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Friday, June 26, 2009

Lilypalooza, My Rainbow

Today I picked up Lily's coffee table book. Kristin Farnsworth, with Whispers Photography, has taken my girls' pictures since they were born and she does a coffee table book of their first two years. They are one of my most prized possessions!

I picked up Lily's today and couldn't be happier. Kristin lets you choose favorite quotes or scriptures and she includes them in the books. When I was coming up with verses that reflect my feelings for Lily, I came up with about 4 and Kristin used all of them. But there are two in the book that mean the most to me.

"I will put my rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of my promise..." Genesis 9:13

I call Lily my rainbow. Just as God sent the rainbow to promise Noah he would never flood the Earth again, he sent Lily, our rainbow, to us as a promise. This promise was that something good, pure and beautiful could come out of so much tragedy and heartache. As I have always said, Lily is not a replacement for Melissa, but she is a beautiful completion of our family. She is God's promise that all wasn't lost. She is God's promise that I would be able to laugh and love again. She is God's promise that you can survive one of the most painful loses imaginable.

She is my rainbow.

The other verse is this: "Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you..." Colossians 1:9

My, how we prayed when we learned we were pregnant with Lily. To say we were scared was an understatement. My first pregnancy with Melissa and Ann Catherine was not an easy one and the outcome was not what we had imagined. Therefore, although I wanted Ann Catherine to have a sibling one day, I never wanted to be pregnant again. In fact, I had begun looking into adoption when we learned we were pregnant with Lily. I believe that God allowed us to become pregnant with her so we could truly learn what it means to trust him. We knew all of the bad things that could happen during a pregnancy because, unfortunately, many of those things had happened to us with AC and Melissa. So for nine months we had to completely rely on God and his will for our lives. While I was pregnant, I prayed constantly that God would allow Lily to live and that he would allow us to have the happy outcome we so desperately wanted. He answered that prayer. And I am eternally grateful.

Lily's mere presence has brought so much joy into our lives. Thank you God for sending the rainbow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shots, Shots and More Shots

Today was AC's four-year checkup. For you mommies who don't know, the four-year-old checkup is a doozy.

You get four shots.

That's right. One. Two. Three. Four.

I have been dreading this since my pediatrician informed me about it a few months ago. I could handle shots when they were babies. As bad as I hated to see my children cry, at least they didn't know it was coming until it happens.

A four-year-old knows. She can see the giant needles.

I didn't tell Ann Catherine about the shots. I figured it would only make it worse and make her dread it.

The nurse walked in and AC was fine. She had done so good during her checkup and thought it was over.

Then she saw the bandaids. The nurse told me to stand in between AC's legs and put my arms around her.

Then she saw the needles.

And then she became to scream.

I held on tight and, thankfully, the nurse was quick about it. AC was fighting us the whole time. There is nothing worse than your child looking at you for help and instead of helping, you are holding her down. After the fourth one, AC said, "Mommy, I want to go home!"

So did I.

The nurse said, "Ann Catherine, I do love that you are such a fighter." She told me that because AC was born so sick and premature, she loved seeing such fight in her.

Oh, she's a fighter alright. NICU babies have to be. And she still is.

I was really proud of AC because as soon as the shots were over, she stopped crying. We grabbed some stickers and left. She wasn't even crying anymore by the time we left the office.

I took her to Peggy Ann Bakery and got her a cookie covered in icing. Not a bad consolation prize.

The good news is AC doesn't get vaccinations again until she's twelve.

The bad news is Lily isn't four yet. In a year and a half, we get to do this again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

His Greatest Gift Ever

Hope all of you daddies had a wonderful Father's Day! Chris enjoyed his gifts on his special day.

The girls got him a golf shirt with an elephant on it to wear on game day...

And I got him a new cover for his grill (which doesn't fit, by the way, and has to be exchanged. Oh, well. What do I know about grill covers??).

And here's a cute picture of Lily "helping" her daddy open his presents.

But you know what? I could give Chris Father's Day presents until the end of time and they would never compare to his Father's Day gift four years ago. Here it is:

This was the first day he ever held Ann Catherine.

She was 17 days old.

Ann Catherine weighed only one pound, 15 ounces when she was born and was so critically ill. I wasn't able to hold her until she was ten days old (you talk about heartbreaking for a mommy). All I could do was sit by her bed and whisper in her ear.

When they finally let me hold her, they would allow me to hold her just a few moments each day. If Chris was with me, they would always ask him if he wanted to hold her. As bad as he did, he would always say, "That's okay. Let Amy do it. She needs it more than I do." He didn't mean that he didn't want to hold his baby girl. He just knew that this mommy needed to be able to hold Ann Catherine so badly. After all we had been through losing Melissa, this was something he could give me.

So each day Chris would come into the NICU, lean down next to Ann Catherine's tiny little ear and whisper, "Hey Ann Catherine. Daddy's here."

He said that every time he visited her. We even have it on video. He wanted that sick little girl to know that her daddy - her protector - was there for her. And he visited her so often. Each time he had a break at work, he would rush to the NICU so he could see her. And if I wasn't there, he would immediately call me to let me know how she was doing.

Seven days after I held her for the first time, Chris got a special surprise. It was Father's Day and we arrived that afternoon to visit Ann Catherine. The nurse looked at Chris and told him that since it was Father's Day, he was going to hold Ann Catherine. (If you are looking at the photo above and thinking, 'is he not wearing a shirt?' you are right. In the NICU they practice "Kangaroo Care" and parents hold preemies skin to skin. It's the warmest place for a premature baby to be.)

What an amazing Father's Day gift! And I was more than happy to step back and give him this time with her. It was so unbelievable watching him hold her. She was still so sick and so tiny. He waited 17 long days to hold her and this day meant everything to him.

He told Ann Catherine about it this morning. He explained to her that four years ago on Father's Day, he received the best gift ever. He held his baby girl for the first time.

No grill cover or golf shirt will ever top that. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

VBS Week!

Wow - what a week. Well, technically not a week because our VBS (which our church actually calls "Go and Grow") was only Tuesday-Thursday. To those of you who do a 5-day VBS, my hat's off to you. I am so tired after just three days, I cannot imagine five.

That's not to say I didn't have a blast, because I did. Seriously, I had the best time working VBS. I shared the duties of Bible storyteller for the 3,4 and 5-year-olds. To say that AC was excited that I was working with her age group would be an understatement. I teach kindergartners on Sunday mornings, primarily because they are old enough to understand things but young enough to still want to hug me. But I also don't teach her age group because I want her to have some space from me. So she was thrilled that I would be working with her age group for VBS.

The very first day I came up on stage to start our skit and each time I would ask the kids something (like 'are you ready boys and girls?' or 'do you know the answer, boys and girls?') AC would yell out, "Yes, Mommy!!" On day two she kept saying "Hey, Mommy!" and was getting quite irritated that I didn't say hello back. However, I figured the woman who saw Jesus at the tomb probably didn't yell out 'hey, AC!' and since I was in character, I decided not to as well. Today, I had finally learned my lesson, so when I came out on stage I made eye contact with her and gave her a little wink. That seemed to do the trick and satisfy her.

I LOVED working VBS! This is something I was never able to do when I worked full time so this really was such a treat for me. More than anything, I think I loved "sneaking" around to watch her - whether it was singing and dancing, making crafts or playing games. I just loved watching her take it all in. Today we had our finale where the kids showed the parents the songs they had learned all week. I snapped a few photos:

I love this picture because of the pure joy in her face while she sings. Is she having fun or what??

Intently listening to what's going on :)

LB and her daddy!

Me and AC with a mouth full of chicken mcnuggets in her mouth (we had a picnic at church afterwards). Am I looking a little tired?

My kids had the best week and so did I! VBS was such a huge part of my early years and I want the same for my kids. They couldn't wait to go to church each morning and that just made me so happy. Now, we are just ready to sleep in tomorrow (I'll even take 7:30!!) and rest. As fun as it is, VBS is also a bit exhausting!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ahead of their Time

Isn't it crazy what our kids know? They are growing up in such a technologically-advanced age that I can't imagine what they'll be doing by the time they are 12!

Take for instance yesterday. AC was playing on my computer (I'll pull up a blank word doc and she pretends she 'checking her email.'). Anyhoo, I asked her what she was doing and she said, "texting an email." No it doesn't make any sense but she sees her mommy check her email and send text messages and she thinks she can do it too. The fact that she even knew the word 'texting' made me laugh.

The best part was at my mother's house the other night when she picked up my mom's cell phone and starting snapping pictures. My mother said, "Ann Catherine, how do you do that?" and she starting showing my mother how to take pictures with her phone.

She's 4.

Oh, and she also showed my mom how to use their DVD player. But she was 3 then.

Cracks me up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Button is Fixed

Swim for Melissa

Hey everyone!

Whitney fixed the donation widget so the "a" is no longer cut off at the end of Melissa's name. So grab the new code to the right instead, put the blog button on your blog and help us spread the word about Swim for Melissa! Thanks!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blog Button is Up!

Swim for Melissa

A giant, heartfelt THANK YOU to Whitney who created a donation widget for Swim for Melissa (see to the right). It links directly to our Swim for Melissa website so people can donate directly.

If any of you would be so kind to put this on your blog, I would greatly appreciate it!! The code is to the right. You'll notice that where I have it the "a" in Melissa's name is cut off. That's because it isn't 125x125. Whitney is graciously working to fix that, so in the meantime, you might want to post it at the top of your blog (or you can do it to the side if that doesn't bother you). Again, thank you Whitney for doing this for me!!!

Now my fellow bloggers - please add this to your blog and help us raise some money! Thanks so much to everyone for helping us promote the event!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can You Help?

Hey everyone - I need a little help from those of you who not as "technology-challenged" as I am.

A few people have suggested that we create blog buttons or donation widgets for Swim for Melissa. That way, you guys can post them on your blogs so people can donate directly on the Swim for Melissa website. I am ALL ABOUT doing whatever I can to raise more money, but I have no clue how to do this.

Do any of you know how to create these? And if so, could you please give a sister a little help? You can either post a comment explaining to me how to do it, or (if you REALLY want to send some love my way) you could create it for me!! I'll be happy to send you a jpg of the SFM logo. I think creating such a thing is a great idea, but I'm a bit challenged on how to do it.

Thanks so much!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Time for Swim for Melissa!!

I can't believe it, but it's already time for Swim for Melissa!! Where has the time gone?!

Our website is already up and running -

This website is awesome. This is where you can sign your child up to swim in the event, which is Saturday, August 15th at Hampton Cove Pool. Here's how it works:

1. Sign up your child to swim at Click on "Register Here" then "Start a Team."
2. Find seven friends to swim with you (must be at least 5 years old).
3. Have those friends go to and sign up by choosing "Join a Team."
4. Email your web page to your parents, Aunt Mary in Kansas, your maid of honor who now lives in Idaho, your 1st grade teacher, anyone you want!!! Ask them to donate online.
5. Call Susan Ready at Huntsville Hospital Foundation at 265-8077 or email and sign up for a time to swim.
6. Show up and have fun!!!!

We started doing online fundraising a couple of years ago and it is the greatest thing ever. Instead of taking your child's sign up sheet to church and door to door asking every to donate (and having to keep up with the money!) just email the web page to everyone in your address book and ask them to donate online. They will receive an email confirmation with all of the tax-deductible information. It is so fun and easy!!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Swim for Melissa, it benefits the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund which my husband, Chris, and I established in 2005 in memory of our daughter who passed away in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. Money raised at this event will go directly to the NICU to purchase equipment such as Giraffe Isolettes and Incubators.

Maybe you want to help, but your child is too young to swim. No worries!! We have a paddlers division. This is what my daughter, Ann Catherine, does. You can go to and click on "Register Here" then "Join as an Individual." Your child will still be able to raise money and will be eligible for prizes. Then on Saturday, bring the family out for a day of fun at Swim for Melissa! In addition to swimming, we'll have games and inflatables on the grounds of the Hampton House and lunch provided by Publix! This is a great option for those of you who had children in the NICU and you want to give back, but they are too young to swim!

Okay - confession here. I haven't set up AC's page yet. Cut me some slack, though - last week was a little crazy around here! :) I will be away from my computer for the next couple of days, but it is on my to-do list for this weekend!

Bloggin' friends - please help me get the word out about this great event!!! Post it on your blogs, link to mine - whatever you can do to help! We know we are in a "down economy" but I have lots of faith that we can raise a substantial amount to help those precious babies in our NICU. Last year we raised $145,000. Let's beat it this year!

Remember, this money is going directly into our NICU at Huntsville Hospital. Some of us have been directly touched by that unit. Some of you have friends, children, grandchildren who were in that unit. Some of you may not be touched directly by it now, but you could be in the future. I often say that our NICU is like life insurance. You hope you never need it, but when you do need it, you are so grateful it's there.

So help us spread the word about Swim for Melissa. And if you have a child who's five or older, sign them up today!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

AC's Special Day

Whew! I am worn out.

AC's birthday party was Saturday. We had it at Pump It Up and it was great. (They set up, clean up - how can you beat it?!)

The birthday girl is worn out! :)

What's a birthday if you can't stick your finger in the cake??!

Ann Catherine had a great time and was quite upset Saturday night when we told her that her birthday week was finally over!

As we drove to the party on Saturday, Ann Catherine asked me, "Mommy, can we listen to 'Everlasting God?'"

As many of you know, this song holds a special place in our hearts so I was more than happy to turn it on. As we drove over the mountain, the sky was just a gorgeous blue and as my daughters sang in the back seat, I began to reflect on Ann Catherine's life. So many of my thoughts this week had centered on Melissa, and rightfully so. After all, we lost her four years ago this week and we still miss her deeply. But as I listened to the song, I thought about that precious little girl who shared Melissa's birthday of June 1st. And God allowed me to listen to this song in a different light. The first line truly spoke to me.

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord

If you have ever had a child in NICU, you understand what it means to "wait." Ann Catherine spent 68 days in the NICU. I knew that Ann Catherine was exactly where she needed to be, but there were days I would drive home from the hospital with tears in my eyes because I just wanted to take her home. God taught me what it means to truly "wait upon the Lord" and his strength helped us do so. His timing wasn't ours, and we had to learn to wait. I often say the day we finally brought that sweet baby home from the hospital was the best day of my life.

Our God, you reign forever
Our hope, our strong deliverer

He delivered her and he delivered us. He gave that weak little girl the strength to come off of the ventilator after only three days. He gave that child who weighed less than two pounds when she was born the strength to get better and stronger. He was our hope. When your child is sick and you don't know the outcome, your hope and your faith is all that you have.

As I drove I just reflected on AC and how much love and joy she has brought into our lives. As hard as it was losing Melissa, God gave us this amazing little girl who has the biggest, sweetest heart in the world. She just saved us during a time of such despair and sadness. We are incredibly blessed.

"Ann Catherine, this song makes me think of Melissa," I said. "It makes me think of Jesus," she answered. She's right.

Having a birthday on Monday and the party on Saturday kind of dragged the birthday week out. We are all ready to kick back and relax! As I have shared, this week drains me emotionally so I'm happy to just breathe a little. But the most important part is that AC had a great birthday. For me, that's all that matters :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us!

What a crazy week. Ann Catherine and Melissa's birthday Monday, my anniversary yesterday.

Chris and I kind of feel like we "lost" our anniversary when AC and Melissa were born. It's only two days after their birthday so we are usually so wrapped up planning AC's party that we don't find time to celebrate our special day. Her first birthday party was on our anniversary. And if you read my previous post, you know that her birthday is just so emotionally draining that sometimes we just want to rest when it's over. The last couple of years I have realized that we have to "make" time to celebrate our special day. As we tell Ann Catherine, "Without June 3rd, there is no June 1st!"

Chris took me to Connor's for dinner (it was fabulous!) and then we walked around Bridge Street (and of course, me being me, I ducked into Ann Taylor Loft to "look around." I walked away with capris for $15. $15 - can you believe that?? What a steal!)

When Chris and I stood before our family and friends and said "For better and for worse" we never could have imagined what that would mean in our lives. We survived the "worse" and not only that but our marriage is even stronger. I love that man.

Saturday we are having Ann Catherine's party so I have been running around trying to get everything ready for that. I'm looking forward to it, but I am also looking forward to a little breather next week! This week has been an emotional roller coaster and the ride hasn't stopped yet. :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy Birthday to my Two Girls

Yesterday was AC's special day! I'm just now blogging about it because the day was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. When I got my girls to bed last night, I just curled up in a chair and didn't move until bedtime. We were just emotionally drained.

It was a beautiful day with a merry-go-round of emotions. AC woke up early and I was able to spend time alone with her before Lily woke up. Then we went to gymnastics. This was special because it was Lily's first time to take. Man, it was priceless!! She loved it! After going for a year and sitting and watching Ann Catherine take, she was ready.

After gymnastics we went to Red Robin, AC's favorite. They sang to her and she got an ice cream sundae and a cow (not sure why she got the stuffed cow but she liked it)!

On the way home from gymnastics AC said, "Mommy, we have to get the balloons for Melissa!" I explained to her that her daddy was picking them up and we would send them to her when we got home.

Chris picked up a beautiful bouquet of pink balloons with a silver star balloon. I told AC to sit down with her cousin Ally and tell Ally what she wanted to say to Melissa. I told Ally to write it down and we would tie it to the balloons. This is what she told Ally to write:

It touched my heart. Ann Catherine was so excited about sending Melissa her balloons.

We all took a balloon, kissed it, told Melissa we loved her, and let it fly.

Lily watching her balloon fly to Heaven

Chris giving AC her balloon

Look at that balloon sailing straight to Melissa!

Chris told AC she could send the "special" balloon to Melissa - the shiny star.

And there it goes!

This is a tradition we started last year and it is so special for our family. It was, by far, the most emotional part of the day for me. As I watched those balloons sail towards Heaven, I just missed my baby girl so much. Just as he did last year, God blessed us with a glorious day weather-wise to send our balloons to her. At one point, Chris said, "Look at that!" There was this break between two clouds with streaks of sunlight shining through. Those balloons were sailing right between those clouds. It was as if God made an opening in the clouds so Melissa could grab her balloons. It was just beautiful.

After we finished, Chris' parents took the girls to the backyard to play. Chris and I sat on the front porch and had our time with Melissa. We talked about the day she died, we talked about holding her for the last time, we talked about what the doctors and nurses tried to do for her and we talked about losing her. It was painful, but it was also good - if that makes any sense. We needed to talk about her and relive that day that we lost her. About thirty minutes later, Chris walked inside, but I stayed outside to spend more time with Melissa. I prayed, I talked to her and I just sat in silence. It was kind of neat that her Japanese Maple was right in front of my chair so I just stared at it as I thought of her. I thanked God that she was with him and that she was happy and whole. I told him how much I missed her, especially today. I thanked him for the great birthday party she was having. I told him I didn't know how Heaven worked, but I asked him to please let her know on this special day that she had a Mommy and Daddy who love her so much. I missed her so much that my heart literally ached. I just couldn't stop crying. I was emotionally drained. After about thirty minutes, I got myself together, wiped my tears and went inside.

It's so important to me to find that balance on June 1st. As I have said before, I made a promise to myself (and AC) that June 1st would never be a sad day in our household. AC deserves to have an incredible birthday and I don't ever want her to dread her birthday because it makes her mommy sad. At the same time, I need to celebrate Melissa's life on that day, and unfortunately, that means tears. It was nice to have that special time yesterday to remember Melissa's life and grieve her. But after I did so, I said a prayer asking God for strength, pulled myself together and moved forward. From that point on, it was all about AC. On this day more than ever, we are reminded of the miracle of Ann Catherine's life and how grateful we are to have her. Watching that amazing little girl enjoy her birthday gave me the strength I needed.

I went inside and started making cupcakes for her birthday. They were so yummy!!

LB just couldn't stand any more excitement. While I was cooking, Tinkerbelle fell asleep on her Elmo sofa. She was worn out!

Later my parents came over with my niece and nephew and we had AC's birthday dinner - spaghetti - AC's favorite!! Then we had cupcakes and the birthday girl got to blow out her candle.

Then the best part - present time! Among her favorites:

a pretty sundress...

cheerleader dress-up clothes...

and a waterslide!!!

So as expected, it was a day wrapped up in a myriad of emotions: joy, sadness, peace, love, tears and comfort. Ann Catherine had a wonderful day and we were able to pay proper respect to Melissa's memory and celebrate her life. It's a delicate balancing act and we just handle it the best we know how. I would give anything if Ann Catherine's birthday didn't carry such weight. But it does.

The important part is that AC's birthday was special for her. That means the world to me. A little girl who fought as hard to live as she did deserves the best birthday we can give her.

Happy Birthday to both of my girls. Mommy loves you more than you'll ever know.