Friday, August 27, 2010

14 months!

Happy 14 months! And, apparently, good-bye to nicely posed monthly least for a while ;)

(Why yes, Charlie IS sitting in the dog's bed. He discovered it this afternoon and was so happy with it that it was the only place where we could get him to sit still long enough to snap a picture.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here, there and everywhere!

These last few days, Charlie and Lily have been very, very busy babies! They've just started doing so many new things that it's hard to keep up. Here's the recap:

- Charlie feeds himself! Lily has been doing it for awhile now, and while I believe that Charlie has been able to do it for just as long, he seemed to just prefer to let Joe and I put the food in his mouth and never really made any effort to pick things up himself. But the other day, out of nowhere, Charlie just started picking up anything and everything from his high chair try and shoving it in his mouth. Waffle, pancake, veggie burger, grilled cheese - you name it, he's feeding it to himself like a champ. He even gets a little too enthusiastic at times - yesterday he started to gag during lunch and when I reached in his mouth I pulled out FOUR pieces of grilled cheese. I have no idea how he got them all in there so quickly, since I was sitting in front of him the entire time. But he loves his table food!

- Both babies climb the stairs! Eeek! Before now they've never even gone close to the steps, but yesterday I was upstairs and when I walked down the steps Charlie was sitting near the bottom. He was grinning at me and I was calling down to him and laughing. All of this must have alerted Miss Lily to the existence of the steps, because less than 10 minutes later there she was, scaling the bottom step. Charlie quickly joined in the fun and both made it up two steps (with Joe and I standing with them!) all on their own. Needless to say, we now have chairs blocking the steps and a gate on the way. Plus Joe and I spent most of today baby-proofing everything - toilet lock, cabinet locks, padding for sharp corners, etc. They are into everything!

- Lily has hair! Yay! It's finally starting to come in and it's all soft and spiky and cute. It looks like she and Charlie are going to have the same color hair.

- The babies are almost standing on their own! Both Charlie and Lily can stand up with almost no assistance - just holding on to the sleeve of my t-shirt is enough to get them up. And Lily has let go of whatever she's holding on to several times and balanced on her own for a good 10 seconds.

- Teasing Mommy! So far Charlie's only word is "Dada." He has this deep, gruff voice and it's so funny to hear him say it. But it is the only word he says, so when I ask him to "Say Mama," he responds with the only word he knows, which is of course "Dada." And Joe and I always laugh. At some point, Lily (who can say "Mama") realized that we found Charlie funny, so now when I say to Lily, "Say Mama," she looks right at me, gets this wicked grin on her face and says, "Dada." So naughty!

"You can't make me say "Mama" when I get so many laughs from "Dada!"
"Hey! What's the big idea taping these drawers shut?!!?"
Even though they eat their own big breakfasts, Charlie and Lily can't resist mooching my Greek yogurt.
This past weekend we had a play date in the park with Ethan, a 23 weeker who was Charlie's NICU isolation roommate. The boys had a great time reconnecting with each other.
And had a great time trying to steal snacks of one another.
We spent last Sunday, the one-year anniversary of Annaleigh's passing, as a family. We wanted to give Charlie and Lily a day they could really enjoy, while honoring Annaleigh's life. The day started with Joe picking up a special after-breakfast treat of a glazed munchkin for each baby. Needless to say, those didn't last long. After morning nap we met up with Grandma and Grandpa for brunch. Later, while the babies took their afternoon nap, Joe went over to the cemetery and built a flower garden at Annaleigh's headstone. When Charlie and Lily woke up, the four of us went back to the cemetery to see the garden, and Charlie and Lily each released a balloon into the sky for their sister. When we got home, Joe read Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton (we used the verses from that book on Annaleigh's prayer card at her memorial service). Finally, after dinner, Joe ran out and got the babies a vanilla ice cream cone to share. It was a peaceful and nice day.
On Tuesday Charlie and Lily got a visit from their Great-Aunt Diane and cousin Adam. When they first came home from the NICU, Diane bought Charlie and Lily the cutest hooded towels - a princess one for Lily and a duck for Charlie. We've used those towels so much that they now have holes in them and are unravelling, so Diane brought new towels for the babies. Lily is, of course, still a princess, but Charlie became a lion this time around.
"That's about all! See you next time!"
Thank you to everyone for all the wonderful, kind comments about Annaleigh. It means so much to us see over and over how many lives she's touched and how many people out there truly care about her to this day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Remembering Annaleigh, one year later

One year ago today, we lost our beautiful baby girl.

One year ago today, a constant and irreparable ache was introduced into our hearts.

One year ago today, Annaleigh died.

The year has gone by faster than we ever would have imagined, despite the fact that, at the time, we were quite sure that we would be stuck at the St. Peter’s NICU for the remainder of our natural lives.

Charlie and Lily came home right before their due date (October 5). For three months or so, they kept us awake pretty much around the clock. For the four months after that, we slept a little more but the time we were awake was much busier, what with learning to sit up, roll over, crawl, stand, eat solids, say “da da,” do “so big,” blow kisses, clap, laugh, etc. When we got to the point where we’ve been sleeping through the night, our days became even more hectic trying to keep up with two mobile babies. And if there is one simple truth about Charlie and Lily, it’s that they are the happiest, most wonderful babies we could ever imagine.

And so, the days pass and turn to weeks, months, and now a year. And as happy as they are, that sense of loss is with us constantly. We are grateful for Charlie and Lily—never think otherwise—but we know that we were meant to have three babies. Every time we do anything as a family, the feeling of incompleteness is there. The seating arrangement at restaurant tables was supposed to be harder; car seat placement in the van was supposed to be a nightmare; feeding time should have been even more stressful. So when things are difficult, our fall-back mentality is, “things should be 1/3 harder.”

But even so, nothing can kill a good mood like someone saying to us, “oh, are they twins?” Because we’re stuck. At this point, we’ve got two options: we correct them and say, “no, they’re triplets but their sister died,” which would make just about anyone uncomfortable; or we simply say “yes,” and spend the rest of the day feeling like we just disrespected Annaleigh. And when someone who knows our story, who knows the pain we’ve felt, refers to them as “twins,” it takes all the restraint in my body not to scream. When Charlie and Lily are older and they’re out in the world of day care, kindergarten, little league, dance school, we know we’ll have to get used to constant “twin” remarks, but I have a feeling that that word will always make us cringe.

The sense of loss follows us because there are so many questions: What would Annaleigh have been like? Who would she look like? Would she be bald like Lily, or in constant need of a haircut like Charlie? Would she be talking? What would she have thought of the beach? And there are the more painful questions: Did we love her enough? Did she know we loved her? Where is she now? Is she watching us from some far-away place and wishing she were with us? Is she jealous that we’re having fun with Charlie and Lily? And then there are the worst questions: Could we have done something differently? Should we have fought harder for her? Why did this happen?

But there are no answers to these questions and there never will be. So we take comfort in the little bit of speculation that we can do. I mentioned to everyone in my eulogy at Annaleigh’s funeral that Brooke and I had a vision of our future in our heads. About a week before Annaleigh got sick, Brooke and I were at the Rainforest Café for one of our many between-NICU-visit meals, and we sat at a big round table, just the two of us. We spent the majority of that meal talking about what it would have been like to be there with our three babies after they were a little older. We imagined the seating arrangements, the food fights, the toy stealing, the fussing, the wonder… and we were happy. We envisioned that Lily would be beating up on Charlie, demanding what she wanted, ruling the roost. Charlie would be clinging to his mommy for comfort, too sensitive to defend himself. And Annaleigh would be there, calmly eating her meal, taking in the surroundings, and scoffing at how immature her older brother and younger sister were. We had that vision in our heads, clear as could be. From the start of the pregnancy, we had these personalities for the three of them, distinct and real. And amazingly, our vision for Lily as talkative boss and Charlie as sensitive brother have really been accurate. So if our versions of Lily and Charlie have proven to be on the right track, that must mean that our vision for Annaleigh was right too.

So here’s what we know about Annaleigh. She would be beautiful. Not like Lily beautiful, but more mature looking. She would be the mediator of disputes and the one who always knows how to solve a problem. She would be smart and advanced, well ahead of her siblings in all things. And she would be happy.

Of course that’s only speculation, but the last year has taught us a lot, too.

First, we have gained perspective about things. We know what matters and what doesn’t. So what if we have to sell our house? Who cares if money is tight? Why stress out about work? Charlie and Lily are healthy and happy, so everything else will fall into place.

Second, we know how important it is to show Charlie and Lily how much we love them. Just yesterday, we got them up for their morning nap and both were sitting up in their cribs smiling and laughing and clapping because we had gone into the room together smiling and laughing and clapping ourselves. They were happy to see us and we were happy to see them. When one of us comes home and Lily and/or Charlie comes joyously crawling towards the door with a huge grin and a loud laugh, we know how lucky we are to have them. It’s clichéd but true: our children are our world. I don’t know if we would have fully grasped this if we hadn’t suffered the loss that we did. Would we have been overcome by the difficulty of dealing with THREE baby’s sleep habits, feeding issues, and personality foibles? Maybe some of the patience and understanding that we have now wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

Finally, we know that Annaleigh has made a difference to more people than we even know. We get messages and comments from people literally all around the world telling us that her story touched them, that she has made them appreciate their own children more than they had, that her life meant something to them. So many people have hugged their kids longer and more tightly because of Annaleigh, appreciating what they have and showing the love they otherwise would have kept inside. When things get hard, people think of her and remember, and feel better about their own lives. She lived for only eight weeks, but her impact has been felt by more than most who live a long, full life.

So today, one year after NEC took our beautiful, sweet, smart baby girl from us, we will celebrate her life. We will be sad—we’ve been shedding tears pretty hard already today—but we will use that sadness to remind us of what we have. We’re going to spend the day doing the things that we know Charlie and Lily love to do, and we’re going to do them as a family. There will be a hole there, an incompleteness to anything that we do, and we will not be as cheerful as could otherwise be, but we will honor our daughter by being together and being happy.

Dear Annaleigh,
We miss you, but you know that. We love you, but you know that too. Please never think that we’ve forgotten you, that we’ve “moved on.” We haven’t, and we won’t—ever. When we laugh, it’s not as hard as it would be if you were there. When we joke, it’s not as funny as if you were with us. When we love, it’s not as whole as when you were a part of it. You’re never more than a thought away, even when we seem distracted. Please know that we would do anything to have you with us and you will always be a part of us. Thank you for letting us love you, for letting us know you, even for just two months. They will forever be the only time our family was whole. Please keep looking out for Charlie and Lily; when they start randomly laughing at nothing that we can see, is that you? Please keep them safe and healthy and happy, and know that they will know all about you as soon as they can understand. Rest easy, baby girl.

We love you forever.

The blog post from 8/22/09
The eulogy
Kim's poem
Casey's poem
Tribute video

Click here to make a donation to the St. Peter's Foundation (be sure to earmark it for the NICU)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Photo Shoot!

Oh Picture People, how we love you ;) This week on a whim we decided to go ahead and have another set of pictures of Charlie and Lily done. We had the cutest little lady bug outfit for Lily that we wanted to get her picture taken in, and in honor of Joe's upcoming new school year we wanted to take a few pics of Charlie as a teacher - like father like son! We're super happy with the way the pictures turned out so we wanted to share! (And after seeing these pictures I think it's time for another haircut for Charlie - he looks like he's working on a mullet...)

Friday, August 13, 2010


We're back! Charlie and Lily had a blast on their first ever vacation, and got to see and do a lot of new and fun things.

We left after breakfast on Wednesday morning to make the 2 hour drive to Wildwood. Joe and I had hoped that the babies would take their morning nap in the car, which they did...for a whopping 20 minutes. Once they woke up, they wanted OUT of the car. We made a stop at a Wal-Mart to get out and stretch our legs, then gave the babies each half of a bagel twist from Dunkin Donuts to snack on the rest of the drive. That (and me sitting in the back with them) seemed to do the trick!

We finally arrived and checked into our hotel, The Acropolis Oceanfront Resort. If you're planning a trip to Wildwood, definitely stay at The Acropolis. It's owned by Joe's great-uncle and his family, and it's fantastic! We had a great, 2-bedroom suite with a beautiful view of the ocean from our balcony (see above photo). There was a great pool, we could walk right out onto the beach and it was only blocks from the boardwalk!

After Charlie and Lily had lunch and Joe and his dad hauled all our supplies in from the car, we got ready to go to the pool. Charlie and Lily couldn't wait to get moving.

Sun hats were practical, but not a big hit with Charlie.
Swimming was a success though! Charlie decided this time around that he loves the pool. We all had a great time splashing and swimming the afternoon away.
We took a break for an afternoon nap for Charlie and Lily, then got ready to hit the boardwalk. Lily was jealous of my new hat.
We had to take the babies on their first ride while we were on the boardwalk. We chose the flying pink elephants, but Charlie and Lily were pretty unimpressed.
But they WERE excited for ice cream. Joe started feeding them from his orange/vanilla cone with a spoon, but Charlie decided that he needed to just dive right in. He has such a sweet tooth!
The next day, August 12, was my 30th birthday! Joe made sure that the babies were ready to celebrate with me.
Unfortunately, it was a rainy morning, so we weren't able to go to the beach as we'd planned. Instead, we took a drive to Atlantic City to visit the aquarium.
Lily got her first taste of sand there...literally. Ew.
By the time we left AC the weather was clearing, so when we got back to our hotel in Wildwood we hit the pool again.
Charlie and Lily were kind enough to act as lifeguards for the other swimmers. Safety first!
We couldn't go to Wildwood without at least letting the babies see the beach, so we took a quick walk on the sand after swimming.
Charlie wasn't so sure about the whole thing.
The next day it was time to hit the road. Before we left though, we went back to the boardwalk for a morning walk and a few stops for some necessities, like fudge. Here are Charlie and Lily waiting with Daddy in the Fudge Kitchen while I chose my flavors.
On the way back to the car, Charlie and Lily decided that they had had enough vacation. Having so much fun is exhausting!

We had a fantastic time in Wildwood, and plan to return again next year. Thank you again to everyone at The Acropolis for having us!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beach bound!

In just a few days we're packing up and hitting the road for our first family vacation! We'll spend two nights in Wildwood, NJ and we can't wait. The trip falls over my 30th birthday, so I'm extra excited to be spending this milestone enjoying some fun and sun with the people I love most. Grandma and Grandpa will be joining us as well, and we're staying in Joe's great-aunt and great-uncle's hotel while we're there. We can't wait to introduce Charlie and Lily to the beach, the boardwalk, and the awesome Wildwood tram car. We'll post plenty of pictures and videos when we get back :)

Oh - and if you have a second, please VOTE for Charlie in the Gerber Photo Search contest! You can vote daily! (We entered Lily's picture too, but for some reason it looks like she'll be in next month's round of voting instead of this one.)

Charlie and Lily have been practicing their splashing skills in their new water table before hitting the beach. Lily is particularly good at drenching everyone.
Charlie has been gathering up some books to read poolside on our trip. This is one of his favorites, given to him by Nurse Sue when he was in the NICU.
Bye everyone! I'm off to be a Beach Bug! See you soon!