Eight of the ten members of the 2016 panel reunited in November.

Eight of the ten members of the 2016 panel reunited in November.

Imagine you have an opportunity of a lifetime that not only gives you a chance to work closely with one of your favorite brands but it comes with a pile of new wonderful friends. That’s what happened when I was offered the chance to be a Disney Parks Moms Panelist this year.

I’m just wrapping up my year-long gig in a splendid way: By enjoying my panelist reward trip with a week at Walt Disney World Resort and then experiencing a week-long holiday Disney Cruise Line trip. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that combines a cruise we’ve saved for two years AND spend time in the parks. Park time initially wasn’t in our plans when we booked the cruise!

Disney Parks picks out a new group of panelists each year. The newbies get to attend a training at Walt Disney World Resort. It’s an intense and wonderful way to get to know a group of people who also adore the Disney experience. Last December, I had a chance to train with nine other wonderful people. We make a great team. As the year went on, we’ve become more than just co-workers. We’re family. We cheEAR each other on, we laugh at our funny life moments, and cry together when we are hurting. I’ve also had a chance to get to know a number of other panelists from previous years. We only knew each other online until this past month. That’s when I had a chance to attend the Disney Parks Moms Panelist Reunion. It’s an unofficial (but official) event each year where all of the past panelists have a chance to meet and geek out together.

My winning Disney Springs scavenger hunt team!

My winning Disney Springs scavenger hunt team!

During our reunion, present and past panelists got to play in the parks, eat yummy food, and we even had a super fun scavenger hunt through Disney Spring. (My team won!)

This month wraps up two years of a lot of Disney. Over the last 24 months, I’ve had a tremendous number of opportunities to enjoy the parks. I’ve loved getting to know panelists and Disney Cast Members. As I continue to focus on my full-time job (which never fell out of my view… but Born Just Right saw fewer posts this year) and helping Born Just Right move forward as a non-profit, I will never forget this incredible experience. Thanks to my amazing panelist team, my wonderful friends, and my family for being okay with watching me sit with my computer on my lap a lot this year.

2017 is the TENTH panelist group and I know they’re going to have an amazing year. I can’t wait to step back and watch all the magic happen.

I'm so thankful I had a chance to meet and spend time with so many panel members - past and present - during the reunion.

I’m so thankful I had a chance to meet and spend time with so many panel members – past and present – during the reunion.

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prosthetic-building-2016Even though Jordan and I had huge adventures in our first 24 hours in Chicago, the real reason we visited the city was to kick off the building process for a new prosthetic arm after she grew out of her newest one less than a year after we built one the summer of 2015. It’s the first time she’s grown up so rapidly in a long time. Most arms have lasted about 18 months at a time, so I can’t complain.

After a jam-packed first day in the city, Jordan and her prosthetist, David Rotter, worked a very long day to put together a test socket before we flew home that night.

Jordan has worked on building prosthetics with Dave for the last eight years, so they’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Add in Jordan’s work on learning about design and the two had even more ways to communicate and work together. This time around, not only did Jordan give input on what she’d like to use with her next prosthetics, but she also got to help build her test socket.

After casting her arm, Jordan got to help build her test socket and even learn how to make a socket. She got to drill holes, glue things and help piece things together as Dave and his crew built out a new arm. She’s especially excited about the concept of being able to tighten and loosen the hold on her arm with the help of a cool-looking lacing system.

A video posted by Jen Reeves (@jenleereeves) on

We’re excited to see some of Dave’s ideas. He wants to make it possible for Jordan to add standard and 3D printed hands to the arm they’re creating. This mashup concept isn’t traditional, and I’m excited to see Jordan getting this chance to break with tradition.

learning-from-daveThe big difference between this round of prosthetics from the past is we only had 24 hours of building. Every other time we’ve worked with Dave, we spent a full week in town. This time, we hope to use a combination of shipping items back and forth along with using our 3D printer to tinker with the test socket. We think our next tester will arrive soon! (Dave was waiting on a part and he’s going to use a backup one so we can keep moving with the design.)

As always, I need to thank Dave and his entire staff at Scheck & Siress at UIC Hospital. They went above and beyond the call of duty getting the test socket complete in one long and intense day. I’m constantly thankful for our huge team of support. I am honored the entire team was willing to let a ten-year-old invade their workspace as she got to learn and participate in the building of her socket. This maker kid is learning so much this year.

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Renegade Visit to American Girl Store

November 29, 2016

A couple of months ago, Jordan and I had a super quick visit to Chicago to hold a design meet-up and spend a day building Jordan’s next round of prosthetics. Before we got down to the business, Jordan and I had a goal: To take her newly upgraded limb different American Girl doll to a store […]

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Birthday Fundraising for Camp No Limits

November 28, 2016

For so many kids, summer camp is the best part of the year. There’s a chance to see friends and families, enjoy swimming, join in on activities… For Jordan, her camp experience also includes occupational and physical therapies, life skills, mentoring and emotional support. That’s just some of the special things that happen at Camp […]

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Expanded reasons for thanks

November 24, 2016

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States and it gives me an awesome excuse to be thankful for so many things this year. The World of Inclusive Design This year, we got to know some remarkable people involved in the world of inclusive design. From Kate Ganim at KIDmob who convinced me to bring Jordan […]

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Regrouping and Regaining a Voice

November 23, 2016

Born Just Right is a constant in our lives. I started writing this site in May of 2005. But for the first time in a long time, I’ve felt quiet. I’m full of thoughts and things to write, but I’ve had so many things in my brain, I kind of shut down. This year has […]

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Celebrating differences in a political sea of anger

November 9, 2016

For the majority of my life, I worked as a journalist or when I was younger, I planned to become a journalist. I never talked politics in public and I never talked about who I supported in an election. This was the first time I’ve ever talked about it openly. As with a lot of my […]

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Project Unicorn meets mHUB Chicago

October 13, 2016

Jordan and I found a way to pack in 46 hours of travel and adventure to visit Chicago and launch a new round of prosthetics. For the first time, Jordan grew out of her arms in less than a year. She’s so much bigger than a year ago. Thanks to that new growth, we had […]

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Chewbacca knows how to give great hugs

September 23, 2016

I have serious things to write about the school year, about the maker work and inclusive design. But a combination of travel, kid activities, my job and my work on the Disney Parks Moms Panel has prevented me from taking some serious time to sit down and write serious stuff. So why not another amazing story […]

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A very special Finding Nemo The Musical experience

September 9, 2016

For years, our visits to Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort must include two things: Riding Expedition Everest and seeing a showing of Finding Nemo The Musical. Finding Nemo became a big part of our lives ever since Jordan was born. Back when she was a newborn and Cameron was in the […]

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You can make an impact in limb difference research

September 6, 2016

This week, I am full of stories of dads who are contributing to the limb difference community. Today I wanted to give you the heads up about a research project that you may be able to help. There is an online survey that ends at the end of the week and I hope we can […]

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I’ve got your back. I know you’ve got mine.

September 1, 2016

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a post about how I am careful about the photos I share of kids on this site and Born Just Right’s social media pages. Specifically, limb different kids. I focus on the stories we learn as Jordan grows and share a lot of the photos I take along […]

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Claws from Carter – A Camp No Limits idea comes to life

August 29, 2016

One of the coolest things we do each year is attend Camp No Limits. It’s a huge foundation to Jordan’s confidence and abilities. I love it so much, I joined the board. During camp, there are always kids who are learning to ride a bike for the first time. An upper limb difference can make […]

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That Time We Rode Expedition Everest 11 Times

August 26, 2016

I have so many stories to share from this year… Life has been non-stop, especially since May. I thought I’d share awesome moments and learnings. Why not start with one of my favorite memories when Jordan and I visited Walt Disney World Resort this past May. That’s when Jordan and I had an opportunity of […]

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A Meet Up with Maker Fun in Chicago

August 25, 2016

I have mentioned this a couple of times but I’m making it official! Jordan and I are headed to Chicago for a two-day visit. We were able to work out a day in her schedule to meet with her prosthetist, David Rotter. Jordan has grown out of all of her traditional prosthetics. After this year […]

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