Nutcracker Ballet Ticket Voucher Giveaway


In a world where sugarplums dance, rats are kings and toys come to life, one little girl goes on the adventure of a lifetime through the Land of Sweets. But is it all a dream? There’s only one way to find out. Accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, Frisch’s Presents The Nutcracker, presented since 1974, is Cincinnati’s favorite holiday tradition. Revel in the magic as Clara and her Nutcracker Prince meet exciting characters, absorb the bright colors and enjoy the classic adventure of The Nutcracker.


Friday, December 19 – 7:30 pm Tuesday, December 23 – 2:00 pm SP
Saturday, December 20 – 2:00 pm Tuesday, December 23 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, December 20 – 7:30 pm Friday, December 26 – 2:00 pm SP
Sunday, December 21 – 1:00 pm Friday, December 26 – 7:30 pm
Sunday, December 21 – 5:30 pm Saturday, December 27 – 2:00 pm
Saturday, December 27 – 7:30 pm

*SP denotes Sugar Plum Parade: Take a walk across the stage to see the sets, costumes and dancers up close!

International ballet dancers Venus Villa and Rolando Sarabia will be joining Cincinnati Ballet for several weeks this December to perform in The Nutcracker. Both Villa and Sarabia have
enjoyed distinguished careers that have allowed them opportunities to dance all over the world. Villa is originally from Cuba and has danced with the Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet
and Vienna Staatsoper Ballet. Sarabia, also from Cuba, is a gold medal winner at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as multiple other international competitions. They will be dancing the roles of the Snow King and Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier for select performances. Villa and Sarabia join us from Rome where they most recently appeared as guest artists with the Rome Opera Ballet in Don Quixote.


We have a voucher good for two tickets to the 40th anniversary of the Nutcracker. You pick the date! You have three chances to win. Make sure to comment separately for each entry to increase your chances. A winner will be chosen using All entries are due by Monday, Dec. 15 at noon. The winner will be announced on the Raising2tweens Facebook page Monday afternoon and have 24 hours to respond. Be sure to check the Facebook page.

How to enter:

1. Comment here saying who you would take with you to the Nutcracker. (Required to enter)

Optional entries:

2. Share this blog post on your Facebook page and tag Raising2tweens. Be sure to comment here that you did (will be verified).

3. Tweet this blog post and comment here that you did.

Good luck!

We’re Not Famous

I’m not famous. My children aren’t famous. Neither is my husband. In fact, there isn’t a single famous person in my family or circle of friends. But I still see all of my family members and friends as super stars. Especially my almost 13-year-old son Joey, AKA Super Joey. Joey is known for his strength and knocking Langerhans out.

Super Joey

Super Joey

Joey isn’t muscular or a big guy. In fact, he’s only 5’1 and under 75 pounds. Yet he still knocked out Langerhans, which was pretty amazing since Langerhans is vicious. I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years and he devours people, mostly kids. Nothing is off limits – he’ll go for the bones, organs and even skin, whatever he can do to take to out his victim. Sometimes even death. It takes a lot to be able to stand up to Langerhans and fight back and even more to beat him down. No, Langerhans isn’t some new trendy boys name or a nickname for a terrible bully.

Langerhans – Langerhans Cell Histiocytois – is a horrible rare cancer that my son beat. This disease, often argued by doctors is to whether it is cancer or an autoimmune disease, is ferocious. It ate Joey’s hip bone causing him to need a bone graft, spend months in a wheelchair, go through lots of physical therapy and much more. Two years later, he still deals with chronic bone pain that puts him on crutches or in a wheelchair for weeks at a time. But the good news is, the LCH is gone. The doctors told him he’s whooped it’s butt and they can’t imagine it will ever attack again. Woohoo!

Super Joey

Super Joey

You’d think we’d be celebrating everyday! And we have celebrated. We are truly ecstatic for Joey but not all of our friends have been so lucky. Our 19-year-old friend Ian Anderson, who also isn’t famous, has LCH in his pituitary gland. He’s been through chemo, surgeries and so much more. He’s probably looking at some sort of life-long treatment and/or follow up.

Princess Sophia

Princess Sophia

Our sweet 5-year-old friend Sophia Lopez, who is not famous either, has another form of Histio – Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis. This beautiful 5-year-old has spent most of her life in hospitals. She and her mom have traveled to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital from New York City to get the best care possible. They have been living at the Ronald McDonald House for a year while Sophia’s dad and brothers are back in New York. The men her life travel to Cincinnati as often as they can to see their Princess Warrior who has been through chemo, a bone marrow transplant, multiple surgeries and much much more. But that gets expensive and vacation time runs out.

We also think of our friends the Culley/Marshall family. They aren’t famous either. But their daughter Ellisyn is a hero in my eyes. Langerhans didn’t hold back at all when it attacked Ellisyn. By the time she was diagnosed with LCH, it was too late. Ellisyn lost her battle at 15 months old.

So although we are thrilled for Joey, there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about this horrible disease – Histio, Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis – that has attacked Super Joey as well as some of our friends (we all met as a result of diagnosis – Histio attacks five in a million).

Most people have never heard of Histio. It doesn’t receive government funding for research, there is no sure cure and there is no known cause. We just know it sucks and can kill. I know some people might think I’m horrible for what I’m about to say but… there are MANY days I wish that a famous person or a famous person’s child would get Histio. Yes, I feel horrible for even saying it but hear me out.

Bengal Player Devon Still’s beautiful daughter Leah was diagnosed with Nueroblastoma and over $1 million was raised in an extremely short period of time. This is awesome! The money went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital cancer research, which is fantastic. I hate that Leah has this horrible disease but it has brought tons of awareness to Nueroblastoma and childhood cancer.

Lauren Hill, the Mount Saint Joseph Basketball player with an inoperable brain turmor, became famous with the help of the media and has now raised more than $324,000 for the Cure Starts Now. It is horrible that Lauren has been stricken with this disease and she has deserved every bit of media attention she has gotten. She is truly an inspiration to all and I believe her strength and courage will help find a cure for this some day. I have followed her story from day one, cried through the ENTIRE basketball game and will be devastated when she passes. I will always remember that brave angel.

joey rareBut again, I often find myself wishing someone famous or their child would get Histio. I don’t want them to go through all the pain and anguish my friends and family have gone through. I just want that famous person to have a voice for all of us. Believe me, the Anderson, Lopez, Culley/Marshall and Holt/Stegner families have a loud voice. We have been on local media, held fundraisers and educated people but none of us our famous. We don’t have the outlet or the reach that someone famous has. We need a famous person to raise awareness for Histio, to raise funds for research, to help the families fighting this horrible disease and to encourage others to remember the angels we have lost.


Note: Please contact me at to learn more about Histio or find out how you can help… You don’t have to be famous. :-)

Cincinnati Ballet’s Peter Pan Flash Ticket Giveaway

peter panFor those who never want to grow up, there’s Never Never Land. Luckily, for the Darling family children, Wendy, John and Michael, there’s Peter Pan to guide them through this magical place full of pirates and Indians and Lost Boys. The foursome (with the help of the mischievous Tinkerbell) fly to Never Never Land where the cranky pirate Captain Hook, a hungry crocodile and more adventures await. Follow along on this swashbuckling journey, past the second star to the right and straight on ’til morning, as these classic characters learn what growing up is really all about. The Kenton County Public Library would like to help one lucky winner experience Never Never Land. See the giveaway details below.

Tickets can be bought at the box office or by visiting the Cincinnati Ballet Website. Ticket Prices range from $32 to $100.

Show times:

Friday, November 7 – 8:00 pm

Saturday, November 8 – 2:00 pm

Saturday, November 8 – 8:00 pm

Sunday, November 9 – 2:00 pm


I have a voucher for two tickets to the performance time of your choice.  A winner will be chosen randomly by the end of the day on Wednesday, Nov. 5. The winner will be announced on the Raising2tweens Facebook page and will have 24 hours to respond to claim the voucher. Arrangements will be made to receive the voucher.

How to enter:

1. Comment on this post stating why you never want to grow up (required to enter)

Bonus Entries:

2. Share this post on Facebook tagging Raising2tweens and comment here stating that you did. (Entries will be verified)

3. Share this post on Twitter.

4. Like Raising2tweens on Facebook

Good luck!


Could the Circus be Right for Your Child?

It seems like before our children are even born we are looking for activities to sign them up for. Will I have a soccer player or basketball player? Will they be on the chess team or Odyssey team? Should I sign them up for gymnastics or football? What about science or the drama club? We constantly think about balancing their activities so they are enrolled in something physical, learning to be a team player and using their brains. Before you know it, we have them participating in five or six things and they never have time to just be a kid.

I’ve been down this road with Joey, my almost 13-year-old. He has tried soccer, basketball and baseball without success. He has been in chorus, on the chess team, taken a year of Taekwondo and participated in a gymnastics class. He didn’t stick with any of it. Although he liked the chess team and baseball he decided he didn’t want to participate. He has been in Odyssey of the Minds since kindergarten and loves it. But that’s not physical… How do I keep my 5’1, 70 pound boy active?

Well, I found the answer this summer. Actually, I found an activity that keeps him active, uses his brain, teaches team work and requires creativity. One activity that covers everything we look for! The Circus! Yes, my son is enrolled in the circus. Circus Mojo in Ludlow to be specific. Joey and I met the Circus Mojo Team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital while at Joey’s appointments (read story here: Circus Camp Healed My Son. Joey then participated in a summer camp at Circus Mojo. He loved it. It provided the physical therapy he needed for his leg as well as an activity that he enjoyed.

joey german His favorite act is the German Wheel. He also enjoys the cable wheel and the silks. These are all very physical activities that have also taught him to work as a team and count on his partner because he could get hurt if he doesn’t. He has also gotten to know a lot of great kids and adults. Coming up with new tricks requires him to be creative. He has to use his brain while spinning plates, flipping hats and balancing objects like feathers and crutches on his finger tips.

Circus Mojo offers classes on Saturdays for ages 7 and up. Even the whole family can participate. Joey loves the Saturday classes. I wish we would have found this when Joey was younger. It would have saved us a lot of time (and money) in the Taekwondo studio and on the soccer field doing something he didn’t enjoy. I urge parents to consider Circus classes at Circus Mojo when looking for the right activity for their child. I also suggest sending your child to Circus Mojo for camp. Joey has probably tried at least eight different camps over the years but this was by far his favorite.

Saturday classes will pick up again this fall. Visit or call 859-360-7757 for more information.

Below you will find photos taken by me and/or Circus Mojo that represents just a few of the things people can learn at Circus Mojo. Do you think this could be the right activity for your child? 

joey unicyclejoey trapezejoey jugglejoey hat
joey german wheel2joey german wheeljoey balancejoey balancejoy wheelchairjoey whip piejoey wheeljoey w circus friends



A True Histio Warrior

Super Joey

Super Joey

My head is swimming right now. Joey had a follow up with oncology today. He is two years free of active disease. That means there has been no evidence of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis for 24 months! Dr. Palumbo, Joey’s oncologist, considers Joey Histio-free and no longer a risk for relapse! Now with that said there is still a small chance but it’s VERY small. Dr. Palumbo said we no longer have to follow up with him unless we need him. Wohoo!!

So you would think I would be partying and overjoyed right now but I’m actually experiencing a mixture of feelings. Joey went to this appointment in a wheelchair. He is having horrible leg pain. The same type of leg pain that he has experienced for two years since his biopsy and bone graft. Dr. Kenneth McClain, the world’s leading LCH expert, told me via email that he sees this type of unexplained pain in patients who have had bone LCH often. Unfortunately he doesn’t know why or how to fix it although he said it’s something he’s working on.

Dr. Palumbo, our social worker Molly and Dr. Palumbo’s assistant Michelle asked Joey’s dad (Troy) and I to go to a conference room while Joey stayed behind. During our walk to the conference room I started thinking they were going to ask me if he was faking. I even whispered to Troy that they better not state that. I was ready to go off if they even brought up the idea. That’s not why we were called in though. In fact, they repeatedly stated they knew he wasn’t faking.

Dr. Palumbo assured us that there is no active disease and he is not worried about it attacking again. He did say however that he was concerned about Joey’s pain. Joey has post traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Palumbo suggested that maybe some of the pain is stress and anxiety related. His dad and I completely agree with that. None of us believe it is the only thing causing the pain but it is definitely a contributing factor.

The oncology team was happy to hear that we already have Joey seeing a psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s and referrals for a psychologist who deals with pain and biofeedback and a psychiatrist who works with kids who deal with anxiety and have been through a lot.

Dr. Palumbo did bring up something that I have thought about and talked with Joey’s psychologist about a thousand times… Joey and I have been very active in the Histio community with raising awareness and money. He asked if it would be easier on Joey if we weren’t so involved. I knew what he was going to ask before he finished the question because I have thought about it so many times. I have discussed it with Joey. I explained to Dr. Palumbo that Joey says he has to be a spokesperson for these kids who are so sick that they can’t speak for themselves. I also told him that the psychologist feels this is to important to Joey to give up. But I completely understand him asking questions. He also asked if Joey understood that he didn’t have the type of LCH that is fatal. Joey absolutely knows that. However, Joey often has dreams that the LCH is back or that one of his friends with Histio takes a turn for the worst.

Once we went back to the examination room, Dr. Palumbo told Joey that I shared his dream with him. “Joey, I need you to know that you are not going to die and I am confident the LCH is no coming back,” Dr. Palumbo said to Joey. I think Joey needed to hear that. He needed to know that his oncologist believes he is completely fine. Dr. Palumbo also told him he was concerned about his anxiety and thought it was contributing to the pain. He told Joey he was so confident that the Histio wasn’t coming back that he didn’t need to follow up with oncology any more. Joey seemed a little relieved.

He still has to follow up with orthopedics so they can check his bone graft. He will continue counseling, massage therapy and physical therapy.

Although I’m relieved the disease is inactive, I worry about his worry and leg pain. I hope everyday that I am making the right decisions and not contributing to his anxiety. So now we concentrate on letting go of the worry (for both of us) and getting him pain-free again.

Fighting Through the Pain

Laying in bed last night I kept hearing a noise in the distance. At first I thought was it a cat outside? But then I realized… it was crying… it was Joey crying.  He had been dealing with pain on and off for weeks now but it had become unbearable last night.

Joey has missed about six days of school since mid-August due to leg and hip pain. He ends up in the nurses office almost daily, sometimes a few times a day, to stretch and try to deal with the pain. It often becomes too much and he comes home early from wheelchair

This is a side effect from Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (Histio or LCH). LCH has recently been reclassified as a cancer instead of a cancer-like disease. Joey’s white blood cells attacked his hip bone eating it away. After a month or more of excruciating pain he was diagnosed, had major surgery, spent a lot of time in Cincinnati Children’s Medical Hospital, spent months in a wheel chair and years in physical therapy. The Histio is inactive at this time but the pain isn’t. In fact, it has become more and more frequent. The unexplained pains can last an hour, days or weeks. It prevents him from being able to do normal kid things

His sis gives him a lift

His sis gives him a lift

We have tried prescription pain meds, over the counter pain meds, yoga, acupuncture, Reiki, vitamins, herbs, a special diet, massage, chiropractor, heat, ice, a tens unit and lots of physical therapy. Medicine doesn’t seem to help at all. The multi vitamin, protien shake and Turmeric definitely doesn’t hurt him so he continues to take it. Reiki, massage, acupuncture, PT, heat and the tens unit give temporary relief. Temporary relief is better than no relief so we continue to do these things no matter the cost or sacrifice.

I spoke to the lead LCH expert via email recently. Dr. McClain told me that the unexplained pain seems to be common in those with bone LCH and he hopes to some day figure out why and how to get rid of this horrible side effect. We can only hope and pray that he or another doctor figures it out. But until then, we continue to try anything we can think of.  And when Joey isn’t looking, I break down in tears because it’s not fair that my almost 13-year-old boy has to live with chronic pain.


Hot tub therapy

Hot tub therapy



My Generation Sucks

I heard a high school sophomore say  “My generation sucks!” She said she wished she was growing up in the 90’s. I had to wonder if she realized:

1. We didn’t have cell phones in the 90’s.

2. We didn’t have laptops, tablets, social media or selfies in the 90’s either

3. We used a big bulky Walkman in the 90’s instead of a small sleek iPod to hear music.

4. We didn’t have access to download millions of songs in the 90’s. Instead, we bought tapes and CDs.

5. We enjoyed the grunge look in the 90’s. I wonder if she would trade her crop top for a giant flannel shirt.

6. We walked or road our bikes everywhere in the 90’s. No calling mommy for a ride at the drop of a hat.

I enjoyed the 90’s though. We had no idea we were missing out on all the technology and thought we looked good in those over-sized flannels. I don’t think having technology would suck either. I don’t think if I was 15 right now that I would necessarily be overheard saying “My generation sucks.” However, after hearing some of the things I heard out of teenagers mouths and seeing certain behaviors over the last few weeks, maybe their generation does suck.

Two women protesting about victim-blaming and slut-shaming at New York City's SlutWalk in October 2011

Two women protesting about victim-blaming and slut-shaming at New York City’s SlutWalk in October 2011

“I would rather be called a slut or a whore by my friends than a bitch,” is one of the most disturbing things I have heard in a long time. I wanted to grab this girl by her shoulders, shake her and ask her what the hell was wrong with her.

This inspired a talk with my own 15-year-old daughter. It hit me that the words slut and whore are used as every day language. Thinking back, I remember slut being a term we threw around jokingly from time to time I guess. But I definitely remember using the word bitch with my friends more than that. What is completely disturbing is these girls, or a lot of them, are okay with being called a slut or a whore, even if they aren’t one. I tried to tell my daughter that those words are almost as derogatory as calling a black person the N word or a person with Downs retarded. I told her that not only should she never call anyone those words, she should never allow anyone to call her those words. I told her to stand up for herself and tell her friends that those words are not slang words she is willing to use or be called. The response: “okay mom,” followed with an eye roll.

“Most of the kids were okay with others commenting on their physical assets.” At least this one was worded a little better but basically a group of boys thought it was alright to comment on the girls bodies in front of a group and most of the girls were just fine with that. I caught them flipping their hair and giggling in response. What is wrong with these kids? First of all why isn’t anyone teaching these boys that this is not okay? It is not okay to comment on a girls boobs, butt, legs or anything else. Secondly, why do these girls giggle and flip their hair? As a society have we taught them that inappropriate comments about their bodies defines their self-worth? Are they too afraid to speak up for themselves?

This too inspired a conversation with my  own daughter. I hope I got through to her when I told her that this is never okay. Telling someone that they look nice or beautiful is fine, commenting on specific body parts is not. I also plan to talk to my almost 13-year-old son about this because I don’t ever want him talking to a girl this way.

“God, I wasn’t doing anything,” was said by a teenage boy with his arms in the air to an adult he barely knew, the mother of a girl he liked. The mother had caught the two kids who barely knew each other kissing. The boy actually started running his mouth and stormed off. Teenagers are going to kiss. Parents are going to catch them in the act and it’s going to be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But my gosh be a man (or a young man about it). Don’t throw your arms in the air and disrespect the girl’s parents. By doing that, you will probably never see that girl again. I have no clue why a teenager would think it is okay to be disrespectful to adults. My mother would have lost it on me had I ever talked to another adult like that. Save that behavior for your own parent! LOL I laugh but we know they treat us worse than other adults.andi homecoming

My 15-year-old daughter seems to have a decent balance of common sense and book smarts, although she can say some pretty dingy things sometimes. She gets As and Bs in school and hangs out with a great group of girls who I really like. She’s almost 5’8, thin and has long blonde hair and green eyes. Yeah, she’s a knock out. But honestly I never really worried too much about her until the last few weeks as I’ve been out in the community at events and have heard these stupid things come out of other teenagers mouths. Now I worry. But I guess all I can do is keeping talking to her about self-worth, what is and isn’t appropriate, to be respectful of others and to demand respect of herself.     first day A

So yeah, they might have iPods, laptops, social media and cute little outfits but I may just agree a little that their generation sucks. What do you think?