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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Message from my Girl

Handmade gifts are just the best.

Don't get me wrong. I love the lantern from Pier One and the Terrame gift card that Chris and the girls gave me for Mother's Day.

But I love, love, love the gifts my girls made with their own, little hands. (God bless you teachers who do this every year, making sure mommies get these sweet homemade gifts!)

This year, Ann Catherine made me this box and asked me to put my rings in it. Lily Baker promptly put her "Hershley" kisses in it.

Lily Baker gave me a bookmark with her precious little handprint on it.

And Ann Catherine made me this.

I teared up as I read it. I love reading what my children think of me. At least at this age, while it's all still good. :)

Later this morning, Ann Catherine came in as I was getting ready for church.

"Mommy?" she said. "Do you know why I wrote this sentence?" She pointed at the one that read "My mom will always be with me forever."

"No," I answered.

"Well," she said. "It's the same way I feel about Melissa. You know, how she's always with us and always in our hearts? That's how I feel about you."

I was speechless. I just hugged her and she danced off into the next room, oblivious to the mark she had just left on my heart.

I can't count the times that God has used Ann Catherine to speak truth into my heart concerning Melissa. There have been so many times that she has said the right thing at the right time to me. I don't believe that's a coincidence.

I had grieved Melissa deeply yesterday. As I showered, the loss I felt in my heart hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried. And I cried. And I cried. I felt a heaviness that I couldn't shake. Mother's Day does that to me sometimes.

I grieved her at church this morning as we worshipped. As I have so many times, I held on tightly to Chris' hand with tears streaming down my face. I'm telling you, that man is my rock. I am so grateful that he is in my life. I can't count the times I've leaned on him - physically and emotionally - in the last seven years.

This morning, when Chris and the girls gave me my gifts I thought my heart would burst from happiness. At the same time, there was a sadness in my heart. It's hard to explain how those emotions feel when they battle it out.

It's not that I'm miserable on Mother's Day. I am so grateful for Ann Catherine and Lily Baker and for the chance God gave me to be their mommy. At the same time, I miss Melissa deeply. So deeply it hurts.

That's why Ann Catherine's timing could not have been more perfect. I needed to be reminded that even though Melissa isn't physically here, she is here. She's alive in our family. She's alive in our memories. She's alive in our hearts.

She will "be with us forever." As long as we are separate from her on this earth, she'll live in our hearts. Her spirit will permeate everything we do. And one day, we truly will be with her forever.

I love how God uses my children to remind me of these beautiful and precious truths. I love how they remind me that I can have hope in the midst of sadness.

It was such a simple sentence that she wrote. It's something we have said to her countless times.

How amazing that she used it to teach something to me on Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moving On

You know that feeling you got in college when your professor gave you months to work on a project? At the time it was assigned, it seemed like you had plenty of time to get it done. But, as the deadline drew near, you began to panic. Did I do it right? Did I do my best? Did I leave anything out?

That's how I feel right now.

Lily Baker graduates from preschool on Friday. As happy as I am for her, I am also sad. Partly because I love this stage of having her with me and not in school full-time. And partly because she's the baby.

Once Ann Catherine started school, I realized how life changes. No more impromptu trips. No more staying home just because she's tired, or because we can. No more random visits during the day for ice cream or to feed the ducks at the park. No more snuggling at home on a rainy day watching her favorite movie.

It's not as if Lily Baker is with me all day anyway. She goes to preschool four mornings a week. During that time, I do my freelance work or whatever else needs to be done. But once I pick her up, we have two hours before we pick up Ann Catherine. I love those two hours. I love having that time alone with her before the day gets crazy.

And Fridays belong to us. She's home with me and we do whatever we want. I wouldn't trade those Fridays for anything in the world.

Thursday of this week, she had "K for a Day" at the school she'll attend in the fall. If ever there was a realization that your child is growing up, it's that. She loved it. Lily Baker has benefited from going to the school for various things over the last two years that Ann Catherine has been there, so it isn't this new, foreign place like it was for AC.

Plus, she's just ready.

Besides being the quintessential second child, LB is my child that I could drop into any situation and she'll swim, not sink. She is going to be fine.

I am another story.

I count it as one of my greatest joys in life that I was able to stop working full-time just before she turned two. I have loved this time with her. I cherish it.

But, as my mother has reminded me time and time again, this next chapter will be just as beautiful. Different, but beautiful.

And I must embrace it.

The other day, we checked Ann Catherine out of school early for a dentist appointment and went to Chick-fil-A for lunch. Since it was late in the day, we were the only ones outside on the playground. Halfway through lunch, a mom and her teenage daughter came outside to eat. As they watched my girls play, I heard the mom say to her daughter, "Oh, honey. I remember when you were that age playing on this playground." Just hearing those words made me want to cry. It only affirmed how quickly time slips away.

Then as my children played, I watched this mom and her teenage daughter. They talked, they laughed - it was evident they loved being together. They had the same relationship I had with my mom, the same relationship I hope to have with my daughters when they are older. It just looked so fun.

I realized that my mom is right. Each stage is beautiful. I have been so tightly holding onto this stage in life because it's all I know. I have been afraid for my girls to grow up. And while I'm still not ready for it, I must embrace it. Each stage is unique in it's own right, with it's own positives and it's own challenges.

I mean, let's face it. I can romanticize this stage of my daughters' lives all I want, but it's not always great. I certainly have moments where I think I'll pull my hair out. Just yesterday, after hearing "Mommy!" for the umpteenth time, I told them I was changing my name. There are days I wish they were more independent. I mean, it never fails they need more milk once I finally sit down to eat my lunch. There are days I wish Lily Baker wasn't so grumpy or demanding.

Then she crawls in my lap and snuggles up to me. And I forget all of that.

I guess that's life, isn't it? It's the good, the bad and the ugly. But when each stage is over, the bad seems to fade away and you only remember the good.

That's how I'll look back on this time with LB. I'll probably forget the meltdowns and the whining. Instead, I'll remember dressing up as princesses, taking trips to the playground and singing Muppet songs in the backyard at the top of our lungs.

And I'll thank God for every minute of it.