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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Motivation for Moms

Have you noticed that new little doo-dad on the right hand side of my blog?

It's called "Motivation for Moms" and it's provided by Christian Women Online. It contains a daily Bible verse or thought for moms. I actually got the idea for it from Jennifer's blog (you can read her blog, Love My 2 Boys on the right hand side of my blog - thanks Jennifer!).

I just love it! Last Sunday's said, "Don't just tell your children you love them. Tell them what you love about them." As in, "Ann Catherine, I love you because you truly have the kindest heart of anyone I have ever known." Or, "Lily, I love you because you make me laugh out loud when you talk in that gravelly Wolfman Jack-sounding voice you use sometimes." Isn't that so much better?! :)

I encourage you to read it each time you are on my blog. And if you have a blog, feel free to add it to your site. After all, we all need a little motivation sometimes!

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Bloggin' Friends

As I was laying in bed last night, God told me to pray for my bloggin' friends. These are people who I either met through my blog, or people I already knew but whose blogs I read on a regular basis to keep in touch with them. They all have different needs. One is experiencing fertility problems. One lost a child a while back, went on to have another little girl, but is experiencing fear that something could happen to her or the rest of her family (after all, she knows that harsh reality). And one is approaching the first anniversary of the death of her daughter. I link to all of their blogs, and they have recently shared their struggles and fears in their posts.

We all share something in common - pain and suffering in one way or another. And beyond that, a belief in God and his perfect ways (even when we don't understand them).

After I prayed for these ladies, I realized that I wouldn't know about these struggles if it weren't for this world of blogging.

What started as a way to keep viewers updated while I was on maternity leave with Lily (I was an anchor at WHNT when I started this blog) has turned into such a powerful tool.

Not because of me. Believe me, I am woefully inadequate and ill-equipped. I fail so many times a day I lose count. But, God decided a while ago that he was going to use this blog as a way to reach others who are hurting. He let me know that and I'm honored that he's taking me along for the ride.

Not that I want to be the poster child for pain and suffering. But, I also know that God allowed me to go through that experience of losing a child so I could help others. And he made it very clear to me about a year ago - through blog comments from other ladies or people stopping me to say they read my blog - that there was a good portion of women who read this blog who were also experiencing some type of grief or pain. Not all have lost a child - some are hurting in different ways or have fear in their lives they are dealing with. And he also made it clear that part of my ministry was this blog. Who would have thought it? So many people think God is some old-fogey who is out of touch with today's world. But the God who created the internet (not Al Gore, mind you - but God) uses blogs and such as a way for believers to reach out to each other. How cool is that?!

Ever since Melissa died, my favorite verse has become:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

That's what he expects of those of us who have gone through struggles. If you've ever asked God "why" when you were going through something tough, your answer lies in that verse. He's leading you down this path so you can help someone else one day. Pretty amazing, isn't it?

So, I write this post to thank all of you who read my blog. I'm very humbled by it. And I thank those of you who pray for me, too. I try to be very honest about the struggles I face and I thank you for being a listening ear. I told my best friend, Olivia, that writing some of my posts about Melissa is true therapy for me. It allows me to honestly share my heart and work through my grief. Thank you for letting me do that.

And to those of you facing tough times, hang in there. And let me know how I can pray for you. We bloggin' friends have to stick together! :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You Never Let Go

One of Ann Catherine's favorite songs is "You Never Let Go."

It's a Christian song that talks about how God never lets us go - through the good times and the bad.

It was on a CD that she got at last year's Vacation Bible School. She loves a lot of the songs on that tape and this is one of her favorite ones. (It just goes to show how powerful VBS can be, even to a three-year-old.)

The chorus says

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

As you can understand, this song just speaks to me and Chris. We are a living, breathing example of how God never lets go. I guess that's why it just warms my heart when Ann Catherine sings it. There's something so precious about your child singing praise songs, and it just especially touches me when she sings this one. That child has no idea how God held onto her when she was so sick. She has no idea how he held onto me and Chris during that ordeal and her sister's death.

It gets better. On the way to the hockey game the other night, Ann Catherine wanted to listen to this CD. When this song came on, Lily, my two-year-old who is just starting to string together sentences, just starts belting this song out. She has heard Ann Catherine sing it so many times that she knows the words now.

That precious little innocent soul was shouting, "Oh No! You never let go!" with such emphasis that Chris and I had tears in our eyes. "My heart is so full," he said. "Mine too," I said. We just soaked up those sweet sounds on the way to the hockey game.

At church today, we sang it. Chris leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Ann Catherine asked me this morning if we were going to sing Lily's song at big church." Well, wouldn't you know it? God thought it was time we sang Lily's song.

I put my arm through Chris' and sang this song with tears in my eyes. One part especially spoke to me:

I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

That really spoke to me. I am so grateful that there is a reward for the "heart that holds on." I am so grateful that this earthly pain isn't forever.

We all - every single one of us - experience earthly pain in one form or another. There is a lot of hurt in this world. Sometimes our struggles seem so hard with no end in sight.

"Still I will praise you, still I will praise you."

That's the key. And it's not easy. Please don't think I am superwoman. When Melissa died, I didn't immediately praise God. I hurt and I was confused and I was mad and I was devestated.

But, I praise Him now. My "heart holds on" and I praise Him for what He has done in our lives. I praise Him that Melissa is safe and happy and well. I praise Him for His promise of seeing her again one day.

That's not because I'm some perfect person - far from it. It's because of what He has done in my life.

No matter what you face in your life, I hope you'll remember that God never lets go. We might think he has because the situation is so hard and the pain hurts so bad, but he hasn't. He holds us so tight. Think of the words of this song.

And if we just trust him, we'll be able to praise him again. With our whole heart.

Just like our children.

Take a moment to watch this. And just remember that he never lets go.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Conversations with my Daughter

You know when your child says something really sweet or funny and people always tell you to write it down so you don't forget it?

Well, I'm doing just that.

The other day I was snuggling with Ann Catherine.

Me: I love you, Ann Catherine.
AC: I love you too, Mommy.
Me: I'm so glad God gave you to us.
AC: God made me, Mommy. But, I needed you so badly.

I just sat there with tears in my eyes. She needed me? She has no idea how badly we needed her. How badly we needed her to pull through in the NICU after we lost Melissa. We needed her so badly.

That was the sweet. Now here's the funny.

Last night at bedtime, we said our prayers with Ann Catherine. Chris left the room and Ann Catherine said:

AC: Mommy, can we sing that song about Jesus and the children who are red and yellow, black and white?

So we sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

AC: Mommy, can we sing another one?
Me: (Realizing she's trying to delay going to sleep) Sure, but just one more.
AC: Let's sing the hockey game song.
Me: The hockey game song? What are you talking about?
AC: You know, YMCA.

I thought I was going to bust out laughing. They sing "YMCA" at the Havoc games and AC and Lily like to do the motions. But I had no idea she even knew what it was called.

So, there I was, in her room at bedtime singing, "Young man, there's no need to feel down..." in a quite voice so I wouldn't wake up Lily next door.

Not exactly what you envision singing to your child at bedtime.

But then again, that's what I love about being a mom. Never a dull moment.

And sometimes, you can't dream this stuff up :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Miss My Routine!

I have been under the weather the past couple of days. Yesterday I felt so bad that Chris had to get the girls up and ready for mother's morning out.

As I laid in bed feeling lousy, I could hear their voices on the monitor. I heard Ann Catherine start to cry when Chris said he was taking her to school instead of mommy (not that she doesn't love Chris, but mommy always takes her!). I heard Lily walking in the den and saying, "Mommy, where are you?" I heard them getting dressed, eating breakfast - all of the things they do with me each day.

And I realized - I miss my routine.

My girls go to a mother's morning out a few mornings a week and, unless something major comes up, I always take them. I get them dressed, I feed them and I drive them to school. After all, Chris works and this is why I stay home.

Chris told me Ann Catherine had a meltdown on the way to school because he went a different way than I go. "This is not the way mommy goes!" Ann Catherine cried. What can I say? The child is a creature of habit.

This life I have may not be the most exciting life in the world, but it's my life - and I love it. You don't realize that until you are sick and stuck in bed.

Speaking of staying home, can I just say how bad TV is in the mornings? I never realized it because in the morning our TV is always on PBS or Disney Channel.

Seriously, I flipped and flipped yesterday and couldn't find anything worth watching. I was over "The View" a long time ago when it became so mean and political. However, I also didn't care about watching the 8th hour of "The Today Show" and the "Price is Right" doesn't excite me either. I finally just crawled out of bed, grabbed The Huntsville Times and read it in bed. It was better than anything on television.

I'm just hoping this is over soon! I miss taking care of my girls and doing all those "mommy" things.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Valley Babies Column

Some of you may not know, but I'm a columnist for Valley Babies magazine. It's a great local magazine for moms and I have really enjoyed being part of it. The February-March issue is out and I thought I would share my column. Most of my columns are issue-oriented, but this one is a light-hearted one that came to me shortly after I started staying home with the girls. I'm sure many of you moms can relate! Click here to read "The Top Ten Things I Have Learned as a Stay at Home Mom." Enjoy!

By the way, you can find Valley Babies in various stores that cater to women and children, doctor's offices, salons and other places. If you own a business and are interested in reaching this audience of moms, or if you would like to place the magazine in your store, click here to learn more about the magazine.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Several times this week I had to resist the urge to buy the girls something for Valentine's Day.

Not because I didn't want them to have anything, but because I wanted their gifts on this holiday to come from Chris instead of me.

That how it was at my house growing up. Each Valentine's Day, my father got something for my mom, my sister and me. Our Valentine's Day gift always came from him. I always knew on that special day that I could count on my daddy.

I can't think of a more important job than being a father to a little girl. The way fathers love and treat their girls is the way their daughters will grow up expecting men to treat them. Girls with a strong and loving male role model will grow up feeling worthy of love. And they'll look for those same qualities in other men when they are older.

A girl's first love should always be her daddy.

For that reason, I leave Valentine's Day up to Chris. I want their gifts to always be from their daddy. I want him to be their first Valentine. I want this to be their holiday - Chris, Ann Catherine and Lily.

Chris got them candy flowers and cute princess boxes with candy necklaces.

As you can see, Lily Baker wasted no time in eating her necklace :)

Also this morning, I took Ann Catherine to a "Mommy and Me" tea at a friend's house. She got all dressed up and had such a good time. Here is a picture of us before we left:

Ann Catherine looked like such a big girl at her tea. I almost cried as we walked out the door because she looked so old! My little girl is growing up.

Chris and I celebrated Valentine's Day last night. We went to see the movie "Fireproof" at our church (I'll blog about that later). My sweet husband gave me a gift card for a massage (which I plan to use very soon!!) and these beautiful roses. I am an old-fashioned girl who LOVES to get flowers and pink roses are my favorite.

The girls spent the night at my parents house, and as much as I love, love, love my girls I have to say it was so nice waking up this morning and just being lazy. I drank my coffee and read the paper and just soaked in the quietness. Of course, by 9 a.m. I missed them like crazy and Chris went to get them. The four of us are going to the Huntsville Havoc game tonight. What a great way to cap off Valentine's Day (there is nothing my girls enjoy more than going to the hockey games). I hope your Valentine's Day is special too!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine Wands

Our friends Susan and Kevin came over last night. You may remember, Susan is my "crafty" friend. She came over before Halloween and painted pumpkins with the girls (because their mother is artistically challenged).

Last night, she came armed with her craft supplies - even a glue gun (very exciting for someone as craft-clueless as me)! The girls made Valentine wands. Here are some pics:

Getting started...

Su-Su helping Lily

Ann Catherine's hearts

Lily's hearts

Lily intently watching Susan using the glue gun. She was very impressed :)

Lily and Ann Catherine showing off their wands!

Putting the ribbon on the wand - the finishing touch!

Sitting with Ms. Su-Su on the sofa. They sure do love her! By the way, for those of you who know all about Melissa's Fund, Susan works for Huntsville Hospital Foundation and is actually in charge of Swim for Melissa (in addition to all of the other MANY things she does there!). She is one of my dearest friends and I love her for all that she has done to make Melissa's Fund so meaningful to so many families!

The girls were so proud of their wands! This morning, Ann Catherine was going through the house doing magic spells. The girls love Ms. Su-Su and had so much fun last night!!

After all that excitement, we let the girls make Valentine cookies. What a fun night!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No Greater Love Than This

I spoke to a wonderful group of people today - the Sonshiner's Club at Southside Baptist Church. They are a group of older men and women who truly love God. I just love that generation and I have so much respect for what they have been through and what they have seen.

Since it was their February meeting, they asked me to share my "love story." The lady who called to ask me said she knew that we had a story of love and they wanted to hear it.

I thought about this today as I drove there. It's interesting that they would say "love story" because that usually conjures up thoughts of a man and woman and their relationship. But, I realized something on the way there today.

I didn't truly understand the meaning of love until I became a mother.

I didn't know what selfless love looked like. I didn't know what it meant to put my needs behind everyone else's needs. I didn't know what it meant to worry as you held a sick baby during the night. I didn't know what it meant to have your heart melt when your child said "mommy" for the first time. I didn't know their scraped knees could make me feel so bad. I didn't know my three-year-old telling me "I love you" could make everything okay. I didn't know there was a love so powerful that my heart would hurt whenever my children hurt.

I didn't understand the heartbreaking pain of loving your child with every fiber of your being - and then losing her.

I didn't understand that kind of love until I became a mommy.

Then I thought of something else.

I didn't truly understand the love of Jesus until my daughter died.

Yes, I had been a Christian since I was a little girl and I had been raised in church. I knew Jesus loved us. For pete's sake, "Jesus Loves Me" is the first song you learn as a child in Sunday School.

But, I didn't understand his all-encompassing, unwavering love until Melissa died.

Because of his love for us, he sent his son to die for us. Because of that, my daughter is in Heaven. She is whole and she is happy. And because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my saviour, I will be there too one day. With her. Death does not separate us forever.

Do you know what that means to a mother who has lost a child? That is hope beyond hope.

Then I think of the fact that he loves us more than anything. That one always gets me. How in the world can anyone love my children more than me??! I mean, I love them so much that I can't even put it into words.

But, he loves them more. That one just blows me away.

It makes me see Valentine's Day a little differently this year. It's not just a time for me to get all excited about what Chris is going to get me. :) It's a time to really think about that word love and what it means. It's a time to remember how much God loves us, and what He did to prove that love to us.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Are They Twins?

"Are they twins?" the cashier in the checkout line asked me.

The reality of that question hit me hard. She was talking about Lily and Ann Catherine. They were sitting side by side and they had their hair pulled back in a barette on the same side.

It took me a minute to answer.

"No," I answered, "but they are only 17 months apart, so they are pretty close in age."

We talked a little more, and then we left the store. As I walked out, my heart began to ache. Are they twins? How could that sweet lady have known the enormity of that question for me. Yes, the older one is a twin, but her twin isn't here, I thought. It just seems so complicated sometimes.

There was a time when the thought of twins made me cry. When I saw twins together, I would just ache on the inside. Sometimes I would look at the parents, and just get so upset. 'Why does your daughter get to know her twin and mine doesn't?', I wanted to scream.

I'll be honest. It still hurts sometimes. I'll see twins and I'll hurt for what could have been for Ann Catherine. And for me and Chris.

It just seems so unfair sometimes.

Why should Ann Catherine have to grow up without Melissa? Even though I have accepted God's will for our lives, and am so grateful that Melissa is safe with him, it still hurts. I'm human. The loss of your child is devestating. You never "get over it."

Then I see Lily Baker. And I am reminded of what He has given to us, what He has given to Ann Catherine. No, Lily is not her twin. But, Lily has filled a deep void in Ann Catherine's life. In all of our lives. She completed all of us. Man, I love that little girl. She single-handedly healed my broken heart.

That innocent question from the cashier also made me realize something. I can prepare for birthdays, Easters, Christmases, Thanksgivings and other special occasions. You know, those "obvious" days that I will know will be hard because Melissa isn't here. At least I know those days are coming.

What's tough are those ordinary days where you just feel blindsided. When the cashier asks if your daughters are twins, or you see twin girls in pigtails at the mall and you just ache on the inside.

The only way I know to "prepare" for those days is to stay grounded in my faith and put my complete trust in God. Just as He has carried me on the days like Christmas and Melissa's birthday, He also carries me on those ordinary days. He knows before I leave the house who I will encounter and how it will shape me. And He comforts me when I encounter the unexpected.

He does that for all of us who have experienced loss. I am so grateful for that.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What's Old is New

From the Old Toys Make the Best Toys Department...

Ann Catherine and I were at Target the other day and she saw a Jack in the Box. She played with it and thought it was so funny. Yesterday, she and Lily and I were there and she said, "Mommy, can we show Lily that Jack in the Box? It will really make her laugh."

So off we went to the toy department once we had finished our shopping. We showed Lily the Jack in the Box and of course, she thought it was hilarious. They asked if they could have it and being the sucker that I am, I said yes. I have never seen a toy cause more fussing and arguing. On the way to the car, I threatened five times to go back inside and return it. They both wanted to play with it (yes, there was only one in the store) and I had to make them share. Here are some cute pictures I snapped once we got home.

Lily playing with her Jack in the Box

Wait for it....

Pop goes the Weasel!

On a separate note, how fabulous was the weather yesterday afternoon?! We have been cooped up in this house for a couple of weeks because of sickness and how cold it's been outside. Yesterday after the girls and I ran errands, I decided to let them blow off their nap and play outside instead. They had the best time!!

Silly faces in the playhouse!

Ann Catherine had to shed her hockey jersey. It was just too warm!

We already have spring fever! Today is supposed to be in the 60s and we are going to play outside again. I am ready for warm weather!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pray with More Thank Yous

Chris and I have a bedtime ritual with both of our girls, and it involves prayer. With Lily, one of us reads a book to her and then says a prayer out loud before we put her in her crib. She has even started saying "amen" at the end.

With Ann Catherine, Chris and I crawl in bed with her and after we read a book, we each say something we are thankful for. We started this a while ago and I love it. I wanted to make Ann Catherine aware of all the things she has to be thankful for. I love seeing what she comes up with each night.

After that, we sing "God our Father" (they sing this song at daycare and my girls love it) and then Ann Catherine prays out loud. Here is how last night's prayer went:

"Dear Jesus, thank you for Mommy, Daddy and Lily,
Thank you that my little sister is feeling better,
Thank you for letting me go to my Mimi and Poppy's house today,
Thank you for all of the babies in the NICU,
Thank you for the whole world. Amen."

(I admit, the last line made the laugh. That kind of covers everything, doesn't it?)

When she finished I told Ann Catherine, "Baby, Jesus loves your prayers. You want to know why? You don't ask for a thing. You just thank him."

After I tucked her in, I started thinking about this. My prayers are often peppered with, 'please help me with this,' 'please give us this,' and 'please allow this to happen.' Yes, I thank Him for things, but how much of my prayer is spent just thanking him for his blessings?

My three-year-old gets this. She doesn't ask for a single thing. And sometimes it amazes me the things she thanks him for (like going to a friend's house to play). It's the little things. We've heard that phrase all of our lives, but it's so true. And our children get it. Why can't we?

I'm trying to pray more like my daughter. I want my prayers to contain more 'thank yous' and fewer 'please do this for us' requests. Isn't it amazing that we have to learn such a lesson from our children?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Back to Normal

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and well wishes. Lily is back to being Lily again. She feels much better and is running all over the house and making me laugh. Since Lily is better (and not contagious) the four of us went to a friend's house last night to watch the Super Bowl, while the kids all played together. I think we all enjoyed being out of the house!!

I took Ann Catherine to a birthday party yesterday at Build a Bear Workshop. Most of the moms were telling me they had either had RSV, colds or the stomach flu at their house in the past couple of weeks, so we weren't alone in being miserable last week. I guess it's just that time of year.

I hope you all have a wonderful week. And I hope your little ones stay sickness-free!