Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Mommy, I play hockey!"

The other day someone said to me, “Oh, our little girl will never play hockey.  Her daddy would never let her do that!”  Now, I know not every little girl will be a hockey player, but to me it was a bit baffling to hear someone completely rule it out as an option before their daughter is even two.  I asked, “But what if she wants to?” The other mom smiled and said, “No, really, her daddy will not let her play hockey.” 

My daughter does play hockey (as have many other daughters for a long time including Lord Stanley's daughters as well as a whole Olympic team of daughters), so this seemed like a strange line to draw.  There are some negatives – rinks are cold places to have to spend hours each week, it’s an aggressive sport with lots of crashing into each other, the gear and fees are not cheap, it’s a huge time commitment once they get to the travel teams (but thankfully my princess is still doing in-house).  But those same things are true for most activities.  Overall, I have learned to love hockey.  I see how much joy it brings my daughter and the ways it has helped her off the ice. 
Our happy little four year old princess loved to skated along the
center the line, back and forth, during free time.
She started skating lessons when she was three because she demanded it (she knows what she likes).  She would pretend to skate everywhere yelling to me, “Mommy, I want to skate!”  She would take whatever she could find and swing at invisible pucks.  “Mommy, I play hockey!”  So we got her in mom-and-tot skating classes which were an absolute joke because I can’t skate to save my life!  As a kid, I dabbled in ballet, gymnastics (very briefly), and modeling (through my teen years).  Yeah, I can’t skate.  When she was four I very happily moved her to the hockey basic skills classes, and she has never looked back.

Me doing what I do best - sitting and smiling
and not participating in sports.
See how serious he was?
Good luck getting him to dance now!
Her daddy’s only fear for her when she started hockey was how damaging the competitive nature of the sport would be.  He grew up in the Soviet Union and was put in competitive ballroom dancing as a kid.  The super strict competitive atmosphere was pretty traumatic.  Less than perfect children were ostracized severely.  When he saw the coaches laughing with Sofi and patting her on the back when she improved, patiently encouraging her when she struggled with a skill, he relaxed and said she could keep going.

I know some parents start choosing sports or activities for their children before they are born, buying cute tiny catcher mitts or ballet shoes, planning lives filled with activities.  When she was born, we weren’t sure our daughter even had any life ahead of her at all.  She was as close to dead as a baby can be.  I didn’t even get to see her in person until she was a day old because they were working so hard just to get her stabilized.  She proved she is a tough cookie by beating the odds and smashing through every obstacle in record time.  We want her to have a great life now that she has worked so hard to have one at all!

At this point, who cares what sports they grow up to play
as long as they get a chance to grow up!

So why do we let our precious pretty-pretty-princess play hockey?  Other than the fact that she loves it and really wants to? 
  • Being in a team sport teaches her to think beyond herself and to see how her actions affect the success of others.  When she works hard and plays her best, her team does well.  When she doesn’t pay attention or turns into “blombie” (her dad’s name for our blond zombie), she doesn’t guard the net and doesn’t pass the puck to her teammates to help them score so her team suffers.
  • Hockey teaches her to accept responsibility for her actions and also gives her new responsibilities similar to ones she will face later in life.  She must keep track of her gear.  If she forgets her stick or water bottle, that’s on her just like if I forget my wallet or phone that’s on me. 
  • She also knows she isn’t alone in her battles.  When things get tough, she has a whole group of guys behind her, watching her back and cheering her on.  When they played against an overly aggressive team and a kid started saying, “girls can’t play hockey,” my daughter’s teammates jumped to her defense and loudly spoke up for her. 
  • She is learning that not everything is easy at first, so sometimes she needs to put in extra effort before she sees results.  A lot of things just come easily for her.  She picks up on stuff pretty quickly.  When she doesn’t, she can get thrown for a loop and get discouraged.  When that happens, we remind her about crossovers, a hockey skill that she struggled with at first but now has no problems doing.  She says, “Oh, yeah, I had to practice and it took a while for me to learn that.”  Taking time to learn things is ok.  Giving up when she isn’t perfect right off the bat is not.  Thankfully none of her coaches or teammates has ever demanded instant perfection.  They all recognize success and identify weak areas as areas to work on in a productive manner.
  • Hockey reinforces the lessons she learns in health class.  If she doesn’t eat enough before hockey, she is hungry and sluggish.  If she doesn’t bring her water bottle and stay hydrated, she feels sick.  She tries to stay in shape year round and eat healthy so she can be the best hockey player during hockey season.  That kind of self discipline will benefit her her whole life!

As I have said before, if we had limited our daughter to things we have experience with or things American society has labeled as girlie, life would be pretty boring.  We love watching our daughter flourish and grow in her chosen sport. We love seeing how it is helping her become a stronger person both physically and mentally.  We love learning all about a new sport and meeting new, interesting people through it.  We don’t know what will happen in the future, but for now we are happy hockey parents.

Playing in the backyard with her little sister (who doesn't skate at all).

Friday, October 4, 2013

“I want Ciacia back!”

“I want Ciacia back!”
“I want Ciacia back.  I want her to come back.  Now.”
Then it clicked in my head.  My tearful six year old was talking about my aunt, my dad’s sister who went by Ciacia.  She had passed away the previous spring after a very long battle with cancer.
“Honey, she can’t come back.  She is in heaven and has to stay there.”
“But I want her back.  She was the nicest, bestest person ever, and I need her to be here right now.”
That’s when I turned into a fish.  I mean, my mouth kept opening and closing, but no words would come out.  I had no idea what to say.  I was completely blindsided.  If this had happened months ago, closer to the death, I would have been more prepared because I would have expected it.  But not that day.  Not on a sunny October afternoon as we walked home from the bus stop.  I looked at my daughter’s genuinely sad eyes and my own welled up, too.
“I know.  I want her back, too.  We all do.  But she has to stay where she is.”
Came across this on our trip to Ukraine.
That's her name and it was a neat reminder
that she is still with us in spirit.
Then I admitted what I do when I am missing her.  Actually, I do it on an almost regular basis and have always been a little scared to admit it because it seems pretty crazy.
“When I miss Ciacia, I talk to things that remind me of her, things we got from her.  She gave us the dryer, you know, and that always reminds me of how much she loved our family.”
So my little girl went into the laundry room, closed the door behind her, and had a private conversation with the dryer.
I know this sounds very odd.  And picturing it, picturing us talking to our dryer, is almost giggle inducing.  But if you knew my aunt you would understand how hard it is to let go of her.

When my grandmother died, my older daughter was pretty shaken.  Even though she was just a preschooler, she and my grandma had a special bond.  She visited Great Marge often, playing simple games with her or just dancing around her room to make her smile.  My grandma had dementia and couldn’t remember most people, but she remembered Margie or The Margaret Baby (my daughter was named Sofia-Margaret after my grandma who liked to forget the Sofia part).  After Great Marge died, my daughter started keeping a picture of her in special places (now it is on the bookshelf next to her prized hockey trophy) and carrying a handkerchief Great Marge had given her.  She says these things help her remember Great Marge and how much she loved her.

She never forgets to visit Great Marge's memorial.  That's the handkerchief in her hand.
It is really hard to help children through loss when we ourselves are wrecks inside.  With my girls, all I can do is be honest with them.  The people aren’t coming back and it hurts and it sucks.  Together, we try to focus on the memories and the lasting legacies.  How are their spirits continuing on?  What projects did they set in motion?  What lessons did they teach us which we can now put into action?  We try to remember how much they loved us and how much we loved them.  We try to honor them by living good lives.  And we hug each other and cry sometimes.  And sometimes we talk to the dryer.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

School Struggles

While my girls are loving their teachers, our neighbor is struggling with his.  His poor mom was in tears this morning saying she doesn't know what to do, and people are making her feel like a bad mom because she lives in this town.  No!  We are not bad moms for living where we can afford to have a house in a safe neighborhood.  And, for pete’s sake, get realistic people.  Our school is not perfect, but it is not the worst out there either.  When we were preparing to move, my husband and I researched all the school report cards and talked to as many parent educators as we could to get the real scoop on the schools around here.  When we balanced what we could afford with the best schools, this is where we ended up.  I don’t think that makes anyone a bad parent.  Plus even in the best schools, a kid can have a negative experience.  Teachers are human, and their personalities might not mesh with every parents’ or students’.  Maybe my girls have gotten lucky with their teacher assignments or maybe he has just been unlucky, but either way saying his bad experience is the fault of the parents for choosing to live in the house they have is wrong and not at all productive.

So what can parents do if their students are not getting on well with their teachers?  A lot!  There are very few hopeless situations in parenting.  We can do plenty.

  1. First, set up a face to face meeting with the teacher.  Don’t just go straight to the principal based solely on the information from your kid.  This isn't calling your kid a liar, but it is acknowledging that he is a kid and is giving you his point of view.  You need both sides if you are going to find a solution.
  2. Stay calm and be mature.  This is hard because as moms, we do turn into grizzly bears when our kids are hurt.  We need to swallow our animal instincts and remember that we are mature adults, professionals in our fields, normally rational and capable of speaking without swearing.  Once we start attacking the teacher or name calling or acting like a spaz, our ability to work with the teacher goes out the window.  The goal isn't to put the teacher in her place; it is to find a way to get the teacher and our child on the same page so our child can succeed.
  3. Stay away from toxic people who will get you wound up.  People love gossip, especially negative gossip.  People love to pass the blame, and teachers are easy targets.  You will have no problem finding parents who will happily jump on the “that school/teacher/district is terrible” bandwagon.  There are parents who Facebook stalk teachers from their children’s schools and spend hours ranting about them (because teachers are super human saints who aren't allowed to have social lives?).  That time could be better spent building strategies for your child’s education.  Toxic haters will sabotage your child’s success, so just walk away.
  4. Be honest.  Yeah, admitting our kids can be naughty isn't something we want to do, but it is something we have to do sometimes.  It is possible that problems with teachers are not solely the problem of the teacher, so be honest about what kinds of bad behaviors your child is capable of.  Also be honest about where your child is coming from. Be honest about how your child feels so the teacher knows.  Be honest about your child’s needs, especially if they are special needs (ie: kinetic learners need to be in motion, etc.).  Hopefully the teacher will be honest as well, and together, given all the information, you can make a plan.
  5. Stick to the plan.  Once you and the teacher have put together a plan, stick to it!  Whatever you do, do not bad mouth the plan to your kid.  That is sabotaging the whole thing.  Changes take time, so be patient. Be encouraging.  Hide any frustration.
  6. Don’t turn dinner time into teacher bashing time.  Whatever you do, no matter how frustrated you get, no matter how much you think taking your child’s side means attacking the teacher, don’t do it.  If children will succeed in school, they need to have at least some level of respect for authority.  Sure, articles about rebels making awesome adults are interesting, but realistically it is a minority of rebels who become Bill Gates.  Your child needs to respect and trust his teacher if he is going really put his full effort into working with her.  Rolling his eyes at her suggestions for improvement won’t get him anywhere closer to a good school experience.  Be the grown up and dig deep to find positives.
  7. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  You can keep meeting with your child’s teacher.  Really.  Unless the teacher is a truly horrible teacher, he or she will want your child to succeed and will be willing to continue working with your family.
  8. If that doesn't work, go up the ladder.  If you are getting no where with the teacher and half the year has passed, then contact the principal to request a face to face meeting.  Like I said, teachers are human.  If you do get one who really won’t work with you or your child, you can speak up.  Be sure to not jump to the principal until you have made several attempts with the teacher however.  If you just go in ranting, they will send you back to the teacher and you will lose credibility.  If you go in calmly, list all the details of what has happened, all the efforts you and your child have made without success, then you will be more likely to get the principal’s ear and be able to bring about significant change.  Again, though, you must be sure to act like the mature adult and not the spazzing monster mom biting everyone’s heads off (which is so tempting).
  9. If THAT doesn't work, keep climbing the ladder.  Sadly, sometimes principals can be hard to work with.  In that case, keep going up and bring the issues to the superintendent's attention.  Again, be calm and specific listing all your attempts with the teacher and principal.  You will be taken much more seriously if you are calm.

I do hear often from other parents their complaints about schools, and they say, “yeah, but you are from a family of teachers, so you never have problems with them.”  Yes, I am from a family of teachers.  Yes, my background is in education.  Yes, my friends are teachers.  That just means I understand that teachers are working hard.  Teachers are not always perfect (trust me, I wouldn't want my kids in the classes of some of the people I studied education with in college).  But I also know parents can work with teachers.  I know treating teachers as professionals and partners in this whole child raising thing goes a lot further than treating them as sub-level human servants trying to take all our tax money while all they do is give our perfect angels demerits.  So talk to your children and talk to their teachers and be a team.  Amazing things can happen when parents and teachers combine forces instead of fighting against each other.

Returning at the end of a rough day, shouting, "I had an awesome day at school. After I got there, I stopped crying and did all my work. I love school!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

“Mom, I am glad I am one of a kind. I am unique.”

first day smiles

This week my girls headed back to school.  After all the drama and tears of the past couple years, I was prepared to be putting my older daughter on the bus with a lump in my throat, worrying about all the “what ifs” that came true in the past – kids teasing her for playing hockey or liking science, girls refusing to sit with her at lunch because she wasn’t girly enough, boys refusing to play with her because she is a girl, and on and on.  Imagine the relief I felt then when, the day before school started up again, she told me she was excited about the new year and said, “Mom, I am glad I am one of a kind.  I am unique.”

Where had this newfound strength come from?  This is the same girl who just a couple months ago was shyly snuggled next to me on a park bench saying she was afraid to approach the other kids because they might not accept her.  This is the same girl who cried after school on a regular basis because of how the other kids were treating her.  Somehow, seemingly overnight, she had changed.  After putting her on the bus and watching her eagerly wave good-bye to me, I had time to sit alone and think about it all.  Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle started to drift together.  She gained confidence in herself and an appreciation for her uniqueness because of the strength of others, because people spoke up when they saw her being her. 

At the start of the summer, she was still feeling very down about herself and hesitant to try to form relationships with other kids.  When we went to Ukraine, she stayed glued to my side at first.  We would sit at the playground and watch the other kids running around.  I would urge her to introduce herself, but she would bury her head under my arm and say, “what if they are mean to me?  What if they don’t like me? What if they are like the kids at school?”  

Thankfully, there was another person there.  My husband’s cousin quietly praised her.  She invited her to go places and then bragged about her to others.  That little nudge was enough to get my daughter off the park bench.  If a cool medical school student thought she was not all bad, maybe the kids at the park might be ok with her.  They were.  Of course, not all of them clicked with her, but a group did, and the ones who didn’t just left her alone.  The ones who did, the boys who bucked tradition and ran around playing with the little blond girl, gave her the next nudge of confidence.
This is what support looks like.

The adults we have been lucky enough to surround our daughters with are incredible.  Instead of calling her weird or ignoring her, they have been very vocal cheerleaders for her.  That is critically important because praise coming just from me, her mom, doesn’t mean as much as praise from other people.  My praise is important and necessary, but not the same.  I can rave about the virtues of being a geek and cover the fridge with Simon Pegg quotes until I am blue in the face, but that is just laying a foundation.  The powerful building up comes from others.  When someone else says she is amazing BECAUSE she loves science or BECAUSE she plays hockey, that is powerful.  When someone invites her to their wedding and praises her crazy dance skills, that is powerful. When someone sends her a video like this one and tells her she should stay true to herself because that is what will make her happy as an adult, that is powerful. 

As adults and as parents, we often want to heap praise on our own kids.  Of course we do.  They are our perfect babies.  It is important to also recognize the value of praise from other people, though, too.  We must be those other people.  We must remember to recognize the good in other children in addition our own.  Just by simply saying, “I like the way you do that,” we might be the person nudging them a little out of self doubt and onto the playground.

To all the people nudging my daughter, thank you.  Really.  Truly.  Sincerely.  Please stay in her life and watch her grow as a result.

Friday, August 9, 2013

“Mama, you have to do whatever God says. But I don’t. I can make my own decisions.”

We are Catholics.  I grew up Catholic, worked as a Catholic retreat leader for three years after college, and now volunteer with youth ministry (religious education for middle school and high school) plus the parish council at our church.  My daughters have both been in religious education since they were three in addition to annual Vacation Bible School at our church.  But it doesn’t seem to be sticking in my six year old’s mind quite the same way as her older sister. 

For example, the other day in the car, my younger daughter Yasya was worried about her blintzes surviving.  After checking and seeing they were ok, she sighed, “Thank God!”  Her older sister was shocked and appalled.  “You can’t say that! You can only say ‘God’ if you are praying!”  To which Yasya replied, “it’s ok.  I wasn’t talking about your God.  I was thanking a different God.”  Hmm…

Another time she referred to God as the alien in her bedroom who tells her she must eat cookies to survive.  At Vacation Bible School when all the kids were supposed to yell, "Trust God!" she yelled, "Trust Kirk!" In preschool, she would talk about God as her religion teacher’s imaginary friend.

Because I know her religion teachers, and I have seen first hand how they teach and what they teach, I know her personal theology is not a result of them.  For one thing, she and her older sister both had the same teacher for two years – just with very different results.  And I know that neither my husband nor I refer to God as an alien in our bedroom, so she didn’t get that from us (honestly!).  At the end of the day, this is 100% Yasya.

With my older daughter in front of the church we named her after - St Sofia's
Yasya’s theology may worry her sister (who was named after a church, accompanied me on many retreats as a newborn, took her first steps in a church, and who we refer to as our little theologian), but – truly – I am not concerned.  I am kind of amused, but not at all worried about the future state of her soul.  I am more concerned about the people who ask me about her as if I should be worried.  Do they really think her ideas at six will define her ideas as an adult?

Here is what I have learned about theology and spirituality from talking to literally thousands of people about their spiritual journeys over the years and from working with dozens of Catholic parishes and schools.  Our faith at six is not the same as our faith at sixty-six.  Everything evolves.  Right now, whether she knows it or not, all her religious education classes, mealtime prayers, little conversations, masses, etc. are seeds being planted in her brain.  As she grows up and experiences life more, those seeds will be fertilized in different ways.  They will grow and develop in a personal way for her.  She will come to know God in a way which is meaningful for her (even if it makes no sense to her sister).  As her mother, I will continue to try to surround her with people who set good examples for her, and I will continue to take her with me to church and be open about my faith with her. But I will not expect her to be me. 

At the retreat center where I worked, we had shag carpeting everywhere.  Really.  It was on the floors, up the walls, even covering the end tables.  One of the things we would tell the students was that God was like that carpeting.  As individual humans, our understanding was like one strand of that carpet.  As we talked to others with open hearts and minds, our understanding could grow to be a square inch.  But that didn’t mean we were seeing the whole picture or that our understanding was the only truth.  I look forward to continuing the discussion with my daughters, hearing their experiences and their beliefs, and letting mine grow.

My older daughter happily, eagerly, reverently made her First Communion this year.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Mama, I need my wings."

Daughter: "Mama, I need my wings."
Me, pointing to the wings right next to me: "They're right there."
Daughter: "No.  My OTHER wings."
Me: "Oh.  Those are in your bin under your Darth Vader mask."

the girls in their favorite outfits

Ah, yes.  Time to get dressed.  While one has a fit if I give her a skirt, the other is having a fit if I don’t.  On days like this, days when I know the farthest we will be going from our house is the backyard, I admit I give up the battle.  You want to be a fairy today?  Fine.  You want to wear the same t shirt you wore yesterday because it is your new most favorite-est shirt you have ever owned in the entire history of owning shirts?  Fine.

Dress? Not likely.
One thing I love about talking to new parents is their optimistic belief that they will be able to control what their kids wear.  Trying to hold in the laughs, I listen to them explain to me how their little perfect child will never wear pink or glittery jeans or tomboy clothes or mismatched socks or whatever they have decided is just unacceptable.  Even the tiny baby in their arms looks at them like, “ha!  Sure, Mom.  Just wait until I decide I will love monster trucks and sequins!”

Here’s the reality.  Kids will be exposed to way more than just their parents.  They will meet other kids, will walk past displays of random items, will get hand-me-downs from kids with different tastes.  Sure, we’re the primary agents of socialization, we do the most to define normal for them, we buy the majority of their clothes, and we have access to the dumpster if we really hate something.  But we also are the ones who will be tired in the mornings, decide it is more important to get to the doctor’s office on time than wrestle a screaming kid into an outfit she hates, and most importantly, we are the ones who – hopefully – love our children for who they are.  That means loving them when they have the Darth Vader mask on or the fairy wings or the nasty jean shorts with ugly t shirt.

Spock ears match everything.
I still buy for my girls outfits I like and think are cute and that MATCH (really match . . . not “stripes match stripes, right?”), but I have accepted that my girls have their own identities and opinions, and some day soon I won’t get to play dress up with them any more.  We have a system for outfits to keep mornings smoother.  As I fold the laundry, I grab seven complete outfits with underwear and socks and put them in a hanging cubby thing in the closet.  Theoretically, everyday they pick one of the preassembled outfits.  "Theoretically" I say as I smile while folding the adorable Gymboree outfit (with matching hair bows, of course), and watch my daughters run out the door wearing the shorts from the resale shop with a hand-me-down White Sox tee and a torn fairy princess costume.  In the end, having my kids know who they are and feel comfortable in their own skins is way more important to me than what the neighbor might think about their fashion sense.

I said, "Get dressed and play outside."  This is what they put on.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quick and Easy Fix

Shoe tying is a big milestone.  It is one of the big boxes to check off on the kindergarten "to learn" list.  But then, meh, it kinda just slows us down.  My older daughter is always on the go, rushing out the door to get to school, church, hockey, or just to play outside.  She rarely bothers untying her shoes so she can just skip the retying part.  The problem is cramming her foot back into a gym shoe with tied laces.  It's kind of funny watching her hop and skip out the door trying to get her heel all the way in, but there is an easier way.  Just turn her gym shoes into slip ons.

The easiest way to get around the shoe laces is to turn them into elastic.  The elastic stretches to allow the foot to slide in, then retracts to keep the shoe snug on the foot.  It is a quick and easy fix requiring just a package of 1/4 inch elastic and a pair of scissors (oh, and shoes).

Start near the toe and thread a bit of the elastic down through the grommet.  Tie a knot to lock it in place.  Then go down through the opposite grommet, up through the one above, down through the opposite, and so on (ladder lacing).  When you get to the top and come down through the last grommet, pull the elastic a bit tight and tie another knot (you need to pull it tight so you have the space to work with for the knot tying . . . it should be relaxed but not lose once the knot is against the grommet).  Then slip the shoes on to test for fit.  If they are too lose or too tight simply adjust your final knot then trim the excess.  See how easy?


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Mom, shave your head."

Last year, I participated as a shavee for St Baldrick’s to help raise money for children’s cancer research.  It was a bit selfish of me, to be honest.  I was seeking closure for what happened when I was a teen.  A friend of mine had been fighting lyukemia for years. We had drifted apart, and I took him for granted until one day my mom told me it was the end.  He was in the hospital, and they were asking for blood donors.  I suddenly valued his life the way I always should have and rushed to the blood donation center.  But they turned me away.  I was anemic and couldn’t donate blood.  Within a week, my friend lost his battle.  I felt useless, powerless, helpless.  Finally, by shaving my head, I was able to do something to help fight.  I couldn’t save him, but I could raise money to help scientists and doctors help other kids.
My daughters were part of the whole process.  First we sat down and talked about what I would be doing and what I would look like afterwards.  My younger daughter was a bit skeptical, but was also curious.  My older daughter was hesistant.  She had been very upset when I simply straightened my hair once, so the idea of me shaving my head freaked her a bit.  She understood – at least at a surface level – how scary cancer is, though.  My aunt, a very precious person who is an active presence in my girls’ lives, has been fighting cancer for the last few years.  Sofi reluctantly supported me.
My girls and their friends at last year's St Baldrick's event.
This year, I asked the girls if we should participate again and let them shave my head.  My younger daughter enthusiastically yelled, “YES!”  She had been upset during the shaving process last year, grabbing my hair as if fell and wrapping it in a blanket to save my blue curls, but then liked my bald head. 

My older daughter just as loudly said, “NO!”  So I said ok and started looking for other charities for us to be a part of this year.

The reason I needed Sofi's permission to participate in St Baldrick's is that we do this as a family. Frankly, my hair matters more to her than to me, so this really is her sacrifice. Whether it was all the talk about it at school or thinking about Aunt Marilyn (Cia-cia to Sofi), the other day in the car Sofi quietly said, "shave your head, Mom."

This year, the selfishness is about giving my daughter a sense of power.  I don’t want her to feel the way I did helplessly losing someone to cancer, only able to watch.  She now monitors our donation page and with each dollar, she feels stronger.  She is part of the battle now.  She made the choice to have my head shaved, she will be with me at the event, and she has even contributed her own money.  Every day Sofi prays, "God be with Cia-cia and don't let anybody else get cancer." She still cries when she prays for her great aunt, but she knows she is not alone. She knows that she is doing something to bring hope to others and to bring scientists money to fund their research.  That is worth every hair on my head.