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Friday, August 28, 2009

Kissing My Boo Boos

Reason #2857 of why I love being a mommy.

As I was taking Lily to potty this morning, I tripped over her bucket/drum that was in the middle of the bathroom floor. I banged my knee on it and cried, "Owww!"

Lily said, "I kiss it mommy" and she got down on her knees and kissed my knee. Then she gave me a big ole kiss on the lips.

How nice to have someone kiss my boo boos when I get hurt. This is one of those sweet perks they don't tell you about when you are trying to have a baby. (Of course they also leave out the dreadful screaming fits, the meltdowns for no reason and getting thrown up on - so I guess we're even).

By the way, I'll be taking about a week off from my blog. We have some things going on and I won't be able to blog for a week. But I will return!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our Family Symbol

Lily had homework last night. She's three-years-old.

Now, before you start saying, "What kind of daycare gives homework to a three-year-old??!" let me explain. It wasn't really homework. It was just a little project we had to do.

We were developing our family crest and had to come up with four things: our family colors, our family symbol, our family members and our family tradition.

I'm looking at it thinking, "I have no idea what our family colors are! And I certainly don't know what our symbol is!"

That night, I was telling Chris about it over dinner. I really had no idea what our family symbol would be. I mean, there are many things that are important to us and define who we are. How could I pick just one?

So I started thinking. What do we love?

Well, I went to the University of Alabama and I love the Crimson Tide. I especially love me some Alabama football. But it doesn't define me. (Well, except for September - December :)

Our faith is important to us. So is Melissa's Fund. But how could we come up with just one?

I decided we didn't have to. I divided our square into four pieces. In the first quadrant, I put the script "A" for Alabama. In the second square, I put the logo for Melissa's Fund. In the third square, I put a cross to symbolize our faith. And in the last square, I drew a maple leaf which signifies Chris' homeland and love for the Toronto Maple Leafs (which AC also loves to watch on tv).

As I looked at it last night, I thought, "that really does sum up our family." And as clueless as I was before I did it, it was nice when it was over to look at that and really think about what was important to us. The sweetest part was when Lily pointed at the logo of Melissa's Fund (which is a pair of angel wings with a halo over it) and said, "That's Melissa!"

When it came time to fill in the family tradition part, I asked Ann Catherine for her input. She asked me what tradition meant and I said it was something that you do as a family that is special to you. Without missing a beat, she said, "I know! Raising money for Swim for Melissa!"

Chris and I just smiled at each other. I was so touched that she would immediately think of Melissa's Fund when I asked her what special thing we did as a family. I know Ann Catherine isn't old enough to truly understand what happened to Melissa and what she means to us, but it makes me feel so good that she associates Melissa's Fund with our family. She understands that it's important to us. And that is so important to me.

When we first started talking to AC about Melissa, I struggled with what to say. Thanks to a very special friend, I settled on this: just tell the truth and answer her questions. She doesn't need a thirty minute dissertation. For now just telling her that Melissa is our angel in Heaven seems to be enough. There will be plenty of time to fill her in on the details. I don't have all the answers, but the fact that she thought of Melissa when talking about our family gives me peace that we are doing something right.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Yummy Way to Say Thanks!

The girls and I dropped by Huntsville Hospital Foundation yesterday to thank them for all of their hard work on this year's Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash. For those of you who don't know, HHF actually administers and manages Melissa's Fund for us and they worked so hard on our event last weekend!

So how do you say thanks to an office of eleven people? With a cake from Peggy Ann Bakery! It was oh-so-delicious and had our Swim for Melissa logo on it. I'm telling you - it was to die for!! If you live in Huntsville and you have never eaten a cake from Peggy Ann's, you are missing out! They always do my girls' birthday cakes and any other cakes I need for special occasions. And if you do stop by, grab a few thumbprint cookies. They are my favorites and I never leave without at least half a dozen! :)

Doesn't the cake look good?!

This is me, Lily, Susan and Ann Catherine. Susan plans, executes and oversees Swim for Melissa. In addition, she's one of my greatest friends. My girls love "Ms. Su-Su!"

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of us with Melissa Debolt. She actually oversees Melissa's Fund and the Miracle Bash. I can't say enough about the job she did on the event! This was her first year to do it and she worked tirelessly! Many Saturdays I called to talk to her and she was in the office working on the event. Best of all, she believes in Melissa's Fund and the work we are doing. I so appreciate her hard work and all of the time and love she put into it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Babies Are Growing Up!

The girls went back to school this week. They looked so grown up I wanted to cry!

AC went back on Monday. LB didn't, but when AC put on her Dora backpack Monday morning Lily insisted on wearing her Elmo backpack, too, and I let her.

You have to look at the back of the backpack to get the full effect :)

AC is in pre-K this year and they mean business in her class! As Lily and I were walking out we peeked into her class. They were already sitting on the floor as their teacher went through the alphabet with them. When she got home she told me it was fun, but they didn't play a lot. :) This class has a big emphasis on learning, with less play so she'll be ready for kindergarten. I love it, but it really hit me how she is growing up!

Then, LB started today. She walked into her class like the biggest girl and even hung up her backpack all my herself! I love these sweet pictures of her! I can't believe my "baby" is growing up.

This is Lily with her bunnies before we left the house. Speaking of milestones, it was quite a milestone that Lily left her bunnies in the car today instead of taking them into school. (Yes, that is bunnies plural. I had two so I would always have a backup but one day Lily found the second bunny in a drawer and now insists on taking her "two bunnies" everyone instead of just one.) Just another example of how my Lilypalooza is growing up!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Swim for Melissa Pix

I think I have finally recovered from this weekend! I wanted to share some pictures from Swim for Melissa.

AC and LB with their cousins Ally and Will. It looks like Will is choking AC! :)

AC and LB with Melissa's Angels, the team that swims in memory of Melissa. It's captained by our sweet neighbors Maura Kate and Celia. We love them!!!

The girls' watching the swimmers with their Daddy

These are the inflatables we have on the grounds of the Hampton House (along with the snow cones and face painting. And did I mention that Publix of Hampton Cove comes out to grill burgers and hot dogs and gives us the proceeds?!). The kids love swimming their laps and then jumping around on the trampolines!

This year's t-shirt was tie-dyed. Weren't they cute?!

This is my friend, Lesli. She had triplets and two of her sons died in the NICU. Her daughter, Smith, swims each year in Swim for Melissa. I have no doubt that God put Lesli in my life. She has taught me so much about how to talk to Ann Catherine about Melissa and how to carry on after the death of a child. I love her!

This is me and Susan Ready, who is in charge of Swim for Melissa (and apparently has a tent growing out of her head! Thanks, Chris :). Susan is one of my best friends and works so hard on this event!

Me and my Jerry! He emcees this event in the blazing hot sun for us every year! What would I do without him?!

And last, but not least, some cool swimming shots of the kids:

There ya go! And again, thanks to those of you who came out and had a good time. And if you didn't take part this year, we hope you will next year!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What a Weekend!

Well, the 4th annual Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash is in the history books. And again, it was a smashing success!

I can't give you official results yet because we still have money coming in and expenses to be paid. But we feel pretty comfortable saying that we will raise around $140,000. I could not be happier!

It was just a great weekend! We moved the Miracle Bash to the Davidson Center this year and I have had so many positive remarks. The food was delicious (so everyone said - I never had a chance to eat) and the place is so big that you have plenty of room to move around. I think we have finally found our home :)

Swim for Melissa was awesome, too. We had a great turnout and our swimmers worked really hard to raise money. My family came to cheer on our team, Melissa's Angels, and then they swam in the water. Well, Ann Catherine did. Lily was completely overwhelmed by all of the noise and people and Chris ending up having to take her home early. (She also tried to hang with her cousins and sister all week, which meant NO NAP all week, and the poor thing was worn completely out!).

As I do each year, I had my moments this year. At Swim for Melissa, I was sitting watching AC and her friends splash around in the pool when the DJ came over the loud speaker and said he was dedicating a song to Melissa. It was the Phil Collins song "You'll Be in My Heart." Oh, boy. My friend, Lesli, who lost her two sons in the NICU came over to me and put her arm around me and we just sobbed together. I had never really thought of the words to that song, but it hit me hard. At that particular moment, I missed Melissa so badly that I felt my heart was literally breaking in two. I just wanted the sky to open and for God to send her to me, if only for a few moments. I can't explain how badly I ached for my little girl. At the same time, I know she was with me on Saturday. I always feel her presence so strongly at that event. Every year for the past four years, God has given us the most beautiful weather for our event. It's as if Melissa is sitting next to him and just soaking up all that we are doing. Man, I miss her.

One thing I have realized is that a lot of parents explain to their kids why they are swimming. They tell them about Melissa and the NICU and the premature babies they are helping. It really has an impact on some kids. A little girl named Jordan asked a volunteer if she could talk to me and ask me some questions. After she swam, she sat down next to me and said:

Jordan: Did your daughter die?
Me: Yes, she did.
Jordan: Why?
Me: Well, she was born very early and very tiny. She was just too sick and she passed away.
Jordan: Do you miss her?
Me: Yes. I miss her every day.
Jordan: I bet that makes you really sad.
Me: It does make me really sad sometimes. But do you know what? I am also very proud of her. Because I look at what we are doing today and what you are doing to help tiny babies, and we wouldn't be able to do this if it wasn't for Melissa.

I then changed the subject and asked her how many laps she had swam. Eventually, she hugged me and then left to get her prizes. It was just the sweetest conversation. She was so concerned about Melissa - who she was, what happened to her. It touched me so much. Many adults are afraid to talk about Melissa to me and here was this little girl who wasn't afraid to ask me questions and speak Melissa's name. It was just so meaningful to me. I think Jordan walked away truly understanding what that day meant. It wasn't about jumping in the water and having fun with friends, although that's important. It was about helping precious babies who enter the world very sick, by no fault of their own. It was about helping their precious mommies and daddies who are scared and heartsick. It was about teaching our kids that there is something so much bigger than themselves.

Thanks to those of you who were part of it - whether you were there Saturday or gave a donation. Thank you for giving us another successful event. We are so grateful for and humbled by your support.

Every day of my life I am proud to be Melissa's mother, but no more than on this particular day. I know she was there Saturday, cheering us on. And what a view she had!

That's it for now. I'm off to get some sleep. I will post pictures tomorrow!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Almost Here!

I can't believe it!

This weekend is the 4th annual Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa!

If you have already made a donation, thank you! (Your formal thank you cards will come after the event :) If you haven't and would like to do so, please, please, please, please do!! The website will come down this weekend so the clock is ticking! Just click here and then click on "Donate to a Participant" if there is a particular swimmer or paddler you would like to donate to. If not, just click on "General Donation" and it will just go to Swim for Melissa in general.

Don't forget. If you live in north Alabama, you can be assured that your donation stays right here in the community we live in and right here to benefit babies that you know. Not a lot of charities can say that. As many mommies, grandmommies and aunts can attest, you never know when it could be someone you love who ends up unexpectedly in the NICU. We are using the money from this event to buy Giraffe open warmers. Please help us raise enough money to make that a reality! And thank you for your incredible generosity to help the tiniest of babies and their families!

On another note, I posted the other day about how clueless I was trying to pick out Legos for my nephew's birthday. :) Well, apparently I did just fine!

Will loved it. He and Ally spent the night at our house last night and he and Chris put his new Legos castle together.

Poor Will. He has a sister and two girl cousins so when he comes he likes to have a little "boy time" with Uncle Chris. And as good of a girl daddy as Chris is, I think he enjoys doing some "manly stuff" like this when Will is here. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Completely Clueless

I could not have looked more confused as I stood in the middle of the aisle at Target.

I was looking for a birthday gift for my nephew who's turning eight tomorrow. Should be easy enough. Heck, he even told me what he wanted. A Legos toy or toy soldiers.

But here's the problem.

I have girls. I am COMPLETELY CLUELESS when it comes to buying gifts for little boys. So much so, that until a few years ago Chris was in charge of buying the toys for the boys in our family.

I can't tell a Power Ranger from a Transformer. It's all greek to me.

Need a gift for a girl? I'm on it! I can buy dress-up clothes, princess phones and cell phones with the best of them.

But send me to get a gift for a little boy and I break into a cold sweat.

As I said, he told me what he wanted so it should have been easy enough. But there are just SO MANY LEGOS! Here's the conversation I had with myself as I stared blankly at the rows of Legos before me:

Hmmm, I know he already has Star Wars, so that's out. Although I could get him another one because there are a gazillion Star Wars Legos sets in front of me. No, I better stay away from those just to be safe. Oooh, there's Indiana Jones! I'll get that one. Oh, wait. Those little men are shooting each other. With guns. My sister probably wouldn't like that, although Will will probably think it's cool. Oh, I just don't know. Oh, there's a cool Pirate one! But wait. On the box, they drew in water to make it look like a real Pirate scene. Well that's great for the box, but he CAN'T play with it on water so that one's out! Let's see - there's a police force one. But should I get the one that's shaped like a bizarre spaceship-looking thing or the one that looks like a tank? Wait. There's a cool medieval looking castle set. I'll get it. Boys love building towers. I think.

Next I went to find toy soldiers. I couldn't find those generic toy soldiers we had when we were little (remember - those little green men?). Instead, they had about 4,857 different kinds of little toy soldier-looking figurines. Which one do I get? G.I. Joe is probably a safe bet. But do I get the one that comes with a machine gun or the one with the tank? I CAN'T TAKE THE PRESSURE ANYMORE!!

You know what? Forget the toy soldiers! I'm going back to the Legos section and getting a larger castle. Surely I can't go wrong with that! Can I?

I was so out of my comfort zone. On the way out, I pushed my cart passed the princess aisle. Ahhh, the feeling of being back where you belong.

Ann Catherine apparently feels the same way. Last month, she went with me to Walmart to get a gift for another cousin. As we were choosing between Transformers and Power Rangers, she said, "Mommy, I don't like this boy stuff! Let's go back to the girl stuff!"

My thoughts exactly, sweetie.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Posting This Just Because... warms my heart.

We were playing pretend with their princess camera. AC said, "Mommy, take a picture of us!" and she threw her arms around Lily. As I clicked with their fake camera, I said, "Wait a minute!" and grabbed ours.

Sweet girls!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day at the Museum

I took my girls to Early Works Children's Museum in downtown Huntsville and all I can say is, I can't believe we hadn't been before now.

It is so neat!

We met some of our friends there and we pretty much stayed in Biscuit's Backyard, which is geared for kids ages six and under. The girls worked at the grocery store and post office, worked on the farm, fed the chickens (all of this is pretend of course!), put on a puppet show, played with the rubber ducks in the water and sang on the front porch. We had a blast and will definitely go back. In fact, I'm thinking about getting a membership because it pays for itself after two - three visits.

AC, Lily and their friend Haedyn (nice belly shot of Lily - oops!)

Lily playing with the rubber ducks. We got a little wet :)

Lily working at the grocery store

Making their crafts

AC singing on the front porch while LB plays the cymbals :)

If you have little kids and you haven't taken them to Early Works, you need to! Biscuit's Backyard is adorable and allows them to play and use their imagination. To learn more, click here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Great Story

Here is the third story that Jerry Hayes did on WHNT News 19 promoting this year's Swim for Melissa.

Silas Truss was the very first baby in the first Giraffe OmniBed purchased by the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

I will never forget when I heard. I was still working at Channel 19 and was checking my email one evening at work. Silas' mother, Baraka, sent me an email telling me that her baby boy was in the Giraffe OmniBed that Melissa's Fund had just purchased. She went on to say how grateful she was that this bed was available for her son.

I sat at my desk and cried. It truly brought everything home to me. It made me realize more than ever that Melissa's life was not in vain and that she was making a difference. I picked up the phone and called Baraka and thanked her for letting me know. I told her that her family was in our prayers and to call me if she ever needed me.

Fast forward a few months - I had left Channel 19 and was working full-time at Huntsville Hospital Foundation. I just happened to be in the NICU one day when Baraka came in. We met and hugged and I sat down with her at Silas' bedside and we prayed. He was so tiny and so sick at that time. He went on to spend more than one-hundred days in the NICU (can you imagine that?) and is now a healthy two-year-old. He is, without question, a miracle. There is no other way to describe it.

You must watch this story because while Silas was literally fighting to live, Baraka's husband Sylvester was going through his own agonizing health problems. I am just amazed at this family's strength. They went on to start a Footprints Ministry in our NICU where they give gift bags with items to our parents in the NICU. It is a wonderful service and I am thrilled that it is now touching our NICU families.

So without further adeiu, meet Silas.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Potty Training - Part Deux

Oh my Lord, I didn't think anything could make me happier than when Ann Catherine finally learned to potty.

Until now.

Lily is potty trained!!!

That makes any mother happy, but I am ecstatic. Those of you who follow my blog might remember the nightmare I had trying to potty train Lily back in April. To make a long story short, I tried to potty train Lily a few months ago. She did great the first day - click here to read about it. But by day two decided she wanted nothing - and I mean NOTHING - to do with the potty. If I even tried to put her on it, she would scream. You can read all about that nightmare by clicking right here. Everything I had read said that was a clear sign that she wasn't ready, and I needed to take a step back and try again later. (Not very easy for a control freak like me!)

I decided to try again last week. Monday morning we started "Potty Training Boot Camp - Part Two" at our home.

I was ready. I bought suckers - Lily's favorite - and smarties and put them in a cute little bucket I got for a dollar at Target. That was her reward for number one. For number two, I went to Dollar General and got some cheap little toys (books, balls, animals, etc). I made a potty chart and got Barbie stickers for it. (Mind you, I didn't have to do all this for AC but based on Lily's prior resistance, I was leaving no stone unturned!!). Last but not least, I prayed - REALLY HARD - before I went to bed Sunday night.

The most important thing I did was this : Sunday night I took the pull ups out of her drawer and got rid of them. When she woke up on Monday, I opened the drawer and showed her that they were gone. I explained that they "went bye-bye" because she was a big girl who didn't need them anymore. She was okay with it, and I think it was big for her, psychologically. Pull ups had become a crutch for Lily and I knew if I was ever going to potty train her, I had to GET RID OF THEM.

Day one, she did awesome! She had just a couple of accidents and would get very excited when she went. Ann Catherine was my helper and all-around cheerleader who jumped up and down when Lily pottied (this, of course, had a lot to do with the fact that AC also got a treat when Lily pottied. Whatever works, people. Whatever works.) I was so happy but didn't want to get my hopes up. After all, Lily did good on day one the last time and completely flipped out on day two.

I literally held my breath on Tuesday morning. When she happily went to the potty that morning, I felt we had crossed the hurdle. She had no accidents at all that day and by the afternoon she was running to tell me she had to go! She continued that way all week. She is now officially potty trained!!

We stayed inside all week because my form of potty training means you don't leave the house until it's over. On Friday my parents wanted to take the girls to Chuckie Cheese and I finally let Lily leave the house. I packed a few changes of clothes just in case, but guess what? She didn't need them! Same at church on Sunday. It's proof that even though I was ready in April, she wasn't. That's the thing about potty training. If they aren't ready or excited about it, you can absolutely hang it up.

You have no idea how happy I am that this is OVER!! I have to admit, it is my least favorite part of motherhood. I worked for twelve years as a news anchor/reporter and worked in some stressful situations. Potty training my children ranks right up there :) I think part of my excitement stems from the pride I feel that I was able to do this (with God's help, of course). When AC was potty training, I was working full time so her teacher at daycare had as much to do with potty training her as I did. But with Lily, it was all on me. I have to tell you, it feels good to know that I was able to do this. (I know pride is a bad thing, but I can't help it on this one! :)

And yes, LB probably has tooth decay from all of the suckers she got last week. But you know what? It doesn't matter. She is potty trained!!