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Monday, February 28, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

Chris called late this morning to see how our morning went.

"Awful," I answered. "But it wasn't Lily Baker. It was Ann Catherine."

This was quite the role reversal. AC, like her Daddy, is a morning person and wakes up happy. LB, like her mother, would be just fine if morning passed right on by and the day started around 10.

Ann Catherine was worn out this morning. She got out of bed 15 minutes after I started waking her up and then just moved herself from the bed to the couch. She wouldn't eat her breakfast and just moaned and cried about how tired she was.

I knew it was coming. She was up twice during the night: once to use the bathroom and once because Lamby got wedged between the sheets and cover and she couldn't find her. I was roused out of bed at 4:05 a.m. to pull Lamby to safety.

She had a busy weekend. Saturday she played all day with her friends, Sunday she got up way too early and had a birthday party right after church.

She was just worn out.

She had an activity after school, but I decided this morning we would blow it off. She's five. Those things can wait.

Then about an hour before LB and I picked her up from school, I had a brilliant idea. I baked AC's favorite - chocolate chip cookies! - and she came home to nice, warm cookies.

And that's the story of how we ate cookies - before dinner - on a Monday

The girls laughed and laughed. Partly from the sugar high and partly from looking at LB wearing the new giant batting helmet my nephew Will gave her this weekend.

And soon the plate went from this...

to this...

to this.

They ate every last one of them. (I might have had two or three.)

And it was awesome.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Here We Go Again

No one's going to invite us over anymore.

A few weeks ago, I took LB to my friend Kera's so she could play with Kera's little boy while we drank coffee and gabbed.

That night, LB came down with a stomach virus. Luckily, no one at Kera's house got it but I still felt terrible!

Last night, Chris and I needed to attend the funeral home to see a friend whose brother passed away. My friend Jammie was gracious enough to let my kids come over and play with her little ones.

During the middle of the night, AC started complaining that her throat hurt. A trip to the doctor this morning confirmed she had strep.

As long as she didn't drink after Jammie's kids they should be fine, but I still feel so bad. Of course, you can't know when your kids are going to be sick but mine seem to do it after they've spent hours in the faces of someone else's children. :)

AC got a shot and already seems to be feeling better. I didn't think the nurse and I were going to be able to hold her down. But the shot just works so much faster than antiobiotics. The 10 seconds of hysteria is worth it to me for her to start feeling better faster.

Before the shot I promised to take her to her favorite place - Peggy Ann Bakery - for a treat when it was all over. I snapped this picture and sent it to Chris. His reply read,

"That makes it all better."

Yes, butterfly cookies with piles of icing make everything better.

Even shots.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Exercise, Finally!

When our girls were younger, and spring began to usher its way back into our lives, Chris and I had a nightly ritual.

After dinner, we would load the girls up in the double stroller and hit the pavement. My short legs struggled to keep us with Chris as he pushed the stroller. We would power walk. I was still working full-time outside the home back then, so it was a great way for me to clear my head from my hectic day. Chris and I would talk about our day while the girls took in the world around them. More than anything, it was great exercise!

Then they became mobile.

And our power walks turned into leisurely strolls as the girls stopped every three steps to check something out: a flower, a tree, a dead bug. It was amazing to watch them explore God's creation. But burning calories? Not so much.

No more. The exercise is back!

My girls love riding their bikes and they've gotten pretty good at it. Yesterday after school, we grabbed a snack and refueled. Then the girls hopped on their bikes and away we went. I walked behind them and all of a sudden I realized it: I wasn't just walking. I was swiftly walking. I was exercising!

Sometimes almost to the extreme. Lily Baker is a speed demon. I'm quite sure I yelled out at least 15 times, "LB, slow down!"

Then she would hit the brakes and AC would plow into her.

We obviously still have a little work to do.

No matter. I have found a way to exercise and still spend time with my kids. It was awesome!

So bring it on, Spring! We're tired of being cooped up and the house looking like a tornado blew throught it. (On second thought, the house is going to look like that regardless of the weather, so disregard that last part.) I'm ready to chase my kids through the neighborhood with the sun at my back.

We are ready for Spring!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Highlight of My Day

Yesterday Lily Baker and I went to the mall to buy some gifts. We hit the Food Court afterwards for lunch.

We sat next to each other and as she dug into her chicken nuggets, she threw her arm around my neck and said,

"Best. Day. Ever."

Me too :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Her First Cry

The four of us were laying in Lily Baker's bed tonight. We had just finished the devotional and bedtime story and LB was about to pray.

"Wait," said Ann Catherine. "Mommy, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," I answered.

She sat up and looked me straight in the eye. "When did Melissa die?"

I took a deep breath and answered, "Just a few hours after she was born."

"Did I know?" she asked. "No," Chris answered. "You were so sick, baby." "And tiny," I added. "You were too young to know what was going on."

We all sat in silence for a couple of seconds. Then she began to cry. And as it built up, those cries turned into sobs. Deep, heavy sobs. Tears rolled down her face as she cried out loud.

It was a first for us. We've talked about Melissa to Ann Catherine for the past two years. She has asked questions and listened to our answers.

But this was a first. It was the first time she had ever cried about her sister's death.

Chris reached out for her, but she wanted her mother. I crawled over and held her as she sobbed. It was as if all of the sadness and uncertainty finally began to spill from her little, 5-year-old body.

As I held her, I thought of all of the things we usually say to her about Melissa. Those phrases raced through my mind:

She's in Heaven.

She's with Jesus.

We'll see her again one day.

But nothing came out. I couldn't speak. Instead, I just held her and cried with her.

"Can she come back to Earth?" Ann Catherine asked between sobs. She's asked that question countless times. She knows the answer, but she asked it anyway.

"No, baby," Chris answered. "But we will see her again. And it will be the greatest reunion."

But that didn't satisfy her.

"I want her to come back," she cried. "I want to see my sister."

"So do I," I told her. "We all do."

All week Lily Baker has been a pill. She has an iron will and we've had more than one standoff. At times this week I've wished she could be more caring and sweeter.

When it counted, she was.

She came over to us, and put her arms around Ann Catherine. AC cried out, "I miss my sister!" and Lily Baker answered, "I'm right here, Sissy."

"And we're so grateful you are," I told her.

I've often wondered when it would hit Ann Catherine, really hit her. When would the enormity of losing her twin become real to her? When would she go from talking about her to grieving her?

It happened tonight. It was hard. And it was painful. As a mother, you never want your children to hurt. During those moments, I would have given anything to take that pain away from Ann Catherine.

But I can't erase what happened to Melissa. And I can't erase the enormous impact it will have on our family for the rest of our lives. I would love nothing more than to change those events and take that sadness and sorrow out of Ann Catherine's life.

But I can't.

I'm just glad we've handled Melissa's death in a way that Ann Catherine's feels comfortable asking about her. And crying about her. As I held her tonight as she cried, I thought back to all of those times that Chris has held me as I did the same.

And isn't that what family is about? I know we have a lot of tears in our future. Tonight was just the first of many cries AC is going to have over the loss of her sister. It's the first of many cries we'll have together.

And when that happens, we'll hold each other. It's all we can do.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Valentine Saves the Day

End of my rope. Physically tired. Mentally exhausted. Just plain worn out.

All of the above sums up how I felt last week. If you'll recall, the stomach bug hit while Chris was out of town. I didn't get a lot of sleep. And we were cooped up in the house. By the time he returned, everyone was well but it was time to start a new week. My part time jobs were requiring a lot of my time. And Lily Baker decided this was the perfect week to try me in every way.

By the time Thursday rolled around, I was done. I remember thinking, "If I could just have two hours to myself!"

That evening Chris and I were in the bedroom and I was picking things up. Of the five drawers on his dresser, four weren't closed all the way. It's a habit of his, but with my sleep deprivation and general crankiness, it bugged me more than usual.

As I pushed them all in, I blurted out, "I need a vacation!"

He answered, "You have a massage scheduled for one o'clock tomorrow. You need to arrive at 12:45."

I looked at him in amazement. "I do???" I asked. He confirmed and I hugged him. Oh my word, happy days are here again.

I went and it was awesome. I ran into a dear friend and at the end of my massage I learned she left me an "anonymous" gift: quiet time in the tranquility room with a plate of chocolates and a glass of wine.

Are you kidding me???!

As I munched on my chocolate pretzel in this tranquility room, wrapped in my soft oversized robe, I realized why this was all so wonderful to me.

He got it.

Chris saw that I was drowning, and he threw me a rope.

He knew I was tired. He knew I just needed a few hours of alone time to recharge my batteries. Just a little peace and quiet without anyone wanting anything from me.

I didn't have to ask for it.

He just knew.

It made me love him even more.

Later that night he took me to dinner to a fabulous new restaurant in town. It was so wonderful to have uninterrupted time with him, to actually finish a conversation! After having our special night, we spent Saturday night at home with our girls. After dinner, the girls asked if we could have family game night and we said yes.

My favorite moment of the Valentine's Day weekend occured when Jerry Hayes called Chris' cell during our game. I heard Chris said, "I can't talk right now. I'm playing Princess Yahtzee and I'm Cinder-schmelly!" The girls laughed and I realized at that moment that I may truly be the luckiest person alive.

It would have made sense for Chris to have boys. A former athlete himself, he could have taught those boys so much. But little boys were not part of God's plan for us. Instead he blessed us with this world of little girls. Chris has thrown himself into his role: giving Ann Catherine ice skating tips when she gets home from her lessons, teaching AC and LB how to smack a baseball in our back yard, taking them to hockey games and teaching them all about the game he loves. But in the same breath, he can act like Princess Yahtzee is the most exciting game he's ever played and he can be "Prince Charming" to Lily Baker's Cinderella as he twirls her around the den.

They are so lucky to have him. And so am I.

That night I told the girls all about our date Friday night. They took it all in with eyes wide and smiles on their faces. I asked them if they knew why Daddy did those things for me.

AC: Because it's Valentine's Day.
CG: Not just that. It's because I love your mommy.
AC: You promised to always love her when you married her.
CG: That's right.
AC: Will you always love me?
CG: Always.
AC: Will you always love Lily Baker?
CG: Always.
AC: Will you always love Melissa?
CG: Always.

We are four lucky girls.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Get on the Bus!

I rode on a yellow school bus for the first time since high school this week. Boy, did that bring back some memories of rowdy bus trips. :)

I was a chaperone on Ann Catherine's field trip. My first one ever, by the way. The first of many, I'm sure.

We sat together on the bus...

...and at the concert.

I don't know who was more excited - her or me :)

LB cried that morning because she thought we were actually going on a trip. Then once she got to Mimi and Poppy's house and realized she had the place to herself while AC was at school, she got over it pretty soon.

Oh, what sweet memories... :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

If Dad's Away...

It is a rule. I don't know where it is written, but it's a rule.

If your husband's away, all you-know-what is going to break out at your house.

Just count on it. It's as sure as the sun rising in the morning. Or your child throwing up at night.

Ahh, that was our home during Chris' recent trip.

We had gone through our nightly ritual. I bathed them, read their devotional, read their bedtime story, tucked them in and kissed them on their sweet-smelling heads.

Then I retired to my recliner and plopped myself down, ready for some peace and quiet.

Not two minutes later, I heard Lily Baker screaming. I ran in her bedroom. And it was everywhere.

All over her, all over her pjs, all over her sheets. So I grabbed her and tried to get her to the bathroom. That's when she went all projectile on me and it was now also all over her floor.

I surveyed the damage and for a split second wondered, "Where do I start???"

After a quick prayer (something like "Lord, please take over!") I started with her. I got her cleaned up. Then I stripped her bed, rinsed her sheets and put them in the washing machine. Then I started to clean the carpet and I couldn't find any carpet cleaner! After rummaging through the cabinets, I finally found some. And as I scrubbed her carpets, I vaguely remember wanting to strangle Chris for not being here.

Now let me digress and give my shout out to single parents and military spouses: You are amazing! Seriously, you are my heroes. I don't know how you do it. My one bad night doesn't even compare to what you do day in and day out.

Still, I wanted to cry.

We finally got back in bed, and thirty minutes later she did it again. And I had to change her sheets. Again.

Oh I forgot - in the midst of this, Ann Catherine woke up and was standing at Lily Baker's door crying. I'm scrubbing it out of the carpet and saying, "Ann Catherine, DON'T come in here!" which I'm sure made it worse for her, but I didn't want her anywhere near what was going on.

Once I got Lily Baker's bed ready again, I climbed in bed with her because the fear of my girls throwing up as they are laying down in bed is much worse than my fear of getting their stomach virus. And about each hour until 2am she got sick. Finally, she stopped.

Then she woke up at 4:30 crying because she was thirsty. And this went on until about 6am.

Luckily, after 2am she never got sick again. And so far, AC and I have been spared.

The next afternoon, I washed what felt like the 15th load of laundry while she got some much needed rest. While I put clean sheets back on her bed in my quiet house, I thought: How many times did my mother go through this when we were little? How many times did she clean up Lord knows what, wash loads of sick-stained laundry and crawl in bed with sick children?

And most of all, did I ever realize it?

I do now. Now that I'm a mom, I am so appreciative of all she did for us. Things we never noticed. Things my girls don't notice now either.

But they will one day.

In the meantime, I let Chris know that I would be leaving for a week when he got home. Of course, I didn't.

But a girl can dream, can't she?!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Would I Be?

This week I was emailing a mom who just had the first anniversary of her daughter's death. In my email, I told her that those of us who have lost children are part of a fraternity that we would never have chosen to join. Instead, we were chosen.

I began to think of this later. I thought of all of the amazing, remarkable, strong and resilient women I have met on this journey. Women just like me who had to do the unthinkable - say goodbye to their children.

And I wondered, where would my life be if we had never lost Melissa?

It's a question filled with a host of emotions. I would have three children on this Earth, not just two. I would have twins daughters growing up together, sharing that bond that only twins can understand. I wouldn't carry this hole in my heart that sometimes threatens to weigh me down. Birthdays wouldn't be hard. Mother's Day wouldn't be hard. The first day of school wouldn't be hard. My kids wouldn't know about death and loss at such a young age. Chris wouldn't know what it means to sign your daughter's death certificate on your wedding anniversary. I wouldn't know what it means to hold your daughter as she takes the last breath she'll ever breathe.

But there's another side to this. There are so many people in my life that I have met as a direct result of my daughter's death. We have shared together, cried together. We've shared advice on how we got through that agonizing tragedy. We've shared our faith and our fears. Some I know personally, some I've only met on the telephone and through email. They have become trusted friends. They have shaped part of who I am today. Where would I be if I didn't know them?

Where would my faith be? I can honestly say it probably wouldn't be as strong as it is today if Melissa hadn't died. After all, it's when everything you have ever believed in and relied on is stripped away and faith is ALL YOU HAVE that you really learn what it means to rely on God and to truly believe in Him.

What would I be passionate about? When I worked at Channel 19, I served on many boards and volunteered my time to many worthy causes. But I wasn't passionate about them like I am about our NICU, premature infants and their families, and families who have lost children.

Now, time for me to be really honest. As amazing as all of things have been - those things that were a direct result of Melissa's death - I would still rather have her here with me. And I think any mother who has lost a child would say that.

However, five years later, I can claim Genesis 50:20 without any reservations - "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done...".

I can't change what happened to Melissa. But I can embrace what came out of it. The amazing people I've met, the strengthening of my faith and the purpose that God has given our family.

And not only can I embrace it, I can be thankful for it. I can be grateful that this journey, riddled with pain and tears and sadness, is also full of beauty and redemption and love.

No, those of us who have lost children can't go back and change the course of that terrible day we said goodbye. But we can keep moving forward, thanking God for the many blesses we've encountered as a result of what was intended to harm us.

And we can lean on each other, rely on each other, pray for each other, cry with each other and laugh with each other.

There's a reason we met on this journey. And I am grateful for every one of you.