Spring Break Getaway with Teens

The week before spring break I asked Andi, 15, and Joey, 13, want they wanted to do for spring break. I gave them at least two dozen ideas of places within a few hours of home. CoSi Museum in Columbus? The Airforce Museum in Dayton? The Science Museum in Louisville? Hiking in Hocking Hills? The Columbus Zoo? The Kentucky Horse Park? Shaker Village? Explore Yellow Springs, Ohio? Play in the waterfalls at Clifty Falls? Paintball? Ziplining?

You would think they’d be excited, right? Nope. They both looked at me like I was crazy. They made all kinds of jokes about just sleeping their spring break away. Honestly, my feelings were kind of hurt that they weren’t excited about going out of town with me. I decided they were going whether they wanted to or not and I would pick the spot. My 19-year-old step-son Joel announcing he was going did help the other two get on board. They love spending time with their big brother.

So I decided we were going to Cave City, about 3 hours south west of Northern Kentucky.After doing some research, I booked a cave tour, rappel and zipline at Hidden River Cave. After that we stopped at the Kentucky Action Park to go horseback riding. We went back to The Action Park the next morning to enjoy the ski lift, another cave tour, an alpine slide, a rock climbing wall, go-karts and more.

I could go on and on about how much fun we had but I think I’ll just let our pictures tell the story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not only did we have a lot of fun, we truly enjoyed being together. It was our first real trip with Joel, that didn’t involve a Military graduation. I enjoyed watching the three kids interact, talk, laugh, tell jokes and just be silly. One of the best laughs was when Joey used Andi’s prescription face cream to brush his teeth and announced “this toothpaste tastes like crap!” It really was an awesome time!

Money Saving Tips:

We saved more than half with a Groupon for the activities at Hidden River Cave. Save money at The Adventure Park by buying a day pass for $25 per person. This allows everyone to enjoy everything at the park, except for horseback riding and ziplining, all day long. Horseback riding was actually really affordable, only costing $18 per person for an hour. If you are going to zipline at The Action Park, get a couple buddies together and buy three zips for $100. I was extremely impressed with The Action Park because they offered free day passes, free horseback riding and free ziplining to active military. We were able to save a lot of money since Joel is in the National Guard.

Have you been to Cave City? What was your favorite adventure?

A Familiar Place

family shot (2)What was once a very scary and confusing place is now a familiar and comforting place for me and my family. “I know this place like the back of my hand,” my 15-year-old daughter Andi said after telling me where the closest water fountain was at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center main campus. I giggled and reflected on the last three years.

Three years ago, we could barely find the ER when needed to or the neurology department on A8, which we had just been introduced to a few years earlier. We would often find ourselves lost in the building if we had to park in a different part of the garage or use a different entrance. But not any more.

Almost three years ago, my son Joey who is now 13, was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, a rare disease that doctors argue over whether or not it’s cancer. His white blood cells ate his hip bone causing him to need a bone graft, months in a wheel chair, steroid treatment, months with a walker and then crutches and years of physical therapy (read stories posted HERE for information about LCH and Joey’s battle).

In those three years we have gone from barely being able to find the ER when needed and neurology for Andi’s migraines to knowing where the cool art is in the building, where to find a water fountain, the best items on the lunch menu, where oncology, orthopedics, physical therapy, blood draw, radiology, the emergency room, behavioral medicine, a quiet outside area and so much more are located. We can give directions to those new to the hospital. We are no longer shocked by some of the things we see like children with missing limbs, those in body casts or little ones with burned bodies. We are still saddened but no longer shocked.

We now have favorite nurses in several departments. We know staff members by name, and they know us. We know which techs are better at drawing blood and giving shots. We know which clinics have the best coffee and hot chocolate. We even know most of the valets by name because when you have a kid in a wheelchair or pain, you let someone else park the car. We know how to get massages for the patient and mom, how to get discounted meals and where to get a breath of fresh air without worrying about the neighboring community. We know what days we can find Circus Mojo performing and in which clinics.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is so big and complex that it used to be a scary place to my family. Now oddly enough, we find comfort being there. We seek out our favorite art piece, a framed quilt (read about it), when we need a good distraction. We go outside near Alvin and the Chipmunks when we need fresh air. We bring our favorite nurses cookies from time to time and stop by to see our favorite doctors or staff members just to say hi between appointments.

I think the reason it brings so much comfort is because before Joey was diagnosed and in pain, we were lost and frustrated. We needed answers and it was Dr. Neil Johnson at Cincinnati Children’s who gave us those answers and put Joey on the road to recovery. Dr. Johnson is a hero in our eyes, along with all the other doctors, nurses and staff who helped us along the way. The doctors at Children’s have also helped Andi with her migraines. Everyone there is so kind and reassuring.

We’ve learned things aren’t always as scary as they seem and sometimes the places that seem the scariest might just be where you can get the most comfort.

Cincinnati Ballet’s Alice (in wonderland) Ticket Giveaway

alice

It’s always tea time in wonderland. Everyone is invited to tea with Alice in wonderland! When guests reach the bottom of the rabbit hole, they should promptly follow the White Rabbit (he’s got a very important date). He will escort them to the tea party, where they will be greeted by various guests. Don’t feel obliged to answer the Mad Hatter when he asks why a raven is like a writing desk (unless you know the answer). Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are sure to fly by and the Cheshire Cat is slated to make an appearance, but you never know when he’ll disappear. Guests do not want to offend the Red Queen or they might end up losing their heads!

PERFORMANCE DATES AND TIMES

Friday, February 13 – 8:00 pm Sunday, February 15 – 1:00 pm
Saturday, February 14 – 2:00 pm Sunday, February 15 – 5:30 pm
Saturday, February 14 – 8:00 pm

Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Cincinnati Ballet’s website. Tickets range from $32-$100.

Giveaway: The Cincinnati Ballet has provided Raising2tweens with a voucher for two tickets (date and time of your choice) to Alice (in wonderland) to giveaway to one lucky reader. You have three chances to win. Be sure to do each entry separately for more chances to win. The deadline to enter is Jan. 20 at noon. The winner will be announced on the Raising2tweens Facebook page and have 24 hours to respond. How to enter:

1. Comment on the blog saying who you would take with you and why.

2. Tweet this post with #raising2tweens and comment here that you did.

3. Share this post on Facebook tagging Raising2tweens and comment here that you did.

4. Like Raising2tweens on Facebook and comment here that you did.

Good Luck!

 

Nutcracker Ballet Ticket Voucher Giveaway

nutcracker

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.

PERFORMANCE DATES AND TIMES

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.

Giveaway

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 random.org. 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 gina5620@gmail.com 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

Giveaway

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 http://www.circusmojo.com 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