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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shop...and Help Save Tiny Lives

I have a great deal for you. If you're like me, you love to shop! You can do just that this weekend and all of next week, and help save the lives of tiny babies in our NICU.

This weekend is the one-year anniversary of Bridge Street Town Centre. If you've ever shopped there, you know that the stores are fabulous but they rarely offer discounts.

Until now.

This Saturday and Sunday (November 1-2), Bridge Street will offer a Benefit Shopping Weekend, with proceeds going to the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

Here's how it works. You purchase a discount card for $20 and you'll receive discounts to a wide array of stores and restaurants at Bridge Street. Click here to see a list of the stores that are participating, and the discounts you'll receive.

You can purchase the discount card at Customer Service at Bridge Street anytime this weekend. 100% will go to Melissa's Fund.

We were so honored that of all the worthy charities in this town, Bridge Street chose ours! So, get started on your Christmas shopping early and get some great deals while helping our tiniest babies.

And that's not all!

Barnes and Noble is helping Melissa's Fund by holding a bookfair Friday, October 31st through Saturday, November 8th. Simply print this certificate and use it at ANY Barnes and Noble in the United States. Melissa's Fund will receive a percentage of the sales. And you can use it on any purchase: books, CDs, coffee - anything! So again, start your Christmas shopping NOW and use this certificate to purchase items.

Our plan is to use the money that's raised through the Barnes and Noble event to buy a special book for every baby who's in the NICU during Christmas. It is so lonely to have a child in the hospital during the holidays, so we hope we can make their holiday season a little brighter.

Please email this certificate to anyone you know and encourage them to shop at Barnes and Noble during this particular week. And please visit these merchants and purchase items to help Melissa's Fund!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chris is Honored

Last night was a special one for me and Chris. Chris was named the 2008 Outstanding Foundation Volunteer Award at Huntsville Hospital Foundation's Society of 1895 Recognition Dinner.

Chris was honored for his work on the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. I could not have been more proud of him! Because I was on TV and I'm often the one who is out in the community talking about Melissa's Fund, people tend to associate me with the fund. But, Chris works so hard behind the scenes. His love and his passion for this fund are truly amazing.

Let me be honest with you. If it weren't for Chris, I don't know if there would even be a Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. It was Chris' idea to start the fund, and I said "no" several times. I thought there was no way I could relive our loss and tragedy every day, and I certainly didn't think I could talk about it in public or to groups of strangers. To Chris' credit, he didn't push me; but, he also didn't let it go. Every once in a while he would just remind me that we were in a position to do a lot of good, and that he thought we should. Eventually, I just prayed and told God that if this was the plan he had for our lives, then he would have to carry us, because we just didn't have the strength to do it on our own. And he did. I give him all the glory for what has been accomplished through my daughter's fund. And I give Chris the credit for pushing me to do the right thing.

I want to share some excerpts from his introduction last night. It was written by our friend, and Foundation president, Candy Burnett. I had tears in my eyes as it was read aloud.

"This volunteer’s involvement with the Foundation began with an event that brought both great joy and great tragedy to his family. In 2005, their twin daughters were born prematurely. Ann Catherine weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces and spent 68 days in our Neonatal ICU; sadly, Melissa passed away shortly after birth.

This father and his wife selflessly shared their experience with the community and chose to honor Melissa’s short life by establishing a fund that has made a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of tiny infants. Their desire was to help furnish the lifesaving equipment needed to provide the best chance of survival for newborns like Ann Catherine and Melissa, and to thank the physicians and nurses who give the gifts of life and hope every day.

Although his wife is more recognizable in the community, he too is “famous” in his own right. A former professional hockey player, he is now more than comfortable donning pink shirts and ties to raise funds for his most important cause and passion. And because of his stature in the hockey community, for two years the Huntsville Havoc has hosted Melissa George Night, and raised a combined $120,000 in jersey auction donations for the Neonatal ICU.

Along with his wife, tonight’s honoree has helped to raise more than $600,000 in just three years to benefit our hospital’s tiniest, most vulnerable patients. And he has done it with gusto! I’m sure that most of you know, by now, who our honoree is. He is an enthusiastic volunteer; a generous donor and most important, he’s a great daddy."

The last part was my favorite, because Chris is such a great daddy. His girls love him more than anything and he loves them with all of his heart.

When Melissa died, Chris' struggled with the same thoughts as other men who lose a child. Men want to "fix" things, and her death and our pain was something he just couldn't "fix." But he took that tragic situation and turned it into something so positive. He couldn't save Melissa. But, through his efforts, other fathers have been able to take their little girls or boys home from the NICU. And those fathers who haven't, can look at Chris and see that you can survive something so heartbreaking.

I am so proud of him. He's a wonderful husband, an extraordinary father and just truly a good person. I can't think of anyone who deserved this honor more.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Great Halloween Party!

We went to a fabulous Halloween party this weekend! My friend, Melissa, threw a party at the Botanical Gardens. The girls got dressed up in their costumes: Ann Catherine was Little Red Riding Hood and Lily was Super Girl.

Their costumes fit their personalities perfectly! Ann Catherine is my sweet little girl, with the kindest heart of anyone I have ever known. Lily, on the other hand, is a tough little cookie. Don't get me wrong - she is a sweetheart. But, to quote my mother, she's "not afraid of the devil himself." :) The little crime-fighting action hero fits her personality just right.

They had the best time! First they got to decorate their pumpkins using Mr. Potato Head pieces. Isn't that a neat idea? We even got to take them home!

Next, our tour guide took us into the gardens on a Harvest Hunt. It was just like an Easter Egg hunt, except the girls got plastic pumpkins, and had to find goodie bags that were hidden along the way. The weather was just beautiful, and it was a perfect day to be outside.

Lastly, we walked through the Scarecrow Trail and got to see the different scarecrows. It was such a nice walk. Chris and I got so tickled because Lily was carrying her pumpkin (which was weighted down with candy!) and was moving quite slowly because it was such a long walk. Several times we asked her to let us carry her pumpkin so she could walk easier. "No, Mommy!" she would say. Again, it's just like her. She has so much determination. She didn't care that she was at the very end of the line. She was determined to walk through the entire tour carrying her own pumpkin. I absolutely love her spunk!! This is a picture of her bringing up the rear. She took every single step carrying her pumpkin.

This is a picture my friend, Melissa, snapped of the four of us along the Scarecrow Trail. If you haven't taken your kids yet, I encourage you to do so before it gets too cold. They'll have a blast!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Painting our Pumpkins

We had a blast last night!

Our friends Susan and Kevin came over, and Miss Su-Su (as the girls call her) helped them paint their pumpkins. Susan painted funny faces on our two big pumpkins and the girls both got to paint their own pumpkins.

As you can see, as the night went on, they had more paint on their arms and legs than they did their pumpkins!

Miss Su-Su and Mr. Kevin - they will be the best mommy and daddy one day!

Our finished products!

The girls were so proud of their creations. When we finished them, we put them on our front porch so everyone can see them. Thanks Su-Su for giving the girls such a special Halloween!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Disney on Ice and Tate Farms

Quite a combination, isn't it?

We did both this past week and had so much fun! Thursday we took the girls to Disney on Ice at the VBC. They had such a good time! Ann Catherine was absolutely mesmerized during the first thirty minutes. I don't think she blinked her eyes. Lily was a little skittish at first and would grab onto me when the music got loud or the skaters came near us, but I think it's because they started with the Lion King and it was a little loud. After that, she was just fine.

This is a picture of Lily once she got comfortable. She was quite taken by it all!

This is Ann Catherine eating her $6 box of popcorn. What can I say? It was Disney - right down to the prices!

On Saturday, we took the girls to Tate Farms. I absolutely LOVE going there! Last year, Lily wasn't even one yet, so she didn't really know what was going on. This year was so fun because she was old enough to really enjoy it.

This is Lily petting a goat. She also petted a rabbit. I was so happy that she wasn't afraid!

This is Ann Catherine's favorite part - the Corn Crib! She and Lily both loved jumping in the corn.

We took a hayride to pick out our pumpkins. We picked out two big pumpkins and two "baby" pumpkins. My friend, Susan, is coming over this week to help the girls decorate them (because their mommy is artistically challenged!).

If you haven't been to Tate Farms yet, take your kids before Halloween. I promise you won't regret it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Our Unseen Angel

We were driving down the road today and Ann Catherine said, "Mommy, there's Melissa!"

You could only imagine how my heart skipped a beat.

I turned around and said, "What, baby?" She was looking out the window and pointing towards the sky. I realized what she was saying. We tell her that Melissa is in Heaven and she was pointing to Heaven. She was telling me that Melissa was there.

Then all of a sudden she said, "Mommy, she's not there! I can't see her!"

I explained to her that we can't actually see Heaven. I told her it was way up in the sky and although it's real, we can't see it from here.

The explanation must have been enough for her because she didn't say anything else. I, on the other hand, began thinking. It must be so hard for a 3-year-old to understand that there's this beautiful little girl in a place called Heaven, but we can't see her yet. That we have this "unseen angel" who is so incredibly important to our family. Who is part of this family.

I want to always be honest with Ann Catherine about Melissa. The hard part is knowing the right words to say. I just feel so ill-equipped sometimes to answer her questions.

I am so grateful that God is helping us navigate this hard road. And I'm so grateful to my friend, Lesli, who encouraged me to talk about Melissa and to say her name to my daughters.

I admit I don't have all of the answers, but that's okay. God does, and I know he will continue to give us the words to say.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rest and Relaxation

Chris and I recently got away for some R and R. Just the two of us.

We did this for the first time last year the week after Swim for Melissa. Chris made plans to take me to South Beach, but he didn't tell me until two days before because he was afraid I would back out. He was probably right. I had never been away from my kids before, and wasn't really excited about leaving them. I fretted up until we got onto the airplane, then as soon as we took off, I realized how badly Chris and I needed to get away.

This time he didn't have to trick me into going. In fact, I told him a few months ago I wanted to do it again. But this time, I wanted to go to Asheville, North Carolina and I wanted to go in October.

We had a wonderful time! We stayed in a wonderful Bed and Breakfast that had terrific food and two delightful innkeepers. On the drive up, we got off the beaten path and drove past the Ocoee River and into the mountains. The leaves were just beginning to change and it was beautiful.

This is the Biltmore mansion. This is the reason why I chose Asheville as our destination. I have always wanted to visit this home. It's the largest home in the United States and was built by the Vanderbilt family in 1895. The tour itself took more than two hours. My words couldn't even do it justice, so to learn more about the Biltmore, click here. I highly recommend it as a destination!

This is a picture of the view from the back of the home. Again, this picture doesn't do it justice. It was just breathtaking.

On the way home, we drove through Smokey Mountain National Park and stopped and snapped this picture. It increased our drive home by about two hours, but it was worth it. But believe me, after an hour of winding through the mountains, we were VERY glad to get back on the interstate!

All in all, it was a fabulous trip and a great breather for me and Chris. As many of you couples can understand, you become so busy trying to be a good parent and take care of your kids, that you forget how you and your spouse fell in love in the first place. This trip was wonderful, and I feel like I came back so rested, and that in turn, will make me a better mother.

One funny story I'd like to share. Chris and I have a running joke about this. When you anchor the news for ten years, your face becomes a little recognizable. But we always get a chuckle when we are on vacation and someone says, "Hey, you're Amy George!" It's funny because you leave Huntsville to get away from it all, and then someone recognizes you. It happened to us on an anniversary trip to Las Vegas a few years ago. A lady at the slot machine looked up and said, "Hey, you're Amy George!" Ditto on a trip to Washington, D.C. a few years ago. Chris and I were leaving a tour of the White House and someone recognized me.

It happened again this trip - twice. At the Cracker Barrel in Chattanooga (where we stopped to eat lunch) a couple recognized me. They were so kind and told me how much they missed me on the news and they miss watching me and Jerry together. I hear that a lot from people, and I think it's because Jerry and I were such close friends and people could tell that we truly cared about each other. Our chemistry was there from day one, and it was genuine. Jerry has been through a lot with me, and I think people knew that. I assured this sweet couple that Jerry and I are still very close, and we talk almost every day. Then, we were getting out of our car to tour the Biltmore, and would you believe we parked next to a couple from Huntsville?! The lady instantly recognized me, and we laughed about what a small world it is. Chris and I always say, we can leave Huntsville but we still can't misbehave because there's always someone from the Tennessee Valley nearby. :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My First Days on the Job

Yesterday I started my new career as a stay at home mom.

It was absolutely wonderful.

Have you ever noticed how God sends us signs to reassure us we've made the right decision? Lily came down with a cold this weekend in Tuscaloosa. Nothing major, but she just felt so crummy on the way home Sunday afternoon. And for the first time, I didn't have to worry about what I was going to do. I was going to stay home and take care of my daughter. It was as if God was saying, "See, this is why I wanted you to do this."

That was the greatest feeling. Just knowing that I could stay home and take care of her, without worrying about the meetings or work I was missing, was just so rewarding to me as a mother.

I let both of them sleep in because they were so tired from our busy weekend. Lily woke up first and we just snuggled in the recliner while we watched Playhouse Disney. After breakfast, Ann Catherine wanted to put on her Belle dress. "Sure," I thought. "Why not?" We didn't have to be anywhere. It was so nice to not be rushed in the morning.

When they woke up from their naps, we went out in the backyard and played. It was just so much fun. The three of us sat on the ground, throwing the ball back and forth, and looking up at the clouds and guessing what shapes we saw. At one point, I said out loud, "Thank you God for this."

I am so grateful to have this opportunity, because I know a lot of mothers do not. I am grateful to have this time with my girls, and I'm grateful to be able to spend time with them without worrying about where we need to be.

Of course it's tough at times. Lily didn't want to take a nap today and it was tough. She was pretty ill, and I didn't get to do some things I wanted to do while they napped. But that's okay. That's part of it.

I'm just glad to be here...with them.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Only in Alabama

Only in Alabama can your children play in the sprinkler during the week of fall break!

We went to Tuscaloosa for the 'Bama game this weekend. On the way home, we noticed it was 86 degrees outside. Once we got home, Ann Catherine and Lily wanted to go in the backyard and play. It was so hot! Ann Catherine asked if she could play in the sprinkler, and I thought, "Why not?"

They had so much fun. The funniest part was when they would try to drink the water coming out of the sprinkler (that's what Ann Catherine was trying to do in the second picture). Only in the south can you play outside in the your bathing suit during October.

On a different note, something totally unexpected happened tonight at bedtime. Just before she said her prayers tonight, Ann Catherine said, "Mommy, I'm going to pray for Melissa tonight." I can't tell you how much that comment caught me off guard. We hadn't been talking about Melissa, and it just came out of the blue. Chris and I just looked at each other and said, "Okay." Ann Catherine started her prayer by saying, "Dear Jesus, thank you for Melissa." And then went on to pray for the rest of the family. Chris and I opened our eyes and just stared at each other. We didn't need to say anything. I know we were thinking the same thing.

I was absolutely speechless. When she finished I held her and kissed her and told her that I thought it was so sweet that she prayed for Melissa. Chris said, "She's your angel" and Ann Catherine said, "Yes, she is."

These are the moments that just touch my heart. They are completely unexpected, which is probably what makes them even more special. Ann Catherine doesn't fully understand everything yet, but the fact that she thinks about Melissa and talks about her is just so special to me. It proves to me that, as twins, Ann Catherine and Melissa shared (and still share, I believe) such a bond. I can't explain it or put it into words, but I believe it exists. And I'm so grateful for that.