Born Just Right We are all born just right Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:07:22 +0000 en hourly 1 Celebrating the new school year while Mom is away Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:05:54 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

I have an amazing opportunity to speak at a TEDx event at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida today. I’s a huge honor but it also means I’m missing the kids’ first day of school. I know there are a lot of parents who are never able to send their kids off on the first day, but with Cameron going into seventh and Jordan going into third, this is a first for me.

To make up for it, I took “first day of school” pictures during back-to-school night just so I can have pictures to compare and contrast the kids at the end of the school year. I also was able to put a small Hallmark gift to work as a little surprise for the kids.

During our super cool visit to Hallmark, I was given a gift of two small Sound Charms that let you record a short message. I knew it would be a perfect way to sort of “be” with the kids on their first day. I recorded a message for Cam and hid it with his keys in his backpack.

For Jordan, I left the decoration hanging from her backpack and figured out a way she wouldn’t notice it until I was out of town.

It’s super dooper sweet. Jordan noticed the charm pretty quickly after I left town. She listened to it a lot… So much, Cameron was worried I didn’t get him one. Luckily, I snagged charm for him and recorded a different message. (I was worried he’d think he was too old for a message from me. I was wrong!) Cam’s charm was hidden deep inside his backpack with his keys. He had a chance to get a little reason to smile.

Thanks again, Hallmark, for giving us so many wonderful memories and a special gift to help the kids start the school year with smiles.

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Back to school planning before third grade Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:44:24 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

Jordan heads back to elementary school this week. She’s kicking off third grade with a lot of excitement. She tells me she is looking forward to everything… Even the homework! Earlier this summer, she told me she felt like third grade was a good time to stop creating yearly class books that tell her story. But when we attended back-to-school night last week, our teacher told us there are a lot of new kids who are new to the school in the class.

So… the official Jordan’s Third Grade Book was born:

Jordan’s Third Grade Book by Jen Lee Reeves

The cool thing about the little about me book is seeing so many other families kicking the school year off with one. Elementary school is such a wonderful age to teach how we are all born just right.

We’re ready for another great year! One of Jordan’s favorite friends is in her class again this year. She’s also looking forward to meeting the new kids. After such an adventurous summer, I’m hoping we can get into the groove pretty quickly. Along with school, Jordan plans to join our local youth cross county team and she’s taking two dance classes on different days. Sprinkle in a weekly piano lesson and we will have a very busy kid!

I hope everyone has a fantastic start to their school year.

If you are looking for additional posts we’ve written about the school year:
Sharing support for the new school year (Jordan’s pep talk)
Preparing for a 504 plan
Talking to Kindergarten parents

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An Under Armour thank you Fri, 15 Aug 2014 18:11:52 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

Zippers are not impossible with an upper limb difference, but it can be something that takes a little extra time. Jordan learned how to zip at Camp No Limits many years ago. But when Under Armour announced last year it was producing MagZip clothing for the 2014 fall season, I couldn’t wait. When I noticed a few items for sale earlier this month, I jumped and purchased a boy’s jacket because it really doesn’t matter and the MagZip is more important than the color. I snagged a grey jacket for Miss Jordan.

I posted Jordan trying a MagZip for the first time earlier this week and Under Armour noticed. A member of UA’s youth marketing team reached out and offered to share a few other examples of Under Armour’s MagZip wear. The arrived today and Jordan loves them.
How cool is that?

Even better? Jordan is mastering the art of the MagZip.

By her third jacket, she was really rocking the MagZip. I feel really lucky to have been given the chance to talk to Under Armour about the impact this zipper has on people with zipping challenges. I know Jordan considers it a thrill.
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The gift of friendship near and far Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:37:36 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

It’s pretty amazing how many connections we have made from the limb difference world thanks to Born Just Right. This summer, our travel gave us opportunities to meet many new adults and children in the limb difference world. A combination of Camp No Limits, Nubability Camp and a trip to California where we held two meet ups means a whole lot of new faces and names. Being a part of the special needs world makes an instant connection between kids and their parents. The adults with limb differences have also made a big difference for me and the other parents who have had a chance to talk with them. (I’ve written in the past how important it is to talk to adults with limb differences.)

Thanks to our California gatherings, another mom reached out to me and we were able to have her daughter meet Jordan while we were in Kansas City. Another sweet opportunity for kids and parents to connect.

There are so many reasons to find ways to take our online world into the real world. Some of our recent awesome moments included:

Sharing how to tie shoes with one hand
Each time we met up with families, the topic of tying shoes came up. Jordan was lucky to show off her skills while we were in Santa Cruz. The coolest part is how confident Jordan has gotten at tying and how she’s able to talk through the process. I should probably create an updated video on how she does it so more kids can learn.

Learning more about e-NABLE 3D printed hands

John Wong was born with a hand difference and he brought TWO different e-NABLE hands with him to share with the group. The Cyborg Beast (the blue hand you can see in the picture above) was made for John by Nick Parker and debuted it at the Crowd Companies Summit in May 2014. John had also just gotten a FidoHand, made by Dan Bodner, who is also an e-NABLE member. John tried out the hand with Cameron while they pretended to fake 3D hand fight. (That had a lot of people staring at us on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk!)
We also had a change to see an iLimb in action (Thanks, Carly!) during our meet up in Monterey the next day. I love how we got to experience the full spectrum of prosthetics within 48 hours.

A surprise limb difference meeting 
While I was attending and speaking at the BlogHer national conference, I had a bunch of friends let me know I *had* to meet Samantha from Airplane Rides and Guac Sides. She was in a terrible crash when she was a kid and lost a lot of her right arm when she was a kid. Of course, when someone sees a limb difference, they immediately want to connect me. And I think that’s AWESOME. Because watching Jordan get the chance to hang out with Sam made me very happy.

Gaining unexpected lessons
Jordan had a chance to get tips on one-handed cartwheels. (She hasn’t perfected them yet.) We also learned a new way to create a one-handed pony-tail… Basically you twist it into a bun and slide the rubber band that’s around your hand down over the bun. I wish I had shot video of it! We’ll shoot a video once Jordan has figured out this technique.

Getting through the logistics and finally meeting
Getting a crew of families to meet up can be a logistical mess. I made it extra challenging in Santa Cruz because getting in and out of the area can be tricky thanks to so many tourists. But we had a wonderful group. We enjoyed rides, games, and ice cream. The next day, a few of us met in Monterey at the Aquarium. I’ve had big and small meet ups… and each and every time, it’s totally woth it.

Thank you to the many people who took the time to meet with us this summer. Really, thank you to anyone who met up with us at any time in the last eight and a half years. It’s always awesome to take these online conversations in person.

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VIDEO: Trying Under Armour’s MagZip for the first time Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:38:24 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

It finally arrived, an Under Armour MagZip jacket that I wrote about last fall. Almost the moment Jordan got out of bed this morning, I had her try it for the first time. I didn’t explain how it worked, I just challenged her to give it a try.

I think she likes it. The base of the zipper uses a magnet to connect and it’s pretty easy to get the zipper up. So far, I can only find two youth boys jackets for sale on the Under Armour website. Hopefully they’ll expand the line soon! (UPDATE: That link has more jackets! There are girls jackets and at least one women’s jacket.)

This is what the MagZip looks like.

By the way, Under Armour didn’t pay me to write this post. I paid full price. I have been hungry to try this jacket as soon as I could. I can’t wait for more people to have the chance to use these zippers.

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Making a sparkle friend at Hallmark Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:30:18 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

When my friends see an adult with a limb difference, many tend to almost immediately speak to that person and mention Born Just Right. If they see an article or story about an adult with a limb difference, they make sure I see it. These little moments and stories often give me an opportunity to meet, connect and follow the stories of many people within the world of limb difference. That’s how Jordan fell into a chance to visit the Hallmark headquarters.

A friend was looking at a photo of a Hallmark Keepsake artist, Tammy Haddix. That’s when she noticed Tammy has one hand. She’s part of a incredibly creative team of people who create Hallmark’s very popular holiday ornaments. The pieces fell together and Jordan was invited to meet Tammy and learn more about Hallmark. We spent a half day at the headquarters and I feel like I could write four or five posts about our experience.

We started the day with a personal tour of the Hallmark Visitor Center. Our fabulous guide, Carole, shared some of the stories behind the displays of archived Hallmark products. We also had a chance to watch a video that explained the history of the company and the Hall family. Jordan did such a great job listening to the stories behind the displays. She really enjoyed a machine that shows how bows are made and crown artwork that included an interactive photo booth. I think it was so cool to learn about the company and its history before we spent time inside the headquarters. Thanks again, Carole!

Inside Hallmark, after a snack, Jordan got to explore some of next year’s line of cards. (They are going to be SO cool). And finally, we got to walk over to the keepsake artists area to meet Tammy. Honestly, just walking into the area made it feel like we had fallen into a festive world. There were toys and art and fun everywhere. Jordan loved checking out Tammy’s workspace because it feels like you’re walking into a Christmas scene.

Jordan loved the many sweet ornaments and we even learned how Tammy sculpts her work from wax. (It’s a messy process.) It’s also really cool to see how Tammy starts with a sketch and her work evolves eventually into an ornament you buy at the store. Another discovery Jordan enjoyed: Tammy loves adding sparkles to her work. And that was perfect for Jordan. Even the stripes on Jordan’s dress were sparkly. The combination of sparkles at Tammy’s workspace and Jordan’s outfit helped them decide they could be sparkle friends forever.

We weren’t done… Tammy took the time to introduce Jordan to many of her co-workers. Jordan was able to meet so many creative artists who work on the ornaments that hang on your tree or decorate your holidays. We learned how some people work with wax (one person still uses clay) and others are using 3D computer designs and then print out their work on a 3D printer. (Which is something we LOVE.) Jordan pretty quickly decided that she wants to move to Kansas City when she is older so she can be a keepsake artist.

After lunch and a surprise trip to shop in the Hallmark Store, Jordan was given the ultimate gift from Tammy: Her friendship and a gift of a box that included hand-crafted ornament pieces and all the art supplies needed for Jordan to create her own snowman ornaments.
The time we spent with Tammy was fantastic. Getting the chance to learn more about her work and the work of the other artists in the keepsake division was inspirational to Jordan. We already visited our local Hallmark store since our visit and looked for more of the work of the artists we met. (Yes, we bought another Tammy-created ornament.)  Jordan and I are both thankful for such an amazing visit and we can’t wait for the next time we see Tammy!

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Learning to play from limb different coaches Fri, 08 Aug 2014 11:01:47 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

This summer was jam-packed with a combination of family and work trips. It’s a bit overwhelming to think all of the adventures we’ve enjoyed in between the times I’ve focused on my teleworking job. Since we are so busy every summer, I wasn’t able to schedule Nubability Athletics‘ summer camp. Until this year!

Jordan has focused on sports and dance for almost her whole life. She’s incredibly active and tells me she has visions of playing basketball and maybe competing in triathlons (which is even more possible now that she knows how to ride a bike!). She got her first taste of playing basketball this past winter and Jordan loves it. That’s why she decided basketball would be her focus sport during Nubability camp. I’m so glad she chose the sport because she had a chance to work with some really wonderful coaches.

Let me explain the camp a bit. It was founded by Sam Kuhnert who we met many years ago when Sam helped volunteer at the second ever Camp No Limits Missouri. The experience of helping the campers get better at playing sports inspired him to create his own camp. What a cool evolution. Nubability focuses on not only playing sports but playing competitive sports. This year’s theme was #dontneed2. And let me tell you, every camper and limb different coach proved that is the truth.

Jordan is a lot bigger since she met Sam in 2010 (the picture to the left) and the camp that Sam founded in 2012 has grown to 70 kids with 30 limb different coaches along with a number of fully-limbed coaches as well. He and his mom, Jana, have rallied their town to make this camp so wonderful. There was a community-wide outpouring of support. It’s held at the DuQuoin, Illinois High School and every business and resident I bumped into was so kind and welcoming to us.

Jordan not only focused on baseball, but she also got to work with coaches on softball, soccer, weight training and yoga. Lunch and dinner was provided and that give Jordan an excuse to be silly with many of the coaches. Obviously, she didn’t feel the need to hang out with me! She learned to do her own thing at meal time from years of Camp No Limits fun. (Her independent streak is very strong.)

The camp is certainly different from Camp No Limits. Parents stay at camp to help their athlete go from sport to sport. (But we have to find a place to stay at a local campground or the town’s limited number of hotels.) Siblings can participate, but this camp is solidly focused on the limb different athlete. I had a chance to meet parents – many whose kids were focused on basketball. I was lucky to meet a few more at soccer. But parents meeting parents was not the point. The focus was the kids learning their sport, making connections with mentor coaches, and having fun. Jordan had so much fun.

Jordan was a confident kid before Nubability, but after camp, she is talking more about her love of sports. She’s super excited to join our town’s kid cross country team later this month. She can’t wait for basketball in the winter. It’s so cool. I appreciate the Nubability experience. I’m SO proud of the many kids and coaches who grew during the long weekend. I’m SO impressed with what Sam and Jana have built in such a short time. I can’t wait for what is next for them.

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The conversations we didn’t have at BlogHer’s Special Needs Mini-Con Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:30:22 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

I am honored to be a part of the special needs world. This blog’s focus has given me opportunities to help moderate and foster conversations for a number of different BlogHer special needs events through the years. I have met remarkable people. I learned so many things. I’m honored the BlogHer staff has consistently trusted me to help lead and guide conversations through the years. Heck, a BlogHer conversation helped evolve into a SXSW Interactive panel discussion a couple of years ago.

This year, the staff tried things a little differently. The last two and a half hours of the conference was focused on specific topics where leaders and attendees were given the chance to guide the conversation. I helped lead the special needs “Birds of a Feather” room with Shannon Des Roches Rosa and Kristina Chew. We had a vision: A room full of people from all types of different perspectives from the special needs world. We would start the conversation with a few thoughts on our perspectives, answer questions and after a break, the room would lead the conversation. I handed out post-it notes to the room (and chocolate) and encouraged the attendees to write down topics they want to talk about. Of course, when an event is scheduled at the end of a conference, things don’t always go as planned. The room was not full but that wasn’t going to stop us from being awesome. Those who attended were mainly special needs parenting bloggers and there was one service provider to share her perspective. Our presentations and questions took longer than planned and when we came back from a break, the room decided it would be worth the time spending unstructured time talking instead of going through the topics they had written down. I’m so glad there were opportunities to make great connections in the room. But I’m sad we didn’t get to dig into a few of the proposed topics.

Topics we didn’t touch on include:

  • What is still missing in the special needs community?
  • Building community
  • How to advocate for change in special education
  • Navigating education (public, private, home school)
  • Typical sibling?
  • Conflict at school district level between special education and general education
  • Idea reform: Better access to appropriate education for all children
  • Jobs Jobs Jobs Jobs

They’re all really good topics. We could have done an entire conference with these topics.

One big discussion during the mini-conference focused on a blogger who is considering a switch to anonymous posts now that her son (who is low on the autism spectrum) enters mainstream school in the fall. She doesn’t want him branded as “autistic” with every person’s initial interaction with her son. She wants him to be who he is without the labels. My immediate response was how it SUCKS that families feel the need to hold the general public back from sharing how a child is not neuro-typical. When honestly, who is “typical” these days? Both of my kids do not fit all categories of a neuro-typical person. And that makes them bright and challenging and exhausting and awesome. I can’t hide Jordan’s physical differences. We have to face them head-on no matter what. That’s why we started every school year with a book. Jordan tells me she doesn’t need to make a Third Grade Book after she has made an “about me” book for Kindergarten through second grade. I’m cool with that. She’s pretty sure she’s gone to the same school long enough to deal with fewer “what’s wrong with your arm” questions. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could put everything out on the table? The seen and unseen challenges. Just get it all over and move on. I don’t think there were any decisions made on this topic during the mini-conference. It’s an emotional and challenging decision to write openly versus anonymously.

To be honest, I would have really loved to dig into the topic of what is still missing in the special needs community. Each person is in a different place as a parent, a care taker and as a member of the special needs community. I know I’m constantly hoping to gain more perspective from all points of view as I help raise Jordan and Cameron, and continue to help foster the Born Just Right community. I’m lucky to have met more adults with limb differences in the last month who have offered to share extra perspective on this blog. But I am always trying to think of ways my community can offer additional perspectives outside the silo of limb differences. How can we all better connect? What lessons have we learned that can be shared wider and further? I don’t have the answers but I certainly hope there are even more opportunities to meet with my tribe and keep the conversations moving.

Thanks to the many women who opened their hearts during the special needs mini-con. I wish we had days to talk, learn and grow together.

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Exploring San Francisco while dancing Mon, 04 Aug 2014 15:20:52 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

I am a Life360 ambassador which means I help contribute to the site’s blog and sometimes I share updates about the app. I was not paid to write this post, but Life360 shared a hotel room, two meals and transportation around San Francisco during our stay.

I’m lucky to a part of a small community of women who are ambassadors for the Life360 app. I’ve written about my relationship with the app company before. But basically, it’s a family communication and connection tool that is also a great way to stay in touch with your closest friends. To celebrate the ambassadors, Life360 and its community manager, Lizz Porter, invited us to explore San Francisco. I warned Lizz I was bringing the kids with me and she didn’t even blink.

Because we live in a not-so-convenient location, we flew in a day early to make sure we got to San Francisco in time for our Life360 gathering. Lizz was kind enough to pick us up from the airport. (Of course, I kept up with her location with the help of the app. It’s so cool to know when you don’t have to keep calling and asking, “Are you here yet?”) Our hotel didn’t have our room ready yet, so the kids and I dropped off our bags and started walking a few miles around the city.

Why walk? Well, I wanted the kids to really soak in the city. We walked down Market Street, snacked at the Ferry Building and walked along the various piers until we reached the seals on Pier 39. Cameron was so excited to catch glimpses of Alcatraz. (Which didn’t have any open reservations until mid-August.) Jordan was excited to climb and explore and admire the ocean and palm trees. They were both annoyed I made them walk so much. But they appreciated the beauty of the city.

We also discovered some unexpected fun outside the San Francisco Exploratorium!

I also kept them moving with the goal of eating some In-N-Out Burger… Something we cannot find in Missouri. We also walked over to Ghiradelli to enjoy some chocolate.

The next day, the kids had a chance to explore Muir Woods with a good friend and her kids. Wow, I love it there. But the traffic of San Francisco had us cutting it close for our big Life360 San Francisco tour. The kids and I and our ambassador friends hopped on board a disco bus (for real, you could dance in the bus) to see all of the neighborhoods and historical touch points of the city. In between the kids being crazy, they took the time to check things out.

After our awesome tour (I learned all kinds of cool historical facts I hadn’t known before about San Francisco), we enjoyed a delicious dinner. Jordan actually loved duck bolognese. I was so impressed. The next morning, we did another San Francisco classic that I had never done before: Ride a cable car. Cameron and I rode on the side of the car which he was a bit intense for him when we had to “suck it in” as we drove by closely parked trucks. The other Life360 friends on the side were much more amused.

We enjoyed a delicious meal at Buena Vista Cafe (home of the original Irish Coffee) and a little extra San Francisco exploring time before we had to head out and get serious in San Jose for the BlogHer conference.

This visit to San Francisco was an incredible gift. I had a chance to spend time with a group of wonderful women and my kids had a one-of-a-kind experience in the city. It’s a place I had always wanted to share with them and the Life360 team gave us that experience in a way I could have never expected. We are so thankful.

Our Life360 San Francisco crew

Life360 did not require I write this post, but we appreciate the experience and wanted to share a bit of it with you.

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Learning to ride a bike with one hand Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:25:46 +0000 Jen Lee Reeves

This summer has included so many special moments. But one of our biggest highlights focuses in on a bike. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and shooting video. After months and months of attempts and periodic moments where I was sure it could happen, Jordan finally started riding her bike. How did it happen?

Well, it’s been a process. Years of trying.

For the last year, whenever I’ve been around other adults with bike training skills, I’ve asked them to work with Jordan. She worked with Dave Rotter, her prosthetist last year and she balanced a little. She worked with helpers at Camp No Limits last year and this year. But it finally took my dad to help Jordan finally get over her deeply seated bike fears and just do it. I caught the moment he finally let go and let her ride on her own for the first time. I’ll be honest. I got teary.

Grandpa powers are quite remarkable, I must say for myself. He got all kinds of hugs.

I’m so incredibly proud of Jordan for finally pushing through her fear and discovering how much fun it is to ride a bike. After finally letting go, she rode up and down and up and down our little street in Maine. She also joined us on a couple of family bike rides on some trails. I couldn’t stop taking all of the pictures of her. My mom pride is strong with this one.




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