Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Spirit

As the holidays wrap up and we inch closer to 2011, I wanted to take the time to share a story with all of you that I have been meaning to post for weeks--the story of a family of 5 trapped in a blizzard and the angels that helped them through!

As many of you may remember, we made a trip to Omaha for Charlotte's heart cath on December 10th. We had an overnight stay in the hospital and were released the following morning. It had been a long couple of days and we were soooo ready to be home. So ready, in fact, that we managed to underestimate the term "blizzard" that was being thrown around in the weather forecast. We've traveled in some pretty crappy weather before...and used this to justify giving it a go. We loaded up the car with our baby and 2 dogs and hit the road. When we left Omaha, the weather was perfectly fine, but the further north we traveled, the worse it got. We mentioned turning around from time to time, but it wasn't until they physically closed the northbound interstate that we finally decided to head back to Omaha. One major problem....they closed the southbound ramp as well.

There we were. Matt, Charlotte, myself and our 2 dogs. Stuck just off of the interstate outside of Whiting, Iowa. Time for a new plan. We drove into town (which was by far the scariest 3 mile drive of my entire life--thats how bad the weather was on open highway) and decided to look for a hotel.

For those of you unfamiliar with Whiting, IA, I did a little "wikipedia" search and here is what I found.

"As of the census of 2000, there were 707 people, 301 households and 189 families residing in the city. The population density was 705.1 people/square mile. The movie Children of the Corn was filmed mainly in the vicinity of Whiting."

What I'm getting at here is that there are no hotels in Whiting, IA.

As we sat dumb founded in our car, me on the verge of tears and not knowing what we were going to do, there was a knock on our car window. This knock changed everything.

The community of Whiting opened their doors and hearts to many people that night. They welcomed stranded truck drivers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and 2 dogs (!) into their community center when we had no other place to go. Not only did they give us a place to take refuge, but they brought us food, drink, games, blankets and pillows. They gave our family access to their city hall so that we didn't have to keep our dogs on leashes. People offered to let us stay at their homes. They gave and gave and gave--making what started out as a frustrating and terrifying situation more comfortable that I could have ever imagined. We even got hugs when it was time to leave--haha--I'm totally a hugger!

We left the website address for this blog behind with a thank you for the city clerk who orchestrated our "rescue"...I'm not sure if she has visited the blog or not, but just in case...

THANK YOU for everything that you and the town of Whiting did for my family. We have shared the story of your kindness with so many people. In the past 3 weeks, I have gotten just as many text messages from people simply stating the words "Passing Whiting =)" as they drive on the interstate. You gave without hesitation and without the expectation of anything in return. As frustrated and angry as I initially was to be "stranded," I consider our family blessed to have met all of you. You are forever in our hearts!

~Mathew, Kristen, Charlotte, Maybe and Stella

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Wishes

Before we head out to celebrate Christmas with our families in Omaha, I wanted to take a minute to wish all of you the MERRIEST Christmas. This has been quite the eventful year for us thus far and we continue to count our blessings daily. Thank you all for being such a huge part of our journey.

Happy Holidays from the Ritchies!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Words of Wisdom #3

Never underestimate the importance of good personal hygiene.

Charlotte had a bath last Wednesday night.

Thursday night we were in Omaha and had lots of visitors before her big cath. Day 1 with no bath.

Friday night she was in the PICU and was sooo sleepy. I told the nurse to just skip the bath and we would just do it after we were discharged the next day. Day 2 with no bath.

Saturday night we were stranded in Whiting, IA because they closed the interstates. Day 3 with no bath.

Sunday we were finally home. I decided that we were just going to wait and do a bath before bedtime. Charley was disgusting. She still had stickers on her face that they used to hold her O2 in place. She had run her food covered fingers through her hair. She was a grease ball. Day 4 with no bath.

(Ok, I may have messed her hair up just a little bit to exaggerate my point!)

Sunday night...BATH TIME! Finally back to our sweet smelling, clean faced little lady!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We Really Have a SEVEN Month Old?!?!?!

Sweet Charley Bear,

HAPPY 7 MONTH BIRTHDAY (one day late)!

Wow--it just doesn't seem possible that you are already 7 months old! Last year at this time I was just starting to grow out of my normal jeans and sprung for a few maternity items. Now here we are, one year later and getting ready to spend our first Christmas together as a little family.

You have grown so much in just the past month and are learning so many new things.

You finally JUMP in your Jumperoo. Until now you were perfectly content dangling there and playing with all of the toys, but now you are unstoppable!

You LOVE LOVE LOVE solids! Beans, peas, carrots, pears, peaches, you name it! As a result you have developed quite the belly and last weekend weighed in just slightly under 15 pounds (10th percentile!)

You survived your first blizzard.

You bravely returned to Children's Hospital for your first visit since we came home on June 10th. After 6 months to the day of being home you went back to see Dr. Delaney for a heart cath and were SO brave.

You are a professional sitter. Mommy still sets pillows behind you just in case, but you do so well on your own. You are also working on standing on your own 2 legs. You still need lots of help, but are getting so strong!

Mommy and Daddy love you so much Charlotte. Every day is a blessing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A "Working" Lunch

I have been wanting to write an update on Charlotte's heart cath, but low and behold, life seems to get in the way! The weekend flew by, and the evenings after work seem to go just as quickly. For that reason, I'm having a "working" lunch....and by working, I totally mean blogging and getting in some online Christmas shopping!

Like I said, our weekend was a crazy one. We got to Omaha Thursday evening and Charlotte was lucky enough to see all of her grandparents in one place! We wanted to make sure that they all got a little baby fix before her cath the next morning. (Thanks NamNam and PopPop for opening up your house to everyone!)

Charlotte slept great Thursday night (I wish that I could say the same for Mom!) She couldn't have formula after 1AM and could only have clear liquids until 3, so I did my best to sneak some in without waking her up. Then at 5:10 we were out the door. We met with the cardiologist who was doing the cath as well as the anesthesiologist and then they took our little lady back at around 7:20. Honestly, I can't even tell you what time she was out...I was so tired and so anxious for the day to be over with that I didn't even look at a clock. To sum things up, Charlotte did really well. She spent the night in the PICU and they released her the following morning.

I don't want to go into too much detail about what they saw during the cath, mostly because its way to hard to describe unless you have totally submerged yourself in cardiac anatomy as we have! The long and short of it is that we're at the point of the next dreaded surgery. Charlotte is thriving and growing, which is GREAT, but it also means that her original shunt is now too small to accomplish what it needs to. They will present her at their cardiac conference one week from today to discuss the details of what needs to be done. Originally we were talking about waiting until after the first of the year, but now think it will probably be sooner. The longer we wait and keep that tiny little shunt in her, the more chances we have for complications like clotting. A clot in the shunt is nothing but terrible, so Matt and I just want to move forward.

We knew this was coming. We know that it's necessary. That doesn't make it any easier. Being back in that hospital was hard. We were excited for everyone to see her and how much she has grown, but it "re-opened" our eyes to a reality that we would rather forget.

Another heart mom had this on her blog one day and as soon as I read it I wrote it down. She compared the feelings and emotions that come along with being a heart mom to a tidal wave...

"Breathe in. Breathe out. Tread water. Ride the wave. Paddle. Paddle. Paddle. Let the wave pass. Breathe in. Breathe out. Just when I think that the wave has passed, I find myself again at the base of another giant wave."

You hit the nail on the head with this one, Stefani. I couldn't have described it any better. I hope you don't mind that I "borrowed" it. (

Our life is full of waves. Yes, some are bigger than others, but they all have the ability to throw us off balance and make us feel so incredibly helpless. As Matt, Charlotte and I find ourselves up against the next big wave, please pray for us. Pray that it passes quickly. Pray that it beats us up as little as possible. Pray that it leaves us with the chance to rest our feet on solid ground for awhile before the next one rolls through.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Thursday

Well...its finally here. We're loading up the car shortly and heading to Omaha for Charlotte's cath tomorrow morning. They were able to bump her into the first case of the day, so now instead of 10:00 she'll be at 7:00. I am glad to get it over with earlier, but not so thrilled about the 5:30 AM arrival time!

Not much else going on here. I thought that I would make today a picture day as I'm a little too distracted for much else...

Charlotte LOVES bath time....and her eyes just melt my heart. And on a side note, DOESN'T HER CHEST LOOK AWESOME!?!?!? You can hardly see her little zipper!

The other night I decided to pick on her a little and tortured her with some goofy pictures.

Can you tell that I'm just trying to keep my mind occupied lately?????

I will update when I can, but its hard to tell what the weekend will have in store. We've been so blessed to have a fairly uneventful 6 months at home, it will be strange having to be back in the hospital. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing and we'll get some good information about what's going on in that crazy heart of hers. Until then, please keep Charlotte, Matt and I in your prayers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I've been referring to today as Christmas Tree Saturday all day long....and I AM IN LOVE WITH TODAY! I was in my jammies until around 1:00, Matt got me a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks, Charlotte is back to her normal smiley self and we got our Christmas decorations up. Its been pretty perfect.

Charley and her 1st ornament. Thanks Grandma Debbie!
A little bit of everything.
A bowl full of sparkly goodness.
Yes, we have stockings for our dogs. That would be why there are 5 of them.
Super cute candles and a branch tree courtesy of Matt.
Our first nativity. LOVE IT.
Charley by the tree.

Thats pretty much it with the exception of the tree. I thought that it was deserving of its own post. Although, in the picture above you can see that there aren't many ornaments toward the bottom. Do our dogs really deserve stockings!?!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Second Thoughts

Remember that nice post from yesterday where I said how thankful I was for my sweet little girl?? Apparently she decided to test me to see just how much I love her.

Charley, I love you no matter what. But I love you even more when you DON'T poop in the bathtub.

Maybe I should just be happy that we made it this long without it happening.

Here is a picture from Thanksgiving weekend. With those chubby cheeks you would think that she had stuffed herself with turkey and potatoes! Maybe next year...