Thursday, November 30, 2017

Shhh... don't tell my husband

My handsome husband doesn't read the blog or write the blog. I can't tell you the last time he even looked at anything on here! So let's not tell him about this one :) He doesn't need to get a big head!

We just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. Did you know 46% of marriages end in the first 10 years? Sad, but true! Why am I telling you this? I feel like we've passed a small milestone. Our marriage isn't "hard work" but it's not always easy either. It means giving 100% of yourself 100% of the time. It means compromising when you feel like screaming. It means knowing someone's faults and loving them just the same.

In our 10 years here are some things we've done: got married on a beach, moved across the ocean to the midwest (from Hawaii to Wisconsin), gone through my mom having cancer, living with my mother-in-law, house hunting, opening a business, buying a house while 8 months pregnant, the birth of Bella, a super fussy baby (did I mention how she cried for HOURS on end!), a new puppy, a miscarriage, the sudden death of my dad, my emotional struggles surrounding being pregnant and giving birth while trying to grieve, the birth of Grayson, selling a condo, the birth of Luca, we've gone through having 3 toddlers and survived, chickens (four of them from baby chicks to big chicks and now eggs) job changes, grad school, more job changes, vacations, many trips to the cottage, student loans, we've gone through co-sleeping, breastfeeding, hunting, girls trips, closing a business, a work conference out of state, lots of camping, being rained out as a family of 5 in a tent, a mom/daughter trip, more hunting, new career paths for me, bathroom renovation, new career paths for Ryan, multiple cars, buying an RV, my need to constantly purge.. the list goes on. We've seen each other at their best and at their worst.

There's one thing I know for sure, in the past ten years, there is no one on the planet that I would rather share this love with. He's my one and only. He loves me when I'm at my highest, he lifts me up when I'm at my weakest, he encourages me every step of the way. I'm lucky to have this man in my life. I can't wait to see what the next 10 years of our marriage will be like. I'm excited for our challenges, our adventures and the memories we will share together.

What I'm telling you is it's not always easy but it will always be worth it!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Recess woes

Bella came home yesterday a bit sad. Her "friends" weren't being really friendly.

Her boy friends like to play football at recess and she's afraid the ball is going to hit her. Something we'll work on eventually... she's been working on it with her PE teacher but she needs more practice, clearly. Let's just say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I hate (strong but true word) balls flying at my head... football would be my very last choice to play.

Her girl friends were playing with a girl that "doesn't want me to play with them". She always says "Don't play with Bella". To be fair, I've been around this child and she's kind of harsh and very opinionated. It's her way or the highway... While I've tried to coach Bella to find a new set of friends, she very much wants to be friends with everyone.

What does this mean for us as parents? It means instilling a bit more confidence in our girl. Ryan said "you are like the nicest and kindest kid ever!" While we think that's true, it doesn't matter since we aren't eight year olds. What matters is that Bella knows how to advocate for herself and how to chose friends that are worthwhile. It also means teaching her that she doesn't need to be friends with everyone.

What does that look like to an eight-year-old? It means treating everyone with kindness. It means welcoming everyone into your playgroup but being okay with the fact that not everyone wants to play with you. It means being accepting of those who are different and those who are they same. Embracing others individuality and uniqueness. It's okay not to be friends with everyone... it's NOT okay to be rude, disrespectful or hurtful.

This week at recess, Bella said "I played with George *Name changed for privacy*". "No one likes George but he's a really nice kid". I commended her for welcoming him to play and that it's okay to play with him if "no one likes him"... she said "people don't like him because he's different." We talked about how hurtful this must be for him and that even though he's "different", he's the same in many ways. He's a 3rd grader just like the rest of her grade, he's learning the same things, he goes to the same school... there are LOTS of things that are the same. I talked to her about how important it is to make him feel included and how it's important for her to stick up for him. Being a true friend looks like someone who will be there for you when others aren't. She understood that.

Being a third grader is no easy task... kids are starting to figure out who they get along with, who plays and interacts well together, who doesn't, they are really starting to figure out who they are and who they want to be. We talked about how when she grew up, many of her friends in third grade might not be her friends now! She thought that was kind of sad. I agreed, but also explained that we meet lots of people along our journeys in life.

Many of my friends now are people I work with or have worked with, moms of kids in my kids school, parents in the PFC, friends from nursing school... We talked about how friendships change as you grow up and how your friends change too. Each friend you have brings something different to your life and relationships. Each friendship is unique. Life will take go through different twists and turns and there will be friends who help you along the way.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday kicks off the season after Thanksgiving. According to the Giving Tuesday website, it kicks off the "charitable season of giving". This giving tuesday, I'm asking you to really think about the organization that you pick to donate... that is if you do. I'm asking you to give mindfully not mindlessly. Many organizations take our money and very little goes to the actual cause. It bothers me to think that money I have given in years passed does not 100% go to the cause I am supporting. 

The organization that means the most to our family today and every day is Camp No Limits. As many of you know, we attend camp every year. If we could attend every location, we would! But alas, work, school, life and finances for travel get in our way. Camp truly makes our year brighter. While we only attend once a year, the friendships that we make through camp last a lifetime. The support and love carry us through to the next time we attend camp. It's like having a family that supports you and lifts you up when you meet struggles. The kids and families that we meet through camp change our lives. 

I'm asking you to consider giving to Camp No Limits or give to our fund for travels to get to camp. Last year, it cost us over $3200 to get to camp, between airfare and rental car amongst other things. That said, it was worth every penny. I will continue to work my tail off every year to make camp a possibility for our family. Without the help of you and others like you, we would not have been able to attend camp. Last year, we received a scholarship to pay for camp and we only had to pay the $3200 to get there! That's a HUGE blessing! 

If Giving Tuesday is not your thing, no worries, I'll simply ask that you spread awareness. Spread awareness about Camp No Limits, spread awareness about limb differences, share our names with others so that I may help another family that is in our shoes, so that I can help them advocate for their child, so that I can be the support that they need, so that camp can be the family that they need, so that they can be aware of the many people that are in their shoes! 

Thank you for considering. Thank you for following our blog, for listening to our stories. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

On being thankful...

Each November I try to write on Facebook some of the many reasons I am thankful. This November started out with a bang. So far it went like this:

The month of thankfulness begins: Day 1: I'm thankful for Ginny. Our friendship is proof that friendship can survive and grow no matter the distance. I'm thankful for our morning chats no matter the length. I'm thankful for her ability to make me laugh when I want to cry. 

Day 2: I'm thankful for our home. Though it's messy most days, it's proof that we live. It's proof that we play and we have the ability to cook food that nourishes our body. I'm thankful for our messy table which shows that we share meals together and make memories

Day 3: I'm thankful for margaritas. I haven't had one in ages but tonight is the night #midtermssuck

Day 4: I'm thankful for my body. It gave me the power to lift weights today and feel strong. Though it may not look exactly the way I'd like for it to look, I'm proud of it. It's allowed me to carry 3 pregnancies and birth 3 healthy babies.It's allowed me to nurse my 3 babies and provide milk for a variety of other babies around Wisconsin. It allows me to hold my babies in my arms even at 8, 6 and 4. It may not be the best body, but it's mine and I'm proud of that.

Day 5: I'm thankful for my Bella boo. She pushes me to think outside of my comfort zone. She challenges me to be the best mom and the best woman I can be. She questions things I never thought about at her tender age. She's wise beyond her years. I appreciate that I learn from her regularly and for her ability to make me a better me for her and for everyone around me.

Day 6: I'm thankful for being able to listen to my 4 year old use his imagination while playing cars alone. He NEVER plays cars and was playing and having them "talk" to each other. I stood at the top of the stairs soaking in his imagination and his ability to play nicely alone. He loves being around people and others that moments like these are rare

Then I stopped, I missed like 3 days. Why? Because work was overwhelming. I was meeting with students from the moment I walked in the door at 8, between every break I had and after class or clinical. I was discouraged. Discouraged that maybe my exams were too hard, discouraged that my students fessed up to not reading or even owning the book, discouraged that they weren't doing the things that I told them would help them succeed, discouraged that I was spending hours discussing the things I'd already told them. I was frustrated. As a professor, my biggest frustration is student's failing when I've given them the tools to succeed.

Here's the thing, some of them were super thankful that I met with them. They were really genuinely grateful. I was feeling overwhelmed, sad, discouraged. So the thankful posts stopped because at the end of the day I didn't feel very thankful for much, except that we had all made it out alive. I felt like I was struggling with that balance yet again. However, I need to get back at it. I need positivity.

Day 7: I'm thankful for my childhood. Though it wasn't always easy, it was mine. My parents loved me unconditionally. I never once questioned whether they loved me, whether I was wanted or whether they were proud. My parents gave affection freely, hugs, kisses and nighttime snuggles were moments we shared. I remember setting up the Christmas tree... I remember swimming with my dad at the pool. There were few distractions. They loved us without a doubt.

Day 8: I'm thankful for divorce. Yeah I know it might be an odd thing to be thankful for... were there times as a child that I wished that my parents were together? You bet your ass. Were there times, many times, that I hated packing up my shit to go to the other's house or back again? Yep that too... but I learned a lot. I grew as a person because of my experiences. There are things I gained... 

Day 9: I'm thankful for my step-dad. He loves me like I'm his. I never lived there with my mom and him, I was an older teen when they got married. I never once have doubted his love for my mother, he's by her side through thick and thin. I got a good one when I got him. Like a really good one. While he loves me, he really, I mean really loves my babies. They are his grand babies. There's no blood but their bond is thicker than that. Blood is not needed. The love runs deep with each of my babies and their Papa. 

Day 10: I'm thankful for my step-moms. Yes, my dad was married more than once. I really gave my "first" step-mom a run for her money. I tried with all of me to run her to the curb... she loved my dad and she tried to love me too. I pushed her away. Now, even after divorce and life changes, I love her. I appreciate her more. We love each other despite the past. My dad's next wife, allowed him to share his time with me. Though, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have cared if she didn't. I spent a lot of late nights hanging out with the both of them... while she's cut me out of her life now (apparently she can't handle that I'm "so much like him"), I appreciate that she was part of the relationship I shared with my father. 

Day 11: I'm thankful for our camper... not the "actual" camper but the memories it allows us to create as a family. We are disconnected from our daily lives, our emails, phone calls. We are all just hanging out together, playing games, hiking, swimming, adventuring together. I wouldn't trade those moments for the world. The late night fires and s'mores. The campfire smell that waifs into our home for days to follow. The moments that we share with friends that camp with us. 

Day 12: I'm thankful for my job. Though there are days I want to run away, there's nothing else I would rather do. I'm sharing my passion about pediatric nursing with students. I'm teaching them, I'm helping them grow into the future nurses that will rock this world. I'm thankful for the challenge it gives my mind, the questions that they ask that I can't answer. The ones that leave me wanting more for me, for them. 

Day 13: I'm thankful for my colleagues, old and new. I would not be the professor or the nurse I am today without the people that helped me along the way. I've been blessed to travel to different cities, meet Ryan while traveling, explore new cities, learn how different organizations run, worked with army medics and worked with true pediatric experts. There is not one person who's path I crossed that did not influence who I am today. I am the nurse, the educator I am today because of each and every one of them. 

Day 14: I'm thankful for Grayson. His love for all things wolves and animals. His love for camping and being a family. His love for watching Ryan and I dance in the kitchen and his love of marriage. The kid can't wait to get married. He's passionate, he loves hard. 

Day 15: With that comes me being thankful for my marriage. I'm thankful for a husband that pushes me to be the best I can for me. He expects 100% and gives 100%. Ten years in and there's no one else I could imagine embracing this journey with. I'm lucky to have him. I know that. There are times when I wonder what I've done to deserve him. 

Day 16: I'm thankful for Camp No Limits. While it only happens four days out of entire year, it fills us for the remainder of the year. The moments that you take away from camp are priceless. The friends become family, they become your support, your advocate to get what your child needs. They push you when you feel like giving up. They provide a network of people that embrace Bella and our family with no limits!

Day 17: I'm thankful for Luna (our dog). While it may seem silly, she's excited to see every single person in the house when they enter the door. In her ripe old age of 7, she's suddenly a 70 pound lap dog. She's a snuggler and a lover and is a perfect match for our family. 

Day 18: I'm thankful for our neighbors... they seriously bend over backwards to help our family. They have a family of their own and don't hesitate for a split second to help, get the kids off to school, sit while the washer guy comes, run over when we have a car issue or need an extra hand. I could not do this job without them! 

Day 19: I'm thankful for play dates. They seriously breathe life into me when I'm torn and worn out. When I feel like day drinking or like I can't handle another minute, when I have a funny story to share or an embarrassing one. I'm thankful for the ability of my mom friends to make me feel normal when I feel anything but!

Day 20: I'm thankful for my mom. I sure wish she would move closer though! I'm thankful for our relationship, for the growth that continues to happen as we both age (or mostly her, not me of course!)I'm thankful for the Tutu she is to my babies. She's forming unique bonds with each of them. The adventurous spirit she has and that she'll do anything for them, even if that means riding a spinning ride at Legoland 4 too many times! I'm thankful for her ability to calm me when I'm stressed, encourage me when I feel like I'm failing, and making me laugh when I need to breath. 

I'm all caught up! Finally... that was emotional! I'll be back... I'm not letting this month go without finishing it off!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Day Made

I've posted time after time about struggling. Tonight, the house was a wreck, we were running around like usual. Homework, chores, baths, cleaning, laundry, lunches, reading, bed. We try really hard to make bedtime a priority. Each kid usually gets a chapter read to them (In Bella's case) or a book (for the littler guys). I say usually because sometimes it just doesn't happen.

I climbed in bed with Bella to read to her. I finished her chapter and we were talking. We were laughing and snuggling. She said "You are the best mom ever". I told her how much that meant to me and how that was the very best part of my day. I told her how I really appreciated her sharing that she felt that way with me. "You really are the best mom ever". My heart was full. My mind was calm.

These are always the moments that I'll never regret spending. In the race of madness, it's just me and her... or me and one of the boys. It's one on one time that's so precious, so rare and so needed. These little reading moments add up. Tonight they added up to a really big moment for me.

There are times, so, so many times, that I wonder if I'm giving my kids the best I can. The balance eludes me most days... almost all days. Tonight, the balance was tough, as usual. It was a day that I wanted to throw in the towel and crawl in the bed. I didn't. I finished strong... stronger than I started. Thanks to my girl for being my bucket filler. For making me realize that even though sometimes I fail, I get back up stronger, I try harder. I'm glad she's mine. I'm glad I'm hers.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Our first meeting post 504

The PE teacher reached out to me for a meeting related to Bella's 504 plan. I met with two of the PE teachers to discuss fitness testing that would be coming up and football. Okay, head injury central! Hopefully she doesn't like football :) That's the nurse mom in me talking. Back to the story, so we set up a before school meeting to talk about their ideas.

When we met, they were prepared with the items that would be used for fitness testing and what they thought Bella would need. They didn't forsee any concerns or issues with her doing well, but they wanted to be sure that they were doing what was best for her. I'm glad that they were really putting some thought into her limb difference and what that meant in PE for her.

Needless to say, we both agreed that she should wear her prosthetic for any weight bearing activities on her upper limbs. Push ups was one of the things on the fitness testing. The prosthetic allows her to keep her wrist joint safe. I fear that while she could do the pushup without it, it could cause injury to her wrist joint. She does have movement in her left wrist and we need to continue to protect that. The other item was curl ups (like sit ups but coming up farther). They showed me what Bella would need to do in order to be successful. We agreed that wearing the prosthetic would put some weight on her left side to keep her spine straight during the curl up.

It was a short, sweet meeting. In and out in about 30 minutes. Those are my perfect meetings, a good agenda that is stuck to and people who are focused!

I must say, while I was excited about the meeting, it bummed me out a little that we had to have a 504 in place for more action to be taken. This is precisely why I advocated for Bella to have a 504. Having it in writing somehow makes it happen, at least for us. Does everyone with a limb difference need a 504? No... I mean it's taken us until 3rd grade to "need" one... though in the back of my mind, I can't help but wonder if having one last year would have protected her from her neck/head injury.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Be a bucket filler

Tonight, Grayson and I were snuggling in bed talking about his day. This kid kills me sometimes. Tonight was one of those nights. I got in his bed and as I was getting settled he said "How was your day mom?" He's genuinely concerned about how my day went, he listens and asks questions. It's the sweetest. It reminds me to sit, to be still and to really be in the moment with him. He's been melting my heart into a puddle since he was born with his big eyes starring up at me.

I was telling him a story about how a patient told one of my student's that she was glad she took care of her. I told him how it made me so happy because it made my student know how appreciated she was, it made her so happy. He said "yeah that kid was filling her bucket".

Confused I said "what?"

"Mom, she's a bucket filler, the patient because she filled your student's bucket with happiness and made her feel good".

"Oh yeah, she was totally a bucket filler and my student's bucket was getting filled up!"

He went on to talk about how you can fill people's bucket. He told me how his teacher fills his bucket, how friend's fill his bucket and how he fills up people's bucket. It was the sweetest, most genuine conversation with my super sweet hearted boy.

I asked "How do I fill your bucket up?"

"Mom you just love me, that's all!" with the most sincere smile on his face.

That's right my sweet boy, I do love you. I just love you so... someday you'll fully understand the depth of my love.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On grief and love

This week, several of my friends have been impacted by the loss of someone they love. It's heartbreaking to me to watch their lives shatter before their eyes and the changes that happen due to the loss of one person.

My best friend told me some expert advice when my dad died. She said something along these lines...

It never gets easier, the pain never goes away. We just learn to deal with it differently. There are days you won't cry at all then there will be a whole week when you just break down. Sometimes it hits you at the most random times or in the most random places. Your heart feels heavy. Your life will never be the same. It will go on, in a way that's different than you know.

She was right. Six and a half years later I still feel the same way.

She was one of the only people that didn't say "God has a plan" or "God needed him more". When people said that, I knew they were trying to console me. Instead there was a fire in my soul that it added gasoline to. The fire burned bigger and brighter each time. I hated God in that moment. God was the last person I wanted to hear about. My heart was screaming out that there was no way that anyone needed him more than I did.
(Making memories with my babies and my husband)

There was no doubt in my heart that my babies needed to meet the man that raised me, they needed to know him not from me but from him. My babies needed to see his laughter and feel his arms wrapped tightly around them. They needed to see the way that he loved his children and that he loved his grandchildren. They needed to watch him face life fearlessly and live each moment as if it might be his last. If you knew him, you know that he did that.
(Pancakes for my kids, my mom did this for us when we were little and I remember it to this day. Re-creating those memories with my babies!)

What I've learned from all of this, share the love. Whether it's picking up the phone and calling an old friend or sending them a Facebook message. Spend time with the people you love, forget the gifts, build the memories. I can tell you there's not one memory I have with my dad that I regret. Do I have things of his that I remember him by? Sure I do. The things that stick out are the memories we made, not the things I can hold in my hands. Hold those babies tighter. Take that trip, who cares about the couch that could be replaced, the couch can wait, the trip can't. Read that extra book. Go on that extra long bike ride. Don't wake up tomorrow regretting something you could've said but didn't. Make today count.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Put your phone down and love me!"

This little guy says that frequently. He's with me at more often then not. He's been going to my work's childcare, he's with me on the days I don't have work obligations, we spend hours on end together. He gets a LOT of one of one attention. He needs a LOT of one on one attention and he has no problem letting me know. "Put your phone down and love me" and then up on my lap he climbs. "Close your computer and love me", "stop doing laundry and love me"

Here's the thing, there's times when I need to finish my email, there's times that phone call can't wait... but in the end, he'll never be this age again. I'll never regret closing my computer to love him. So I do just that. I close that computer, I turn off the phone, I stop the laundry because he needs my love and it can't wait.

This is the last year that I get to have my baby home. This is the only time in my life that I'll have one baby at home for this long without a sibling. I get to really enjoy him, embrace him, figure out his unique personality.

Anyone that knows me close, knows the struggles I've had with this strong willed, creative, stubborn, curious, adventurous little spirit. The last 9-12 months were the hardest of motherhood that I've endured yet. He challenged me. He pushed me to my breaking point nearly I cried. Was I doing it right? How could I parent him? How was he SO different from his siblings? What had I done? How could I help him? How could I be a better mother? How could I be a better mother to them all? It was a struggle, a constant freaking struggle.

I did a lot of things different. I talked to every mother I knew. I talked to mothers of all ages. I felt like I was missing his boat time and time again. We took love and logic courses and I still felt like I was failing. I read books and books about parenting. Then we started a special kind of therapy called PCIT.

PCIT is parent child interaction therapy. Read more about it here. I was so skeptical. Even halfway through, I thought it was stupid and wondered how it would ever help. I emailed a parent that had completed the therapy and asked a million questions. Then, something clicked. Things started working at home. Like crazy working, in a good crazy way. Our relationship started working in a way that I thought was not possible. He was listening because I was giving better directions. The therapy was working for us.

We graduated the therapy well over a month ago. I was warned by our therapist that this might be a "honeymoon" phase and that the part that was working might stop but I needed to remain consistent. Well the honeymoon phase has continued and we're still going strong. I'm beyond thrilled for how this has helped us.

So my sweet boy that loves me more than anything. You remind me daily how much you love me. I will always "put down my phone and love" YOU!

Monday, October 2, 2017

504 complete!

Just like that our 504 is complete! It was way more painless than it was initially made out to be. I think because I reminded the school that I have the ability to be at school for 3 days a week until the 504 took effect. That might have helped... maybe not... but it sure seemed like it was quick.

Our 504 is very basic at this point. My goals were to keep her safe and to keep her RIGHT hand protected. It is the hand that she will use for 100% of things throughout life, so minimizing discomfort or distress on her right hand is essential. So here are some of the keys of our "accommodations" so far:

  • Consultation between the PE teacher, the district PT and myself quarterly (this allows us all to think of body mechanics, safety and ideas to help her)
  • Allow an opportunity of pre-teaching of PE if she were to need something different (meaning she could try the adaptations without the stress of her peers observing for the first time)
  • Close proximity to PE teacher during activities that require strength and balance of upper extremities (this helps keep her safe and helps the teacher be more aware of her)
  • Option of technology (there are tons of options for voice to text, word prediction, see saw, etc that will help her when it comes to writing for lengths of time)
  • Copies of board work (so when a teacher writes a math problem on the board, instead of Bella having to write it then do the problem, she will be given a photo copy of the board work, so less writing for her)
  • Allow more time for activities of daily living (buttoning, zippering, changing to outdoor gear in the winter) 

Understand that a 504 is protected through FERPA so her school can't go talking to anyone about this. Why am I sharing it here? Because when I was trying to find out info as a mom of a child with a limb difference, my search came up pretty empty. It was frustrating. I want other parents to not have the frustrations that I felt.

Don't these seem basic? To me, yes, but to others, not so much. All of these things come back to safety and limiting fatigue on her right hand. After talking to our friends at Camp No Limits this passed summer, we realized that we could do more to help Bella be successful in school and not have struggles. I'm thankful for a certain mama for encouraging me and almost pushing me to help my child! It takes an army to raise kids and I'm happy to have so many friends helping!

I actually have a meeting with her PE teachers tomorrow morning to discuss football. Her PE teacher requested that I meet with them so we could do some brainstorming together. Love this collaboration! I think it helps us all be on board for getting Bella what she needs to be successful and not have struggles due to her limb difference.

Is this all inclusive? No. As the years progress, her needs will change. We'll meet yearly to discuss her previous 504 and make changes. I can also request to meet to make changes sooner if needed. Likewise, her school/teachers could ask to meet with me for changes. This helps to be sure we are all on the same page for Bella. We will all learn as we go!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Successful 504 meeting

Last week, we had the official 504 meeting. It happened at 7:30 am on a school day. This made it easier for all the parties involved to be there at the meeting. I sent over my schedule openings and then they worked with that. Thankfully my schedule was pretty flexible last week.

Here's who was involved:
Occupational Therapist from the school district (OT)
The school principal
Bella's classroom teacher
The district nurse (there's ONE nurse for the entire district)
The school psychologist (apparently she's in charge of the 504's for our school)
Physical therapist from the school district (PT)
One of the physical education teacher's from her school (there's two)

Who knew so many people were involved? Not me. That said, it was a productive meeting and all parties were highly valuable for our situation. I'll give you the run down of the roles every one played so that if someone else is ever in our situation, hopefully they can understand it better.

The OT had called me earlier in the week to discuss my concerns. She also had observed Bella in the classroom prior to calling. I didn't know she was observing. Turns out Bella also didn't realize she was observing. She was pretty discrete about the whole thing it sounds like from Bella's standpoint and hers.

The school principal weighed in occasionally about what needed to be actually written in the plan and gave her thoughts on the plan as we went along.

Bella's classroom teacher explained what she had already seen and done as well as her plans for the year. You know those stubborn paper towel holders that need "two hands" to get the towel to come out. She put a stack of paper towels in a drawer below the sink for Bella. I love that she thought of that! She said other kids are welcome to use them too but it's there so she doesn't have to mess with it. What a thoughtful thing! She talked about technology moving forward. She discussed how the kids usually write the math problem that she writes then solve it. For Bella, she's going to photocopy the page (no copy right laws are effected) and then Bella can write the answer. For long writing, they can have her do talk to text... there were tons of plans she had! I was impressed with her forward thinking. Loved it!

The district nurse explained verbiage for the 504 to be effective. She helped to think of when to call me and how to notify me of problems as well.

The school psychologist read the words from the 504 legal page as well as noted our plans. She has to be sure Bella "qualifies"... to me that was a joke but whatever I get it. It's a process that must be followed to a T for it to be effective and be a proper legal document. She also helped keep us on track.

The physical therapist mostly just listened. He'll weigh in more when PE comes into play if we meet challenges. I'm happy he's involved so that he's aware of Bella and the fact that she may have some needs.

The PE teacher discussed the curriculum for the year. She talked about things that she's been thinking about, like hockey, pickle ball, gymnastics. She asked questions about her "sports arm" prosthetic and when and how to use it. I walked her through the process but Bella does most of it on her own. We talked about how once we meet some of those more challenging skills in PE that we as adults will come to a decision on having her utilize her prosthetic. Though I want her to be involved, there are some times adults just have to make the decision to keep her safe, physically, mentally and emotionally. We'll work with her too when it comes to that. Her PE teacher and the physical therapist talked about having her have the option to try some of those skills without her skills, like practicing holding a hockey stick before she's charged to do it in front of her class. I thought that was a great idea.

The meeting stayed on track and lasted 55 minutes. In my opinion, it was very effective. We are currently waiting to see the "finalized" 504 plan. I have no doubts that it will not be a problem.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Just say no

Remember D.A.R.E from 5th grade? Yeah I sure do. I took a lot of lessons from those sessions but I think I missed one. I must've missed the "just say no" part. I've completely and utterly overextended myself yet again. I mean who can't work full-time, be the PFC co-president, volunteer to do the kids class parties, teach a new class, maintain (or better yet grow) a marriage, keep three kids alive, and a dog, and four chickens, workout, eat healthy, try to be a better me for me, have good relationships with my kids, grow friendships, cultivate old friendships, keep up with emails, write agendas for meetings, organize camping trips, go camping then unpack from said trips, maintain a house, pay bills on time, grocery shop... I mean you get it, right?

This train wreck has pulled into the station and is taking a long, hard look at life. The "just say no" part of D.A.R.E was SO important, how come they only apply it to drugs and alcohol? Maybe they should have a refresher in college, when you are married, then again when you have kids... just saying! Today, I'm reevaluating.

What are my goals to be a better me? A better me means doing all of the things that I love too and not forgetting those in the shuffle. Part of being a better me means working out, giving attention to my kids, growing my marriage, helping friendships continue to grow... I have a big agenda and it's not getting smaller any time soon. For me, I'm going to start focusing on saying no instead of maybe, instead of yes, instead of let me think about it. Not because I WANT to say no, but because I NEED to say no... for me, for you, for everyone I love and adore.

Trust me, no one will die in the process of me saying no. No one will die if I don't do ALL of the class parties. My students will survive with me giving my all and cutting that all off by 10 pm. They need me sane as well as prepared. Lack of sleep leaves me unprepared and not sane, that's for sure. The junk mail, the junk emails, they can wait. The pile of papers by the door, that can wait too. The deep cleaning that I really want to do because it makes ME feel good, it'll have to wait.

There will be bumps along this road but I'm done overextending me. I'm doing what I need to do for me. Part of that includes increasing my water intake... simple yet forgotten. Part of that includes working out, lifting heavier weights and working out for less time. Part of that means sitting by the campfire to soak in the stars with my family.

Yes, this blog is about Bella. Ultimately, this blog is meant to help parents, women, mamas, working mamas... it's meant to help whoever it needs to help. Today, I'm hoping it helps you. Take a lesson from this mama, just say no. It's okay, I promise.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My tender little heart

Yesterday was the first day of school, I'll share those highlights later. Tonight, I almost cried while listening to our Bella read about history. Blah, most boring thing ever to this mama. She had read me a book and I was reading her a book about President Truman. One line red "During his presidency, some Americans criticized him."

"What does criticize mean mama?"

"Hm... it kind of means like judge people."

"Like how? Give me an example."

"Bella your math is not that good, you really aren't good at math." She smiled. Then she stopped.

Deep in thought, she said "That's what Mike (*name changed for privacy) did to me last year. He criticized me all of the time. That's tough."

"Yeah that didn't make you feel good. It can make people work harder because they see it as a challenge OR it can make you sad because you are trying your best and they are hurting you."

"Yeah but here's the thing. It did make me work harder. It also made me be nicer to Mike. He needed that from me. You never really know what other people need. He needed that because you don't know if someone hasn't been nice to him or what his life is like at home. You just don't know. Being kind to him, showed him that I wouldn't criticize him back."

"Wow Bella, you impress me. That would have really frustrated me and I'm not sure if I could have been nice like you. I'm super proud of you for thinking about what he needs even it's hard for you."

Just like that, we continued reading. Then we stopped and snuggled. I told her how proud I was of her and how happy I was that she was my daughter. Proud doesn't even describe the full emotions that I feel for her grown up thoughts. When I grow up, I hope I'm more like her.

Friday, September 1, 2017

My heart and soul

I've had a rough week, as a mom, as an educator, as a wife, as a daughter. I can talk more about that later. With all that said, I've cried 3 times this week. Some weeks are just like that. I was thankful for it to be Friday and have a long weekend before school starts for the kids AND for me too!

Bella was having a rough night. Luca really wanted to sleep with her, the little snuggle bug. She needed some space. She agreed because she knew how bad he wanted to and that we'd allow it because it was the weekend. Then, she melted into a million emotions.

We talked and she expressed a lot of emotions. When I told her that I understood her being stressed out and feeling out of sorts. There's been a lot going on in our lives individually and as a family. She has such a pure heart and a genuine soul. When we continued talking, she expressed that she trusted "you and Daddy, I really know that I can trust you. If I tell you something and ask you not to tell anyone, you don't." My heart melted into a million pieces. She realizes that she can confide in me and that I won't tell anyone. This says a lot about what she thinks about me. I'm glad that she knows that I'm a trusting person.

As we continued to talk, she made me realize that I'm doing okay as a mom. Sometimes as moms, we really struggle. I struggle with working full time, being a mom, doing volunteer stuff for school, being a wife, a good friend, maintaining our marriage, feeding my soul, working out and feeling strong... it's a constant balance. Sometimes, one side of the scale is heavier than the other. Today it was. Bella said to me "you and dad are really great parents, you really are." I thanked her for sharing that with me. I told her how I was proud of her and that's she's a really great kid.

Tonight, the scale was heavy on the mom side. Tonight, I cried happy tears. My girl gets me.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Navigating the 504

Apparently creating a 504 is easy for some and more difficult for others.

We were initially told by our principal that a health plan would be a better option for Bella. I trusted her and agreed. Then, after doing my own research, and a lot of it, I disagreed. A 504 would legally protect her and give something in firm writing that would help us to help her.

We were told that "if she qualifies"... I'm not sure how she wouldn't "qualify". If you read the legal language, she "qualifies"... Here is what I sent over to her school: According to the Dept. of Education website, the exact wording is "cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal..."
She was born with a congenital limb difference, which is an anatomical loss affecting her musculoskeletal system. This is documented on my prenatal record, her health care record, as well as easily visible to all.

I'm thankful for the Lucky Fin Project, Born Just Right, and Camp No Limits. Those places are primary places of support for our family in times like this. The people that are part of those sites bend over backwards to help, give advice, give guidance and support. It's essential when navigating things like this. As an "experienced" mom of a child with a limb difference, I'm still learning.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because this is already a trying process. It's taken a lot of effort and energy on my part. I'm working hard to make this happen for Bella. We need to have some things in place to help her continue to be successful in school, without injury and without overusing her right hand. Remember, that if your child has ONE hand, that hand does 100% of the work, 100% of the time.

I'm not saying your child needs a 504 just because they have a limb difference. I'm saying that my child does. She had a neck injury last year at school that could have been prevented. She also has complained over some soreness in her right hand, palm and fingers. I want to be sure I'm doing what's best for you. She's almost in third grade and so far, we've made no adaptations in school for her. This year, there will be some changes. This year, we have thought about some adaptations that will keep her safer and also keep her right hand in good order so that she doesn't cause injury at a young age. Any pressure we can take off of her right hand, we will. Talk to text is something our school utilizes currently so I'm hoping that she will be using it more so save her hand. That's something that can be "built" into our 504.

I want to do anything I can to help our community as well. Our official referral was sent over and now we are waiting once again. I'll keep you posted on the process as I find things out. If you have any questions, comments or advice, feel free to share! I've had a hard time finding 504 information for kids with limb differences. Most of the information that I search is popping up with kids that have ADHD.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to school, already?

Our back to school list is posted. I've already done some shopping. I might be slightly obsessed with getting the best deals possible AND buying some extra. I can't believe it's time for back to school. Part of me loves the routine, part of me is dying that this means summer is coming to an end.

I keep seeing parents post on Facebook about back to school and supplies. I'll share with you our back to school list.

Parents are seriously complaining about "50 pencils?" and "15 glue sticks". Really? I mean I found a 24 pack of pencils for $1, buy three and you are well over your 50 mark. Have you had a kindergartener AND volunteered in the classroom? Holy glue sticks. Kids leave the caps off, glue dries out. They also use it every day for gluing word work, it's a lot of glue people!

Why do I care? I care because are you bringing your negative attitude home to your kids? What sort of excitement are you creating? I never once heard my parents complain about back to school shopping or school supplies, not once. Here's the thing, your attitude wears on your kids. The good and the bad. They are watching you.
(Obsessed with wolves and beyond thrilled about his wolf backpack!)

My mom especially brought TONS of excitement for back to school. She ahh'd and oooh'd over our supplies and how fun it was to get new stuff. She made the process of packing our backpacks fun. Maybe that's where my love of back to school comes. My mom even makes it fun for MY kids! She offered to take them to buy a new outfit, lunchbox and backpack. She's crazy :) I promise that my kids are excited to get a "date" with her. Date days are the best days.

How much have I spent? So far, about $10 on each kid. I'm almost done. I still have to get spiral notebooks. My advice, start early, watch sales, buy what's on sale then wait for other sales, get a little each week.

Why am I sharing this? I'm sharing because it doesn't have to be a big expense. However, I'm mostly sharing because as an educator myself, don't we want our kids to have plenty of all of the tools that they need to be successful? Don't we want to arm them to succeed? Do we want them to have to worry about too many broken pencils or not enough erasers? No, they are kids. Excite them about education. Be the one that pushes them to do their best. Be their biggest support and the most positive energy in their life.

At the end of the day, 50 pencils should be the least of your worries.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Backpack shopping tips

1.     Pick the right size- I’ve always opted for a normal size backpack, not the kid size.

2.     Pick something durable- Yes the elmo one is SO cute, but it’ll wipe out after just a couple months of school. Then, you’ll be buying another $15 backpack that will meet it’s death soon after… by the end of the year, you’ll have spent at least $30 on backpacks.

3.     Pick one with decent straps- The straps are what they feel on their shoulders, the more padding, the more comfortable. They should be adjustable so you can fit your child correctly, curved straps are also more comfortable for daily wear.

4.     Pick one your kid likes- This ensures that they won’t freak out after a few months. The other thing about character backpacks is that my kids are over that character pretty quickly. We’ve always picked a design that’s more neutral.

5.     Zippers, snaps, buckles- does everything work with ease? Highly important. We bought a cheap backpack that had a zipper that lasted for 2 months. We’ve also had threads break and get caught in the zippers.

Have fun with it! We picked Grayson a bag that was out of our normal qualities and it failed. It was the perfect style with a wolf on the bag but it wasn’t durable or comfortable and the zipper was a big bummer. Bella, however, has had the same bag for two years. She was able to get another bag at a rummage last year that was the same brand but a different style. We typically stick with Jansport because their quality is amazing. I’ve had the same Jansport bag since I was in nursing school, 15 years ago! Are you kidding me? That’s serious quality. That bag went through the ringer and back.

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...