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Thursday, November 27, 2008

What Amazing Faith!

I came across this story as I was surfing the internet yesterday. A reporter with Fox 6 News in Birmingham did a story on Siran Stacy. Many of you remember Stacy from his days as a star running back at the University of Alabama ('89-91).

He was known for his on-the-field ability, but now it's his off-the-field testimony that is making such an impact.

Stacy lost his wife and four of his children last year when a drunk driver broadsided their van. Only he and his three-year-old daughter survived.

Can you imagine? In the blink of an eye, his family of seven went to a family of two.

I know the pain of losing one child. I absolutely cannot fathom the pain of losing four of your children and your spouse.

It would have been so easy for Stacy to become angry at God and turn his back on Him.

Instead, he is using this heartbreaking tragedy to further God's kingdom.

I am so touched by his faith. Wouldn't we all want to be found so faithful in the face of tragedy?

Click here to watch this story. Whether you pull for Alabama or not, you will be touched.

Stacy will be the honorary captain for this year's Iron Bowl. It's a fitting tribute for him, but nothing he accomplished on the field can compare to the lives he is touching now.

When I went to bed last night, I said a prayer for Siran Stacy and his daughter, Shelley. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How Great is Our God!

That song has become one of my favorite praise and worship songs. Each time I hear it or sing it, I'm overcome thinking of how truly great our God is.

I have been blessed beyond comprehension.

I have a marriage that not only survived the death of a child, but grew stronger through that tragedy. Chris and I know what the minister meant when he said "for better or for worse." I am so grateful I married my best friend.

I have a husband who loves his daughters with all his heart. A man who had to sign his daughter's death certificate and make her funeral arrangements on his 5th wedding anniversary because his wife hurt too badly to go to the funeral home. A man who walks through the door at night, and regardless of his day, makes his girls feel as if they are the most special people in the world.

I have a daughter, Ann Catherine, who defied the odds. Not only did she survive such a perilous entry into the world, but she has no lasting effects from it. As she lay in the NICU, weighing less than two pounds and hooked up to tubes and a ventilator, she taught me more about the sheer will to live and what it means to fight. I promised her if she would fight to live, I would spend the rest of my life fighting for her. She did and I will.

I have another daughter, Lily Baker, who came into our lives at a time where we needed her so badly. We weren't trying to get pregnant. In fact, my pregnancy with Ann Catherine and Melissa was so scary that I never wanted to be pregnant again. But, God had other plans and he brought this wonderful rainbow into our lives to show us that all was not lost.

Yes, I lost my daughter. Yes, that is the most painful thing in the world for a parent to endure.

But do you want to know how great our God is?

He has used my precious baby's life to touch so many people. He has allowed us to take that tragedy and try to turn it into something good. He has allowed her memory and legacy to live on in the lives of countless babies in our NICU.

I take no credit for that. It's all God. Without him, I would have quit a long time ago.

And you want to know the greatest part of all? This is not the end for our family. All of us - Chris, Ann Catherine, Lily Baker and I - will be with Melissa again one day. I truly can't even comprehend how joyous and amazing that will be.

My prayer for you on this Thanksgiving is to remember all the blessings God has given you. We have all been through tragedies. We've all had bad things happen to us. It's so easy to get caught up in what we don't have. Instead, remember what you do have.

Remember how great our God is.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Our Tree is Up!

I love Christmas.

Even before we had kids, Chris and I both loved this time of year. We would put in a CD of Christmas carols, make hot chocolate and decorate our tree. We just loved putting out decorations.

When we had kids, it became even better.

This year, we did something we had never done before. We let the girls help us decorate the tree.

Let me just say, it was quite an experience. The girls had a blast. At one point, the majority of our ornaments were on the bottom part of the tree. It was hilarious. Once we were finished, Chris fixed their lunch and I "redistributed" the ornaments on the tree to even it out.

This picture shows the funniest part of the day.

When we first put up the tree, Lily walked over to it and tried to blow out the lights! I guess she thought they were like the candles on her birthday cake, and the poor thing went all around the tree trying to blow out the lights. It was so funny!

The most special part of the day came when Chris put the angel on top of the tree. Since Melissa's death, I have developed such a love for angels. We've always had an angel on top of our tree, but last year we purchased a new one and we even let Ann Catherine pick it out. It holds such a special meaning to me, and when I see the angel atop our tree, it makes me feel as if Melissa is with us and watching over us (as I know she is).

I love this picture of Ann Catherine and Lily watching Chris as he put the angel on top of the tree. They were taking it all in!

The tree looks beautiful and I love having it in our home. It's full of ornaments that mean so much to our family and putting it up gave us another chance today to make Melissa part of our family moments. We were able to talk about her as we hung some of her ornaments and as Chris put the angel on top of the tree. I thank God for those opportunities.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Tough Little Girl

Lily had her two-year doctor's appointment Thursday. Everything went well. She's doing great and is right on track.

She's such a little trooper. I say this because visits to the doctor with Ann Catherine are NOT fun. The minute the doctor walks in, she begins to cry. Lily, on the other hand, was fine. First, she got her foot pricked so they should check her blood. She didn't even cry. When the blood started coming out, she just put her little arm around me. Then, the doctor came in and as he listened to her heartbeat, she giggled. Lastly, when she got her vaccination, she cried for about ten seconds and that was it.

Best of all for me, was something she said. As I was talking to the doctor, I was holding her and I said, "I love you, Lily." She said, "I wuv you, too." She had never said that. She has said, "Wuv you, mommy," but had never answered me when I told her I loved her. My heart just melted. The funny part was she said it right after the doctor had asked me if she was putting two words together yet. She decided to show off and put together four words instead. :)

Lily got a clean bill of health. She is developing just right, and there were no medical problems. I was telling this to a friend of mine who went through something very similar to what we went through. She, too, had twins who were born very premature and one of them passed away. She also went on to have a healthy, full-term child. We talked about how "easy" doctors visits are with a well baby. Ann Catherine's doctors' appointments centered on so many questions that I had: how was she doing, was she "catching" up because of her prematurity, was she doing things that other kids her age were doing? We were obsessed with her weight gain and how she was developing. With Lily, I don't have all of those questions. Everything is just so....normal. It's quite a change from the first two years of Ann Catherine's life. Believe me, I don't take that for granted.

Lily is the coolest kid I know. I know that sounds strange to describe your child as "cool," but she is. She just does her own thing and is so easy-going. She digs her heels in about the things that really matter. Everything else is just gravy.

I love that little girl more than I could ever put into words. I'm so grateful that she is healthy...and here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Lily Baker!

It's official. When referring to Lily's age, I can no longer speak in terms of months. As in, "She's 23-months-old."

Lily is two-years-old.

I can't believe it. Seriously. This one is tough.

I've blogged about this before, but it's hard when your youngest child starts growing up. You just see those baby years fleeting away and it's hard on a mommy. Even so, I'm just so grateful she's healthy and she's here.

Lily had a great birthday. I'm so late blogging about it, because I'm still recovering from the festivities :)

Chris took Friday off and the four of us spent the day together. We started doing this on Ann Catherine's first birthday, mainly because the three of us just needed to be together since it was also the anniversary of Melissa's death. For Ann Catherine's birthday, we always go to the park because her birthday is in June and the weather is so nice.

For Lily's birthday, we were stumped. We had to pick an indoor place. So guess what? We went to Chuckie Cheese.

The girls, of course, were thrilled! We had lunch and let the girls play. The four of us had so much fun.

Lily's favorite part wasn't actually playing a game. Instead, she loved taking the tickets that came out when we won a game, and trying to put them back into the machine. (It's really the little things that make Lily happy!)

Ann Catherine, on the other hand, would spend five seconds on one game, and then run to another one. She could not have been happier!

Look at this adorable picture of Lily! She was watching the Chuckie Cheese band. Isn't that the sweetest face?

That evening, after Lily's nap, we had a small family party with Chris' parents and my parents. Chris, Ann Catherine and I got her a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which she loved! Lily loves watching "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" on TV and Chris and I knew she would love this gift. She and Ann Catherine have both had so much fun playing with it.

I would have to say her other favorite was this Elmo backpack that her Uncle Geoff, Aunt Lisa and cousin Ella gave her. She has worn it all weekend! It makes me so sad because she looks like such a big girl with it on. She'll bring it to us and say, "Elmo backpack on!" and we'll put it on her. She really loves it.

Lily is just the most amazing little girl. She has the sweetest smile that just melts your heart. I just love to snuggle and cuddle with her.

Lily just saved our family when she came into our lives. After Melissa died, Chris, Ann Catherine and I just had this huge hole in our hearts. When Lily came into the world, she helped heal that gaping hole. She gave us so much love and so much hope. She's my rainbow - God's way of telling our family it was all going to be okay.

I am so incredibly grateful for Lily. Each night at bedtime, I pray for Lily as I hold her in my arms. I thank God for her and thank him for sending her to us.

I often say, "Melissa saved Ann Catherine's life, and Ann Catherine saved ours." It's true. But, Lily also saved us. She is living proof that something beautiful can come out of something so tragic.

And that makes her birthday even sweeter. Happy Birthday, my sweet Lily!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cupcakes with Lily

Tomorrow is Lily's 2nd birthday. I can't believe it! Seriously, I'm having a hard time with this one. It's just so hard watching your baby grow up.

Today we took cupcakes to her mother's morning out class at daycare. You'll notice she's sitting in Chris' lap in all of the pictures. Here's why. I walked in first and she got excited. Chris walked in behind me and she got ecstatic! (Yes, she's a daddy's girl).

Chris picked her up and hugged her, and then tried to get her to sit down so we could serve cupcakes to her class. She thought he was leaving and she started bawling! So, I told him to just sit down and hold her and I would take the pictures.

When the class sang to Lily, it was so sweet! Then they chowed down on their cupcakes. It was such a sweet time! I love the blue icing around her mouth. And the stain on the front of her shirt? That's not from the cupcakes. That's from the applesauce she had at lunch. :)

Earlier in the morning, I co-hosted the morning show on Lite 96.9 with John Malone. John's co-host, Bonny O'Brien, is recovering from surgery and John invited me to be on the air with him this morning.

It was a blast! I've known John for years and he is truly a class act. He has been a good friend to me and Chris and Lite 96.9 has been a great supporter of Melissa's Fund. They sponsor Swim for Melissa and John always allows me to come on and talk about anything going on with the fund. This morning, we talked about Spirit of Hope, being a stay-at-home mom and even had a fun conversation with NewsChannel 19's Greg Screws about his appearance in the upcoming "Dancing with the Stars" competition to raise money for the Heals Clinic.

Morning radio is so much fun. You can truly just be yourself and let your true personality shine through. Truth be told, it's much more fun than TV news because it's more laid back. Thanks, John, for letting me share the mic with you this morning. I had a great time!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lights, Camera, Action!

We shot a promo with Channel 19 Tuesday for the upcoming Spirit of Hope Tree Lighting. The annual holiday event is Tuesday, December 9th at 6 p.m. at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

I love this event. It's such a special way to honor or remember the special child (or children) in your life during the holidays.

For $20 you can dedicate a light on the Spirit of Hope tree. In return, Huntsville Hospital Foundation will send a commemorative ornament to the child or children you gave in honor of. If you give in memory of a child, an ornament will be sent to the parents of the child.

Each year, Chris and I dedicate three lights: one in memory of Melissa and two in honor of Ann Catherine and Lily. The ornaments we receive in return have become so special to us, and we hang them on our tree every year.

To dedicate a light, click here . All lights dedicated on the Hope for a Future tree will benefit the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund, which purchases critical equipment for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

We had fun shooting the promo. This year, the girls cooperated! (Last year Lily was quite "squirmy" and made things a little difficult.) We had lots of fun and we can't wait to see it on television.

I also wanted to post some pictures tonight of Ann Catherine and Lily's "pedicure." Ann Catherine found my nail polish and asked me to paint her toenails. As soon as Lily saw what we were doing, she sat down next to Ann Catherine, pointed at her feet and said, "Toes, mommy."

Painting their toenails is tricky. The hardest part is getting them to wait while the polish dries. But, we had lots of fun and they loved how their toenails looked. I even painted Ann Catherine's fingernails (and a couple of Lily's). This is why I love having girls :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gramps' Little Helpers

We bought a new table for Lily and Ann Catherine. It's a real wooden table to replace the plastic one they have.

Chris' parents are visiting us this week. Gramps (that's what the girls call Chris' father) decided to put the table together this morning. He instantly had a helper in Ann Catherine! She was right by his side the entire time.

Gramps has the patience of Job. He would give Ann Catherine "jobs" that she could do to help him. Then, of course, Lily had to join in. It was so sweet. Here are some pictures:

Gramps giving Lily a job

Gramps, does this leg go here?

As you can see, Lily was a big helper!

The best part of all: jumping on the bubble wrap!

Lily got a little distracted when Elmo came on :)

The finished product! Ann Catherine and Lily love their new table. They spent lots of time sitting there today eating snacks and coloring. Best part of all, they "helped" put it together!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daddy-Daughter Time

Chris and I really try to spend one-on-one time with our girls. Since they are so close in age, they are together a lot. So getting that special individual time with mommy and daddy can be special. We call it "Daddy-Daughter time" or "Mommy-Daughter time."

For instance, Ann Catherine and I had "Mommy-Daughter time" on Saturday. I took her to Bridge Street with me and we had so much fun. We shopped, we rode the carousel and we had lemonade. Chris took Lily to Publix and they had "Daddy-Daughter time."

Well, tonight Ann Catherine had "Daddy-Daughter time" and she was THRILLED! Chris took her to the Havoc hockey game, which by the way, is Ann Catherine's favorite place to go. I think it's a combination of the hockey, the music and the dippin' dots!

I just wanted to relax tonight, so I told Chris to take Ann Catherine and I would stay home with Lily. Ann Catherine was so excited before they left. I asked her if she was going to have dippin' dots at the game, and she said, "Am I Daddy?" Chris answered, "You can have anything you want."

On second thought, maybe that's why she loves going to the games.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Don't Forget to Shop Barnes & Noble this Week!!

Hi everyone! Just a reminder that you can shop at Barnes & Noble this week and help Melissa's Fund!

It's so easy. Print this voucher and take it to ANY Barnes and Noble. You can use it at any store because the barcode is specific to Melissa's Fund. When you check out, give it to the cashier and Melissa's Fund will get a percentage of the sales.

Our plan is to use the money we raise to purchase the book "On the Night You Were Born" for each baby who is in our NICU during the holidays. We were so lucky that Ann Catherine wasn't in the NICU during any major holidays. It's hard enough to be separated from your child while he or she is in the NICU, but during Christmas it can be especially tough. We hope giving parents this special book will make their holidays just a little brighter.

By the way, I bought this book after Lily was born and I absolutely LOVE it! We plan to put nameplates within each book to remind the parents that the books were a gift from Melissa's Fund. This could be so touching for parents years after their children are released from NICU.

So, please use this voucher this week and help us make the holidays brighter for our NICU families. It ends this Saturday, November 8th. I'm told you can't do it online - you must make your purchase in a store.

As always, thanks for your support of Melissa's Fund!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

I hope your kids enjoyed Halloween. Mine certainly did!

Little Red Riding Hood and Super Girl had a fabulous time trick or treating. First we went to the home of our friends Steve and Laura (or La-La as my girls call her). They are Lily's godparents and dear friends of ours who have been through so much with us. We love them! Laura and Steve were right there with us as we went through the loss of Melissa, Ann Catherine's NICU stay and my pregnancy with Lily. Chris and I knew that we wanted them to be Lily's godparents. They have such a strong faith and are so special to us! The girls love Steve and Laura's children, Josh and Jordan (or Jo-Jo as we call her). As you can see, the Georges are big on nicknames!

Ann Catherine and Lily with Josh and Jo-Jo

Me and Little Red

Our family!

La-La gives Super Girl a ride through the air!

From there we went trick or treating with our friends. Lily was pretty funny. As far as she was concerned, you "get a piece of candy, eat a piece of candy." She simply could not understand why someone would give you a piece of candy, and you had to put it in your pumpkin and keep walking! I fought it for a couple of houses, and then finally broke down and let her start eating some as she went.

Here's Lily searching through her pumpkin looking for something to eat!

Ann Catherine is on her way to the next house. That's Lily in the background taking her own sweet time.

This house had candy on the front porch for you to take. Notice the chocolate on Lily's chin. At this point, I had given in and was letting her eat as she went.

Super Girl at the end of the night enjoying her sucker!