Shriners Hospitals for Children Making an Impact

When filling out the adoption paperwork for Ian to join our family, we had to identify resources in our community that could support our son’s upper limb difference. We knew it was a blessing that just 30 minutes away was Shriners Hospitals for Children. However, at that time we had no idea of the impact that the team at Shriners Hospital would make on our family and just how grateful we would be for this amazing resource in our own backyard. Here are three ways Shriners Hospital has improved our lives:

#1 Modeling Acceptance. Did you know representatives from Shriners Hospitals visit schools and teach about physical differences, equip children with vocabulary to discuss disabilities, and provide hands-on experiences with prosthetic devices, braces and more? I didn’t until the counselor at Ian’s school arranged for outreach visits to his school, and Ian came home from school with a “finger cast.” He then shared how Miss Lee and Miss Kristen from Shriners had visited his class with dolls, braces, and made molds of the children’s fingers to show them some of the services provided at the hospital.

A Thank You Note from Ian’s Classmate
Photo Credit: Thankful Mom

With their modeling and accepting language, Ian told me how he decided to stand up in front of his class and tell his friends about his upper limb difference. His classmates asked him questions like, “Does it hurt?” or “Will it grow back?” And with pride, he answered them, “No, it doesn’t hurt” and “Nope, it won’t grow back”. For a child once taught to hide his little hand, with the guidance of Kristen and Lee, he was able to educate others and share with confidence how he can do anything. He just does it differently.

#2 Making Play Accessible. Kids are meant to play that is how they learn and explore the world. But when a child has a physical difference, his/her ability to fully engage with his/her surroundings may be limited. For Ian, he takes on most two-handed tasks like cutting his food, zipping his coat, or even playing basketball by making modifications. It takes practice, but he usually figures it out and doesn’t look back. However, learning to ride a bike proved to be unusually challenging for him. After lots of falls, scraped elbows and knees, and plenty of band-aids, Ian decided to ask the doctors at Shriners for some help. During our annual visit to the upper limb difference clinic, he stretched out his arms and said to the doctor, “Look at my arms, they are not the same length. It makes me wobble, and fall off my bike. Can you help me?”

Ian’s Big and Little Hands
Photo Credit: Proud Lucky Fin Mom

The doctor held Ian’s outstretched arms, smiled back at him, and said, “You’re right. They are not the same. But, we can make you a bike hand and that will help you balance on your bike. Do you want a bike hand?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Ian. Then, the nurse simply walked us out of the examination room and down the hallway to Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services Department (POPs). There Brock (he really is as cool as his name) made a mold that day for Ian’s new bike hand. It wasn’t until a rainy and cold November day that Ian got to test out his new bike hand. Since the weather wasn’t cooperating, Ian got to ride smiling down the hallways of the hospital. It was absolutely thrilling to watch him maneuver confidently around the corners and even ride one-handed while giving the nurses and doctors high-fives.

Brock and Caitlin watch Ian test out his bike hand while riding through the hallways of the hospital. Photo Credit: Proud Bike Hand Mom

BIKING UPDATE: In August, after lots of practice Ian finally learned to ride his bike without training wheels. Learning to ride his bike was a redefining moment for Ian. He truly learned to believe that he could do anything!

Ian is all smiles after riding his bike to the beach with his siblings and without training wheels.
Photo Credit: Proud Bike Mom

#3 Valuing Our Story. This third gift of valuing our story I never expected, but it might be the most important service that Shriners has provided to our family. The staff listened our story. They understood our story. They encouraged us to share our story. In the end, they valued our experience and literally offered a helping hand when we needed it. Their encouragement let us know that anything is possible for Ian. Their compassion let us know that it is okay to ask and accept help with no conditions attached. So on this #GivingTuesday, please consider supporting this amazing organization with a donation. And remember, always believe in the possible.

Ian showing radio hosts, Zito and Kera, from Mix 93.1 his bike hand.
Photo Credit: Shriners Hospital Photographer

Adoption Year #2: Redefining Family

Painted Family Rocks to celebrate Ian’s 2nd Family Day
Photo Credit: Proud Mom

November is National Adoption Month, and I thought it might be the perfect time to share an update on our adoption journey. While year one was mostly spent navigating new territory, which made the year both beautiful and overwhelming all at the same time, year two has been spent settling into our new “normal.” For us to get there, we have had to find time for healing and redefining our family. Let me explain…

Ian has the most beautiful mind. He is inquisitive and a big thinker. Every car ride is filled with questions, observations, and more questions. Often one idea bounces to another and yet another. Ian also has endless energy much like a bouncing rubber ball filled with joy, sunshine, and sprinkled with stardust. However, when you put all of this inside of a box like a structured school day or a martial arts lesson, it looks a lot like ADHD. It’s not

Ian is excited for his first day of 3rd grade.
Photo Credit: Proud Mom

It is, however, a brain that has experienced trauma from years of living in an institutional setting where all of your basic needs are not always met and from suffering significant losses. Fortunately, the brain can heal and grow. The fancy term for this is neuroplasticity and understanding this growth mindset has been a key component to Ian’s academic success, social-emotional development, and us becoming a family.

How does parenting from a trauma-informed perspective look different? For me, it has been three important approaches:

Ian inspecting shells on the rocky seashore of Maine. Photo Credit: Proud Mom
  1. Creating space. I try to create space for Ian to have some quiet time each day. I try to create space for him to talk about what is on his mind. I try to create space for hurt or angry feelings, and I try to create space for hugs and physical closeness. 
  2. Addressing sensory needs. I try to limit over-stimulating situations, especially if he is tired. I also let Ian know his schedule ahead of time, notifying him of any changes in it, and giving him a heads up on transitions. Additionally, I plan extra time for transitions and always have healthy snacks. I make it a priority that he is hydrated and well-fed. (We all function better when we are not hangry.) I make sure he exercises daily and gets to bed early. In fact, he loves the predictability of his bedtime routine where he gets his clothes out for the next day, takes a shower, and then cuddles while being read a bedtime story.
  3. Advocating for Ian. This is the hardest task for me because it means I have to get into some uncomfortable conversations with people who care about Ian but may not fully understand the complexity of his needs or situation. At home, it may mean changing a family tradition or vacation plans. At school, it might be asking for more services or holding providers accountable. With friends, it might be reminding them that I am Ian’s “real mom” and that his biological mom (a term they need to add to their vocabulary) loved him dearly. 

As the healing has taken place for Ian, we have also been able to focus on redefining who we are as a family. It has meant “Family Meetings” where we problem-solve on issues like chores, teasing each other, or how to get ready for school on time. Some of the redefining even comes in the form of scheduling events together like family movie nights or game nights. And a lot of it has been spending time outside together. Mother Nature has a lot of healing power.

Taking a break during a coastal hike.
Photo Credit: Seth Stratton

For example, in July, we headed to the coast of Maine for a few days of camping. We stayed in tents, built campfires to roast marshmallows, and went on lots of hikes exploring the rocky inlets of Casco Bay. During one of our hikes, we spotted two dozen horseshoe crabs huddled along the shoreline. With closer examination, we realized that they were mating while some lonely crabs were jockeying for a mate. We stood there watching in amazement, wondering about the event, and asking each other questions about what we saw. Later in the evening, we sat on rocks observing seagulls hovering high above craggy ledges with clams in their mouths. They would then drop the clams to crack them on the ledges below and then finally swoop down to grasp the exposed meat in their beaks. We cheered when they were successful and empathized with the gulls who, after much effort, lost their meat to a larger more dominant gull.

As you can see, this second year has been filled with lots of small moments where we have slowed down to connect, heal, and build something new. We will all admit that what we are building is not perfect and the process is often messy. But… it is us weaving our lives together. It is how we define our family.

Celebrating Family Day 2019
Photo Credit: Brian Marsh Photography

The Unexpected Village Built through Adoption

When we decided to adopt our son, Ian, we could confidently tell you a few things about him. He was seven. He was living in an orphanage in China, and he had an upper limb difference. We could also tell you that the adoption process was filled with lots of paperwork and tons of waiting. From our adoption classes, speaking with families who had adopted, and the books that we read about the topic, we could tell you with some confidence that there would be difficult times and challenging conversations. However, we never would have told you that we were adopting a village, but we did. Let me explain…

The first photo we ever saw of Ian. Photo Credit: Unknown

First, our adoption agency connected us with other families who had recently adopted or were in the process of adopting from the same orphanage in China. These initial connections became the inner circle of our village where we exchanged tips on paperwork or travel and shared photos from the orphanage. During our time in China, this group was a lifeline for me sending me encouragement and support when I was exhausted physically and emotionally. And over the past 19 months of being home, they have cheered for us during every milestone and shared stories that have helped us piece together Ian’s early years.

Ian and his earliest family from his orphanage in China. Photo Credit: Village Mom

Recently, many families from this group gathered together and eight children who were adopted over the past three years were able to play and laugh together again. I watched in absolute amazement as Ian splashed and swam alongside his earliest “siblings.” The same children, who I had stared at in so many photos from his orphanage, were now in front of me smiling, playing, and being embraced in endless hugs from their families. It was truly an unexpected gift that was only possible through this village.

There are many other unexpected places where our village has grown like the grocery store or doctor’s office. For example, the clerk who witnessed me talking to Ian through Google translate at the checkout during his first trip to a grocery store has become a villager and always asks how he is doing. The nurses who administered six immunization shots at lightning speed during his first visit to the doctor’s office ask for constant updates and celebrate every inch he has grown. Then, there is the team at Shriner’s Hospital who have redefined for Ian what is possible. They cheered and gave him high-fives when he rode his bike through the hallways of the hospital with his new bike hand. All unexpected villagers tied together by one little boy.

Ian at the beginning of his ride through the halls of Shriner’s Hospital Photo Credit: Proud Village Mom

Then, there are Ian’s friends and their families. There’s the family who embraced Ian before he was even home and had him over for his first play date when his main mode of communication was through Google Translate. Another family who played rounds of Connect Four with Ian at their home and laughed as he beat them all. And most recently, the farm family who had Ian over for his first sleepover where he fed the chickens, cared for the horses, and learned how to use a lasso. All of them and so many more have become a part of our unexpected village.

Ian using his new lasso on his friend. Photo Credit: Village Farm Mom

Finally, there is Ian’s village at school where the teachers embrace him with love and support. They take photos or video capturing moments of his first field trip or presentation knowing how important these are to us and Ian’s story. Their eyes fill up with tears at our end-of-year meeting when they discuss Ian’s progress, and they understand my tears as I listen to every report.

I wanted to share our unexpected village with you because it is such a beautiful part of adoption. I thought we would be on our own navigating this journey. Instead in the 21 months that Ian has been in our lives, this little boy has brought an entire village into our hearts, and I am deeply grateful for every single member of it. Believe in the Possible!

Grateful Village Mom and Ian Photo Credit: Deb Hanna Photography

Athletes Roll in Power Soccer

With the excitement of the Women’s World Cup, I wanted to share another story about soccer that may be new to some of our Team Possible readers. It is about the game of Power Soccer and the organization, Athletes Roll. Before I share the interview with player, Anthony Jennings, check out this amazing Power Soccer play from GoPro!

Awesome, right!?! I know. It was plays like this one and the high level of accessibility for players of all abilities that made me want to learn more about the game.

Here are six Power Soccer basics about the game from Anthony:

  1. It is like the traditional game of soccer with corner kicks and goal kicks.
  2. Four players total on a side including the goalie during a game.
  3. There are two 20 minutes halves with the referee keeping time.
  4. The ball is bigger than a typical soccer ball. It is 13 in diameters and it is less bouncy.
  5. The game is played on a flat surface like a basketball court.
  6. Players kick the ball by driving straight into it or spin and kick. (My favorite kick is the 360 spin kick, but the ¼ turn spin kick is more common.)
Intense Play in Power Soccer
Photo Courtesy of Athletes Roll

Now, Anthony warns Power Soccer is highly competitive with national and international levels. He also emphasized the importance of players being in the right place at the right time. To get there, players use control devices to drive with foot, chin, head, or sip and puff. The chairs can’t go faster than 6.2 mph and they are checked before every game. With players of all abilities, Anthony explained that there is a solution for any challenge an athlete may have. For example, if a player is unable to speak or is hearing impaired, teams use microphone and voice amplification or signaling devices to communicate during play.

Anthony believes anyone can be a great Power Soccer player. He states that if you have the desire, put in the time, and practice, anything is possible. Here is what Anthony wants readers to know about Power Soccer:

  1. It’s a real sport.
  2. It’s competitive.
  3. Players are real athletes.
  4. It takes a long time to develop the skills to become a great player.
  5. It takes a high level of dedication to play Power Soccer.

If you would like to learn more about Power Soccer, you can follow Anthony’s organization, Athletes Roll. If you are an interested athlete or know of one and would like to know how to get started in the sport, please contact Anthony at contact@athletesroll.com. If you want to support Power Soccer in New England, follow Athletes Roll on social media, spread the word and buy one of their cool t-shirts.

Cool Gear from Athletes Roll
Photo Courtesy of Athletes Roll

Keep rolling and believing in the possible!

Jen

Summer Reading Challenge

Caitlin reading while camping by the ocean in Maine. Photo Credit: Proud Book Mom

I just love talking with kids about books and helping them find the right book to read. It can open up a whole new world to them. Now with summer here, I’ve gotten some requests for summer reading lists for Team Possible families. So, I thought I would share ten goals that I have for my family and resources to support reaching them. I hope you and your family will find these reading goals and books lists helpful. Let me know if you do and what goals you accomplish. And, if you have a book to add to these lists, please share it with me.

Goal #1: To read a book with a main character who is differently abled.

Young Readers- Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Middle Readers- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusty Bowling

Older & Parent Readers- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Other Book Lists- Schneider Family Book Award & Books Section of Team Possible Blog

Goal #2: To read a book with a main character from a culture different than my own.

This year our family will focus on Malala Yousafzai and her courage to create change for girls in her community and around the world.

Photo Credit: Kid World Citizen

Young Readers- Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

Middle Readers- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Older & Parent Readers- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Other Book Lists- Coretta Scott King Awards Book List, Pura Belpre Award Book List, South Asia Book Award Book List, American Indian Library Association Book Award List , Children’s Book Council Diverse Kids & YA Lit Book Lists

Goal #3: To read a book with interesting facts about my world.

Yes, my kids and I love to snuggle up at bedtime and travel the world by reading a world atlas. It is so fun to learn about different countries and the language, economy, landscape and more. Give it a try. No packing or tickets required for this trip.

Ian getting ready for a trip. Proud Book Mom

Young Readers- National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas

Middle Readers- National Geographic Kids World Atlas

Older & Parent Readers- Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About the World by Hans Rosling

Goal #4: To read a book about an issue that is important to me.

Starting a new job at a all women’s undergraduate university, I felt compelled to learn more about women’s issues and empowerment. The books listed here have helped me, my students, and my daughter thrive. They have also helped me find ways to talk with my husband and sons about gender equity issues. I encourage you to follow your passion and share it with your family.

Caitlin with her “People Working” sign. Photo Credit: Proud Feminist Mom

Young Readers- I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong

Middle Readers- Confidence Code for Girls by Katy Kay & Claire Shipman

Older & Parent Readers- Confidence Code by Katy Kay & Claire Shipman

Mom Readers-  A Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates (A MUST READ!)

Other Book Lists-  A Mighty Girl  website

Goal #5: To read a book by a local author.

Living in New England, we are surrounded by many amazing local authors. We have children’s literature icons like Eric Carle and Jane Yolen. We also have rising authors like Jarrett Krosoczka who is breaking new ground. He is the focus of my local author list.

Ian with his favorite author, Jarrett Krosockza, during a school visit. Photo Credit: Ian’s School Principal

Young Readers- Punk Farm on Tour by Jarrett Krosoczka

Middle Readers- Lunch Lady Series by Jarrett Krosoczka

Older & Parent Readers- Hey, Kiddo! By Jarrett Krosoczka

Other Book Lists- SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Book List

Goal #6: To read a book with a main character who learns differently than me.

Young Readers- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

Middle Readers- Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt or Rules by Cynthia Lord

Older & Parent Readers- Focused by Alyson Gerber

Other Book Lists- Schneider Family Book Award

Goal #7: To read a non-fiction graphic novel about women in science, a historical event that is surprising, or one that simply interests me.

Young Readers- I Am Jane Goodall (Ordinary People Change the World)  by Brad Meltzer (Note: More of a hybrid text with word bubbles than a graphic novel)

Middle Readers- Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty

Older & Parent Readers-Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

Other Book Lists- Albris Best Selling Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

Goal #8: To read a book written in verse.

Young Readers- Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg

Middle Readers- Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

Older & Parent Readers- Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Other Resource: Listen and watch children’s poets read their own work at No Water River: A Children’s Poetry Place

Goal #9: To read a book that has won an award or was recommended by a friend.

(Most books on this list are award-winning, and I hope you count me as a friend. Hence, this goal should be easy to achieve.)

Goal #10: To share a book that I read with a friend because reading connects us.

Now, go set some goals, read, and keep believing in the possible!

Ian’s Reading Goal Photo Credit: Proud Book Mom


The Parent Perspective on Marcus Kadinger

Behind every great athlete is a team of supporters. Most often, they are parents who commit to driving to practices, to cheering through games, and to providing the financial backing for equipment and uniforms. Sometimes, parents even take on the role of coaching. Mike and Jodi Kadinger have held all of those roles while their son, Marcus, proved himself on the basketball court, the track, and the football field. As a one-handed player with an upper limb difference, it was a challenging journey. However, in the end, Marcus persevered and reached his goal of playing college basketball. In this interview, Jodi and Mike reflect back and share some insights into how to support and develop a gritty athlete no matter the odds.

Marcus and his dad, Mike, going over the plays. Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

What resources or organizations would you recommend to other parents who may have a child with a limb difference or another type of exceptionality?

Mike & Jodi: We went to Shriner’s for Marcus’ first prosthetic. We thought he would need it to learn to crawl, but he barely used it. We encouraged him to wear it in early elementary school. He would go off to school wearing it, but it kept coming home in his backpack. It just wasn’t for him at that time.

Marcus at age 4 Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

Later, when he got older and we were doing family activities like kayaking or he was weight lifting for school, he started to think of his prosthetic as a tool. Then, he would go to Shriner’s and ask them for a prosthetic for this or that. He owned it and wanted it to fit his need.

In his interview, Marcus mentioned struggling with developing his confidence and accepting his differences, how did you support him when his confidence faltered?

Mike: As he said, Marcus has always been his own worst critic. In eighth grade, he hit a rough patch. He was really down on himself. We would try to be positive, but we didn’t see things the same way as Marcus. We didn’t have one hand. It was then that I reached out to a friend, Kevin Monson. He has the same condition as Marcus. He was older, had a family, a career, and was an accomplished athlete. He had played football, basketball, and pitched in baseball. He was even a coach.

We let them have some time together. Kevin could talk about things we couldn’t. His best advice for Marcus was when he said, “The perceived disability that people see has become my greatest source of strength.”

Marcus Kadinger playing high school hoops as a Hilltopper Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

Jodi: We tried to help him understand that everyone has differences and just that his difference was very visible. We all have things that we are passionate about and we find a way to do them. So we need to choose what we want to focus on. We don’t want to focus on what we can’t do, but what we want to do. We always told him, “We will figure it out. We will find a way.”

Marcus defined grit as “mental toughness” and talked about “getting through adverse situations and keeping your head held high.” How did you help Marcus develop his grittiness?

Mike: Basketball really brought it out in Marcus. He was always trying and playing hard to win. On the court, he learned that you have to do the little things right. You have to practice and put in the time.

During Marcus’ freshman year, I was the JV coach. The varsity team was horrible. The head coach brought up Marcus and another freshman to start. They got smoked. He wasn’t ready.

How did you teach him to deal with the failure?

Mike: After a game, I would ask him, “Are you getting better? Are you learning?”  Then, I would tell him that you have to look for the little win within the loss. But a friend of mine who is a coach said it best, “We don’t lose. We either win or learn.”

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when Marcus was young?

Mike: Expose them to as much as you can. When you introduce them to things they like, it builds their confidence. Help them find what they like. You usually like what you are good at.

Marcus’ 2004 Little League Baseball Card Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

Jodi: We didn’t focus on the fact that he doesn’t have a left hand. He is more like others, than not alike. Sometimes, parents go through a rough time. We just loved him. We knew he needed to live in this world and adapt because we knew the world was not going to change for him.

How would you define ability?

It is a set of skills and strengths that you have. Ability is the measurement of those of skills and strengths. You will be good at some things and not at others.

Post Interview Reflection:

After I hung up the phone with Mike and Jodi, I felt so grateful. They shared so many more insights into raising a child with a limb difference. However, it was their laughter and reassurance that made the journey feel possible, even special. Some of the questions I had were:

  • How did you teach Marcus to tie his shoes?
  • What did you do when people suggested he play soccer and not basketball?
  • How do you feel about pirate books?

We chatted about the importance of finding role models for our children and new challenges in life as they become adults like dating, raising a family, and employment. But it was Mike saying, “We will talk again. Stay in touch,” that made feel like I knew who I could lean on when we hit a rough patch with Ian. Thank you, Mike and Jodi!

The Kadinger Family 2018

Marcus Kadinger Makes His Hoop Dreams a Reality

Playing ball at the college level was always a dream for Marcus Kadinger, but he didn’t think it was possible. During his junior of high school basketball, everything started to shift. With determination and lots of hard work, Marcus received honorable mention to All-Conference. It was then that playing at the college level started to become a reality for Marcus. With the continuous support of his parents and coaches who believed in him, Marcus started to dream big. This month, Marcus Kadinger just completed his senior year playing basketball for Marian University in Wisconsin. Here is his sports story about making his hoop dreams a reality…

Image result for marcus kadinger marian basketball
Marcus Kadinger playing for Marian University. Photo Credit: Marian University Athletics

What steps helped you achieve your dream of playing college basketball?

I was never a star player, but coaches told me I was a special kind of player. I was a team guy first. At a clinic, one coach encouraged me by telling me that I was one of the hardest players on the court. He noticed that I would put in the extra effort to get the rebound, or make the pass, or to defend the ball. He said, “You play hard every single second.”

Being a one-handed player, what adaptations or modifications did you need to make to develop your game?

When I was younger, I was uncomfortable using my left side. I learned to use a quick first step to get around the defender. My jump shot developed naturally, and slowly I became more confident. Eventually, I learned one or two quick moves on my left side, which the defenders were not expecting and then a spin move. I just had to play smarter.

Image result for marcus kadinger
Marcus taking a quick first step to get by a defender. Photo Credit: Leader Telegram

What challenges did you face during your basketball career?

I was always my own worst critic. Sometimes, I had confidence issues which made meeting new people hard. I had to learn to embrace my differences and not let them alienate me from people. Being an amputee, it’s just… I didn’t ever meet anyone like me.

Who has inspired you along your sports journey?

My dad. My parents have been very influential. They were always encouraging me.

When I was younger Coach Booth made a big impact on me. He taught me that life is bigger than basketball. He would ask me, “What are you doing to be a good person?” He always included everyone on the team. Everyone had a role.

I have a one-handed basketball player in my house. What advice do you have for my son, Ian?

I went to a lot of camps. You have to learn to move with the ball, to dribble in and out, and you have to push yourself to train like everyone else. You have to try to dribble on both sides, even for just one or two moments. The more you try it, the more confident you become. I really didn’t start dribbling on my left side in a game until middle school. I wished I had tried sooner.

What are your post-college dreams for yourself?

I am graduating this year as a psychology major. Eventually, I would like to work at Shriner’s Hospitals for Children and counsel children who are amputees like me. Of course, I will always want basketball in my life. So, I hope to continue to work at summer camps, coach summer league, and someday coach at the high school level.

What advice do you have for parents and coaches of athletes with limb differences?

You need to let kids figure it out on their own. Let them do it their way. Be there for them and keep encouraging them to keep trying. They will always find a way.

How would you define ability?

Ability is your desire to act on your God-given gifts. We all have unique gifts.  It is just up to us to pursue them.

Image result for marcus kadinger
Marcus demonstrating his ability and grit. Photo Credit: Leader Telegram

How would you define grit?

Grit is mental toughness. It is getting through adverse situations and keeping your head held high.

Marcus is an impressive student-athlete who plans to make a difference in this world by working with young people. In our house, we have already benefited from Marcus’ positive attitude and encouragement. After seeing videos of Marcus play basketball and hearing that Marcus was encouraging Ian to dribble with his left side, he gave it a try. First in practice, and then in his last basketball, Ian dribbled twice with his “little hand” while bringing the ball down the court. Thank you, Marcus, for being a role model and sharing your sports story! Keep believing in the Possible!

Learn more about Marcus’s story from his parents’ perspective here.

A Few Glimpses into Our Life 17 Months After Adoption

Here we are nearly 17 months as a family of five and I honestly can’t believe how much we have all changed. Let me give you a few glimpses into our transition…

Image result for ice cream free images

Glimpse #1: Going to get ice cream can turn into a conversation about birth moms. Well, at least that is what happened on our car ride to our favorite local creamery. Here is how it all played out…

“I’m just so happy!” Ian shouted from the back seat on the way home from Caitlin’s baseball game.

“Me, too!” I responded as I drove along thinking about how it was almost Friday and that I had nearly made it to the weekend.

With even more excitement, Ian shouted, “I’m so happy, I want to see my birth mom!”

My mouth dropped and I looked in the review mirror to see a huge smile on Ian’s face, just as Caitlin turned around from the passenger seat to face Ian and stated empathetically,

“You can’t. She might be dead. And China is a really a big country, I doubt we could even find her.”

WAITTT!!! WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?!?!?! Let me get this straight, Ian wants to see his birth mom because he is so happy that we are getting ice cream. Not how I had imagined the topic would arise. And now…Caitlin is telling him that he can’t because…ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

I thought about all the situations and topics covered in the adoption books I read or the classes I had taken. Nope, not one covered ice cream happiness and birth moms. So what do I do?!?!?! All I could do…breathe. I took a really slow… deep…breath.

“Ian, I want you to meet your birth mom some day and I promise you that I will try to help you find her.”

“Caitlin’s right. She might be dead,” Ian stated sadly.

“If she is, I will help you with that too. All I know right now is that I am your everyday mom, and I am so lucky because I get to love and hug you every day.”

Glimpse #2: Watching Ian do flips in the water can teach me lessons about life.

In January, we went to Mexico on our first family vacation. The warmth and sunshine was a wonderful escape from the harsh cold New England winter. Everyone’s favorite activity was playing in the pools. Ian loved learning to do flips in the water and was working hard to perfect this new skill.

“Mom, watch me do three flips!”

I stood poolside in amazement as Ian fluidly and effortlessly completed three backward flips in a row under the water- A TRIPLE FLIP! I honestly couldn’t believe it. Why so amazed? Well, to start Ian had learned to swim only six months earlier, and he never had a formal swim lesson in his life.

I asked him to do it again so I could film it. Here it is:

Can you feel the joy?

Later that night, I’ve watched the video over and over again. Then, I realized that with each backward flip Ian was teaching me a lesson.

  • Flip #1: Let go! Just let go and let life happen.
  • Flip #2: Have hope. No matter where we start, there is always hope that we can do more and be more.
  • Flip #3: Believe in your own potential. The only limitation is your mindset.

Glimpse #3: Love is powerful.

With Ian in our lives for 17 months, we laugh harder, say ‘I love you’ more, and take simple things for granted less. Ian has shown us that when you let love into your life, joy follows. Yes, there are unexpected hard moments that make you grow in ways you never thought possible but that’s life. So, let the love in!

IMG_8142

Sam Kuhnert from NubAbility

I am so excited to introduce you to Sam Kuhnert, Founder of NubAbility Athletics Foundation, an organization where children with limb differences receive training in mainstream sports from coaches with limb differences.

Sam Kunhert playing baseball with NubAbility campers Photo Credit: NubAbility.org

Sam Kuhnert is an ambitious young man, who in his senior year of high school had a vision for NubAbility. As a result, he spent his senior year, researching and using social media to connect with and gather a group of role models for young athletes. A year later, in 2012 NubAbility hosted their first camp with 19 youth at Greensville University. Sams reflects on that moment and states, “I knew then that this is what I am supposed to do with my life.”

Nearly seven years later, NubAbility has served 650 young athletes in various sports camps and clinics. This past summer Sam hosted 175 campers from 43 states and 3 countries. His work is making an impact nationally for people with limb differences. When speaking about the camp, Sam made it clear, “This is not a support group. We are teaching kids how to get up and reach their fullest potential. We want them to reach further than they ever imagined, more than they could have dreamed.”

Sam and the NubAbility Coaches teach campers to persist and work hard to reach their goals in three important ways:

  1. NubAbility Coaches teach athletes to block out the doubters and to listen to their inner voice saying, “You can do it!”
  2. NubAbility Coaches teach campers to embrace failure. They know that when we fail, we learn.
  3. NubAblity Coaches teach athletes that they need to be willing to put in the time and effort to succeed.

What does Sam hope athletes with limb differences gain from participating in Nubability camps?

I want them to know that everybody was created perfectly and that they can handle anything. I want kids out of the stands and into the game. There are a lot of life lessons that can be learned through sport.

What are Sam’s dreams for his organization and its athletes?

My ultimate goal is to see NubAbility worldwide. I want to offer clinics across the globe because, in other countries, people born with limb differences or amputees are seen as cursed. They are cast off and kept out of the public. Sport can change the way people are seen.

LISTEN UP: What advice does Sam have for parents and coaches of athletes with limb differences?

Don’t ever let them use their limb difference as an excuse. It becomes addicting. Push them to keep going even during times of adversity. Never let them know when you doubt them. And remember, it’s okay to let them fail because they will fail in their lives. It’s how we grow and get better.

How does Sam define ability?

Ability is the opposite of disability. It is being able to…Every person has the ability to do anything. If they have the will, they can do it. You’ve got to have grit.

What’s grit according to Sam?

Grit is being able to push through when people tell you that it’s too hard or you can’t do something. Grit is when you keep climbing no matter how high or how many times you might slip and go back to the bottom. You keep going. You keep pushing. You keep driving. You will make it to the top.

Who inspires Sam?

Jim Abbott. At 2-3 years old, I would sit on my dad’s lap and watch videos of Jim pitching in the major league. I would see how he owned his difference and how he wasn’t afraid of anyone. I saw how he used his platform for good and he owned who he was. I wanted to be like him.

Jim batting for the Angels. Photo Credit: Jim Abbott.net

After speaking with Sam, I knew that I had just met someone who believes in the limitless potential of every individual and who is making a difference in this world for young people. Of course, I also loved that we both admire Jim Abbott for his ability to play baseball and use his platform for good.

Sam Kuhnert, Founder of NubAbility Photo Credit: NubAbility.org

If you are impressed with Sam and he has you motived to reach your greatest potential, please contact him. He is available for speaking events. Just check out Keynote for a Cause on the NubAbility website.

To Sam and all the Nubablitiy Coaches, thank you for all of your great work and believing in the Possible!  -Jen

Learning to Fly

“Mom, I have a question.”

This is how most conversations start with Ian. His questions range from “Mom, how did we get our last name?” to “Mom, do you know what superpower I want to have?” Most of the questions occur in our minivan as I race around after work driving kids to basketball practice, picking up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for dinner, and thinking about those work emails that I should return.

On this quieter Monday afternoon, I was headed to the library with Ian and Caitlin to drop off books that were due when Ian announced from the back, “Mom, I have a question.”

“Yes,” I responded.

“Do you think I can be a pilot in the military?”

I pause. I think about the military and their physical requirements to join. I think about how one learns to fly. I think about Ian’s limb difference. I also think that I am really tired, that I didn’t have my afternoon tea, and I really don’t know the answer to this question. So, I sigh and say…

wing sky flying fly airplane aircraft military vehicle airline aviation show flight blue speed aerial pilot power team performance precision navy fast airshow jets blue angels air show air force jet aircraft aerobatics fighter aircraft monoplane air travel atmosphere of earth general aviation

“Well, I don’t know. The military has special rules about becoming a pilot and I am not sure if they would let you.” I pause and sigh again. Then, I add the words that make my shoulders sag and my heart ache.

“I am not sure if they let people with limb differences learn to fly.”

Silence.

“I think you’re wrong, Mom,” Caitlin states breaking the silence as she looks at me with disgust. “I think anyone can learn to fly.”

“Maybe,” I reply feeling exhausted. Exhausted because this territory of raising children with exceptionalities never lets you retreat. Exhausted because fear seeps into every crevice of your life leaving you questioning your actions, worried about their future, and so wishing you had time for a comforting afternoon tea.

The discussion ends abruptly when I pull into a parking spot in front of the library. Distracted by the idea of picking out new books, Ian and Caitlin jump out of the van and run into the library. I walk slowly behind them wishing I had better answers for his questions.

7 books, 1 cup of tea, and 2 cookies later, back at home I hear a ding.  I ignore it and keep typing my response to a work email. Then Caitlin appears, standing over me at the end of the couch, she asks, “Did you see what I sent you?”

“No. I will in a minute.” Intrigued because Caitlin rarely sends messages from her iPad, I set my laptop down and look at my message. Here is what she sent:

See, Mom, Ian can learn to fly.

I have never loved Caitlin’s YouTube watching more. Jessica Cox, I have never loved being wrong more. Lastly, I have never been more proud of my kids and how they see the world! I hope they learn to fly and prove me wrong over and over again.

IMG_3453

When I took this photo, I thought I was capturing a moment of summertime joy. Now, I realize what they were trying to tell me. Ian was shouting, “Mom, Never doubt me!” Caitlin was growling, “Mom, I am more fierce than you ever imagined.” And, Nolan was sighing, “Mom, when will you ever learn? Trust us. We can do anything.”