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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where Toys Go to Die

My mom got new furniture this week.

And because I'm not at all too proud to get used/free stuff, I got the old stuff.

I decided I would move my sofa in the keeping room into the girls' playroom, which meant a load of toys had to go.

I am not a glutton for punishment. I usually do this when I'm alone to avoid the wailing of my children as I throw out toys they haven't played with in years.

But here's the thing. I hate purging/throwing away/any general house cleaning work, so when the mood strikes me I have to do it right that minute or it will never get done. So all of a sudden at 9am yesterday, I decided it had to be done.

I walked in with trash bags and started sorting things into the "keep" pile and the "give away/throw away" pile.

The girls were helping and it was all going well.

Then I opened the toy chest.

Apparently, it had become the place where toys go to die.

It was full - overflowing actually - of toys, stuffed animals, games, puzzles, etc. I began pulling out things I hadn't seen in years.

All of a sudden, Lily screamed.

"Little Red!!"

It was the figure from "Super Why" and I had placed her in the "give away/throw away" pile.

Now, keep in mind that Lily Baker hasn't watched "Super Why" in at least a year, maybe more. She had no idea that she even had this doll. She cried anyway.

"I love her!" she cried.

"Lily Baker," I said. "You didn't even know you had it."

"But, I love her!!" she countered, as if saying it a second time would drive the point home.

"Right," I said. "You love her so much that you left her at the bottom of this toy chest for two years."

I know it might sound tough. Yes, I could have given in and kept Little Red, but I would have found her again in six months at the bottom of that same toy chest. I was in the zone with trash bag in hand and Little Red had to go.

I mumbled something about "this is why I never do this when you two are around," but I held firm. So long, Little Red.

I did allow them to keep some things, but I stood my ground on others. Lily Baker agreed to give away other things, too. Once we finished, the playroom looked awesome. You could actually find things again and find a place to sit.

Mission accomplished!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Not a Creature was Stirring...

...not even a mouse!

That was Lily Baker today - the mouse in "The Night Before Christmas" at her school's Christmas program.

The 4-year-old class performs this each year at Christmas. She was pumped when she first learned she was the mouse. Then she realized something. My girly-girl who loves nothing more than wearing skirts and pretty shoes learned her attire. Gray sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt with mouse ears.

It was all over.

"Mom, I wish I was one of the Sugar Plum ballerinas!" she told me last week. "They get to wear tutus and dance around!"

I thought fast.

"But Lily Baker, you are the first person on stage! The mouse comes first!"

She wasn't even slightly impressed.

"And, there are three ballerinas but only ONE mouse!"

"Mom," she answered. "There's also only one Santa, one Rudolph and one Frosty."

She had a point there.

"Oh!" I shouted out with my ace in the hole. "You get to wear face paint!!"

And with that, she was finally on board.

So as her lines were delivered by the narrator, she tiptoed across stage. And I think she was the cutest mouse I've ever seen.

I also couldn't help thinking something else.

This is it.

You see, my children started at this preschool when Ann Catherine was just 14 months old. They went to daycare there because I worked full-time.

That means I have sat through this program every year for the past five years. I can sing the songs, recite the lines, and do the hand motions. I have lined up thirty minutes early to get a good seat. I have snapped pictures while Chris recorded video. I have giggled over children singing off-key and laughed at shouts of "Hey, Mommy!" coming from the stage in the middle of a song.

It has been as much a part of my Christmas holiday as stressing over gifts and making last-minute runs to Target.

And now it's over.

We leave this place when Lily Baker graduates in May and that makes me so sad. I know that each chapter brings exciting changes and moving on is a part of life.

But there's something about preschool that is happy. And warm. And comfortable. And safe.

There's something about watching four-year-olds on stage skip over an entire verse of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" without even realizing it. There's something about watching children dressed as Santa, Frosty, angels and reindeer. There's something about watching your "tends to be shy" baby girl tip toe on stage - quiet as a mouse - and then belt out "Jingle Bells" without a care in the world.

And I'm going to miss that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Things I Want My Girls to Know

Dear Ann Catherine and Lily Baker,
Today is your daddy's birthday. And it's a big one! I won't "out" him on my blog, but if you are old enough when you are reading this, you can do the math. :)

Here's the thing about family. You know everything about each other, warts and all. When you live together, you see it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. You already know I can be a control freak and a worrier. You already know your dad can be impatient and a bit grumpy at times. That's no surprise to either of you. Instead, I want you to know these things about your father today:

Your father loves you.
That is the understatement of the year. He loved you before he ever knew you. When he laid eyes on you, that sealed the deal. When he held your tiny bodies in his big, strong arms, he was forever changed. In a very good way.

Your father loves me.
And he isn't afraid to let you know the pecking order. I'll never forget one time when you interrupted us, and he borrowed a line from our pastor and said, "Girls, I am talking to your mother. She was here before you came and she'll be here long after you are gone." He openly shows his love for me. That's a powerful message for little girls.

Your father is a good man.
He loves God and he seeks His will. When making a decision, he always has our best interests at heart. He tries to do things the right way. When asked once what I thought his greatest trait was, I didn't hesitate: loyalty. He is incredibly loyal to those he loves. Which brings me to my next point...

Your father will always support you.
That doesn't mean he'll always think you are right. I've already witnessed him gently letting you know when you are wrong. It means that when you are doing the right thing, he will fight for you. He will be in your corner. He will support you. And, God love him, he will sit through dance recitals, cheer you on at t-ball games and always tell you how pretty you look. That's just the way it is.

Your father will always feel the need to protect you.
This one is non-negotiable. It happened from the moment you were born. He looked at you and the first thing he thought was, "She is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." His second thought was "And if someone ever tries to hurt her, I'll...." I'll let you two fill in the blank there, but I am pretty sure it involves a hockey stick and your father's ability to swing it. You might want to prepare your boyfriends for the first time they ever visit. Oh, I'll try and be the voice of reason but there's only so much I can do. And woe to the little boy who tries to pick you up without coming to the front door. It's safe to say it will be the last time he visits. I could go on and on about this one, but know one thing: this is your dad's job. No one will ever be good enough for you, in his eyes. That's just life. As you grow older, refrain from the need to roll your eyes about this one and, instead, embrace it for what it is: love.

You are both incredibly blessed to have him.
Never doubt that and never forget it.

You gave him a new Bible today for his birthday. What a perfect present for him to receive from his little girls. Don't forget to tell him today how much you love him and how grateful you are that he's your daddy. I won't either.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Finding my Confidence

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

As I did my Bible study a few weeks ago, God made something abundantly clear to me.

I am afraid to ask boldly.

It's not that I don't believe that God can do anything. It's not that I don't have faith in Him.

It's because I know how devestating it can be when His answer isn't the same as ours. So even though I pray for others and I believe in His power, when it comes to me, I'm simply afraid to ask boldly.

It all goes back to my daughter's death. Chris and I prayed fervently and passionately that she would be healed. And we didn't just pray it. We believed it. We claimed it.

And then she died and we felt like we had been blindsided. I think her death hit us so hard because we believed that God would answer our prayers.

But, his answer was different from ours. And it was absolutely heartbreaking.

And because of that, I have been afraid to "go out on a limb" when praying because I don't want to be disappointed when the answer is different from mine.

This morning, as I did my Bible study, I came across this verse in Hebrews 4:16:

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence (my emphasis), so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

I felt like God was hitting me over the head with a two by four. And then I thought about it more.

It's that word "confidence." Didn't I approach the throne with confidence when I prayed for him to heal Melissa?

Yes, I did. But I don't think this verse is talking about that kind of confidence.

It's not being confident that God is going to hear my prayer and answer it exactly the way I want Him to.

It's confidence that he will hear my prayer and that His will will be done. And it's confidence that if that outcome isn't the same one that I prayed for, that He will carry me. It's confidence that His ways are perfect even when they don't make sense to me. It's confidence that He is in control. It's confidence that I cannot control the outcome, but I can trust him to carry me.

Have you ever felt like a verse in the Bible was written just for you? I had that feeling today. Even so, I'm not there yet. I'm praying for that confidence when I do approach His throne of grace. And I am grateful for a God who hears me when I cry.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Cup is Full

I have certain coffee cups I use on certain days.

I have one given to me by a friend with two little girls on it and a rainbow. It reminds me of Ann Catherine, Lily Baker and Melissa. I use it on days when I need to feel that love.

I have an Alabama coffee cup that I may or may not use the mornings the Crimson Tide is playing. (Cut me some slack. I married a hockey player. By virtue of that, I may be a wee bit superstitious.) I am fully aware the coffee cup has no bearing on the outcome of the game, but it makes me feel better. :)

I have big, oversized ones that I use on the mornings when I'm working from home and need an extra shot of caffeine.

But the one I reached for today is probably the most special one of all. It belonged to my grandmother, Mama Long, who passed away when I was a senior in high school.

I was so close to her. Looking back now, the reason is obvious. I'm a lot like her. I think she saw that when I was younger, too.

I loved going to her house. I looked the blue jug of ice cold water she left in her refrigerator. My cousins and I would devour it after playing in her back yard.

I loved watching her sit in her chair and crochet. The stocking we hang on the mantle for Melissa is one she made me as a child. Our tree skirt was also made by her loving hands.

I loved playing board games with her, especially Aggravation. We played it every time I visited. I love that she always carried dice and marbles in an old Bufferin bottle in her purse. She was always ready to play.

I loved looking at her photo albums as a child, and even as a teenager. I would sit in her floor and look at them for hours on end. When she died, my aunts gave them to me and I will cherish them for the rest of my life.

A few years ago, we were at Thanksgiving at my Aunt Linda's house. She had a box of small things - knick knacks and trinkets - that belonged to my grandmother and asked us all if we wanted to go through them. I immediately saw this coffee cup and knew that I wanted it.

My grandmother collected coffee cups. It's what we always brought her back from vacation. She proudly displayed them on her kitchen wall.

If anything ever reminded me of my grandmother, it was this coffee cup.

I cherish it. Whenever I empty the dishwasher, I carefully place it back in the cupboard so as not to drop it. It's truly irreplaceable.

I reached for it today on this Thanksgiving Day. Because if there is one thing I have learned in my 30-plus years it's this: it's all about family.

Families aren't perfect. All families have their ups and downs. There are heartbreaks, there are disagreements, there are disappointments.

But there are also those in your family that you love with all your heart. Unconditionally, openly and without apology.

On this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for those that God placed in my life without my choosing. Some are in Heaven, and I have so much comfort knowing Melissa is there surrounded by the love of my grandparents who I loved dearly.

I'm also thankful for those who are here. Some I will see today, and some I won't. I am also overjoyed that family means as much to my girls as it does to me.

I hope you have time with your family this Thanksgiving. As I enjoy my coffee this morning, I'm counting my blessings. And I am overwhelmed by God's goodness.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"And the Mother of the Year Goes to...."

My friends and I have this running joke called "Mother of the Year." When we really screw up regarding our kids, we bestow the "Mother of the Year" title on the offending mom. Chris wants to create an actual trophy because it happens so often.We've even joked that we should have a "MOY" ceremony each year to see who screwed up the most.

I do believe I have now skyrocketed to the top of that list.

Let me explain. Ann Catherine lost her fifth tooth tonight. Oddly enough, it all happened because she wiped out on the hardwood taking her hamper back to her room. No, she didn't knock her tooth out, but she got a nice goose egg on her head. Chris grabbed the Dora ice pack and she crawled in the chair with me. After she grew tired of applying it to her forehead, she apparently put the ice pack in her mouth and bit down. Next thing I know I hear, "Mommy, my tooth just came out!!"

Now that's a crazy chain of events, isn't it?

As blood poured from her mouth, we raced to the bathroom. As we rinsed, Chris reveled in the fact that she looked like Bobby Clark with both of her top teeth missing (you hockey fans will appreciate that. The rest of you, just google and you'll get it. Pretty funny.) I grabbed the tooth and put it on a paper towel on the kitchen counter.

Oh, you know where this is going don't you??!

An hour later, we started getting the girls ready for bed. As they crawled in bed, I remembered - the tooth!! I raced to the kitchen to get it...

...and the paper towel was GONE!!

It all started coming back. I remembered walking through the kitchen earlier and thinking, "Good grief. There is stuff  EVERYWHERE!" and then putting said stuff in the garbage.

Oh my word. You have GOT to be kidding me!

"CHRIS!!!!!" I screamed.

He came running. Unfortunately, so did Ann Catherine.

I had the garbage can out and he immediately knew. Apparently we have been married way too long. He said, "Oh please tell me you didn't throw her tooth away!"

And right on cue, the wailing began.

"Just help me look!" I impatiently said while Ann Catherine stood there sobbing. All the while I'm thinking, "How on God's green earth are we going to find that tiny little tooth in all of this trash???"

And if we don't, what do we do? Grab her first one - that the tooth fairy left us - and hope she doesn't notice?? Write the tooth fairy a note??

"Dear Tooth Fairy, even though there is no tooth under my pillow, please leave money because MY MOTHER IS AN IDIOT AND THREW MY TOOTH AWAY??? In the meantime, can I come live with you? Love, Ann Catherine"

As all of those thoughts went racing through my brain, God must have felt sorry for the mom rifling through trash, because I saw a paper towel all wadded up.

And tucked inside, was Ann Catherine's tooth.

Oh thank you Jesus! We grabbed it and put it in a Ziploc bag. As we placed it under her pillow, Ann Catherine said, "Are you sure that's my tooth?"

Poor child. I'm going to assume that watching your mother frantically search through trash looking for your tooth scars you a bit.

In the meantime, go ahead and send that "Mother of the Year" trophy to my house. I'll put it on the mantle next to the crumpled, blood-stained, food-stained paper towel.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Art of Letting Go

(Lily Baker's baptism in 2007)

I walked into my bedroom this morning to find Lily Baker crying.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I don't want to get married one day and move away from you!" she cried. Tears were streaming down her face and she began sobbing.

I picked her up and put her in my lap. "Baby, that's so far away. One day that will happen and you'll be ready for it. But not right now. And not anytime soon!"

That didn't satisfy her.

"But, Mommy," she cried, "I don't EVER want to move away you. I want to live with you forever!"

As I held her, I said the two words I meant more than anything in this world.

"Me too."

My girls are only 17 1/2 months apart. When Lily Baker was born, I suddenly had two babies under the age of two. There were days the first year of Lily Baker's life that I truly didn't know which end was up.

My friends with older children would say, "Enjoy these days because they go by so fast."

I thought they had been hit over the head with a hammer. So fast?? When you have two children in highchairs and wearing diapers, NOTHING goes by fast.

Then one day I pulled up at a big, giant school and walked my oldest into kindergarten and realized they were right.

My pastor says the whole goal of parenting is to one day work yourself out of a job. You want to equip your children so that when it is time for them to leave, they can survive without you.

When you have little ones, that's a tough pill to swallow.

Each day, I see them gaining more and more independence. Ann Catherine now carpools to dance. The other day as I walked Lily Baker into her dance class she commanded, "Mommy, stop right there! I can open the door and walk into class all by myself. Don't help me!" I think I felt a little bit of my heart break at that moment.

The other night Chris and I were putting the girls to bed. It had been a particularly long day and I was looking forward to having a couple of hours of peace and quiet before I went to bed.

I had hugged and kissed them both repeatedly as I tucked them in. I made it all the way to the door, just a few more steps away from collapsing on the sofa. Then Lily Baker said,

"Mommy, can I have just one more hug?"

So I turned around and went back because I know the day will come when I'm begging her for hugs instead.

I hope that day is a long way off.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Visit to the Farm

We made our annual trek to Tate Farms yesterday. Like most people who live in this area, a visit to Tate Farms has become a fall tradition for our family.

I love the hayride to the pumpkin patch where the girls pick out their Halloween pumpkins. They love the games! And Tate Farms sucks them in because the games are the first thing you see when you walk in. I'm going to go out on a limb and say their lemonade is the best I've ever tasted. I think I got one sip yesterday before Lily Baker downed it. :)

Lily Baker loves the petting zoo...

...while Ann Catherine refused to go in because "it stinks in there!" I'm afraid I may be raising a city girl...or maybe not??

For the second year in a row, Lily Baker's buddy, Will, just happened to be there at the same time. Oh my, do those two love each other!

We went to Tate Farms for the first time when Ann Catherine was two-years-old...

...and we've been going ever since! Yes, we act like goofballs....

...but the family memories are priceless!

Chris and I joked on the way home that it's the kind of place where you are so excited to get there, but so ready to leave when it's over (because you are worn out!) If you've never been, you need to check it out. To learn more about Tate Farms, click here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Big Splash for Tiny Miracles!

This post is way overdue, but I always hesitate when blogging about events for Melissa's Fund. Maybe it's all of the emotions soaring through my body. Maybe it's a fear of leaving any detail out. Maybe it's a sense of dread of how to do justice to a truly magical weekend.

I'll try anyway.

Here are the official numbers: This year's Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash raised more than $181,000 for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund!!! To raise that kind of money in this kind of economy is truly astounding!

More than 500 people came to the Davidson Center to enjoy Miracle Bash. We had more than 100 silent auction items and seven live auction items. Our biggest hit was an autographed Taylor Swift guitar!! The Undergrounders played (hello college, anyone??!) and everyone had a great time. It was a fantastic evening!

On Saturday, we rolled out of bed bright and early to join close to 200 little swimmers at Hampton Cove Pool. These kids take my breath away every year. They make Swim for Melissa the wonderful event that it is. It warms my heart to see them jump into the pool and swim with all the energy they can muster.

(Lily Baker's team "Melissa's Rainbows")

The coolest part for me this year? Lily Baker finally got to swim! Last year was Ann Catherine's first time to swim in the event and, as you can imagine, it was a very emotional time for me and Chris. But adding Lily Baker this year was just the icing on the cake. It just truly brought it full circle for our family. To see both of our girls swimming in memory of their sister? It gave me a feeling that I truly can't put into words.

(Ann Catherine's team "Melissa's Miracles")

I will tell you this. On this day each year, maybe more than any other, I feel Melissa's spirit and her presence so strongly. I am reminded of the fight and courage she showed during her short time on this Earth, and that gives me the energy and determination to keep going. Each year at this event, I see other moms and dads who have survived this NICU journey and I am inspired by their efforts to give back.

To those of you who came to Miracle Bash and/or Swim for Melissa, to those of you who volunteered your time and to those of you who made generous donations, thank you doesn't seem adequate. Regardless, I will say it. Thank you for all you do to support the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund. Thanks to you, we can help make life better for premature infants and their families.

Before I end, allow me to share one story that to me personifies Swim for Melissa. A lady walked up to me at the pool that morning and introduced me to her son and daughter. They were both taking part in Swim for Melissa. She had explained to her children that this event was to help the babies in the NICU. To further bring it home, she and her children prayed every night for those babies in the weeks leading up to the event. How awesome is that?! What a wonderful mom to help her children grasp why helping others is so important, and then to go the extra mile with her children to pray for those precious babies!

Each year at Swim for Melissa, we hear stories so similar to that one. These children know why are swimming (ask any of them and they'll tell you they're "helping the tiny babies") and that means more to me than anything. So many of our children have everything they need and it's good to remind them that we are expected to help others.

I love that part of Swim for Melissa. And I love each of you who made it such a inspiring weekend!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why Do You Call Me the Rainbow?

We have called Lily Baker our rainbow from almost the time she was born. Just as God sent the rainbow to promise Noah He would never flood the Earth again, we felt He sent us Lily Baker after the worst storm of our lives to promise that our family would be okay.

Lily Baker knows she's the rainbow. She tells everyone. I've been wondering when the day would come when she'd ask why we call her that.

It came this morning. At the breakfast table. Don't you just love how some of our children's biggest questions come when we're least expecting it?

I forget how it came up. Someone said something about Lily Baker being our rainbow. And she looked at me and said, "Momma, why do you call me your rainbow?"

I looked at Chris. How do you boil this story down for a four-year-old? The word "rainbow" just carries so much weight for us because of the promise it holds. How do we explain this to our little girl?

Chris started it out. "Remember how God sent Noah the rainbow to promise He would never flood the Earth again?" She nodded yes. She knows that story well.

"Well," I continued, "when Melissa died, it was very painful for Mommy and Daddy. It was like a terrible storm for us. And we missed her so much." It hurt just remembering it.

But then the rainbow came...

Then I began to smile. "But then, He sent us you. And you were our promise that our family was going to be okay. That's why you are our rainbow."

She smiled, satisfied with the answer. And I smiled, just thinking of how much joy that rainbow brought into our lives.

But that wasn't all God had planned for this breakfast.

Talk turned to Melissa, and Ann Catherine starting asking questions about her death. As she grows older, this happens more and more. But on this morning, she asked me something she had never asked before.

She asked me if God knew when Melissa was born that she was going to die. I told her yes, that God knows everything and from the moment He created Melissa that was his plan for her life.

It's hard to describe the look that was on her face. I could tell that her 6-year-old brain was grappling with how this wonderful, loving God would create her sister only to allow her to die. She looked as if she might cry. She asked "Why?" and as Chris and I both fumbled for an answer, Lily Baker said so matter-of-factly, "Because Ann Catherine, God's ways are perfect!"

Chris and I were speechless. Once we recovered, he piggy backed off Lily Baker's awesome explanation to explain to Ann Catherine that yes, although sometimes God's plan makes NO sense to us, that his ways ARE perfect. He never makes mistakes and one day we will understand.

Here's the coolest thing about that answer. Lily Baker didn't learn that at home. She learned it last month at church. That was her verse for the month. How amazing that God used that simple message that she learned at church last month to help explain to Ann Catherine why her twin sister died. How amazing that she provided the answer when Chris and I had none!

I am constantly in awe of God's love for our family and how He - at each turn - gives us the words to help Ann Catherine try and understand her twin sister's death. I just never dreamed he would also use Lily Baker to do it. But then again, the Bible is full of God using "unlikely" people, isn't it?

And to think, it all happened over breakfast :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Playing for Preemies

One of the neatest things about starting Melissa's Fund is the people we have met.

Rusty Bates and his wife, Kristin, are two of those people.

Rusty is the Athletic Director and Assistant Principal at Ardmore High School. 18 months ago, his wife Kristin gave birth to their beautiful daughter, Lauren. She was 12 weeks early and weighed just two pounds. She spent a lot of time in a Giraffe OmniBed purchased by the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

Lauren went on to spend 51 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. She is now a very energetic and healthy little girl. And pretty adorable!

Last year, Rusty started "Playing for Preemies" at Ardmore High School. They sell t-shirts and raffle tickets - three lucky students get to the throw a pie at the principals! At the football game, NICU nurses are the honorary captains and get to go on the field. It's such a neat event!

Last year Chris and I went to the pep rally to talk to the students about the NICU and Melissa's Fund. We had such a great time, and decided we wanted to take the girls this year!

They had such a blast! It was their first pep rally and they loved watching the cheerleaders dance and listening to the band. And it was so neat seeing all of the cheerleaders and so many of the students wearing "Playing for Preemies" shirts with the Melissa's Fund logo.

But most importantly, I loved that they got to see *firsthand* how generous people are. I love that they got to see an example of how Melissa's Fund is helping babies. I just so love that they are now old enough to go on this journey with us!!

Thank you Rusty and Kristin Bates for your passion for our NICU!! And thank you students at Ardmore High School for supporting Melissa's Fund!

***A post on this year's Swim for Melissa is coming soon! I have been waiting for the official total - and it's so good!! Can't wait to share :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another Reason to Love Taylor Swift...

I have always loved Taylor Swift. After all, she's one of the few singers that I feel comfortable letting my daughters listen to. My girls love her!

Now, I love her even more!

This week, she signed a Yamaha dreadnought acoustic guitar, donated by AB Stephens of Huntsville, aboard her plane enroute to Philadelphia for the next stop on her Triple-Platinum-Plus Speak Now album tour. We will auction it off tomorrow night at Miracle Bash!!

To see pictures, click here.

Thank you, Taylor Swift!! And our NICU babies thank you too! One day, I'm sure they'll be fans :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Wee Dress to help Wee Ones!

One of the coolest things about planning Miracle Bash is coming up with fun items for our silent auction. Click here to visit the "Southern Matriarch" blog and see what she created for Miracle Bash.

Adorable!! I know one little girl who would LOVE it for her doll!!

To see some of our other awesome live and silent auction items, visit our Miracle Bash blog or find us on Facebook.

By the way, we are trying to get a head count for this year's Miracle Bash. If you are planning to come, we need to know by tomorrow!! You can RSVP by visiting our Swim for Melissa website and clicking on "Miracle Bash" or call Huntsville Hospital Foundation at 256-265-8077.

We hope to see you there!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rainbow to the Rescue

Milestones are hard for parents who have lost children.

Ann Catherine's first day of kindergarten last year was incredibly hard for me. I was fine in front of Ann Catherine, but I broke down when I left the school. I wasn't crying because Ann Catherine was going to kindergarten. I was crying because Melissa wasn't.

My parents watched Lily Baker that morning so Chris and I could walk AC into school and spend that time one-on-one with her. But as soon as we were finished, I could not wait to get to Lily Baker. Having her with me is what got me through the day.

This year, Ann Catherine asked if Lily Baker could accompany us on that first day of school. I said yes. After all, since AC attended full-time kindergarten last year it wasn't such a transition for all of us this year.

There was also another reason.

Lily Baker just always makes things better.

As most of you know, we call her our rainbow. Just as God sent the rainbow after that horrible storm to promise he'd never flood the Earth again, he sent Lily Baker to us with our own promise.

A promise that we would be okay. A promise that even after such a devastating less, we would survive. A promise that we would laugh again. A promise that Ann Catherine would finally have the sister we so desperately desired for her.

Lily Baker isn't a replacement for Melissa. Any parent who has lost a child knows that notion is just absurd. No one can replace your child. Melissa was her own person. She was uniquely created by God. She was my oldest, beating Ann Catherine into this world by one minute because her life was in danger and she needed to be rescued first.

Her short life changed me profoundly, in ways that I still can't fully explain. She made me a better person, a better wife, a better mother. She taught me that life isn't about how long you are here. It's about what you do with the time you are given.

No, Lily Baker isn't a replacement for Melissa.

She is a beautiful completion.

She completed a family who needed her more than she'll ever know. She brought laughter back into our lives. More importantly, she brought hope into our lives.

Lily Baker opened our eyes to the immense blessings that God wants to bestow on us. She reminded us that we have to be patient and trust that God has a plan for our lives, even when it makes no sense to us. She reminded us that sometimes you have to brave a torrential downpour before you can see your rainbow.

So as we walked Ann Catherine into school on her first day of first grade today, I was okay. Because Lily Baker was there.

It doesn't mean I missed Melissa any less. I would have loved to have watched my twin daughters walk into their first grade classroom hand in hand. But I know that wasn't to be.

But on this special day, Ann Catherine wasn't alone. Her sister was there. The sister God sent us to heal our broken hearts.

She did that today, just as she has countless times before.

How did Ann Catherine do? Oh, she did great. She is pumped to be in first grade!

I was grateful that this year was easier than last. And as we left school, I squeezed Lily Baker a little tighter - so grateful to have her with me. So grateful that on those hard milestone days, where the pain of losing Melissa threatens to engulf us, she is here with us.

So grateful for the rainbow. And so grateful for our promise.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Double Whammy!

It's my "double whammy" part of the year - but in a good way!!

We're four days away from the start of school and nine days away from Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa.

I may need to be committed soon.

To say it's crazy at our house is an understatement. However, please don't confuse that with complaining. I am beyond humbled to be able to celebrate both of these milestones.

The start of school = celebration of Ann Catherine's life.

Swim for Melissa = celebration of Melissa's life.

If you haven't visited our website, please do! Just click here.

Here's some exciting news about this year's Swim for Melissa. Lily Baker is old enough to have a team. She named it, very appropriately, "Melissa's Rainbows." Ann Catherine is again team captain of "Melissa's Miracles." They are both so pumped to have their own teams.

To visit Ann Catherine's page, please click here. To visit Lily Baker's page, click here.

My friend and former WHNT co-anchor, Jerry Hayes, was in our NICU last week. He and photographer Gregg Stone are doing a story that will air sometime next week. I don't want to give it away yet, but it will be amazing. It was so good to see my friend!

Hope you can join us for this year's event! For more information on this year's Swim for Melissa and Miracle Bash, visit our Swim for Melissa website. You can also find the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund on Facebook!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Time to Celebrate!

At last year's Swim for Melissa, Ann Catherine's team came in second place in fundraising. For the team prize, she chose a party at The Matrix Gym!

It's been hard to get everyone's schedules together. This past Sunday, Melissa's Miracles (and their siblings) FINALLY celebrated together!

The eight kids on this team raised $15,000 at last year's Swim for Melissa. I think that's just phenomenal! Each of these children understand WHY they are swimming - and I think that's the most important part.

My sweet niece and nephew even made it to the party. I see this picture of the four of them and I know that Melissa is so proud of her sisters and cousins for helping other babies in memory of her. The only thing that would make it better is if SHE was in this picture with them :)

AC is team captain of Melissa's Miracles. She gave each of her team members an engraved medal at the party as a way of saying thanks. I'm so proud of the young lady she's becoming. She has such a big heart and truly loves helping others. I hope that never changes!

This team will be back together in less than a month to Swim for Melissa again!! I'm so proud of all of them!