Well, it's true. Ali turns 5 on Monday, which means Ali turns Princess on Sunday. Yup. Olivia's Dollhouse Tea Room: The Sequel. A couple of years ago, one of the older girls at Ali's daycare was having her birthday party at this really expensive little place where all the girls dress up in princess-wear, makeup, heals, the whole bit. Then, they have "tea" (lemonade) with mini sandwiches and then exchange presents... girlie girl TIMES TEN. Super cute, right? Well this older girl invites Ali as a impressionable little 3 year old, and before you know it, we're doing birthday parties at this place for the next two years. On the one hand, everything is done for you, on the other hand, it didn't cost half as much on your own, so it is quite a convenience charge! It's all good. Everyone has a great time, and we're blessed we can provide this fantasy experience for her once a year. I will post photos, I promise.
In other Ali news, she now gets regular homework - er, uh, I mean - "home activities." Like how they don't call it homework? I just about died laughing at that one. Tonight's homework was cute; Ali was given a ziploc bag of fruit loops, and had to come home, sort them, count them, and determine which color had the most and which color had the least. What was fascinating about this was that while Ali has memorized the numbers, and can count, she didn't yet understand the relativity of the numbers, as in 19 was the largest and 14 was the smallest. It pointed out how specific and multi-tiered cognitive development is. We do out homework as soon as we get home, a habit I observed the top kids in my elementary school doing when I was growing up. I know other parents will understand this next sentence, but it really is like you are getting a second chance at life through your kids.
P.S. After we finished the math portion of the activity, Ali immediately suggested we make some sort of artistic scene with the fruit loops, so she went to town right away, and within a minute or so, we were on a boat sailing past an island with a lone palm tree...
In other family news, the trip to Scottsdale was a success! We had 7 guests at the function for CCRF! We met and spoke with Dr. Joe Neglia, the physician-in-chief at the Amplatz Children's Hospital at the U of M. We also got to hang with John Hallberg, CEO of CCRF, and our two development officers, Jocelyn and Lauren from CCRF and MMF.
The former PGA Tour pro and now red-hot Champions Tour Pro Tom Lehman was on hand as well as CCRF's national Charity spokesperson. He recounted a story about how one time they were touring the hospital and a dad walked out of his child's room and just held his head against the wall right in front of Tom. Apparently, the dad had just been given the news that nothing else could be done for his child and he had lost all hope. As I sat there and listened to that story, I realized that Ang and I never actually got there. We never lost hope for Bella. Even on that last day, we thought she was making some sort of miraculous turnaround, until we watched her leave for the final time. Even in that moment, she was leaving our care and going to God's care, and that was okay, too. Ang and I looked at each other and just felt so validated as parents that we did the very best anyone could have asked for, and Tom's story somehow reiterated that to us.
I walked up to Tom right after his speech and shared our story with him. He was so compassionate, it was really moving. He just sat there massaging my arm and my shoulder gently as I told him about Bella and our journey now. He's a real class act.
On a lighter note, I was excited about this party because we were bringing some of our Phoenix friends who were into cancer and genetic research hoping to connect the two camps. My best friend's dad walks in the door and the hostess, who is one of the original friends of Diane Hageboeck who founded Children's Cancer Research Fund, recognizes him on sight and they start talking on a first name basis like it's nothing! Turns out they both serve on a leadership council for the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and were just together at a meeting on Friday! Small world. There were actually a few stories like that on the night. It was nice to see all the concentric circles of care, compassion, and philanthropy.
It was really exciting and inspiring to meet Fran Hitchcock, one of the women who helped organize the first Dawn of a Dream event for CCRF nearly 30 years ago. She couldn't have been sweeter or more full of life. My younger friends (we were all in our late 30's/early 40's) and I were were young enough to be the children of most of the people at the party, and I really saw us as the next generation of philanthropists. That was a cool feeling; like we were already onto something important that Erickson would say we wouldn't care about until maybe our 50's or 60's. Fran kept telling us that we need to meet the Hageboecks next time we go to MN, so.... Lauren at MMF is already on it! We are toying with another quick visit while Ang can still travel, and if so, we're having dinner with the founders of CCRF to drink from their wisdom and experience. 30 years and 100 million dollars later, that founding couple has done a world of good for just about any kid who gets cancer anywhere in the world today.
THAT is the kind of legacy we want to leave. When a set of grieving parents can change the face of cancer treatment through funding breakthrough research, it reinforces my credo that it is not the events of life but our responses to them that determine the outcome.
Wouldn't it be great to know you were of service to so many?
Isn't that just the best game in town?
It is for us.