Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family (Part 3)

This year has been a crazy one. I’ve experienced the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, incredible fear and elation. I’ve battled my emotions, loved more than I knew was possible and unearthed strength within myself that I never knew existed. I lived away from the support of my husband and the comfort of my own home. I experienced true sleep deprivation and the frustrations that every new mom does. Then I threw a new job into the mix.

Yes it was overwhelming, but never…not once…did I consider giving up. Know why??

My family.

I have a husband who is my rock. When my mind wants to stray in an “unhealthy” direction, he reminds me of all of the positives in our lives. He has put up with my somewhat schizophrenic personality (UP down UP down UP down) over the past year and loves me for who I am. He makes me laugh even when his sense of humor is more deserving of a roll of my eyes. He would do anything for Charlotte and I. He is my perfect match.

I have a daughter who is my everything. Her smile alone makes all of the craziness of this life worthwhile. At only 2 weeks she proved to be the strongest, most resilient little girl…yet at the same time is 100% reliant on the love and care from her daddy and me. Yes, there are challenging times, but she is worth every frustrated tear I have shed. She has opened my eyes to a bigger picture than the life that I was living before.

I have 2 dogs that from time to time drive me up the wall, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Our beagle is a lover who just wants to snuggle. She is sometimes too smart for her own good and can be quite mischievous! Our Aussie is like a little kid…rambunctious and always wanting to play. She is extremely loyal and can melt your heart with her big eyes.

I am thankful for Matt.
I am thankful for Charlotte.
I am thankful for Maybe and Stella.
But most of all, I’m thankful that we all ended up together.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Family (Part 2)

Thanksgiving has come and gone...and suprise suprise, I didn't get my full week of "Thankfuls" in! I had planned on doing some in our downtime, but our 4 day holiday weekend flew by and it just didn't get done. The weekend did, however, remind me of just how blessed our family is, and how many things we have to be thankful for. I'm thankful every day...so my thankful theme is going to continue for at least a couple more!

I'm thankful for family....Part 2....The In-Laws...

The In-Laws...It seems like that title is always accompanied by an unpleasant taste in your mouth. As a matter of fact, at lunch today there were many stories exchanged about about self-centered mother-in-laws and families by marriage that simply don't get along. I am happy to say that none of those stories were coming from me!


I met Matt in 2002 and it didn't take long for me to fall head over heals in love. As I spent more and more time with him and his family, something became very clear to me. All of the things that I love about Matt are a direct reflection of his family. They love and give with all of their hearts, support each other 100% and are always there to help pick each other up when they stumble. They stick together through thick and thin. They can laugh at themselves. They can laugh at each other. Did I mention that they can laugh?? I can honestly say that I have laughed harder with Matt's family than I have with most anyone else.

Getting to know and growing to love Matt's family has been a huge part of our relationship. They are some of the most important people in his life, and have become the same to me.

I consider myself so lucky to be a part of the Ritchie/Reynolds clan.

Lucky, blessed and very very thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Family (Part 1)

To say that I am thankful for family seems like an understatement of greatest proportion. Because of this....I will warn you in advance...this could turn into a lengthy post. I could write it in abbreviated form, but I think that I need to take advantage of this time to let ALL of my families know just how wonderful they are.

Crap, I'm crying and I haven't even really started yet. That's never a good sign!

My mom...I don't even know where to begin. She is a strong-willed, self-sufficient and stubborn woman. Sometimes it drives me crazy when she won't just sit still and relax, but it’s just not her nature. She's a "do-er." I guess that when you spend half of your life with 4 girls in your house, you probably just get used to always being busy (not that we were a lot of work or anything!) And as if we didn’t give her enough to keep her hands full, life has kept her busy though a series of curve balls…First and foremost being the death of my dad. I know what it is like to lose a father, but I can’t even begin to imagine (nor do I WANT to imagine) what it feels like to lose a spouse. Despite the pain that I know she had to be feeling, I don’t ever remember her falling apart…she remained strong and continued to live.

I was 13 when my dad died, but another of God’s curve balls came at my mother long before I, or any of my sisters for that matter, entered the picture. In 1970, my mom and dad lost their first baby girl to a variety of congenital heart defects. Yes, you heard me, CONGENITAL HEART DEFECTS. I’ve never really talked to my mom about this other than the details of her defects, but I’ve thought about it many times. I’m not sure why, but I don’t think that the gravity of this was ever very clear to me. I think that I likened it to something like a miscarriage. Maybe it is because it was so long ago and never a part of my reality? Maybe I was always too young to really understand?? I can’t honestly say. But now that I am where I am….I’ve come to a pretty tough realization. My mom LIVED my greatest fear. It almost makes me sick to think about it (maybe that’s why I’ve never brought it up before). Again, I can’t imagine. I have no desire to go into any further detail…all that I need to say is Mom, I love you. I admire your strength. I am thankful for you.

My sisters…Jill, Angie and Lindsey…Remember that day when mom and dad told you that there was going to be another baby in the family? I have been told that you cried and said “we don’t want another one. Send it back.” Remember that??? Well, I forgive you and I’m still thankful for you!

What a difference some time can make! They may have looked at me as the little “pest” who always wanted to be in their business growing up, but I looked up to them. I wanted to be just like them. Now I think of my sisters as my best friends. They are there when I’m bored and just want to pass time. They are there when I’m having a bad day and just need to cry. They dropped everything to be there for us when we needed them most.

Jill, I love that you are my “bad influence”…haha…you may not think that sounds like a good thing, but it is—Hear me out. Yes, you helped me justify buying a Coach purse. Yes, I was jealous when you got an iPad so I talked about it enough that Matt got me one too. Yes, I got a message from you once saying that you were getting a manicure, so I dropped everything and decided that I needed one too. Having said that, it’s really not about the THINGS. It’s more about me doing things for me. I’ve found that it’s easy to lose yourself when you have a baby. Charlotte is my world, and I wouldn’t change that for anything, but I can’t take the best care of her unless I take care of myself. Thank you for helping me do this, even if you didn’t realize that you did!

Angie, I hate that you live in Oklahoma; it’s just too far away. But since I don’t see you moving to South Dakota any time soon, I will have to settle for phone calls and text messages (some of my favorites are the ones where you just check in to see what Charley is doing.) When I was trying to think about what to write about you…one person kept coming to my mind. Dub. Through your relationship with Dub, I have seen just how big your heart is. You and Doug have brought so much happiness to that man’s life…and not because you felt obligated to do so, but because you WANTED to. That takes a special person. I can only hope that in addition to that red hair of yours, Charlotte also has your ability to make others smile.

Lindsey, I love that sometimes you call me for the sole purpose of reading me the jokes from a Laffy Taffy wrapper. Like a true great friend, I can call you for absolutely no reason, but manage to spend 30 minutes talking about random things. Things between us have always been fairly simple…in a good way. You send me diaper coupons in the mail, we talk about new recipes to try for dinner…but that is what I love about our relationship. It’s totally unintentional. I can always count on you for a good laugh or for those times when I just need to have a mini-breakdown. Sometimes I just need someone to listen…not to have all of the answers…but to listen. Most times that person is you.

I’m thankful for the Goeser girls. Oh so Thankful.

More family “thankfuls” to come!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Doctors

Our family has been blessed. We've had our ups and down. The road has not been easy. Despite all of that, we are in a very good place. For that, there are some incredible people that we are eternally thankful for.

I'm thankful for the ultrasound technician that performed my "routine" ultrasound back in January. Not all heart defects are picked up on ultrasound. No matter how much that day hurt, I am thankful we learned what we did, when we did, in order to give our little baby girl the best shot.

I'm thankful for Dr. Sami Awadallah (cardiologist here in Sioux Falls). Let me tell you, this man is incredible. I haven't met one person who has had previous experience with him who hasn't said "Isn't he great?!" Great doesn't even come close. Dr. Sami has seen me on my worst of days. He delivered news to Matt and I that made us feel like our whole world was crashing in on us. Though I hate that we have to know him under the circumstances that we do, I feel so blessed to have him taking care of our baby girl. I love the way that his face lights up when he sees her. I love the little noises that he makes to distract her during exams and echos. We are so grateful for everything that he has done for our family.

I'm thankful for our doctors in Omaha....

I'm thankful for Dr. Bonebrake (my Omaha perinatologist). He managed to keep me laughing in the face of my emergency c-section. Our sarcastic senses of humor were a match made in heaven, but I know that he could see the fear in my eyes. I met the man once before Charlotte was born--technically a stranger--but at my 2 week check up he hugged me. It was a genuine hug. He told me to be strong. He told me that it would be alright. He told me to take care of little Debbie Roberta. Did I mention that his name is ROBERT Bonebrake???

I'm thankful for Dr. Delaney. He is the first doctor that we had to officially hand little Charlotte over to when she had her heart cath and he was also a part of her big OR day. I don't really know what it is about him, but I liked him instantly. So much so, that I made sure to request him and only him when we go back for her cath in December. He took the time to come and sit with with us and our families after the cath, going over all of the pictures that he had taken and answering everyone's questions. He made us feel comfortable at a very scary time in our lives and was so incredibly reassuring.

That brings me to Dr. Hammel, Charlotte's heart surgeon. I'll be very honest here...when we first found out that Charlotte would need surgery and that it would be in Omaha, everyone started telling us about a Dr. Duncan and how good he was. Dr. Duncan this, Dr. Duncan that. I knew that she would be in great hands. When I heard "Dr. Hammel" my stomach dropped. WHAT!?! What about Dr. Duncan!?!? It makes me laugh to think about it now, knowing how perfect a match Dr. Hammel has been for our family.

The hardest conversation I've ever had in my life was with Dr. Hammel the day before Charlotte's OHS. Sitting with him made everything more real. She was having surgery. Her perfect little baby chest was going to be forever marked with a scar made by this man. Her life was in his hands. He spent a lot of time with Matt and I that day, presenting us with options and reassuring us that we were making the right decisions. He was always upfront with us and has made no guarantees, but he has made it clear that he would do whatever it takes for her. We will always remember him telling us, "whatever happens in there is between Charlotte, myself and God." This is the most comforting anyone could have said to us on that day. And even though he may have felt a little awkward at the time, I love that he didn't get weird when I asked him to hug me....both before AND after surgery. Hahah---poor guy! We are beyond thankful for Dr. Hammel.

Having singled those people out, I also feel the need to express our appreciation for everyone at Children's Hospital. After our recent overnight stay at the hospital here in Sioux Falls, I jokingly referred to myself as a "hospital snob." No, there was nothing wrong with the care we received here, but it was different at Children's. Our experience there was flawless.

We have so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Thankful for...

...our health.

This is going to have to be a quick post, but I didn't want to give up on my "I'm Thankful" posts after just one day! Miss Charley's cold is back and in full effect, so I'm pretty much a zombie today. Poor girl, she has this terrible cough that wakes her up constantly. She sleeps best either laying upright on my chest or in a car seat and is totally over tired. I'm hoping she's better by Thanksgiving so that she can enjoy her first big holiday with family!

Having said that, I'm so very thankful that colds are about the worst of what we've had to deal with so far. I think that when we found out about Charley's heart, I mentally prepared myself to play nurse. I figured that she would look sick, act sick, make multiple trips to the hospital...but we haven't had any of that. Instead, she looks amazingly healthy. She acts like a normal baby with grins from ear to ear. We've only had one hospital pit stop and it didn't have anything to do with her heart.

A cold is a normal baby thing. That's right....NORMAL.

I'm constantly amazed at how healthy she is. How normal she is. How perfect she is.

Thankful doesn't say enough.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

100th Post!

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I thought that it was only appropriate to dedicate a few of my postings specifically to the things in my life that I'm thankful for. This past year has really opened my eyes to the things, both big and small, that are important in my life.

Because its 7AM on Saturday morning, I'll start with the obvious....

1) I'm thankful for a full nights sleep....which I didn't get last night...not even close! Sleep has been up and down in our house for the past 6 months. Just ask my mom, I called her a few mornings ago and was soooo excited because I slept for 7 hours straight.

2) I'm thankful for carrots. Without them I wouldn't have this picture.

My last "thankful" for today goes back to the title of this post..."100th Post." Wow. I can still remember the very first one. It took me the span of about 6 hours to write it and to get the courage to actually post it. I would type paragraphs, only to delete them 5 minutes later. I struggled with the thought of putting myself out there for everyone to read. I'm pretty sure that there were tears running down my face the whole time.

3) I'm thankful for this blog...it may sound strange, but I really am. For those of you that know me, I wear my heart on my sleeve and it doesn't take much to elicit tears from my eyes. This blog has been a great outlet for me, a place to share our struggles and our successes, our fears and our joy. That's easier for me to do here than face to face. It has allowed me to keep you all posted on our lives--after all, you have helped us through some of the most difficult times. Not only that, but this blog also provides a record of how far we have come since last January when we learned about Charley's heart. Some day she will be able to read her story from the beginning and I hope that she can feel the love that has surrounded her through it all.

So there you have it, a few things I'm thankful for. Obviously these aren't the BIGGEST things, but important none the less. Now that I think about it, I don't know if a week is enough time for me to name them all......

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mark Your Calendars!

I got a call this morning from the cardiology office in Omaha...

We've been waiting to hear from them, but at the same time, were perfectly content with keeping our distance!

Little Miss Charley is scheduled for a diagnostic heart cath on December 10th at 10 AM. When they conferenced on her last Monday, it was decided that they wanted to go in and get a better look at things than they can get from an echo. They will be able to measure pressures, check the size of her right ventricle...and overall, just get a better picture of whats going on in there! From there, decisions will be made on whether we need to move ahead with her next surgery or if she can continue to hang out for a while longer. Its still 3 weeks away, but I'm sure that it will be here before we know it. Big prayers.

Charley had her first Synagis injection yesterday. This is a shot that she will get monthly from now until March. I'm sure that most of you have heard of RSV....well, if most kids get RSV, their symptoms are like a bad cold. Charley on the other hand, could get really sick because of her heart defect. Synagis doesn't necessarily prevent her from getting RSV, but is intended to help prevent her from developing any severe respiratory problems because of it. A home health nurse came out to our house to give it. I was so glad that we didn't have to drag her to a clinic and sit in a waiting room full of sick kids!. Funny thing....her nurse's name is Charlotte...and she goes by Charley!

Other than that, nothing too wild and crazy going on here. Matt had to go out of town unexpectedly on Wednesday afternoon, so it has just been us girls the past couple of days. We REALLY miss him and can't wait until he gets back tomorrow evening.

We'll continue to keep you posted!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Half Birthday!

Today is a good day. A day that at one point felt unreachable. A day that marks a HUGE milestone in our house.

Happy 6 month birthday, baby girl! I have no idea where the time has gone, but I am thankful for every single minute of it. Every minute. I have learned more in the past 6 months than I have in the past 28 years and loved more than I ever imagined possible. Your grins melt our hearts. Your giggles make our day. You truly are a blessing.

Everyday is a new adventure little Charlotte. You teach us that every day. Your Daddy and I are having so much fun watching you grow and learn new things...which you seem to be doing a lot of lately!

In the past month...

-You officially graduated to a size 2 diaper! Such a little peanut.

-You LOVE trying new foods. So far your favorite seems to be carrots, but you also like sweet potatoes, peas, peaches and apples. One thing you don't like is bananas. They taste good, but don't make your tummy feel too hot!

-You started playing with your hair. Its the cutest thing, but can get a little messy at dinner time!

-Bath time is your favorite! (Maybe that's why your run your pea covered fingers through your hair...) As soon as you hear the bath water running, you are all grins and kicking legs. You just recently figured out "splashing" but don't like when the water gets in your eyes.

-You made your first late night trip to the emergency room and had your first overnight hospital stay since you were at Children's. The doctors say that you had croup, but Mommy blames the pesky bananas!

-You still love watching football with Daddy, but your new favorite is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The bright colors and singing instantly grab your attention. (Between you and me, I think that your Daddy likes it too! He even does his very own "Hot Dog" dance! So silly!)

-You can sit like a big girl! In just the span of a week you went from needing LOTS of support to doing it all on your own. You have a whole new view of the world and seem to love it.

-I wish that I could say that you are a good sleeper, but I would be lying. Although, you seem to be less interested in a paci at bedtime, so that's a step in a good direction. That means no more late night trips for mommy to "plug you in." We'll get there....hopefully sooner than later!

Ok....I had totally completed my "list-making" above, but apparently I have an over-achiever on my hands who didn't think the list was long enough. I left her alone laying on the living room floor playing with some toys while I ran to the bathroom. Low and behold, I came back and she was on her belly, arms stretched out in front of her, still playing away without a care in the world! Better add it to the list...

-You learned to roll from your back to your belly! I didn't see you in action, but you got there somehow!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Melt My Heart

Crazy bed head...
Carrot stained mouth...
Sloppy drool chin...
Big beautiful eyes...

Yup, that's our girl!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Croup?? That's Bananas!

As many of you may know, Miss Charley hit a rough patch this weekend. We were enjoying a low key weekend at home and everything was going pretty smoothly. Happy baby, good eater, decent napper...all in all, nothing to complain about. I gave her a bottle around 4:30, followed by some bananas around 6:30. Charley is really starting to get a hang of the solid food thing and can't seem to get enough. Around 8:15 I tried to give her a bottle before bed and she simply wanted nothing to do with it. Rather than fight it, I decided to just lay her down...or should I say try to lay her down. She just couldn't seem to get herself comfortable and it was about an hour and a half before she actually fell asleep.

Fast forward to about 11:00...I woke up to a crying Charley and figured that she had to be hungry. After all, she hadn't had a bottle since 4:30. I tried to feed her and that just made things worse. It was then that I noticed that she was really breathing strangely. Even after I got her settled, she was really wheezy on inhalation. My initial thought was that she was just really worked up from crying and I didn't really think twice about it. However, because I'm paranoid, I brought her in to bed with us so that I could keep a closer eye on her. Well, the breathing just got worse...almost like she was gasping for air. We knew something was wrong, so we packed up and headed to the ER.

Let me tell you, if you want quick service in an ER just tell them that you have a baby with a heart condition in respiratory distress! We were whisked away to a room and Charley was stripped from her jammies and surrounded by people in no time!

I'll spare the details, but they gave her some steroids and a breathing treatment in the ER and then admitted us to the PICU overnight for observation. It was a LONG night. First off, Charley sleeps on her left side at night...same arm that they started her IV line it. Add that to the fact that she was hooked up for full cardiac monitoring with what felt like 100 wires, and you had one uncomfortable little lady. I think that she got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep total that night, with mom and dad only getting 1 or 2. Final diagnosis??? Croup.

Now, at the risk of sounding kinda crazy, I'll share my diagnosis. Hear me out.

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Charley is LOVING solid foods. About a week ago we started experimenting with bananas. Around that same time I told Matt that her poopy diapers really looked like they did with the whole SOY debacle. I didn't really give it a second thought though and we moved on to sweet potatoes the following week with no issues. Saturday night was the first time that she has had bananas since.

She was totally asymptomatic until after the bananas.

She didn't have a "barky cough" that is croup by definition.

I totally think that she had an allergic reaction to bananas that caused her throat to swell. I'm even more convinced of this because ever since we came home she has been dealing with the same "detox"-like symptoms that she had with milk and soy. Her tummy churns. She cries when she poops. She just seems uncomfortable.

They can call it croup if they like, but I'm pretty sure that Charley won't be getting bananas again for a LONG LONG time.

She is doing much better today. I stayed home from work as I knew she would just be a terror at daycare (not to mention my need to catch up on sleep!) We had a rough start to the day, but she's napping now and seems to be feeling a little better. I even managed to get a big grin out of her. Hopefully we continue in this direction.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A game of numbers

5 weeks


21 days





Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pictures Galore

I don't have a whole lot to update on, so I thought that I would just share some pictures instead!

Charlotte is grand baby #6 on the Goeser side. No offense to the Rockows or Musils, but we think that her outfit today pretty much sums things up! (Thanks NamNam!)

While we're showing off gifts from NamNam...

Here are some more pictures from her "photo shoot" last weekend. Our neighbors had a nice little fall set-up, so Grandma Debbie and I teamed up to get some good shots.

We got that flower in 8 different colors...LOVE IT!

This isn't a great picture, but it shows what we were dealing with! Charley isn't 100% stable at this point. It was better when she fell to this side, because when she went to the other side she got a face full of dirt!

Still "patiently" waiting for Monday to come and go. Part of me can't wait to hear what the Omaha group has to say, the other part dreads it! We'll keep you updated as we hear anything.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Echo echo echo....

I hate echo days. It's all that I can think about.

Will Charlotte sit still long enough for them to get a good look at things? What will they see? Will the right side of her heart have grown any? Will her shunt still be working well? Can we hold off even longer for surgery? Will something be wrong?


Well, at 12:45 today I got my answers.

Yes, Charlotte was really good for the most part. I gave her a bottle right before hand and that seemed to hold her over. She got a little restless at times, but it was pretty easy to distract her so that they could get pictures of everything they needed.

As for her heart. It was another good report. Things still seem to be holding up well from her first surgeries. The echo did show that she is starting to grow out of her shunt....which we kind of expected since she is double the size that she was at the time of surgery. Luckily, she does have some blood flowing out of her right ventricle, so her O2 sats have stayed really good to this point. Dr. Sami did say that it doesn't appear that the ventricle has grown any since her last echo 2 months ago. This isn't bad news...but for some reason it feels like it. After our last visit when he DID see growth, I felt like I was on top of the world. I just KNEW that this time it would be the same...that we would be even closer to them telling us that Charlotte could in fact have a whole functioning heart. And again, as many times as I tell myself not to get my hopes up, I still do.

So the plan is for Dr. Sami to present Charlotte's most recent echo to the surgeons and cardiologists at Children's next Monday to see how they want to proceed. They could decide that they want to do a heart cath to get a better feel for what's going on inside that crazy heart of hers. They could decide to let her keep hanging out since her sats are still good. We'll just have to wait and see. Needless to say, its going to be a long week of waiting.

Big prayers....