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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why I Love Having Girls

I have to emcee a black-tie event next week. That means I have to wear a floor length gown.

In an effort to save money, I am wearing one I already own. I have two of them, one of which - I kid you not - I wore to a formal my senior year in college. It's simple and timeless so it works fifteen years later. How's that for an investment?!

Chris had to work this morning, and I needed an opinion. So I asked the girls if I could try them on for them. They were estatic!

They sat on my bed and I went in my closet to change. When I came out, you would have thought that Cinderella herself had emerged, when in all honesty I looked more like Anastasia and Drusilla: I hadn't showered, I didn't have on a stitch of makeup and my hair was a mess. They didn't even notice. Instead, their mouths were wide open and their eyes twinkled.

"Try on another one, Mommy!" they squealed with delight. And so I did.

When I came out, they clapped their hands and oohed and aahed, especially since this one criss-crossed in the back.

They really weren't much help. AC liked the black one and LB liked the red one. I'm leaning towards LB's choice.

But I can promise you this. When I get all glammed up for the event next week, I'm quite sure I won't feel as pretty as I did when I tried them on for my girls. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Venture

The George girls have started something new: dance classes. AC has been begging me to let her take since last Spring, but I held off because we were doing gymnastics. So this year, I'm letting her do both which means LB is taking them too. I danced until I was 16, so I am a huge fan of girls learning to dance. It teaches them poise, grace and confidence. Although I have warned Chris to brace himself for recital time. :)

The sweetest thing is that I can tell they feel so pretty when they are all dressed up in their outfits. And I do think they are stinking cute in their leotards and doggy-ears :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happiness is...

...loving your sister.

...taking turns holding each other. great big hugs.

I love my girls!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Car Pool Line

As a news anchor, I did some pretty intimidating things.

I rode in a news car countless times as a photographer and I chased tornadoes down the highway. I covered an approaching hurricane, with winds so strong that I couldn't open the door of the news car. I interviewed important people - and some who were a little scary.

None of that compares to the car pool line.

If you have children in school, you know what I'm talking about.

If your children are still in preschool, and you blissfully walk them in and out each day, just hold on.

Your day is coming.

I'm quite sure that NOTHING has intimidated me like the car pool line. The first week of school, my friend Andrea and I were texting like crazy. What time did you arrive? Where are you in line? Are you taping your kids' sign to the front window or putting it on a coat hanger around the mirror like the smart mother next to me? Am I even in the right lane???

And if you have an activity after school and you need to pick them up quickly and be on your way, you need to arrive thirty minutes before school is out. That's right. Thirty minutes. Each day I bring something new to do. I have written thank you notes, written news releases, filled out paperwork. Chris and I actually went to the store this weekend to find a smaller laptop so I can work on my part-time marketing job while sitting in line.

So far, LB has been a champ. I am waiting for the day where she has to go to the potty RIGHT NOW! So far, we've been lucky. Plus, I make her go before we leave the house.

Because let me tell you something. I am NOT losing my spot in line. Potty break or not.

A week and a half later, I feel like I am conquering the car pool line. Well, maybe not conquering it, but I am managing it. The teachers and administrators do a great job of keeping things moving. AC actually jumps out of the car at the right time in the morning and finds her way back when I pick her up. Sometimes it takes her a little while to buckle up. If you are behind me, please have mercy that we aren't moving right away. We are doing the best we can.

Before long we'll be pros at this.

This must be what it feels likes to climb Mt. Everest.

Monday, August 16, 2010

LB's Turn

Today Lily Baker headed back to preschool. This was probably a good thing because although Ann Catherine loved kindergarten last week, she was a little bummed that LB was getting to stay home while she had to go to school. And even though LB will just go a few mornings a week, I think it made it a little easier for AC!

She was so excited about going to school today. And Ann Catherine "passed down" her Dora backpack. LB was thrilled about wearing it!

As we walked outside to take pictures, I felt a little guilty that it was only us. I know kindergarten is a bigger deal, but for AC's first day we were all here to pose for pictures. For LB, it was just her. Then as I was snapping her pictures, my friend Brooke drove by, hopped out of the car and took one of us together. Perfect timing!

Today was a little different for me, too. This was the first time (except for when one of my kids was sick) that I have walked into that preschool with only one child since AC was two years old. It felt so strange not having Ann Catherine with us, and I was a little worried about how Lily Baker would react. Church was a little rough for her last week because Ann Catherine moved up and they were no longer together. But she did great! LB is just such an easy child. No matter what new situation she's placed in, she just swims instead of sinking. Today was no exception.

A little tougher for me today was dropping AC off at school. All last week they let moms walk the kindergarteners in. As I told my husband this morning after dropping her off, walking your child into school is one thing. Dropping her off from the car and watching her walk inside that big school all by herself is another. I'm not going to lie. It was tough. But she did great.

LOTS of transitions and changes going on at our house. But we're adapting.

My little girls are growing up.

(**This weekend's Swim for Melissa was unbelievable. A post is coming - I just need to collect my thoughts :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Our Story on WHNT

Jerry's story on our family ran last night at 10 p.m. As always, he did a wonderful job. I thought he really captured Melissa's spirit and what she means to our family. I am most grateful for that.

The other thing that I hope came across is how grateful Chris and I are to those who have supported Melissa's Fund. This is not about Chris and Amy. It's about all of us working together to make life better for premature babies and their families. Melissa's Fund represents hundreds of mommies and daddies. It truly is a community effort. I think Chris said it beautifully in the story.

If you didn't get a chance to watch it, you can see it below.


The clock is winding down to the 5th annual Swim for Melissa. Wish us luck!! And thanks to all of you who are making this such an incredible event.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

AC on Television

A few weeks ago, my former co-anchor and good friend Jerry Hayes came to our house. He wanted to interview us for one of his three stories about this year's Swim for Melissa.

He specifically wanted to interview Ann Catherine since this was her first year to take part in Swim for Melissa. So she and I talked about it and I explained that Mr. Jerry just wanted to talk to her about the NICU and Melissa's Fund and why we take part in Swim for Melissa each year. I also told her that he would probably want to talk to her about Melissa.

She was fine with that. She has no problems talking about her sister.

It's still a little hard for me, though. All morning long, I thought about her and cried several times. I thought if I "got it all out" before Jerry got here, that I would be able to talk about her on camera.

Jerry wanted to interview me and Chris together, instead of separately. So Jerry asked his first question, and I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes filling up with tears. And I just looked at Chris, and as always he saved me and answered Jerry.

The story airs tonight on NewsChannel 19 at 10 and will air again Friday morning during the morning newscast. I haven't seen it yet, but I trust Jerry with my life. I know it will be tastefully done. Whether I come across as a blubbering mommy is another story.

Ann Catherine had a great time with Jerry. They have a sweet relationship. Here they are during the interview in her room:

My favorite part of the day came when it was all over. The girls went in their playroom to sing and play music for Jerry. Well, Jerry picked up AC's pink guitar and joined in. It was hysterical! You all just think that Jerry is a poised and polished anchorman :)

We can't wait to see the story tonight. I'm sure I'll cry the whole time. But I hope it can also help parents who are facing what we went through when we lost Melissa. Even through the tears, you can smile again.

We are living proof.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We Did It

Notice the "we" in the title. It will make sense later, I promise.

Ann Catherine's first day of school went off without a hitch. She woke up so excited and was beyond thrilled that her Daddy came along for the ride. I have the cutest mental picture in my mind of her face as we walked into school together. Chris was on one side holding her hand, and I was on the other. She looked up at both of us with the biggest grin on her face. She was just so happy.

Of course, before school we did the obligatory "first day" pictures. Since Poppy came that morning to pick up Lily Baker (so Chris and I could focus on Ann Catherine), we even got a picture with him!

AC walked into her classroom like such a big kid. She put all of her school supplies away and hung up her backpack. She sat down at her table and asked me to read a book to her. As we read, someone came over the loud speaker asking the parents who were finished dropping their children off to leave so it would free up parking spaces. She got a scared look on her face and I thought she might cry. I finished reading the book to her and then told her how proud I was of her and that she was going to have a wonderful day. I gave her a big hug and so did Chris. And she was fine. It helped that Lamby was there with her. :)

I knew she would do great.

Here's where the "we" comes in.

I did okay too.

The night before school, Ann Catherine said, "Mommy, are you going to cry tomorrow?" The question startled me and I realized that she must have heard me tell that to someone. "Why would I cry?" I asked. "Because you are sad," she answered.

And I realized right then and there, that she needed me to be strong tomorrow. To a five-year-old, tears mean mommy is sad. And if mommy is crying as her baby goes to kindergarten, then her baby is going to think kindergarten makes mommy sad. I knew this is not the message I needed to send to AC.

So I prayed when I went to bed. And I prayed that God would please help me NOT to cry when I dropped AC off.

Then in the shower the next morning, I prayed about it again. Because I knew it would only be by the grace of God that I didn't break down in front of her.

Guess what?

I didn't.

I didn't shed one single tear in front of her. I made that morning as happy as I could for her. And that had nothing to do with me. It was all God.

Then when Chris and I pulled out of that parking lot, I began to cry. And then I sobbed. And as I told him, "I'm not crying about Ann Catherine. I know she's fine. I'm crying for Melissa."

And he understood. And just let me cry.

Then I needed to see my rainbow. So as soon as Chris dropped me off at home, I jumped in the car and drove to my parent's house. LB was sitting in the chair with Poppy watching cartoons and I couldn't get to her fast enough. I grabbed her and squeezed her tight.

And just as she has done since she came into this world, her very presence calmed me. I knew it was going to be alright.

Thanks to all of you who prayed for me. I felt it. So many of you called, texted, emailed and posted on my blog to let me know I was in your prayers. You will NEVER know what that meant to me. I am so blessed to have such good friends!

One more thing I want to share. Later that day, Chris texted me to make sure I was alright. We texted back and forth for a while and then I texted "Do you think they have kindergarten in Heaven?"

What he texted back brought a smile to my face and peace in my heart.

"Something better."

There is no doubt in my mind about that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You've Come So Far

Dear Ann Catherine,

Five years ago yesterday, your daddy and I got the call we had been waiting for.

Your NICU nurse called and told your daddy we could come and get you. We hurriedly got ready and were on our way. We couldn't wait to get there!

It had been 68 days since you were born. 68 days of multiple visits to the NICU to see you. 68 days of wishing and waiting. 68 days of standing on the sidelines and watching other people care for you. 68 days of driving home alone after each visit, wishing you were in the back seat. 68 days of fears, praises, highs, lows and many prayers. And after all that had happened, you were finally coming home.

Your nurses cried and hugged you a little longer that morning. They had grown to love you and they were going to miss you.

After everyone had gotten in their hugs, we put you in your car seat and took you outside the hospital for the first time in your life.

And we took you home.

Our pediatrician told us not to compare you to other children who were born around the same time as you. That wasn't fair to you, he explained, because you should have been born three months later. At two-months-old, you still only weighed four pounds, seven ounces. You were so tiny.

We had specialists we had to visit, and one by one they all released you. You began to grow, you became more alert and you thrived at home.

Now here you are, going off to kindergarten. I can't tell you how proud I am of you! You have come so far, little girl. From one pound, 15 ounces and on a ventilator fighting to live, to starting "big school." You are, and always will be, our little miracle.

Good luck tomorrow! I can't wait to see what God has in store for you!


Friday, August 6, 2010

The Right Decision

God really goes have a way of working things out.

Back in the spring, I was agonizing over what to do about kindergarten. Go half-day or full-day? Keep Ann Catherine where she was or go somewhere else?

But once Chris and I made our decision, I felt a peace about it. And today just confirmed that we did the right thing for her.

Ann Catherine got to go to her classroom this morning to meet her teacher and drop off her school supplies. She had some butterflies this morning. Like her mother, she worries about the unknown. But she grabbed her backpack, nap mat and off we went.

(That backpack is as big as she is!)

We walked into school together with her backpack full of school supplies. She insisted on wearing it, even though it was heavy. I asked her to let me carry it instead and she said, "No, mommy. I'm a big kid. I can do this."

Boy, that's hard for a mommy to hear.

We walked into her classroom and her teacher got on her knees, looked Ann Catherine right in the eyes and told her how happy she was to meet her.

And I knew at that moment, that we had done what was right for our child. She is exactly where she is supposed to be.

That helps this mommy, who knows that Monday will be a struggle. Not for her, but for me. I may miss AC as I leave her classroom on Monday, but I won't worry about her.

I know she is going to be just fine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Taking the Next Step

Today I sat in a tiny little chair at a tiny little table listening to my daughter's kindergarten teacher.

It was orientation and my head is still spinning. But let me tell you this: I am thrilled about Ann Catherine's teacher. She is so kind, so sweet and I just feel so good about all of this.

Which is saying something. Because I have had a rough couple of weeks.

Years ago, my dear friend Lesli told me something I have never forgotten. God placed Lesli in my life a couple of years after Melissa passed away. She had given birth to triplets years before. Two little boys and one little girl. Her two sons passed away and her precious daughter, Smith, survived. More than anyone on Earth, Lesli has helped me navigate this hard and confusing road of losing a multiple.

"I'm going to tell you something," she said one day as we were discussing the loss of our children. "Go ahead and prepare yourself because Ann Catherine's first day of kindergarten is going to be one of the hardest days of your life."

She relayed to me the story of taking Smith that day and leaving the school with a broken heart. It's more than the sadness parents feel when they take their child to that first day of kindergarten. It's the realization that someone else should be walking in that school with her. It's that overwhelming loss just slapping you in the face.

I have thought of that often during these last few weeks. I have felt a sadness these past two weeks that I haven't felt in a while. I miss Melissa deeply. I have cried often and so easily. As I explained it to Chris tonight, "I just feel like the hole in my heart has expanded over these past two weeks." Even as I type this, I feel a heaviness and such a profound sense of loss.

I miss Melissa so much.

Just like most kids, Ann Catherine has wavered between being excited about going and scared to death. The other night, I explained to her that Lily Baker wouldn't be at her new school with her, and she began to sob heavily saying, "But Mommy, I can't go without Lily Baker! I need her!"

And I began to cry, too. Because she shouldn't be going alone. Melissa should be holding her hand as they walk in that school together. But she won't be. And that absolutely breaks my heart.

And that's why I knew that first day would be so hard for me. I would never let Ann Catherine see it, because I am so happy and so proud of her. I am in awe of how far she has come in just five years. So I figured as soon as I walked out of her school Monday morning, I would have my big cry. Alone.

You see, I knew there was no way Chris could go with us Monday morning. Mondays are crazy for him. I mean, really crazy. There is no way he could ever miss Monday morning at work. And I would never ask him to because I know how crazy those days are for him.

The other night I was cooking dinner and Ann Catherine grabbed the calendar and asked me to show her when she was starting school. I did, and she quickly showed Lily Baker. When Chris came home that evening, she said, "Daddy, look! This is when I start school!"

"I know," he answered. "I'm going with you."

I just stood there, stunned. I mouthed, "Are you serious?" And he shook his head, "Yes." My eyes filled with tears.

I could not have loved him more than I did at that moment.

I believe Chris needs to be there too that morning. He misses Melissa just as much as I do and he knows what that day means to our family.

But he also knew that I would need him. And I didn't even have to tell him. I love that man.

So I think we'll walk Ann Catherine in, snap a ton of pictures, hug her and tell her how much we love her, and then we'll leave.

And then I figure we'll walk out with tears in our eyes, just like other parents. But our tears will be different. We'll cry because we can't believe our baby is a big girl and we'll cry because our other baby never got that chance.

And then I figure we'll hold each other, cry and talk about how much we miss our daughter.

And I know in my heart, it's going to be okay.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Painting, Cooking & Cheering!

And all in that order!

All in all, we've had a pretty leisurely summer. Since this is AC's last summer before she starts "real" school, I just wanted her to be able to relax.

But we did do three really cool things recently that the girls loved! (Actually only AC did the first two because LB wasn't old enough, but they did the last one together!)

The first was an art class at Spoiled Rockin' Kidz Salon. Ann Catherine painted this flower on canvas.

Once we got home she looked at me with a very serious face and confessed, "Mom, I didn't paint all of it. I had some help." I was quite aware of that, but I still think doing it instilled a lot of confidence in her because art has never been her thing. My friends at Frame World put a cute white frame around it and we are looking for the just the right spot in her room to hang it. How cute is that?

Then last week, we did a mommy and me cooking class at Dinner by Design, with my friend Brooke and her daughter, Annalyse. We chose our menu - chicken parmesan (one of Chris' favs), cheesy mashed potatoes (that were to die for!) and a chocolate/peanut butter dessert - and once we arrived, we donned our aprons and mixed our ingredients.

AC was doing awesome until we started making the dessert. I totally lost her when we pulled out the chocolate pudding. Then I thought, "What the hey!" and just let her start eating. (Note to those of you grossing out - NO ONE ate this but our family! :) I mean, you CAN'T let a kid make a chocolate dessert and not let them taste it!

They had so much fun!

That night, I let AC "present her meal" to us at the dinner table and Chris made such a big deal out of how good it was. She was beaming! I do believe he told her about ten times that "these are the BEST mashed potatoes I've ever had!" which I did not at all take personally at all. Well, maybe just a little. But seriously, they were CRAZY good!

I really enjoyed doing this with AC! I love to cook and it was fun to share that with her (because sometimes I am guilty of being way too anal in my own kitchen and not letting her help enough.)

For those of you who are interested, the owner is planning to do some more classes. Just give her a call - click her for a link to the Huntsville store. For $40, we got to spend quality time together, plus we actually ended up with two meals because it was dinner for 6 and we couldn't eat it all at once. And on a side note, my friend Kera made AC's cute apron. Check out her blog for all of her cute designs!

Lastly, the girls attended the Huntsville High School cheer camp this week. AC has been begging me to let her cheer and, to be honest with you, I've been putting her off because we just can't take on too much. So I thought this three-day camp might just be enough.

Let me tell you, it was only three hours a day but they were worn out when we got home each day. It was great exercise and they had a lot of fun. Best of all, they'll get to cheer the first half of a HSV High game this year which ought to be a hoot! The Huntsville High cheerleaders were so good with them, and the girls thought it was super cool to meet them.

At the end today, they let parents come in to watch what they had learned. Here they are doin' their thang!

If it looks like LB just stood there the whole time, it's because she did. Chris leaned over and said, "Did you pay for this??!" In her defense, she was always participating when I peeked in. I think she gets nervous in front of audiences. That's my story anyway :)

Now I'm going to let them veg out the rest of the week before it's (deep breath) back to school next week (can't believe that!!)!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Terrame Golden Ticket Event

Terrame Day Spa and Salon is one of my favorite places in the city of Huntsville. My husband knows he can give me a gift card to Terrame for any special occasion and I'll be a happy girl!

Charles Johnson (co-owner and manager of Terrame) and his wife, Wendy, are wonderful people. They also have a special connection to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. First of all, their son Hayden was born ten weeks early in 2007. Hayden is now a healthy three-year-old and you can read about their NICU journey here.

In addition to their own personal journey, more than 25 babies have been born to Terrame employees in the past 5 years. Over half of those children were delivered by c-section, so at some point they ended up in the NICU even if it was for a few hours. Four children were in the NICU for several weeks to several months. One employee has had a child in the NICU in Birmingham since December 1, 2009. Add of all that together, and you can see why Charles, Wendy and the employees of Terrame have become personally involved with supporting the NICU.

Now they have come up with an especially delicious way to help! Terrame Day Spa and Salon is hosting the "Golden Ticket Event" to benefit the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation. Simply visit Terrame between now and August 13th and purchase gourmet truffles for $20. In return, you'll receive a Terrrame Golden Ticket valued between $30 and $1000!! Click here for more information. Believe me, they are to die for!!

How can you beat that? You get to eat chocolate and help premature babies at the same time. So drop by Terrame this week and support Melissa's Fund! The babies - and your sweet tooth - will thank you :)