Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gloves, the struggle is real

Every year for winter, Bella struggles with gloves. I usually flip the glove inside out, sew the fingers closed, then cut the fingers off and she wears the glove as best she can... in years past, it consistently falls off. We put it back on, it falls off, we put it back on... and so it goes. It's a constant struggle but something she's never truly complained about until this year.

This year has been a bit different. It's bitter cold here this week. Like, my car said 1 degree but with the wind chill its -26, yes NEGATIVE 26. I mean that's cold! You need gloves, no question about it. With or without a hand, you need both limbs covered. Heck, you need your whole body covered and properly geared. Grayson's poor nose and cheeks, the only thing that's been exposed, has wind burn from the cold.

Us two handed folks take for granted that our wrist actually holds our glove in place. While Bella has movement in her left wrist, there's no real definition between the end of her arm and her wrist. That makes gloves a struggle. In the past, we've used a sock for her left hand. And yes, I always refer to her left hand has such even though she has no fingers. In the past, the sock is longer so it stays in place better and works as a knit "glove" on her left hand. This year, she doesn't want that. She wants to be like everyone else and wear two gloves. I can't blame her.

This year, we've had tears over gloves. Let's be real, we've had tears from all three kids over gloves. Bella because nothing works right. Grayson because it "feels funny". Luca because he can't get his stubby little fingers into the whole quick enough for his liking. Everyone has their "thing".

Last night, I laid in bed with each kid like I always do. I read them a book and snuggled. Last night, Bella asked if she could close her eyes because she was so tired. She closed her eyes and fell asleep in my arms. I laid next to her and watched her sweet face. Her little button nose, her super long eye lashes, the sweet movement of her breathe next to me, her long little fingers on her right hand, her bunny curled under her right arm. I remembered her as a tiny little five pound string bean and the nights of her curled under my arm nursing in the night. I remembered her as a toddler, so full of energy and excitement. I remembered her learning to read and figuring out the sounds the letters make. Tonight, I cried. Tears rolled gently down my cheeks as she lie there asleep in arms. My first born baby was now seven. She was reading chapter books and asking about makeup just hours earlier. I missed that tiny little babe that used to co-sleep in my bed at all hours of the day and night. My girl is growing.

As a parent, there's nothing more than you want for your kids to be happy AND healthy. I want them to work hard and play harder. I want them to work through their struggles. Gloves are our current struggle. Do you have a suggestion? Has something worked for your child? I'm open to trying anything to resolve this little blip in her road of life. Can you help?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First there was us...

Before there was Bella.... or Grayson.... or Luca. There was us... just us. It's easy as parents to get into the swing of things and completely side track your love or even like for one another. You get caught up in dirty floors, dirty faces, laundry, dishes, meals, Girl Scouts, guitar lessons, homework and well... life. You forget about blogs, about writing thank you notes, about handwritten cards, your passions... you also forget to really take the time to nurture your relationship. It ebs and flows.

Sometimes we go through life not taking the time to really embrace the one that started it all with us. Sometimes we reconnect on a date night or on the dance floor. Most times, you arms are filled with your children and not your spouse. It's easy to kind of just let life take over. Date nights become less of a priority and surviving is your only priority at times, especially with three young kids and a dog.

This past week, we reconnected... in a big way and NO we didn't make a baby (Dear Lord thank GOD we did not make a baby!). We went on a fantastic week long vacation to the Dominican Republic without kids! All alone, yes you read that right. We put each of the kids in a dog kennel and out we went to the tropics... well not really... we flew my Mom and stepdad up to keep them alive. It's a few steps up from a dog kennel! :)
Just a week, just the two of us. It was beyond amazing, it was beyond fabulous. We slept (well when Ryan didn't wake me up!) and sat on the beach under a cabana. We talked, we both read (I finished an ENTIRE 400+ page book), we laughed, we danced, we ate, we drank, we danced some more, we played in the ocean, and the sand, we went for walks on the beach, during the day and at night, we walked around the resort, we explored. It was just what we needed.

It's not like I've forgotten how much I love this man... in fact it's quite the opposite. Each day, I'm reminded how incredibly lucky I am. I have a husband that is truly a team player. We work together towards our goals, we support each other's passions and careers. He cooks most our meals, I do most of our laundry. He shovels and takes the trash out. He loves our children to the ends of the earth and he loves their mama. Each day, I watch him work hard for our family.

This vacation though, it was just what I needed to remind myself once again how much fun I have with this handsome burly bearded dude. We dressed up and went to dinner. We talked about our life and our goals. We talked about where it all started 11 1/2 years ago. So many things have changed... we've lived in California, Seattle, Hawaii and now Wisconsin. We've been pregnant four times and have three beautiful babies. My dad died and he held me high and encouraged me. I started and finished a graduate program. He opened, maintained, then closed his business. We've bought a condo, a house, sold cars, bought cars, bought an RV. We've been through my mom having cancer and he encouraged me to be by her side.

One thing, above all else remains the same. I fell in love with that man so many years ago and I've fallen in love with him again many times over. Above all, I hold strong and true to my love of him and the life we've created. It may be crazy at times but it's our life and there's nothing more in life I could want. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he'll be my partner in life and love for the rest of my life. I know that I will fall in love with him many more times. I know that my love for him will continue to grow.

Did I feel bad about going away for a week without my kids to show them that my marriage was important? No. I knew they were well taken care of and more than anything that they were loved while we were gone. I also knew that it was important for them to see that having time alone makes us better partners in life and better parents to them. I think it's important for them to realize the love we share for one another. So don't wait... take that trip! You won't regret it!

Thanks Mom and Mark for making this whole thing possible. I think my kids had just as much fun with them as we had being away. They were too busy to talk long to us while we were gone because they were enjoying having their Tutu and Papa all to themselves! It's safe to say they've asked when they'll be moving to Wisconsin and when they'll be back. :) Thanks to the people here in Wisconsin that shoveled our driveway, checked on my mom and Mark to be sure they were still alive. Thanks to my sister in law and brother in law for keeping our bunch on the last night, again they were FAR too busy to talk to us! Your kids will survive if you leave, trust me. There was NO lack of fun, that's for sure. Do it... take that trip... because first, it was just you two :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I don't post about politics or religion, it's pretty much irrelevant to our cause for this blog. This blog initially started as a way to educate others about limb differences and help raise funds for Bella and our family to go to Camp No Limits. Today, this all still holds true. Education creates power.

Today my goal is still to educate and help raise funds for Bella and our family to go to Camp No Limits. I've been given the incredible job as a pediatric nursing professor and course lead for pediatrics. I love my job. Like really love it. I love my students and my colleagues. I love the knowledge that they share with me and the collaboration that occurs daily.

Today, I'm bringing politics into this blog... I won't brag or trash either candidate. Today, I will tell you that I'm sad. I'm sad that this election has caused riots. I'm sad protesting is occurring in our cities across the united states. I'm sad that my children are hearing about these horrific acts at school from friends.

The news isn't something we watch with our kids around, truth me told, I can't tell you the last time I did watch the news. Years, I'm certain... To me, unless there's a positive story, I don't want to hear it. While yes, news has a time and a place, it's time and place is not in my home... not taking up space in my heart, not stressing me out, not causing me more grief. There's plenty of negativism in the "real" world that I'm exposed to. News is something I have a choice about and my choice is to remain happily oblivious.

I'm asking you, no matter your religion, your stance on our president elect, or Hillary, your view on politics... try not to bring your children down, try not to lose lifelong friendships... if they were your lifelong friends, I hope this wouldn't be an issue. Try not to let it ruin your day, your week, your month, your year. Spread happiness and kindness. Our kids, our world, our lives could use a little more love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Be still my heart...

*this was saved and never posted*

It's bittersweet when school starts. It's a love hate thing for me. I see Bella's excitement to see her friends again. Our family runs on routine. We ALL do much better when things are well planned and we have a schedule. Heck, we even merged our calendars and started using google calendars to keep track of everything. I like knowing whats coming next and how I can be prepared. It helps to keep me from losing my $hit!

We've been talking up starting school for the last few weeks. After all, it is Grayson's first year in school. I can't believe my little lover is ready for school! It's bitter sweet for sure. He's such a love bug, he's kind and considerate. He's sweet and sincere. He's the best "finder" on the planet, you lose it, he'll find it... quickly! He loves dirt and worms. He LOVES wolves and is passionate about learning all that he can about them. He is the baby that mended my broken heart, coming into my arms two short days after my dad suddenly passed away. I remember little from his early days. I was blessed beyond belief but broken beyond belief as well. I remember nursing him through the tears in the middle of the night. I remember holding him a little longer because his sweet body fit just right in my arms. 

This morning, I watched him start his journey. His journey of learning and making friends. His journey of truly finding his own identity from his siblings. While I know that he has his own personality, his own loves and dislikes, this is going to be life changing for him. This is the only time in his life that will he will spend this much time apart from his siblings. He will grow in a new way. He will discover more of his passions... and with that follows dislikes as well. He will find his own friends, not Bella's friends, not daycare friends that his siblings share, his very own friends. His branch is growing our tree of life. 

Bella was beyond excited. She woke up at 5:45am and raced into the bathroom with a GINORMOUS smile on her face. She's said for the last two days "This year is going to be great, I just know it! I LOOOOOOVE my teacher. She's totally awesome!" Her face and her excitement were priceless. It reminded me of myself on the morning that I married her father. She was ready to head to school at 6am :) However, we contained her until it was REALLY time to start! I was ready before I was dressed, showered or had makeup or my wedding dress on! My mom, Ginny, Jackie and Leslie kept me contained until it was REALLY time!

And so it begins, our first year with two kids in school. Our first year with just Luca in daycare and home with me on my days off. Two kids with homework and school activities.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Homemade DIY shampoo

If you don't know us well, I'll let you in on some insight. We are a little bit crunchy and hippie. We cloth diapered all 3 of our kids. We now use the old cloth diaper prefolds for rags in the garage or when camping. We make our own laundry detergent, we use essential oils, we made our own version of Vicks, we mostly buy used clothes for the kids, we religiously recycle, homemade beard oil. ... yeah the list goes on. We try to do our part to make the environment a better place for all of us. We've been using this for about a year. Ryan and the boys love it. Bella and I had some greasiness at first. We've once again started the whole family on this shampoo due to the lice incident. Research says lice don't like peppermint or tea tree.

Here's our recipe
– ¼ cup of distilled water,
– ¼ cup of Castile Soap (in liquid form and be sure it's UNSCENTED)
– 2 teaspoons of jojoba oil,
– 1/8 of teaspoon of peppermint oil, and
– 1/8 of teaspoon of tea tree oil.

Mix the Castile soap and oils first and add distilled water in the end.. This mixture is excellent for dry hair.

Of course there are other recipes out there. This is a recipe that we've tried and have success using. We've tried other recipes that we didn't care for, live and learn! We purchased all of our supplies on amazon. Be sure to use when shopping and put Camp No Limits or Lucky Fin Project as the charities you are supporting. This helps kids like Bella get to camp or get the resources that they need!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Are you ready to itch?

A few weeks ago we had head lice at our house... as in we, I mean Bella. I was pulling her blond hair into a ponytail and noticed a few little sesame seed looking things in her hair. Immediately I knew what it was... cue the itching, the scratching, the panicking!
No nits were present, just the lice. I picked the 5 lice out of her hair then proceeded to treat her head. Poor babe! It took over an hour. Ten minutes of treatment time followed by an hour of combing every single hair with the teeny tiny comb that came with our kit. Not our idea of a good Monday.

These are not my pictures but rest assured I took about 10 pictures and sent them to my pediatric nurse friends. I can tell you now that they were all itching and scratching when the text came through. They tried to calm my frazzled nerves but I can tell you now, I'd rather have a yeast infection than head lice at my house. (Yes you read that right! TMI maybe but oh so true!)

Yes we did about 10 loads of laundry on hot. We washed every single thing that they could have been on. We checked the boys, I checked Ryan and he checked me. Talk about a crazy night. Not ideal.

The key is to check for them and treat them as soon as possible. We also did some major education at our house about sharing hats, brushes and hair ties. The thing about school is that the kids coats all hang so close together, if one kid has it then they all could get it.

This time we used an over the counter treatment called "Lice Free". I also know that you use cetaphil and then blowdry your hair and sleep with that in your hair. The next morning you'll have to wash it out and comb through to be sure you get all of the nits.

Contrary to popular belief, lice love clean hair... so don't knock me when I don't wash my kids hair all week :) Kidding... kind of. Needless to say, dry shampoo has become my friend. If you have any recommendations for good dry shampoo brands, sent them my way! We've also been using a homemade shampoo with peppermint oil and tea tree oil. The thing about it was that it left Bella's hair a little greasy looking. I think because it doesn't strip all of the good nutrients from your hair. Now, we are back to using it and just using less conditioner. The tea tree oil and peppermint are said to deter lice... in our case, we'll take all the help we can get!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Perfectly flawed

My aunt posted about missing my grandmother. She died what seems like many years ago... before I had kids. She had ALS. It's a horrific disease. My aunt said she was "perfectly flawed". It made me think about myself and about my kids.

When I went to visit my sister in law before Bella ever started daycare, another mom came in to pick up her son. She said "he was born with a cleft lip, it's not like missing a hand or foot something." I remember my heart sinking as I nursed my little 6 pound love bug under a nursing cover. I don't remember the specifics of what happened but I do know that although Bella has an obvious limb difference, it's by no means a flaw in my eyes.

Bella is perfect. She has flaws just like EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this plant. Some of them have yet to be discovered I'm sure.  I'm her mother and I am not here to put them on the internet... what I will put out here are my flaws. Some of my flaws are also my strengths... one example, I'm SO type A and I like to get things done perfect the first time and I don't like to delegate. This can make life challenging at times and also frustrating. Another thing about it is that it gets done the way I want and then it makes me happy in the end... so what is my flaw is also a strength.

I'm full of flaws. Some are visible and some are not... I challenge you to be perfectly flawed. To celebrate your differences, whether visible or not. I challenge you to support those around you and their flaws as well. Kindness makes a giant difference!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Life and madness

This life is a crazy life but it's our life and I wouldn't trade it for the world...

I'm sitting at our kitchen table trying to work. I'm surrounded by half-eaten bowls of cereal, a reading journal, play doh, a number of water cups, a cereal box, tiny shoes, messy walls and sight words to name a few. I'm also surrounded by this computer, a pediatric textbook (that's a mere 2046 pages), a binder full of exams, printed off powerpoints, highlighters, pens, post its, a flash drive, my cell phone and a purse.

Today was busy as are most days. I did 4 loads of laundry without rewashing a single one (Can I get an Amen?!). I met with a student. I met with another mom. I met with a teacher at our child's school. I went to recess with Bella and Grayson. I heard a secret from one little girl about how Grayson told her that he loved her so much he could kiss her (help me God!). I laughed... and I've almost cried.

I'm a full time working mama. My days are filled with emails... hundreds of emails. Emails from students, other professors, school, other moms at my kids school, parties, and random other junk. My mornings are rushed, making lunches, cleaning faces, fixing ponytails, encouraging teeth brushing and racing out the door in the nick of time. My evenings are filled with snacks, dinner, homework, reading, worksheets, grading, more emails, more reading, bath, snuggles and bedtime. There are nights I fall asleep on the couch... more nights than I care to admit.

I wouldn't trade my career for the world. I love nursing, I love pediatric nursing, I love students, teaching, my colleagues at my college, education, labs, lectures, clinical and simulations. I'm teaching my kids about my passion and showing them that I can be successful. I'm helping to afford us to skip the new couch and go camping instead or on vacation. I've traded bedside nursing and long shifts to more time at home in the evenings and no weekends. I've traded missing holidays to being present at every single one.

I wouldn't trade being a mother for the world either. It challenges me many times more than my career. It's filled my house with tiny shoes, messy floors, laughter and most of all love. Someday, I'll miss the many loads of laundry or finding a potato that came down the laundry shoot. I'll miss the tiny handprints on the mirrors and the messy floors. In my heart, I know that I will. I wonder if I'll even feel a little lonely without them here. My kids have taught me to love unconditionally and how to stand up and set a solid example for them.

As mothers and parents, I encourage you to be supportive. I'm on pinterest although most days it makes me feel inadequate. I mean who has time to complete 20 projects, fancy dinners, totally organized houses? Do you remember me saying that I'm proud that I didn't have to re-wash any laundry from forgetting it today? Be kind to each other. I know I could use a little support every now and then to feel more normal.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Facebook depression

I teach a growth and development class for the college where I work. I love love love my job. It makes me feel proud. Proud that I get to shape these individuals into better students, into future nurses, proud that I have a group of dedicated colleagues, that care as much or more than I do, that give 110% all of the time. I'm truly blessed to be combining two of my favorite things, nursing and education.

Last week, I taught about family and social media. There's a thing in our text book called "Facebook depression". Each time I teach that topic I wonder what our world is coming too. Social media has the ability to make people depressed. As if we don't already have enough going on in our world that we need to add to it in a negative way.

Last week I thought about it in a different way. Maybe people get depressed from social media not only from the negativity but maybe it makes them feel like they are not enough. They didn't create the perfect pinterest classroom project, they didn't cook a gourmet meal for their family every night, they didn't get to the gym as much as someone else, their marriage isn't as good as someone else. Social media has the ability to bring out the best and the worst in people. It's an easy outlet for people to express themselves quickly to a number of people and friends.

For me, I post the good, the bad, the ugly. Motherhood and life is enough. I don't need further negativity in my life. I block the posts that bring me down and read more of the ones that lift me up. I love the honesty of some of my friends. One friend posts about going to the gym one day and eating mexican the next. It's all about balance for her... and for me too. One posts funny pictures about her kids and her husband.

This week, I encourage you to use social media to lift people up. Don't post things that are highly controversial, take a break. Don't you already have enough going on in your life? Post about how you find the balance, post about how you manage your time, how you handle your stress, how you find the balance between being a mom, a wife and an employee... Lift people up... See how it helps you and makes you feel.

As for me, I'm still finding the balance. I started my "new" job as a full time faculty just this past summer. I'm struggling to find the balance between doing work at work and bringing it home. I'm struggling to get meals on the table that are healthy and that people eat. I'm struggling to feel like I am a good wife AND a good mom. I will tell you that I'm doing the very best I can. I'm giving 110% of me all of the time. My house is often messy, we really, deep clean it about once a week. There are often backpacks on the floor and shoes scattered around. I'm figuring out that it's okay... someday those tiny shoes will be the same size as mine, some day the backpacks won't be there. Right now, I'm finding the balance between purging and keeping. How do YOU find the balance?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Love the ones your with

Life is short... the dishes will be there, the house will still be waiting to be cleaned, the toilets- they can wait too... Let the laundry pile up, let the rooms be messy, let cleaning wait and love the ones you care most about. Really love them. Let them feel the love. 

A few days ago, something happened. It's private and I intend to keep it that way. It scared me, my life flashed before my eyes, things can change in an instant. Often times, we get so caught up in the every day things, homework, dishes, dinner, baths... that we forget that the people that we love the most are waiting for us, wanting and needing our attention. Cherish those moments, turn them into memories... When all is said and done, you will remember the memories the most. I promise. 

This wake up call has made me think. I've kissed my kids more than ever. I've actually stopped in the hallway to kiss my husband. I stopped cleaning the kitchen to wrap my arms around his body and really feel it in my arms. I'll be the first to admit, that I don't do those things as often as I should. 

My husband gets pushed to the way side while I hug our kids, read to them, do homework, make them breakfast for the 3rd time in one morning. Today, I held him extra tight. I even told my beautiful babies that I loved him first, long before they ever came along. I told him that the love we created allowed us to create them. That I fell more in love with their daddy with each and every day. That their births allowed me to fall in love with him all over again. 

You see, it's my husband that gets the brunt of my bad day. He's the one I adore. He takes my shit when I'm having a bad day. He's kind and gentle, yet hardworking and stubborn. It's he that consoles me when I'm sad, that tells me to back off the cliff when I'm ready to jump. It's he that wraps his arms around me and holds me when I cry. It's he that takes the time to listen to my excitement, my fears, my happiness, my craziness, my madness, my silliness. He loves me in a way that I know no one else could. 

Take it from me, love the ones you love the most. Really love them, love them in a way that no one else if capable of loving them. Love your babies, love your husband, call your mom, pick up your friendships, take time to do something that makes you happy. Love your life... please, don't let it slip away without loving it. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Class talk

Two weeks ago I went to talk to Bella's class about her hand on her request. That's kind of how we've worked it every year. She tells me IF she wants me to come talk and then I reach out to her teacher when she says something. It turns out that the teacher had a super cool activity planned so she thought my talk would fit right in, turns out, I also don't teach on Fridays so it was perfect timing. It also happened that I received a text from a classmate's mom saying "ask Bella about Billy" *name changed to protect privacy*... so basically all the stars aligned for it to be perfect timing.

This year we talked about some of the same things: She was born that way, I found out when I was pregnant, she can do everything you can, she does some things that you do but just differently. She has to TRY things even if she thinks she can't. Their class has a saying "No I can't, only I'll try". This fit in well with my chat. I explained that sometimes she may do things different and get the same result. One example that we used was tying her shoes or cutting with scissors.

This year, I changed a few things. I added in words that make us feel good, that lift us up and make us feel happy. Those words could be friendly, kind, warm, happy, caring... I also added in words that make us feel sad or are hurtful. Those words could be creepy, weird or stupid. I explained that it's much nicer if we could try to lift up our friends and make them feel good. That kindness comes full circle, if you are kind, then others want to be kind to you. I asked them to come up with words people used to describe them that make them feel good. I heard words like helpful, funny, happy, athletic, crafty... They were THRILLED to share those words that made them feel special.

We talked about how some differences we can see, like a missing hand. We also talked about differences we can't see like diabetes. We talked about celebrating each of our differences and what makes us each special. We also talked about how each of us has physical differences that we can see, such as hair color, eye color, freckles, moles... and maybe we had differences on the inside that no one could see or knew about. One child even felt comfortable sharing that she was diabetic and had to get her blood sugar checked.

This was the FIRST time I took notes with me to talk about Bella's limb difference. It's EASY to get off track with a bunch of squirrely second graders at the end of a busy school day. I'm happy with the results. I'm also happy to report that Billy has been much nicer since our chat!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Myoelectric testing

We've been waiting...and waiting...and waiting for Hanger to tell us that they received insurance approval for a prosthetic. Our pediatrician already wrote a prescription for it. Who knew you'd need a prescription? Crazy but true... Turns out Hanger never submitted it to insurance at all. Instead they went ahead and retrieved the myoelectric (myo) tester from another location to be sure that Bella's muscles in her left forearm work properly to control a myo. This has been over a month long process just to get the tester.

(This is an image from the internet that shows what a myo could look like for someone like Bella)

Yesterday, we went into Hanger to do the testing. Turns out, Bella's muscles are on fire! She was able to move her wrist in the ways that our prosthetist asked in order to trigger her muscles. Demonstrating that these muscles triggered means that Bella would be able to control a myo. She was super excited! She loved watching the tester lights go up and down on the monitor. She loved being able to "see" her muscles do something on a machine. It was a really sweet moment watching the excitement in her eyes and her face light up.

Our prosthetist said "She likely wouldn't need much occupational therapy if you practiced at home. All of her muscles are intact and fire properly. She's able to control them to trigger the muscles when asked. That means that she could open and close a hand on the prosthesis." Watching her face was like watching fire works on the fourth of July. She was thrilled to hear that she could make the muscles work in the way that she needed to to control a prosthetic myoelectric limb. I was excited to watch her continue to trigger the machine and watch her laugh with delight.

It was a short 15 minute appointment. An appointment that could change things for her and our family. We've always said that we would support our children. This was Bella's idea. She really wanted to try a prosthetic. She says that she thinks it will make some things easier. I would agree with her... I'll also be the first to say that it'll make some things harder too. Things she used to doing with her hand the way that it is. Things like playing with certain toys, tying shoes, doing pony tails, cutting things with scissors, eating... she'll have to do things differently. Kids will be curious in a different way.

Now, we wait...and wait...and wait... for Hanger to talk to insurance and our pediatrician to talk to insurance. For insurance to deny a prosthetic and then to appeal... that's how this works. So for now, we wait.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Oh Apple...

It's true that I love Apple products, they are so user friendly... WHEN they work! My computer isn't currently recognizing my phone which creates some issues when trying to upload photos. In the meantime, a LOT has been going on! Stay tuned for a TON of blog updates!

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. 

Friday, August 12, 2016


We had our appointment with the prosthetic company a few days ago. I'm still trying to digest things. I think Bella is filled with excitement. I'm still trying to process it all. Insurance, myoelectric, body powered, occupational therapy, cost, time, learning, exploring, deciding, attempting. Never once I have I doubted my daughter's ability to figure things out in her own way. I can't tell you how many times I've practiced one handed shoe tying, zipping and buttoning. I've thought about how she'll open makeup containers, curl her hair or paint her nails.

Our appointment opened a few doors. Bella is dead set on a hook, she does NOT want a hand. She initially (a few years back) said they look "creepy". Currently she said "They aren't really creepy any more it's just not what I want". Fair enough, her body, her decision. So we discussed "hook hands". We have a couple of options. A body powered hook that would strap around her body. Excuse the lame picture but I wanted people who are clueless about this stuff to understand what it may look like. Basically the straps go around the shoulders and under the armpits. And you thought a bra was constricting!!

She's decided that the body powered hook would get in her way and bother her. She's for sure my child! I hate tight elastics, anything that constricts or doesn't allow me to move freely. The myoelectric would cover most of her left forearm, however it would have motors and such so that she does not need straps around her little body. She says that this would be a "good one for me because I'm not all strapped up".

For now, we wait. We wait for the company to get the myoelectric sensors so we can do some testing to be sure she's a candidate for a myoelectric. We wait for the prosthetist to talk with our insurance about costs and options. Did I mention how irritated I am that the insurance gets a say in what will work for her? It bothers me that someone sitting behind a desk gets to decide, that person probably has two completely functional hands and has no idea what their life would be like with less... It's like having someone tell me what pants will fit me best without knowing what I'll be wearing the pants for or what size I wear... Okay so yeah, we wait. Once those things get figured out, we go back in. Bella does the sensor testing and then we do some molds. We just had measurements done at our appointment the other day.

I'm good at waiting... or not!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Maine vacay

When planning our time off for the year, we revolve it around Camp No Limits. Since Ryan takes a week, we added a few days on to the front part of our CNL trip so that we could explore Maine a little bit. Man was it action packed!

The first few days we stayed at the Ramada in Portland, Maine. It was a good location near the things that we wanted to do. There were tons of food options within 10 minutes of our hotel and a grocery store too.
Day one, right off the plane, we stopped at Fisherman's Grill. Ryan's the big foodie so he planned many of the places that we ate. Apparently according to his research this was one of the best lobster rolls around. So, we ordered a bunch of stuff, lobster rolls being one of them. $80 later and we were set! This place was TINY on the inside and had 4 tables outside. It was HOT but we opted to eat outside anyways. The lobster roll had some sort of mayo on it and we both agreed that it was only ok, none of the kids would even try it!

Hot, sweaty girl patiently waiting for her chicken fingers... clearly not an adventurous eater!

At the water front, there was a bridge that had "love locks". It was really fascinating to look at and read the names and dates on each of the locks. Pretty cool to check out! It's also in a great area for walking, eating, drinking, ice cream and shopping.

The kids really enjoyed walking along the water and checking out all the boats and shops!
We ate dinner near the harbor area at Duckfat. Ryan said this was the best place to eat for french fries that were deep fried in duckfat... odd but whatever, we were all game. The panini's were only ok. The housemade sodas were delicious! The fries, also great! Clearly Bella didn't have any issues with them! 
We finished the day with a dip in the pool AND in the hot tub. The kids were in heaven getting to swim before bed. 
Evidence of one totally wiped out kid! I should add that the kids refused to share the extra bed in the room... One slept on a cot, one on the bed and this monkey had no issues with the floor. Sleeping on the floor is clearly better than sleeping with a sibling! 

tags: maine, travel with kids, travel with toddlers, camp no limits, vacation planning, vacation, Ramada Plaza Hotel, Alamo, Portland Head Light House, Higgins Beach, Old Orchard Beach, 3 car seats across

CAMP NO LIMITS all booked!

This picture was taken just last weekend while we were camping. Bella and I were walking around the camp ground just the girls. Dirty from...