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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Monday, June 30, 2008

A New Shoe

She's all talk! She couldn't get up the courage to ask the ferrier why Skeeter has been losing so many shoes.
Shayla took a break from playing with her friend today, while I stopped working on my paper to run to the barn to watch the ferrier put on Skeeter's new shoe. Hopefully, he's in good shape to go to the Mounted Meeting tomorrow. It's really good practice for Shayla and she has so much fun!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Christina, the Mouse & Christi's Hymn

(PIC: Christi's last trip with Grandma to church, about three weeks before her death). We had a lovely day, spent with my aunts, uncles and cousin this afternoon. First, though I must share a most amazing “Christi Happening.” The very last time Christi went to church with my mom at her church, weeks before her death, she loved the ending hymm "Go Ye Out". I vividly remember her telling me, when we picked her up, about how fun it was and how much she liked it. When we walked into church this morning mom said, “I wonder if they’ll play Christi’s song at the end of mass. I haven’t heard it since Christi was with us.” I thought the same thing as I sat in church, but it was not listed on the board with the hymns so I was certain it wasn’t. The wonderful Father Kent (who was actually our priest back when Christi was diagnosed) said his final mass at mom’s church today, as he’s moving to a new parish. He will be missed! (We know how hard Father Kent prayed for Christi and we really appreciate that and all of his work with the “Good Shepherd Program” he started. We know how much Christi loved it when she was in preschool, especially when he substituted for the teacher!) I was watching Father Kent’s face when they started playing the final hymn this morning and I absolutely couldn’t believe it. They were singing “Go Ye Out”! Tears started flowing as I thought of Christi’s precious face singing that joyous song, the last time she ever attended church in person and how wild it was that mom had not heard it since August of 2006. We all had to believe Christi was strongly with us in spirit!

(SUMMER 2006: One of Christi's last visits to Grandma & Paw Paws. Today I noticed the "Lincoln Logs" at "crosses".) At the family gathering today of my mom’s brother and sisters, Shayla had a joyous time playing with my cousin’s two little girls. Melissa’s girls always remind me of Christi & Shayla because they are so close in age (and because they’re so cute, of course!). Shayla caught a mouse and my dear aunt Mary (who spoiled me so much as a child) gave Shayla a container to take it home in. Perhaps she knows how to manipulate me, but when Shayla told me she named it “Christina” after Christi, how could I say no?! Therefore, her hamster cage – from her hamster experience back in 2006, now holds a field mouse. Oh, how do you say, “Thank you, Aunt Mary?” (cough!)

Shayne recently had a very unique day at work. He was invited to ride with the Chairman of Norfolk–Southern in his Executive Train Car. (Norfolk-Southern is one of the company’s clients.) The train consisted of two locomotives, a sleeping car, a bar, a dining car, an observation car, and a meeting car. Shayne met the others in Cleveland, where they boarded the train, rode to Bellevue, turned the train around, and had lunch (on the train) as they returned to Cleveland. When Shayla and I found out about daddy spending the day on a train, we asked if we could go too. Of course we couldn’t so Shayla spent the day by having a friend over and I continued to work hard on my writing preparations for my next candidacy exam question. (I receive question #2 tomorrow morning and I have ten days to prepare my 20-30 page response with references, yikes!)

(PIC: "Mission: Attack Paw Paw!" Christi, right, Shayla, left, laughing with Paw Paw & Shayla, on a final visit, summer 2006)
P.S.: Perhaps Shayla would not have been able to compete in the horse show anyway. It would have depending upon the timing, but last night they discovered Skeeter lost another shoe!!! We were shocked! Without a shoe, they could only groom him. Tonight, Claire said it was ok to work on showmanship with him. Hopefully, they'll get him a new shoe before her lesson tomorrow. Shayla continues to question the ferrier's skills. What a hoot!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Shayla ended up having a very pleasant time at today's horse show and tonight she'll go to the barn to work with Daddy for a couple of hours. For three straight hours she "ribboned" at the show.
She of course said she was "ribboning" which totally cracked me up. She explained that there is a lot more to it than you'd think. You have to figure out who got first place when all of the girls come riding off at you so you can give the right one to the right rider. She also said it was hard to think of something different to say to each girl. "Because you don't want to say 'Congratulations' to each one. You have to mix it up." What a hoot!

Rabbit Skill-a-Thon! She only scored a 5 out of 10 at this station. She tattooed (on paper, whew) the rabbit's wrong ear and she went from the wrong side, oops. Now she knows!
I don't believe anyone took longer to take their test today. (Shayla took 1 1/2 hours, but perhaps this was because she made a little friend. Shayla said, "I didn't know you could make a friend by saying, "This test is really hard!" but you can. I did.)

(PHOTO: Shayla with Claire, learning how to clip. Yeppers, those are "clippers" in her hands. Oh my!)
(PHOTO: Shayla at Thursday's lesson, banding.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Christi's Necklace is Fixed

(PIC: True Christi! Still in her pajamas, watching cartoons while in the midst of a project of some sort. When we got new furniture in December of 2005, we picked out a sofa and a large chair with a footstool like this, knowing of course who would get the chair. Ironically, now the furniture exists, without Christi, and most of the time, it's three of us on the sofa, while "Christi's Perch" remains empty. Crazy, I know!

Shayla's is doing fine (especially since keyboarding camp ended today, hee hee, and when I told her she was going to practice for 30 minutes, five times a week for the rest of the summer she wasn't even really upset. She said, "Ok."). Claire apologized to Shayne for not letting him know of their decision earlier. He's planning to volunteer to work at the Horse Show tomorrow so that he can learn. Shayla will "help" too, if there's something she can do. The other trainer will be there; however, her daughter is Shayla's age and she'll be working with her. (She's an amazing rider!) Regardless, we're disappointed, but it will hopefully still be fun and a good learning experience for all. All of this has really been a learning experience for us "horse newbees"; we'll definitely do things differently next year! (And this way Shayla won't miss the "Rabbit Skill-a-ton" at the fairgrounds in the afternoon. She's been studying her book and she thinks she's ready for the questions and the tests. We'll see.) She's also been working on her "Play the Role" theatre project; it's due July 8th. She's having a wonderful summer; I just wish Christi were here doing all of this great stuff with us!

Today my necklace, made shortly after Christi's death, was fixed. For whatever reason, the safety catch was never soldered when it was made. Therefore, when the clasp broke, it fell to the ground (thankfully, brushing my ankle and alerting me to the situation). I still think Christi must have been involved, or my necklace (with her final thumbprint and her Holy Communion cross that I wear nearly every day) would be gone. Praise the Lord!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pedaling with a Purpose - Update from Eric

Christi's "Webby" wrote: I wanted to make sure you knew that I survived the 2008 Lumberjack 100 mile mountain bike race last Saturday and thanks to your support, was able to raise over $3,000 to support the fight against Neuroblastoma.

I have updated my "blog" site with some pictures and a recap of the race. Visit if you'd like to read it over. I had a pretty rough fourth lap, but pushed through and was able to complete the race in just under 12 hours.

That was a long time to be on the bike, but all for a worthy cause. Thanks again for your support and please keep me (and the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Fund) in mind for next year... I'll be back!

Much appreciated,
Eric Cook

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Horse Show? No Go!

(Shayla getting the horse ready for lessons, July 2005, age 6)At the grocery store yesterday morning, I ran into the woman we are leasing Skeeter from. She asked if we were going to the Mounted Meeting at 6:30 so she would have enough trailers ready. I reminded her that's why we came home from vacation a day early and that at 4:00 I was meeting with Kelsey to borrow a show outfit, since I only recently learned Shayla needed to actually have show clothes for Saturday's event. She looked shocked and said, "Shayla's not going to the show. Julie and I decided after the last Mounted Meeting that since I cannot be there myself, and we are not comfortable with you being with Skeeter." Of course I was ruffled and said, "That's not how Shayne explained it to me. We have my aunt and uncle lined up with their trailer since you can't transport Skeeter." She went on and told me it was not going to happen. I kept my mouth shut about paying $375 PER MONTH to lease the horse, etc. but called Shayne as soon as I was out of the store. He told me it wasn't a done deal and he'd talk with Claire at the barn at 5 when they would start getting Skeeter ready. Well, my heart was heavy all day.

(Christi, August 2005, age 8, at the other place we took horse lessons from, about five miles from home)Shayla has really been looking forward to this, her borrowed outfit from Kelsey (gold and black) is GORGEOUS and fits like it was made for her. She did a great job at the meeting last night, but Claire told both of us horses are unpredictable and she's not comfortable with us taking Skeeter without her being there. I could tell last night when I told Shayla, she was crushed. She blinked away tears. She's not had the best of weeks. She's in "Keyboarding Camp" this week, just in the morning and she's not very happy about it. (Claims it's boring, a word she rarely uses while I claim our school teaches it entirely too late so she needs to learn now.) She's typing at 12 words a minute and isn't very pleased with that either. OK, I'm done venting now! Back to my grant application I'm writing!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

$2,200 in Fremont St. Joe "Christi T. Scholarships"

Although it's always nice to get back home, the envelope waiting to tell us that we owe CHOP $14,000 for some of Christi's bills back in July of 2006 that we didn't even know about wasn't the "Welcome Home" I was hoping for (smile). Oh well, we'll deal with that too. Today, let's talk about GOOD NEWS:

This scholarship, in Christi’s Memory, is for a graduate, a graduating Senior, or a child of an alumni of St. Joe’s Catholic High School in Fremont. This year’s $1,000 winners to go Eric & Ashley. Additionally, we added two $100 scholarships to Kaitlyn and Libby and we wish them all the very best!

Even though it’s hard, I think I should personally call and congratulate the winners, so I do. Eric’s delightful response reconfirmed to me that the committee made the right decision. Eric was incredibly appreciative and grateful. Additionally, two days later we received an awesome thank you note with his Senior picture. A part of it read:

Eric & Fremont St. Joe's Tribute to ChristiIt warms my heart to think that you may see similar qualities to those of your brave daughter in me. My own sister had cancer and passed away when she was 16. It is without the most major difficult struggle we will ever face. We are making it through. Every day is a challenge, but when I wake up in the morning, I thank God for another day and I promise my sister, Sara, that I’ll make her proud.
Additionally, he invited us to his Relay for Life – a major project he’s worked on since his sister’s battle with cancer. I cried when I read, “On our Hollywood Walk of Fame we have a star in honor of Christi. I’d love it if you could come.” Eric graduated at the top of his class and will be attending an out-of-state school for architecture. We wish him the very best! Parts of his essay are below:

Ever since I was a young boy, I loved to learn. School has always been like a second home to me, especially once I became a freshman at SJCC. It seems like I am at Saint Joe more than I’m at my own home, but that’s beside the point. In addition to my love for learning, I love to be creative. My parents tell me that I never was one to play with toys. I’d rather find something in the kitchen and make my own game out of it. I have been able to enhance my creative side at SJCC. I spend many hours after school working on art projects, helping out with the Catholic Schools’ Auction, painting windows, or making bowls for the ‘Soup and Bowl Auction.’

I have always embraced learning with a great passion. It is what I love to do. If I don’t understand something, I won’t rest until I figure it out. That is just my personality. I also love helping others to learn more as well. Last year, I always found myself tutoring my classmates in Chemistry and Pre-Calc. It was a challenge, but it was all worth it when they came out with a better understanding of it.

I also took charge of the Sara Barbour Memorial Golf Outing for three straight years. The proceeds from this outing go to a scholarship fund. The scholarships go to eighth graders at Sacred Heart so that they can continue their catholic education at SJCC High School, something I have been very blessed with. Scholarships also go to graduates of SJCC to continue their education at the college level.

Outside of school, I have also taken charge of a Relay for Life team. Through doing this, I know that I am helping cancer patients throughout the world. My sister died of cancer when she was only 16 years old and I have made it a goal of mine to help others fight this disease. I also have become a blood donor. I’ve helped run the blood drives at St. Joe the last two years because it is so important to me. I have realized firsthand how important it is to give blood and help those battling for their lives like my sister had to. In addition to encouraging my friends at school to donate blood, I also did a 4-H project on donating. I actually got to take my project to the State Fair and show everything I learned about giving the gift of life.

Throughout my 18 years of life, I have embraced a love of learning both in and out of school. I have also done my best in helping others in whatever way possible. Whether it is a blood drive, a cancer walk, Mr. Wonderly’s Chemistry class, or fundraiser for scholarships, I do my best to be as great a help as possible. It would be such an honor to receive this scholarship in memory of Christi Thomas and I thank you so much for considering me.

Jenn's Memorial for Christi (Last year Jennifer received a $1,000 Scholarship)Ashley, daughter of an Alumni, also received a $1,000 award in Christi’s Memory. Parts of her essay are below. We were especially touched by her memories of Christi, her little cousin.

I’ve lived in many different worlds. I have attended Hogwarts with Harry Potter, solved mysteries with The Boxcar Children, defended Redwall against rat invasions, and helped Artemis Fowl steal gold from the fairies. Every book I read was food for my imagination, and I was always starving for more. A passion for books was one thing Christi and I always had in common. She always came bouncing up to me gushing over her latest story and I loved giving her suggestions of my favorites. Even though I became more of a math and science student, I can still never resist a good story. As I grew older my passion for books began to turn into a passion for so much more – a passion for learning. There always seemed to be so many wonderful possibilities of what to read next and with it came knowledge. In school the road we travel forks off into more and more paths leading to different worlds of information.

God has a plan for me, hopefully to help perfect his amazing creation of this world by solving the problems that occur in everyday life and by inspiring others to foster their love of learning in order to continue our progress. To fulfill my goal I will need to continue to grow and explore in an atmosphere that can nurture my God-given talents and help me to understand how to use them most effectively. It’s so exciting that I have the opportunity to go to a college of engineering where the amazing Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart also pursued their passion for exploring our world. Going to college is akin to going to one of the adventurous worlds I have read about in my favorite books. It is a new place, full of opportunities and millions of new things to learn, all to be revealed as we progress through the story. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I’m simply not going to waste a minute of it!

Monday, June 23, 2008

End of Shore Time

Shayne took off early this morning for a meeting in Princeton, NJ before we head home today. Back in late September, when Shayne lost his job, by the newly hired bank President who had been in town a few weeks, I was devastated. (The reason was, “You and I just aren’t going to get along,” which was hilarious because anyone who knows Shayne knows he gets along with EVERYONE!) Shayne told me that day, “Shayne Thomas will be fine. I am just worried about my clients and my colleagues left working for a guy like that.” He was right! Within hours, word spread, the phone was ringing off the hook and he had great job offers. Many who called me in the following weeks trying to track him down told me, “He’s the best banker in Northwestern Ohio.“ Well, it turned out to be an incredible blessing with a MUCH better job he started the following Monday. Little did I know his new job would get us out here for a little vacation time with the Grants too - what a blessing!!!

While I had wanted to go with him (to see the university) I decided to hang out with the Grants for the additional hours. They really are the sweetest family! Shayla has had an incredible time (as we all have). Last night, they took us to The Boardwalk - about five miles of amusement rides, shopping and food right along the Atlantic Ocean. We were having so much fun, we nearly stayed until midnight. I hope we can return to visit with the Grants again next year. (I really wished they lived just down the street instead of 500 miles away.) I feel like I’ve known the Grants forever and they so kindly listened to all of my “Christi babblings” and with them I feel so comfortable I don’t feel like I’m bringing them down.

Debbie and I talked about feeling bad for their oldest daughter, as she would have paired up with Christi, but the three girls got along fabulous! (Their oldest is just amazing! Not only have their girls hosted many "Alex & Christi Lemonade Stands", but she's also donated her hair to "Locks of Love" and Shayne and I were quite moved this spring to learn she had selected "CHRISTI" for her Confirmation name. Amazing!) Shayla found many coins this trip and told us Christi must be leaving the money there for her to make her happy. (When Christi was in treatment I would never let her pick up a coin off of the ground, always fearful it’d make her sick.)

"Shore Girls" (waiting to go out on the boat) Hopefully, we'll have an uneventful trip home. Shayla needs to get back to working with Skeeter; she has a Mounted Meeting again on Tuesday and is meeting with sweet Kelsey before that to hopefully find a "Western" show outfit of Kelsey's that will fit so she can borrow it for Saturday's show. (She also has a bunny skill-a-ton she's supossed to do for her other 4H club that day, but it's at the same time so I'm not certain what's going to happen.)

While driving out here we stopped at a fast food restaurant. As I got out of the van, I felt something bump by ankle. I was wearing Capri's and I looked down and saw Christi's First Holy Communion and final thumbprint necklace I wear nearly every day on the ground. My heart sank and I literally had to catch my breath as I gripped it in my hand and prayed thanks to God that I didn't lose it. My task upon arriving home will be to go to the jewelry store to see what went wrong with the clasp on my necklace and to get it fixed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Philly Triathlon & "Down the Shore"


Swim, Bike, Run - grueling, but HE DID IT! I wiped tears away each time I stood, trying to find him in the crowd of 1,900 some competitors, knowing why he wanted to do this, but it was great. I think Christi would be proud and with CHOP's oncology unit being the benefactor, it was all a great thing. When Shayne finished and I asked how he was he said, "I've been to hell, after that, this was just a run in the park." (Fairmount Park, actually, was where the triathlon was held. And his reference to hell was made back in September of 2006 when Christi was in tremendous pain and dying and Shayne said after enduring that, he no longer feared hell because it could not be worse.) He did tell me he was fearing "9:00" and thinking he might sink to the bottom of the river during the swim, but he didn't. (Christi died at 9AM and the day before he got his flat time going to his meeting at 9AM. With his divison heading out on the competition at 8:48 he thought by 9AM he might be at the bottom of the river!) He ended up finishing 15 out of his division of 56 and that was something like 551 overall, out of just under 2,000 competitors. His time was 30 minutes longer than the overall winner. He's amazing! When we packed up his things, he drove us "down the shore" to meet up with the wonderful Grant family. Although I do have wonderful memories of Philadelphia, and MANY wonderful people and places we would have liked to have visited, I was happy to get out of that city. (I'll never forget Christi died there, but perhaps with time my great memories will outweigh the terrible ones.)

The Grants treated us to their charming shore house and took us out on a boat ride Saturday afternoon. I think it was my first "real" boat ride and I absolutely LOVED it! Of course, I managed to get in some reading on the beach too as I'm trying to prepare for Question Two. (Unfortunately, question two and three are back to back without a break in between them like after the first one.) Last night we went to dinner at a wonderful place on the beach (or is it the shore?) and then Debbie drove us all around this amazing Wildwood area. Although Shayne brought Shayla here with the Grants last year, I was at a teachers' meeting so this will be my first experience. This quick trip has been fabulous; I just wish Christi were here with us! Last night, Shayla lost her second cannine tooth and while I was happy for her and kept saying, "You said you wanted to lose it in New Jersey," I kept thinking, "Christi only ever lost one cannine tooth, not two." Weird!

Shayne snapped this for my doc committee, just in case they're checking up on me through the blog, they'll see how hard I'm working (wink) as I prepare for Question #2, arriving soon.

BLOGGER MIMI: YES, I will email you "orb" pics; I'm happy to do so. Please email me next week to remind me. They're on my home computer. THANKS!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Competing in Christi's Memory Tomorrow

Oh, I feel TERRIBLE! I am so mad at myself! I knew this trip to Philly, for Shayne's triathlon and for business, was going to be incredibly quick, but I didn't realize that a sweet woman, named Melissa, and her brave cancer warrior would be so close by. I just learned she was only 20 minutes from Dorney Park and would have met us there. I would have loved meeting her and her precious one in person!!

(PIC: Near Washington's Crossing. We walked over the bridge from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, very cool!)
Shayne had a business meeting all morning, and then a flat tire, but eventually, we made it to the sweet Grant's home. Shayla has been TERRIBLY EXCITED about visiting with them; it's been all she's talked about for the past couple of days. The Grants took very special care of us during our years of treatment in Philly and Shayla grew especially fond of their two girls (the same ages as Christi & Shayla). Mrs. Grant would bring the girls to the hospital to play with Christi and she'll NEVER know how grateful we all were for that. Mr. Grant safely delivered us to and from the Philly Airport to the Ronald House or CHOP, countless times. Christi really missed playing with her friends at home and she absolutely loved making friends with and playing with their beautiful daughters. During tough times, the Grants took Shayla off of our hands. Shayla has really developed a special relationship with them and thanks to email and telephone she has "Philly Friends". So sweet!

The Grants took us to Washington's Crossing late this afternoon. It was very interesting, but I wish I would have prepared for the visit so I could have learned more. It was gorgeous and I hope to study and return one day soon! Next, we went to the most charming little town called "New Hope" for dinner, followed by ice cream. Shayla is overnight with our generous friends while we are in Philly - very tough for us actually, but at 6:30 AM Shayne will be registering for the Philly Triathlon. He's competing on the "CHOP Team" and is racing in Christi's Memory at this fundrasier. While Shayla was entered, it was long before we decided to lease her horse and since she hadn't had any training, we decided it was best to drop out of the race. (We thought her first competition should be a good experience.) When Shayla learned it would be more time with the Grant girls, she said she'd sit out this year from the race. Our alarm is set for 5:30 AM, GOODNIGHT!

Shayla's First Horse Show is just EIGHT days away. I don't know if she'll be ready, but she's really excited! Ironically, our hotel tonight is just a few minutes from "Fairmont Park" where Christi & Shayla rode their first horse in July of 2005, while stranded at the Ronald McDonald House waiting for a scan after the holiday weekend. Wild, just wild. OK, honestly a little sickening too. Being in this city is very, VERY hard!
The little one needs a "leg up" from daddy.
Shay & Skeet
Practicing in the arena.
Shayla's 4H (horse) club has a "Mounted Meeting". There were about 15 horses working in the ring together. This was Shayla's second time to participate WITH Skeeter. Unbelievably, he DID lose another shoe at this meeting. Wild! With horse shoes now costing us $75 a pair, Shayla wants to talk with the guy putting them on to see if he's doing a good enough job, or if he's doing it poorly to make $$. (We had to laugh!)
All lined up while the "judge" evaluates them. (We did go back to the fairgrounds very late at night to see if we could find Skeeter's shoe, but we didn't have any luck!)(Christi, age 8, August 2005)
(PIC: Shayla, August 2005, age 6)

Big "Little" Sister?

Big "Little" Sister, or Little "Big" Sister? I don't know, but we did make it through the day. Shayla had a great one! We left the hotel and went to Dorney Park (included with our Cedar Point passes in Allentown, PA). The girls really enjoyed this park and called it "Corney" Park because they had never heard of the word "Dorney" before. It was bittersweet being there. The very first ride we rode was the "Wild Mouse". This is the ride where Christi lost a stocking cap when Shayne brought her in October, on her way home from CHOP in 2004. We looked for her little cap, but didn't find it (smile). In the waterpark, the "Kid Car Wash" was also tough to look at. In July of 2005, while we were stuck in the Ronald House in Philly for five days waiting to get Christi in for a test, we drove up there and the girls played in the "Kid Car Wash" for the longest time having a blast. One little girl just cannot play by herself like she could with her sister. I know she really misses playing with Christi.

At dinner time, we had a delightful treat! We went to Sylvia's home. Sylvia and I still cannot figure out how she found out about Christi, but she was with us until the bitter end. She is the one who helped Shayne give Christi what turned out to be her final bath and she rubbed her feet with lotions many times. Sylvia brought us cookies and was the one able to line up a Priest to give Christi her final blessing. We went to their beautiful home and enjoyed a most incredible meal of all of our favorite foods: steak, chicken, salad, potatoes, mushrooms and "better than sex chocolate cake". Shayla asked, "What is the name of that cake?" When Sylvia quickly responded, "Better than summer vacation chocolate cake," I thought I was going to die laughing. We had a lovely evening!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Older Than Christi

(PIC: Unrelated to today's post. This is Skeeter getting out of the trailer in preparation for Shayla's 4H meeting this week.)

Well, the dreaded day has arrived. At 9AM this morning, Shayla became older than Christi ever was. Weird, it feels so odd. A couple of months ago, while we all sat in the kitchen, Shayla asked, "Hey, now that I'm nine plus a little bit am I now the "big little sister"? I knew exactly what she was talking about. She wondered if she was older than Christi ever got to be. I told her that time wouldn't come until June 19th; I had calculated it out long ago. She asked me to tell her when it was and although I was dreading it, I did.

At 8:45 this morning, I came out of the shower and sat down on the edge of Shayla's bed and told her at 9AM she would officially be older than Christi ever was. While it pained me greatly, she got a big smile on her face. We do have something special planned for today.

YES!!!! We were at Cedar Point on Monday! I just wish you would have introduced yourself! I would have loved meeting you in person! Do you have passes? Will you be back? Please email and let us know when we can meet!! A short while back, one of Christi's sweet "Chemo Angels" told us she'd be at Cedar Point on Monday. I told her if things were going well with my paper, we would buzz up to meet her for a few hours. We did; it was TREMENDOUS! And I submitted my (nearly 50 page) paper yesterday! I am fully enjoying my one week break!! (OK, actually I'm reading and preparing for Question #2 already, but.....I don't feel the pressure I did!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tea Party and Poker Run Update

PIC: This photo is of the back of this year's Christi Thomas Meorial Poker Run tee-shirts. I thought they were absolutely incredible!! This year's Poker Run raised approximately $2,000 for her Memorial Fund. We are so thankful people have done such kind fundraising, being able to provide scholarships and gifts in Christi's Memory gives us a great deal of comfort. Thank you, everyone!

Speaking of "sweet" fundraising efforts!! Thanks to the amazing Olvia for the fundraising idea of Christi Tea Packages, since I was too busy with school work to do a fundraiser this year. (I do hope to do a real "Tea Party" next year, since I "should" be finished with my dissertation at that point and "just" waiting for graduation, fingers crossed.)

Olivia ended up shipping 65 boxes and raised $1,260 for a grand total to be split between Jennifer's "Kids Cancer Crusade" and the "Christi Thomas Memorial Fund". Olivia prepared all of the goodies and shipped them to:

1. Tiffin, OH
2. Whitestone, NY
3. Harmas, MD
4. Attica, OH
5. Bowling Green, OH
6. Marcellus, NY
7. Clinton, OK
8. South Plainfield, NJ
9. New York, NY
10. Callender, IA
11. Republic, OH
12. Mt. Washington, KY
13. Pasadena, TX
14. Fayetteville, NC
15. Lafayette Hill, PA
16. Andover, MA
17. Germantown, OH
18. Columbus, OH
19. Miami, FL
20. Danville, IN
21. Farminton, NY
22. Durham, NH
23. Portsmouth, NH
24. Seattle, WA
25. Prattville, AL
26. Saginaw, MI
27. Delaware, OH
28. Lawrenceville, GA
29. Pensacola, FL
30. Bay City, MI
31. Havertown, PA
32. Honolulu, HI
33. Crestline, OH
34. Juneau, AK
35. Pullman, WA
36. New Iberia, LA
*37. Alberta, Canada
**38. A donation came from London, UK

AND: 39. Cabot, Arkansas (Thanks for letting me know we forgot you - so sorry!!)

Olivia wrote: All I can say is "Christi Magic!" That makes for a total of 38 cities and 21 states!!! (Between us, I thought Juneau, Alaska was the coolest. Too bad I didn't personally deliver the packages, eh? :p)

Thanks to all who were able to help! We really appreciate it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I just have to be a proud mom and share Shayla's 3rd grade teacher’s comments from her grade card. After having such a rough year last year with school, this was very pleasant news. (I think last year after Christi's death she had at least two "D's" reading and spelling, perhaps. It was a rough year for her with grades, reading and friends and slowly month after month she made positive progress in all areas. We thank the dear Lord!) We both think Shayla really blossomed this year. We just hope she always stays so sweet because it is her amazing thoughtfulness and politeness that continue to amaze me for her age. She continues to say she wants to be an actress, but I will not at all be surprised if she really becomes a nurse due to her concern for others.

(PIC: Shayla, 2004, age 5)Her 3rd grade teacher wrote: It was great having Shayla in class this year. She listens attentively and participates actively in class discussions with her knowledge and experiences. She takes her school work seriously and is an excellent student. Have a great summer vacation!

I received great news myself last week. In April, I was struggling with my OSU class and also the independent study I was taking with another Professor. I knew my main focus should be on the two dissertation chapters I was writing and my coursework should take a backseat in all reality. One night I was venting to Shayne and I said something like, “I really don’t care if I get my first B. My committee will never know now, no one will ever ask me my grades and I’m just sick of all of this.” Shayla overheard me, came into the kitchen and said, “Mom, that’s terrible. You’d never say it was ok for me not to try my hardest, so why is it ok for you? I know, I’ll just quit trying at school.” I wasn’t in a mood to respond in a proper manner so I said something like, “When you are getting your third college degree, we’ll talk. Until then you’ll do your best and I’ll do my best, but I am not going to kill myself to get this "A" like I’ve done for my other classes. I just cannot do it anymore.”

(PIC: Shayne swinging Shayla, July 2004)
One day while studying she came up and gave me a hug. I told her I felt so bad about not giving her all of the attention I wanted to give her, but soon my degree would be completed and I’d have more time. She sat on my lap and said, “It’s ok. I will probably get my Ph.D. one day too.” I giggled and told her I would come over and clean her house, make her meals and bake her cookies so she'e hqve more time to devote to her studies. Then I burst out laughing telling her she’d better be a really good daughter for daddy so that he pays for her degree like he’s paid for mine.

When my grades were posted last week I don’t know who was more excited. I ran to tell Shayla I ended all of my years of coursework with a 3.98 GPA, 150 hours on my transcript and all As. She didn’t forget our conversation from April; she said put my face in her hands, drew her face close and said something like, “See, now aren’t you glad you tried.” What was even better was I received back both of my dissertation chapters. On one, I had only about 15 minutes worth of corrections to make, the other I sent out to some fellow Ph.D. friends to take a look at one section I was told to revise. I think why I did so well was I had some incredible help from Olivia who edited and proofread my work and who allowed me to “discuss” items with her. She is amazing! Not only was she baking cookies and making candies for Christi’s Tea, but she was also reading my writing. During class one night in May I received a text message from her which said, “Reading your chapter was the highlight of my day.” I passed my phone over to a friend who then leaned forward and said, “Your friend must have had a horrendous day if reading your chapter was actually a highlight for her.” Thank you, Olivia!

Any teachers looking for a really good book? I’ve got one for you! I purchased it to use in a grad class I’m teaching for Heidelberg College later this summer. Not as a scholarly text, but as a supplement and boy is it a great read! It’s called “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56” by Rafe Esquith. The author teaches in a Los Angeles neighborhood surrounded by violence and poverty. He’s a fifth grade teacher and the book is inspirational.

HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY to my sweet Grandma Falter! I look forward to calling her late this afternoon. I hope by then to be putting the final touches on my first candidacy exam question, due tomorrow by midnight. It will end at about 42 pages, 50 with references. I've made a vow to myself NOT to ruin my life over the remaining three questions I will soon receive. This has been insane! Fellow doc students told me not to let it consume my entire life, but I didn't listen! (Although in all reality, I don't think I could have answered a seven part question in any fewer pages and with high enough quality for my committee. I pray it's good enough. I had my first nighmare over my defense last night. In my dream, my Advisor started off by saying, "Well, first of all, you insulted me by not saying my name correctly." I know it's not at all her style and I wouldn't do that, but I think it's showing the stressfulness of this situation that will go on until late August. YIKES! Prayer are apprecited! THANK YOU!)

Monday, June 16, 2008


(Pic: Christi & Hannah, Jan. 2006) We didn't know this until the Saturday night at the Dance Unlimited Recital, but Hannah, the $1,000 Christi Scholarship Winner was also her school's Valedictorian! Out of a class of around 200, we think that is especially impressive! Congrats, Hannah! We will very soon announce the $1,000 2008 Fremont St. Joe Christi Thomas Scholarship Winner!

While I'm reflecting upon the dance recital, Shayla received a card from her jazz teacher prior to the performance. It said: Shayla, You have worked so hard, maybe more than any other dancer I've ever had (and I've had a lot!). Your hard work has paid off - you look great. Now have fun, smile and break a leg! Love, Lea

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day, Video Clips, Text Messaging

As much as I was trying to pretend it wasn't father's day today, we all remembered. My heart breaks for Shayne. He was the most incredible dad to Christi and thankfully continues to be one to Shayla. My own selfishness made me miss my own father so much today. I wish I could pick up the phone and wish him a "Happy Father's Day". Shayne spent a lot of time helping Shayla work with Skeeter at the barn today while I (again) spent hours on my paper. Just like Christi did on her last Father's Day, Shayla made Shayne a card with pictures of animals. In this picture, Shayne is in our bathroom holding Christi around the time of her first birthday. He went to show her in the mirror how cute she looked with "her shades". I miss that little sunshine! Those were glorious days!

Listed below you will find three video clips from "The Wiz", if you'd like to see "Mooch" in action.

I realized it was finally time to delete the text messages I had received from Shayne off of the phone from those dreaded, painful final weeks of Christi's life. I decided to put them here, just so I wouldn't lose them. Maybe some day it won't be so hurtful to go back and relive those last precious weeks with our little princess, but it still is now.

August 24, 2006: Do you want to go to the movie Barnyard tonight?

August 28, 2006 (3:41 AM) She woke up at 3 and said she hurt, but she's still in a great mood. I gave her three Motrin. 150 miles till Philly yet.

August 28th, 2006 (5:49 AM): We are here at CHOP. Gonna nap a minute till she wakes me. Luv ya.

August 28th, 2006: In hospital now. Gonna get counts then meet Dr. maris. Spoke with Pat. Christi is feeling fine. Did Motrin at 7:30 for her hip pain.

August 28th: (12:20 PM) Just checked into the Ronald House. Heading back to CHOP.

August 28th (2PM) Dox today, switch to new chemo cocktail tomorrow. Maybe add Zometa later. Dr. Kushner recommends ICE.

August 28th (3PM) We are buying purple potty people at UPenn bookstore.

August 29th (12:27 PM) She is very tired, not a lot of pain though, but still uncomfortable. We have almost read all of the Captain Underpants book we bought. Got injection now and then back to bookstore.

August 29th (3:30 PM) At Vet Hospital.

August 29th (4:45 PM) That was a fun visit. We got drenched walking back to Ronald which made us scrap the pod restaurant idea, boo hoo. She is hungry now of course.

August 30th (8:25 AM) We are in the waiting room. She is trying to sleep. Mostly she rested well last night with some bad break through pain.

August 30th (8:54 AM) Just starting the MIBG scan. She gave our favorite tech the sponge bob she brought for her.

August 30th (8:59AM) Skull DEFINITELY packed with cancer.

August 30th (9:05AM) Shoulders worse, but not packed.

August 30th (9:08 AM) Looks like it is only in her marrow. It covers the majority of the top.

August 30th (9:15AM) Can't tell about the liver. I would guess that it is still there, but not huge.

August 30th (9:18AM) Hips are full. So is her bladder, but "Noooooo, she didn't have to go!" (Always a joke with us. Christi would NEVER have to go to the bathroom when she really should have, but when she had to go, she would RACE to get there! We said she had a bladder of steel because she could hold it for the longest time!!)

August 30th: She's resting comfortably now.

August 30th: I should have said pelvis is full. The hip bone marrow is involved.

August 30th: Visible in the legs too.

August 30th (9:25) : She just sat up and stared at the screen.

August 30th (9:28 AM) Left leg worse than right.

August 30th (9:34 AM) They're rescanning her head. Why?

August 30th (9: ) I would say that there are new or larger spots in her liver.

August 30th (9:53 AM). She is feeling well. Eating breakfast in the cafeteria now.

August 30th (11:36 AM) We are going to stay through Tuesday at least in Philly. Going to a different pain med. Getting all of the drugs today. Giving zometa also today.

August 30th: (11:50 AM) Disease is worse everywhere. Liver lesions larger, spine involved, not brain.

August 30th (11:55 AM). She is still hungry so I'm gonna chase food. Luv ya.

September 1, 2006 (6:42 PM). She is sleeping right now, resting up for your arrival.

September 1, 2006 (7PM) OK. Fly safe. Sorry you're delayed. Don't talk to any hurricanes you dont' know and absolutely no hitchhiking!

September 1, 2006 (7:15 PM) Right now Dr. Maris feels cautiously optimist that we've stopped the disease spread. He perfroms to not do any more chemo until Tuesday when we will do dox again.

September 1, 2006 (7:18 PM) If the disease stabilizes than maris would send us home on cyclo and all the other junk. Right now she is up and down with pain. TH left leg keeps her immobilized.THe main thing right now is boredom and fatigue. She could really use some entertainment. I just can't figure out what she wants. The fatigue must be the meds.

September 1, 2006 (9:46 PM). Call me when you near the Ronald gates. I will let you in.

September 2, 2006 (1:28 PM). You two alright? Shayla and I are down the hall in the TV room.

September 2, 2006 (4:19 PM ) She can take the dilaudid again. Give her hte full dose with the zofran. In the blue lid I believe is on the night stand.

September 2, 2006 (4:26 PM) Email Maris because this is new pain and seems to be increasing.

September 3, 2006 (12:13 AM). She is resting comfortably. I am sooo sad. I no longer fear hell because it can't be worse than this.

September 3, 2006 (12: 30 AM) I am sorry we can't figure this damn disease out. My mind has been spinning with possible options. Nothing seem promising for treatment though.

September 3, 2006 (12:40 AM) Maybe we will get clarity with maris tomorrow. I can't decide if we throw oen more big shot at the disease or if we just go home.

September 3, 2006 (12:43 AM) Yes, gave her 3mg at 11:30PM and needed it.)

September 3, 2006 (12:44 AM) Eric sent me a picture of a burrito to cheer me up and it made me bawl.

September 3, 2006 (12:45 AM) I am going to try to sleep again. So hard. Luv you.

September 5, 2006 (2:18 AM) She is fine. Just went "number one". She is sleeping sound and pain free now.

September 6, 2006 (4:57 PM) She's up!

September 7, 2006 (11:15 PM) She woke up fine, took her meds, seems very comfortable. She even had a few witty remarks.

September 10, 2006 (11:09 PM) She just got up and went to the real bathroom. No pain. Pretty witty. Now sleeping again. Best moves in days.

September 11, 2006 (1:06 AM) She's up and around again, feeling much better. Some leg pain, but good mind.

September 14, 2006 (5:32 PM) How is Christi?

September 14, 2006 (6:28 PM) On my way to hospital. Need anything?

Christi died in that bed at 9:00 AM on September 19th as Shayne sat to her left side and I sat facing her, on her bed, at her thighs.

Westward Ho, Go West!

Shayla in the Dog Fight

Thanks to Arabella

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ritz Camp 08 "The Wiz"

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ritz Camp 2008 "The Wiz"

My thanks to the Missoula Children's Theatre Directors! At the end of tonight's show he thanked the Christi Thomas Memorial Foundation for the scholarship and also spoke of Arabella's saving her allowance to sponsor a second child this year! I thanked him after the show and he said he wanted to do that. When he found out he was traveling to Tiffin, he "googled" it and the first thing that popped up was about Christi. The second was her Memorial Fund page. After what happened earlier in the week with a Ritz Director, I was very touched that he mentioned Christi and that I got to tell him how much she loved the Ritz! I feel so much better! (He also told me "Mooch" is very smart and was really into her part. I told him how she's taking a Theatre Project for 4-H.)

I had it wrong. Shayla (Toto) is NOT called Manco, but Mooch. Regardless, being "a dog" has been a total thrill for her. Often the girls would play "animals". In this picture, taken July of 2006 (Christi, age 9) Christi is covering herself with "fur" as the girls were playing dogs at Aunt Marty's pond. I'm so glad Aunt Marty snapped this picture for me while I was in class and she was babysitting. I just wish Christi could have been at Ritz Camp this week too. Tonight, watching what would have been her "class" perform as coyotes and as munchkins, it was hard to see and to wonder what her role would have been. On the way home, Shayla said, "I wish Christi would have been 'Top Dog' and we would have had a dog fight together on stage!" I told her Nonee and I said nearly the same thing in the audience!

We recently attended a fundrasier for a sweet women with a host of medical issues. At that auction, I bid on a "spa package" so today after taking Shayla to camp I treated myself to a body wrap, facial, hair cut, make up application and then met Mom and Joe at the Ritz. It was exactly what I needed to end this long week! I emailed my Advisor yesterday inquiring if many quit at this point because I could easily see how this one could! She told me to hang in there. This is my time to prove I am an expert in these four areas of education. (Well, quite frankly, I now know how much I don't know and I don't feel like an expert in anything! How am I supposed to be pulling together nearly 20 quarters of work! It's crazy!!)

(Fun with Donna!)
Things have improved a bit now; I've now completed four out of seven sections of my first paper. It is 22 pages in length and I'm certain by Wednesday, my due date, it will be well over the 30 page limit; however, I think that's ok. I don't want to ask because I don't want to have to cut out anything I wrote. I've sort of become attached to it (smile). I'm now debating if I should end this first question with "Parents should stop fund-raising and start hell-raising," but I am contemplating if that's a very scholarly way to end my paper, or not. (I know it'd shock my committee members to read that in MY paper, but maybe that's exactly why I should include it, hmmmmm. What do you think?)I believe until parents start advocating for what's best for their kids, schools are going to continue to be a disservice to them! This testing garbage simply must be changed! This year I lost well over a week of instructional time with my students because of these blankety-blank tests and they've dumbed down the curriculum, not to mention the fact that each time I see a student crying during state test week I want to call my elected officials (actually grab them by their shirt collars) and tell them to get into my classroom to see what they are doing to my kids! (OK, sorry about that, I'm really done venting now! This insanity must be changed!)