My Two Cents: Cochlear Implants

I used to feel sorry for children who had cochlear implants. I did.

When I saw them it broke my heart because I really believed that their parents just didn’t understand deafness. I judged those parents. I assumed that the parents were looking for a quick fix to something that in my opinion didn’t require fixing. I said things like, “I would never do THAT to my child.” Aaron and I talked about giving Leah choices and we decided that she could choose to have an implant when she was age 18.

We think that Leah was born profoundly deaf. We didn’t discover her deafness until she was 14 months old. When her deafness was diagnosed we immediately started signing with her. It seemed the obvious choice, I mean, she was deaf. We never bought into the old wive’s tale that signing would delay our child’s speech. Many people warned us that Leah might never learn talk if we signed with her. I always laughed and said, “She’s deaf, she might never learn to talk anyway!” My concern wasn’t for my child’s ability to say words. I wanted much more than that! I wanted full connection and communication with my daughter. I wanted her to be a critical thinker.

When Leah was seven she was no longer using hearing aids, because, as she put it, “They don’t work! They don’t help me, they just make my ears itch.” She had gone without amplification for a few years and then, at age seven, my daughter asked for a cochlear implant.

Let’s just say there were a few things I had to get over… oh, like realizing that some people out there might judge me, just as I had been so judgmental of others. (Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Don’t you hate that one?)

Leah has now been implanted for seven years, the same amount of time she had gone without hearing a thing.

I have found that one of the BIGGEST misconceptions still floating around when it comes to choices in deafness is in thinking that sign language and cochlear implants are mutually exclusive. They are not. Actually it is our family’s experience that Leah’s success with her cochlear implant was because she was already fluent in American Sign Language* when she got her implant AND because we have continued to sign with her. We never stopped signing. (*She was also already fluent in written English by that time)

When someone receives a cochlear implant there is a period of adjustment as the recipient begins to understand the sounds of the world around them. It was invaluable to us to have a full language (American Sign Language) to communicate with Leah during this new learning period. We had full and complete communication as our child experienced the sometimes scary world of sound. Yes, our ENT told us to stop signing immediately after Leah’s implant surgery, which was baffling to me. “She just had major surgery and you want us to refuse to communicate with her through recovery? Her implant won’t be turned on for weeks and you want us to stop communicating with her?” To me that sounded like a form of child abuse. We never stopped signing with Leah and we never will stop.

Leah is a very successful implant recipient, we feel that these are a few of the factors that helped her to use it so successfully.
1. Leah chose to have an implant, it wasn’t something that was done to her. She was old enough to control the settings and she was old enough to ask to be “re-mapped” when she was ready for more sound. We viewed the implant as another tool to help Leah communicate, not the only tool.

2. Leah was already bilingual when she was implanted. She understood ASL and her written English was exceptional. She was reading beyond her grade level. With the addition of her cochlear implant she could simply focus on acquiring and improving her listening skills and pronunciation, because now she could actually hear some things. She wasn’t trying to learn English with her cochlear implant, thankfully she was already fluent in it and her focus was entirely on learning what English sounded like and how to make those sounds herself.

3. We always focused on our child’s strengths. Prior to her implant, we did not do private Speech Therapy. Why? Simple. Because Leah couldn’t hear:) We didn’t need her to learn how to say words in order to connect and communicate because we all learned to sign. Speech is a skill that your child has a lifetime to acquire.
Speech is not a language. Speech is one way to deliver a language.
English is a language, American Sign Language is a language, but speech… speech is a skill.

You want your deaf child to learn their first language before the age of 3 if possible. If they can’t hear, don’t waste your time and theirs trying to get them to learn a listened to, spoken language. Since Leah couldn’t hear English we didn’t try to get her to learn it through speaking. She learned it through reading and writing.
(If your child is deaf please read #3 until it makes sense. Do not get stuck with the thought that you “just want your child to talk.” Trust me, you don’t just want that. You want so much more for them!)

4. Language doesn’t delay language. The fear of signing is ridiculous and thinking that a child will not talk because they first signed is as preposterous as saying, “don’t let your child crawl or they will never learn to walk.” Babies crawl before they walk and they sign before they talk. If your child has the ability to deliver a spoken language, they will acquire that skill whether or not you sign with them. If they happen to have a speech delay or a disability that gets in the way of speaking, then thank heavens you are signing with them and giving them a way to be understood. If your child’s speech is delayed, it is not the signing that delays speech… it is something else entirely, because communication doesn’t delay communication.

Technology frequently changes and even fails. Cochlear implants can be rejected by the recipient. The implant may fail or simply never work at all. Batteries die and parts break. Programming can accidentally get erased. Sign language will never fail, the batteries will not die, you can use it while swimming, you never have to “turn it on” or struggle to locate it in the middle of the night. Sign language can get soaking wet and it’s always at your fingertips.

Leah will always be deaf. Her first language is American Sign Language. She has learned English as a second language through reading and writing. With her cochlear implant, Leah has learned how to pronounce words and to understand English when it is spoken to her. She is a child who has it all.

If you are considering implanting your deaf child, my recommendation is this – do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Give your child EVERY opportunity to communicate. Give them many tools! Cochlear implants do not work for all children, implants are not always successful and should not be portrayed as a “cure” for deafness. Similarly, hearing aids do not work for all children, they are not always successful and should not be portrayed as a “cure” for deafness. You might want to consider that deafness doesn’t need a cure.

Leah recently saw her ENT, the same one who had asked us to stop signing with her seven years ago. He asked her this time if she would like to implant her other ear, since she only has one ear implanted. She looked at him and said, “Tell me what you think that would really do for me?” He smiled and said, “actually not much, you do so well. Leah, I think you should save your other ear for the future. There are some exciting medical advancements that you will see in your lifetime.”

My two cents: Sign language should be the first choice for a deaf child, no matter what additional options you pursue.

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 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

We Are BACK!

Just two years ago I announced that Signing Time had gone off the air.
In 2008, my sister Emilie and I did not renew our contract to keep Signing Time on public television because:
We didn’t have a sponsor
We didn’t have a grant
We couldn’t come up with the production capital (a million bucks per 13 episodes) to keep cranking out episodes of Signing Time.

The real bummer was that stations and fans were still requesting the show. You just love us, don’t you;)

Not much has changed, we still don’t have a sponsor and we still don’t have a grant and we’re still paying off that loan AND we still have public television stations asking us if they can air Signing Time. At every single outreach event I have had over the past two years, no matter where I am singing and signing, someone asks when we are coming back to public television.

And so…

(drum roll please)

Turn on your TVs folks because beginning October 4, 2010 (THAT’s TODAY) we have given your public television stations the right to air Signing Time for the next two years!! I think we should all stand up and do The Diaper Dance!

The shows have been remastered and our Presenting Station is Vegas PBS. Please swing by and show them some LOVE!

What this means: Well it means that over the next two years your stations CAN choose to air Signing Time, it does not mean that they WILL choose to air it.

If you really want to express your desire to see Signing Time then do what you would naturally do. And I KNOW what you naturally do because I work at Two Little Hands Productions. Every day at Two Little Hands Productions we get the most amazing, tear-jerking stories that are totally unsolicited. EVERY DAY we get them… beautiful, amazing, touching stories. Your stories.

Send your photos and send YOUR story to your local station. Share what Signing Time has done for you and what you see it would contribute to your community if it was available in your area on public television.

I DO NOT recommend that you put together a “Get Signing Time on the Air Campaign.” I really don’t. First of all, it is just a bother to the stations and it looks so fake and orchestrated. Even if it’s not fake, when it is orchestrated it looks fake. So, please don’t do that.

And finally… If your station is already airing Signing Time, be sure to thank them!

I don’t know about you but I’m going to do The Diaper Dance again, just because I can!!

Why We Have Sisters – A Birthday Blog

Is it cheating to write a blog, post it elsewhere, and then link to it from your main blog? No. I think not and so I shall. You know how I don’t send Christmas cards, well I don’t send Birthday cards either, this is all I’ve got.
GO! Click! Read!

From Rachel: Happy Birthday Emilie!
I was four years old and she was eight when we decided that we were best friends.

“You’re my best,” she said.

“You’re my best, too.” I answered.

And that’s how it was.

In some ways it was a simple rendition of the reality-TV show Survivor – Emilie and I had an early alliance. We had to, you see; in a family of nine kids, there were ongoing battles with the other siblings, and even though it seemed that it might be easier at times to join forces with the stronger ones, Emilie and I instinctively stuck together.

I was good at flying under the radar. Emilie was not…

(Seriously! Click now!)

It’s My Party… I’ll Have a Sale if I Want To

Today is a special day, a special day it’s true! October 9th, is my birthday!

I giggled when I opened my email and received a “Happy Birthday” message from Signing Time, because when I opened that email, I got to see me… singing, and signing to… me. Trust me, it’s a little surreal sometimes.

This year I am 35 whopping years old. Can I get a “whoop whoop!”
I just got back from Washington D.C. and honestly have been traveling so much that I forgot it was my birthday. Leah was in D.C. with me and asked, “Mom, are you excited for the day after tomorrow?” I had no idea what she meant, “Am I excited for Friday? Sure! Who doesn’t love the weekend?”

As far as I know, I currently have no birthday plans, other than unpacking my bags and doing some laundry (hint, hint Aaron) So, I am having a sale! (It’s easier than having a party… very little clean up with a sale) And you my friend, you are invited!

The details came out in the Signing Time Newsletter. (Join it if you haven’t already)

I can’t remember a time we’ve had a sale this big, but then again I have never been this old… so who knows!

The coupon code is in the message below. Feel free to share the video with others, so they can celebrate too. And remember, when October 9th is over… so is the sale!

Visit the Signing Time Store to use the coupon.

La-di-da-di Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday All Day Long!

I Still Love Oregon

Ever start writing a blog and just end up boring yourself? I’ve had 2 sitting on my desktop with no compelling reason to complete them. They’re just not good.

So, instead I am going to invite you to check out Oregon with me!

I flew in to Portland on Thursday night. Lindsey (remember her?) was flying in a few hours later, since she had a college class that she just couldn’t miss. I never fly in on the last flight of the day, because if it is cancelled, or I miss it, well, there is no Signing Time event the next day. So, I took and earlier flight and Linds took the last flight.

It’s been awhile since I traveled with Lindsey. Luckily, Lindsey was able to come along, since it is just too early to leave Lucy with a sitter. Lucy was only 2 weeks post-op.

Lucy’s surgeries went really well!

Lucy Wakes Up to a Garden of Balloons

Lucy Wakes Up to a Garden of Balloons

She had three procedures and it took 6 hours. She is very resilient.

Feeling Better

Feeling Better

For this Oregon trip, Aaron stayed home with Leah and Lucy.

While waiting for Lindsey’s flight to arrive, I knew I would have about 4 hours to kill… so I picked up a ticket to see The Killers, who were playing that very night. (Yay for me!) No, I am not afraid of going to concerts or movies by myself.
The Killers in Portland

The show was amazing. It is my goal to get Baby Signing Time to the lead singer, Brandon Flowers, he has a newborn and a toddler and I would love for them to sign with me… since my family sings along with him.

After the show, I picked up Lindsey and we dove 80 miles to Cannon Beach. We checked in and hit the sack. The bummer with driving in the middle of the night is you miss the beauty.

In the morning we met up with Debbie, whose organization brought us out there, and we had brunch at a place called Wanda’s. This was the first of many AMAZING meals we would have on this trip. I had oatmeal… oatmeal… and it knocked my socks off. I mean really, how often can you say you’ve had an amazing bowl of oatmeal? … Me neither! Though, you are more likely thinking, “You ordered oatmeal? Who orders oatmeal?” I do. Okay? I order oatmeal.

Next we visited Nehalem Elementary School. I shared a sign language story time with the Life Skills Class. Then did a Signing Time Assembly for the entire school.

It was still fairly early in the day, so Linds and I drove back to our inn and threw on our swimsuits (silly California girl!) and hopped back into our PT Cruiser and started driving the coast. We pulled over to get our toes in the sand.

Walking The Beach

Walking The Beach

Yes, I brought longsleeves

Yes, I brought longsleeves

Picking up Sand Dollars

Picking up Sand Dollars

We always ask the locals for dinner recommendations and this time we were pointed toward “The best seafood!” a restaurant called Pirate’s Cove.

So Good!

So Good!

Need I say more?

We drove back to the inn, stopping to pick wild blackberries and raspberries that seemed to run rampant everywhere we looked.

Blackberries Make Us Happy

Blackberries Make Us Happy

The following morning was the Buddy Walk at the Beach, in Seaside. The weather was perfect. The walk was just the right length.

I got to meet Lucy’s personal Fan Club, little Dru.

Dru Loves Lucy Coleman

Dru Loves Lucy Coleman

Then it was time to walk.

Walking in the Buddy Walk

Walking in the Buddy Walk

We all gathered for a photo on the stairs that lead to the beach. It felt like a “Where’s Waldo” scene, since most everyone had their Buddy Walk shirts on and I was wearing my signature orange.

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Lucy’s buddy, Josiah and his family were there. You may have seen Josiah in “The Great Outdoors” exploring on his crutches or smiling next to Lucy. Josiah and Lucy go WAY back. Josiah’s mom, Gina, was the 77th fetal surgery for spina bifida patient and Lucy and I were the 82nd patients. While on bed rest we got to know each other and kept tabs on the progress of these special kids.

It's Always Fun to See Friends

It's Always Fun to See Friends

We all made our way to the Convention Center where my Signing Time performance would be. Before singing Caterpillar Dreams, I introduced Josiah to everyone. It was sweet to see him on the screen behind me and to see how much he has grown since we filmed those scenes.

When most everyone had left, I noticed some bumper boats for rent nearby. Lindsey and I put everything in the car and then ran down to rent bumper boats.

Bring it!

Bring it!

There was an option to rent water guns as well. At first we loved the idea, but on second thought… that water looked uncomfortably brown.

The Eye of The Tiger

The Eye of The Tiger

We packed up and decided to drive some more. The landscape was eerily familiar and we realized that this must be where they filmed the movie Goonies.

Tell Me That Rock is Not From Goonies

Tell Me That Rock is Not From Goonies

A google search later that evening confirmed that hunch. For what it’s worth Kindergarten Cop was also filmed in that area.

After that we went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream cones.

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Tillamook Cheese Factory

We toured the factory and of course tried out the samples. My favorite? Horseradish Cheddar.
Don't Forget the Extra Cheese!

Don't Forget the Extra Cheese!

When the factory closed, we drove to Portland, since we were flying out in the morning.

I love Oregon! I know, I have said it before, but I do. That place just speaks to my soul. The greens are so green! The landscape transitions so abrupt. Who puts a beach right next to a forest?

The Coast is Calling

The Coast is Calling

I have loved traveling for the Signing Time events in Salem and Klamath last year and when I was 19, my girl friend, Jessica and I had hopped in my VW Bus and drove to Eugene on a whim.

I am trying to figure out the best way to get more of Oregon? Should we take a week or two and drive the coast this summer? Camp? Camper? Bed & Breakfast? Should we move to the coast for a month? What is the best way to get more Oregon? Should I sign up for the STP 2010 (Seattle to Portland Bike Race).

I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, and even worse I don’t know why! Something is pulling me toward Oregon.

I’m Pretty Much an Astronaut!

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a marine biologist, as well as the typical stuff, a vet, a mom, a teacher etc. I also wanted to be an astronaut. Sure, the astronaut stint was around the time the movie Space Camp came out. I saw that movie ten times, at least.

My dreams of space faded when I found out just how much math is involved with becoming any scientific type and way back then we didn’t have computers easily available to do our math for us… “When I was a kid we had to count on our fingers, instead of downloading iPhone apps to do it!”

With that my NASA dreams faded… that was 1986.

In the year 2009 I received a call. NASA wanted me! I had arrived! No, they didn’t want me to go to space, but they wanted me to come to The Kennedy Space Center and speak at their Spring Diversity Program, “It’s About Ability!” – There wasn’t even math involved!

And… the coolest part (although there are A LOT of coolest parts in this story) was that after my presentation, I was invited on a 4 hour, VIP tour of NASA. (Move over Space Camp! You can keep your freeze-dried ice cream!)

Aaron and I arrived at Cape Canaveral. (I could bring one assistant and my current assistant (sidekick) is in school full time, AND this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so what better side kick than my spouse?) The morning of the event we checked in at security, earlier in the month we had to provide al kinds of personal information in order to obtain security clearance. Let’s just say that I now have government clearance… probably top secret too, except I am not really allowed to tell you that… so shhhh, keep it on the down low!

NASA has THE BEST dot matrix photo ID printouts I have ever seen. Not kidding, Costco has nothing on NASA. My Season Pass at Snowbird looks like a child’s scribble compared to the perfection NASA produced. The worst picture ID card is from our neighborhood Recreation Center, and no, I am not saying that only because they took the photo AFTER I had worked out. (blech!) I am just saying they could REALLY learn a thing or two from NASA!

Once we got through security (we actually had to take a paper number out of one of those dispensers, which reminds you- oh, yeah, this IS a government agency like the Post Office) Bonni (should I have changed your name to protect the innocent?) took us to our first event.

NASA has a daycare.

The Child Development Center

The Child Development Center

Luckily it says Solar System, not Planets

Luckily it says Solar System, not Planets

Yep, scientists and technicians and engineers have children too you know. We pull up to the Day Care and the fire alarm goes off. (Luckily it’s only a drill) They passed the drill and everyone went back inside. When the kids were settled again we came in. Once inside, I heard whispers “sh, sh rainbow lady shh shhh rainbow lady” and then the noise got louder and clearer. “The Rainbow Lady!! THE RAINBOW LADY!!” They shouted.
T H E R A I N B O W L A D Y ! ! ! !

Hmmm… I’ve never been called that before, but it works. I came in, talked with the kids, read some stories and then asked them if they knew any Signing Time songs… they answered by bursting into song; “DO YOU KNOW THE COLORS OF OUR RAINBOW?” –at the top of their lungs. They sang the whole thing a ca pella. I stood there grinning. Their teachers were beaming. This was awesome!

Next we went to an auditorium, where the event, for the adults, was taking place. The auditorium holds a couple hundred, but my presentation would be filmed and broadcast over NASA TV where more than 10,000 people could access it. (just breathe)

I shared my family’s story and shared with them the amazing things that Leah and Lucy have taught me about how to treat people with disabilities and how each time I meet someone with a disability I get to learn something about myself.

Half-way through my presentation the 4 year-olds from the daycare came and showed off their mad signing skills, by performing “Colors of The Rainbow” with me for all the grown-ups. They did great!

I ended the presentation by sharing part of an interview I did with Lucy. I had asked her how it is to be in a wheelchair. Lucy’s insight continually blows my mind. She has a perspective I may never have and she shares it so brilliantly! She said, “I think when people see me, they see a little girl in a wheelchair, but when I see myself, I see a beautiful little girl!”

I could only follow that up with “Caterpillar Dreams.”

Then it was time to start our VIP tour! As we started out, we were told, “Feel free to ask any questions.”… I said, “I don’t even know enough about this to have any questions!”

Serious International Space Station!

The name says it all

The name says it all

This is a real model of the space station, but not THE real space station

This is a real model of the space station, but not THE real space station

Our VIP tour took us onto THE floor of the International Space Station Processing Facility.

The Leonardo

The Leonardo

Holy Orbiter Batman!

One of three buildings for processing orbiters

One of three buildings for processing orbiters

Aaron and I were under, over and right next to the Orbiter Discovery. Too cool!

Above and facing the cockpit

Above and facing the cockpit

Underneath Discovery

Underneath Discovery

The wings are covered to keep them protected

The wings are covered to keep them protected

Cargo area

Cargo area

Everyone in Acronyms!

Vehicle Assembly Building

Vehicle Assembly Building

We went through the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) one of the most recognizable buildings at The Kennedy Space Center. The stars on the American flag up there are 6 feet from point to point and they say you can drive a bus down those stripes… if you could get the bus to stick at that angle.

Next we went out to the shuttle launch pads. Both the Atlantis and the Endeavour were on launch pads, it’s pretty uncommon to see two shuttles on the launch pads at the same time.

The Endeavour is ready to go

The Endeavour is ready to go

The Atlantis is also ready to go

The Atlantis is also ready to go

Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

Move along little turtle

Move along little turtle

While driving from one launch pad to another, we stopped to move a turtle off the road… this is the sign for TURTLE. We joked that most likely, after we moved it to safety, it was snapped up by an alligator. We really did see alligators on the property too. Ah, the circle of life.

All Day and Night Crawler

This thing is massive!

This thing is massive!

Each cleat weighs 1 ton

Each cleat weighs 1 ton

The Crawler is about the size of a baseball diamond. It weighs 6 million pounds unloaded. It takes the shuttle and the mobile launcher platform from the VAB to the launch pad very, very slowly. One mile per hour! When loaded up with the shuttle it weighs 12 million pounds… and that is just way beyond my comprehension… too many pounds, just too many.

All I have to say is this, anyone who really believes the whole landing on the moon thing was a hoax is a complete dingbat… or else this is THE most elaborate government cover-up known to man. Who’s going to build 3 orbiters and pretend to service them for years and then fake a bunch of launches and landings? (Don’t answer that… just don’t.)

Thank you Bonni, Stephanie and Eric and all who took care of us and made this event so memorable! (Including you Tim!) Thank you NASA!

My Space Camp desire is currently quenched, with little to no mathematics. My 12 year-old self is at peace.

Who knows… maybe next year I will be invited to speak at Area 51. You know, they say it’s easier to cross a signed language barrier than a spoken language barrier. So, let me at those extraterrestrials, I bet I could teach those Aliens a sign or two!

Another Word About Public Television

Those of you who read this blog know that Emilie and I took Signing Time off the air because we do not have a sponsor and we cannot continue funding TV production without one. For those of you who are new to this conversation here is a brief recap of my previous post.

• As of October 2008 Signing Time is no longer on public television.

• Having Signing Time on public television has been a WONDERFUL experience. The stations and our distributor American Public Television have been fantastic to work with. You, the viewers have been loyal and supportive.

• Two Little Hands is not paid to be on public TV, in fact we pay to produce the episodes.

• Most children’s shows that are on public TV have a sponsor–a company or foundation that pays for production. To date Signing Time has not secured a sponsor.

• We simply cannot afford to produce episodes for public television without a sponsor.

• Many of you have asked what you can do to help. If you have a relationship with a business or foundation that you believe would be a great sponsor for Signing Time, share your experience with them and invite them to consider sponsorship.

• We hope to have Signing Time back on television!

As you know from reading my blog or attending outreach events all over the country, public TV stations are our partners. They chose to share Signing Time with their viewers. Our distributor American Public Television and many of the stations are disappointed in losing Signing Time, too. Many have told us that they want Signing Time back on the air. We are so thankful for their support! They have gone the extra mile to support the mission of Signing Time. We hope you support your local public television station and thank them for airing great shows like Signing Time.

If you, or your friends or family members are upset about Signing Time going off the air, please understand that it is not because stations cancelled the show. It is because Signing Time needs a sponsor (or to win the lottery! 😉 If you need to vent, vent here on this blog. If you want to write a letter, write it to an organization that you believe would be an appropriate sponsor for Signing Time on public television.

We love you guys! Thanks for your support of the mission of Signing Time!

Rachel & Emilie

Merry Christmas! Songs from Rachel and Alex

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

We hope you are celebrating and making memories with your friends and family.  

This year, at our Signing Time Christmas Party, we filmed a couple of songs for you. I hope you enjoy them!

“What Child Is This?”
Rachel Coleman

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“Could I Hold The Baby?”
Alex Brown

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Happy Holidays!

Rachel, Alex, Leah, and everyone at Two Little Hands Productions

Being Thankful… for Leah

Being Thankful for Leah

Thanksgiving is over…
and Leah’s birthday is today. She’s 12! (I KNOW, just go back and watch My First Signs and she will continue to live on as a 4 year-old and we can all just pretend that 12 isn’t happening!!)

The night before Thanksgiving, I was thinking about the things I am thankful for and then I thought that I could probably surprise myself by actually diving into my journals and reading how it really was. I have 10 journals, so I opened one up to see what year and what thoughts it held… The first one I opened was from 6 years ago. The entry written about the Christmas after we shot Signing Time 2 and 3.

December 29, 2002 – Salt Lake City, UT

Christmas was hard. We had nothing and could give little, even to our own kids. Aaron and I didn’t give each other gifts. Two days before Christmas my dad gave us $200. The next day my sister Julie gave us $200. We were then able to get Leah a bike and a Gameboy. She also got all of her Signing Time wardrobe clothes and the “Leah Doll” – it was pretty humbling.

After I read that I called Aaron in. I read it to him and we both sat there stunned. We had to think, really hard to even remember that Christmas. The following morning, Thanksgiving Day, I pulled my dad and my sister Julie aside and thanked them for giving us Christmas 6 years ago. Neither one of them vividly remembered helping us out. Just as I didn’t vividly remember the Christmas we really needed help. If it hadn’t been in my journal, would their generosity and our need have been entirely forgotten?

Then I couldn’t stop. Each night I have poured over my journals. It’s been painful. It’s been funny. It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least. My journals are stuffed with concert tickets, notes, postcards, scribbles from Leah, photos, and songs I have written.

I dug deeper in time, reading the details of Leah’s birth and then found this:

December 10, 1996 – Salt Lake City, UT

… Aaron said, “It’s a GIRL!!!”
I started crying, “My baby, my baby girl!”
Aaron kissed me and said, “It’s Leah.”
Leah Jane Coleman. Leah who was called Anna before her birth. Leah who’d kick my ribs, (and sometimes my heart, it seemed) Leah who pushed against my guitar during all of those shows. Leah who gave me the feeling while singing “In Silence.”

Little Leah Jane whose daddy would run his fingers over my belly and say “Here’s your spider, here comes your spider!” Leah whose heels and knees I could slide around, whose little leg would press out hard as I massaged it. Leah with hiccups- Leah at 1:00AM and 10:30AM playtime.

Leah, who I threw up every day for. Leah who I prayed about and worried about. Leah, who made me what I’ve wanted to be most for years – a mom. My little girl’s mommy.

Leah with me while I hiked in Boulder, Utah. Leah in Bryce Canyon. Leah hiking the Zion’s Narrows. She’s my little girl. My sweet little girl now and for always. I love my daughter more than she may ever know.

It’s 3:20AM and I’m crying my eyes out. You’re here asleep next to me and your dad’s on the other side of you and that’s where we will always be, right beside you.

I love you so much. I love you more than you may ever know, maybe when you have a girl of your own. Goodnight my sweet girl, pleasant dreams. I’m so glad you are here with us. I love you, I love you – I LOVE YOU!”


I went forward in my journal, looking a year after Leah’s birth to find little bits and pieces. Confused entries about Leah’s hearing. Just a line here and there. Things like:

“We don’t know if she can hear us.”
“She has fluid in her ears, but her pediatrician thinks it’s more than that…”
“We can’t get in for the ABR test for 6 more weeks!”
“Still no answer on Janey’s ears.”

No answers in my journal for months and then I found this:

March 31, 1998 Tuesday
Salt Lake City, UT

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so alone in my whole life. I feel like there is no one I can talk to because no one would understand why I’m crying. Actually I think they would misunderstand. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or for Janey. I don’t want to call our families and tell them what “PK” the audiologist told us today. Half of my tears are simply tears of relief. The wondering and questions are done. A tearful release of 2 1/2 months- fears, hopes, anticipation and prayers.

I know it’s not helpful but I can only blame myself, and it’s eating me up inside. I think that in his heart Aaron blames me too. In only these past few months people have asked if Jane’s hearing loss is because of my band. And playing and practicing while I was pregnant. People ask. Or they say “boy that must be devastating with you being a musician and music meaning so much.” Do they really think I give a S#*! about my music in comparison to my DAUGHTER?

I’d never sing or play another note if it mattered. Music is nothing to me. Leah Jane is my world. She is wonderful. She is beautiful. I feel like the biggest obstacle in her way is me. I don’t know sign language. I came so close to learning it, so many times. But I didn’t. I feel bewildered. But I feel thankful that we caught it as early as we did….

….We may never know what caused it, or if she as born with it. “Deaf” is such an uncomfortable word for me to use. In a way I am glad that I didn’t know when she was born. Maybe I would’ve treated her differently. Maybe I’d be totally over protective. Everyone would’ve treated her a little different. But now I have had 16 months of Janey. And treating her like a regular kid (except that she is more awesome than most kids)…

…I know of 3 people who are deaf. I’ve had conversations with only one of them ever. I hardly know what the term means. I remember the deaf kids in Jr. High and High school. I sure could not tell you any of their names. They all stayed together with their interpreter and I never gave them a second thought.

Severe – Moderate – Mild mean so little all your life. But today, I was told my daughter has a severe hearing loss. And I still barely grasp the concept. But the word SEVERE is clanging around in my brain. SEVERE? What does that mean? And what does deaf mean? Is there a scale to measure it on? If hearing aids help you are you still deaf?

She can sign a few words now. MOMMY, SLEEP, EAT, SHOES, THANK YOU, BIRD. When I teach a sign she always “rolls it and rolls it and sticks it with a B”

She has the most beautiful lips and puckers for kisses. She also puckers when I tell her “NO” because it looks like kisses. How can I keep a straight face when she does that?
When she gets frustrated she hits her head with her hands, or on the floor.

When she’s nursing, she looks up at me then squeezes both eyes shut tight and then pops them open. She nurses, and the corners of her mouth turn up in a smile. Maybe she’s never heard me say the WORDS I love you. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. She probably knows it more than most kids who hear it every day.

A few weeks ago Leah and I were talking. She asked me how I felt when I found out she was deaf. I told her, “I was distraught. I cried. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I was scared.”

Leah smiled at me and said, “That’s so funny mom. You thought it was terrible and now you know it’s not.”

She’s right.