Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adventure Day

I don't even know where to begin with Adventure Day... So I'll keep the words to a minimum and share a TON of pictures. So far, only the Maine Camp No Limits has this type of activity. It's all about sponsorships and availability of a business of this sort to do an activity of this nature. If you know a business that would be interested in sponsoring something like this at Camp No Limits, please reach out to me and I'll put you in contact with the right people.

The two Bella's


(Having your tongue out helps you run farther and faster)                Peyton and Bella

Who will take who down? 

Or will you take yourself down? This might be my favorite video from all of camp! 

Luca even took a try at the rock wall!                        And Grayson too! Bella refused ;) 

Until next time... 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Camp No Limits Maine variety

This year, our Maine vacation ended with five glorious days at Pine Tree Camp in Rome, Maine. It was off the beaten path a little bit and secluded from all of reality. Just what we needed at the end of an action packed trip! We were in the cabins because God knows that no one else wants to be tortured  hang out with our three kids 24 hours a day. We pulled in to find the Camp No Limits RV!! How excited were the kids to discover this? They thought it was super cool. Bella even asked if we could put the sign on our travel trailer. The kid doesn't love camp if you can't tell!

The camp location sits RIGHT on the water. Outside of our room you could hear the water. We even had a little patio that Ryan and I enjoyed at night. All of the camp activities take place in a big common area that has an amazing view of the waterfront as well.
(Right outside of our window)
Camp No Limits has an "itinerary" each day that guides you through the activities. You can chose to be involved in as much or as little as you desire. We tend to embrace everything to the max and do as much as everyone can handle. Sometimes that means skipping naps for the boys and sometimes that means staying up WAY past bedtime. However, the beauty of it is that you can head back and take a nap and then join in when you wake up. Or if you are Luca, you can climb into Mama's Toddler Tula and take a snooze while everyone else enjoys whats going on. 
This year I offered to be the CNL nurse. It allowed me to interact with SO many campers that I may not have interacted with otherwise. Many times, we get caught up in our "upper limb" groups doing things and miss out on what all of the "lower limb" campers are doing. Part of being at camp for me means watching everyone. In Florida, I remember seeing someone running for the very first time! I cried! Although sometimes, you get so involved in what your group is doing that you miss those moments of other campers. Being the nurse allowed me to see some of those moments, along with a few concussions, a stubbed toe, sprained wrist, bloody knee, sore throat, coughs, sunburn, sore feet... you know the usual camp stuff. 
There's also free time to do arts and crafts. Bella sucked Keegan right into that on day one! Bella LOVES crafting and creating so this was right up her alley. Here they were making name tags. The nice thing about name tags is that you wear them and then people get to know you faster. 
One of the super fun activities this year was the color wars. You are placed on a team (GO ORANGE TEAM!) and then you compete with the other teams for the GOLDEN chicken and the title of the color war champions... yeah we came in last but we aren't sore losers. Everyone on the team gets the chance to participate in the team challenges. It was a great team building activity and an awesome way to try new things. Grayson did a great job of sucking skittles on the end of a straw. His goal was to get them from the table to the cup. Who knew he could rock this? He's also rocking his superhero orange team shirt!

We had action packed days from morning to night! I'll share Adventure Day in another post, stay tuned! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why cousins make the best friends

We are lucky to have Ryan's siblings living close by. We are also lucky that we all had kids near the same time. There were EIGHT kids in 3 1/2 years, four boys and four girls... could it get much better than that? Pretty crazy but mad fun and lots of love. It's always action packed when everyone is together and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

This week, two of the girl cousins stayed the night. They are six and seven. While eating dinner they were talking about going to State Fair. They talked about all of the rides they rode, the stuff they ate and the things they saw. Their conversations are so funny. Bella, L and S sound so grown up when they talk now!

"Hey we saw a kid with a hand just like you at State Fair! He was like older than you, like 8 or 9" S

"No for sure he was 9"- L

"Ok he was probably 9"- S

"Cool, I saw a guy with two prosthetic legs"- Bella

"Yeah that's awesome!"- L

What I love about this is that it's totally normal for all of them. They are accepting of others differences. They look at Bella no different. They hold both of her hands. It's a non-issue. I love that because of her, they pay attention to others that are like her. I love that they are aware that it's no big deal. Cousins make the best friends!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It happened... again.

Today we went to Nixon Park, if you haven't been and you are in the Milwaukee area of visiting, I highly suggest it! It's awesome! There is a great playground with a place for bigger kids and a set for smaller kids, there's a spider web and a merry go round. Do those things make anyone else want to vomit? There's also a great splash pad that's open Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10am-7pm. It's a perfect place for all three kids to burn a ton of energy. Bella, in particular, has been begging to go! With only a few weeks left of summer and me off work for a couple of weeks (yay teacher schedule!) we have to live it up!

All parents know that the very first thing kids ask for when you get anywhere is food. Like seriously, breakfast 1, 2 or 3 didn't fill you up? Oh and the two snacks before we left didn't either? So we packed lunches AND snacks to take along.

I sat on the side and let the kids do their thing. Bella is all about making new friends so she's the first to leave my side. She played with a group of girls first. It always surprises me to see her playing with girls her age, she is much more of a girl that plays with boys. She says boys have less drama... I tend to agree most of the time. Her two best buds at school are boys. I watched from afar as all three kids explored and did their own thing. I noticed that her hand started to become a topic of conversation. Ugh, seriously, can't she just be her and not be defined by her difference. None of us are defined by our differences, like eye color or hair color...

She played with them and then ventured off to an older girl. She told me later, the "new" friend was 10. She's often drawn to older girls because they ask about her hand and then move along. Girls her age that aren't around her frequently tend to continue to ask questions, then more questions, then more... it's irritating to her and to me. Let it go already!

I watched as one girl pointed and loudly said "HEY SHE DOESN'T HAVE A HAND". Bella was too busy playing with the 10 year old girl to notice. The teacher from Kindercare swooped in and talked to the girls for a few minutes. The girls then went back to playing without saying a thing further about her hand. I watched as it all happened and stayed safely planted on my towel at the edge of the spray ground.

Before they left, I approached the teacher. I thanked her for "handling the situation". She said "Oh of course, that behavior is not ok at all. I mean I know they are curious but that's not ok. Of course I would take care of it, they are my responsibility." I thanked her again for getting the situation resolved quickly and quietly. I told her she did a nice job observing and watching all of the kids interact. She thanked me for pointing it out.

Bella and I didn't talk about it any more. I figure if she wants to talk about it, she knows I'm always willing. She's pretty open with me about things that bother her or make her feel good. She did say "Oh man, my new friend was leaving, that's a bummer". Agreed kiddo. You make friends every where you go!

Monday, August 15, 2016

When do I jump in?

We booked a "fancy" camping trip to the Wisconsin Dells months back... then a family emergency came about and I had to emergently cancel our trip. So we rescheduled for a couple weeks ago. By fancy I mean, this place had a pool and tons of kid geared activities. It was the Yogi Bear Jellystone. (Review to come later!) It's a couple hours from us so we could easily be all loaded up the night before then hook up when Ryan got off and head out, with hopes to arrive before dusk!

One morning we opted to hit the pool before it got packed. We hit the pool around 930 and Bella was dying to go down the slide. 955 came and she was the first in line. While her and I were swimming just prior to this, I watched as two girls looked and whispered and then looked our way again.

Waiting patiently, she watched for the lifeguard to come to the slide. We made silly faces at each other while she stood in line and I stood in the pool. I noticed the two girls standing behind her, looking, then whispering back and forth, then looking at her hands again. I watched them then I watched her. I watched her some more. I noticed her hold her left hand with her right, covering her missing fingers. I knew she was aware. My heart was hurting for her.

I got out of the pool and made my way to her. I told her just a few minutes and the lifeguard should be over and I would be at the bottom of the slide to meet her. We talked about why they didn't open until 10 and the Spanish speaking lifeguards and how they were here learning English. She said "that must be really hard!" I stood there talking with her while we waited. I continued to be alert and aware of the girls behind her. I then opted to whisper in her ear.

"Boo Bear do you see those girls?"

"Yeah they keep looking at me." She whispered back in my ear.

"Do you want me to say something to them? Or do you want to say something to them?"

"No Momma, it's fine, it's not bothering me"

"Are you sure honey, we can teach them about how they are making you feel or about your hand" I continued to whisper in her ear all while the girls continued to look around me to see her hand.

"Mom, it doesn't bother me. I don't want you to say something. It's fine!" her tone more serious.

"Ok Boo, if it bothers you, you'll tell me right and we can talk to them."

"MOM stop it's fine!" even more serious in her tone.

I struggled. Do I say something even though she asked me not too? Did it really not bother her? Why did they keep whispering and staring? Do I say something when I see them while Bella is playing with her Dad? Do I respect my daughter's request to leave it alone? Where on earth were their parents and did they not notice this behavior?

I still struggled. She my daughter and I want to respect her. BUT I also don't want them staring at here. I don't want her to feel like she has to hid her difference. I respected her wishes, I didn't say anything.

She went down the slide a million times over. The highlight of her day I'm sure. Climbing the stairs to the top then racing down the slide to splash in the water. Her face was bright and her eyes twinkled.

At bedtime we talked. We talked about how it's not okay for people to stare and how it makes people feel. We talked about how it's important to teach people because not every kid with a difference is as confident as Bella. We talked about how she could chose to educate or ignore. She agreed. She also stuck by her decision to ignore it. Sometimes she just doesn't feel like talking about it or explaining it to every person that is curious. I can't say that I blame her. Sometimes I want to throat punch people who stare. We also talked about how it's not okay for her to feel like she has to hide her left arm and hand. She agreed but said "I wasn't hiding it, I can't hold my hands together like you, so that's how I do it"... I guess I never really thought about it like that... My girl educating her mama, teaching ME something new every day!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Flying with kids: How to keep you from losing it!

We travel as far as we can, as often as we can! Sometimes, that means camping nearby and sometimes that means traveling to Maine for Camp No Limits! Here's how we stayed (semi) sane during flying with our three littles.

1. Check the car seats if you can. I refuse to rent car seats, I've seen what my car seats look like and there's no way I want a rental. It's between $9-$20 a day to rent a car seat.  You can find a booster seat for around $20 at any big box store. Besides the ew factor, I KNOW how to install my seats safely. If there's one thing I'm a complete freak about, it's car seat safety. I want to be sure that my kids are safe so the best way to be sure of that is to take a seat that I'm confident that I can install securely and safely every single time.

2. Hand sanitizer, don't forget it!

3. Have each kid carry their own backpack if they can. Our kids are 3, 5 and 7. We made them each responsible for their bag.

4. Now is NOT the time to limit electronic time. Think sanity of you, your kids and fellow passengers. It's called survival!

5. Be sure your electronics will work in flight. Santa bought Kindle Fire's for the kids a few years back... well Santa isn't so smart. He forgot to load movies that can be viewed in flight. DOWNLOAD them to your device so they can be watched. Also be sure those bad boys are fully charged!

6. Snacks, lots of snacks. We packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, graham crackers, raisins, nuts and a few other snacks. When you think you have enough snacks for every one, pack a few more.

7. Water bottle. I did not want to be the mom that had her kid spilling the free beverage all over. We brought their empty Klean Kanteens and then we could fill them once passed security. We used our water bottles to help prop their Kindles on their tray table so they didn't have to hold them too.

8. Bring a jacket for each kid. We packed this in their own backpack. It got chilly on one of our flights and we were so thankful to have them. If they don't use them for warmth, they can use them as a pillow (haha, you thought they'd really sleep?!)

9. Gum. Our kids are all able to chew gum (and not swallow it- bonus!) so we gave them gum on the way up and the way down. We had a few complaints about ear pain and gum or drinking water fixed that quick style.

10. Headphones! No one wants to hear Annie for the 10th time, not even me. Headphones got packed in their backpack for each of them. Thank you lord for not having to hear 3 different kid shows for 6 hours!

Our favorite school lunch supplies

With school gearing up and now Bella AND Grayson going to school, we have lots to do and buy. Bella has taken "cold" lunch four days a week or more since she started school. We do "cold" lunch for several reasons:

1. Have you seen what's on the trays at school?
2. Kids get to pick and chose what they want. Which leads to....
3. Strawberry milk and a scoop of peaches. which leads to....
4. $2.85 for something I could have packed for less than a $1
5. Ugh the choices, the look and smell not so great.
6. Allowing her to pick ONE day, allows her to decide what she really wants and have an option
7. We talk about budgeting and money when discussing "hot lunch"
8. She gets a LOT of say in her "cold" lunch
9. She takes things she actually eats in her lunch
10. She gets a groovy lunch bag :)

Here are some of our favorite things for packing lunches:

1. Ziploc containers- These are our all time favorite containers... Ziploc has discontinued them *insert super sad face here* We've used them for the last 2 years and they've held up amazing. They are also realistically priced so we had at least 6, allowing us to pack lunches ahead of time.

2. Goodbyn 3 compartment lunch box- We've had this box for about a year and a half. We love it and there's NO leaking when you put dip or yogurt in the smaller side, which is something frequently in Bella's lunch. No complaints about this and it's reasonably priced.

3.  Silicone cupcake liners- We use these to put inside of the other containers. The "standard" size are perfect and keep things not touching. So you can put cheese in one and crackers in the other and store them in the bigger area of the goodbyn or ziploc.

4. Toothpicks- I use regular plastic toothpicks for "kabobs" of fruit or cheese and meat. Bella knows to remove the toothpick first. It makes for a fun appearance for the food rather than just stuffing it in the box.

5. Paint chips- Yep you know the ones at Home Depot, Lowe's or Walmart? My kids love "collecting" them and I find them all over the house. Instead of tossing them in the recycle bin, I use them to write notes and put them in their lunch.

6. A reliable lunch bag (or two). The bag we used all last year was from Toy's R Us. We've used other bags and believe it or not, this held up well... all year to be honest. Bella could use it again this coming year but Monster High is SOOOOO last year :)

What are your go-to lunch supplies? Tried and true? We are two years in and still working to find out favorites, they change frequently and we've added and taken away as things have not held up or broken.