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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Calling All Swimmers!

I can't believe it's time already. We're gearing up for the 3rd annual Swim for Melissa.

We've had an amazing response with teams, but we still have time slots available. Here's how your child can sign up.

We need kids, ages 5-14, to form teams of eight. Basically, they need to find seven family members or friends who will swim on their team. Then, they raise money for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. Lastly, they show up at Hampton Cove Pool on Saturday, August 8th, to swim with their team. It's just a great family fun day! We have games and food on the grounds of the Hampton House for those who are taking part in Swim for Melissa.

We've made fundraising for this event incredibly quick and easy! Simply visit to register your team. Once you do, create your own web page. You can write your own personal story about why you are taking part, and even put your picture on your page (or you can simply use the default story). Once you've finished your page, send the email link to your family and friends and ask them to donate online. You'll be amazed at how quickly the donations will start pouring in!

Let's say you had a premature baby, but they aren't old enough to swim. No problem! They can still raise money online. When you go to, click on "Become a Participant." Once you fill out the information, choose "I do not want to join a team." You can still create your child's web page and send it out to your friends and family. We created a page for Ann Catherine last year, and received more than $1000 in donations. You and your child can still come to Swim for Melissa to enjoy the fun and games!

If your child is old enough to swim, I encourage you to form a team. If not, please create a page for your child, tell their personal story and help us raise money for Melissa's Fund. I know that many of you who read my blog had preemies. This is a wonderful way for you to give back to the Neonatal ICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

We are having a Team Captain Kickoff Pizza Party on Thursday, June 26th at 12 p.m. on the 5th floor of Plaza Resource Center, so if you are forming a team, please call me or Susan Ready at 265-8077 or email or to reserve your spot. We would love for you to attend the luncheon.

100% of the proceeds from this year's Swim for Melissa will go to purchase more Giraffe OmniBeds for the Neonatal ICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. This special beds are for the tiniest babies, most of them weighing less than two pounds. When we started Melissa's Fund in November 2005, the NICU at Huntsville Hospital didn't have any of these beds. So far, Melissa's Fund has purchased seven of them. I am so proud of that. We hope to purchase even more through this year's event!

If you have any questions, please give me a call or drop me an email. I hope you can partner with us as we try to help save the tiniest babies!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

I got to watch one of the greatest things today.

It was the finale of Vacation Bible School at our church. This was the first time Ann Catherine had ever attended. I knew she was having a good time this week, but what I saw today just backed that up.

When they started singing their VBS songs, Ann Catherine started jumping up and down and was singing at the top of her lungs. At first, Chris and I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. To see our little girl so happy and just praising the Lord was amazing. It was something we had never experienced and my heart was so full of joy, I thought I was going to pop. The worship of children is just so pure and real and it just touched me to see my daughter being part of this.

Then, I began to cry. As I watched her singing, I began to remember: three years ago on this very day, I was sitting next to her bedside in an intensive care unit. She was hooked up to wires and was so tiny I could see her ribs as she took each breath. Whether or not she would sing or dance one day wasn't important. I just wanted her to live.

Fast forward three years later. This little miracle is singing and dancing and jumping around. She's taking part in Vacation Bible School with a host of other three-year-olds. And at first glance, you would never know the struggle she went through just to be a part of this world.

As I wiped my eyes, I looked over at Chris. Big, crocodile tears were streaming down his face as well. I just held onto his arm as we watched Ann Catherine.

Later I asked him what he was thinking of while he was crying. "I was thinking that three years ago I could slide my wedding band up her arm and over her shoulder," he said. Turns out, we were thinking the very same thing.

I don't think Chris and I will ever watch Ann Catherine pass a milestone when he don't flash back to that time in the NICU. During times of joy, we'll also remember that two pound baby fighting to live. And, that's okay. It's a reminder of where we were, and how far we've come. More importantly, how far Ann Catherine has come.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chris and His Girls

I hope all of you dads had a good Father's Day. We had a really good day Sunday. We got up and went to church. Before we left, we gave Chris his Father's Day gift - two new golf clubs! Not a bad gift, if I do say so myself. :)

After we went to church, the girls napped. Then we took them to the swimming pool. They loved it and had such a good time. After that, we grilled out. It was just a great day.

Ann Catherine kept telling me it was "Daddy's day, not your day, Mommy." Leave it to our kids to keep us grounded.

I'm glad Ann Catherine and Lily have such a great dad. A dad who pretends to put "pink highlights" in their hair at bathtime. A dad who acts like his daughter is the most beautiful person he's ever seen when she goes running to him saying, "Daddy, look at my pretty dress!" A dad who tells his daughters, "I love your mommy."

I have always told Chris that the way he treats me is the way his daughters will expect to be treated by other men. If he treats me with love and respect, they'll expect the same. If he's rude and disrespectful to me, they'll look for that in a man.

Luckily for them, they have a great role model. A father who loves his kids, loves his wife and loves his family.

There is no greater gift he could give his daughters.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trip to Chuckie Cheese

Whoever came up with Chuckie Cheese was a genius.

I'm not so crazy about it. My daughters are another story.

Gammy and Gramps took them there today. They had never been there before, and I warned Gammy before she went that it was pretty chaotic.

Ann Catherine could not have been more thrilled. She went to bed without a peep because I told her she was going to Chuckie Cheese the next day. Once they got there, Gramps snapped some pictures, mostly of Lily because Ann Catherine was moving too fast.

I just had to post this one of Lily playing "Whack-A-Mole." She is giving that mole all she's got. That's my Lily :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Birthday Party Madness

That's really the only way to explain a three-year-old's birthday party - madness.

I seriously think Saturday was the hottest day ever. It was crazy! We have had all of Ann Catherine's birthday parties outside. It's always in early June and it's usually pretty nice outside.

Not this past Saturday.

Apparently the high Saturday was ten degrees above average. It was absolutely miserable. We had canopies outside, but they didn't help much. We put Ann Catherine's new inflatable trampoline outside so the kids could jump, but the trampoline itself got so hot the kids couldn't stand it. About ten minutes into the party, I told the kids to head on inside and play in the playroom.

Other than that, it was a great party and Ann Catherine had a wonderful time. Three really is the magic number. This was the first time that Ann Catherine really understood that she was having a birthday party, and what it meant. Of course, opening the presents was pure pandemonium. I was feverishly writing down who gave her what, because as soon as she ripped it open, she moved onto the next thing.

Ann Catherine's party had a Princess theme, but I told all of the children to dress comfortably since we had planned to have the party outside. My niece and nephew gave Ann Catherine a Belle dress as a gift, and she just had to put it on. I let her and snapped a cute picture of them.

When I put Ann Catherine's candles on her cake, I added an extra one. This is something I've done since Ann Catherine's first birthday. It's a way I can remember Melissa, who also would have been celebrating her party had she lived. But just as I told Ann Catherine the morning of her party, I bet Melissa had a great party of her own in Heaven. In fact, I'm sure of it.

One of my favorite pictures from the party is of Lily eating her cake. Those of you who have read my blog for a while probably can recall the pictures I snapped of Lily at her first birthday party. She dug into her cake and had it all over her face! Well, Saturday I gave her some cake, and she did it again. Watching Lily eat cake is absolutely hilarious! Her face was covered in cake and icing.

As I laid in bed last night, I just thanked God for my girls and for giving us such a great day.

But as many of you parents can relate, I'm thinking this may be the last "at-home" party for Ann Catherine. The thought of renting one of those places where they do all of the work - and keep it air-conditioned - sounds really good right now :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hanging Out with their Cousins

Ann Catherine is in hog heaven this week. Her cousins Ally & Will are in town.

They're staying at my parents' house and Ann Catherine is staying there, too. They have had a blast! Yesterday, my dad took them all fishing. Today my dad, mom, Ally, Will, Ann Catherine and Lily went to Chucky Cheese. This afternoon, they played in the backyard - volleyball, baseball, badminton. You name it, they played it.

Ann Catherine is having the time of her life. And I am so glad. There is something so comforting about being at your grandparents house. Besides that, it's just fun. Mimi and Poppy let you do things that Mommy and Daddy would never let you do. I laughed today that it will take a week for me to "undo" everything and get Ann Catherine back on a schedule.

But, that's okay. She's a kid, and I want her to feel like one.

Not to mention, she absolutely worships Ally. She has been on Ally's heels all week and doesn't want her to get out of her sight. She thinks Ally hung the moon. Plus, hanging out with Ally makes her feel like a "big girl."

I'm so glad she and Lily are spending time with Ally & Will this week. And I'm glad they are doing it at their grandparents' house. These times are truly priceless.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Ann Catherine and Melissa

I was going to blog about this last night, but to be honest with you, I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. June 1st is a day of incredible highs and lows for us. By the time it was over, I was just emotionally wiped out.

Yesterday was Ann Catherine and Melissa's birthday. And honestly, I think it might have been the hardest one yet. You think that when your child dies, it gets easier with time. I'm not so sure. Yes, "every day life" may not be as hard, because you don't think about it all of the time. But, special occasions may actually be harder because you've gone so long without crying that it really hits you.

Don't get me wrong. We spent a wonderful day with our kids. When Ann Catherine woke up, we went into her room singing "Happy Birthday." After she ate breakfast, she opened her presents (see pictures above). I got such a kick out of watching her open her gifts. Just the very fact that Ann Catherine is alive and with us makes June 1st such a special day. Then, we went to church. On the way to church, I looked at the clock and realized that we were just minutes away from the time that Melissa died. That part was so hard. Just thinking about where we were three years ago at that very moment was like a dagger.

Once we came home, we did something that made the day so special. I've blogged before about my friend Lesli who delivered triplets nine years ago. Her two sons passed away and her daughter Smith survived. Lesli and her husband have done a wonderful job of helping Smith deal with their deaths. And she gave me this idea. We went to Publix and I let Ann Catherine pick out a balloon for Melissa. We went into the front yard and all four of us kissed it. Then, we let it go. I'm telling you, that balloon sailed straight up in the air. Chris and I held onto each other through the tears as watched that balloon sail straight to Heaven. It was so amazing.

I felt like this was a way that our family could remember Melissa - together. It gave Ann Catherine a visual explanation of where Melissa is. And even though she and Lily are too young to truly understand, as they grow older this is something we'll be able to do as a family to honor Melissa's memory. I'm so glad we did it.

What made this birthday harder is that Ann Catherine is asking questions. Another piece of advice that Lesli gave me is to talk about Melissa. Keep her name out there. That way, when Ann Catherine is old enough to understand that Melissa is her sister, it won't be such a shock.

We are doing that. If you ask Ann Catherine who Melissa is, she'll say, "She's my angel." We have told Ann Catherine that she has her very own angel in Heaven and her name is Melissa. But, her little mind can't understand yet that Melissa is her sister.

This weekend, Ann Catherine started asking questions. I told her one night that Melissa also had a birthday on June 1st. "How old will she be?" she asked me. "She'll be three, too," I answered. "Will she have a party?" she asked next. "Oh, I think she'll have a big party in Heaven," I said. The next question is always the hardest. "Can I go?" Ann Catherine doesn't understand yet that you can't just visit Heaven.

Then on Sunday, as I was putting on her sandals so we could go outside and release the balloon, she asked, "Mommy, does Melissa have a house in Heaven?" I said, "I think she does, baby." "Does she have a playground?" "Oh, yes," I answered as I began to cry, "I think she has a really big one." Then again, the question that is so hard. "Can we go?" "No, baby not yet," I said.

I've always said there is no instructional manual when your child dies. There is no set of directions that you can follow. You simply learn to navigate waters that you never dreamed you would have to step foot into.

It's the same with explaining the death of a sibling to the child who is left behind. There is no instruction manual. I can truly say this is one of the hardest journeys I've ever been on.

It's so important to me that we are truthful to Ann Catherine. After all, she lost the most on June 1st. She lost her twin. She literally lost a part of herself. And somehow, Chris and I have to learn how to explain that to her one day.

Please keep us in your prayers as we find our way. I prayed so hard last night asking God for guidance. I don't ever want to say the wrong thing, or say anything that might scare her. We also know that one day we have to explain everything to Lily, too.

For three years, Chris and I have been able to keep Ann Catherine in a sort of bubble. Yes, we could cry and grieve, but we could protect Ann Catherine from those feelings of loss and grief. It's so instinctive as a parent to want to protect your child from sadness. Now, we realize that the time is approaching where we'll have to explain some very tough things to her.

There is no question that God will guide us and give us the words. After all, he got us this far.

And to answer Ann Catherine's questions from this weekend, yes, I do believe Melissa had a wonderful birthday party this weekend. As I prayed last night, I thanked God for that. I thanked him that he is taking such good care of her. I mean, just think of the people who came to her party!

And although I miss that little girl with every fiber in my being, I take comfort in knowing that her life was celebrated yesterday - here on Earth - and in Heaven.