month evaluation meeting last Friday, and I’ll tell you, I was a little nervous to hear his results so far – not because we haven’t seen improvement, because we have for sure, but it’s also been a very tough first month.  We’re in a phase the program calls “The Valley.”

During our first consultation after deciding to start the program (see Part 1 of Brendan’s Brain Balance Journey) they told us about “the valley” phase that usually starts within a few weeks of starting the program.

“The Valley” is a time of regression that naturally occurs when the child starts to use the weaker side of his/her brain that hasn’t been exercised very much and now, all of a sudden, it’s being exercised every day.  It wears them out mentally and emotionally!

With in the first week of exercises (twice a day, once before school and once before bed) and going to the center three times a week, I started noticing Brendan being tired and grumpy right after his sessions.  He would want to go home and play with his friends, but in the first half an hour of playing, he’d be done (usually ending in some sort of emotional outburst).  One day he actually said he wanted his friend to go home because he was tired.

BRENDAN DOING HIS DAILY EXERCISES – The Starfish
Snow Angels
The Cat
The Cannon Ball

By the end of his second week of the program, he started having trouble controlling his emotions in school, which he didn’t really have trouble with before.  His teachers contacted me and asked if the program may be affecting his behavior and they were concerned about their “usually sweet Brendan” acting out in class.  This was when it hit me that we had definitely entered “The Valley” stage.

I asked the program director about how long kids are normally in “The Valley” stage and she said usually between 4 to 6 weeks.  So we were definitely in the middle of it!

Even though Brendan has had a regression in controlling his behavior and emotions, we have also seen glimpses of progression peeking through here and there, which has been very encouraging!

Here are a few progressive changes we’ve noticed:

  • better eye contact and more often
  • talking more freely to others, like when adults address him, and even went up to one of my friends the other day and said hello to her!  That was HUGE!
  • sleeping more soundly and mostly through the night
  • wetting bed a lot less
  • was able to sit through sister’s entire chorus concert and wanted to go!
  • seems to be picking up conversation better, like joking and sarcasm
  • is expressing his feelings with more words
  • seems to understand consequences better

Again, these are just a few and we’ve had to pick them out amongst the emotional outbursts he’s been having.  He definitely has more frequent angry episodes that stem from being embarrassed by something or someone being “rude” to him, then it takes a long time for him to get over it.

“The Valley” is tough.  There are so many changes going on that it is completely understandable, but emotionally draining for all involved.

Not only was Brendan’s schedule changing, but I was also following the program nutrition guide of changing over his diet.  The first week we changed his breakfast and AM snack.  The second week I included his lunch and afternoon snack and by the end of the month, he is now gluten free, dye free and sugar free.  (He is mostly dairy free, but I’m waiting until this last week of school is over so I can fully regulate it).

Brendan had a really hard time with this because he loves to buy his lunches at school and by the end of week two I was packing everything for him to take.  He was also having to take vitamins every day (we’re giving him Juice Plus right now), which he doesn’t like.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way for coping with “The Valley” stage:

  • BE CALM //
    If I and my husband remain calm, it helps Brendan not escalate emotionally.  If Brendan has an emotional outburst, he needs to be in a dimly lit room, and less talking is better (talking actually initiates the left brain, which acts as the gas pedal).  Heavy hugs are good too!
  • BE FLEXIBLE //
    At first I was doing everything according to schedule and started to push when Brendan didn’t want to do his exercises first thing in the morning.  But after an explosive morning at the beginning of week three, I told him he can have two flex times but they’d have to be done on Sunday instead.
  • STILL GIVE CONSEQUENCES //
    He still needs to know when he’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing and he needs consequences for those actions.  But keep them small so you have somewhere to go.  We now take away 5 minutes of electronic time for things like hitting, yelling at someone, being disrespectful, etc.
  • ALLOW ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT //
    We found if we took away all electronics for the day at once, there was no room for him to improve his behavior and he would throw an enormous tantrum!
    We were told to use phrases like “that’s not it” or “try again” or “that’s not appropriate” instead of “no!”  It allows the child a moment to regroup, get it right and learn to make better or more appropriate choices when speaking or acting.  Brendan has responded really well to this.
  • INCENTIVES HELP //
    By the end of week two, Brendan was getting tired of the routine.  I found a few small things he liked and told him if he did his exercises, took his vitamins without grumping and didn’t complain about taking his lunch to school, he could pick out a prize on Sunday.  He seemed to like this and it’s gone well so far.

The exciting thing is that Brendan’s 1 month evaluation went well!  He was showing improvement in several areas, especially in his auditory reception!  They told us they like to see a 1 to 2 level increase in each area per month.

Brendan’s First Month Results:

VISUAL STIMULATION //  (+0.9 LEVELS)

Including the ability to track objects, to adjust to light, and focus as objects move toward and away from us.

STARTING
75%
1 MONTH
81.6%

 

AUDITORY STIMULATION // (+4.0 LEVELS)

STIMULATION – detecting sounds

STARTING
33%
1 MONTH
66.6%

PROCESSING – interpreting Sounds

STARTING
12.5%
1 MONTH
100%

 

TACTILE STIMULATION //  (+3.0 LEVELS)

Sensitivity to touch, temperature, etc. equally on both sizes of the body.

STARTING
12.5%
1 MONTH
50%

 

SENSORY MOTOR //  (+2.5 LEVELS)

CORE STIMULATION – stability of the body’s movements as well as setting the baseline processing speed of the brain.

STARTING
21.8%
1 MONTH
53.1%

FINE MOTOR – coordinating the use of hands and fingers as well as other small muscles.

STARTING
75%
1 MONTH
100%

BODY AWARENESS & EQUILIBRIUM – perceiving body position & the ability to perceive movement to position of body in space.

STARTING
43.8%
1 MONTH
50%

 

RHYTHM & TIMING //  (+1.5 LEVELS)

SYNCHRONIZATION – getting both sides of the body to work together to do complex activities like riding a bike, jumping, skipping, dancing, etc.

STARTING
31.3%
1 MONTH
50%

I was so excited to see the progress he was making in numbers and on paper in front of me.  Again, I could see glimpses of things changing, but with the regression happening as well, sometimes it was hard to see.

One thing I was told is that the SENSORY MOTOR SKILLS tend to progress later on in the program and are more affected by the Primitive Reflexes, which is why those exercises are so important to do every day.  Brendan was able to drop one of the reflex exercises (for Rooting Reflex, which affects articulation, face sensitivity, messy eating and dexterity)!

I am looking forward to moving into the next month and hoping to pull out of “The Valley” soon, and be able to start enjoying Brendan as he progresses even more!

Brendan’s Brain Balance Journey: Part 1

(Warning!  This is a lengthy post!)

I actually went back and forth in my head about even posting this, but our journey with our son, Brendan, has been a huge part of what has sculpted our family environment over the past four to five years.  And I’ll be honest up front – we have not “tried everything out there” as far as finding help for our son and our family, but I feel like we have found something that we hope will make a huge difference in Brendan’s life as well as our every day family dynamics.

We’ve recently decided to take the Brain Balance plunge, which is a huge one given the financial cost of it (which was honestly the biggest factor in us not pursuing it earlier than we did)!  But when you read on, I think you’ll understand why we felt like the proposed benefits would outweigh the financial commitment.

For once we feel HOPEFUL – hopeful for our son to feel “normal” and for us to actually be able to help our son be the best he can be!  (This makes me tear up every time I think about it!)

When I tell people we’ve decided to take Brendan to Brain Balance, I get several questions.  The first being,  “How do you know he needs help?  Has he been diagnosed?  I had no idea!”

If you saw our family from the outside, you might not pick Brendan out has having any sort of behavioral disorders.  And even his teachers say how wonderful, sweet and smart he is!  But close family and family friends know what we’ve been going through since he was about 4 yrs old.

Brendan is a twin.  He and his sister, Bailey, were only 3.5 weeks early and as far a c-sections go, I would have done it again in a heart-beat!  WAY easier than my first two deliveries!  And they didn’t need to go to the NICU at all.  Everything seemed to be going well for my two sweet twinners!  Very healthy!

As the twins got older, I tried not to compare them and their milestones.  I had been told many times that boys are usually slower than girls to develop.  And he was my first and only boy, so it was all new to me anyway.  Brendan was a little slower to start crawling than Bailey, slower to walk and slower to talk – much slower.

By the time Brendan was around 2 years old, I felt like he wasn’t making eye-contact very well and because he was slower with his words, I wondered if he wasn’t hearing well.  So I had him checked out at the audiologist – they said he could hear just fine.

Brendan was always a smiley baby and usually in a good mood.

As Brendan started speaking, I noticed he had a harder time talking and getting his words out than his sister.  This turned into an almost stutter (more like he couldn’t get his first words out) by the time he got into preschool.

He also was prone to yelling when he couldn’t get his words out or communicate the way he wanted.  I guess it was the quickest way to communicate especially when he didn’t like something or when one if his sisters were bossing him around!  But it happened so much that I was worried about how he’d act in the classroom.

To my surprise, he did very well in the classroom and his teachers loved him!  But he has also been a very smart kid.  He would memorize things quickly and started to read at an early age.  Even now, he just blurts out multiplication and division facts (they haven’t done that yet in 2nd grade).

So while Brendan was very smart (we nicknamed him “rain man”), he had a few other things going on that led me to getting him tested through the school system.  These things included:

  • a sensitivity to touch (he didn’t like the sand or his shirt being wet)
  • his speech getting worse
  • being stressed out in crowded or noisy environments (like at a birthday party, I’d have to take him into a room by himself sometimes)
  • obsessing about things and not letting them go (like wanting the entire collection of Skylanders, video game characters, and talking about it NON-STOP!)
  • asking me the same questions repeatedly as if he didn’t just ask it 2 minutes ago
  • needing simple instructions repeated several times and maybe getting one part of it done or not at all

After being tested, we were told that he was “very high-functioning autistic” and had some auditory processing issues, but that visually he did pretty well.  That was when we were able to get him an IEP and we now have yearly meetings at the school.

Academically, kindergarten and first grade were a breeze for him since he was good at memorizing math facts and remembering beginner words and reading those words.  And thankfully, the kids in his classes didn’t seem to be bothered by or notice his speech issues.  Last year we were told he might even test out of having an IEP but that we’d check into it at the beginning of second grade.  This worried me a little.  I wondered if differences might start showing up as he got older.

And I was right!  Thank God they didn’t take away his IEP because this year, second grade, has been very difficult for Brendan and for us trying to help him!  And it’s gotten to the point that my husband I felt like we needed to look elsewhere for help and quickly!

The differences we noticed this year were:

  • low test scores
  • lower reading class level than his sister (which is odd because he reads 4th grade level books at home and Bailey reads 2nd grade level books)
  • struggles with fine motor skill like tying his shoes or his hand-writing, which is really bad, still with lack of correct spacing and punctuation
  • struggles with peer interaction – they’ve started to look at him like what’s wrong with that guy?  He doesn’t care if his peers are around when he “freaks out” or throws a fit – it doesn’t embarrass him or he doesn’t think about it.
  • “freaking out” at home when anyone corrects him or if he gets in trouble – like a HUGE tantrum where he has to climb up “mad mountain” then come back down.
  • gets angry easily and has a hard time controlling his emotions or his words
  • has trouble with ideas like “opinion vs. fact” or how to form full sentences with a complete thought.
  • lacks coordination with his body a lot
  • still has a very hard time expressing himself verbally then gets upset when he can’t get his words out or he feels like people aren’t listening to him
  • lacking social skills that should be more obvious at his age

The hardest thing we’ve had to deal with, really in just the last few months, has been his lack of self-worth and feeling “different” and feeling like he gets in trouble all the time.  He’s been very down on himself and he feels like his peers think there’s something wrong with him.  He comes home and says things like, “I’m so dumb!  Everyone thinks I’m an idiot!  Everyone hates me!”

But the thing that broke my heart and really made me feel desperate was when I went into his bedroom a few weeks ago and saw he had written “YOU SUCK” on his own mirror!  I asked him about it and he said, “What?  It’s about me, not someone else.”  And I once again went into how he should never say those things and how much we love him and how God made him special, but what do you really say that they’ll listen to if they already feel that way about themselves…and he’s only 8!!!

So that’s where we were a few weeks ago with Brendan, and that’s when we started to feel desperate about getting him help.  I started to feel like there had to be something out there that would be more than just “coping” with Brendan’s “issues” (for lack of a better word) and teaching him tactics for his behavior.

Now it was not only affecting our family with his constant anger outbursts, but also his self-worth and it has been hard to see my very smart boy struggle in school.

I was talking to a friend around this same time who told me about how her daughters had been tested at chiropractor’s office for “primitive reflexes” and went into what they are and that there are exercises to do at home to help get rid of them.  She recommended the book “Disconnected Kids” by Dr. Robert Melillo that talks all about the reflexes and exercises.  So I immediately went out and bought the book!

“Disconnected Kids” was so eye-opening for me!  Everything Dr. Melillo was talking about described what we had been dealing with and how Brendan was probably feeling, and the biggest idea was that it can be FIXED, not just coped with!

The main concept of the Brain Balance Program is that there are two sides to your brain: the LEFT SIDE and the RIGHT SIDE.  These two sides should work together equally and compliment each other, constantly communicating with strong neuropathways.  But if one side is stronger than the other, the strong side gets tired out and the weak side lags behind.  The signals between the two sides are weak and signals are missed and erratic.  This causes an imbalance in skills (extreme strengths and weaknesses) and starts to affect the ability to learn, make friends, control emotions, coordinate motor skills and comprehend the “big picture.”

After reading the book, I realized Brendan was LEFT BRAIN DOMINANT, RIGHT BRAIN WEAK.  There were so many symptoms that described how Brendan was behaving!  I also wondered if he had any “primitive reflexes” remaining (reflexes babies are born with to help them “survive,” but should be released once the brain is strong enough, usually within the first year of life).  If primitive reflexes are still present, the brain cannot mature as well.

My husband and I talked it over and decided to take Brendan in to our local Brain Balance center for a commitment-free evaluation.  It was $200 but we thought at least we’d get some answers then we could check around into our options.  (And I could give up buying a few things at Target for that price! )

The results were very eye-opening for both me and my husband!  As I suspected, they said that Brendan was RIGHT BRAIN WEAK.  But here’s what they told me that we didn’t know:

  • Thankfully all right-side dominant (right foot, right hand, right eye, right ear)
  • Several primitive reflexes are still present, three of which are strong, three that are moderate (out of 8 possible).
  • His visual perception is functioning at 42% (his visual focus at only 7%!  This is not about eye sight – we just had his eyes checked and he’s 20/20)
  • His visual processing at 55%
  • His hearing/auditory processing only at 38%!
  • His sense of smell is at a 68% processing level
  • His math fluency is that of a 6th grader!  But his listening comprehension is that of a Kindergartener!

They told us over-all, Brendan’s Left Brain is functioning between 8-10 years old, while his Right Brain is functioning like a 4-5 year old.

After hearing these results, and also looking into the positive testing results of the program (85%!), my husband and I decided to go for it!  We looked into doing exercises at home or even at a chiropractors office that specialize in the primitive reflex exercises, but we felt like the Brain Balance Program would be the most effective way to go, and hopefully the quickest results for Brendan.  So we signed him up and started the program the very next week!

THE PROGRAM INCLUDES //

  • going into the Brain Balance office 3 x’s a week for 1 hour sessions
  • doing at-home primitive reflex exercises 2 x’s a day, 6 days a week
  • transitioning over into a balanced diet – whole/clean foods, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free (at first then trying to add back in)
  • only 1 hr of screen time a day (up to 2 hrs a day on the weekend)
  • 1 hr of being active a day (Brendan loves the trampoline!)

OUR GOALS FOR BRENDAN USING THE PROGRAM //

  • Control over emotions and behavior, not being angry all the time and short fuse
  • Feeling “normal” within peer interaction
  • Better academic performance (at least on-par for grade level)
  • A calmer family atmosphere and not having Brendan interrupt family time with outbursts

It’s only been a week and a half having Brendan on the program, but so far he LOVES it!  And he is very good about doing the exercises.  He even woke me up this morning so we could do them before school!  (Waking up at 6:00 am is NOT my favorite thing!)

I’ve seen some small improvements already, like Brendan not fussing and whining while we were mulching the gardens the other day.  He actually asked how he could help!  And he’s been less apt to pitch a fit (but still does).

One thing that we’ve figured out, though, is that Brendan gets tired after his sessions, like his brain is exhausted.  I tried to let him play with friends after we got home from a session and it did not go well!  Then he ran to his room and fell asleep for the rest of the night!  So we’ve had to feel out how he’s doing and feeling as we go.  And the nutrition program is nice because it tells you how to ease into it and not feel like you have to change eating habits over night.  Brendan has been responding well to this and likes the lunch box they gave him!

I’ll keep posting updates as we go along in the program.  Again, we feel a little bit like we’re taking a gamble, but we also feel hopeful – for Brendan and our family!!!


HELPFUL LINKS //

BRAND LAUNCH // The Elikya Project

A few years ago, a family from my church asked if I could create a t-shirt design to help raise money for them to adopt children from Africa.  They actually adopted two children, brother and sister!  And now they’ve started a non-profit organization to help send supplies back to the orphanage where their two adopted children were living in the Congo.  This organization is called The Elikya Project, and they asked me to once again help come up with a logo for them.  It was such a pleasure to help them with this project in order to help further their cause.

For more information about The Elikya Project, please visit their facebook page.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN // The Kids’ Costumes This Year

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ksm_2051

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays!  Not because of all the scary junk or the candy (no more candy please!), but because I love getting my kids dressed up.  It is my goal to make them feel as much like their character as possible, and this year was my favorite so far!

My oldest, who is an avid reader (avid being an understatement), wanted to be Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games.

ksm_katniss_title

My middle child wanted to be the Mad Hatter.  She had been talking about it for months and never wavered from it!  This was my favorite this year for sure!  The costume was perfect for her – not afraid to be herself!

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The twins decided kind of last minute to join their friends on the Star Wars band wagon and picked Rey and Kylo Ren as their costumes.

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I hope your Halloween was as fun as ours!  Can’t wait to see what the kids wanna be next year!

Logo Design: Surviving Sarah

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I had so much fun working with Sarah Bragg on her logo redesign this summer!  She is such a down-to-earth, creative and real person, and I love that she is using her talents to help the rest of us women “survive” in this world of mother-hood, working or stay-at-home moms and just being our best selves.  Her podcasts are amazing!

HEAD SHOTS

First, I met Sarah at her beautiful home to come up with some new head shots.  I got to see her beautiful decorating style as well as where all the podcast magic happens.

I was so excited about how stunning these pictures turned out!  And y’all!  Sarah is as gorgeous on the inside as she is on the outside!

LOGO CONCEPTS

The next step was coming up with a logo design that would work well on her blog as well as for her podcast photo.  In the end, Sarah decided she needed something that would work well horizontally for the podcast images.

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FINAL BRAND survivingsarah_logo survivingsarah_blog

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Here are some links if you’d like more information on Sarah Bragg and her amazing podcast, “Surviving Sarah”:

Surviving Sarah Blog  |  Surviving Sarah Podcast  |  Sarah on Facebook  |  Sarah on Instagram

 

 

My Fall Favorites List

Is anyone else excited about the chill in the air the past few mornings?!  You don’t even know how happy it makes me!  I can’t wait to get out all of my sweaters and wear jeans (pretty much every day).

There are so many amazing fall decorations out there right now!  And as most of you know, Target is my usual go-to for things at home.  And they have an amazing line-up of fall decor options right now!  {Check out Target’s Fall Home Style Catalog}

Maybe your go-to decor store isn’t Target like me, so I’ve included my top 12 fall favorites for you, including items from Target as well as other places like Anthropologie and West Elm.

fallfavorites2016

  1. METAL LEAF WREATH by THRESHOLD | target
    This wreath is gorgeous!  It’s simple yet warm and inviting when any guest comes to your door. I have a black door, so this wreath would really pop, especially if the light hits it right.  It would also be beautiful hanging over a mirror in your front entry way or on your mantle.
  2. HAMMERED GOLD ICE BUCKET by THRESHOLD | target
    I fell in love with this ice bucket when I saw it in the Target Home Style Catalog!  We need an ice bucket and this one would look great sitting in our dining room.  It adds that pop of warmth you need for fall decor as well as a touch of texture for variety. 
  3. FAUX MOHAIR THROW BLANKET by THRESHOLD | target
    Who wouldn’t want to snuggle up to this amazing blanket?  So soft!!!  I love a good blanket to cuddle up on the couch with, or use outside on the back deck to enjoy the amazing cool fall weather.  Just imagine this fuzzy warmth around you while enjoying warm cider!  Here’s another one with warmer tones that would be a little more pop of color.
  4. GOLDEN FRUIT CANDLE – PEAR | anthropologie
    Nothing says fall better than the warmth of candle light.  And this little cutie would look adorable on any table, bedside, tray…any where!  This candle is so great because it touches so many of your senses all at once.
  5. WILDFLOWER STUDY DINNER PLATES | anthropologie
    The artist in me loves the beauty of these plates.  There is such an organic feeling about them.  They would be a gorgeous statement at any table!  And the colors mix so well with the fall color palette.     
  6. VELVET PUMPKIN by THRESHOLD | target
    This little guy is just so cute and has a subtle way of saying “fall.”  I love this peacock blue color – it doesn’t scream at you like orange would.  It’s more of a whisper of fall, and goes well with all the other fall tones.  
  7. DECO HANDLE TRAY | west elm
    It’s always nice to mix up your textures and finishes.  Wood brings a warmth to any room, and mixing wood tones is a great idea.  Just like mixing metals – don’t be afraid to do it!  The great thing about this tray is that it mixes both the warmth and organicness (is that a word?) of the wood with the clean lines of the corners and the metal handles to make it feel a little more modern and updated.   
  8. RUSSET MEASURING CUPS | anthropologie
    The fall brings a lot of time in the kitchen, and I’ve had these guys on my wish list for a while now.  I just love the look of copper in the kitchen and they seem sturdy.  Has anyone else had measuring cups break?  So frustrating!  And these would be so pretty on display as well. 
  9. PLAID THROW PILLOW by THRESHOLD | target
    Plaid is a fall/winter must have.  And a little bit can go a long way.  So maybe one of these guys thrown on your couch or in a chair would be the right amount.  There are so many color options out there.  Here’s another one I like if you want more warm tones.  And here’s your classic red and black Cabin Plaid.
  10. GRAND DAME RECIPE TIN by RIFLE PAPER CO. | anthropologie
    First of all, I love Rifle Paper Co.!  And this tin would be a beautiful accent in your kitchen as your preparing your Thanksgiving meal or those amazing homemade desserts. 
  11. COPPER FLATWARE | west elm
    If you’re looking for a little extra on your table this fall, these copper flatware pieces are just beautiful!  If you like the look of copper flatware, but have a smaller budget, this set from Target is really pretty as well.  Both stores also offer gold flatware options: west elm | target.
  12. CHUNKY KNIT BRAIDED WOOL RUG by THE INDUSTRIAL SHOP | target
    I’m always looking for a good rug.  And this one just reminds me of your favorite fall sweater.  It comes in neutral, gray or blues.  So pretty and a great way to anchor your room.  

What are your fall favorites this year?  Is there anything you’ve found that you just have to have this fall?

Packing Made Easier

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Every summer our family takes at least one trip to the beach, and with four kiddos, it is quite a task to get every one packed for a week!  Usually it would take me a couple of days to make sure we had everything cleaned, laid out and ready to pack.

My oldest loves lists and is old enough to lay things out herself, and she had been asking the last few times for me to write out a list for her to help pack herself.  So last summer, instead of just writing out a list for her, I came up with printable packing lists that would help the kids pack themselves.

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The kids loved them because they could color the pictures as well as follow the lists.  I can’t tell you how much this helped!!!  With each child being able to lay out their own clothes, toiletries and beach items, it cut my involvement to about one third of the time.  I still had to help the youngest with a few outfit selections, but for the most part, these lists made our packing so much easier!

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These lists made packing so much easier for our family, that I thought you might want to use them for your family, too!  Just click the link below to download the .pdf file of your choice.

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Girls Beach Trip Packing List

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Boys Beach Trip Packing List

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We just took a trip this past week to visit family, not to the beach, and the kids asked to use the same packing lists again.  The way I’ve saved the .pdf files, you can just edit the text in Adobe Acrobat, or you can cross out the ones you don’t need or use the extra spaces for additional items you do need.

Happy Packing!!!

DeNyse Family {Maternity Session}

Happy Wednesday!  It’s been hard getting work done this week with the kiddos at home for spring break, but between kid time and work time, I was able to finally get this family session done of my beautiful friend, Shae, and her growing family – expecting boy #2 soon!

Shae and I met back in 2014, when we both started working at the same company in the same week.  We immediately clicked, and I knew God had put a wonderful friend in my life.  Thankfully our friendship has lasted beyond working together, Shae leaving the job after having her first child, and me going back to freelancing that better suited my family.

It has been incredible watching Shae become a mom for the first time, and now again for a second time!  She is so sweet, patient and caring!  And I just loved being able to capture these beautiful “before baby #2” moments for her and  her family.
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The Top 12 Things on my Birthday Wish List

In our family, Christmas is just the beginning of gift giving season.  We have a birthday in January, February, March, and three in April!  So by the time my birthday hits at the end of April, I almost forget to add ideas to my own gift list!

{Side note: My family and extended family definitely use a gift list!  Because there are so many people in our family, it just makes life a little easier.  It doesn’t mean we have to buy only what’s on the list, but it’s a good starting point.  The online gift list we use is Giftster and love it!  So if you’re looking for an online gift list for your family, I highly recommend it!}

Before I forget, yet again, to add ideas to my list, I’ve taken some time to think about a few things I’d really like, for myself.  Here are just a few ideas I came up with:

BirthdayWishList2016

  1. SOLANA GRAY AREA RUG BY THRESHOLD | target
    I’ve been needing a new rug for my office, and I saw this one in Target the other day and just fell in love with it! 
  2. CHEVRON PENDANT NECKLACE | jcrew
    Just thought this was really pretty and would go with everything.  
  3. JANE AUSTIN CLASSIC NOVELS | anthropologie
    These novels are some of my all-time favorites!  And these ones are so beautiful, I’d love to display them in my room.  I was given the Pride and Prejudice (my favorite) book already for Christmas, so I’m hoping to complete my set.
  4. WATER LILY & ALOE CANDLE | target
    Candles are one of those things I’ve grown to love, that help me relax and think, especially while I’m working or actually able to enjoy a quiet moment in my room.  I also love how they cover up any smells that may come from having four children and three dogs!
  5. THE INSPIRED ROOM BOOK | amazon
    I’ve started collecting books that inspire me, like Styled by Emily Henderson or The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.  I don’t have this one yet, and would love to have it, not only for inspiration, but it’s so pretty, too!
  6. STRIPED THROW BLANKET BY THRESHOLD | target
    Cuddling up on the couch with a soft throw blanket is one of my favorite things to do!  And I love the navy stripes on this one!  
  7. GILDED CAFE MIRROR TRAY | west elm
    I’ve been looking for a mirror try to use in my dining room, and I love the look of this one.  
  8. COPPER MEASURING CUPS | anthropologie
    I’ve been eyeing these pretty things for a while now!  I’ve never had decent measuring cups, and these would great to have in the kitchen – pretty and functional!
  9. S’IP BY S’WELL WATER BOTTLE | target
    I already have a larger swell bottle, and love it!  {I got a gold one on my trip to Napa at the Chandon vineyard!}  But this one is smaller, and so adorable!  It would be perfect for tennis, which I just started actually playing on a team!
  10. RECIPE BOX BY RIFLE PAPER CO. | anthropologie
    First of all, I love Rifle Paper Co.!  And this box would be a beautiful accent in any room, not just the kitchen.  I may even use it in my office!
  11. UNC BASEBALL HAT | amazon
    I’ve been wanting a ball cap for a while, and lost the one I got while I was a student at UNC.  So it’s time for another one – not just because they may be national champions, AGAIN!  GO TAR HEELS!!!
  12. TOMBOW FELT TIP PEN | amazon
    These are so great for hand lettering!  I’ve been working on mine, and would love more of these pens.  I’m also interested in getting an architects mechanical pencil, like this one.  

Now to put all these ideas on my actual Giftster list!  Hopefully you have enjoyed my list, and maybe it will inspire you as you think about the things that would make you happy this year on your birthday, or perhaps for Mother’s day.

Is there anything else you all think I should add?  Or something you’d like on your list?

Round Table Institute | Logo Design

The Round Table Institute for Christian Studies brand was designed for a pastor in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His passion for using conversation and time together as a way to teach others about Christian principles and life lessons was the main motivation and need for this brand .

In this brand design, I wanted to steer away from any thoughts of King Arthur and the knights of the round table!  Really, I just wanted to get across the idea of conversation, being together and of community.  The smaller end table made me think of a piece of furniture you’d find in your living room, something you’d put your cup of coffee on while having meaningful talks with friends or family.  I think my grandmother had one a lot like it in her home when I was a child.  Overall, I wanted this brand to reflect timelessness, comfort and warmth.  The rich black, warm wood tones and fabric textures all work together to achieve this feeling.

I hope this logo gives you the same feelings of sitting together and having a memorable conversation.  Anyone want a cup of coffee?!  

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