Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Greatest Show on Earth!


I received something of value from Feld Entertainment as part of their Insider Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own



My father is a musician and growing up in a small European country provided many interesting memories. Like my father's musician friend who toured as a clown in a circus. When the circus came to our town we would get behind the scenes tours and great seats. I loved the skilled acrobats, beautiful animals and the treats (of course). I still carry those fond memories of a circus from my childhood and I always think of my childhood when I take my children to a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show.

Behold the living legends! Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® brings the unbelievable to Children Of All Ages in an all-new show - - Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS. Experience unimaginable family fun, as amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats of daring, spectacles of strength and thrills of wonder to summon the mythical and mysterious creatures of the past: a Unicorn, a Pegasus and a Woolly Mammoth! Join us for an unforgettable family night of legendary proportions! Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS!
We are especially excited about seeing  Johnathan Lee Iverson, the first African American Ringmaster. 


The Greatest Show on Earth is coming to Cleveland October 22-26
The best part is you can receive a discount off their tickets if you use the code  QUEST4:
  • $8 off VIP ($40 regular price on Wed/Thurs, $43 regular price on Friday-Sunday)
  • $8 off P3 ($23 regular price on Friday-Sunday)
Purchase tickets here 


During Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey: Legends you’ll be able to watch some amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats.  This show unites iconic circus stars with living mythological creatures in a celebration of the LEGENDS that have captured imaginations for centuries. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson guides Paulo the Legend Seeker on his quest to discover real, living legends from around the world and presents Paulo’s fantastic discoveries to circus fans everywhere. Mythology meets reality as Paulo encounters the wondrous Pegasus and the amazing Unicorn, as well as circus legends such as big cat presenter Alexander Lacey; the Riders of the Wind Cossack horsemen; and motorcycle daredevils, the Torres Family. - See more at: http://couponingwithrachel.com/2014/10/01/ringling-bros-and-barnum-bailey-legends-is-coming-to-cleveland-giveaway/#sthash.ZoJUEdLM.dpuf


Watch the video to get a taste of the show


Also, learn more about a special program if you are taking your baby to the circus for the first time. 

Baby's First Circus
During Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey: Legends you’ll be able to watch some amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats.  This show unites iconic circus stars with living mythological creatures in a celebration of the LEGENDS that have captured imaginations for centuries. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson guides Paulo the Legend Seeker on his quest to discover real, living legends from around the world and presents Paulo’s fantastic discoveries to circus fans everywhere. Mythology meets reality as Paulo encounters the wondrous Pegasus and the amazing Unicorn, as well as circus legends such as big cat presenter Alexander Lacey; the Riders of the Wind Cossack horsemen; and motorcycle daredevils, the Torres Family.
Performance Dates:
Wednesday – Oct. 22 7:00 pm
Thursday – Oct. 23 7:00 pm
Friday – Oct. 24 7:00 pm
Saturday – Oct. 25 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 7:00 pm.
Sunday – Oct. 26 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 7:00 pm.
Coupon Code:
Use code: QUEST7 and get:
$8 off VIP ($40 regular price on Wed/Thurs, $43 regular price on Friday-Sunday)
$8 off P3 ($23 regular price on Friday-Sunday)
Order Tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus
1. Online: Order tickets online
2. By Phone: Call 1-888-894-9424
3. Visit the Box Office
- See more at: http://couponingwithrachel.com/2014/10/01/ringling-bros-and-barnum-bailey-legends-is-coming-to-cleveland-giveaway/#sthash.ZoJUEdLM.dpuf
During Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey: Legends you’ll be able to watch some amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats.  This show unites iconic circus stars with living mythological creatures in a celebration of the LEGENDS that have captured imaginations for centuries. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson guides Paulo the Legend Seeker on his quest to discover real, living legends from around the world and presents Paulo’s fantastic discoveries to circus fans everywhere. Mythology meets reality as Paulo encounters the wondrous Pegasus and the amazing Unicorn, as well as circus legends such as big cat presenter Alexander Lacey; the Riders of the Wind Cossack horsemen; and motorcycle daredevils, the Torres Family.
Performance Dates:
Wednesday – Oct. 22 7:00 pm
Thursday – Oct. 23 7:00 pm
Friday – Oct. 24 7:00 pm
Saturday – Oct. 25 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 7:00 pm.
Sunday – Oct. 26 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 7:00 pm.
Coupon Code:
Use code: QUEST7 and get:
$8 off VIP ($40 regular price on Wed/Thurs, $43 regular price on Friday-Sunday)
$8 off P3 ($23 regular price on Friday-Sunday)
Order Tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus
1. Online: Order tickets online
2. By Phone: Call 1-888-894-9424
3. Visit the Box Office
- See more at: http://couponingwithrachel.com/2014/10/01/ringling-bros-and-barnum-bailey-legends-is-coming-to-cleveland-giveaway/#sthash.ZoJUEdLM.dpuf

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

World CP Day



Today, we are wearing green to spread awareness of cerebral palsy. It's a bittersweet feeling to recognize this day (we don't "celebrate" it) and acknowledge that the reason we have Afua in our family is because she has CP. I am aware that the reason I am her Momma is because another Momma on the other side of the ocean wasn't able to. She was born into a country that couldn't give her a future.She was born into a culture that believes children with disabilities are cursed.

So today, as Afua got dressed in green, donned her braces and body suit and sat in her wheelchair waiting for her school bus, I am thinking about a woman who very well may be wondering where her daughter is. I would do anything to be able to tell her that her precious daughter is receiving medical care, education, nutrition and love. And we will work hard to spread awareness and pray for a cure. 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The sibling of a child who has special needs

We adopted Afua 14 months ago and she is our first child with a visible disability. I often think how our life has changed in the last year, the good and the challenging. Medical equipment, considering wheelchair accessibility of various places, appointments and surgeries have all become a frequent part of our every day life. Our four older kids have gone through the changes along with us and I have worried if they would resent their little sister or our decision to adopt her.

Jake is my compassionate kid and it was no surprise that he became a caring big brother to Afua. Her smile is all he needs to be happy.They have developed a special bond.


Sometimes people assume he is the child most affected by our adoptions. After all, he was the baby of the family and now he finds himself as the second oldest out of 5. Sure, I can't be a room mom at school or come to every class party. I may be at therapy appointments or hospital more than he likes. There are sacrifices that all of us have made to make room for more children in our family. It happens in biological families too as a new baby arrives. But the changes in Jake over the last year have been so evident and I think he is growing into a wonderful young man.

Afua's bus comes first each morning and he comes outside to spend time with her. They play basketball together (she passes the ball and he scores but he always high fives her for a great assist). Last year, when they were in the same school building, he would stop and give her a hug and kiss several times a day. He doesn't have to do any of this, but this is how he wants to spend his time.

I grew up with a younger brother who was hospitalized for weeks at a time. I know how that breaks the familiar family routine, causes parents to be preoccupied and everyone to be worried. I also know the other side, the side that shaped me to choose a helping profession, to care about the people who have a disability, who are different and who are the outcast. I learned to be patient with people who take longer to communicate and I knew the value of friendships with everyone. Jake has learned that at the age of 9. Many adults have not.

After his first day of school this year, Jake excitedly told me that his classroom is across the hall from the "children who are like my sister" (his words). He spent his recess with two students who use wheelchairs and told them he has a sister who uses a wheelchair too. No hesitation, just pure acceptance.  While he has always been a compassionate child, he now knew how to interact with a non-verbal peer and undoubtedly he is teaching his classmates about that too.

Having a child who has a disability can be seen as a tragedy and a burden.  Those unfamiliar with our life can feel sorry for Jake (or our other children). They may feel sorry for Afua because of all that she's been through. But in their pity, they fail to see the beautiful and there is so much beautiful. There is nothing more tender than a little boy's sweet good morning song to his sister. Or the way her face lights up as she sees him returning from school. And while there is so much hard and sad and worry there is the other side too. A little boy who is learning about life right in our home. And his sister, who the world thinks can't contribute much, is the ultimate teacher to all of us.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Finding our routine


A new school year has started and this time I really struggled to find our fall routine. We have a junior in high school who goes on college campus 3 mornings a week (and does not drive yet).



We have a 4th grader who moved to a new building and leaves a bit earlier.


We have a 3rd grader whose schedule did not change.


We have a Kindergartner who is taking the school bus for the first time with her big brother.

And we also have our preschooler who goes all day 4 days a week, does not need a nap anymore and who lost her first tooth this week.



We have spent the past few weeks in open houses, phase in days, orientations and new routines. All the children come home in waves, each excited to share what they learned and spilling their folders all over the dining room table. I returned to work and took on additional students this year, which is challenging but so inspiring. I work in charter schools in urban areas and I compare their learning environments to my children's schools in the suburbs. It is not even close to being an equal situation. I could write so much about that, but for now, I will do my best to connect with each little one I come in contact with.


So life now consists of busy weeks, therapies and appointments starting and of course Friday night football games. Soccer games are happening and we are seeing such incredible character development from my competitive son. Most days I collapse on the couch from exhaustion and I dream of a respite that actually feels like respite. Or sleeping in past 7am. Life is so busy but so so good.

Friday, August 22, 2014

School preparations

With 5 kids, school preparations have to start early. This year, I will have a junior in HS who is taking college classes part time on campus. I will also have a 4th, 3rd, kindergartener and an all day preschooler.

I've especially thought about Afua and how to make a smooth transition for her this year. She will have the same teacher as last year, but new classmates. Her class also interacts with another half day preschool class and they do things like show and tell together. So here are some ways I give my non-verbal child a voice:

1. Photobook

Source
I made a small photobook about our summer adventures. It will go with her to school and can stay there a few weeks as she meets new therapists or support staff. It can also help break down barriers with other students who can see pictures of our Disney World trip, swimming, blowing bubbles or playing with siblings.


2. Make the medical stuff look like non-medical stuff

Source  
Afua has a wheelchair, leg braces, a new body suit (that is great, btw) and many other outward signs that she is different. But when possible, I try to get her non-medical looking things that still do a great job. Like these shoes by Plae, that are great with AFOs but are regular looking shoes. Or sometimes a shirt with a familiar character sparks a conversation with another child. Kids are naturally curious and that is fine. My focus is on the things we can make look more typical and we love pink sparkly things here anyway:)

3. Communication



We have expanded Afua's sign language over the summer. I want her teacher and aide to know all her signs and there a few different ways we could do that. Some families take a chart like above and circle the signs their child knows in one color and the ones they can sign in another. As new signs are mastered, more can be circled.

I have been taking pictures of Afua's signs since hers are modified signs and at times look different. I hope to make a little book out of it since we will be using modified ASL as her primary communication.

4. Safety

I have many safety items on my Pinterest page. Medical alert necklaces, wrist bands or tattoos are all necessary tools for a non-verbal kiddo. yes, our school has all her information but in a medical emergency. I want things to be accessible. Especially after our cochlear implant surgery, Afua cannot have MRIs done without removing the magnet that is implanted. I have ordered a few different options that we will try over the first couple of weeks.


I would love to hear from other caregivers of kids who are non-verbal: what do you do to prepare you kiddos for school?

Friday, August 15, 2014

The surgery that wasn't...

My last post regarding our cochlear implant surgery was titled The surgery that almost wasn't

So it's appropriate that I write this follow up. Long story short...we came home without a surgery.

To recap the day: After a sleepless night, we creatively entertained Afua in the morning to keep her from asking for food. Once we got to the hospital, she kept signing "eat" and "more" and I felt so bad.



She got her gown, all the pre-surgery check ups were done and then our OR nurse told us we would be 90 minutes late to start her surgery.

Afua pacing the hallways with her hospital pj's

The previous surgery was taking much longer than expected. I told the nurse that we felt bad for the family who is experiencing complications (this was us during Afua's last ENT surgery) and we would walk the hallways and wait. 

As I walked for the next hour, I felt a whisper: "for I know the plans I have for you,” 

Afua was peaceful when we expected her to be screaming from hunger. Eric and I grabbed coffee and sat in the lobby for a while.


In the lobby, contently holding Daddy's hand

We returned to the surgery waiting area. It would be 30 min more waiting, the nurse explained. This time Eric stayed and waited upstairs to rest his knee and I continued to walk the hallways. 

Another whisper: They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope".

I knew to keep walking this journey and not worry about the outcome. I don't get these whispers too often, but when I do, I pay attention.

Another stop at the desk and this time the OR nurse came out. She said it would be at least 2 more hours. I questioned her if our surgeon would be fit to perform another 4 1/2 hours of surgery with Afua and I felt a bit of hesitation as she said that he would do it after resting and getting a bite to eat.

Eric and I had strong, but opposing opinions on if we should continue. We decided to take a walk and discuss it in private. As we walked, nothing was said to validate one opinion more than another, but we both arrived at the same decision. 

Just as I had felt the whispers throughout the morning, we knew this surgery was part of a bigger plan in Afua's life. To give her a hope and a future. But today was not the day that we would begin this journey. And this surgeon would not be the one to do it. We hated (strong word but true) walking away but we both knew it was 100% what we needed to do.

We informed the nurses that we would feed Afua and then go home. She offered to reschedule the surgery and we informed her that we would not be rescheduling. Too many things had happened with this surgeon's office that either caused us more worry (insurance issues to the last minute, rescheduling appointments and surgeries) or just didn't feel right in general. We also know that our area has many skilled surgeons and fresh start felt right. I know they felt badly for all that had happened and it felt a bit uncomfortable from that aspect too. We never asked to be treated differently and I felt there was a guilt over everyone to try to make us happy. Not my style, at all.

The saddest part to me came as we were gathering our things. One of the nurses said "you guys are the nicest people I have ever met. Most parents yell at us if their surgery is delayed even just a little". How could I not have compassion when another child is in the OR and having complications? There is a new plan for Afua and I believe the outcome will be even better.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NLT)


 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adoption and the church

Today, I am guest posting on The Grafted and sharing about how our church is caring for adoptive children and families. We were not an adoptive family when we joined our church and it was not our focus to find a so called "adoption friendly church" either. But it was great to reflect on our experiences and how our church family has embraced us all as we have grown.

We joined our current church as a family of 4 with 2 biological children. Four years later we are a family of 7 after adopting siblings (ages 6 ½ and 3 ½) in 2012 and our youngest daughter in 2013 at age 3. As I think about our life and how it’s changed, I can’t help but recognize how our church family has been a source of strength and support at all times.
The most important aspect of our adoption-friendly church is that all families are welcomed. The culture of adoption is evident when it is not seen as a plan B or a second choice but a way to grow one’s family as well as provide a family for a child who doesn’t have one. We see many adoptive families as we worship each Sunday so we are not viewed as something unique or different.  We have church staff members who have adopted and I think that is why there is an understanding that families need support before, during and after adoption. CONTINUE READING HERE...