Confused About Kickstarter? Let Me Help!

Confused About Kickstarter? Let Me Help!

Kickstarter is a platform where Creators can launch new projects. Anyone, anywhere can become a Backer by making a Pledge and getting cool Rewards. You only get your Rewards if the project meets its funding goal. Your credit card is never charged if the goal is not met.

It is not a donation.
It is not tax-deductible.
You are not a traditional investor.
If you like a project and want to help it become a reality, you Back it and Share it with others. If enough people (aka the crowd in crowd-funding) Back a Project it becomes a reality!! Everyone wins!

We have Rewards that range from $25-$10,000 (Seriously, want a Rachel, Alex & Leah concert? That’s $10,000) And you can even Pledge less than $25 and choose no Reward. You could also Pledge $100 and choose no Reward if you wanted:)

We met our Funding Goal on July 27th, but it’s not over!

There are Stretch Goals: each additional $50,000 Pledged above our initial goal will trigger the following exciting things:
1. We WILL make an additional episode! (Episode 1 is done. Episodes 2 & 3 are funded through Kickstarter. Episode 4 is 43% funded right now when it is 100% funded we will make it!)
2. We will open additional Rewards for YOUR CHILD to appear in OUR SHOWS! ($350-500 pledge)
3. We will open another Executive Producer Credit ($1000 pledge)
4. We will open another On-screen Dedication Credit ($1000 pledge)
5. Each Backer who has pledged to Rewards of $25 or more will receive EACH of these new episodes at no additional cost (delivered digitally).

YOU get to say how many shows WE make! <---how cool is that?Realistically this means we could raise $500,000 and for a $35* Pledge (or above) you could receive ALL 12 episodes of Rachel & The Treeschoolers!! Pledge and Share! Pledge and Share!

Here, I’ll walk you through how it all works on this video with my brother, Aaron.

*25 Early Bird pledges are all gone.

Have We Made A Difference For You? ~ A Letter to You, From Me

Dear Friend,
 
Here at Two Little Hands, we have been told by TV executives that our newest shows are too educational for television. I don’t think our shows teach too much – I think most TV shows teach too little.
 
So, we’ve decided to take our new show, Rachel & The TreeSchoolers, directly to you through the crowd-funding site Kickstarter!
 
What is Kickstarter?

  1. It’s a website where anyone can pitch an idea for a project.
    In our case, we are pitching our new show, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers.
  2. If you like the idea, you can “back it” by making a pledge.
    Whether you donate $1, $10, or $10,000, every bit helps!
  3. If you “back it,” you get a reward.
    You can get DVDs of Rachel & The TreeSchoolers. The more you pledge, the more exciting the rewards. At one pledge level, I’ll even write you a song!
  4. If we reach our goal, the project gets funded and you’ll get your rewards. Our funding goal is $50,000. (If we go beyond and reach $500,000 we can complete all 12 TreeSchoolers shows!)
  5. If we don’t reach our funding goal, we get nothing, you don’t get a reward, and you won’t be charged. It’s all or nothing.

 

We are committed to making shows that:
  • Engage children through movement, music, and language
  • Empower and educate children
  • Teach values
  • Make a real difference

 

The truth is we can only continue to make shows if we know there is a demand for them. If our shows Signing Time and Baby Signing Time have made a difference for someone you love, now you can make a difference for the next generation of children by backing Rachel & The Treeschoolers on Kickstarter.

CAPTIONED HERE

 

Thank you!

 

Day 10 Ghana 2012: Leah’s Wisdom

Monday, January 23, 2012
Last night we stayed up late and packed. We still have no running water. It was a really hot and miserable night. Jen and I are sharing a room. I woke up and saw that she was all cocooned up in her light blue sheet, (we brought our own sheets to use on top of the hotel bedding). The power was on and the fan was near her, so I said, “Jen, if you are too cold and want to kill the fan, go for it.” She peeked her head out and reached over and hit the “off” button. Immediately were hit with hot and humid air. It was so fast! “Ah!” I groaned, “or… you can feel free to turn it back on!” We both started laughing, as she quickly turned the fan back on.

Today is our last day. Curry, Aaron, Leah, Jen and I got up early and went to visit the deaf school in Koforidua. It’s very different from the school in Mampong. The Koforidua school has two vocational programs for their students, one trains them in the art of batik fabrics. The teacher walked us through the process.

I told her that Leah is an artist and the teacher suggested that Leah could stay with her for a few months and learn to do batik. I, for one, cannot think of a better option if Leah has rough teenage years. It’s nice to have an open invitation to a third world country for vocational training and a reality check, that’s for sure! The fabrics are beautiful and some of the designs are hand drawn in wax, while others are stamped, with carved wooden stamps, that have been dipped in the wax. The school sells this fabric to help pay for the cost of the programs.
(Click on photos to enlarge)

Every year, Signs of Hope visits and purchases large amounts of the batik fabric. Last time Curry came and purchased their fabric, the program used that money that to buy a new serger. The school also has a leatherwork program. The students are trained to make sandals, wallets, and belts.

This deaf school also has a special education class, the children are taught to Batik as well. We were told “their work is not perfect, but it’s still a good opportunity for them to learn.” Today was the first time that I saw children who have Down syndrome here in Ghana.

Today was a special day, because I was able to meet up with Amma, who is the mother of Shirley, who follows me on twitter. Shirley had seen me tweet when she found out about our Team going to Ghana. Her mother happened to be there already and had brought Signing Time DVDs with her for their family members. Amma met up with us at the Deaf school and took the tour with us. She has started the Kentucky Academy a Kindergarten program that also feeds the children. They currently have 100 children in their program.
It was great meeting Amma and she was excited to see the deaf school too. She and her husband have a group of volunteers that come from the University of Kentucky and she said that in the future their volunteers could stop by this deaf school when shopping for fabric. She asked me how, with all of my fans, I even saw the tweet from her daughter, let alone took the time to respond. I told her, it’s because I am not “a real celebrity”, it seems that “real celebrities” just collect followers, but rarely interact with them.

We went back to Mampong and made a hurried visit to Aburi. I stopped by Modest Fashions and got my dresses.

Then we went to the wood district and got the Wooden Probar.

I rushed across the road to see how Lucy’s wooden lollipop was coming along. My wood-carver was nowhere to be seen, but his Uncle handed me a cell phone. “Madam, I am sorry. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make the lollipop.” I was pretty bummed. The one thing Lucy had asked for and I wasn’t going to deliver. I walked back across the street where Aaron was still talking to Sammy. When I told them what happened, Sammy said, “I will make you a wooden lollipop by three o’clock!” We left for a few hours and when we came back…

We went to Mampong for lunch and had the most delicious chicken, rice and fried plantains. We all ate until we were stuffed!

We went back to the school for our last visit.

We hugged the children, told them goodbye and many of them pointed to the sky and told us that they would watch for us in an airplane flying over their heads.

As we made our way from the school grounds to toward the road we noticed a young woman who was signing and then we noticed that the person with her put their own hands beneath hers as they replied. Miracle of miracles, it was Sylvia! Leah and I went over and began signing with her. She was pretty confused at first and asked for her translator. Then Sylvia put her hands on Leah’s and Leah told her, “I am Leah.” Sylvia touched Leah’s face and hair, and recognized her, “Leah? You have grown! Your hair is braided too.”


Sylvia told us that she is now in high school, she passed the tests and is now the very first deaf-blind student all of Ghana to enter high school. We congratulated her, talked a little more and then really had to go. We needed to pack, load the tro-tro and get to the airport. The rest of our Team had moved on without us, but it was okay. Leah and I said our goodbyes to Sylvia and then, I took my daughter’s hand and we walked down the dirt road to the street. My eyes were full of tears and I glanced over and noticed tears streaming down Leah’s cheeks. She was smiling. I signed, “What is it?” She signed back, “Mom, she’s the proof. Sylvia is the evidence that anything is possible. She’s a deaf, blind, Ghanaian girl who is now in high school and plans to go to college. Mom, it’s not our circumstances that keep us from reaching our dreams. It’s our excuses that keep us from reaching our dreams.”

I put an arm around her and we walked. The sun was setting. The sky was smoky. We were both hot and tired. I couldn’t help but think back to the day in 1998 when Aaron and I found out that our one-year-old toddler was deaf. I had cried. I wept. That day, I imagined many, many different things, things that my baby girl could never do. I also imagined many things that I would have to give up, like writing and performing music. Honestly, what I couldn’t do back then was imagine all of the wonderful things that would happen to us. I couldn’t imagine the countless friends that we would have around the country and around the world. I couldn’t foresee how many lives we would touch, or how many children we would help with their communication. I had no idea of the many, many lives that would impact ours.

“I’m going to come back, you know.” I said to Leah.
“I know, mom” she said, “I’m coming back too.”

Day 2 Ghana 2012: New Kids & House Bats

Sunday January 15, 2012
Here in Ghana there’s a 7-hour time difference from my home in Utah. In Ghana we are 7 hours ahead. Lucy’s having lunch at home while we are getting ready for bed. There’s no need for us to stay up late. The sun goes down and we all wrap things up and go to bed. There is no Internet. A single light bulb lights each room and it’s a small bulb. There are not a lot of distractions. We have 5 rooms, all of which were thick with the smell of mothballs. Honestly, last night I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach when I hit the mothball scented “wall” just entering the bedroom after dinner. “I’m not doing well,” was about all I said as I crawled into bed with no intention of brushing my teeth or putting on my pajamas.

Curry and Aaron asked the woman in charge about the white plastic balls scattered around the floors, in the sinks, and in every drawer. She said that they don’t have a bug or moth problem, but she said those are just placed to perfume each room so it smells nice. The guys quickly gathered up all of the mothballs and sealed them in a ziplock bag.

This morning we got up, got dressed, and headed to the local deaf school. School starts this week, so not all of the deaf children have arrived yet. They will trickle in over the next few weeks. We were able to meet the new headmaster too, and guess what? She signs!!! The old headmaster was close to retirement, but then she unexpectedly passed away. We heard that the new headmaster says that it is mandatory for the teachers to sign!

She invited us to an assembly tomorrow morning at 8AM so that she can formally introduce us to the staff and students. She also told Curry that she would like “more programs for the teachers.” This is a woman who gets it! Can I jump up and down and shout for joy? Yes, yes, I can!
Little changes can make such a big difference.

We went back to the school and spent time with the students. At any given time we each held court with anywhere from 3 to 30 students. They came running, hugging, signing of course, introducing, and asking, “Where’s Alex?” “Wow, Leah, you have grown up!” “What’s your name?” “Who is deaf?” “Is that your husband?” Can I just say that four years is a long time between visits, it’s just too long.

Usually the volunteers with Signs of Hope are individuals, they are singles, and it was cool to have family groups this time.
Ronai and Ellie are mother and daughter.
Carissa and Pablo are wife and husband.
Aaron, Rachel, AND Leah are husband, wife and daughter.
Jen is my first cousin.

The kids loved Jen’s blonde hair and they set to braiding it.

Jen gets braids

They loved Pablo’s wavy black hair.
They loved Curry’s shaved head too.

They were checking out anyone with visible tattoos, pressing on the skin and doing their best at deciphering the designs and sometimes attempting to replicate them on paper. I guess we are fascinating!

It was fun to stand back and watch Ronai(an ASL interpreter) and Carissa(a soon to be ASL interpreter), everyone really, as they sorted out the distinct differences between ASL and GSL. Like in GSL they sign FAMILY with “L” instead of with an “F”.

It’s Sunday, so the students are in play clothes. Emilia, the sewing teacher, took us on a tour of what they call the compound, we call it the campus. There were at least 10 bunk beds in each dorm room, that’s at least 20 children per room and sometimes they hold up to 44 students in a room. Sometimes the kids double up on one mattress, a mattress smaller than our twin beds at home.

“Curry, can we replace the mattresses?” I asked. I was happy to finally stumble on something we might leave behind that would make a difference. The mattresses are thin foam and many are falling apart, torn, full of holes, or stained from years of use. Curry said he would find out how much mattresses cost here. Twenty to forty kids in a room… I can’t imagine what it’s like when a flu bug hits. Yes, shaving heads for school attendance makes perfect sense.

Since school hasn’t officially started the classrooms aren’t set up and they are dirty and dusty from months of no use. The windows are always open so dust just blows in. There is still a coloring page printout of Alex and Leah taped to a cupboard in one of the classes. The students were excited to take us by the hands and show us that the paper is still there.

There are so many new students, “new” meaning brand new to the school, first year students. The new students usually can’t sign at all. Imagine being six and having no way to communicate. Imagine being deaf and having no around one to teach you anything in your native language. The students come to school and this is their first exposure to sign language, unless they happen to have deaf family members. Imagine having NOTHING for six years! Some of the new students just sign “A-B-C” because that’s something they have figured out. You sign, “Hi!” They answer, “A-B-C”. You sign, “What’s your name?” They answer, “A-B-C”. The new students are six or seven or even fourteen years old. It depends on when they became deaf and it depends on when their family even finds out there is a deaf school and it also depends on when the family can afford to send their child to that deaf school.

Once again, there’s a little guy here who has stolen my heart(already). He’s shy and seems so tiny. He mostly hid behind the older kids and peered out at me. I signed, “Hi!” He signed, “Hi” back, but I think he might just be mimicking. As I continued to sign with him he just signed, “don’t know–don’t know.” Another student came up and signed, “He’s new” and she pushed him aside, stood in front of him and began a conversation with me. I wondered if she remembered being “new” and being scared and being brushed aside. Maybe it gets to me because Leah was “new” at age one when we, her parents, realized that she was deaf, but right now this boy is 5 or 6 or 7 and has less than five signs, OUCH! He could have countless signs at his age. He could communicate like a hearing child his age, just through signs rather than through speech. I know that I can reach these “new” kids. I just hope to have the opportunity.

We left the school, picked up Cokes, Fantas, and fan ice (ice cream in a plastic pouch) from a little store and then we walked back to the hotel. Sometimes we just need to sit down together and decompress. You almost have to ask eachother, “Did that just happen?” because things feel so surreal.

There is such a crazy range of emotions that I go through but when I am at the school I don’t display those emotions. I come back and talk about it or I just work it out alone on paper with a pen.

I bet you can’t guess what we had for dinner…
We had heaping platefuls of chicken and spicy rice!! We had asked for smaller portions tonight, but they were not smaller. (Smaller portions? And you call yourself an American!)

I tried phoning Lucy three times on Curry’s satellite phone. Finally I left her a message. I showered, and discovered that our hot water works today, it didn’t work yesterday. I filled up a bucket from the spigot and then poured giant ladles full of water on myself. Perfect! It’s really hot and humid here, even at night. We each have a fan in our room and when we have power, as in electricity, the fan helps us be comfortable enough to get some sleep at night.

Telling myself that there are no spiders also helps me sleep at night. Last time we were here the spiders showed up like clockwork, always at the same time of night and always at the same spot on the wall. If there were no spiders last night then there are no spiders in my room tonight. Right? I’m going with that!

You’ll be thrilled to know that we have a house bat. The flying kind. He/she/it comes careening through the hallway at night, in a repetitive fashion. Our bat circles. Not cool. And then you hear conversations like this: “Hey, did any of you get the rabies vaccination?”
“Nah, seemed like a big waste of money when I was back in my bat-free home.”
So, we quote Ace Ventura’s sentiments about bats, and I holler and cringe when the bat makes it’s rounds and finally I go to my room and shut the door tight and I tell myself there is only one bat and maybe that’s why there are no spiders… and and so maybe having a bat is a good thing.
Good night.

PS: You can click on the photos to make them larger:)
~RC

46 Days and Counting

The countdown is on! We leave for Ghana on January 13, 2012.. yes, that IS Friday the 13th, so… that’s just… great.

First of all a HUGE thank you to those of you who have donated to The Signing Time Foundation (501c3)! I know you didn’t know it, but if you donated $50 or more, you will be getting a handwritten “Thank You” “receipt” from me, with a photo of us in Ghana. (Obviously that will be coming to you after the trip) and that offer still stands, just click the donate button… Warning: It feels good!





Secondly… we have yet another way for you to contribute!!! Check out our limited edition, Signing Time Foundation Ghana 2012 pewter pins! We are making a limited number of these (because that’s what “limited edition” means) so when they are gone… they are GONE! The best part is that this is a very affordable way to make a difference, each pin is $10 and that includes shipping to your U.S. address – and that means that just about $5 of each purchase goes straight to the Ghana 2012 trip. YeeHaw!

The Hopkins Pin and The Rachel Pin

There are two designs to choose from, Hopkins the Frog and THE Rachel “ILY”. Plus we’re using Paypal to make it really easy to order. Your order will ship in 4-6 weeks. To buy single pins visit www.signingtimefoundation.org (but really… why buy 1 when you can buy 2?)
Warning: Buying things for a good cause makes you a good person… be prepared! (results not guaranteed)

(Ok grownups, these are clearly not meant for young children, so… use your good judgement and good sense about things with small removable parts and sharp points <--- that was my Public Service Announcement and was probably better than saying things like: "don't be a ding-dong")And as always you can Chip-in for Africa below, and yes, I know the chip-in doesn't count the "donate" or "buy now" buttons, but we are also aiming to raise $20,000 not just $5,000. If the chip-in widget doesn't show up, just hit refresh, and it should! Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving~ and that you enjoyed Black Friday and Cyber Monday! MWAH ~Rachel

Potty Training with Rachel and Signing Time!

Signing Time launched a decade ago and within months we started getting requests to make a potty training DVD. The requests for potty training help have never slowed down. I admit, I resisted it. I kept telling my sister Emilie, “That is not MY job!” and “There are a few signs I won’t be teaching… ever!” Heh heh. Well, the good news is when I resist something it usually only takes about 10 years to break through to my good senses. (That’s for you Rebecca)

On Thursday we launched Potty Time! and we did a good deed by purchasing that domain name because I won’t even say what used to be on it… (not kid friendly, enough said) so if you use WOT or something similar to keep your internet use safe, you might find that our site has a poor reputation there, your positive rating will help. You know me, just cleaning up the internet as I go!

So, yes, we now offer potty training powered by Signing Time! and it’s TOTALLY appropriate, and doesn’t confine potty training to just what happens in the bathroom. I teach your children that their bodies are amazing and that it’s important to listen to their bodies. I mean, when your body tells you that you are hungry you go get something to eat. So, when your body tells you that you need to use the potty, it’s pretty simple you stop what you are doing and go use the potty.

Pick up Potty Time at www.pottytime.com there is an introductory sale that ends tonight, SUNDAY November 6, 2011. So don’t wait!

The signs you will learn are: Grow – Love – I Love You (ILY) – Help – Amazing – Body – Eat – Drink – Sleep – Wake Up – Diaper – Potty – Wipe/Clean – Flush – Wash Hands – All Done/Finished – Water – Soap – Stop – Go – Underwear – Accident – Try – Careful – Celebrate (*there is a special feature for parents where we cover Poop and Pee and I know some of you will buy it just to see me teach that! Though the “PSA” about not using too much toilet paper is pretty classic, just because I know how many takes were needed to say it without getting the giggles.)

Don’t miss the Potty Time app for Android devices. You’ll get a kick out of it, I promise. You have no clue how many of my girl friends have already messaged me to let me know that I keep calling them to congratulate them on their toileting success. (iPod app is coming soon)

We had a lot of fun making Potty Time and I have to say that I get frustrated sometimes because I work really hard on these shows and for some reason, all you see in the end product is the very “zipped up”, Signing Time Rachel in her television box. When the editing process was over I again sat there scratching my head wondering why I did all of that crazy stuff when we were filming… the crazy, fun stuff that no one would ever see. So, I pulled rank;) and said, “I want a special feature!!” It also helps that I am married to one of the editors. Here are the outtakes and some of my “finest” moments~

It’s Buddy Walk Season!

UTAH, NEW YORK, WISCONSIN, OHIO, & VIRGINIA I’m coming your way! (scroll down to register for these upcoming events)

Here it comes! I am staring down the barrel of September and October and you know what THAT means… It’s Down Syndrome Buddy Walk Season!!! Yes, it’s time to celebrate and fundraise and meet and sing and sign with the many families who love someone with Down syndrome. Around here, my kids just say “good-bye” to their Mama every weekend. I wish there were more weekends in September and October so that I could actually accommodate all of the requests I receive each year. (Note to Buddy Walk Organizers, we are ALREADY getting requests for 2012)

At each event this year I have created a “Team Signing Time!” for our fans who may not necessarily know anyone who has Down syndrome, but who would still love to participate and see a Signing Time event in their area. If you are coming to a Buddy Walk for a Signing Time performance, PLEASE register for The Walk and participate, I guarantee it will be an experience you will never get over. One Buddy Walk organizer told me that their registrations went up 20% the year they had me perform, that’s good news for everyone! So yes, you are welcome to attend and participate, plus I’ll have tattoos and stickers for Team Signing Time and we’ll take a Team Photo together.

Here are the Buddy Walks and Awareness Walks were you can find me this year:
Sept 10, 2011
UDSF – Utah Down Syndrome Foundation Buddy Walk
West Riverfront Park
South Jordan, Utah
8:30am Buddy Walk Registration
10:30am Performance by Rachel Coleman
11:30am Buddy Walk
Click HERE to join for Team Signing Time! in Utah
*Be sure to say “Hi!” to Leah and Lucy at this event!

September 24, 2011
National Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk

Great Hill in Central Park, NYC
Registration and activities begin at 11:00am
Walk begins at 12:20pm
Click HERE to join Team Signing Time! in New York City
*Look for Aaron, Rachel, Leah, Lucy AND Laura at this event!

Fox Cities Wisconsin Down Syndrome Awareness Walk and Pre-Walk Activities
September 30, 2011

PreWalk Event (I’m speaking and sharing my family’s story… bring kleenex)
Perry Hall, UW Fox Valley, Menasha
Time: Doors Open at 6:30pm
Presentation Begin at 7:00pm

October 1, 2011
2nd Annual Fox Cities Wisconsin Down Syndrome Awareness Walk
Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin
Riverside Park, Neenah
Click HERE to join Team Signing Time! in Fox Cities Wisconsin

October 2, 2012
Greater Toledo Down Syndrome Association Buddy Walk

12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Rocket Hall, University of Toledo
Click HERE to join Team Signing Time! Toledo
*Toledo’s Buddy Walk site is back up! REGISTER NOW!

October 15, 2011
Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia Buddy Walk
Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, VA
8:00am – 2:00pm
Click HERE to join Team Signing Time! NoVA

A few things you may not know… We have been donating products to Buddy Walks since 2003. My very first Buddy Walk appearance and performance was for the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia Buddy Walk in 2006. Two weeks later I performed for the Manasota Buds in Bradenton, Florida.

Last year Signing Time partnered with The National Down Syndrome Society. We donated over $9,000 worth of Signing Time DVDs and products to Down Syndrome Buddy Walks across the country in 2010 by offering a free Signing Time Gift Set to every Buddy Walk that was officially registered with NDSS. This year, we are doing it again! Every Buddy Walk that is registered with NDSS can get one free DVD gift set (just pay shipping). The set includes Leah’s Farm, The Zoo Train, and The Great Outdoors, as well as the accompanying music CD to use in their raffles, silent auctions, or to give to a family in need of communication. It’s one per Buddy Walk, and all they pay is shipping. Have your Buddy Walk organizer visit www.signingtimefoundation.org/buddywalk by October 31st.

DVD Gift Set for each Buddy Walk

So, while you are all taping fall leaves to your front windows and carving pumpkins… I’ll be taping orange and blue electric tape around my fingers because around here THAT is the first sign of fall.

2010 NYC Team Signing Time


2010 Massachusetts Team Signing Time

And THEN There Were Crocodiles

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… (Actually it was just a few years ago and right here in Salt lake City) …I had received a “cocktail” of yellow fever, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, and Hep A, as well as B! That sounds worse that it was, especially out of context. It also sounds like I should have been admitted to the Center for Disease Control, but I wasn’t. I was just leaving our country and going third world.

Yes, just a few years ago- Alex, Leah, Aaron, Derek and I (plus a few more) were in Ghana, Africa working and playing with deaf children there.

Did you know I have another blog? Yep, I kept a journal of both of my 2008 trips to Ghana. So, in your spare time :) hop on over there and have a looksy and take a box of tissue with you.

Those trips to Africa still impact my life. There was a part of Ghana that inspired me to stop being such a consumer. I became painfully aware of the bags of garbage versus the bags of materials to be recycled that we took to the curb each week. We began recycling more and started buying less packaged food and more real food.

In Ghana, all of the students were so lean and strong. (hungry?) They do chores early in the morning. They walk to school. They study and play soccer. They carry buckets of water on their head’s without using their hands. If you are “soft” it is because you are wealthy. Your soft because you can afford to be fat, where most cannot. Let’s just say I was tired of looking wealthy and knew that if that wasn’t enough to motivate me, I have a daily reminder that someone else was depending on me being physically strong… Lucy. I changed my eating habits, my physical exercise habits and health habits. I began my personal “1 pound per week challenge” which is how I ultimately lost over 30 pounds that year. Sometimes when I am on my treadmill, I try to imagine what the Ghanaians would think of it. I imagine they would be baffled at the idea of people running on treadmills or lifting weights in a gym. For some reason, that makes me smile. On the days I don’t want to run, I just think of my cutie in her wheelchair and I tell myself not to take anything for granted… On those days I say to myself, “Rachel, run because you CAN!”

Before I went to Ghana I often found myself looking around and feeling that there wasn’t enough _______. (fill in the blank) Or we didn’t have enough __________. Coming home, I was no longer complaining about what we didn’t have, quite the opposite! I was suddenly embarrassed by how MUCH we had, even though nothing had changed except my perspective. We cleared out excess clothes, shoes, coats and toys from our closets and we donated them.

I still receive emails from our friend Marco and I’m proud to say that last year The Signing Time Foundation helped pay for part of his college tuition in Ghana.

Going to Ghana also pushed my adventure limits. Nothing like eating unrecognizable food,

having nowhere to wash your hands and “showering” with gray well-water.

There were giant spiders that came out at night.

A chorus of goats and chickens and taxis honking throughout the night. There were tearful braids and men with machetes.

And of course… of course there were crocodiles and a broken paddleboat.

My performance schedule for 2011 is too full to go to Ghana this year, I really do not have a ten day window available. I am working with Signs of Hope International to confirm a date for 2012. Signs of Hope is always putting together groups of volunteers to work in the schools in Ghana, you can also help from home, by donating to help pay for a deaf child’s schooling.

Overall they are a cool group doing a good thing.

Set Your Feet Free

Ok, a lot of you asked about my “weird” “strange” “ugly” “funky” shoes when I blogged about running the half-marathon with Leah, Lucy, Aaron and friends back in April. Here’s the inside scoop on running “barefoot.” You can also see this article posted on Athleta.com

Set Your Feet Free

I started running “barefoot” last October after reading the book “Born To Run” by journalist and ultra-marathon runner Christopher McDougall. The book is a great read and I was a fan after reading it but THEN I sent Chris some questions and he actually wrote me back, so now I’m a fan for life! As I was saying… in the book he talks about, among many interesting things, a study that showed the correlation between the price of your running shoes and injuries is this— the more expensive the shoe the higher rate of injury. This concerned me because I have been running in high-end shoes for years now. My shoes have a price tag of $174.00. I have survived… but my last few races I did say, “Hello” to my left knee and noticed my achilles was acting up. I wondered if my racing days were coming to a quick close. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to leave the pricey shoes in my closet and pick up a pair of $80 Vibram FiveFingers.

I was thrilled to see Suzie Cooney’s Athleta Chi article, “Born Free: Barefoot Running” because Suzie did a great job of explaining the mechanics behind running barefoot and she shared credible references. I am more of the grab a pair, put them on and go kind of girl. I did just that.

I put on my Vibram FiveFingers in October. I knew I wasn’t supposed to just take off running vast mileage so I wore the shoes around town and to the gym, at the airport and the grocery store.

In December I was corralled waiting for the start of the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Half-Marathon and I noticed a man wearing FiveFingers! I wanted to ask him about them and how he got up to training for his half marathon in them, but I didn’t say anything to him. (Silly me) I was running in my high-end shoes because I knew that I hadn’t built up enough “barefoot” miles.

In April I ran the 2010 Salt Lake City Half-Marathon “barefoot.” I was running the race with my husband, Aaron, my thirteen-year-old daughter Leah, while pushing my ten-year-old daughter Lucy in a jog stroller and that combination took most of my attention.

It was only around mile 10 that I even remembered that I was running the race “barefoot” and smiled that something that had seemed like such a big deal only four months back had almost gone unnoticed.

Here is how I conditioned my feet for the race.

Like I said, I wore my Five Fingers around town and to the gym for my workouts. I was doing 20 minutes of cardio three days a week. My feet held up great.

When you start wearing them, you will notice changes in your gait. You just can’t comfortably run heel-to-toe in a shoe that was not created to force that movement. Think about a child, they don’t run heel-to-toe. Take off your shoes and sprint on the grass. You probably won’t run heel-to-toe either. Your feet will stretch and feel the ground beneath them. Your toes will spread out and actively participate in your run.

Get comfortable with your new gait and then start adding time and miles. One of the first things I noticed was that my calves hit a new burn level. Living in Utah, I waited until enough snow had melted before I transitioned my training from the treadmill to the streets, my calves were on fire again. I run “barefoot” in the rain, but the snow is just too cold. Running in the rain is great especially when you circle back around to look at your cute footprints.

Listen to your body and listen to your feet. If your feet are slapping the ground and making a lot of noise, you might be tired. Slow down or walk. I love running in the grass and on trails and I think it’s kinder and easier on your feet. If you think about it concrete and pavement weren’t created with barefoot running in mind… at all.

For snowy days I have picked up a pair of Nike Free 5.0. These shoes are Nike’s answer to the minimalist’s shoe.

The following is the three-day per week half-marathon training I followed while also conditioning my feet for the “barefoot” run. This is a great beginner half-marathon training program modified by our trainer Kasey Payzant. This is the schedule she uses to train children and teens and the rest of us who don’t have the time to get four runs in each week. If you are not yet up to running 3 miles you can add 2-3 weeks to the top of this training. You may want to start with 1 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles the first week. Followed by 1.5 miles, 1.5 miles, 2 miles the next week and continue with 2 miles, 2 miles, 3 miles the following week, then follow the program below. If you are training for your first half-marathon, barefoot or soled, choose your race and get your calendar out. Work backwards from the race day week by week. You do not want to finish your training without a race to run. Similarly, you probably wont finish your training if you haven’t actually registered for your half-marathon. Don’t give yourself an out.

Barefoot Running: running with nothing on your feet.
“Barefoot” Running: running with minimal foot protection.

I’m Sorry, Your Child Is Stupid

I asked myself, Rachel, if you only had 1 year left to blog. What would you write?

I would write this…

Our experience raising Leah is not typical, not typical at all. I dare say, we have successfully raised a deaf, bilingual child.

We did it in a school environment that called us “crazy.” In Leah’s Individual Education Program (IEP), where she transitioned from Early Intervention to preschool, we were asked,

“Why do you want ASL? No one else wants ASL.”

I didn’t care what the district said, because really, we had nothing… or was it everything, to lose.

The Parent Infant Program representatives from the state agencies told us that our child would graduate from high school with a third grade reading level. Then we asked them,

“Why do you believe that a child who cannot hear does not have the ability to learn?”

We asked them,

“What are you doing wrong? What is wrong with the education of deaf children in America?

These questions kept us awake at night. Why on earth was it acceptable that generations of deaf children were being failed by the only school systems available for them to attend? It became VERY, VERY clear that we could not and would not entrust our toddler’s education to such an admittedly broken system. They could guarantee that after TWELVE years of schooling Leah would have broken English and at age 18 she would be able to read like an 8 year old. They would not prepare her to compete with her hearing peers heading to college and into the work force.

The solution offered was an embarrassment and I imagined what the reaction to that statement would be if it was said about any other group of individuals… Take a deep breath and try out the following~

“I’m sorry, your child is black. They will graduate from high school with a third grade reading level.”

“I’m sorry to tell you that you can expect your child to graduate from high school with a third grade reading level because she’s a girl.”

Go ahead and fill in the blank- “Hispanic” “gay” “has blue eyes” “short”… fill in the blank!
ANY of those statements would be met with riots! No one would swallow it as truth! No one would stand for it! It wouldn’t just be the parents up in arms, the entire community would fight for those children!

Imagine that your state-funded school had the balls to say that about ANY child!! These are your tax dollars at work.

Now, my friends, let it sink in that this is the reality for parents just like me. The Utah School for the Deaf and Blind said, “statistically you can expect Leah to graduate from high school with a third grade reading level.” Parents of deaf children have been hearing that sickening statistic for years and not just in Utah- this is a nationwide epidemic. The worst part is… parents believe it! They look at their little deaf child and believe that their potential is limited because some stranger from a state organization says so.

Where is the class action lawsuit?

Every child with a disability is guaranteed a “free and appropriate education”.

This conversation should make you feel sick.
It should make you angry.
It should be on the local and national news repeatedly until it is resolved!

For some reason, Aaron and I didn’t believe them. Instead we believed that we could offer Leah something much better than that. We would do it. We didn’t know how, but we knew that she was deaf, not stupid.

We sought out deaf adults and found many who had college degrees and PhDs!! Proof that a deaf person could succeed academically! Most of these deaf adults had deaf parents. Their parents had never struggled to accept that their child was deaf. These deaf children were in a signing environment from day one. We asked deaf adults for their advice on raising our deaf child. We asked them because they had lived the life that we wanted Leah to live… a life without limits. We followed their advice. We looked to the Deaf Community as our compass. They told us that Leah’s first language should be American Sign Language. They said that once Leah had a solid first language (ASL), we could then teach her English through reading and writing.
Finally something that made sense!

We were excited to share this breakthrough with the Early Intervention team, with the School District, with all of those people who could make a difference for every deaf child. We told them what we had learned and what we wanted for our child and why we believed it would work. They looked at us like we were crazy. They told us we needed to pick a program that they offered, they weren’t going to make up a new program just for Leah Coleman. It was such a slap in the face to have them simply re-offer their broken system, since that was all they had.

We visited every preschool in their system. We drove hundreds of miles to do so. We were looking for a teacher, the right teacher. At each school we saw the same sad scenario, the deaf children did not have free, expressive conversations, they were signing by rote.

Each time we met the teacher they would ask, “What’s her name?”
I responded, “Ask her.”
“NO! Don’t tell me she can…” and they would turn to Leah, asking her in sign, “What’s your name?”
Leah responded by fingerspelling her name “L-E-A-H” and then showed them her Name Sign.
The teachers, one after another were stunned.
“How old is she?” They asked me.
I rolled my eyes. “Ask her.”
“NO!!!” They turned excitedly and asked Leah, “How old are you?”
Leah smiled “I’m two-years-old almost 3. I’ll be 3 in December.”

It was as if they had just discovered a new species. They were fascinated by her. Then they would then sit down with Leah and ask her everything they could think of. Leah chatted on and on about this and that, her favorite colors, foods and the people in her life. The teachers were completely engaged.

And every visit ended with them saying, “We really would love to have her in our class. She would be such a great language role model for the other children!”

It was nice that everyone wanted Leah, but I had a sick feeling in my stomach.
A nagging question.

Who would be Leah’s role model?”

There was no ASL classroom and so we created one. We chose a deaf teacher and then we wrote into Leah’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that she needed to be in a language rich environment, one where she had access to acquire her natural language, ASL. It sounds simple, really and no one was opposed to writing that in to her IEP… BUT… when we explained that ASL is a visual language and it requires two fluent signers in a room for a child to have natural language acquisition, the team was a little perplexed. See, that is how we were able to get Leah a one-on-one aide. Her aide was fluent in ASL and the teacher that we chose was deaf. Now there were two signers in the class and our child actually had an appropriate and effective language model.

In school Leah could not communicate with her peers. They stared at her blankly as she signed on and on about this and that. Then she started coming home signing like them. I was horrified! All of our hard work seemed to be dissolving right before my eyes! I asked, “What did you do today at school?” Leah would respond in a repetitive, almost robotic way, “BIKE-BIKE-BIKE” she signed, not making eye contact with me. Then “EAT-EAT-EAT” “PLAY-PLAY.”
“Leah. Leah. Look at me. What did you do at school today? I’m asking a real question.” Every day the same answers by rote. She would sign like that for about an hour and then finally ease back into being the expressive, happy kid we knew and loved.

We went to the school and visited the older grades. K-4 we saw the same thing. As I looked at the projects and work displayed on the walls in each classroom, it was obvious to me that these children were not doing grade appropriate work. As far as language level, Leah was testing at the level of the deaf 4th graders, but she was only three-years-old. We couldn’t put her in with nine-year-old.

We also created a Deaf Mentor program for Leah. Leah had a Deaf Mentor when we lived in Utah, a wonderful woman named Diane would come to our home each week and teach us ASL. There was no such program when we moved to Los Angeles. Luckily it was in her Individualized Family Service Plan(IFSP) and so we continued it. We were told that it would be up to us to find the deaf adult. We agreed. We found a deaf man who was a teacher working for our school system. That made it easy for them to pay him. John came to our home once a week for an hour and we turned our voices off and just signed.

People always ask us how we did it. How we were able to smash the statistics. How Leah can comfortably identify herself as hearing and as deaf. The above is just one piece of that puzzle. We knew that Leah’s success was ultimately up to us. We couldn’t even pretend that the current school system would carry her. We took on her education and success as our own responsibility.

Most importantly Aaron and I saw Leah as a wonderful little girl with a bright and limitless future. We saw her as all of that even when so many others… so many “professionals” only saw her as a deaf kid.