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 www.ChristiThomas.com to learn more. There, you'll find journals, photos and a lots of other information about this amazing child and her family.

A Note About Comments: When you post a Comment, please note that it will appear online after it is approved.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rest in Peace, Mia

(PIC: An 8th bday present - the guinea pig from Josh) As usual, Shayla hopped right out to check on her outside pets (Swiffer - the bunny and Mia - the guinea pig) when we got home yesterday afternoon. (Shayla has really been enjoying "Earth Literacy Camp" with a friend this week.) She walked in carrying Mia and said, "Can I bring her in for a little bit?" I told her, "Sure" but wondered why. Without asking, Shayla said, "She's not moving around much. Why isn't she trying to jump out of my hands like usual?" I thought that was odd, but was busy with lesson preparations and paper grading so I didn't think much about it until an hour later when I checked on Shayla and found Mia just sitting on her lap while she watched television. (Never did I realize that her pet and her grandpa were about to share the same "death date".)

I told her that wasn't normal and I was worried. She confided that she was worried too and she asked if she would die. When Shayne came home, he put together a cage for Mia for the living room. About 9:15, Shayla yelled, "Mom, do you think Mia died?" I went to the living room, sat down on the floor beside Shayla and discovered that she was no longer breathing. I told her she went to God's kingdom and wasn't it a great thing she was able to be with Mia when she died. She wasn't out in her cage by herself.

We all three sat on the floor and prayed for Mia's soul and asked Christi to please take care of Mia until Shayla is able to join them all. We shared what we liked best about Mia. Shayla said she would just look in her eyes and always feel happy. I liked when Shayne would "get her going" by "whooping" and Shayne enjoyed feeding her carrots. Shayla quietly cried for about thirty minutes until she was ready to let her go. Then Shayne placed Mia into the empty boot box recently purchased with Shayla's show boots in Amish Country. Shayla thought that would be the best casket for Mia. She selected her burial place, under the Mulberry tree out in the backyard. She cried herself to sleep last night. Rest in peace, little Mia. Shayla's had a summer full of life's lessons. (And NO we don't need a replacement pet, thank you very much!)
I think my insanity with photographs has rubbed off on Shayla. This morning while fixing Shayla's breakfast she asked, "Mom, do we have any pictures of Mia?" I told her, "Of course!"

(PIC: Christi, age 4, April 2002 - playing a game in the library for an Easter Party. A few months later, Christi was diagnosed with a body packed full of cancer. I still can't believe it. She always seemed to be the picture of good health!)

Just a Reminder: The Christi Thomas Family Closing Night will be held from 7-8 tomorrow at the Seneca East Public Library. We hope to see you there! There will be a magician and some great food! You are invited for the program, regardless of whether you participated in the summer reading program or not.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I still can't believe my dad died 12 years ago this afternoon. Thankfully, I was busy teaching at that time today and didn't realize the time of his passing until class was over. I wish I would have at least had the opportunity to tell him goodbye as I was able to do with Christi. I can't help but wonder what he would have been like. I really miss him and wish he could be enjoying Shayla's activities, sitting beside the rest of us. Instead I hope he's giving Christi dune buggy rides and horseback / piggy back rides like he always enjoyed doing for the kids. (PIC: 1991 Dancing the Father/Daughter Dance to "Daddy's Little Girl". I remember him telling me how much he liked that I picked that song for us to dance.)

I was surprised by two of the students in the class I'm teaching for Heidelberg right now. One was Christi's infant care provider at day care. Oh, how I hated having to work and leaving her there five days a week. I've now been told that is a natural feeling. Because Shayne worked in town he was able to go and visit with Christi during his lunch break and he often would. I remember taking off as soon as school was over so that I could go and pick her up. (PIC: Picking Christi up after school, ahhhhh!!!)

Another student is wearing an "Alex's Lemonade Stand" bracelet. She went to Christi's lemonade stands on campus! The lemonade stand is in the back of the classroom. Heidleberg is absolutely amazing! I'm hopeful we'll be able to make another donation this fall to assist with their education program. I don't think I ever realized my friend, Lori, in this picture. She's fixing Christi's hair! I love it! Not only did her classes arrange for all of this to happen, but she drove to Christi's school to get her for me since I had to work and she fussed over her hair, knowing how much it would have bothered me if it had looked messy! Thanks, Dr. Arnold-Grine! You rock!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Accidents

Some know I was invited to a cookout with OSU's President Dr. Gee last Saturday. He was coming to Tiffin; however, a couple days prior I received word the event was cancelled due to a family emergency. I just learned what happened. Life / Death - so young, so impressive, so tragic - once again reminding me.....Life is short, pursue your dreams and help others along the way. Take lots of pictures as you never know when you may last see your loved ones. My prayers are with Dr. Gee's family and I will express them in person in a couple of weeks as the Tiffin event has been rescheduled. Kids should not die before their parents! Here is the link: http://www.osu.edu/news/newsitem2069

Speaking of accidents, Shayla had her first fall from a horse last night. I've always told her she wasn't a real cowgirl until she fell off seven times. (I just wanted her to be prepared, to know it was going to happen and to get back on after it did.) I was at home studying, but Shayne saw it and said it was the perfect accident. (What?) He said, they had just plowed the ground in the arena so it was soft. She was bareback, so it was a nice gentle slide right off. She was wearing her helmet and was riding with a friend.

When I asked her what happened late last night she said with great enthusiasm, "Let me act it out! Skeeter saw a cow, got scared and then he went this way while I went that way," as she rolled to the kitchen floor! I asked her what her friend said and Shayla responded in a little voice, "Oh, Shayla! Are you ok?" Shayne gave her a "leg up" and she was back out riding under the lights of the arena having a great time with a little 4H buddy. She had another incredible week and I praise the good Lord for that! The volunteerism I witnessed was absolutely incredible! Seeing friends, students and meeting new people (some who stopped by to meet Skeeter because of the blog - wild!) was my highlight! One day Shayla told me, "It was nice of you to bring us girls to the fair for one day to see the animals when we were little. I liked it, but now it's a brand new experience. It's like I AM the fair!! And I get to go every day, not one." Oh, this one cracks me up! She nailed it right on the head! I always took the girls to the fair one day and we have great memories! I do not know why I don't have any pictures - until Christi's final year, but I still have the memories.....and obviously so does Shayla! Whew!

I think there may once again be a conflict (I hope). Things are going very well with my paper now (Finally!). I've spent the past 24 hours at home working like a crazy woman on my writing! Shayne took Shayla for her final day at the fair today while I stayed home to write. The animals will be released at 9PM tonight and I look for them to be back home about 11PM after they get Skeeter settled back in his barn. I'm very thankful I've made tremendous progress today, as tomorrow I start teaching my summer class at Heidelberg. There are 11 pursuing their Masters Degrees signed up. I'm excited as I LOVE working with teachers! They bring so much to the classroom! They're not the "sit and get" undergrads soaking up what I say, but the "Hey, I tried that, it didn't work; now what do I do?" type. I love it! I am so blessed! Here's wishing you and yours a fabulous week!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Conflict, Maybe Not

This sign hangs outside Shayla's stall, like all of the kids in the 4H club. After the fair, she gets to keep it. We'll attach her ribbons and hang it in her bedroom, the green one. I still cannot forget her other room, the one she now sleeps in, was Christi's. I quit calling it "Christi's Room" out load and started calling it her "purple room" instead, but it will always be "Christi's Room" to me! It still amazes me that she doesn't like to clean her bedroomS, but likes to clean Skeeter's stall.
A few days ago I received next year's dance classes and recital information from the studio. I was terribly disappointed to learn that my graduation from OSU and one of Shayla's two recital days conflict. Well, after struggling this week to find time to work on my exam question (and NOT finding that time) I decided that I should cheer up, there isn't going to be a conflict. (If I don't get this question answered and in a high quality fasion, there will be no graduation!) Therefore, after Shayla's classes finished up at the fair this afternoon, I said my goodbyes to relatives who were so kind to come and to sit for hours and I came home to work.
We really appreciate Kelsey's efforts in getting Skeeter ready! She is a sweetie!!
Shayla braids Skeet's tail.
Shayla with Claire, getting last minute pointers. Rumor has it there will be TWO in our family taking horse lessons beginning this fall. (No, not the mama!) Shayne has really enjoyed this "horse stuff" and all of the bonding time he's had with Shayla.
Shayla checks Skeeter's ears to see if she groomed them enough to please today's judge. Her competition today was very stiff as it was "open" not just 4H kids.
PIC: A goodluck kiss for Skeeter) Shayla had a wonderful first experience at the fair! I am so proud of her!! Today she entered the only three horse classes she could for a beginniner. There were 13 in each division, she didn't place in any of them, but seemed perfectly fine with that. She just loves being with Skeeter and I'm so happy she got out there and tried. It was also the first day it seemed like she could be a "kid" and enjoy the fair! When she was finished, she went with Aunt Tina, Nonee, Shelby and Will and rode rides and "hung out" at the fair.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Fair Day

With her 4H club's booth - very impressive! We took her to the rodeo tonight. She enjoyed sitting with her friend and watching the entertainment; however, after the barrel racing she said to me, "This is inhumane. All they do is hit the animals." Unfortunately, I was too tired to discuss her thoughts at the point, but I will soon. I think sixteen straight hours at the fair for Shayla today was too much, at least for mom (Smile). Tomorrow we're going to let her sleep in until 8 when I have to go volunteer at a food stand. Shayne will chore for her at 6 and then go to work. We think she's just too exhausted and should sleep in. Her cousins will arrive from Cincinnati tomorrow afternoon. She's quite excited about that too!

Incredible Excitement when they called her name for third place in the Skillathon (That book test thingy she did a few weeks ago). They gave her a plaque.....then called Shayla and the 2nd place winner back to take back the plaques. They were to get ribbons instead. Oops! Once again, life lessons learned this week! I was proud of Shayla for handling it so well.

This was quite a shocker!! Today, one of Christi's dearest friends (Kaylyn) came up to me and said, "Remember that pottery Christi and I did together at the Heritage Festival? I entered it in the pottery contest and won first place!" I wanted to burst into tears and hug her tight, but I refrained (as not to embarrass her or to let her know how VERY VERY much I appreciated her saying Christi's name and telling me something I didn't even know) and told her how awesome it was. Trust me, as soon as I could run to the other side of the fairgrounds to see it displayed, I did! I now feel like Christi IS at the fair this week too!!We had plenty of time today to enjoy the fair! After the three hour bunny judging, we had about a 2 1/2 hour break until the 4H games and then about a 3 hour break until the 4H picnic and then about a 2 hour break until the rodeo. I've continued to be amazed this week at this brand new experience! (I've continued to be amazed at how I have accomplished NOTHING on my paper thus far! YIKES!)

This is the "Breed Class" where just Swiffer was judged. There were 11 in the class and Swiffer made it to the top four and then was dismissed. I asked her why the judge said he was out. She said, "He has a flat butt." I tried not to laugh and she snuggled up with her bunny saying, "It's ok, Swiffer. I think you're perfect! Don't let him hurt your feelings."

The rabbit judge checking out Swiffer during Shayla's showmanship. There were 17 in her division. She didn't place, but she seemed to be fine with that.

Practicing with her bunny before judging.

Today would have been my father's 67th birthday. He died, at the age of 55, 12 years ago on July 29th from a heart attack while on vacation. I cannot imagine him as a 67 year old, but I do imagine him with me often and think of him in Heaven with Christi too. While I know they are not there, I do find comfort in the fact that they are buried side-by-side in the cemetery. It makes me feel like dad is taking care of Christi like he did with me. (OK, so dad wasn't the greatest cook, and my sister could switch the can of vegetables mom set out to corn because it was the only vegetable we liked every time, but......mom caught on eventually). At this time, twelve years ago, Shayne and I had just returned from Europe for our 5th anniversary. One of our stops was at the Vatican where we prayed, after months of "trying", that we would become parents soon. Weeks after dad's death, we learned we were pregnant with "Peanut" (Christi). I've always thought my dad played a role and I just wish I had a picture of him holding Christi in his arms. (PIC: Baby Christi, 1997)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

video

A Blue Ribbon Shocker

I could share info regarding Shayla’s rabbit interview on Tuesday or tell how much work I’ve completed on my final question, but I want to share some good news tonight instead! I’ll do so through pictures captured today because I’m burnt and exhausted. It was another wonderful, but long and hot day and I forgot my sunscreen.
With Skeeter's owner and riding instructor, Claire. Our lease with Skeeter will come to an end on August 1st. Shayla will be disappointed; however, she knew 4H required only a 3 month lease and she knows she will continue her weekly riding lessonsShayla received 5th place (out of 8) in the bareback novice division. My mouth fell open and tears fell when they called, "#173 Shayla Thomas".
This was a riding class. There were 11 or 12 in that class. When she didn't place, I asked her if she was ok. She said, "Yes! I knew I messed up. I forgot that pattern. I was supposed to trot after the cone, but I didn't remember it until the end. I trotted, but I knew it was too late. She did not place in her other riding class either. She kept getting too close to the horse in front of her. Of course, her bias grandma thought the others should have ridden faster, but I explained that I thought she needed to keep back one horse length and she has a tendency to ride right on the "behindy" of the horse in front of her.
With this year's Horse Queen, Senior and 4-H member, who has been so sweet and helpful to us, Brittney. And, hmmm...guess who has a horse for sale now that she's going off to college where she will be in an equine program. Shayla has her eye on Tripsy. He is a fantastic horse, and Britt is a fabulous rider! Their stall is across from ours in the barn and the amount of ribbons across the aisle way is impressive!
Last minute instructions from Claire, one of her riding instructors and the lady we are leasing Skeeter from.
VIDEO CLIP: Hopefully, this will post above this entry in case anyone wants to watch Shayla's "Trail Class" This is Shayla’s class of novice trail. There were 13 in her division. Trail and bareback are Shayla’s favorite so we thought she’d do well, but never did we dream she’d get first place……until she entered the arena. I could not believe how well Skeeter behaved for her. Other than missing the mail pick up in the mailbox on the first attempt (but getting it on the 2nd) I didn’t see any errors. It seemed to me she nailed all parts of the required pattern. Claire, her instructor, said she should have acknowledged the judge before leaving the ring, but that was the only thing she didn’t do properly. I could tell by watching Shayla’s face she felt great about her ride. I even watched her pull her left hand down and pat Skeeter after he backed up just as she commanded. I knew she wasn’t supposed to do that, but I also knew she loved her horse and was so proud of him. She explained how she felt after they announced her name for first place to Claire by saying, “It really feels great!”
Paw Paw said he was so glad he got to watch her. I couldn't believe her relatives stayed from 9 - 4:30 and watched the entire horse show. She was only in four events. What love!! Aunt Marty stayed up until the very end when she had to get back for work. Before she left she jokingly told Shayla, "Now that I have to leave, you'll probably get first place," little did we know that those words would be true!!
Can you even believe it?!
I don't know who screamed louder when they called #173, Shayla or her relatives?!
Shayla's other riding instructor and horse 4-H advisor, Julie, was so happy for Shayla too.
I’ve decided the fact that we’re only seeing orbs in the barn pictures is telling me that Christi (who really preferred grooming to riding) is with us. I also had to chuckle to myself recently as I realized that both Christi and Shayla would have been in the age 8-10 showmanship class, as well as all of the other classes. To have them complete against each other would have been really tough, especially because I think Shayla would have been a better rider. (Christi really got into grooming her horse though!) I wonder if we could have entered them as a team: Christi, horse groomer and Shayla, horse rider. (Shayla did say the judge said to her that she did a terrible job of grooming the horse on Tuesday. We thought he looked HANDSOME!!)

I’ve been awake since 4AM, the sunburn isn't feeling the best and I'm disappointed with myself for not getting into the cooler I've been packing every day with yogurt and fruit, as I broke down today and ate my first "fair food" - thinly sliced, deep fried potatoes with all of the trimmings, so it’s time to wrap up. Tomorrow morning will find Shayla showing “Swiffer” for the judges. Parents are not allowed in the barn I understand. (Would it have something to do with a “Kodak Mom” like me being in the way perhaps?? Hee hee!) He is a cutie! Hopefully, he’ll “flip” and stay that way as she talks about what she is checking for. (I “think” that’s how it’s done.) I think if things go well for her rabbit showing tomorrow, she’ll feel better about her “interview disaster” on Tuesday morning. The next horse show will be Saturday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

video

Fifth Place

We came home to get out of the heat, do some laundry and so I could work on my exam question, before we have to go back and volunteer at the horse show later today. I couldn't resist posting these photos so here they are. Miss Shayla was VERY VERY happy about receiving the pink ribbon. Although she's said over and over, "The fair's about having fun, not winning ribbons," I think she was beyond excited to win a ribbon this morning. Tonight we will attend the demolition derby. When I explained to her what it was she kept saying, "Really? Really? No way! Why would anyone want to do that?!" It reminded me of her exact same reaction earlier this summer when I got a bunch of books from the library to share with her and she learned where babies come from. What a hoot! Boy, I love being a mom! I am so lucky!

(PIC: "Tweety" and "Sylvester" Baby Christi, 1997)
Despite the fact that I have cleaned my camera lens, we noticed a few more "orbs" appearing in some of this morning's photos! We keep telling ourselves it's Christi - she's with us!

Once I decided this morning that this "horse stuff" was more like a pageant than a farm event, I came to realize I actually was enjoying it!
A goodluck kiss from Grandma Nonee.
Shayla looked so pretty today wearing Kelsey's shirt and Traci's hat. We had both tried to talk Shayla out of wearing Traci's hat because it is too big, but Shayla would hear nothing of it. Shayne ended up rolling a bandana around Shayla's head and then putting the hat on top so that it would stay on. It did! Many thanks to Kelsey, Traci, Claire, Kayla, Nicole, and others!
Last minute advise from a sweet, sweet 4-H advisor (Sue).
Showtime. She's on!
Smiling and waiting in the line up. There were eight girls in her division (ages 8-10 / Showmanship).
With a great smile and a look of pride after receiving the fifth place ribbon.
With her "farm hand" helping her hang that ribbon over Skeeter's stall. Shayne's had quite the week thus far taking care of Shayla and Skeeter and working all week too - wow!
A "job well done" hug from grandma Nee Nee. Tomorrow, she's in four events beginning with bare back riding about 9:15 AM. Yes, she loves to ride bare back; it's her favorite!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Judging Day

Shayla, waiting with some of her 4H friends she made this year.
Ready for that Horse Project Judging / Interview.
Rabbit Judging

Shayla tried her best at banding. After nearly an hour, she had only about six of the braids complete.
After watching her struggle with the banding, I sent out for help. Two of Shayla's 4H "big" friends came and helped her, whew! It was another very long, very hot day, but I don't know if I've ever seen Shayla with so much adreneline. I was surprised to see so many orbs in this picture! I had to think Christi and many of her angel friends were helping with the horses tonight.
Skeeter's in his pajamas and will hopefully stay clean tonight. She'll head back to the barn at 6AM again tomorrow and she has her Western Shownmanship tomorrow about 9:30.
How could I "post" without including Christi? I think it would make me feel guilty. Isn't she the reason I'm writing? Wasn't this blog supossed to be about her, not my coping without her? Should I stop blogging as she's no longer needing support? Well, I feel like I can't. I have HUNDREDS of pictures that have never been posted. The mom in me just feels I need to share more about Christi while blogging helps me feel close to her. I also want to leave a record of Shayla's childhood for her so that she knows how loved and cherished she is. Regardless, I've really missed her in recent days knowing how much she'd be loving everything (except for the heat which really bothered her) about the fair. This photo was taken in December of 1997 when she was 7 months old. She's wearing her "kitty" outfit. I would love to share it with her now as an 11 year old. I bet she'd giggle!