Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kayaking - long post, lots of scrolling

I have a personal philosophy that kids should get out and experience MANY different aspects of life. My kids play sports (soccer, archery and tennis), participate in scouts, know how to behave in museums for kids, and for artists, and for history. They have watched belly-dancing, ballet, theatre, concerts, rock concerts and the Wiggles. They can eat in a 5 star restaurant and not turn up their noses if something doesn't sound familiar. I try really hard to apply this same philosophy to my students, and the girl scouts I mentor.

This week I had the opportunity to take my cadette girl scouts kayaking in Charleston, but there was work to be done as well. Some of these girls have been together since first grade. They told me when they were in 4th grade and I was a new "official" leader that they did not want to do anything that looked like school, nor were they very interested in crafts. They wanted to get out and do things, and do community service to help others. So that is what we've done. This week they started the paper chase for their silver award (a LOT of hoops to jump through to teach them to identify a problem in their community and solve it - with 40 hours of service.) Tuesday we met up with various women in business - a legislator, an event planner, an interior designer, and an entrepreneur who sells tartans. We then drove out to the lake house and finished a bunch of the paperwork related to badges and the career exploration.

The real fun started Wednesday morning. We drove out to Mt. Pleasant and rented kayaks to take out into Charleston Harbor. It was absolutely beautiful, warm but breezy. We paddled around Shem Creek where we saw dolphins, and then out into the open water with an island full of pelicans, and a sandbar where the kids looked for sharks' teeth. Our guide showed us a lot of natural treasures he had found kayaking or scuba diving like whale vertebra, a megladon tooth (cool), thousands of year old indian pottery etc. He even gave me some to take back to show my students. The girls were having fun, but the reality was that it was HARD to paddle against the currents, and I think it caught them off guard.

After kayaking we went to a local waterpark. The girls went down the slides endlessly and also checked out the lazy river. They were too old for the playground and the beach pool, but they spent HOURS on the slide and the lazy river.

We headed home for dinner and finished more paperwork, and talk sessions.

Thursday we got up for a different kind of kayaking trip. Instead of the "white water" of Charleston Harbor, we were in the black water of the Wadboo Creek near our lake house. The girls were apprehensive because I had assured them they wouldn't see any alligators at the lake house because they are mostly seen in the river and the swamp land, and here we were headed for the Creek that feeds from the swamp and then flows into the river. We met a different guide, who was a retired forester, and took off down the creek. The water was lower than it usually is because of a lack of a rain, but deep enough for the kayaks. About halfway up we hit a little current that the guide told us was a TON of fun to ride down if you could get up to the next landing about 3 miles up. It wasn't hard to paddle against, but with the water low there were a lot of down trees and other obstacles to paddle and pole around. The contrast between the open area of Charleston Harbor with pelicans and dolphins vs. the creek with dark black water, constant shade and the dark green trees everywhere was pretty amazing. The girls were fairly quiet - not because they were worried about gators, but because the whole setting seemed very reverent and warranted peace. Again about halfway we stopped on the side and stood in the mud, and the sandy creek bottom and enjoyed the cool water and rested. The current was fairly strong, but not dangerous because it was so shallow. Some of the girls exchanged kayaks (tandem vs. single) and we headed back. For some reason the girls paddled back quickly - probably because they weren't thinking the current was carrying them as quickly as it was, but we reached the landing about 30 minutes early, so we headed down to the part of the creek that eventually hooked up to the river - you know, the river with the gators in it. This was in deep contrast to the upper part of the creek that was so shaded, because this half was wider, and open to the HOT sun. After about two bends in the creek Big Al spotted a "log" - since she swims in the lake she knows what to look for - and she was right - it was a little gator that swam away from us, and eventually went under. I was proud of the girls because no one over reacted, they quikly realized that gators really DON'T want to eat people and try to avoid them 99% of the time. We saw another one a few bends later as well as many birds and a few turtles sunning on the logs. We headed back for the landing thoroughly exhausted.

Overall the girls had a great time and bonded quite nicely. They are super girls, and are really growing in to strong young women who can tackle anything. We have set them up for their Silver Award with only a couple small things still to do, and then they can each tackle the projects they choose. Big Al has a lot of thoughts on her project, and I will definitely be posting more here when she gets it all organized. Overall, the one thing I realized with all of the conversations I participated in with the girls, or overheard, was how Big Al has a lot of abilities, and I am incredibly proud of the young woman she is becoming.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm still here.... just not blogging

I always have the best intention of making our adventures there own little blog blurb, but I have failed miserably this week. For instance, I said NOTHING about the pool party during the evening of the 11th. The families all gathered for pizza, and relaxed for awhile, and then were the sole inhabitants of the pool. All of the girls had a good time: Big Al fell in love even more with little Jailynn, Blondie ran around the field playing with other kids, and then kept jumping off the diving board. Everyone was pretty tired, but those of us that stayed, enjoyed great conversation.

I promise to keep this blog going, I just had to catch up on other things. This week I'm taking Big Al and the cadette girl scouts on a kayaking trip in Charleston, so when I get back on Thursday I'm sure there will be more pictures to post.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hemi Reunion Day 2 - AM

I know quite a few people are tuning in for quick pics of the hemi reunion, so here is my morning. I ate with Rachel Cogli's mom, and Josie Watham's mom (don't you love how we're always known as our child's parent). We spent time talking about IEP's, etc. I was supposed to be listening to a bullying presentation, but I wasn't being a good audience member and kept chatting. After that we had a hemi foundation presentation with Kristi and Caren talking about how the foundation developed.

They gave out scholarship awards to Christina and Jody (the other two couldn't come),

and then they awarded Rachel Waters the hemi foundation volunteer of the year. She does a LOT of work on the west coast, she works on the website, connects parents with Sturge-Weber kiddos, and in her "spare time" is the wonderful mom to Aiden.

After their presentation the kids put on a talent show,

and in between talent there were a WHOLE LOT of comedians grabbing the mic for a quick knock-knock joke.

Jody led the kids through the "hoe-down throwdown" and then presented a wonderful dance and then it was time for lunch. I think the meals are my favorite times because everyone sits with new people and gets to know the other families.
Another favorite thing for me to see are all of the hemi kids and their siblings getting to know each other. They are playing games together (a bunch of the big guys are on the basketball court) and some of the younger teens are helping in the childcare room with the little guys. My youngest two have had fun in there, and Big Al enjoys playing with the teeny-tiny kids. She would love to take home Dagny and Jailynn, Brian kept laughing at Kiko. So here are some random shots of the kids bonding around the building. More pics later.... we're headed to the pool/pizza party.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hemi Reunion - Friday

We made it to the hemi reunion in Baltimore this morning. Blondie was very excited about meeting kids "just like her." I was looking forward to connecting with families I've spoken to online, and seeing how far other kids Blondie's age have come.

We got there in time for group pictures:

Then we dropped the girls off in the child care area. Big Al decided to volunteer there because there were a LOT OF LITTLE PEOPLE running around (and she needed the service hours for girl scouts). They had a bouncy house, art supplies and bubbles. Blondie bonded with one little guy playing a DS (she showed him how to play with one hand).

Brian and I went to a few seminars. One was the doctors from Johns Hopkins speaking about hemi's in general. Big Al was very excited to get Dr. Carson's autograph because she just finished reading his book "GIFTED HANDS." He was very accomodating, and spent a few minutes chatting with her. We were lucky to catch him, because after he spoke (about 10 minutes) he was headed straight to the airport to fly out to Germany.

Another seminar was a panel of teens/young adults talking about their lives. We've met a bunch of the young adults we very much admire such as Jody (studying early childhood ed.), Christina (studying Speech pathology) and got to meet Emily (very cool young woman - she can hunt and bagged a pretty good sized antelope), and Lisa who is a stay at home mom to the sweetest little girl.

At dinner the girls participated in face painting, and Blondie hooked up with Hannah, Cameron and Jessie for this picture:

After dinner we watched a presentation of one-handed gadgets (some AWESOME ideas from Emily and her mom). Jody showed us how to make a ponytail with one hand:

And then they asked for volunteers to show how to tie a shoe with one hand. Well, Blondie jumped right up and walked up front with the young adults and showed her version (I think Emily's is MUCH easier). I took this picture and later showed it to Blondie - she told me she felt like a ROCK STAR. She was quite proud to have something to share.

After the presentations we ran upstairs and jumped into our pajamas, but we weren't done yet! Cheesie, Blondie and I went back downstairs to dance and have a fashion show, listen to bed time stories, and enjoy cookies and milk before bedtime.

Everyone is now sacked out, and looking forward to tomorrow. I will try to post tomorrow night, so stay tuned. I can't say enough how wonderful it is to see kids in all stages of recovery, with so many possibilities for their future. We have families here trying to decide if they will do the surgery or not, one family who just had surgery and is less than a week out of inpatient rehab, and then others who are 10 or even 20 years post hemi. There is a lot of support in this group, and I'm proud to be a member of such a caring bunch of families.