Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why we take the brothers to camp.

A few weeks back Bella said "I wish you were allergic to brothers and not cats". We both laughed. She and I both know that our lives would be so different without our boys and we wouldn't be who we are without them. They both have unique personalities and keep us on our toes in very different ways.

Recently I was asked why we take the boys to camp with us and why we go as a family.... A great question! We use the time to bond as a family. While the experience was initially for just Bella, we learned the first year that it was truly a family experience. There were sibling activities, parent groups, groups for limb different kids, there was truly something for everyone.

It's especially important at the ages they are now (3 and 5). They live with Bella every day. Her hand and her difference is not usually a topic of conversation. We usually only really talk about it when something comes up (a situation at the playground, difficulty with a certain task). They are used to it. They don't see other differences every day. It's not their norm. This allows them to think about and see others with differences, to learn empathy, compassion, kindness. We realize that there may come a day when the boys don't want to go and we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

As a pediatric nurse, I see differences every day. Feeding tubes, facial deformities, broken bones, amputations, heart defects, pumps, machines, buttons, NG tubes, oxygen... the list goes on. For me, seeing kids with differences is normal. I'm drawn to them and always have been. I volunteered in the "special needs" room in elementary school because I loved those kids. There's little to no shock factor when I see something that others think is "different".

For my kids, this allows them to embrace differences. This allows my boys to learn that different isn't bad, that we are each unique in our own way, even them. To be honest, we each take something unique away from camp. This year, a little older... we'll see what they take away!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

No limits

Seriously, Bella continues to kill me daily with the things she says or does. I mean she's 6 going on 16 with a quickness! It's a joke at our house that she could sell fancy car to a homeless man, she's that good at negotiating and convincing :) She swears she could be president IF she wanted... I put nothing past my girl! 

Last weekend at the cottage, Grayson pulled out the bow and arrow. He desperately wanted to try to shoot it. Thankfully the arrow had no point, it was filled off. Either way, LOTS of discussion about safety ensued "Know your target and beyond, take your time, listen at all times, be patient"... you get the idea. Naturally Grayson was a pro! He amazed me with how far he could shoot and his focus was something fierce! He was dedicated and patient. We'll see where that takes him.

The rest of the kids lined up and waited their turn. Then, up came Bella's turn. There are things limb different parents think out and things we don't. Honestly, shooting a bow was NOT something I had thought about! Pony tails, braids, shoe tying, wedding rings, painting nails, typing... but not shooting a bow. And just like many limb different kids, they don't really "think" about it either. They just jump in and do it. They do it their way. 
This is Bella, doing it her way. Happy as ever I might add. She figured it out, some trial, some error, lots of happiness, a few adjustments, lots of memories and giggles. If it's something that she decides she wants to do more of, we'll adapt if we need too. We'll reach out to our community of friends and family. 
For this girl, MY girl, the SKY IS THE LIMIT!

Friday, July 8, 2016

What goes into planning to attend Camp No Limits?

Several parents have asked me about Camp No Limits lately and with our planning in full force, I figured now was a great time to talk about everything that the planning entails for us. With 5 of us and the ages of our children, it's not as easy to travel as it once was. There are many camps that have dorm style sleeping, which I'm sure we'll embrace in the next couple of years. However with Luca still waking at night, it's best that no one else has to endure all that!

The first thing that we plan come January is plan our vacation time for the year. With both parents working, this can be a challenge. For the last 3 years, Camp No Limits (CNL) has ranked high on our vacation priority list. This last year, we planned around timing of school schedules too, which added a whole new challenge! So school schedules get mapped out, work schedules for both of us then we figure out what works best for timing. Florida CNL has always worked best for schedules... until this year. With me taking a job as a professor, I needed to plan around college breaks... which of course are not always the same as school breaks for the kids. So once we lined everything out, we figured out that this year, Maine CNL would be best for timing and scheduling wise. New adventures, new experiences, new location and new friends!

The second thing we do is start fundraising! Every year we do a motorcycle ride in Missouri where I'm from and where my mom still lives. She coordinates with Harley and Chad who run Charley's Roadhouse where the run goes out of. Last year, all the funds raised were given to Brandon and his family so that they could attend camp. Hopefully I can get his mom or dad to write about their experiences! They looked like they had an incredible time! We've done a multiple rides thanks to Charley's Roadhouse, one ride thanks to Gary and Kathy Wetzel, a bowling fundraiser, a bake sale, a Jamberry, Silpida and Scentsy sale, and two garage sales (with help from friends too!). This year, we slacked on the fundraising due to me finishing school and both of us starting new jobs. We have a garage sale planned... any other ideas for things we could do this year still? Or maybe to fundraise for next year? We are always looking at new ways to get people involved and spread education about limb differences!

Next, we send in the application for camp. This secures our spot at camp. That was completed a couple of months back. I like to plan as early as I can once I know we are able to attend a certain camp. We've never been turned away, however as CNL continues to grow, you never know what could happen! If you are applying for a scholarship, this is also a good time to do this. Get your application for camp and your scholarship application in at the same time if you can.

After we secure our spot, we secure flights. This year our flights were pricey. This is something that can be considered when figuring out which camp to attend. With both of us working, our choices were narrow because we needed to attend when we could both get off to attend. This is something to keep in mind when fundraising though. You can attempt to get your flights covered through fundraising to ease some of your out of pocket costs.

For us, a rental car is a must. With all five us of, it's more difficult to get around. This year we are opting for a full size vehicle versus a minivan. Why? It all boils down to price and budget. For a minivan the cost was $1200... for us, that was WAY out of our price range. So we figured out that with 3 kids in car seats, we could still fit into a full size vehicle. We'll travel with 2 booster seats and a convertible seat. Usually G-man is in a 5-pt harness but he's age/height/weight appropriate for a booster so it's safe for him to use that for travel. The others will travel in their "normal" seats. The full size vehicle cut our rental car cost in half! Big big difference.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cottage life

We spent July 4th weekend at Ryan's family cottage. I LOVE it. It's been in the family for many years, like his great grandparents used to go there too. I love that it has history, that it hasn't been knocked down and rebuilt. I love that it tells the stories of what was and what is. I love that we get to share the experience with our kids and make new memories there. I love that there are always people around, Grandma, Great-grandma, great-aunts, great uncle, second cousins, aunts, uncles and cousins. We are making new memories as our little family of five and with our extended family. The kids love it.

This weekend was jammed packed. We raced up after work on Friday, which in reality meant leaving the house around 6pm and stopping for Culvers in route. Saturday we spent hiking at High Cliff park with Grandma Linda, Aunt Cindee, Uncle Stephan, Ricky, Dominic and our family. We swam in the lake, walked to the park, played in the sandbox, played on the swingset, looked for frogs and bugs and made fast friends with the neighbors. Sunday, we walked to the park, had a campfire, played with glowsticks (which Luca decided to bite a hole in!), ate smores and had a potluck. Monday, we spent packing up, swimming in the lake and hanging out before we headed back to reality. Talk about a fun weekend! Luca, who's 3, followed in his sisters footsteps by jumping on the pier.

Monday, during our last swim, we found out one of the neighbor boys had a special hand like Bella. He arrived on Monday and was a little guy, around 15 months. Bella was thrilled!

"Mom, tell him about my camp. Tell him about the Lucky Fin thing."

"You can tell him!"

"No, Mom, you do it! You are good at telling people about it. I'll talk to the baby, you talk to the parents. Let's swim over." So away we went. Bella and I went over and chatted with them all about the resources we know about. They told us how he had surgery to have fused fingers separated. I told the father how Bella was just "born like this".

"Oh do you know about the Lucky Fin Project?" The father asked me.

"You bet we do! They helped us get to Camp No Limits our first year by donating to our camp fund!"

Lucky fins, special hands, missing fingers, fused fingers... whatever the case may be... fast friends :)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bella's first blog on her own


Mom's note: These are Bella's words, she wrote the whole thing! She also picked which pictures were included. She wanted the pregnant mama of the baby girl to see her hand and not be afraid. *melt my heart, I'm so glad she's mine!*

Monday, June 20, 2016

Take a step back

As I keep reading Facebook and struggle with whether to keep reading or take a step back. I took a step back. I hugged my children tighter, I snuggled them on an evening when we literally had no time and they should have been in bed an hour before. I giggled with them until my face hurt. I kissed their faces until my cheeks hurt. I held them tightly in my arms.

I thought about the parents of little Lane, the boy that got drug into the water by an alligator at Disney. I pondered the what-if's that I know they were pondering. What if we would have went to bed instead of went to watch the movie on the beach? What if we had chosen not to wade in the water? What if the signs had said there were alligators in the water? What if... I thought about my children and how I would want to end my own life if I lost one of them. I'm sure the pain would be too severe to go on.

 I thought about his sister, just a few years older. I thought about my baby (33 year old) brother and how my heart would be shattered if I lost him. I thought about the way he makes me laugh, his personality, the way he throws my kids into the air, the way he's so thoughtful, the way that he comforts me when I need it.

My cry to you is to give these parents a break. They did the very best they could. THEY are playing the what-if's a thousand times over. Don't judge them. Do you believe in God? Don't you think HE will judge them when the time comes? Put yourself in their shoes, don't you think they are judging their every moment and action? Does it help for all of us, complete strangers, to judge them too? Don't you think they are going through enough? Please, I beg of you, stop judging and start loving.

I'm a mother of a lightening fast 3 year old. I cut his thumb on my razor last night. It was minor. There was blood. He screamed, tears rolled down his cheeks. "No touch it!" "I dot it!" He screamed at me and Ryan. My eyes filled with with tears as he cried. What if I hadn't shaved my legs that morning? What if I put my razor up high like I usually do? What if I hadn't turned my back for a split second? A bandaid, some cuddling, some ABCD's (as he calls them) and some bushel and a peck cured his tiny thumb. I apologized to him time and time again. "It's otay mama, you no do that adin" My heart felt like it needed a bandaid. He didn't die. It was minor.... but what if?

Please, please, please. Stop judging, start loving. People are doing the very best they can.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Keepin' it real

At a gathering of friend's the other day, I was told "thanks for keeping it real". I said "what do you mean?" I had no idea what this chic was talking about. Turns out, she was talking about my Facebook updates. She said that I made her feel real and that life could be a struggle instead of roses and sunshine daily. We both got a good laugh when talking about our kids and the things they say or do. I joked that our youngest may have a page in his baby book that says "Stuff I broke"!

Honestly, I never have had much of a filter... that can be bad... or good. In this case, it was good for her. I see lots of people's profiles painted with happiness and love. Often times I wonder how on God's green earth everything comes up daisies for them when there are days I'm wondering if I should add vodka to the lemonade I made out of the lemons I was handed. While I still enjoy their posts and updates, I wonder why we all don't just keep it real. I like hearing about real life stuff, reading about people's struggles and triumphs. I honestly believe that many of my happiest and saddest moments are what truly define me.

Why do we feel that we must paint the happiest of pictures? When I read about their super happy life I wonder if they are trying to put on a show or if that really is their life. (Can I just say, if it's the second, I may have the urge to punch them.) I also wonder why people feel that they need to put on a show. What's the point? Can't we just embrace being who and what we are? I don't drive a corvette or live in a fancy house. I drive a minivan (yay mom of 3) and live in an older ranch. Our house is home because we've made it home, we've filled it with love and laughter. We've also at times filled it with heartache and tears. I am me and we are us. There's no reason for me to paint you a picture of what I think we should be. There is every reason for me to tell and show you that we embrace our life and who we are as individuals.

 In case you are wondering, I'm currently telling my 3 year old to go to sleep as I have been for the last 30 minutes. I'm wondering why he can't just close his tired little eyes. In case you are wondering about the stuff he's broke, it's a lot! A flooded bathroom, a broken hammer, broken trucks, ripped books, ripped art, peeing on the floor (just last night!), peeing ON his brother, a blowup pool, a blowup toy... the list goes on! Our life is crazy but it's ours. Stop painting a picture, embrace who you are! There is only one you and lots of people love and adore you I'm sure.