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Friday, May 30, 2008

Cupcakes with Ann Catherine

If there's anything I've learned in my three short years of being a parent, it's this: it's the little things that matter to your kids. You can buy them big expensive toys, but that's not really important to them. It's the little things.

We experienced that today. We took cupcakes to Ann Catherine's daycare today for her birthday (which is Sunday). The entire thing took all of 15 minutes, but it could not have meant more to Ann Catherine.

When we walked in the door, she jumped out of her chair and came running, saying, "Mommy! Daddy!"

"Mommy, come sit by me," she said. And I did.

The class sang "Happy Birthday" to her. You couldn't have wiped the smile off her face if you had tried. Then, her teachers passed around the cupcakes.

It wasn't about the cupcakes. It wasn't about the singing. It was all about the fact that her mommy and daddy were there, and she felt special. It was priceless.

This is now the third time Chris and I have taken cupcakes to our daughters' daycare on their birthday - twice with Ann Catherine and once with Lily. And all three of those times, I walked away with a smile on my face big enough to match my children's.

I wanted to share the pictures above. The middle one is of Ann Catherine and Ms. Kris, one of her teachers this year. She loves Ms. Kris and lucky for us, she's moving up with Ann Catherine's class next year!

Say a prayer for me this weekend. Sunday is Ann Catherine and Melissa's birthday. June 1st is a beautiful day, but it's also a tough day for us because it's the day Melissa passed away. As we have the past three years, Chris and I plan to spend the day with our daughters. I'll draw on all of their strength on that day. We'll make Ann Catherine's birthday special, while also remembering our sweet angel. Please keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Me, Chris and Our "Mini-Mes"

Chris and I don't have children. We have clones.

Ann Catherine looks just like me. Lily is a little Chris.

In fact, if I had a nickel for every time someone looked at Lily and said, "She looks just like her Daddy!" I would retire and move to the beach.

It really is bizarre. Most families have a "blend" when they have children. Not us. Even down to the color of their eyes. And their personalities.

Ann Catherine is just like me. Type A, determined, stubborn with a need to please.

Lily is Chris. She's more laid back, takes life in and just hangs out.

They couldn't be more different, just like me and Chris. That's the cool part about giving birth. You literally see yourselves in someone else. There's no doubt about it, everytime Chris and I see Ann Catherine and Lily we see "little Amy" and "little Chris."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Needing to be Needed

I was off Monday, and I spent the day with my girls. It was fabulous.

We had "mommy-daughter time," as we like to say. Just the three of us. I haven't had so much fun in a long time.

First, we just hung out in our PJs, reading books and watching Playhouse Disney and Sesame Street.

Then, we got dressed and went to a park that we had never visited and had a picnic. We had a blast! This park has a great playground, and Ann Catherine and Lily had so much fun. I would help Lily go up the steps on the playground equipment, and then I would slide down with her. But, Ann Catherine? She was all over the place - and she didn't need my help.

You know, that's kind of hard for me. I watched her play and only one time did she say, "Mommy, I need your help." Other than that, she was crawling up ladders and coming down slides like a big girl.

It's not just as the playground. Ann Catherine has recently learned to put on her socks and shoes. In the past, I had to help her do those things. Now, she can do them by herself. And if I think she needs a little help, she'll say, "No, mommy. I can do it by myself." Sometimes I feel like she says that phrase ten times a day.

The problem is I need her to need me. And sometimes she does. Like tonight, when she fell outside and hurt her knee. We came inside and she said, "Mommy, hold me. I need you." I have to admit, I like hearing her say that. I think mothers have an instinctive need to be needed. And when our children start branching out and doing things on their own, we may be proud of them, but we also feel a little pain.

As our kids grow, I'm sure it becomes a little easier when they no longer need our help so much. But to be honest, I need to be needed, especially by my kids. I hope they need me a little while longer.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Greatest Birthday Gifts

I celebrated my birthday on Saturday. The most special part of the day was when Chris and the girls brought me my birthday cake. Chris put it in our refrigerator that's in the garage, and he and the girls went out there to get it. He put the candles on the cake, lit them, turned off the lights in the kitchen, and they brought it to me. Ann Catherine was singing "Happy Birthday" at the top of her lungs, and Lily was just smiling, clapping and bouncing up and down. I just sat there and began to cry.

As I watched those two little girls take such joy and pleasure in their mommy's birthday, I could only think of one thing. Three years ago, on my birthday, I was laying in a hospital bed, doing all I could to keep Melissa and Ann Catherine alive. I had been on bed rest for 4 weeks, and I had just hit 24 weeks two days before. That was such a big deal, because it meant that if they were born, they would have a chance to survive outside the womb. Even so, at that point, we had no idea if Ann Catherine or Melissa would survive if they were born. It was such a scary time.

Fast forward three years. Melissa isn't with us, but Ann Catherine is. And not only is she here, but she's healthy. Then there's Lily, this wonderful, incredible little person who so unexpectantly came into our lives. So much has happened in three years.

When you lose a child, special occasions are always hard. This time of year, it's especially hard because Mother's Day, my birthday and Melissa and Ann Catherine's birthday is in a three-week time span. I just have such a range of emotions during those weeks.

When it gets so hard, there is one thing that keeps me going - the love of Ann Cathrine and Lily. Ann Catherine, who carries within her Melissa's spirit and who sends me hugs from her twin sister without even knowing it. And Lily, who is life, love and happiness all rolled into one, whose laughter literally permeates our home and goes straight to my heart. Those little girls give their mommy more strength than they could ever imagine. They are the ones who help me go on when I just hurt so much. Thank you God for sending them to me.

So, you can only imagine how hearing Ann Catherine sing "Happy Birthday" to me, and watching Lily dance with such joy, literally lifted my heart. Soon after, I sat down to enjoy my cake with them, and Chris snapped the picture above.

These little girls will never in a million years know how they save me on the days that are just so hard. But, I know. And I'll never forget.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

First of all, let me send a belated Mother's Day to everyone out there. I would have blogged yesterday, but instead I spent my afternoon doing something wonderful -- I took a three-hour nap with my daughters!

I posted pictures from Muffins with Mom (see post below). The black and whites are the pictures that Ann Catherine's teacher took of Ann Catherine and Lily. She framed the top one and Ann Catherine gave it to me for Mother's Day. The other one is of me and Ann Catherine at Muffins with Mom.

My Mother's Day was a good one. As I have shared with you before, Mother's Day can be very bittersweet for me. I had some very rough moments on Saturday. I just missed Melissa so much. But, Sunday was easier. I just felt so grateful to be a mother.

Not just any mother. But Melissa, Ann Catherine and Lily's mother. I know there are women out there who want to have children so badly, but can't. I feel blessed that God allowed me to give life to three such special little girls. I thank him for giving me the privilege of raising Ann Catherine and Lily. And I thank him for giving me the comfort of knowing that Melissa is safe in his arms. As a mother, I can't tell you the comfort that brings me. Melissa may not be with me, but I do know where she is. And I know that she is well. She's not in pain and she's not struggling. And best of all? She's in the arms of a Heavenly Father who loves her more than I can even understand.

Those are the reasons why I celebrate Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Muffins with Mom

I had, without a doubt, one of the greatest mornings of my life today.

I went to "Muffins with Mom" at Ann Catherine's daycare.

It was so fun! We started, of course, with blueberry muffins. Then after we ate, all of the children gave their mommies Mother's Day gifts.

Ann Catherine made a sweet card for me. But the next gift I opened brought tears to my eyes.

It was a framed black and white picture of her and Lily holding hands. Ann Catherine's teacher, Kris, took it. It is the sweetest picture I've ever seen.

I couldn't help but cry when I saw it. It's hard to put the emotions into words. Mother's Day is a wonderful day for me, but understandably, it's still hard. I am the mother of a child who isn't with me. I can never explain how hard that is.

Yet, I am also the mother of two beautiful little girls who ARE here. They love each other so much. Ann Catherine needed Lily Baker in a way I can never explain.

And so did I. I didn't realize just how much until Lily was born. And as I've watched her and Ann Catherine grow up together, and grow to love each other, I'm struck by just how badly we ALL needed Lily.

Almost three years later, I still miss Melissa with every fiber of my being. I will never, ever stop missing that sweet little girl.

But as this Mother's Day approaches, I'm reminded of just how blessed I am. God didn't have to allow Ann Catherine to live. And he didn't have to give us Lily. But he did - and I am eternally grateful.

That picture of Ann Catherine and Lily sits on my desk at work now, so I can look at those sweet angel faces when I'm away from them. And I can be reminded of just how much those little girls truly love each other.

Ann Catherine's twin may not be here. But her little sister is. A powerful example that God gives us what we need, when we need it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Taking a Walk

This time last year, Chris and I would put the girls in the double stroller after dinner, and power walk through the neighborhood. The girls loved going outside, and Chris and I got some exercise.

Not anymore.

Ann Catherine has outgrown the stroller. And because she wants to walk, Lily wants to walk, too.

Lily is the quintessential second child. She does things before Ann Catherine even thought about doing them - not because she's smarter, but because she wants to be like her big sister. Lily watches everything Ann Catherine does, and tries to mimic it. So, if Ann Catherine wants to actually "walk" during a walk, Lily wants to as well.

Have you ever taken a walk with a 17-month-old?

Lily is in absolutely no hurry. She takes her time, then for no reason, she'll just sit down on the grass or sidewalk. In fact, Chris snapped the picture above with his camera phone tonight. Ann Catherine and Lily were "taking a break." (Ann Catherine looks like she's giving the "rock on" sign. Lily is just being Lily and hanging out).

It takes us forever just to make the loop around our neighborhood. There is no such thing as burning calories on our walk anymore.

That said, I wouldn't change it. Ann Catherine and Lily notice things Chris and I would never see. Some of our neighbors have dandelions in their yard and every time we pass, Ann Catherine and Lily stop to pick the "flowers."

It's such a good reminder to us. Slow down and smell the flowers. We may not be burning calories, but we are seeing the world through our daughters' eyes. And those little eyes take in much more than Chris and I would ever see.