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Monday, June 28, 2010

Reunited through Tears

I am horrible at staying in touch with old friends.

I mean, really terrible.

It's not that I don't want to stay in touch. It's just that life happens. Your days are full of so many things - being a wife and mommy, working, cooking dinner, getting the kids where they need to be - that you just run out of minutes in the day.

Why does it take something bad to bring you back together with those old friends?

My college roommate's brother unexpectedly died last week. He was only 31-years-old. His sister Janna is one of my dearest friends.

We were actually "thrown together" years ago. She was president of our sorority and I was vice-president, and sorority rules dictated that you must live together. So we moved into the same room in the sorority house, not really knowing each other that well.

That would all change.

Janna was studying to be - ironically - a Neonatal ICU nurse. I always felt guilty that she was constantly studying our senior year. My major of Telecommunication and Film wasn't quite as challenging and didn't require I keep my nose in the books.

Janna married her college sweetheart soon after we graduated and they settled in Birmingham. We were in each other's weddings. And when Ann Catherine was born, Janna was a wealth of knowledge for me. I'd constantly call her to tell her how AC was doing and would follow it up with, "What does that mean?" She answered all of my questions and even sent me a textbook-sized manual that truly answered every question you could have about a premature baby. I'm quite sure I drove her crazy sometimes :)

So I was crushed for my friend when I received the email that her brother had died. On Father's Day, no less.

A group of us - who were all in the sorority together - emailed each other and decided to meet at the funeral home for visitation. When Janna saw us she broke down, and we all hugged and cried. We stayed with her for the next couple of hours.

Later, the rest of us went out for dinner. We reconnected. "What ever happened to so and so? Where is she now?" peppered our conversation. And, oh my word, did we laugh. I mean, we laughed sometimes until we cried reliving some of those crazy college times. We talked about our lives. We all have children. Some work outside the home full time, some stay home full time and some do a little bit of both. And the biggest laugh of the night came when the one most likely to NOT drive a minivan pulled up in one. I just about died. She was the last person I ever expected to have a minivan. But here she was. And we all laughed about it.

We finally broke it up around 9:30 because Dana and I had a two hour drive ahead of us. So we went to our cars and then we stood outside and talked for another thirty minutes. And we promised that we would get away - with Janna - before the summer is over.

I absolutely can't wait for that.

It broke my heart that something as sad as my friend's brother's death had brought us all back together. You wish it didn't take a tragedy to help you reconnect. But sometimes that's how life works.

And during those times, you soak it all in - the laughs, the tears and the memories. Because you never know when you'll be back together again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Surviving the Heat!

Could it get any hotter??

Please don't answer that.

I was born and raised in the South and I'm telling you - this is H-O-T HOT! It has been 98 degrees for two weeks now. At night, it drops to a "cool" 81. Except for the pool, there's no way to play outside until the sun goes down.

The challenge is coming up with stuff that will hold their attention while they are stuck inside. Today my kids were playing and I could see boredom setting in. Then I remembered something!

A few years ago my mom gave AC a tea set (because my girls LOVE a good tea party!). The problem was, it was breakable. So I put it up in the closet and told her I would give it to the girls when they got a little older.

Well, today that day arrived (although I told them they can only play with this tea set while I'm around!). I pulled out the Raggedy Ann tea set and the girls had a fit! We grabbed some Nilla Wafers and - voila! - instant fun.

Check out LB's mouth crammed full of Nilla wafers. Very ladylike :)

So we're having to get a little creative these days. The other night I was making spaghetti for dinner when AC walked in. She grabbed a couple of uncooked noodles and started playing the drums on the spaghetti sauce jar. LB walked in and wanted her own "drumsticks." And before I knew it, I had given them about thirty of those things and they were on the floor of my kitchen playing while I cooked. In this picture, they were making "dragon teeth" - don't ask me what that means.

Then here, LB played the oven while AC used her noodles as a microphone. And they were rockin' out.

Chris walked in from work to find noodles ALL OVER the kitchen floor and the kids right in the middle of it.

"What is going on here?!" he asked, looking very perplexed.

"They are using their noggins and being creative, instead of sitting in front of the TV," I said. Works for me." And he just shook his head, and laughed.

So how are your kids surviving the summer?!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Importance of Daddies

Between VBS, my freelance work and doctor's appointments, these last two weeks have been a blur!

I hope you all enjoyed Father's Day with the men in your lives. We had a great weekend. Because we recently returned from our anniversary trip (which I STILL haven't blogged about!) and we did some home improvements, we kept Mother's Day and Father's Day simple this year. But I realized the most important things that happened had nothing to do with how much money we spent.

After we finished dinner Friday night, Chris told the girls he had bought a new fishing pole for them to use. The girls were estatic! After dinner, off they went to the pond. I decided to let them spend that time together without me. It was the most precious sight as they walked away. Chris had the fishing rod, AC had the tackle box and LB had the bait. Clad in t-shirts and shorts with their ponytails boucing around as they walked, I couldn't help but smile as they walked off with their daddy. I started to run inside and grab the camera, but decided instead of just stand there and soak it in.

I realized that the best gifts don't come from department stores. In fact, they're actually free. The gift of time - spending time with our children and giving them our full attention - is the best gift there is.

Chris and his chocolate and peanut butter brownies we made him - his favorite. Yum!

Reading his card from the girls before he opens his super exciting grill brush (it's what he asked for! I told you, we didn't spend a lot of money this year! :)

I also got to spend Father's Day with my own daddy. Let me tell you, I love, love, love my daddy. Always have. Always will. He is just an amazing man. God love him, he was the only man in a house of three women. He raised my sister and I to always believe in ourselves. We were armed with self-confidence that we could do anything boys could do. Most of all, we were lavished with love.

Little girls often think their daddies walk on water. I see how my girls look at Chris and I see shades of myself as a child. A daddy is the first man a little girl will ever love. That love will build a foundation of what she will grow up to expect in other men. It is such an important role for daddies of little girls!

I'm lucky my girls receive that love from their daddy. May they always expect to be treated with respect. May they grow up with self-worth. May they never settle for less.

Daddies have a lot to do with that.

My girls with my sweet daddy. Not sure why AC looks so disheveled :)

p.s. My friend, Brooke, gave me a great idea this year for Father's Day. I took a video of the girls saying what they loved about their daddy. It was precious and we played it for Chris on Father's Day morning. He loved it! Keep that in mind for next year - it's a great gift that doesn't cost a dime!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Holding My Breath

Today Ann Catherine saw video of herself in NICU for the very first time.

We recently had all of our camcorder tapes converted to DVDs. The girls wanted to watch them and it started with AC's stay in NICU.

I had been uneasy about showing Ann Catherine what she looked like when she was first born. She has seen pictures, but they just don't do it justice. The videos seem to really highlight just how tiny and frail she was. I wasn't quite sure how she would respond. Before I pressed play, I tried to prepare her.

"Ann Catherine, I need you to remember something," I said. "You were so very sick when you were born. You weren't like other big babies. You were sick and weak and there were lots of tubes and wires running in and out of your body. Just remember that, okay?"

"Okay, mommy," she said, acting completely unfazed by it.

I pressed play and there she was.

It's hard for me to put into words how sick she really was. She was just a few days old. She had a feeding tube in her tiny mouth and a nasal canula in her nose. Her head was the size of a plum and her hands were the size of quarters.

She was so frail. She couldn't even open her eyes. And her breathing was labored. Her arms had absolutely no meat on them. And you could see her ribs as she took each breath.

She just looked so sick.

I held my breath and looked at Ann Catherine.

And she had the biggest smile on her face. "Look at me!" she said, grinning from ear to ear.

Maybe it's because we've never shied away from her prematurity and her precarious entry into this world. Maybe it's because she's a child and they are just so much more resilient than we give them credit for.

Either way, I closed my eyes and thanked God.

We watched it all - fast forwarding when she got bored. She saw me hold her for the first time when she was 10 days old,

and when Chris held her for the first time - on Father's Day of all days - when she was 17 days old.

She saw her first bath and taking her first bottle.

"When am I going home, mommy?!" she asked after a while. Oh boy, did I feel the same way living it!

Then she saw us pick her up from the hospital, after 68 days of living there. She saw us bring her home and walk into her home for the very first time.

That was her favorite part. The day we finally brought her home.

Funny. It was my favorite part too. :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Check this Out!

Summer means one thing for our family.

The buildup to Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash!!

Melissa Lowe is co-chair of our Social Networking Committee for Miracle Bash and has been hard at work lately on a new blog for the event and a Facebook page.

To check out the blog, click here. And if you have your own blog, please add our link to your blog and help us spread the word! We are going to post personal stories from those who have been touched by the NICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. You'll notice right now that Ann Catherine's story is on there, and we want to add so many more! If you have a personal story that we could include on the blog, please email me at and I'll forward your info to Melissa.

To visit our Facebook page, click here. When I just checked, we were already up to 72 friends. I am not one of them because I am the last person on the planet who is NOT on Facebook! :) (And that is a post for another day). But if you ARE on Facebook, please check us out!

Thank you Melissa for all of your hard work!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Love These!!

Hello my friends!

Chris and I just returned from vacation celebrating our 10th anniversary!! I have lots to blog about once I sift through my 107 emails :) I vowed NOT to check email on our trip, and now I am paying the price :)

In the meantime, I must share these. Last month, we had family pictures made with Christy Key of Simplicity by Christy. Believe it or not, we have never had family pictures made of the four of us, and the last picture I had made of the girls together was when AC was 2 and LB was 7 months. It was way beyond time to do it!

We went to historic Mooresville. Oh my word, that place is beautiful.

Christy is just wonderful. She is so good with my girls, and so sweet and kind. And her prices are so very reasonable. We just love her!

If you have time, check out our pix. Just click here. I have no idea how I'm going to choose!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Party Time!

I do believe we can put a big, fat bow on AC's week-long birthday extravaganza. And thank goodness too, because I am worn out!!

Today was AC's birthday party. For months, she has been asking to have a gymnastics party. It seemed that everyone had a great time! And the parents should sufficiently thank me for wearing out their kids. Mine went to bed tonight at 7:30! That's unheard of at our house!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Busy Two Days!

I was awakened Tuesday morning to the sound of little feet running into my bedroom. Ann Catherine shouted, "Mommy, I'm five!!"

Why, yes you are.

We had such a great day together. On Ann Catherine's first birthday, Chris and I both took the day off. It was the first anniversary of Melissa's death and we knew we wouldn't be able to concentrate at work anyway. Plus, we wanted - needed - to be with Ann Catherine on that day.

This year, Chris couldn't take the whole day off. But we were able to meet him at the park for lunch. AC and I had a whirlwind of a day!

It started with a trip to Spoiled Rockin' Kidz, a tradition we started on her last birthday. AC got a manicure and pedicure and while I made her put light pink on her nails, I did let her choose hot pink for her toenails (she IS five after all!! :) She said, "Mommy, my toes look like yours!"

After that, we met Chris at the park. After a scrumptious, healthy meal of McDonalds chicken mcnuggets and fries, we fed the ducks.

We took AC to the park on her very first birthday - and her second one. Recently AC found some pictures from that first birthday and asked me if her daddy and I would take her again. I told her we would and asked if she wanted LB to come and she answered, "No, just us."

At first, I was shocked. But then I remembered that because they are so close in age AC and LB do everything together. And on her birthday, AC just wanted alone time with her mommy and daddy. And there's nothing wrong with that. So LB spent the day with Gammy and Gramps.

After the park, we went to Peggy Ann Bakery - AC's favorite. We both enjoyed our little stop there!

From there, we went to a local store to pick out balloons to send to Melissa. Then we visited the mall to pick out her cookie cake for her upcoming birthday party. And then, she wanted to jump. She loves that jumpy thing in the food court and flips over and over up in the air. I get sick just watching her!

From there, I took her with me to vote. She was all confused because our polling place is a church. As I sat down to fill out my ballot, she said, "Mommy, are we going to pray?" Cracked me up.

Once Chris got home from work, we sent our balloons to Melissa. Each of us had one and it was so beautiful. They just sailed straight up into that blue sky. We bought four plain pink balloons and one pink one that said "Happy Birthday." AC wanted to send Melissa that one and I let her. It was precious.

After that, we opened presents. Chris and I gave AC a Leapster Two and Gammy and Gramps and Uncle Geoff, Aunt Lisa and Ella gave her the games to go with it! They also gave her a music box that she's been wanting. LB gave AC a Barbie doll that she's been wanting, along with a precious book called "Sisters." It's a children's book about two sisters who are very different in some ways, and alike in others. But in the end, the only thing that matters is they love each other. That sums my girls up.

We ended our evening at Tortora's for dinner (AC's choice!). At the end of dinner, they brought out this scrumptious dessert as a surprise. AC had told the waitress it was her birthday while she was taking our order. The best part was that five waitresses sang Happy Birthday to her. That's never happened to her and she was smiling from ear to ear!!

Yesterday afternoon, my mom and dad came into town and gave AC the crib to go with the Bitty Baby they got her for Christmas. She loved it!

And we capped it all off with dinner and a cookie cake!

What a beautiful week we've had. So many of you called and emailed to say you were thinking of us Tuesday. Thank you so much for your prayers because I definitely felt them! While we missed Melissa, we have had such a happiness in our hearts this week. We have just soaked in AC and the miracle of her life. What a blessing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Ann Catherine

Dear Ann Catherine,

I absolutely cannot believe it's your 5th birthday!! I know "time flies" is such a cliche, but in this case it's so true. For some reason, five just sounds so old. It's like you are crossing the threshold from little girl to big girl.

I am so proud of the little girl that you are. You are so full of compassion for people. Lily Baker hurts herself - and you cry. You have the kindest heart. You care deeply about people. You love so completely with all of your heart. When you laugh, you laugh from your head to your toes. You are beautiful - inside and out.

I will never be able to fully convey to you what you mean to me. You gave me a reason to keep living. I wanted to just pull the covers over my head after Melissa died and never face the world again.

But there you were. In NICU. Weighing less than two pounds. Hooked up to a ventilator and tubes and monitors. Fighting with every breath you had.

It was a turning point in my grief. I realized you needed me. You couldn't do this alone. You needed your mommy and daddy, and everyone who loved you, to fight with you. And from that moment, I decided to put all of my energy into getting you well and bringing you home.

68 days later, we did that. You were still so tiny. But you were alive. That's all that mattered to me.

Over these past five years, I have gained so much joy in watching you grow. It seems like yesterday that I could hold your entire little body on my chest. Now I pick you up, and your legs almost touch the ground.

Your daddy and I have a saying. "Melissa saved Ann Catherine's life, but Ann Catherine saved ours." You see, after I had complications during my pregnancy with you and Melissa, your sister amazingly held on for 7 weeks. That gave you time to grow and get stronger before you were born. As sick as you were at 26 weeks, it could have been so much worse. She gave you a chance to live.

You did the same for us. You gave us a reason to keep going. You gave us hope. More than anything, you gave us love. And you still do. Every day, you tell me you love me. Often you just say it out of the blue. "Hey Mommy? I love you!" Those moments are etched in my memory.

I guess our nightime ritual sums up how I feel about you. After we tuck you in, I tell you I love you and you say you love me too. Then you say, "No matter what, Mommy," and I answer "No matter what."

I have no idea how we started that, but nothing could be truer. I love you. No matter what.

The other day we talked about you turning five and you said, "But Mommy, no matter how old I get, I'll always be your little girl."

That is so true, my sunshine. And no matter what, I will always be your mommy.

And that, in itself, is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

I love you to the moon and back...and then some,

Your Mommy