Circus Mojo Helped Heal My Son

Joey, 12, was suffering from unexplained pain again for the last month… Joey was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis when he was 10-years-old. The cancer-like disease ate his hip bone away causing him to need a bone graft. Although no one was sure if he’d walk normally again, he can run, play and ride a bike like any other kid… most of the time. But then there are times that he is in such severe pain that he can only get around on crutches or in a wheelchair for weeks or even months at a time. Unfortunately it’s just a horrible side effect of this horrible disease.

joy wheelchair

So in early May the unexplained pain started again in his left leg. It eventually got so bad that he was on crutches again, missing school and using the wheelchair quite a bit. Joey became frustrated and borderline depressed. He was missing out on end of the school year fun, couldn’t ride his bike with his buddies or go do anything fun. His oncologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ordered test after test to make sure the Histio was not attacking again. Once that was ruled out Joey was able to start physical therapy again. He couldn’t even put pressure on his left foot at the evaluation that Friday. The therapist gave him a few exercises he did over the weekend.

The following Monday he headed to day camp at Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky. We knew about Circus Mojo because Paul, the owner, and Sharon, an employee, would often perform in the waiting room of orthopedics at Children’s Hospital when we were there. Joey enjoyed them so much that he had me schedule his appointments around their performance times. Joey and his buddy August headed to camp with Joey’s crutches and wheelchair in tow.

The Circus Mojo staff was awesome about accommodating our special situation. I spoke to Ginny in advance to make sure all would be okay. Paul and his crew made Joey take things slow and didn’t push him to do things that might be hard on his leg. He had physical therapy immediately after camp that day. He couldn’t stop talking about how fun camp was and he was able to get around a little better. The second day of camp came and he was able to do a little more. On the third day he could do even more but there was still one act he wanted to do but Paul told him was too dangerous if he still needed to use crutches. He had PT that afternoon and told his therapist he had to get stronger so he could do everything at camp. On Thursday he arrived at camp with one crutch and barely used it. He was able to do the act.

joey wheel

I drove the boys to camp on Friday. They were both so excited because they were going to learn even more that day and then perform for the families in the afternoon. I showed up for the afternoon performance and could see how excited all the kids were.

joey w circus friends

Joey actually climbed the silks and did what’s called the reverse diaper drop. He was able to walk on a wheel, balance all kinds of things, juggle scarves and so much more. It was awesome! I couldn’t believe this was the same kid who could barely walk at all a week ago. He couldn’t stop smiling.

joey whip pie

I truly believe that camp at Circus Mojo camp played part in Joey’s physical therapy. It gave him a challenge and a goal. He wanted to be able to participate everything. In order to do that he had to do his PT exercises and push himself. It also helped him emotionally and mentally. It gave him something to look forward to everyday. He was excited about learning new acts and seeing his new friends. Camp provided an incentive for him to push himself and get better.

The really awesome part was by Friday… he didn’t need the crutches or wheelchair at all anymore so Joey and Paul found another use for them.

joey balance

King Arthur’s Camelot Ballet

This post is written by Highlands Middle School seventh grader Roxy Baker.

Note: There might be a few spoilers1314_Camelot_WebHeader

I had the opportunity to attend the world premiere of the Cincinnati Ballet’s performance of King Arthur’s Camelot. Unlike many ballets, I wasn’t leaning back in my chair simply appreciating the dance and the story it told. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation! Being the medieval history buff that I am, the performance was personally touching to me, but disregarding that, the show that the dancers put on was extremely exciting and had me gasping, tearing up, and rooting the characters on with each scene.

The opening act was particularly well done. I would say that words do not describe the effects in this scene. I was in awe by the costumes, and especially impressed by the fantastic job done by the Ladies of the Lake, portrayed by Makenzie Dessens, Milena Garcia, and Katherine Sawicki. I found myself clenching my fists as young Arthur, Charlie Klesa, cautiously made his way to Excalibur. I was silently cheering him on as wounded soldiers kneeled before him as their king. Cervilio Miguel Amador played a wonderful King Arthur, and the companionship between him and Liang Fu as Merlin was heart-warming and endearing. The enthusiasm I felt as Arthur bounded across the stage, now a man, is indescribable. The dance was remarkable.

Janessa Touchet’s play Guinevere’s innocence in her opening scene was very evident, and love-at-first-sight was an obviously predominant component as Arthur and his future queen initially met in the forest. I’ve told many of my friends who hadn’t seen the ballet about one part of that dance in particular, where Guinevere kneels before Arthur, and he stands her up only to kneel before her. It was breathtaking. The same goes for their marriage. The dance was romantic and still youthful, for at this point the couple was still in their teenage years, and was beautifully accompanied by gorgeous, flowing costumes. When Patric Palkens stumbled in as Lancelot, I knew it would end horribly, but I couldn’t help but be on his side. I could tell exactly how much he wanted to become one of the Knights of the Round Table, and I was relieved when Arthur showed him mercy.

Of course, with characters you can’t help but love, there must be characters you can’t help but despise. Yes, I’m talking about Mordred. Danced by Rodrigo Almarales, Arthur’s evil step-brother stole the stage in his opening dance with darkness and mystery. I especially appreciated his costume. Beautifully designed – sinister with a tinge of elegance. After infiltrating the castle and becoming one of King Arthur’s knights, Mordred made his move, casting a spell on Guinevere and Lancelot that would, of course, ruin King Arthur and therefore the whole kingdom, which would be “saved” by Mordred. That sly dog. Anyway, the love scandal of The Queen and The Knight was heart wrenching. I knew I shouldn’t have been rooting for them, but their love was so unmistakable and strong, that I couldn’t help it.

The ending scene will really stick with me, I think. The anticipation was almost too much for my sympathetic little heart. Even after Mordred had exploited the affair of his brother’s wife and his friend, thus completing his job and removing the spell, Lancelot still rode in on his flawlessly manned steed to save his love from the unbelievably pictured fire for which Guinevere would be burned on account of adultery. The two made it out of the fight between brothers alive, but I can’t say the same for those brothers. After supposedly killing King Arthur and his knights, Mordred believes he had won the battle, only to be brought back down by Arthur, who’s will to protect his kingdom and avenge his friends, I assume, kept him alive. In the end, good conquers evil and Arthur defeated the evil Mordred.

All in all, a fantastic job. The choreography was outstanding, the music was perfect for the dances, and the costumes were like none I’ve ever seen. In one word, PHENOMENAL.

Ringling Brothers Circus Cincinnati Ticket Giveaway

circus 2014Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®    Circus is coming to Cincinnati March 12-16 and we have four tickets for opening night to give to one awesome reader. Built To Amaze!, the 143rd edition of the Greatest Show On Earth is sure to surprise audiences with over the top feats of strength, agility and courage. As the momentum builds so does the anticipation, anything can happen when Ringling Bros. Presents Built To Amaze!

I took my children last year. We had so much fun watching the clowns, the motorcycles, the tight rope walkers and so much more. My son even found a food vendor where he was able to have a kids meal with a drink for only $4.75. We hope to find that again!

Circus 2013

From the blueprints to the band, the crates to the clowns, the hammer to the high wire, witness the spectacle as we measure out the perfect mix of marvel and majesty in an imagination equation where the impossible comes to life. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®Presents Built To Amaze! 

Tickets can be bought online or at the U.S. Bank Arena Box Office. They cost between $12 and $85. You can also buy a Family four-pack for $99, which includes four tickets, popcorn, marshmallow pops and lemonades. That’s quite the deal!

Family-four pack Giveaway

Raising2tweens has a four-pack of tickets for opening night (March 12) to give away to one lucky reader. You have up to four chances to win. Only one is required but the more you enter, the more chances you have to win.

1. Comment here saying why you want to win. (Required)

2. Follow the blog by clicking follow at the top and comment here that you did.

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

4. Share this contest on Twitter (@gina5620 and #cincycircus) or Facebook and comment here that you did.

Enter to win by noon on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. Be sure to comment separately for each entry. The winner will be notified via email and announced on the Raising2tweens Facebook page.

Disclaimer: My family was given four tickets to the circus from Feld Entertainment.

Want more chances to win? Head over to my friend Krissy’s Blog, All In A Day’s Work or Amy’s blog In a Galaxy.

Sneaky Chef Giveaway

I constantly have to sneak vegetables into my families food. I spend a lot of time chopping zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms to hide in  chili, lasagna and anything else I can come up with. But I found a way to save time and still get veggies in my family with the help of The Sneaky Chef.

Missy Chase Lapine, a New York Times bestselling cookbook author, created Sneaky Chef foods. Each product is packed with real vegetables.  This makes my day easier since I don’t have to spend time chopping and blending veggies into our dinner. The Sneaky Chef Foods are all-natural, and have no corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors or MSG. Several are also gluten-free. The products are coming to Remke’s in the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati market.

andi sneakyI had the opportunity to try the entire line of Sneaky Chef products.

My whole family loved the Sneaky Chef Pasta Sauce over the Sneaky Chef noodles with ground Italian sausage. The sauce is made with tomatoes and eight hidden vegetables, including cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, yellow squash, celery, and onions. The pasta are made with six hidden vegetables including broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and beets. My family had no idea that there was dinner was filled with these awesome nutrients. And my daughter loved wearing the apron while helping.

We used the veggie elbows to make one of our household favorites – macaroni and cheese. I didn’t feel so guilty about serving them a pasta mixed with cheese, butter and milk since it is also filled with vegetables! It was yummy.

pasta saucepasta noodles

pasta cheese

Sneaky Chef makes a No-Nut Butter that is a perfect  peanut butter substitute for kids and adults who suffer from nut allergies. Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter is made from golden peas, which are naturally sweet and nutty, giving it the flavor of nut butters but it is 100 percent peanut-free, tree nut-free and soy free. You can use it to make sandwiches or bake. 

pasta prize

One lucky winner will be able to try the products too.  Here’s how you can try to win (be sure to make four separate comments for more chances to win):

Entry #1 Like The Sneaky Chef Facebook page and comment here that you did.

Entry #2  Share this giveaway with friends on Facebook.  Be sure to tag Raising2tweens in your post. Comment here that you did.

Entry #3  Comment below why you’d like to win products from The Sneaky Chef.

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

A winner will be randomly picked Sunday, Dec. 22 at noon.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond or another will be chosen.

Want another chance to win? Check at the Healthy Hen!

Disclaimer:  I was provided with products from The Sneaky Chef line to review for this giveaway.  All opinions are my own.

Venice on Vine; Good Food for a Good Cause

I discovered one of the BEST restaurants in Greater Cincinnati last night. Every bit of food INCREDIBLE, the staff was amazing, the decor was inviting and best of all… it is all for a great cause. Venice on Vine is owned by Powered Inspires Progress, a nonprofit, which provides paid training in a supportive work environment with high expectations and varied experience.

So here is how it works…Venice on Vine, which is a traditional restaurant that also provides catering, hires people who are considered at-risk to hire. They might not have a high school education or maybe they spent time in jail or they might be fresh out of rehab… whatever the reason, they are having a hard time securing employment. So they start working at the restaurant as a dishwasher. They gradually move up to different positions like cook, bus boy, server and cashier. During this time they learn how to follow a recipe, as well as other instructions, improve their math skills by doubling or tripling a recipe, to clean well, interact with others, keep their cool dealing with the public, develop interpersonal and communication skills, how to cater an event and working a cash register. They work at the restaurant 22 hours a week for one year. During that time, community volunteers work with them to develop computer skills, craft a resume, practice interviewing and work on getting their GED or any other piece of education they need. All employees must pass a drug test.

PIP empowers trainees to further their education, providing instruction in basic life skills and paid job-training. Pretty amazing!

So when I heard this story I had to wonder how the food would taste. Would it be frozen pizza? Bagged salad? NOPE! There was nothing store-bought about this meal! All of the sauces, dressings and desserts were homemade. I started with a delicious green salad that had fresh fruit, almond slivers and feta with a homemade raspberry dressing. I was in heaven!
Next I had the Vegan African Stew. I was reluctant to try this but am so glad I did. I seriously could have licked the bowl clean. It was the perfect combination of spicy and sweet.
The chicken Marsala was next. The mushrooms soaked in the homemade wine sauce made this dish!

I enjoyed the deluctable chicken alfredo pizza. It was so cheesy. The crust was perfect. The sauce was delish. Oh yum!
Dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert though. I went for a piece of carrot cake and the apple cake with caramel drizzle. Both were to die for but I have to say I haven’t stopped thinking about that carrot cake since the first bite. I already told my boyfriend that I want carrot cake from Venice on Vine for my birthday (yes, they have carryout).
apple cake carrot cake


I had the opportunity to try a combination of the restaurant and catering menus last night. You can view both menus on the website.


There are a lot of great restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area. Shoot, there are a lot of great restaurants on Vine Street in Over the Rhine. But there aren’t a lot of great restaurants that operate as a non profit, higher people who otherwise probably couldn’t get a job or train their employees to help them find a better job. So the next time you are heading out to dinner or hiring a caterer, try Venice on Vine. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it and you’ll be helping out a great cause.

Have you been to Venice on Vine? What did you think?

P.S. Check us out on Facebook.

Rockin’ For Histio

So 25 of my closest friends and I rocked for a cure for Histio this past weekend at The Rusty Ball in Cincinnati. We purchased our $75 tickets, put on Rockin’ For Histio shirts, featuring Histio warriors Joey and Ian, and danced our hearts out to some awesome 80’s music.

The Rusty Griswolds, an 80’s cover band, always put on one heck of a show, no matter where they play, but the Rusty Ball is the EVENT of the year. There were hundreds of baskets in the basket raffle containing gift certificates, cash, lottery tickets, wine, food and so much more. There had to be nearly 1000 auction items. Our Lady Antebellum autographed guitar went for about $500! That’s a profit of $500 for Histio! Tiffany, the pop artist from the 80’s, even sang a few songs.

The Duke Energy Center was filled with about 3000 people! R2D2, the DeLorean and the Ghost Busters vehicle were there! Reds and Bengals mascots made their way around the crowd throughout the night. Beach balls were being bopped around. Bob Herzog, local 12 news, even sang and danced for us.

My group of 25 met at my house for a few snacks and beverages before the event and then headed to the ball. I joke as I say 25 of my closest friends because honestly, I had not even met some of these people before. Some were just acquaintances, while others were very close friends and family. The thing we all have in common… we want to find a cure for Ian, Joey and all the other kids and adults stricken with Histio. You see, when they bought their tickets, they could have chosen from more than 150 beneficiaries to receive the profits. But they all chose Histio. I will forever have a special place in my heart for those 25 people and the choice they made.

It was definitely a night of memories for me. We had a ball at The Rusty Ball! I hope you will consider going next year and choosing the Histiocytosis Association as your beneficiary. Enjoy the pics and like Raising2tweens on Facebook!

Finding Hope in Hocking Hills

my family

my family

If you read my blog regularly, you know that my family has had a rough year with a  lot of emotional ups and downs. Our lives changed drastically on April 23, 2012 when Joey was diagnosed with LCH (read previous posts under LCH). He has been dealing with a lot of pain again over the last few months and has been in and out of the hospital. He has a constant pain in his hip and gets shooting pains down his leg every few seconds. Everyday I wish I could take his pain for him. I think over and over how I wish it was me instead. But it’s not possible to just take the pain away. So instead, my days are spent helping him with exercises, taking him to a variety of appointments including pain team, acupuncture, massage therapy and physical therapy, talking to doctors via email and phone, researching herbal remedies and trying to come up with any way possible to relieve the pain. And all of this is done while working full-time and taking care of another child. Luckily I have an amazing boyfriend, a terrific group of friends and a fantastic family to help. And as they all keep reminding me; I can’t take care of anyone if I don’t take care of myself. So that’s exactly what I did this weekend – I took care of myself with a little help from that amazing boyfriend Nick. We stayed in aquaint little cabin in Hocking Hills, Ohio. I had heard about Hocking Hills for years but had never been there. This was the perfect time to try it out since I was in desperate need of mental break and Joey would be spending the weekend with his dad. We arrived Friday late afternoon, made dinner and enjoyed the hot tub. We got up early Saturday and set out for a day of adventure.

Rock Formations at Hocking Hills

Rock Formations at Hocking Hills

Nick on a cool tree

Nick on a cool tree

We did a three-hour zipline tour of Hocking Hills. It was amazing! It included 10 ziplines and ended with rappelling down. The first two ziplines would be like the bunny slope when skiing. Then we started with professional zips. We flew through the sky from tree to tree landing on platforms. I don’t even have words to describe how amazing this was. I have dreams all the time that I can fly. This was the closest I will ever come to making that dream come true. It was worth the cost and is a memory we will always have.

After that we headed to Old Man’s Cave and ate our packed lunch at the picnic tables. We explored the cave and small waterfalls. As I traveled down to the cave, I felt as if I had entered a different world. The rock formations were breathtaking and I have always been fascinated by waterfalls. We spent the evening relaxing in the hot tub again. It was so peaceful since the cabin was secluded in the woods.

Nick holding up Old Man's Cave

Nick holding up Old Man’s Cave

After dinner and a small storm, I stood out on the deck of our cabin with a feeling of peace, looking at the mysterious sky. The sun rays were trying to peek out from behind the grey clouds. As I stared at its glory I prayed for my son to be healed. I hoped that when I returned home I’d be told that his pain would be gone. I thought to myself that I’d be willing to give up all the inner peace and happiness I was feeling right at the moment if my son could just be pain-free.

After having breakfast at the cabin Sunday morning, we headed to Cedar Falls. I didn’t think I could ever see anything more beautiful than Old Man’s Cave but WOW was I wrong. I was immediately drawn to the waterfall. I slipped on flip-flops and headed out. At first I just put my hands under the fall but realized I wouldn’t be satisfied until I stood under. So denim shorts and all, I stood under the water letting it fall on my head and off my shoulders. It was FREEZING but I found it majestic. We managed to find ourselves in some restricted areas where we climbed on top on the waterfall (Children: do not try this).  It was unbelievable to be standing just a foot away from where the water falls and to look over all the people we were just standing with minutes beforehand.

Under the waterfall

Under the waterfall

The view from on top of the waterfall

The view from on top of the waterfall

The Water Fall

Enjoying the moment

Enjoying the moment

We made our way back to the car and after driving by a few areas we wanted to see, we headed home. We had about 48 hours of an incredible escape. An added bonus was that our phones did not work at all in Hocking Hills (we let family know where we were staying incase there was an emergency) so neither one of us spent any time texting, checking Facebook or on the phone. This allowed for a complete break from the outside world. Not only did I have an amazing experience on my first trip with Nick but I was able to get the mental break I needed and feel refreshed.

As I write this, Joey is in the next room screaming out every few seconds. I so wish I could take that pain for him. I can’t do that but at least I can take care of him. Joey loves reading your messages so be sure to post positive thoughts here.

P.S. If you aren’t following us on Facebook, you should be!

P.S. S. I am open to all holistic ways of treating Joey since traditional medicine doesn’t seem to be working. If you have suggests outside of acupuncture and medical massage, I would love to hear them. Please post in the comments.