Our First College Visit

With our daughter finishing her junior year, it’s time to look into colleges. Although Andi doesn’t plan to attend Illinois State University, we scheduled our first visit for ISU in Normal, Illinois. We chose this because our 14-year-old son Joey hopes to attend there for its well known business program and the circus, as an extracurricular activity, they offer. We planned the trip around Gamma Phi Circus’ spring show. We also thought visiting a school she didn’t have her heart on would give Andi an idea of what to look for in other colleges.

We weren’t quite sure where to go when we arrived on campus so we asked a student in the parking lot. Instead of just trying to tell us where to go, she walked us to the building even though it was out of her way. That was definitely a great first impression. The visit started with information about the campus, including tuition contest, types of extracurricular activities, are information and other specifics to the University.

andi and joey

The campus was absolutely gorgeous and very active with students playing Frisbee, riding bikes and walking around campus.

It is common for student groups to leave to promote events by writing on the sidewalks in chalk.

circus chalk

After touring the campus, we met with members of Gamma Phi Circus, the oldest collegiate circus program in the United States. This an extracurricular activity but does require students to be committed by training several times a week. Joey currently trains three days a week with Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky. so he will be ready for this commitment. GPC starts training the in the fall for its spring show, which we were able to see.

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My kids, along with a couple other kids from Circus Mojo, were able to meet with the performers after. They were incredible nice to the kids, letting them ask tons of questions about the Gamma Phi Circus and college life.

circus 3

I have to say that our first college visit was a success.

“Changing the World” Inspired by…

#circuslife

Social Circus Foundation INC

Circus Mojo was recently honored by being included in a Buzzfeed article entitled, “17 Circuses that are Changing the World.” I am thrilled that our local and global efforts are being recognized. However, all of the circuses mentioned in this article are based in the United States. There are plenty of international circuses who are deserving of acknowledgement because they are more advanced at using circus to build their communities. I, Paul Miller, the founder of the Social Circus Foundation and owner of Circus Mojo, would like to take a few moments to recognize the circuses from around the world who have guided my work. Without their contributions and inspiration, my circus would not be the organization it is today.

I am a businessman who aims to earn a living by producing quality programming and adapting concepts from around the world to the marketplace of the USA.  The announcing of a Social Circus…

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Ringling Brothers presents Circus Xtreme

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey  present Circus Extreme  March 3-6.

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Tickets can be purchased at http://m.ticketmaster.com/US-Bank-Arena-tickets-Cincinnati/venue/180631.

Attending the circus at US Bank Arena has become a family tradition. My 14 year old son is so in love with the circus that he has doing Circus Mojo and someday hopes to be a professional circus performer.

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This is the last year you can see the elephants perform so be sure to buy your tickets today.

 

Running off with the Circus

Joey Holt, a 14-year-old Fort Thomas resident who is an 8th grader at Highlands Middle School, is running off to Germany with the circus this summer. My son Joey really is an extraordinary kid who has defeated a rare disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. The cancer attacked his hip bone causing him to need a bone graft and making doctors wonder if he would ever walk again. After months in a wheelchair, years of physical and occupational therapy and counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not only can Joey walk, he can perform in a German Wheel and do tricks on a cable wheel.

joey german wheel2

Joey met Paul Miller, owner of Circus Mojo, and some of his team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital while waiting to see doctors in 2010. Joey enjoyed their entertainment so much that he asked me to schedule his appointments for when they would be in the waiting room. They taught him to balance a feather on his hand, spin plates and a little bit of juggling. The next year was quite a battle for Joey. He was in a wheelchair, doing therapy, dealing with nerve pain, in and out of the hospital as an inpatient all while trying to go to school. He was a fighter though.

joy wheelchair

joey walker

joey hospital

The next summer, 2011, I won a week of camp to Circus Mojo from a local blogger. Joey was ready to go learn more tricks but was using a wheelchair and crutches again due to pain. Paul said they would work around it and to send him to camp anyway. Joey was so determined to be able to do the silks, German wheel, cable wheel and everything else the circus had to offer that by the end of the week, Paul was balancing the wheelchair on his chin and Joey balanced the crutches in his hand.

joey balance

Joey fell in love with circus that summer and has been working with Mojo ever since. He trains every Saturday, performs for the public every chance he gets, attends summer camps and practices constantly at home.  His hard work has paid off. Circus Mojo is taking Joey to Germany this summer to train with Circus Pimparello for a few weeks. His trip is estimated to cost approximately $2000. Joey is for hire to perform at parties, teach kids circus tricks, babysit, take care of pets and do other odd jobs. All money earned will go toward his trip.

joey flyer

You can also help give Joey a chance of a life time by sponsoring a portion of his trip with a tax deductible donation. Donations can be made to Circus Mojo’s Foundation, The Social Circus Fund, at https://socialcircus.wordpress.com. Just click on Donate Here. Donations can also be mailed to the Social Circus Foundation, 326 Elm Street, Ludlow, Ky., 41016. PLEASE write in the memo or comments that the donation is for JOEY HOLT’S Germany Trip.  Please contact Gina (gina5620@gmail.com) or Nick Stegner (nstegner68@gmail.com) with questions or to hire Joey.

Note: Learn more about Joey at http://local12.com/news/local/circus-helps-teen-recover-from-rare-disease

Zipping Over the Gorge

I’m a big believer in experiences as gifts. A coat will go out of style, small appliances break, we lose interest in toys and electronics but are memories are forever. So my husband and I gave our five children (Josh, 24, Jordan, 21, Joel, 20, Andi, 16 and Joey, 14) an experience gift for Christmas 2014. We booked a beautiful cabin at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and took all but Jordan, who was pregnant, ziplining last June.

Photo by Josh Stegner

Photo by Josh Stegner

We had planned this trip well in advance so there wasn’t much we could do when we found out it would be pouring down rain all weekend. We weren’t going to let rain and cold stop us though. Ziplining with Red River Gorge Zipline Tours over the Gorge was breathtaking. I won’t lie… the rain hurt my face and I was shivering at times but it was worth it. The tour offered five ziplines anywhere from 330 feet to 1900 feet and lasted about 2-1/2 hours.

We stayed at Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals – A Ma Zing Grace. The four bedroom, two bathroom cabin could easily sleep 12 people so the seven of us were more than comfortable. We stayed out of the rain some by playing board games, pool and watching movies. The kids even embraced the rain with a dip in the hot tub.

gorge hottub

gorge rest

 

We had an amazing view from the cabin.

gorge fog

gorge view

No trip to the Gorge would be complete without a stop at Miguel’s Pizza. It  is just a little family owned business that serves great pizza, bottled drinks and has a cool outdoor area. I definitely suggest checking it out.

gorge pizza

On our way back to the cabin from Miguel’s, we decided to checkout a nearby waterfall.

gorge waterfall j

gorge fall

Natural Bridge is basically next door to the Gorge so we checked it out as well. Some of us had been there a few times but it was a first for some of the kids. They couldn’t believe the gorgeous view. You can hike up to the bridge but we took the Sky-lift.

gorge skylift

We had fun exploring.

gorge tunnle

gorge andi

We stopped on the bridge for a family photo.

gorge natural bridge

All of us loved every aspect of this trip and suggest staying at the cabin I mentioned, enjoying the nature all around the Gorge, checking out Natural Bridge and taking a zipline adventure. This was our last trip before our blended family started to expand. Nick and I couldn’t be happier that Jordan has found Chad and has a gorgeous baby girl. It was nice though to have this one last experience with just mine and Nick’s kids. But I can’t wait to have Chad and Eden join us on our next adventure!

Prepare for the Big Bumps in Life

be thankful

I was walking out of select soccer registration on September 27 when I noticed my 16-year-old daughter Andi sent me a text to call her immediately. I was trying to dial as another text came through from my husband Nick telling me the same thing. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I knew something had to be seriously wrong. In the five seconds it took me to dial, I wondered if something had happened to my pregnant stepdaughter, if a family member had passed or something had happened to one of my stepsons. Both of my bio children were safe at home. Nick answered the phone with a shaky voice. “Joel has been in a car accident in Elizabeth Town and has been air cared to a Louisville Hospital. I’m not sure if he’s okay, I’m not even sure where he is.”

My heart sunk. Joel was 19 at the time and just started his first year at Eastern Kentucky University. I thought he was spending the weekend resting in his dorm so my first thought was they were wrong. They had the wrong kid. But then it sunk in. He was on his way back from visiting his girlfriend at Murray – a five hour drive. I don’t even really remember driving home from soccer registration. I just had to get to my husband.

I quickly packed a few basics and we jumped in the truck with his brother Chris, picked up my step-daughter and started the two hour drive to Louisville. It was a long drive. I remember thinking “don’t throw up, just don’t throw up.”

That night was the beginning of a three month stay in hospitals. I watched my step-son fight for his life and win. Doctors were baffled on how he survived but he did. He is still in recovery but is going to be as good as new. Family support, prayer, friends, amazing health care providers and his determination made him survive.

This wasn’t my first experience with hospitals and praying that a child can overcome the odds. My now 14-year-old son Joey was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis almost four years ago. He had to undergo a bone graft of the hip, spend months in a wheelchair, years in physical therapy and lots of a counseling for PTSD. He is doing amazing now (I have to give partial credit to Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky, for that. They have kept Joey physically fit and give him something to look forward to).

joey german

Joey’s diagnose changed me for the better. I became much less of a worrier and my anxiety reduced tremendously. Although this is the opposite of what most people expect, it really was a natural reaction. It took that diagnosis for me to realize that there is no reason to worry over every little thing and life and really the only thing that matters is our health.  That didn’t mean that I didn’t lock myself in the bathroom and cry about Joey’s condition sometimes. Of course I did. This is my son and I wanted him to be okay.

I shed many tears over the last 3-1/2 months worried about my step-son because that is normal. But I have also regained perspective. Life is valuable and it can be taken from you at any moment. It’s important to surround yourself by positive people who build you up and don’t focus on petty bumps in life because the positive people in your life are the ones who will help you get through the big bumps.

 

optimistic

 

DIY: Decorate for Fall on a Budget

I don’t often write about crafting because to be honest, I’m not very crafty. But once in a while, my job requires me to step out of my comfort zone and make a few things. Making fall lanterns for a Fox 19 segment gave me the crafting bug so I made a few things for my house and a friend’s. I chose very simple and inexpensive crafts.

Fall frames

Fall Picture Frames

Fall Picture Frames Supplies:

  • Four picture frames ($4 – Dollar Tree)
  • Card stock or scrapbook paper ($3 – Michael’s)
  • Chipboard letters ($5 – Michael’s)
  • Craft Glue ($3 – any store)

Fall Picture Frame Instructions:

  • Cut the card stock or scrapbook paper to fit your frame
  • Glue the chipboard letters to the paper
  • Frame the paper and letters
Wine Bottle Vase

Wine Bottle Vase

Wine Bottle Vase Supplies:

  • Empty wine bottle (Free)
  • Artificial leaves, berries, acorns, pumpkins ($4 – Dollar Tree)
  • Twine, ribbon or raffia ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Optional: Chalk board sticker ($1 – Michael’s)

Wine Bottle Vase Instructions:

  • Place artificial plants in wine bottle
  • Tie twine, ribbon or raffia around plants stem at top of bottle
  • Place sticker on bottle and write Fall, your last name or other word of your choice
Fall Lantern

Fall Lantern

Fall Lantern Supplies:

  • Mason jar, vase or glass bowl ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Glue dots or craft glue ($3 – any craft store or Target)
  • Battery operated candles (2 for $1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Bag of artificial leaves ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Optional: Twine, raffia or ribbon ($1 – Dollar Tree)

Fall Lantern Instructions:

  • Glue the artificial leaves inside of the jar or vase (Tip: The glue dots make this very simple)
  • Place a battery operated candle inside
  • Tie raffia, twine or a ribbon around the jar
Fall Lantern, Ghost Jar, Candle Platter

Fall Lantern, Ghost Jar, Candle Platter

Candle Platter Supplies:

  • Fall scented pillar candle ($2.50 – Michael’s)
  • Fall colored tealight candles ($5 for box of six – Michael’s)
  • Gold or fall colored tray ($3 – Michael’s)
  • Bag of rocks ($1 – Dollar Tree)

Candle Platter Instructions:

  • Arrange pillar candle, tealight candles and rocks on tray

Ghost Jar Supplies:

  • Mason jar ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Ghost Peeps ($2 – Walgreen’s)
  • Candy Corn ($2 – Walgreen’s)
  • Optional: Ribbon ($1 – Dollar Tree)

Ghost Jar Instructions:

  • Fill the jar about 1/4 of the way with Candy Corn
  • Place the Peeps facing out inside the jar
  • Fill the jar the rest of the way with Candy Corn
  • Tie a ribbon around the jar

I was able to make three Fall Lanterns, a Candle Platter, a Ghost Jar, a Wine Bottle Vase and Fall Picture Frames for under $40 since some of the supplies overlapped. I also have extra supplies to make more fun decorations.

What is your favorite fall decoration?

Note: I found most of these ideas online but gave them my own twist.