Thanks to the many loving folks who took the time to send an e-mail or write a comments about their holiday rituals. I wish I were as creative and interesting as all of you. There is still time to share your holiday remembrance/tradition/celebration so that I can include your story in the booklet for Erin. I will add to the booklet until tomorrow afternoon.
Also, last call for Lunch for Life. We need to send thanks to those of you responsible for decorating Erin's tree with almost 400 ornaments. Depending on whether you used the giving code 24730 or not, your donations have added at least $1000 and perhaps as much as $2000 directly to neuroblastoma research. If you have started to give, but hadn't yet, wed like to encourage you not to wait.
If you have been wondering what Erin has been up to, I should probably fill you in. Piano, soccer, and horse back riding have all taken a winter holiday. Is Erin languishing around the house with nothing to do? No, of course not. The weekdays may have slowed down enough to play with friends in the park or out in the woods most days after school, but the weekends have been chocked full. A couple of weekends ago, she helped celebrate Nico's birthday with him, went with Katie Lockett to see A Christmas Carol, then spent the night with her, and on Sunday morning served as liturgist in big church with Nico. Last weekend, we went to Jesse Baxter's ice show (and had the bonus of seeing Heather Jobling skate. . .Wow) on Friday. On Saturday, she spent the night with her buddy Tiffany Reeves (and joined their family at a holiday party and for hay riding at Central Park).
I had to pick up Davis in Houston last Wednesday, so Lizzie Cluff, fresh from a study abroad program in Australia, picked Erin up from school, took her for ice cream and girl talk, and delivered her to the church for bell and choir practice. By the time Erin got home, full of ice cream and good cheer, I think she discovered that she had gotten stronger than Davis over the semester, as this wrestling video demonstrates.
Erin's class holiday party (which is just an excuse to eat pizza and junk food and have extended recess) happened Friday (apologies to Elaine, but this photo was too cute to leave out).
Davis served as Santa's elf, orchestrating and managing the craft project. I do believe the fifth graders adored him, and I think I saw flashes of teaching excellence as he guided them through their project.
I feel so fortunate that Erin's class has a wonderful, family feel. You know fifth graders they can get mean or snotty to each other in certain circumstances, but these kids in Ms. Kutzenberger's class really have warm spirit.
Erin was surprised to find Aunt Kat and Emma at home (for a scheduled weeklong stay) when she got home from school. I had never really kept track of this, but according to Erin, she had never seen Emma on her first day of a visit, because she always arrived after I had sent Erin to bed. This year they arrived in plenty of time to join us for our planned activity--sledding on Mt. Aggie. Pat and the rest of you rolling in snow, don't laugh at this next picture. Here's how Texans enjoy a white Christmas (the little blob in the middle is Aunt Kat, zooming down the mountain like lightning. The white, of course, is artificial turf):
I don't know if other cancer parents are like I am, but I tend to see little microcosms of Erin's larger struggle with cancer in many commonplace events. Today, Erin served as acolyte during morning worship. During the prelude, Erin, garbed in her alb, walked slowly down the center aisle, holding a candle lighter (is there a special word for this device with a wick on one end and a bell-shaped candle snuffer attached?). She arrived at the Advent wreath and easily lit "hope" and "love." She got to "joy," and it wouldn't catch fire. Erin moved up a step on the chancel to try to see the wick better (causing her to stretch the lighter in front of her to reach the pink candle). It wouldn't light. The prelude music got louder and faster. Everyone in the congregation watched. Her candle lighter lost its flame. She calmly re-lit it on the "hope" candle and tried for "joy" again. No luck. The congregation was now holding its collective breath. The organist approached the climax of the prelude. Erin moved the candle lighter towards the "peace" candle, which quickly caught and flared up, then circled back for one last try at "joy." So much frustration, so many different angles, such a long stretch from the step across to the Advent wreath. The entire sanctuary sat still in its seat. No telling how many prayers were sent up, probably enough to lift the roof. Then "joy" kindled, almost guttered, then blazed. Everyone breathed, and Erin walked off, serious at first (as she had been the whole time), then her face changed expression, from determination to relief to joy. It was hard to tell which shown more brightly, the "joy" candle, Erin, or Erin's mom.