Thursday, July 21, 2016

How we fundraise and budget for Camp No Limits.

Yes we fundraise, yes we ask for donations, we do fundraising motorcycle rides yearly in Missouri, we've done garage sales and bake sales and a bowling event and instead of birthday presents, Bella often asks for people to help her go to camp. It's a great way for her to ask for help to contribute instead of another toy or doll that gets tossed aside days after she receives it. Honestly, every single dollar counts.

This year our out of pocket was ZERO thanks to all of you!! So from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul, I thank you, WE thank you. This is something that we plan for as a family because it's that important to us. Our vacation time revolves around Camp No Limits! This year, the money we had budgeted to go to camp will allow us to tack on a little pre-camp vacation. So we'll get to see Portland, Maine for a few days before camp starts. We are excited, none of us have ever been to the northeast!

I can't thank you enough for making this possible for our baby girl. It means the world to us. We'll keep you up to date as to what we learn this year AND our vacation experience as well!

The coolest part of this whole thing, Bella gets to celebrate her birthday in Maine!! How stinking exciting for her and for us! So on July 24, do something that makes YOU happy for all that you've done as a way to celebrate her birthday wherever you are in the world!

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 :)

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...