Friday, February 8, 2008

From Africa to Oklahoma -- Rachel Coleman's visit

Rachel and Vickie a quiet moment

Welcome sign and snacks. We brought in snacks for Rachel and Lindsey. Fruit, crackers, peanut butter, carrots, chocolate covered pretzils, nuts and pralines. I called LeeAnn and she said she knew Rachel loved coconut and Lindsey loved peanut butter and that they like to eat healthy. They ended up being so busy they didn't get a chance to eat any of the snacks. My kids took care of that for them after they left.

Sign for the conference

One of the tables decorated for Mardi Gras

The gang after dinner at Primo's

Rachel and Vickie welcome hug. I can't believe this is the first time we have met in person.

OK my camera is slow. This was supposed to be Rachel giving Kay a hug but by the time my camera clicked it was over. Darn!

Rachel is coming for a visit! We are so happy we will get to see her again. The last time I saw her Kaylynne was only six weeks old. So it's been almost two years. We didn't tell Cam until the night before because we learned our lesson from our first group trip to Utah. We told Cam about that trip two weeks ahead of time and showed him on the calendar so he would be prepared. He was so excited to see his friend Rachel he wanted to go wait in the car (for two weeks) until it was time to leave. That was a long two weeks. So now we spring Rachel visits on him at the last minute.

We checked Cam out of school early on Monday the 4th so we could go on an adventure. We finished some errands, picked up a few more gifts for the Coleman and Brown families, had lunch, and went to check in at the hotel at the Sheraton/Reed Center. After we got settled we went off to meet Rachel and Lindsey at the airport. Their flight had been delayed because of some sort of malfunction on the plane. They tried to take off twice then finally moved them to another plane.

We were delayed by an evil train that would not move. It sat on the tracks for 20 minutes without budging. We tried to go around the back way but couldn't find any clear intersections. It was the train that would not end. So we thought maybe we could find the front of the train and shoot through a clear intersection that way. We finally found a clear spot but had to wait for a red light. When the light turned green the train started to move and the arms blocked us from going again. So we waited for the longest train in history to pass and once it did we had to wait for another one going the other way. ARRGH! We are gonna be so late.

Evil train of doom

With plane delays and train delays we ended up actually arriving at baggage claim at the same time. We made a Welcome to Oklahoma sign and Cam had fun holding it up for them to see. Yeah they are here!

The group with Cam's welcome sign. It is done in purple, green and gold for Mardi Gras since we would be spending Fat Tuesday together.

It was later than expected so they had to go right over to the TV station for Rachel's first interview. KOCO's (ABC) Tyler Suiters. It will air on the 17th, slightly delayed because of the presidential primaries. They rented a car so they planned to just meet us back at the hotel. By time they got finished with the interview and found their way back to the hotel Rachel crashed for the night. She just got back from Africa for heavens sake. I am sure she is so jet-lagged she has no idea if it's night or day. We were glad she got some sleep because Tuesday was crazy busy.

Bathed and P.J.ed and ready for bed at the hotel.

Cam in the hotel bed.

Kay in the hotel bed.

When they arrived it was sunny and 74 degrees outside. During the night the temp dropped to 40 and a thunderstorm started. Tuesday was freezing. OK not Utah freezing, but yucky Oklahoma, wind sweeping down the plains, raining, dreary, freezing. Rachel asked and yes this is normal for Oklahoma. You know the saying don't like our weather wait a minute it will change. That's Oklahoma. We could be out in shorts one day then the next it snows then its 75 and all melts then an ice storm hits and knocks out power then a tornado hits. You just never know. We had a great time despite the nasty weather.

We were very busy. I ran the product and information booth. Rachel did 3 presentations and two interviews. My Mom ran around trying to keep everything running smoothly. And Lindsey went back and forth between helping me at the booth, helping Rachel with her presentations, and talking to media.

Jen, Rachel and Lindsey at the booth

Kaylynne my little Signing Time helper/demo baby.

Here is the booth all tidied up for the next rush.

Jen and Lindsey. We survived.

I think we sold a lot of product at the booth and had a ton of people interested in getting their schools to purchase. We heard some great stories.
My faves: The boy who was there to play music during lunch. He walked past our booth and said,
"Wait, is this that show from PBS?"
I replied, "Yes and Rachel is here right now."
He said, "The Rachel from the shows? She is here right now! Can I borrow your phone?"
So he calls his mother and says, "Hey you gotta get up here. Rachel Coleman is here." Apparently his little sister is a huge fan. So I gave him some tattoos and a card and a bracelet and he was thrilled. His Mom wasn't able to get there in time for his sister to see Rachel but he said he would be his sister's hero for bringing her ST goodies.

Another Fave:
The new Grandmother from Yukon who stopped by the booth to tell us her daughter had just had a baby. She took ASL in college and wanted to teach the baby. She said, "I want to buy it all."
I just looked at her in shock. "You want to buy a gift set, or all the books? Which one?"
She said, "All of it. Everything they make."
She handed over her credit card and paid over 400 bucks for all the DVDs, CDs, flash cards and books. Wow! She said she wanted to bring it to them in the hospital so they could start learning right away. Never too early right!

Also, I loved being at the back of the room during part of Rachel's presentation and seeing the reactions of the people hearing her story for the first time. Not a dry eye in the house! I could see how touched people were.

Rachel Keynote Speaker

I never get tired of hearing Rachel's story. She seems uncomfortable when people tell her, as they often do, "I just admire you so much. I don't think I could do what you do". She says you find the strength to do what you need to do. She doesn't seem to think she does something admirable. She is simply doing what helps her daughters.

I agree that’s true for some people. Some people do step up and take care of what needs to be done. Some people take what is handed to them and are grateful for what they are given and they don't complain. But unfortunately a lot of people don't. I work with kids everyday who have parents who could not do what Rachel does. They walk away (if you can imagine) because they are not strong enough to love and appreciate the child, the gift, they have been given. I am grateful that the good moms, the Rachel's, outnumber the ones who are not strong enough.

Anyway, it was so hectic and busy I didn't even get a chance to take many pictures. Between mine and Moms hopefully we didn't do too badly. Jeff recorded Rachel's presentation (with her permission) since I was running the booth and missed 90 % of what she said. I have watched some of it and was thrilled to see Cameron get called up to help. He was the color green during the colors of the rainbow and he was so excited.

Colors of the rainbow

Cam being green

Rachel gives Cam a Hopkins frog

Rachel sang caterpillar dreams which is one of my and Kay's favorite songs. I played it for Kay and she started clapping and smiling. She wasn't real happy at the conference because she is getting several new teeth. She did like getting to see Rachel though even if she didn't always act like it. Taylor, conscientious student extraordinaire, did not come to the conference because he had two tests that day and did not want to miss school. He did get to come to dinner with all of us that afternoon though so I think he was happy.

No shock Rachel was a big hit at the conference. People said hearing her story changed their lives. Right before Rachel's first presentation, several students from a deaf/hard of hearing class in Wewoka, sang, danced and signed to "We're All in This Together" from High School Musical and they were fantastic.

Rachel and her fans from the Deaf school performance of High School Musical

Courtney, Sarah, Rachel and Cam with babies. Kay is showing her aversion to pictures

We were so glad to have Rachel and Lindsey visit Oklahoma. They are both awesome, amazing women of course. It was a crazy, hectic, but fun time. We want Rachel to come back soon so we can have time to show her some of the sights. Lindsey was so sweet and we were glad to get to meet her. She needs to come back too. We enjoyed having dinner together and I made sure to get a group shot before they had to run off to the airport.

So much fun but, as always, not long enough. Hopefully we will get to make it for the trip to Utah in May so we can see everyone again.

link to photo from the newspaper:

link to story from the the newspaper:

Here is the link to the news story:

Dinner at Primo's

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