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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Beyond My Wildest Dreams

A couple of weeks ago, I told you we had raised $105,000 from Swim for Melissa. But I also told you those were unofficial results, as money was still coming in.

The final total is even better.

After figuring out our expenses and how much we brought in, I can now tell you that Swim for Melissa raised $115,000 for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

Is that incredible or what?!

That's almost triple what we raised last year and will be enough to buy three Giraffe OmniBeds for the Neonatal ICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. Going into the event, I knew the numbers looked good and I hoped we might be able to buy two Giraffe OmniBeds.

I never dreamed we would be able to buy three.

Sweet, beautiful, precious babies - babies who are someone's child, someone's grandchild, someone's brother or sister - will benefit from these beds for years to come. And it's because of total strangers who believe in Melissa's Fund and what we are doing.

The purchase of three new Giraffe OmniBeds will bring the total in the NICU to five. Just think - there are babies laying in those beds at this very moment fighting with every breath and fiber of being in their tiny little bodies to survive. And these beds are giving them a better chance.

I am incredibly humbled and in awe of what we've been able to accomplish in just under two years. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who have embraced Melissa's Fund and supported it with your time and efforts and money.

Your donation is saving lives.


And as I often say, as the mother of two premature infants, I can tell you there is no greater gift.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Our First Vacation Without the Girls

It was a big deal for me.

You must understand, not only have I never been on vacation without them, I've never even spent the night away from them (except the 2 nights I was away from Ann Catherine when I gave birth to Lily in the hospital.)

I have never wanted to go on a trip and leave my children. Since the girls were born, Chris has been on several business trips and I've often told him, "I don't know how you do it." And while he does miss them, it's not a big deal to leave them.

It's a dad thing. It doesn't mean I love our girls anymore than Chris. It's just that men are wired differently. They love their children, but they don't have an inherent need to be with them.

Moms do. Our kids are literally with us from the moment they are conceived. If you are blessed to carry children, you know that incredible feeling that for nine months that person is always with you. Every minute of every day. So it's only natural that once they are here, we don't like to be without them.

Chris knew we needed a vacation, just the two of us. We hadn't been away together since 2004, just before we got pregnant with Ann Catherine and Melissa. But he also knew that I would have a hard time leaving the kids. Such a hard time, that he waited until the week before we left to even tell me he was taking me on a vacation. And, of course, my first question? "What about the girls?" "Your parents are keeping them," he answered. "They'll be fine."

I must admit, I wasn't really crazy about leaving them. Because Chris had already booked the trip, I couldn't really back out. And I did look forward to going to South Beach in Miami and relaxing, but the mother in me felt like a terrible person for leaving them.

The days leading up to the trip, I tried to soak up every single minute with them - and I bet I told them I loved them a thousand times.

My mom kept saying, "Amy, they'll be fine." I said, "I know. I'm not worried about that. I'm just going to miss them so much."

It was tough saying goodbye to them. But I must admit, the minute our plane touched down in Miami I realized how badly I needed this.

Chris and I didn't have to set our alarm and be up by a certain time. I can't tell you how wonderful that was. Our mornings start at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and we get to "sleep in" until 6 or 6:30 a.m. on the weekends. And at night we didn't have to go through the bedtime ritual of baths, bottles and such.

We did what we wanted, when we wanted. You know, like we did before we had kids.

One of the best parts was seeing one of my best friends, Shannon, and her husband Joe. (That's us in the pictures above. We stopped at an outdoor cafe on South Beach and had coffee after dinner.) Shannon and I lived together in Panama City during our first TV job at WMBB. She's now an anchor in West Palm Beach. Shannon is one of those friends that I can go a year without even speaking to, but when we do finally reconnect, it's like we were never apart. We just pick up right where we left off. Those are the best kinds of friends.

Chris and I also needed some time with each other without the girls. When you have kids, you become so focused on them that sometimes you forget the person who was there all along. It's like our pastor says, your spouse was there before the kids got there and he/she will still be there long after they've flown the coop. So true.

I'm telling you this to give you moms a message. It's OKAY to go away with your husband - without the kids - from time to time. I never thought I could leave my kids, but I did. And I'm glad I did. Mommy needed some rest and rejuvenation. Mommies spend so much time taking care of everyone else - but who takes care of mommy?

Now don't get me wrong. Chris and I found ourselves talking about the girls all the time. We would think of something funny that Ann Catherine does or something sweet that Lily does. And as great as the four days in South Beach were, I was ready to see the kids today.

When the pilot said we were about to land in Huntsville, Chris and I both had a smile on our face a mile wide. We were basically sprinting off the plane to see the girls. Seeing those sweet girls waiting for us at the airport was one of the best moments I've ever had.

I came back from this trip rested and relaxed. Every mom needs a break now and then.

Take it from me. It doesn't make you a bad mom. In fact, it might just make you a better one.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Mommy Moment

Every so often, you have what I call "mommy moments."

They are those moments when you realize how incredibly blessed you are to be a mother.

I had one the other day.

Chris, Ann Catherine, Lily and I were playing in the play room after dinner. The girls were playing with their Fisher Price "Learning Home" (which I highly recommend, by the way, if you have little ones. It is so much fun with so many items to grab their attention.)

The home has a little mailbox with pretend letters. Ann Catherine took one out of the mailbox and brought it to me.

"What does it say?" I asked.

"Dear Mommy," she said.

"What else?" I asked.

She said, "Best Mommy."

I looked at Chris and began to cry. How did I get so lucky to have two little people on this Earth who think I am so special?

Seriously, what did I do in life to deserve such an incredible gift?

I don't know if I deserve it, but I am so grateful for it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lily is Nine Months Old!

Even as I write that, it's hard to believe.

I know I've blogged about this before, but Lily is my baby, and it's hard seeing your baby grow up so fast.

A couple of weeks ago, I told you that Lily had started crawling. Now, Lily is pulling up. One of the pictures above shows how she can stand if she's holding on to something. I snapped the other picture of her in her high chair tonight during dinner.

That smile you see on Lily's face - that's exactly who Lily is.

Lily is so happy to be here. She requires so little and loves so much. I just feel so lucky to know her.

And the fact that she's my daughter - well, that's just the icing on the cake.

Nine months have truly just flown by. And Lily is changing so quickly. I think that's what Chris and I notice the most, because at nine months Ann Catherine wasn't doing all of these things. She was playing "catch-up" from being premature (although she's not anymore!)

But Lily is just growing up so fast. I've often heard that the second child usually walks sooner because they're watching their older siblings do it and they learn to also.

I don't doubt it. I'm glad Lily has Ann Catherine to learn from.

I just wish she wouldn't learn so quickly :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We Made Our Goal - AND THEN SOME!!!!!

I still feel like I'm dreaming and someone is going to pinch me and tell me it didn't happen.

Our goal for the 2nd Annual Swim for Melissa was to raise enough to buy a Giraffe OmniBed for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. Those beds are $36,000.

Not only did we raise enough to buy ONE of those beds, we raised enough to buy TWO of them - and may still be able to buy THREE!!

The unofficial total as of Saturday afternoon was more than $105,000!! And we still have money coming in.

Now you realize why I am still walking around in the clouds.

If someone had told me that we would raise more than $100,000 in just our second year, I would have told them they were crazy!

But I believe this shows how people feel about Melissa's Fund. I think we have proven that we are good stewards of their money and that we are truly making a difference in the lives of premature infants and their families.

This money was raised from both Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa. Miracle Bash was just a blast! It was so much fun and attendance was just amazing! And Swim for Melissa was so successful. Watching those little girls and boys swim for the cause was just so touching.

Special thanks to my partner, Jerry Hayes. (He's still my partner - even if we don't anchor together anymore!) Jerry emceed the Miracle Bash and then was at the pool bright and early to emcee Swim for Melissa. Folks, it was so hot Saturday! We were sweating like crazy! And Jerry hung in there and stood in that hot sun from 8:15am-2pm to emcee our event. I don't know what I would do without him!

Thanks again to everyone who made Swim for Melissa such a great success! This success is possible because of the support and donations we have received from the community. I am in awe and completely overwhelmed by what we've been able to accomplish in just two years. When I think of the babies who will benefit, I get a lump in my throat.

I will post pictures soon. And I'll let you know how many Giraffe Beds we are able to buy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Getting the Word Out

If you watched NewsChannel 19 at 10 Monday night, you met a sweet baby girl named Ava.

She was born 15 weeks early, weighing only one pound, 13 ounces. She spent the first couple of weeks of her life in a Giraffe OmniBed, a state-of-the-art bed for critically ill premature infants.

The Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund has bought two of these beds for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. At the 2nd Annual Swim for Melissa this weekend, we hope to raise enough money to buy one (maybe two!) of these beds!

To watch the story, click here and then click on "Swim for Melissa: A Little Miracle Named Ava."

We also got some nice publicity in the Huntsville Times today. Yvonne Betowt did a great story on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and how important these Giraffe OmniBeds are. To read it, click here.

In addition to that, a father named Jerry Lee wrote a letter to the editor today and mentioned the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. His baby was just released from NICU and the purpose of his letter was to inform people that when they give to Melissa's Fund, that money stays local and goes directly into our NICU to help our babies. It was so kind of him to write that letter!

Tomorrow I'll be on TV bright and early. I'll be a guest on NewsChannel 19 this Morning promoting Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa. It's going to be an early morning, but all for a good cause!

Just a reminder, Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa are this weekend, August 10-11. To make a reservation for Miracle Bash or donate to Swim for Melissa, call the Foundation at 265.8077 or go to and click on Miracle Bash where you can reply online.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hitting Milestones

I'm having a hard time lately. My girls are hitting some important milestones.

Sounds kind of dumb, doesn't it?

Let me explain.

I am thrilled that my daughters are hitting their milestones. Every parent wants their children to develop on time and hit their marks.

Chris and I never got caught up in those things with Ann Catherine. Since she was a preemie, we knew she might be behind on some things and we were fine with that. She didn't walk until she was 16 months old and it really didn't bother me. My thought was, 'she'll walk when she's ready to walk.' And she did.

I mentioned in a previous post that Lily was crawling. That was a biggie at our house. It's a sign that your baby is no longer a baby.

Then today, I went to pick up Ann Catherine at school and was told she was in a different room. You see, her class promoted to the two-year-old room. When I walked in, she was so excited! She really loves her new room. But do you know what hit me like a ton of bricks?

This room has tables with chairs.

Until now, at lunch time Ann Catherine and her classmates sat in chairs that were actually sunken into the table. That way, they couldn't fall out.

But the tables in her new room are normal tables with tiny little chairs. At lunchtime or during art, each child sits in their own little chair and scoots up to the table.

That's when it hit me.

My little girl is growing up.

That can be so hard for a parent.

Don't get me wrong. If anyone realizes the beauty and joy of life - and how easily it can be taken away - it's me and Chris. So we cherish the fact that our daughters are healthy and hitting their important milestones.

But tonight, as I thought about those little chairs in Ann Catherine's classroom, and I watched Lily sitting in her high chair and using her little fingers to pick up Puffs and feed herself, I was just overwhelmed with how quickly our kids really do grow up.

People with older children tell you that all the time.

Now I realize how true it is.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Back on the Anchor Desk

I returned to the anchor desk Thursday night at 6.

Not as an anchor of the news. Instead, I was reporting on the latest purchase of the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

Remember the Huntsville Havoc hockey game back in January where they auctioned off pink jerseys with Melissa's logo and raised more than $54,000? We purchased a Giraffe Isolette with that money and it's now up and running in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

I was so proud of that purchase because the jersey auction was such an incredible night. And then to see this precious baby boy named Lucas in that bed made it even better!

To see the story, click here. It's under "Featured Videos" and is called "Havoc Hockey Fans Buy Life Saving Equipment for Babies."

By the way, the Huntsville Havoc is dedicating another night to Melissa's Fund. On February 2nd, they'll wear blue jerseys with Melissa's logo and auction them off after the game. I can't wait to see how much money we raise!

Our other big fundraiser - Swim for Melissa - is next weekend and the money raised from that night will go to purchase a Giraffe OmniBed, a state-of-the-art bed for critically ill premature infants. Tune in Monday night on NewsChannel 19 at 10, where I'll show you a one pound 13 ounce beautiful baby girl named Ava who is benefiting from one of two Giraffe OmniBeds Melissa's Fund has bought for the NICU. Trust me, this story will truly touch your heart.

As for being back on the desk, I had a lot of people tell me Friday how nice it was seeing me back on TV and I really appreciate that. And I do miss seeing Jerry everyday (although we still talk on the phone all the time, so sometimes it's like I never left!)

But I must admit, I still know I'm doing the right thing.

At 6pm, instead of being on the anchor desk in my suit and makeup, I'm usually on the floor with Ann Catherine and Lily crawling all over me.

Not as glamorous, I know.

But still - so much better.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Lily's Crawling!

My baby is no longer a baby.

For a while now, Lily has been trying to crawl. She would inch towards something and just decide to sit on her bottom instead.

Monday night, it finally clicked.

The funny part is - according to Lily's daycare teacher - Lily doesn't really know she's crawling! And once she actually figures it out, it's all over. She'll be all over the place.

You know, it makes me kind of sad. Lily is my baby. And my baby is now crawling and trying to pull up on furniture. I'm glad she's hitting her milestones, but part of me wishes I could just bottle this time up and keep it forever.

Each stage of our child's life brings it's own enjoyment and happiness. Ann Catherine is at the stage now where she is just so much fun. You never know what she is going to say, and she soaks everything up like a sponge. She repeats everything we say (better be careful!) and loves to sing songs.

I know these phases are part of life. I just wish Lily could stay my baby a little longer. It seems like just yesterday we were cuddling in the recliner while I was on maternity leave.

I'm learning one of the hard lessons of parenthood. Our children will grow up whether we want them to or not.

It's our job to enjoy every single minute with them.