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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Excuse the Stain, Please

I recently began doing video annoucements for our church. While I was happy to be able to help my church, I do hate watching myself on the big screen. (Yes, I know I worked for years as a news anchor, but you watched me. I didn't have to watch myself.)

The first Sunday, I tried to bury my nose in the worship guide and read while the video aired, but since the lights were off, that didn't work. After church I asked Chris what if I just walked into church each Sunday after the announcements had aired, to which he sarcastically replied, "Yes, because that won't draw attention to you."

I hate it when he's right.

Monday we were about to shoot the videos for May, and I was in the bathroom freshening up my makeup. All of a sudden, I looked in the mirror and saw a dried glob of something disgusting on my shoulder.

My mind flashed back to the scene of the crime.

It was that morning. I was in the kitchen and we were ready to walk out the door when I heard a scream coming from my youngest child. In between sobs she wailed, "I dropped my juice cup on my foot!" I grabbed her and she buried her tear-stained face into my shoulder while I hugged her.

So that thing on my shoulder was a nice little mix of tears and snot from LB.


I walked into the studio and explained what had happened and told the videographer that I really hoped you couldn't see it on camera.

Luckily, you couldn't.

It reminded me of when I was anchoring the news at Channel 19 after Ann Catherine was born. It never failed each morning that as I was dressed and ready to walk out the door, she would inevitably spit up on me.

I eventually learned not to put on my suit jacket until I got to work.

It makes me laugh. Only as a mother do you walk into work with Lord-knows-what on your clothing and act as if it's perfectly normal.

Because it is.

You are a mother.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Rainbow

Those of you who follow my blog know that we call Lily Baker our rainbow. It's simple. Just as God sent Noah the rainbow after the flood to promise he would never flood the Earth again, God sent Lily Baker to us after the darkest storm of our lives as a promise that our family would be okay.

Lily Baker usually doesn't go to school on Mondays, but I had to do some freelancing this morning, so she went. When I looked at her calendar, I smiled. Rainbows! They were learning about rainbows today! And if I hadn't worked, she would have missed it.

So we took off her rainbow pajamas and she put on her rainbow shirt (I'm telling you - she's serious about being our rainbow!) for school. Once we arrived, I asked her teacher if I could talk to her for a moment.

I wanted to tell her that we call LB our rainbow and why, because I knew when Ms. Debbie started teaching about rainbows LB would let her know "I'm a rainbow!" and I wanted her to understand the story behind it.

As I started to tell the story, I got a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. And I realized that three and a half years later, I am so profoundly impacted by our rainbow. I am so incredibly grateful that God gave us a chance to have Lily Baker.

Even though this strong-willed, bull-headed child frustrated me to the nth degree this morning (hmmm, let's see where do I start? The fit she threw when AC needed to borrow her yellow socks, the fit she threw because the rainbow shirt she really wanted to wear was dirty, crawling back into her car seat when I got her out at school because "I want to do it all by myself!") I am so in love with her I can't see straight.

Three years later, that little rainbow just glows brighter. God's promise to our family that, despite the pain, we are going to be okay.

Lily Baker is proof of that.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Showing Compassion

We sponsor a beautiful little girl through Compassion International. Her name is Masleo and she lives in a very poor part of Africa.

Her picture is in AC's room and we pray for her often and send her pictures and letters. Her birthday is next month so today AC and I went to get her a birthday card.

As we talked about her in the car, I realized that my daughter didn't have a clue about what it means to be poor like Masleo. She can't even comprehend that kind of poverty. Because even on our worst day, we still have more than they do.

I turned down the radio and realized that God was giving me a "teaching moment." I tried to put it on her terms. I explained that Masleo didn't get new clothes from Gymboree or new toys from Target. I told her that Masleo's dinner table didn't contain all of the food that ours did.

She asked if Masleo had a Target nearby and I explained there were no stores like that near her home. I told her that Masleo was very poor and didn't have all of the things that she and Lily Baker had. I tried to explain to her how blessed she was that God allowed her to be part of a family that had all they needed. And I told her that it was our reponsibility as followers of Christ to reach out to children like Masleo and help them.

Then she looked at me as serious as could be and asked, "Well, why don't we just bring her to live at our house?"

That's when I was reminded of why Jesus loves the children so much. Their answers and desires are so pure.

I can't think of anything nobler or more fulfilling than giving a child like Masleo a good home. If that is God's will for our lives one day, I would be so happy. But if it is not, then we can at least make a small difference in Masleo's life from thousands of miles away.

Most importantly, I want my children to understand that there is another world out there that looks nothing like theirs. I want them to have a genuine love and desire for kids like Masleo.

I want them to realize that stuff is just that - stuff. It's how we love others that really matters.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Lesser Known Friend

LB and I were playing this morning. Here was the conversation:

LB: Mommy, let's play Strawberry Shortcake! I be Strawberry Shortcake, you be Angel Cake and Sissy can be Orange Possum.

Me: Um, Lily Baker, it's Orange Blossom, not Orange Possum.

LB: No, no Mommy! It Orange Possum!

I'm thinking she doesn't sell well in the stores.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tremendous Treehouses!

My friend, Brooke, and I took our girls to the Botanical Gardens last week for "Tremendous Treehouses." Oh my, what fun!

Have you been? You should! It was so much fun! Because where else, but the Botanical Gardens, can you see a giant tree growing out of a flower pot?!

The girls posed...


stood in a bird nest...

blew pinwheels...

looked through binoculars...


made wishes in the well...

played in the sandbox...

and hugged some more!

We also visited the Butterfly Garden, which my girls have been wanting to do ever since Mimi bought them Fancy Nancy "Bonjour Butterfly" for Valentine's Day!

They held butterflies...

petted turtles...

and tried in vain to touch something in the water (not sure what!).

Oh and did I mention - the flowers are gorgeous there right now!

We are so lucky to have a place like this in our city! But after two hours of walking in the hot sun, Lily Baker and Lucy decided they had had enough! So we went for lunch and then back to Brooke's for the best part of the day:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Taking the Time

Even as a stay at home mom, I find I stay so busy (I thought that would slow down when I stopped working full-time, but you just find that other things fill your plate). But I'm often reminded that if I'm not spending quality time with my kids, what's the point of staying home?

I was reminded of this today as LB and I were on our way home from running errands. As I pulled into our driveway, I noticed that our Japanese Maple was starting to really flourish (we call it our "Melissa tree" because my friend, Nonda, gave it to us when Melissa died). I pointed it out to Lily Baker, who immediately asked if we could go see it.

So we abandoned our car - full of groceries - and went into the front yard and stopped at every single flower we had planted this weekend. LB took her time at each one and then "oohed and ahhed" over our Melissa tree.

She then asked me if we could go into the backyard and I said yes. In my mind, I'm thinking "I really need to unload those groceries!" but realized - what the hey - we didn't have anything that would melt. Those groceries could wait.

So we played restaurant, where LB served yummy burgers that distinctively looked like mulch and sticks. And we giggled.

Then she asked me to swing next to her. And as we swung side by side she looked at me and said, "Mommy, isn't this the best?!"

Oh yes, it was.

And I was reminded of how I need to just hit the pause button on what I think I "have" to do, and just do what's fun instead. Because years from now, my kids aren't going to remember how efficient I was when we returned home from the grocery store. They'll remember that I played with them.

I eventually unloaded those groceries, but let me tell you, playing with LB was ten times more fun!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hockey Champs!

(LB and AC after the Championship game with their favorite Havoc hockey players, Justin Rohr and Travis Kauffeldt)

Yes. That's Lily Baker sitting inside the President's Cup. Chris and I laughed the whole way home about that one! Chris took the girls onto the ice after the game and the next thing I know, Justin plops LB inside the trophy :)

The Huntsville Havoc are the SPHL Champions and we were there for every second of the game Saturday night! We really had a blast. We are so happy for the players, and especially the owners Keith and Becky Jeffries, General Manager Kevin Walker and Assistant GM Ashley Balch. They run such a class organization and give so much back to this community!

It's actually a good thing the season is over because AC's favorite t-shirt (which she wore to almost every game) is turning a dingy shade of gray.

Here's Travis hoisting the Cup after the game...

...which reminds me of my favorite line of the night. I had told AC before the game that if the Havoc won they would get a big trophy. As soon as the game ended she said, "Mommy! Where's the Stanley Cup?!"

Don't know what's funnier. The fact that she thought the Havoc players were actually winning the Stanley Cup or that my Alabama born and bred four-year-old even knows what the Stanley Cup is! :)

AC will now have to enjoy NHL hockey on television to get her fix. And because those playoffs last forever, she'll have plenty of time to watch them with her daddy.

Thanks, Havoc, for a great season!

***btw, thanks to those of you who left such sweet and uplifting comments after my last post. You'll never know what it means to me. As I have said before, my blog is a type of therapy for me (I know many of you feel the same way about your own) and it helps me to be able to talk about Melissa and this never-ending journey we are on. Thanks for going on this journey with us! :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Five Years Later...the Rest of the Story

April 15th, 2005.

It was the day my world came crumbling down around me.

It wasn't the day my daughter, Melissa, died.

It was the day Melissa and Ann Catherine almost died.

It was a day that put us on a collision course with June 1st, the day my daughters would be born 14 weeks premature and the day that we would ultimately lose Melissa.

Five years ago today, I was 19 weeks pregnant with twins. Chris and I had just found out the week before that we were having two girls!

Everything was going fine.

Then I started feeling like something just wasn't right. This had gone on for a couple of days but because I had never been pregnant, I didn't know what "right" was. Finally, when I woke up on April 15th I decided to call my doctor and just make sure everything was alright.

It wasn't.

I had a condition called Incompetent Cervix, which means the cervix can't withstand the pressure of a developing pregnancy. Especially one with twins.

My cervix was opening and Melissa, who was on the bottom, was in danger of being born.

Luckily, my OB/GYN's office connects to Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, so once they realized what was wrong, the nurse put me in a wheelchair and got me over to the Labor and Delivery floor. I remember shaking the entire way there and thinking, "This cannot be happening." I had never been so scared in my entire life.

I was admitted, and put into a hospital bed in a position called Trendelenburg. I laid in this position for eight hours. My doctor was hoping that gravity would pull Melissa's amniotic sac back in. I thought I was going to go mad. My sinuses were stopped up, I couldn't breath and I felt like the room was closing in around me. Add to this the fact that I was terrified my babies were going to die. The entire time, Chris sat by my bedside.

That evening, it became obvious that gravity wasn't helping us. My doctor came into our room and, if I live to be 100, I will never forget what he told us.

"I'm not going to lie to the two of you. This is as bad as it gets. We are going to have to do some heroic things tonight to save these babies."

He explained that my only option was a procedure called a rescue cerclage. It was our only hope, but it still wasn't a guarantee. He explained to us that there was a chance that they wouldn't be able to hold Melissa in during the procedure, and that if they had to deliver her, they would have to deliver Ann Catherine too.

And neither of them would survive.

I remember I had to sign a piece of paper saying I understood that my babies could die during the procedure. It was a sick feeling. I felt as if I was signing their lives away. And mine.

But it was the only chance we had.

Before they took me to the OR, I asked everyone to leave the room. And Chris and I held hands. And we sobbed. And we prayed. And I said,

"God, I KNOW you are still in the business of doing miracles. Please give us a miracle tonight and save our babies."

And he did.

When I woke up from the procedure, both of my babies were alive. We were so grateful.

But we knew we weren't out of the woods yet. I was informed that I would stay in that hospital bed until my babies arrived. (It was April and my due date was September). There were no guarantees that they would make even it to a point where they could survive outside the womb.

But it was a chance we were willing to take.

By now, you know the story. I delivered them on June 1st, at 26 weeks gestation. Melissa died shortly after birth and Ann Catherine went on to spend 68 days in the Neoantal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital.

I remember shortly after Melissa died, asking God why in the world he allowed her to survive on April 15th if he was just going to take her 7 weeks later. Why did he allow us to get our hopes up, only to take her anyway? After all, when he gave us our miracle on April 15th and allowed her to live, we thought there was NO WAY she was going to die.

Eventually, he showed me the answer. By allowing her to live until June 1st, he gave me 7 more weeks with her. Seven more weeks to carry her. Seven more weeks to hear her heart beat. Seven more weeks to feel her kick and move around. Seven more weeks for her to bond with Ann Catherine. Seven more weeks to see her perfect, precious body on ultrasound (they performed an ultrasound on me each morning while I was in the hospital on bedrest).

I understood.

But it didn't make April 15th any easier.

So now you know why April 15th is such a hard day for me and Chris. Why we cry each year when we relive the fear, the sadness and the miracles of that day.

But now let me share with you - five years later - the rest of the story.


April 15th, 2010.

I pull into the parking lot of the school where Ann Catherine will attend kindergarten next year.

Where did five years go?

I hold her hand as we walk into her school for "K for a Day," an orientation to introduce her to her new school.

When Chris left the house this morning to take Lily Baker to school, he hugged Ann Catherine. And it lasted a little longer than usual. I cried as I watched them.

"Be strong for your mommy this morning," I heard him whisper in her ear. And I cried harder.

She thought he was talking about K for a Day.

But, I knew better.

Yet, he was right. She was strong for me on this day.

You see, five years to the day that she came so close to dying, here she was. Holding my hand and walking into school where she will take the giant leap from big girl to kindergartener.

Do you realize how wonderful God is?

He knows how painful, how horrible April 15th is for us. Each year, I go to bed dreading it.

But on this day, five years later, he allowed me to fully see his mercy and his love.

Ann Catherine is alive. She didn't die on April 15th. She could have. But she didn't. Because God had other plans for her life.

And not only did she survive, but she thrived. Five years to the day that I felt I was losing everything I had ever wanted, I am at Ann Catherine's side as she takes the next step of this amazing journey of life.

She almost died.

Instead, she's going to kindergarten.

Yes, I so badly wanted to have Melissa holding my other hand. If this was a perfect world I would have walked into that school today with two little girls, one on each side.

But I didn't.

And I could dwell on that.

But I can't. Because I have Ann Catherine. And she's alive.

It doesn't mean I don't mourn Melissa. Believe me, I have cried enough tears today to last until next year. But it means you find a way to grieve what you have lost, while remembering what you still have.

I thought to myself that even on April 15th, 2005, when our world came crashing down, God knew there would be redemption ahead. I can imagine He was in Heaven saying, "Amy, I know it hurts now, but if you can just hold on, I promise there will be better days ahead."

And there have been.

And today was one of them.

After we left the school, I told AC this was her day and we would do whatever we wanted. So we went to Toys R Us (so she could see if there is anything she wanted for her birthday), Chick-fil-A (and her daddy met us!) and then, her favorite, Peggy Ann Bakery to pick out a cookie.

As I tucked her in for her nap today, I just kept telling her how much I loved her.

She has no idea what this particular day means on the calendar for our family. But I do. And Chris does.

And we are so grateful to a God who loves us so much that he cushioned the blow of April 15th by allowing something so beautiful to happen, five years later.

(Amy and Ann Catherine, April 15th, 2010)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

True Friends

You know, you have friends.

And then you have friends.

They are the ones you can tell anything to. They are the ones who know you - warts and all - and love you anyway. They are the ones who have been there to hold your hand through tragedy and joy.

My friend, Laura, is one of those friends. Not only are she and her husband, Steve, LB's godparents, she's also one of the dearest people I've ever known. My girls love their "La-La" and they adore her kids, Josh and Jordan.

(That's Laura and her husband, Steve, with LB at her baptism)

Laura called me Sunday after church and told me to bring the girls over to play with her kids. Since Chris and our neighbor were working on an outdoor project that involved very loud power tools, we had already decided the girls wouldn't nap. I was excited at the thought of going to Laura's and catching up while our kids played.

As soon as we hung up, she called back.

"You do understand what I'm telling you to do, right?" she said.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

She answered, "I want you to drop your kids off and go run errands. Do whatever you need to do. Leave them here all afternoon. They'll be fine. Just do what you need to do."

Oh. my. word.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to get my stuff done. Alone.

Ya'll know I love my kids. But after dropping them off (and thanking Laura for the 50th time!) I went to Lowe's to look at some stuff I've had my eye on for the back yard. And I took my time. And I never said, "Lily Baker, don't touch that!" or "Ann Catherine, come here!"

And I took my time.

Did I mention that?

Because you mothers know how glorious that is.

Then I went to Publix.

And I took my time. And no one asked me to get anything that I knew they would never eat.


When I finally picked the kids up, they hadn't even missed me. And I thanked Laura over and over who kept answering, "Girl, I remember what those days were like when we had little ones!" (her kids are in grade school now.)

I am so grateful for friends like Laura. And I left her house, with my kids in tow, hoping that I'm also that kind of friend to my girlfriends.

Because we mommies need each other.

Sometimes we need a litle help. And sometimes we just need a chance to go grocery shopping.

Alone. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Is It That Time Already?!

The girls and I were playing on LB's bed this afternoon when AC said, "Mommy, we practiced graduation today!"

I popped up and said, "You did! Tell me about it."

And she proceeded to tell me how she put on her "hat and costume" (known to you and I as a cap and gown) and walked around.

I thought I was going to burst into tears right then and there.

AC will graduate in May from the four-year-old class at her preschool. And they actually wear a cap and gown at the ceremony.

It will be easy to spot me. I'll be the mother in the corner in the fetal position bawling her eyes out.

Maybe not that bad. But this "graduation" is such a reminder of how quickly these almost five years have flown by.

Seriously. I know it is such a cliche that all parents feel the need to tell other parents, "Enjoy it because it goes by so fast."

And when you are at home with two children under the age of two and one is crying while the other is tossing food from her high chair onto the floor, you think that can't possibly be true.

But it is.

I was reminded today of how AC is moving into that big kid world. On the mornings that they have preschool, my girls love for me to tell them what they are doing that day. When they asked this morning, I glanced at the calendar and said, "Lily Baker, you're learning about the Itsy Bitsy Spider!" and she was thrilled!

It's a little harder when I get to AC's calendar. She's in a pre-k class and, while they do have fun, they are also getting the children ready for kindergarten. It's just not as exciting as the Itsy Bitsy Spider. :)

So I mustered up all the excitement I could and said, "Well, you're going to chapel and you'll hear your Bible story. AND you'll be blending J's and Q's! (with an emphasis on the word "blending" because somehow I thought that would make it more interesting). She perked up and said,

"Like, into a smoothie?!"

No, no, my sweet child. No smoothies. Just good old fashioned ABC learning.

Welcome to the real world, my big kid.

It's not near as interesting as the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Stuff on my Blog

I wanted to let you all know about a couple of new things on my blog.

First off, I've created an email account for you to contact me. It's If you have any questions about Melissa's Fund or any upcoming events, drop me an email and I'll get in touch with you. Also, I do speaking engagement for churches and organizations where I share our personal story and raise awareness about Melissa's Fund and our NICU at Huntsville Hospital. If you would like to talk to me about speaking to your group, just email me. And of course, if you just want to say hello, that's great, too!

Also, I've added a feature called "Upcoming Events for Melissa's Fund" to keep you updated on any events we have coming up. Just click on the event to learn more.

You'll find it all on the right hand side of my blog. And if you are new to my blog and want to learn more about Melissa's Fund and our family's journey of grief and healing, simply click on the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund logo on the right hand side of the blog.

Most of all, thanks for reading! I am incredibly humbled that you find it even remotely interesting. :) This blog has given me a very healthy and constructive outlet to "talk out" and work through the heartbreak and joy we have faced over these last five years. Your uplifting comments inspire me more than you know!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Means Hope

Easter took on a whole new meaning for me when my daughter died.

I was raised in church and became a Christian at an early age. I knew the Easter story: Jesus died and rose on the third day. Because of that, we could have eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.

But I didn't really understand the enormity of that until Melissa died.

Today's message at church was a beautiful one. In a nutshell, it was about the hope we have because of Easter. Those of us who have endured unimaginable grief can have hope because of what Jesus did.

It was a tough service for me and Chris, but in a good way. We were both so touched by the sacrifice of what Jesus did and what it means for our family. Because of the cross, I will see Melissa again one day.

I was emotional throughout the service and as we began to leave, I began to cry. With each step I took, I began to cry harder. I was just completely overcome with emotion. As we reached the back of our church, I saw my dear friend, Tracy, who realized I was struggling. She pulled me aside, hugged me and just let me talk.

Because sometimes, that's all a grieving mommy wants to do.

She just needs to talk about her daughter, she just needs to say her name, she just needs to talk about how almost five years later it's still so hard.

Some people aren't comfortable with that. But true friends are. They let you talk about your little girl and they just listen.

I am so grateful for those true friends whom God has placed in my life.

When Chris and I got to the girls' classroom, they screamed, "Mommy!" and came running towards me. I dropped to my knees and just hugged them both.

God uses moments like that to remind me of how blessed I truly am.

Speaking of my kids, I am constantly amazed at how God uses them to speak to me where Melissa is concerned.

Today I had to be at church early, so even though the girls were coming later with Chris, I got them dressed so we could take some pictures. We went out in the front yard and took some pictures of them all dressed up.

After we finished, I noticed Lily Baker kneeling down in front of our Melissa angel. She said, "Hi, Melissa!" and just started talking to her. Chris and I were speechless. Then AC knelt down and joined her. Out of the blue, they just talked to her. It was as if my girls knew that this was a special day and Melissa needed to be included. I cannot tell you what that meant to me.

When we got home from church, we went out in the front yard again and LB knelt down in front of our angel, and said, "Hi, Melissa! What did you do today?" Then she paused and said, "Oh, really. Wow!"

I thought, what if we could talk to Melissa about her day? I mean, she spent Easter in Heaven! Can you imagine the celebration they had?!

Of course, our day couldn't compare to that, but we did have fun. The girls loved what the Easter bunny brought: a Hello Kitty basket, along with Hannah Montana pajamas for AC, and LB got a basket of Tinkerbell stuff and Sesame Street pjs.

After church, they loved their Easter Egg hunt in the backyard...

And we ended our day perfectly: eating dinner outside in our backyard. Or as my girls' like to say "al fresco" (according to one of their favorite Fancy Nancy books).

What a beautiful day God allowed me to spend with all three of my girls.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where is the Dye?!

Much like their parents, my girls are creatures of habit.

Each year, we dye Easter eggs. Dye being the operative word.

This year, I came home with the wrong thing. Have you seen how many Paz packets there are these days?! There were just so many choices: glitter, sparkle, mini-monsters, camo...I thought my head was going to explode! I just wanted some little dye pills. Is that too much too ask?

I chose glitter, and instead of dye it contained paint. I didn't realize this until we were about to dye our eggs. Chris told me not to worry, that the girls would probably enjoy painting them instead.


Ann Catherine almost had a "come apart" when she realized we weren't dyeing them. "But we always dye them!!"

So off to the grocery store I went to find some dye.

I found it. And all was right with the world.

The girls had a blast. Then today, they got their Easter gifts a day early from Gammy and Gramps who spent the week with us. They were pumped!

LB's loot!

AC's loot!

Notice they each got the larger than life chocolate bunny. That was the most exciting part. "I want to eat him!" Lily Baker cried.

And they did. You can't see it here, but AC's is already missing his ear. :)

Oh! And my Easter Lily! Another bud opened. There's just one left and I think it's going to open tomorrow on Easter. How cool is that?!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hippity Hoppity to the Party

Do your kids love school parties as much as mine?!

Today was the school Easter party and my kids could not have been more excited! This morning they grabbed their Easter baskets with their candy-filled eggs and happily headed off to school.

And this is the aftermath once they got home and opened their treats.

LB couldn't talk for stuffing candy in her mouth.

To say they are hopped up on sugar would be a giant understatement. And Easter isn't even here yet. :)