All About Anna

We are making progress on culling and processing our Italy photos… hopefully we will have some to share next week! Last week I shared Dominic’s success at camp, this week it’s Anna’s turn! (And I promise I’m going to get back to my Selfie Saturday and Macro Monday posts too!)

I first heard about CampCAMP from Anna’s first summer school teacher (who went on to become an honorary family member… hi Ms. Rebecca!). Then hearing about this camp again from Anna’s Texas Home Living (txHmL) case manager and another one of her teachers early this spring, I talked to Anna about going this summer. Having never stayed overnight away from a loved one, I was worried about her ability to cope with so many nights away so we really talked in detail about what to expect. She is wanting more independence and was really eager to give it a try.

Meeting the Camp Pig

The intake process once we arrived at CampCAMP was lengthy so we wandered a little while waiting our turn. The girl in blue was Anna’s personal 1:1 camp counselor, Cathryn. She took us over to meet the camp pig whom Anna promptly named Robert. We would later learn that Robert was a girl, but oh well! Anna loved meeting and helping care for all of the animals at camp. More on that later.

New Braunfels special needs child photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/400 | ISO 400

Nana Camp Master

Anna could not have attended this camp and we could not have gone to Italy if it weren’t for my mom. I was so overwhelmed having gotten Dominic ready for camp and us ready for our trip, that Anna’s packing list completely overwhelmed me (we left the day after we dropped off Anna). That’s where the Virgo extraordinaire stepped in… mom offered to take on Anna’s packing. CampCAMP required that every single item of clothing and personal belongings be labeled with Anna’s name and tribe name (she was in the Cherokee tribe). Mom purchased iron-on tape and cut out, labeled, and ironed on every.single.thing Anna took. She put each day’s outfit in individual gallon ziploc bags, she got the medications ready (which those requirements were even more complex!), and she talked with the camp director and camp nurse ahead of time to get specific questions answered. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New Braunfels family photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/400 | ISO 400

Already Best Friends

One thing I loved about CampCAMP was that they would provide a 1:1 camp counselor just for Anna. Since mom talked with the director ahead of time, they assigned Cathryn to Anna; she had volunteered at this camp several times in prior years. Anna is a complicated kid and her behavior is all over the place. She was one of the youngest girls attending this session and was one of the most complex. In fact, we were the very last ones to be checked in so that the nursing staff and counselors all could spend time asking us questions about how to handle certain situations. Cathryn was a natural with Anna right from the start. As long as Anna feels safe with a trusted caregiver, she can handle just about any situation without me, Curtis, or my mom there.

New Braunfels special needs child photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/400 | ISO 400

Looking Like a Typical Teen

This was Anna’s bunk house, the Cherokee tribe. We tried to get Anna to unpack and help make her bed, but she was not having any of it. She was super anxious and whiny at this point and frankly, all of us adults were anxious too. We had never left her before and we were just as scared as she was. Would she have a meltdown as soon as we left? Would she get violent? We can handle those behaviors pretty well, but could they? She is so unpredictable.

I love this pose here… Daddy is trying to coax her to sit on the bed for a goodbye photo and she’s like, “Nope. Not doing it!” When we left, we did it in stages. First I left, since she would have the hardest time separating from me. I very casually said something like, “Anna, I’m going to get the car for Nana because it’s so hot and it’s a long walk. See you in a little bit!” And I walked out. Then I texted mom when I was back with the car and she left. Then about five minutes later, Curtis came out. I seriously felt like I was leaving my heart behind and was so nervous. I also felt very selfish for leaving for Italy the next day. What if it was a disaster and Anna couldn’t handle it? What if mom had to go pick her up right away? I didn’t want to leave mom with her for a full ten days. I thought six was already pushing it! But you know what? Not only did Anna stay the entire week, she had fun! I am so proud of her.

New Braunfels special needs child photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/1.6 | 1/250 | ISO 1000

The rest of the photos were taken by CampCAMP staff and mom put them in chronological order for us to see while we were in Italy. I love their motto… No Limits! Yes!

Anna came home with this book. Sunday was arrival day and identified her tribe, counselor, goal for the week, favorite thing about the day, what they did that evening, and who was special to her.

Each day starts with swimming. They have a huge pool and a lazy river on site. I wasn’t sure that Anna would get in the pool at all because it’s like pulling teeth to get her to swim at home. But she did! And she liked the lazy river.

Toward mid-day, they were having trouble motivating her so they came up with some fake money that she could earn. With transitioning to each new activity, she would earn another dollar.

Meeting the goats! Anna named them Buttcrack, Butthead, Butthole and Bella. That’s my girl!

Tuesday may have been Anna’s best day. She swam, rode a horse (which she was very scared to try!), did archery, got to paint the ponies, and she got the Camper of the Day award!!! There were about 100 campers in attendance for this session, so this was a very big deal. <3

Anna was Camper of the Day on Tuesday! Way to go, girl!!!

Meeting the horses.

She’s actually riding a horse!!! Wow, Anna!

Doing archery!

The camp has many animals including this ferret. Anna enjoyed petting all of the critters.

Giving Robert the pig a treat.

She even got to finger paint the ponies. No joke.

Painting the ponies!

Best day ever, right?!?

Wednesday Anna went swimming, tie-dyed a shirt, rode a tractor, went fishing, and met the rest of the camp’s animals.

Purple is Anna’s favorite color, so I’m not surprised that this was her color choice for her tie-dye shirt.

Kissing the fish she caught in the river. Eww! She does love all animals. Ha!

Petting the bearded dragon.

Meeting the chinchilla! I don’t know how many of you remember, but Anna used to have an obsession with chinchillas when she was 9 years old.

Petting the snake. She is fearless!

Petting the lizard.

Meeting the tortoise. What a day!

Thursday Anna went swimming, visited the animals, went fishing with nets, then went canoeing! They had a dance Thursday night too and Anna loved dancing with her friends.

So the pictures are small, but if you zoom in, you will see that Anna was terrified and pretty much cried the entire time in the canoe. But she did it and she was proud of herself and that’s what matters.

Friday was the last day! They had an awards ceremony around lunchtime then it was time to go home.

Anna won the Dr. Doolittle award for taking care and loving all the camp’s animals. Aww!!!

Waiting for awards with Cathryn.

Getting the Dr. Doolittle award made her cry happy tears!

Friends, friends, and more friends!

When she got nervous, she reached for Cathryn and not Nana. That is HUGE!

I wish I could’ve been there to pick her up, but I’m so very grateful for my mom standing in. Nana really rocked from start to finish!!!

I can’t even articulate how proud and happy I am for Anna. What a sense of accomplishment! If something catastrophic were to happen and Anna’s immediate family were gone, there would be good people in the world that would help her and love her. She wants to grow up and have a job and fall in love and get married and live independently. Who am I to say that can’t happen? I want that for her too. Anna is a really funny, caring, sweet young woman. I am so lucky to be her mom.

Way to go, Booski! You did it!!!






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