Support For Christi Thomas

This blog is to help offer support to the Thomas Family and their daughter, Christi, in her battle against cancer. Please visit Christi's website at to learn more. There, you'll find journals, photos and a lots of other information about this amazing child and her family.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our 15th Wedding Anniversary

Today marks the 15th anniversary of our wedding day! In looking back at our wedding photos, we are amazed and humbled by the "old" friends and family members who still remain at our sides today. We are not worthy of their love. We are incredibly blessed! THANK YOU!

For better or worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health......Shayne & Angela, November 30, 1991

Left to right: Aunt V, Becky B., Melissa B., Lora W., Amanda and Aunt Tina (Angela & Shayne) Steve, Josh, Gil, Irv, Riley & Tom with the little one in the front being the now 17 year old Cousin Ashley!

Our Dads! It's hard to believe my father (left side) died before we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I trust he and Christi are enjoying God's kingdom together.

Our Moms! Joan (left) and Carolyn in 1991, Grandma Nee Nee and Grandma Nonee in 2006!

I did it! I made it through an entire blog entry without mentioning "Christi". I guess I'll have to wait until next time to write about the moving events we encountered when we went to visit Christi's grave yesterday - incredibly sweet and also "moving"! Oh, I guess since I mentioned "CT" I'll go ahead and paste a holiday picture here too - isn't she a darling?!! This bias mom thinks so!

Dec. 2001 (age 4) She always treasured all of her little beanie babies.

Now I'm on a's a Christi's Funny:

This summer I decided to try to lose "15 pounds in 15 weeks for our 15th wedding anniversary". After Christi was diagnosed I started drinking soda for the first time in my life. (See what living in the east coast has done to me? "Soda" means "pop" for all my other friends, hee hee). I also started sitting around more than I had ever before. Needless to say, over four years, I added at least ten pounds. With our upcoming wedding anniversary in mind, I started my diet - 15 lbs., 15 weeks, 15th anniversary. While no one went starving this summer the meals I cooked were basically non-existent. After Christi listened in church about the importance of families eating meals together you can bet I heard all about that. I could only respond, "Sure, but he isn't trying to squeeze back into his wedding dress to surprise his husband!" That got a big laugh out of Christi. She had so much fun last September standing on a chair and pretending to be "the bride" wearing my lovely wedding dress. She even held my beautiful silk flower boquet Shayne's mother and her friend Carol made for me - as they did all of our wedding flowers. What a glorious day!! (Another Christi Funny: During my diet this summer, while complaining how hard dieting was she would often say, "Mom, the hardest part isn't losing the weight, it's keeping it off." Like the skinny-mini would know! Of course I'd only laugh and tell her she was probably right.)

Yesterday at the cemetary we first stopped by my Grandpa and Grandma Smith's graves. On the eve of our anniversary, I shared with Shayla that my grandma died just eleven days after our wedding and I've always felt that she must have been just hanging in there to witness us say our vows. We returned home a week later from our wedding trip and learned that she had just been admitted to the hospital. On the day she was to be discharged, I sat in our apartment writing thank you notes for the lovely wedding gifts we had received when my mom called to tell me the news that grandma had died instead of coming home. Because I was worried about her health upon returning from our trip, I wrote her thank you note a day earlier and stuck it in the mail. I've never asked my mom - as I still don't want to know, but I'm willing to bet mom still has the thank you note I wrote to grandma. I've always been bothered that grandma didn't receive it and didn't know how much I loved the blanket she crocheted for us! At age 70 she died entirely too young. Now I imagine Christi sitting on her lap and eating her wonderful graham crackers (Why did they always taste better at grandmas?!) and singing "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" to her, just like she used to do to me. I also think that if there is a "Sea World" in Heaven, she's must be riding in grandma and grandpa's little tiny car going with them on a fun filled day! I'll write later about what was discovered at the cemetary yesterday- amazing!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


She's Off! (Shayla goes in to tell the priest her sins.)

Shayla made her first confession at church on Monday night. The Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as penance) has three elements: conversion, confession and celebration. In it we find God's unconditional forgiveness, and as a result we are called to forgive others. This is one of the Sacraments required before making her Sacrament of the Holy Euchrist. She will make her First Holy Communion in April with her CCD class. Shayla's experience for her first confession was VERY different from Christi's.
Does this look like the face that needs to go to confession? (hee hee)

Three years ago it was time for Christi to make her first confession. Unfortunately, she was treating in Philadelphia when her class went to confession so she had to go alone. We were planning to have her do it one night before Mass, but she was so terrified she put herself sound to sleep on the drive to church and we couldn't wake her up. Father saw how terrified she was and said she could do it later with her CCD class; she did! This fall, on her death bed, Shayne called for a priest to come and perform the last rites. Part of this is saying confession. She felt miserable, but I was also so uncomfortable for her as her entire family was standing around her bedside - like we were waiting to listen to her say her sins. The sweet Father from Philadelphia said to Shayne, "Oh, she doesn't have to do that part." I felt a huge sign of relief! (How much did this little nine year old have to confess to the priest that she would get so scared?!! hee hee) I won't say Shayla wasn't scared or nervous, but she definitely wins our brave child award for last night's performance in church!

FUNERAL FUNNY: After our new little family of three regained our composure after first seeing Christi's body at the funeral home Shayla declared, "Why does she have all that make up on? She really won't like that!!" I've never explained to Shayla that death isn't pretty and that the color can leave a person's body quite pale, but I just smiled at Shayla. She added, "She wasn't a girly-girl." Within minutes of Christi's death all color completely left her little lips and they were as white as a sheet of paper. Despite Shayla's funny comments, we thought the Tauneros did a fabulous job with Christi's make up and that she looked just gorgeous, like our beloved little princess.

Christi (5) with Buttercup (Dec. 2002)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Saturday After Thanksgiving" Weddings

Twenty years ago, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my sister and her husband were married. Fifteen years ago, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Shayne and I did the same thing. And yesterday, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we were blessed to attend TWO lovely weddings here in town. (Ironically, both at the same Catholic church and within a couple of hours of each other.) Ironically, the 60 degree temperatures were exactly what Shayne and I were so blessed to have on our wedding day too! When our priest asked back in the early fall of 1991 if we had any special requests for our wedding Mass we said, “Yes" and we asked him to wear sandals. With cooperative weather, he did! He also worked it into his sermon. Thanks, Father Ted!

(May 2006 in Philly: Christi tries to convince Caroline of a scientific principle; Her teacher sticks her ground despite Christi's insistence. It cracked me up!)

Congratulations to Christi’s (and Shayne’s) amazing, lovely and wonderful 4th grade teacher and my good friend- Caroline, and her new husband John! We are so happy they’ve found each other and can enjoy life as man and wife! We are so happy they found each other (Thanks, Gail!!) and we wish this wonderful couple the very best as they begin their new life together and always!

Congratulations to Jason and Tammy as they begin their new lives together. We wish them a long Christian life together full of joy, happiness, and good health! I don’t typically cry at weddings, but when I saw Tammy walk down the aisle, she looked so gorgeous entering the church, my tears simply gushed. That happened again later at their reception when we sat down and read an incredible announcement placed at each table.

The framed announcement said something to the fact that wedding favors are pretty and thoughtful, but soon forgotten. This bride and groom wanted to make a more lasting gift in honor of their wedding guests, so they made a donation to the Christi Thomas Memorial Fund for the little girl who lived life to the fullest and helped others along the way. We are incredibly humbled.

Their timing was prefect; Shayne and I have been getting things together with the Gillmor Trust – the non profit group handling Christi’s Memorial Fund. We will soon be announcing how some of the Christi Thomas Memorial funds will be spent late this spring to help other kids in some of their pursuits. We are very pleased and excited about how things are coming together!! More about that later!

I also hope to soon let you know if CHOP and/or CHLA were able to grow Christi’s tumor cells in hopes of establishing a new cell line (You remember: "FU NB2006" hee hee) for neuroblastoma research. Dr. Maris said that there was only a 20% chance of it working, but I’ve been praying hard for success and for a cure for all of these special kids. While I originally didn’t think I wanted to watch them extract so much blood out of Christi’s dead body, I ended up feeling very different about it, after she died, when the real time came. With Dr. Maris, Dr. Hogerty, Nurse Pat, Social Worker Dana and Nurse Amy, Shayne and I stood and talked about the special times we shared with them and with Christi while the procedure took place. They are amazing people and we will forever be grateful for their incredible love, care and talent! We do miss them – and all of our support group who really came to be like treasured family members.

The day after Thanksgiving my brother-in-law and my niece and I decided to do something we’d never done before and to get up super early and try to see what “sport shopping” is like at 5 AM on the day after Thanksgiving! Gil woke us up at 4:15 AM and soon we were out the door and waiting in a HUGE line wrapped 75% the way around Circuit City. I don’t know if I ever laughed so hard, but we had a fabulous time together and we were back home (back in bed) by 6:15 AM. This morning at church when Father Kent made reference to how excited people were waiting in line out in the cold for hours, he said to just imagine how God must feel waiting to greet us in Heaven. Shayla missed the message of the priest and thought Father Kent was talking about me – being the crazy lady out shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Before heading back north, I (along with Ashley's help) had the cousins all make gingerbread houses and then mom treated us to see "The Santa Claus Three" movie, which was darling! Christi loved Santa Claus One and I know she would have giggled throughout most of this film.

(PHOTO: March 2006 Cami, Christi & Julie - who shaved her head to show her support for Christi & also for her cancer-fighting cousin. Too sweet!)

We had a very special treat after church today – one of Christi’s best friends (Cami) and her sweet mother stopped by. Their timing was perfect as the wonderful Grandma Nee Nee cooked delicious lasagna for us to celebrate Thanksgiving together this afternoon. Shayla and Cami happily played for a very long time together. It was the sweetest thing! Like I told Julie when she called a few nights ago to invite Shayla to their church’s Victorian Tea next week, when Christi died it was like a light was switched off. I remember walking out of CHOP thinking, "We’ll never see any of these people ever again," but I never imagined that we’d also be cut off from Christi’s friends and their families too. In near tears I confessed to Julie how much I was missing chatting with Christi’s friends and their mothers. I also had a few “C” notepads of Christi’s that I was able to give Cami. I know Christi would want her to have them! They were both such paper and doodle girls!

Without Shayla I never would have done this, but I knew we had to do it for Shayla. Tonight we got out some of the Christmas decorations and decorated for Christmas. I saw Christi’s nativity set early this morning when I pulled the boxes out and sat in the basement and cried. Tonight, I didn’t plan to even get it out, but Shayla asked if she could set up Christi’s nativity set this year so I had to agree. “To Christi, 1998, Baby’s Second Christmas, Love Aunt V” was written on the box. “Because You’re Three” was written by Aunt V on the box of the three wise man. Putting the decorations on the tree was no different. When I was pregnant, my mom gave me a gorgeous stork carrying a baby ornament, “1996” is written on the back. “Baby’s First Christmas 1997” is printed on another so sad. I never knew how pulling FOUR Christmas stockings out of a box could be so sad. We decided to go ahead and hang all four! (PHOTO: Christi (2) & Shayla (7 months), December 1999)
Then I didn’t realize I pulled out the box of framed Christmas photos, but low and behold I did. I looked at this gorgeous little blond so happily wearing such gorgeous little Christmas dresses, smiling with her little sister and I sobbed. Soon Shayla joined me. She’s been our little rock, but this all was just too much for her. At one point tonight we couldn’t find her. Soon we found her curled up, hiding under a blanket. Another hiding place turned out to be under the Christmas tree and there were others. My heart breaks for this little girl who doesn’t want to be without a sister here on earth.

She did feel very special Wednesday morning. Not too long ago she asked me if I could buy her a new winter coat this year. I told her next year I would, but this year she still has a hand-me-down of Christi’s that will fit her. She was fine with that. When I got it out on Wednesday morning she tried it on. Apparently, Christi had collected a few rocks because Shayla put her hands in the pockets and happily declared with a huge smile upon her face, “Christi left me some stones!!” (Shayla likes collecting rocks and pebbles too!)

(One short year ago: Christi sets up her treasured Precious Moments Nativity Set)
(PHOTO: Shayla, age 7 1/2, decorates the tree, Nov. 26, 2006)
(PHOTO: Christi, age 8, decorates the tree, Nov. 26, 2005)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We Give Thanks

Nov. 1997: Christi with Grandpa and Daddy, age: 6 months
Fall 2000 (In Phoenix for Cousin Josh's football game with Aunt V, Shayla 8 months, Christi 2 1/2)
Thanksgiving 2001 (Left to right: Shayla, Shelby, Shayne, Aunt Mary, Saiko & Christi) the year before diagnosis, age 4 1/2.
November 2002: The amazing Christi! 5 1/2 years

Thanksgiving 2003: At the Macy's Day Parade in NYC! 6 1/2 years

Nov 2004: Visiting relatives in Arizona 7 1/2 years
Nov. 2005: Christi & Shelby (at Grandma Nonee and Paw Paw's) Last Thanksgiving: 8 1/2 years old

On Sunday a birthday cake was kindly placed before me. Suddenly, it was as if I were frozen; I didn't know what to wish for. Over the past four years, I made the same wish - for Christi not to die from cancer, quickly I had to come up with a new one. I couldn't, so I just blew out the candle. It was definitely an odd experience.

I learned yesterday from Shayla's vision doctor in charge of her weekly eye training in Toledo that Shayla is not dyslexic. I am very thankful and happy about that! Praise God! The only area she scored low on was in the area of writing sight words (what, went, there, etc.). I'll continue to check into this, but I believe this is something I can work with her on at home. She's done a great job wearing her glasses and I'm very proud of her.

“I Am Thankful”
by Christi S. Thomas (age 8)
November 2005

I am thankful for my family because they take care of me, feed me and they love me. When I am sad, I can go to them. At night they tuck me under the covers and I love my family.

It's hard to believe this lovely event took place only a year ago. Here is the Toledo TV Newsclip from last year's Thanksgiving at Mom and Paw Paw's:

Today's Thanksgiving: Shelby & Shayla try to break the wishbone while William cheers them on. We knew Thanksgiving would be too hard this year to repeat how we spent it last year so last night we drove to Cincinnati where Shayla was ABSOUTELY THRILLED to spend a couple of days with her wonderful cousins. The kids have been playing non-stop. Traffic was heavy last night on the interstate, but I think it was a great choice!

Many times this week I started making a list of all of the people who've so kindly helped us along the way so that I could start finding nice things to do for them for Thanksgiving - the perfect time as we're so thankful for all of their love. My list kept growing, time slipped by rapidly and in the end I'm ashamed to admit that I ended up doing nothing. I hope our sweet friends accept this as a "virtual thank you" and consider themselves hugged.

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.

Author Unknown

Shayne and I are thankful for Tina and Gil for hosting Thanksgiving. Shayne and I did ok, but kept thinking how much Christi would love to be with her family too. After we sat down for the meal, prayed and started in on our meal my mind just wouldn't let me convince myself what I do all the time "Christi is just at a friend's house," to help me cope. This time I couldn't convince myself that she'd be having Thanksgiving dinner with another family like I can every other day. She may be happy in Heaven; however, without a doubt she'd be happy with her cousins!! Oh, this is tough. Many warned me how hard the upcoming holidays would be, but I had no idea. After dinner, Shayne and I ended up in William's room crying our eyes out until we eventually fell asleep. (Hey, less calories than staying and eating pie, right?! hee hee)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Angela's Last Birthday

I just found this picture of my birthday in 2001, the year before Christi was diagnosed.

(Photo by Shayla: Grandma Nonee and Christi before their final trip to church together, four weeks before her death - August 20, 2006)

Other women have told me that turning 40 is difficult, so I've decided that this is my final birthday and I'll just stay 39 and celebrate "anniversaries" from here on out! (smile) Seriously, what has been very difficult is that today is my first birthday without Christi. I didn't think it'd be so hard, but it has been very tough. I just miss her and her beautiful smile and giggly little personality! I'd do anything to have her back, yet God has yet to agree to any of my plea bargains!

This morning we went to my mom's church. During Mass I noticed a large banner with about 20 names on it, Christi's included. Sitting beside my mom I whispered, "What is the banner for and why is Christi's name there?" She told me even though Christi wasn't a member of her parish she went there sometimes and the church asked if it was ok to include Christi's name on the banner for the deceased souls of the church. Unbelievable! I continue to marvel at the kindness and thoughtfulness of people. That was so sweet. One of our former priests (and one of the greatest in our book) Father Kent served Mass.

Church is always emotional for me anyway, but I was doing well....until it was time to go up and receive Holy Communion. I could only think how very hard Father Kent worked creating the Good Sheppard Program at our former church (before moving to my mom's church) for the four year olds and how much Christi LOVED attending it and learning about Jesus. I will never know if Christi knew she was dying or not, but I do know that Christi's faith was very strong. I also kept thinking about how Father Kent also joked with Christi that he gave her "Second" Holy Communion because we went to my mom's church the Sunday following Christi's first communion. After Mass today Shayne and I had a chance to hug and talk with wodnerful Father Kent.

My final bday with Christi. She made me breakfast in bed and a lovely plastic/stain glassed rose - for my middle name
November 19, 2004 (Christi, age 7 - Shayla, age 5) I came home from parent/teacher conferences and the girls were standing there waiting to greet me with the gifts they made for me. In this picture we are pretending to drink from the teapot and cups Christi molded for me out of clay at a hospital in Georgetown University where Shayne took her to have her blood counts checked while I was at a teachers' meeting in DC. I will treasure my teapot and cups forever!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear Mother who also has her birthday today! I love you, Mom!!
And I love sharing my birthday with such a special, loving, tender, wise and compassionate Christian woman - MY MOM!

Finally, today I can't help but think of our sweet little friend from Pennsylvania, Carter. I've felt a very special bond with this little guy because he was not only diagnosed eight weeks after Christi in 2002, but he was diagnosed on my birthday. I'll never forget the kindness of his parents making the incredibly long drive to pay respects to Christi on the day of her funeral, while their precious son was in the hospital. I can't believe the tough choices this family has had to make. We continue to shake our pom poms for our special friend, Carter! His website is:

Two Months Ago Today

Two months ago today, Christi took her final breath at 9AM and it was like she slowly floated away away from us. Shayne and I sobbed at her bedside holding her precious, warm, little body that just couldn't withstand any more. My Angel friends have told me the most difficult months are yet ahead, but I cannot imagine how I can hurt any more than I do right now.

A sweet friend, Mike, sent a book - "Children Mourn, Mourning Children" to help our family through this tragic journey. According to this book I've learned that 99% of marriages experience incredibly challenging times and children mourn in children-like way. They grieve off and on over short periods of time. That helped me explain while Shayla will be so sad one moment and then suddenly off playing. It also informed me that while her grief will probably not last two years like ours, it will last much longer than most would ever anticipate, know or understand.

Last night after our bedtime stories Shayla told me she'd like to have a tenth birthday party for all of Christi's friends on Christi's birthday - May 12th. I told her we had been thinking the same thing and are thinking about perhaps an afternoon tea party since Christi loved having high tea. This week Christi would have turned nine and a half. Knowing how fragil life is and how special children are, we always celebrated the girls' half birthdays. I think all families should celebrate them and give their kids extra time, love and attention on their "half birthday". Who knows if the real one will ever come?

Our Hero & Inspiration: Angel Shane! (Another victim of neuroblastoma, flew Home November 2004)
Christi with her darling OSU scrubs (CHOP - March 2006)

Last night, before we took my mom out for dinner for her birthday, the three of us enjoyed watching the OSU-Michigan football game together. We're not a real strong sports family so this was a unique event. This year I am a full time student at OSU so out of loyalty I felt like I had to watch the game - and it was a great one! I also couldn't help but wonder if Shane and Christi had a rivalry going on in Heaven too! Certainly, Shane & Christi had the best seats in Heaven - most likely hovering over the 50 yard line (or perhaps with the band since Shane was so talented and was a star in his high school band and maybe Christi was with the amazing OSU cheerleaders since she loved the autographed poster they once sent her). Regardless, it gave me something happy to think about. Mommy misses you, sweetpea! I wish you could have worn your red OSU shirt to school on Friday. I saw many of your friends "decked out" in scarlet and gray and I wished you could have done that too! Shayla has decided that your cat, Buckeye, would be a good cat for Brutus (OSU's Mascot) to have. What do you think? Don't worry. Shayla is taking VERY good care of your cats. You should be proud of her - we are!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Parent Teacher Conferences

One short year ago: Nov. 2005 Conference Night

Oh, my! I never expected tonight to be so difficult. As a parent of Christi's I always loved attending parent-teacher conferences. Now, being at school with conferences going on and watching the parents come and go knowing I won't get to meet with her teacher, is a real kick in the pants. I'm very grateful Shayne and I were able to meet with Shayla's 2nd grade teacher tonight, but oh how I wish we could have met with Christi's beautiful teacher too. I'm trying hard not to complain, but this is tough and I feel like my heart is breaking!

Today was my fifth day back at school and I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to ask our sweet computer tech to please change the screensaver going around on my work computer. Years ago one of my 8th graders set it up for me so I didn't know how to change it. It's all pictures of Christi. While I didn't mind the healthy looking pictures, there were also ones of tough treatment attempts and it was killing me to glance at some of what she so unjustly had to endure knowing Shayne and I had signed the consent forms for every single torture we subjected her to. Thankfully, our sweet tech understood only too well - 15 years ago today her sixth grade son died. I'll never forget her attending our wedding ten days later in November of 1991. During our wedding, I didn't focus on anything that the priest said, but I stared up in the balcony where Theresa sat wondering how in the world she was ever going to get by without her precious son, Andy. I wasn't even a mother yet, but I knew the pain must be horrific. Now I know for myself the true horror. To comfort myself, I imagine Andy & Christi celebrating with Jesus tonight!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Baby Anju

Precious Baby Anju, Welcome to the World! May God bless you with a long life filled with peace, happiness and an abundance of good health!

Before we were ever expecting with Christi and again after Shayla's birth, we had been hosting Japanese exchange students in our home through a wonderful program at Heidelberg College. We met and fell in love with: Miyuki (2000), Mariko (1996) and Mika (1995) all thanks to Heidelberg's program. (Mika still jokes that if her parents ever knew how young we were, they never would have let her come!) While in our care she'd joke, "You're like my brother and sister, not my parents!" as we were in our mid twenties. To this day I do not know if Mika's parents knew Shayne took her out to drink a green beer at a bar on St. Patrick's day, but we thought she should see true American culture and we laugh at what she really must have thought! We promise our Japanese friends to give only the very best of care to their children when they (hopefully) send them to live with us in the future! (OK, ok and no special event beer!)

After Christi & Shayla's birth we hosted two Japanese exchange teachers through Ohio State's wonderful program (Saiko, 2001 and Heidenori, 2000 - amazing individuals and fabulous teachers). We still joke that the girls grew up thinking everyone had a Japanese person living in their home! When it came time for Christi to go on her Make a Wish trip, in July of 2003, there was no doubt as to where she wanted to go and Miyuki, Mika and Saiko provided our entire family with a trip of a lifetime! We will forever be grateful to Make a Wish and to our Japanese friends.

From my understanding the Japanese have strong beliefs in tradition and although things are changing, deviation is not popular nor encouraged. When it comes to naming their children, this is no different; therefore, what came as a complete shock to us was when Mika emailed informing us if her baby was a boy or a girl they would be naming it after Shayne. Sweet little Shayna arrived and is now a darling little preschooler. Shayne was so touched, humbled and honored.

While we knew we were spending our precious final days with Christi in Philadelphia this past September and preparing to usher her out of this earthly world, I had been receiving emails from the other side of the world where Mika was preparing to usher their second baby into this world. (I couldn't tell her how terribly ill Christi was and that I feared her death wouldn't be long.) Mika informed me she wanted to name the baby Anju (for Angela) and I was incredibly touched and honored.

Early this morning we learned that Anju safely arrived five days before Christi died. Without a doubt, Christi is doing her "Angel Work" in Japan too, watching over all of our sweet friends! May God bless and keep safe our dear Japanese friends! (I didn't have the heart to tell Mika that Christi died, but....I'll get to it eventually.)

Mika & Katsu flew to Ohio from Japan to meet Christi in person for the first time and to bring joy and love (Nov. 2002)
Wearing her Heidelberg College Sweatshirt - Christi in Japan for her "Make a Wish" trip. (Picture: Shayla, in a darling yucatta, and Christi with beautiful Mika, July 2003)
(August 2003) Katsu flies to NYC, bringing Christi a darling Pikachu following her surgery. She loved it; it remains on her untouched bed today.

Heidenori and the Thomas team at the Toledo Zoo's "Zoo Lights" Dec. 2000 (Shayla in stroller age 1, Christi in backpack carrier, age 3) Yes, this was the year I FORGOT Christi's coat! Shayne and Heidenori bundled her up in clothing they took off to keep her warm, so sweet!
December 2000, Miyuki & CT (age 3)
Christi & Saiko, Nov. 2001 - age 4

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Oh, Rats!

Only could our sweet (and downright silly) COSI friends come up with such a silly memorial (which Christi would TOTALLY LOVE). Yes, they did it; they named their two newest basketball playing rats - CT & Shay! Shayla can't wait to get to COSI in Columbus to see them in action. Here's a brief scoop from Harriet regarding the rats and their training thus far:

I just wanted to let you know that our new pair of rats now hold the names CT and Shay. After watching the pair for a while, I decided who should have which name. One of them, while being fed by a handler, jumped out the side of the cage and went to explore the neighboring cages. That one shall be called Shay. The other one, while noticing her sister sitting inside her bowl shaped plastic house, figured out how to tip the house upside down. The other toppled over, bedding scraps falling on her head. The tipper of houses shall be called CT. Their names have been placed on the list when their retirement comes to the "Harriet's Luxury Retirement Resort and Spa," where they will spend the rest of their days in the lap of luxury, and the lap of Harriet.

C.T. and Shay - a later update:
So far, C.T. has proven to be the smartest rat we've ever had, with Shay running a close second. Just to give you an idea of what I'm basing this on, there are 18 basic steps that the rats go through in their training, each one taking about a week and a half to master, depending on the rat. The first step being recognizing the buzzer, followed by introducing the ball, touching the ball with her nose, picking up the ball, pulling the ball from the trainer's had, and carrying the ball to the treat hole. C.T. and Shay have been training for 10 days, and-completely on her own-C.T. skipped to step 6! SIX! This has never happened before. We've even recently taken out step 6 because most rats just don't get it. It's too hard for them to carry the ball at that stage of the training. On the very first day I put the ball in the court-with both of them-they both immediately picked up the ball and started carrying it around. Shay has since given that up and is now only touching the ball with her nose, but C.T. consistently picks up the ball and carries it to the treat hole.

Just to give you a reference, it usually takes about 2 months for the rats to get to this point, and that's only for the rats that are able to grasp that step. I have seriously never seen this before. It's gotta be the names, or someone watching over her, whispering in her ear. :)

I just thought you should know how amazing these rats are. I can't wait until they retire and come to the Harriet Finkernell Luxury Retirement Resort and Spa. I'm going to have to invest in some genius rat enrichment toys, maybe a few volumes of Shakespeare, perhaps a college caluculus textbook.

Lots of love,
Head Researcher and Rat Admirer
Institute for Higher Learning and Playing
(March 2003) Hospitalized in NYC: Jenn & Traci drive to New York bringing great joy to Christi (and all of us).
Christi with amazing friends: "Eliabeth" (Jenn) and "Harriet" (Traci) at a fantastic Science Center in Philly (March 2006) (Yes, they drove all the way to Philadelphia for Christi too! What Angels!)
Back in their home turf: Columbus Ohio (Children's Hospital) November 2002.

"Oldie But Goodie" (No pun intended, Joan- hee hee!) Ten month old Christi with Grandma Nee Nee (Yes, Christi named her that!) Photo: Winter 1998. My deepest thanks to Grandma Nee Nee as she's taking Shayla to Toledo for me today for her vision therapy and also to be tested for dyslexia - but that's another story. Although we miss Christi terribly, we are very thankful that we are now having time to get Shayla the care she's needed for years. Saying childhood cancer touches the entire family is an understatement! When I told a Speech Therapist last week, "We've neglected Shayla for years because of taking care of Christi," she laughed and said, "I wish all parents would neglect their kids like you have; what a wonderful world it would be," that made me feel better. Shayla has the best personality and attitude; I'm so proud of her!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

True Story

Flashback: Christi, age 2 1/2 years with Darrin creating "art" (or something like that, hee hee) on my kitchen floor, spring 2000

For fear of individuals (or possible mass groups, hee hee) telling me, "You're crazy!" I've been a bit reluctant to share this story, but it did happen to us and I feel very, very close to Christi as a result - so here goes:

A few days before Christi died I knew I wanted to have her thumbprint captured on a necklace of some sort. I didn’t really know how it could be done, but I knew while she was still alive I could capture the prints and worry about the realities of it later. We're very lucky to have an incredible jewlrey store in our small town. I asked the nurses for molding clay, model magic, plaster, ink pads – anything I could think of that might work. (Hey – Shayne had those sweet, sweet nurses doing his laundry I could at least ask for some help too, right? Hee hee) I started capturing Christi’s thumbprints. (Meanwhile, an amazing Christi supporter from the other side of the country read the blog about this endeavor and he soon overnighted a wax molding kit to do just this. I wasn’t certain how it would turn out, but I was hopeful about the possibilities. More about Christi’s awesome Charm/Necklace later; our fellow neuroblastoma friends will be very excited!)

Two days after Christi was buried I went to Jeffrey’s Jewelry Store with all of the Christi thumbprints I had collected and talked with them about what I wanted to do. They had never heard of what I was thinking, but were very open to what I had in mind. I knew they'd work tirelessly to get what I wanted. While I looked around their lovely store, they put phone calls in to see what custom necklace could be created. It was decided that they would try to capture the actual ridges, by using one of the molds I had saved instead of using the ink pad prints. I couldn't wait to see it.

A few weeks went by and then I received a phone call that my order was in. With my heart beating so hard, I went back to Jeffrey’s praying I’d like the necklace. Well, there could be no doubt about it, it’s my new prized possession. (And they made me leave their store with tears of gratitude pouring down my face as they wouldn’t let me pay for it.) It’s stunning. It has to be VERY expensive! This photo I snapped simply does not due it justice at all.

Jeffrey’s put the beautiful thumbprint charm on the same necklace which lovingly holds Christi’s crucifix necklace, beautiful engraved with her birthdate: 5-12-97. This is the gorgeous necklace Christi picked out for her first Holy Communion, back in the spring of 2004 when we had a two hour delay from school. At that time I asked Jeffrey’s to only let her pick from the adult sized cross necklaces because if/when she died, I intended to make it my necklace to remind me of her. I loved Christi’s choice and not only did she wear it in her casket, but she wore it many other times as well. (She was buried with her “Chatty Cathy” necklace which matches her friends’ necklaces and this one was removed for me to wear and treasure before her casket lid was closed.)

About ten short days after I had received the beautiful necklace, a near disaster almost took place. My neck and upper back has been so stiff and tight it’s been very difficult for me to move with great ease. I was also not able to take off my necklace at night so when I was getting Shayla ready for bed I asked her to please take it off for me. I sat on the floor so I wouldn’t have to bend my neck down because it hurts so bad and she carefully removed the clasp for me. She handed me the crucifix but she didn’t know where the necklace or the charm was. I looked all around the floor where I was sitting and then got up and walked out into the hallway where I took off my sweatshirt and “ta-da” the chain fell to the floor. Still, I could not find Christi’s thumbprint charm despite the fact I was now without clothing and we were searching and searching. In tears I called for Shayne to help us look for Christi’s thumbprint. We had not left the area and it was no where to be found. It was not stuck to either any of us. I was crying so hard and begging Christi and God to help us locate it. After forty five minutes we gave up, Shayla went to bed and I went downstairs crying and talked with Shayne for a while before heading up and crawling into bed.

Many times throughout the night I woke up with worry about losing my beautiful necklace. In the morning, I got up and went downstairs where I learned Shayla had a two hour delay from school due to fog. I went upstairs to see if I could get back to sleep for a little bit and when I sat on the edge of my bed, I felt something cold. I reached down and sure enough – there on my side of the bed was Christi’s thumbprint!! I shouted and woke everyone up, but they were as shocked and happy as I was. (Keep in mind our bed is on the opposite side of the room from where the necklace was removed and from where I took off my clothing out in the hallway. Keep in mind that our bed was made on the night we were frantically searching.)

I’m certain naysayers will tell me that somehow it flew off of my necklace and across the room and got under the blankets all by itself, or that it was stuck to my body before I went to bed, but we are convinced that Christi is indeed with us when we need her. THANK YOU, dear Christi! You truly are amazing and I believe your spirit indeed lives on!!

Yesterday, Shayla received her first pair of glasses. We think she looks darling and oh so much older! (Picture: Wearing Christi's shirt, Shayla receives her new glasses.)