Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gotta Love "Re-Gifting"

Christmas shopping can get expensive….



Kristen’s family                             Matt’s Family
Debbie                                         Vicki
Jill                                               Steve
Jay                                               Hal
Jack                                             Mary
Owen                                           Kristen
Angie                                           Zac
Doug                                            Abe
Lindsey
Brad
Jacob
Ben
Aubrey


Realizing that as we added more husbands and kiddos into the group that this was starting to get a little financially ridiculous, my family decided to go the old name-drawing route between siblings/husbands. That shortened the list above to…

Kristen’s family                             Matt’s Family
Debbie                                          Vicki
Jack                                              Steve
Owen                                            Hal
Jacob                                            Mary
Ben                                               Kristen
Aubrey                                          Zac
Drawing name                               Abe


It’s still lots of names, but the change probably saves us each over $100 each year.


There was one problem with this plan though….sisters like giving each other gifts. It’s not that I don’t LOVE buying for my brother-in-laws, but it’s just not the same as giving gifts to 3 of my very best friends.

Thus was born the “Sister Gift”—a $10 maximum gift exchange between Jill, Angie, Lindsey and myself. The $10 limit definitely forces you to get a little creative, and I’m always amazed with what people come up with.

My gift has come fairly predictable…since year one I have made ornaments for each of them (+ mom). There have been little framed family photos, glittery Yankee emblems, sparkling snowflakes, snow ladies made in their likenesses…all sorts of goodies!

After making 4 ornaments the inaugural year of the “Sister Gift,” I quickly realized that I had one giant mistake. I DIDN’T MAKE ONE FOR MYSELF! That would have been ok if they were boring ho-hum ornaments, but in my opinion, they have all been pretty awesome (Yes, I just tooted my own horn a little). Solution? In 100 years or so when my mama goes to hang out for all eternity with my Dad, big sister and Charlotte…I get HER ornaments. Too bad I’ll have to wait 100 more years!

Yes, I’m proud of the ornaments I’ve produced over the years (with some help along the way from my hubs). But the one that I was MOST proud of wouldn’t have been possible without the adorably chubby little fingers of little Miss Charlotte.



The foundation of each of those snow men was built out of the length of her perfect fingers….her perfect, perfect, perfect little fingers. They turned out even better than I could have imagined.…but there were only 4 of them.


One for each sister. One for Grandma Debbie.

I was sad. Sad that we didn’t have those little finger snowmen on our tree. Sad that it has been almost 7 months since I have kissed those fingers. Sad that I had a reason to be so sad.

Christmas day we got together for lunch at my mom’s house and then sat down to open gifts. The last packages opened were our traditional “Sister Gifts.”

My ornament streak continued --This year (surprise, surprise) they each got a little “RedButt” to perch on their trees branches.

Angie got us all scarves.


Lindsey got us initial key chains.


Jill got crafty with the help of her new Pinterest addiction.

As we were finishing up opening Jill’s gift, I realized that I was the only one that had an extra box in mine. Confused, I opened it to find a card with the following...


"We LOVED having this ornament hanging front and center on our Christmas tree this year, but we think that it will be right at home on the beautiful tree that you and Matt and creating."

Along with the card, carefully wrapped in tissue paper was the ornament that I had given them exactly one year before.  It was truly the best re-gifted gift that we could have gotten.  Thank you Jilly...thank you so, so much for sharing your gift with us so that we can have one more reminder of our Charlotte.  


Christmas this year was hard - just as I suspected it would be.  I did my best to smile and to enjoy our time with family, but it generally caught up with me when things settled down for the night.  Christmas eve was especially rough - I just kept imagining what morning would bring if Charlotte was with us.  We talked to lots that night, me and my girl.  And as much as I miss her, I know that Christmas in Heaven is probably pretty unbeatable!


I hope that you all had happy and blessed holidays.  Much love to you all!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Giving Back - Project RedButt 2011

I'm happy to say that Project RedButt 2011 was a success!  We met at the hospital on Saturday morning to dress our little monkey friends up a little and left them behind for Santa to deliver to the kiddos in the PICU and other areas of the hospital.  I couldn't help but smile when I saw all of those crazy monkeys lined up by the Christmas tree in the lobby.

Today some family directed my attention to this story from the Omaha World Herald.  These are the children and families that were on our monkey list--children fighting for their lives and parents fighting right along with them.  I hope that for just one minute our buddy RedButt brought a smile to their faces like he did so often to ours.

    
  
   




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Project RedButt Update

I've been a bad blogger.
I've been a bad Christmas shopper.
I've been a bad holiday baker.
I've been bad at keeping our house clean.

I've been bad at a lot of things.

Let's blame it on these silly monkeys!

I'm totally loving Project RedButt, but I will be completely honest and say that it takes A LOT longer to make them than I originally anticipated...especially considering that I have a flashy new sewing machine helping me out! 

The monkeys are coming together slowly but surely.  I'm guessing that between myself and all of my monkey volunteers we should have about 25 of them.  Not too shabby for only 3 weeks notice!  I do know that next time I will make a monkey here and there throughout the year so that its not such a rush in December!  Hopefully there are lots more years of monkey giving in our future!  Thank you to everyone who volunteered to help with this years donation and to those of you who are planning to make some monkeys once the holiday craziness is over with.  I couldn't have done it without you!  

Our adorable little monkey friends will be delivered to the hospital on Christmas Eve and distributed to patients in the PICU with some other Santa gifts.  If anyone out there knows of any other heart kiddos that are stuck in Omaha Children's over the holiday but NOT in the PICU, please give me a heads up as I would like to get one for them as well!  Hopefully RedButt will bring as many smiles to those kiddos and their families as they did to ours!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.  

Our little family - Christmas 2010
  Charlotte was SO excited when she met her new buddy RedButt!
 Then she got hungry!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Happy Little Tree - 2011

Why I love our Christmas tree...

1.  Ornaments from daycare.
I just have to laugh every time I see this ornament on the tree.  Doesn't Charlotte look like a total grump with that hat on!
2.  The perfect letter "C"
 3.  "Baby's first" ornaments 
 4.  Pictures of my girl.  Hard not to love an ornament like this.
 5.  Blessings from friends.  This is the newest ornament to make the tree (just this afternoon as a matter of fact!)  Thank you so much Abbie and Brent...it is absolutely perfect.  Every time I look at it I'll not only remember our perfect little angel, but her best angel buddy, Kale.  Just imagine how amazing their Christmas in Heaven will be! 
 6.  Unexpected surprises.  When we pulled out our boxes of ornaments a few weeks back, I found an ornament that I had completely forgotten about....one that had me in tears within seconds.  I can't even come up with appropriate words to explain how my heart felt in that instant or how glad I am that we made this ornament.  All that I could do was hold it to my chest as tears rolled down my cheeks.
 


So while I initially didn't think that I wanted to have a tree this year, I wouldn't have it any other way.  Our tree holds so many memories and there is a story behind every single ornament--a paper mache angel from when Matt was little, a red mitten that I got from my kindergarten teachers, a ceramic bone for Maybe, a ball for Stella, and most importantly our Charlotte ornaments.  Our tree tells our story.  And while it's a story that hasn't always gone as expected, I wouldn't trade a single memory.


Happy 19 month birthday, little lady.  I love you to pieces and miss you like crazy.    

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No Charlie Brown Tree Here

I got one of my all-time favorite text messages yesterday afternoon from my sister-in-law Kristen. My heart was still smiling from the thought of my freshly decorated home, courtesy of my “hubby-extraordinaire” when this image popped up on my phone…




Isn’t that the most perfect little tree that you have ever seen? And look at the ornaments—a butterfly, a bear, a heart, a little striped stocking—everything is perfect. And there is even room for us to put our own ornaments when we are back next.  Thank you so much Kristen for taking the time to put all of this together. I’m at a loss for words.


Charlotte was so blessed to be surrounded by such intense love while she was here on Earth, and every day I am reminded that that love has not waivered or lessened since she earned her wings.

So many people love you, baby girl.


So many people smile at the mention of your name.


So many people continue to think of you each and every day.

So many people are missing you.


You are forever and ever in our hearts.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Very Merry Welcome Home

It's no lie that I'm dreading Christmas.  I can already feel my emotions taking control and I have no idea what to anticipate as it comes closer.  I shared in an earlier post that I am really struggling to get into the spirit of the holidays--I just can't figure out how to deal with the big gaping hole in my heart.  

I haven't felt like shopping.

I haven't felt like decorating.

I just want to be a bum and hope that I come out on the other side without too many emotional bumps and bruises.

This weekend I faced the first on my "I don't wanna" list.  SHOPPING.  I packed up my bags on Friday after work and headed back to Omaha for a our annual "Goeser-Schmitz-Mother-Daughter-Sister-Aunt-Cousin" shopping day.  It's a day full of shopping, but for me it was more about getting to spend an entire day with some of the most important people in my life.  We started our day at 9 AM and didn't call it quits until 10 PM...a wonderfully full day of shopping, sharing and laughing.  It was just what I needed to help get me in the holiday spirit.  Thanks Mom, Jill, Lindsey, Vick, Erin, Alyson and Julie (and Angie in spirit) for a great day!

This morning (Sunday) I again loaded up the car to head back to Sioux Falls.  Since Matt stayed behind this weekend, I had a solid three hours of driving solo.  While I don't normally mind the quiet time, today my brain was a little over-active.  I thought of Charlotte non-stop and shed lots of tears (which is always good when you are driving 75mph on the interstate).  The thought of the holidays without her is almost too much for me to handle some days.

As pulled into the drive way of our house, I noticed that Matt had hung a Christmas wreath on our front door.  Something so little...but I couldn't stop smiling.  Little did I know that that wreath was just the beginning.

When I walked into the house I was greeted by our own personal winter wonderland.  The banister was covered with garland and our stockings, our nativity set was proudly on display and to top it all off there was a TREE!!!  Not just any tree...a REAL tree.  I have never had a real Christmas tree in my entire life!

I couldn't stop crying...Even after an hour I still have tears in my eyes.  

I immediately called Matt and could hardly get words to come out of my mouth--I just kept repeating "I love it" and "thank you so much, Matty, I love you."

Here's a little sneak peak...

Nativity perfectly placed under my favorite Charley picture.
Christmas sock monkey and one of my new favorite books "Bear in Long Underwear."
Even RedButt got into the holiday spirit while I was gone!
Check out them boots!  
 My first ever REAL Christmas tree.  We are going to decorate it tonight with few of our favorite ornaments, but I love it just the way it is.
One lonely ornament so far.  It's called "Angel of the Heart"...Perfect.
 My cries officially turned into sobs when I saw our new tree topper.  Meet our Angel, Charley Bear.  

We had gotten this perfect little bear from my cousin's wife, Julie.  Apparently there is a cartoon that originated in the UK called "Little Charley Bear."  Julie heard about the cartoon and tracked down 3 little Charley Bears, one for us and one for each of her children.  When I left on Friday, Charley Bear was sitting on the dresser in our room....when I came back, she had been given a holiday make over complete with wings, a halo and very fitting heart.

My husband is amazing.  I have no idea what I would do without him.  Enough said.

Christmas this year is going to be all about baby steps.  No part of it is going to be easy.

I went Christmas shopping even though I didn't think I wanted to.
Matt decorated because he knew that we needed a little holiday cheer.

Together we will make it through this.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving (Yes, A Week Late)

Soooo....I'm a little late of my Thanksgiving post.  Last year I was really good about sharing a weeks worth of "I'm thankful for..." posts, but this year I just didn't have the drive.  As a matter of fact, I caught myself been a total downer instead of focusing on the positives.  While others were doing daily Facebook posts to share all that they were thankful for, I caught myself driving home from work in the dark making a mental list of all of the things I hate about daylight savings!  Talk about Bah-humbug!

Thanksgiving came and went.  It was a strange weekend full of up and down moments.  We had the same Thanksgiving plans as we did last year, so every once in a while I would have these total deja vu moments...deja vu minus our girl.  At the same time, we kept so busy going from family to family that I don't think that I had much time to dwell on how much it hurt not having Charlotte there. 

In reality it was a good weekend.  We ate good food (too much), spent some much needed time with family, celebrated a Husker football win and had lots of good laughs.  While it's all too easy to feel angry, cheated and broken in this season of our lives, it's weekends like this that remind Matt and I that we have so much to be thankful for.  Life doesn't always go as planned...we have learned that in the harshest of ways this past year...but we are surrounded by so much love and hope and endless memories from the 382 days that we were blessed with Charlotte's presence.  

For that I am thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Little Monkeys

Good friends are sometimes hard to come by, but when you find one, you know that they will always have your back.  Last year at Christmas Charlotte made a new friend (courtesy of her Aunt Angie) that saw her through a lot of good times and a few tough stretches as well.  

Meet RedButt 
(So lovingly and creatively named for her precious little red behind!)

        

 Charlotte loved RedButt from the get-go.  I mean, what's not to love about a silly pink monkey with crazy long arms and legs, big silly ears and a big ol' smile on its face?  RedButt would dance and sing and always knew how to make our Charlotte smile!  They spent lots of hours playing together and every night RedButt would sit on the ledge of Charlotte's crib and watch over her while she dreamed.


And while I knew that our little monkey friend was quite the entertainer, I didn't realize how good of a snuggle buddy she was until Charlotte's surgery in January.  She did her best to keep our little lady feeling safe during the for long days/nights spent in a hospital bed. 


And she came in surprisingly handy when it came to keeping Charlotte's breathing tube propped out of the way, and at giving her arms a soft (and familiar) place to rest.


Here our monkeys are just minutes after that pesky old tube was removed.  RedButt never left her side...not for a minute.  Now thats a good friend!


It was never easy to see our little girl after surgery...not then...not now...but oddly enough, every time I look at these pictures I get a smile on my face.  At first glance I see my poor little baby hooked up to countless wires and tubes and covered in bandages/tape, but when I look past all of that, I see my perfect little girl and her bestest monkey pal.  It was a strange feeling of "normal" during a time that is anything but that.

The holidays are sneaking in and I find myself getting more and more emotional...anxious...sad...about the thought of "celebrating" in Charlotte's absence.  I don't feel like decorating.  I don't feel like Christmas shopping.  I don't feel like doing much of anything.  Yet at the same time, I know that I can't just sit here and mope or I will drive myself crazy. 

So now what?  What can I do to keep my mind occupied?

Make monkeys.

Yup, you heard me.  I'm going to make more RedButts!  

I've been in contact with the Fox River Mills sock company (the makers of the "official" sock monkey socks) and they hooked me up with a SWEET deal on their monkey socks.  Just today I came home to find a box on our doorstep filled with 40 pairs of socks (20 pink/20 brown) and there are even more to come!

I don't have a plan totally in place, but I would like the monkeys to go to heart kiddos like Charlotte...specifically those who are stuck in the hospital over the holidays. Sometimes my brain can only handle one thing at at time.  Now that the socks are here I'll work on the rest!  If anyone has any brilliant ideas, please pass them my direction.  

Now, I'm guessing you're all probably wondering...how on Earth is Kristen going to make THAT MANY sock monkeys?  Well....ummm....lets just say that I'll be looking for volunteers to help out!  If you are local (either Sioux Falls or Omaha so that I can get you the socks and a pattern easily), can sew and would like to make a monkey or two, just let me know.  The more the merrier!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Goodnight Prayers

From the time she was born, Matt and I made bedtime prayers a constant fixture in Charlotte's nighttime routine.  We would pray over her each and every night before leaving the hospital (ugh, I hated leaving without her) and continued to do the same once we were home sweet home.Whether it was in times of fear and uncertainty or while snuggling in the rocking chair at home, the prayer was almost always the same...

God, please watch over little Charlotte tonight while she sleeps.  Keep her free from pain and give her the sweetest dreams.  Protect her with the help of her guardian angels and wake her tomorrow with the bright shining sun.  We pray for all other sick kiddos near and far, especially our heart friends....  May their families feel your loving arms wrapped around them and rely on your strength to get them through their days.   
Thank you for my family and for all of the blessings that You have given us today.
Amen.

I still catch myself uttering this prayer as I lie in bed at night, often while lying on a tear soaked pillow.  I have no intention on stopping.  

I don't want to forget the words that Charlotte heard so many times.

I don't want to forget the quiet moments with our little girl...the moments filled with faith and hope. 

Baby girl, 

I can hardly believe that it has been 18 months since your Daddy and I first saw your perfect little face.  Its been a hard day without you, and I'm sure that you have seen my tears.  Eighteen months...what a big girl you would be.  Sigh...18 months...I miss you so much.  

Sending special birthday snuggles and kisses to my special girl on her special day.  
I love you, Bear....I LOVE YOU LOVE YOU LOVE YOU.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Unanswerable Questions

Every once in a while (okay, a lot of the while) I stop and think…

“What were we doing this time last year?”

I checked the blog archives this morning and saw that 1 year ago today I woke up in the hospital after about 2 hours of sleep. We had brought Charlotte in over night because of some crazy breathing that was later deemed to be croup (though in my heart of hearts I still believe it was a banana allergy…have you ever witnessed croup without a cough?!)  It was her first non-surgical stay in the hospital and the first time that we had been to a hospital OTHER than Childrens.  Not to mention it was the first time that mommy had to deal with doctors/nurses that didn't know Charlotte's whole heart history in detail.  In a state of frustration and sleep deprivation I may have told a doctor "Right now I know WAY more about her heart than you ever will."  Eek...sorry Dr. Who-Ever-You-Were.  I'm pretty sure that they all thought I was a crazy woman and were HAPPY to send us on our way!

Other times my thoughts drift to the harder questions…

What would we be doing right now if Charlotte were here?

What would she look like?

What milestones would she be reaching?  Would she be walking and talking? 

What sort of trouble would that little nut be getting into?

Would she be a better eater?

What would she have wanted from Santa for this year?

Would she let me rock with her at night or be a squirmy little wiggle worm, always wanting to escape a play a little while longer?

I could go on and on...

I have lots of friends/co-workers that had babies around the same time that Charlotte was born. I see their pictures and while I smile and celebrate their accomplishments…my heart breaks simultaneously. Those babies are now toddlers and are doing things that we will never get to see our little girl do.  They are growing and thriving and walking and talking.  They are huggable and squeezable and kissable.

I would be lying if I said that a part of me wasn't jealous. 
Of course I'm jealous...they have what was taken away from us.

Instead of wrangling a toddler I'm left here with all of my what ifs.
...wishing that I could just hold her one more time.
...wishing I could have watched her grow just a little bit longer.
...wishing that I could kiss her chubby little cheeks.

I cling to memories and all of the "what were we doing last year" questions.
They help me remember every detail of our time together.

I love you baby girl.  This time last year, forever and for always.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

I've thought a lot today about what this post would be like....or if I would even post something at all.  It's been one of those days filled with mixed emotions that make me feel a little lost.

October 31st.  Halloween.  Another month since I held our little girl.  Talk about a double whammy.

Facebook is full of pictures of little kids posing in costumes, the candy aisle at the grocery store was packed with last minute shoppers, and in an hour or so little princesses and ghosts will start showing up at our door looking for goodies.

Last year I was so excited for Halloween...this year I don't know what I am.

So while I didn't know what words I would use to describe how I feel today, I was convinced that they would be pouty.  I knew that I would come here and vent and cry and be an angry, jealous, hurting mommy without a child to dress up to take trick-or-treating.

Then, as I was walking out to my car I got a message from Cora's mom with a link to her blog.

And I smiled.

I was reminded that we are not alone in this.
There are people out there in similar shoes walking similar paths.
There are people who are thinking of us on days like today.
There are people who are praying for us.

Last year Charlotte was a bear.  This year she is an angel.

When we were back in Omaha this past weekend Matt and I went to a pumpkin carving party at my sisters.  The kids all got to carve their own pumpkins....ok, who am I kidding....the adults all "got" to carve the pumpkins FOR the kiddos.  There were ghosts, spiderwebs, Angry Birds and this special little pumpkin...
 My sister snapped this awesome picture.  I love how the heart glows in the darkness.
And I can't forget about this one!  Some of our friends and their 2 boys took Miss Charlotte her own little pumpkin.  There is a pretty cool story behind this one.  One of the boys actually "won" this pumpkin at school when his name was drawn.  Want to know WHO drew his name?  His friend Charlotte!  How sweet that they decorated it just for her.  Thanks Pospisils!

You sure are loved little girlie!  Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Week Full of Pictures {4}

This post was supposed to go up on Friday to complete my week of pictures, but apparently time got away from me.  Matt and I just got back from a great weekend with family in friends in Omaha and I wanted to get this post up before I forgot!  

Charlotte was a always a little peanut.  Maybe it was all of the coffee that was stunting her growth?  We all needed a little extra caffeine on cath mornings.
Sporty Spice.  She looked so stinkin' cute in her Nike sweats, tennis shoes and a ponytail!
There are not many things cuter than a baby fresh out of bed.  Here is Charlotte still in her jammies,  with crazy hair and eyes that are still a little squinty and trying to wake up.  Oh what I wouldn't give for some early morning snuggles.
I LOVE this picture.  Charlotte got slippers as a Christmas gift from daycare last year.  I put them on her  fully expecting that she would pull them off right away to get a better look at Pooh, but she was perfectly content with them on her feet.  And doesn't she have the cutest little profile??
This picture is actually from Matt's phone.  I didn't know that it even existed until about a month ago.  I love how she is resting her chin on her little hand....deep in thought.
And here it is.  The last phone picture that I ever took of our baby girl.  My eyes fill up with tears every time that I see it.  I hate knowing that its the last.  There will be no more.  It was a gloomy day the Saturday before Charlotte earned her wings and to get out of the house we decided to go for a walk at the mall.  While Daddy was checking out at the Gap, Charlotte and I played by a mirror.  I had her giggling pretty good, but she kept looking over toward Matt to see if he was watching!  


Sigh.  I miss her so much.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Week Full of Pictures {3}

As promised...MORE PICTURES!

Our incredibly smart little girl decked out in her Yankee gear. 
I love how her hat is tilted to the side...it makes her look extra "thug"! 
 Holy Cow!  LOOK AT THOSE EYES!
 Charlotte was so happy when it finally got warm enough to spend time outdoors.  I believe that both the hat AND the glasses were ripped off about 0.5 seconds after I snapped this picture!
 Ok.  This picture makes me crack up every time I see it.  The way that Charlotte is leaning to the side in combination with the look on her face makes it look like she spent the day at the bar rather than at daycare!  So stinkin' funny!
 Sigh.  My little ladybug.  Charlotte never got to strut her stuff at the swimming pool and I'm so glad that we got this picture when we did.  Now if only she'd been wearing the matching hat!
 Just your average, everyday monkey hug. 
 Charlotte loved her paci, but she could not keep it in her mouth at night for the life of her.  Translation, every 10 minutes we would end up going into her nursery to "plug her in."  Finally I got tired of it and just took the thing away.  Much to my surprise, she did very well.  THEN, we went back to Children's for surgery in January and low and behold, I caved and gave her the paci to help keep her settled in the scary situation.  When it was time to come home though, the paci was left behind.  Much to my surprise, a few months later I came into the living room and found the little stinker with a PACI!  It must have been buried at the bottom of her bin of toys.  Sneaky, sneaky little lady....
 Long waits at the doctor's office?  Name badges on retractable holders are the perfect solution! 
 There is just something about this picture that always melts my heart.  The cute zipper shirt?  The crazy striped leggings?  The innocent little look on Charlotte's face? 
All of the above!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Week Full of Pictures {2}

Here we go for round 2 of cell phone pictures.  It just dawned on me that when its time for me to get a new phone I'm going to have to make sure that all of my pictures get transferred over...the thought of not being able to flip through these whenever I want makes me extremely sad. 

This is another one of my all-time favorites.  Charlotte's Grammy actually printed us a copy and it hangs on the side of our refrigerator.  Even on the hardest days its tough not to smile when I see this goofy little lady.  This is what we call "Post-ponytail, pre-bath hair." 
Speaking of hair....!  Poor little Charlotte had a miserable cold so we decided that we would go sit in a steamy bathroom.  It was at this very moment that I realized that she was CURSED with my crazy, humdity-intollerant hair.  Look at those crazy curls!!!
Ha!  These just keep getting better and better.  Here is Chuck just chillin' in the kitchen while we cleaned up after dinner.  She's totally rockin' that hat!
Charlotte had a heart cath last December in preparation for her surgery in January.  We thought it was only appropriate for her to tell the world just how tough she was.  She was definitely the toughest chick I've ever known!
Early surgery = even earlier morning.  This is Daddy and a hungry, tired Charlotte getting in some last minute snuggles before surgery.  For those heart families out there...you know how hard/scary/agonizing these mornings are.
Mommy and Charlotte before surgery.  Ugh, my heart hurts just thinking about it.
I cannot begin to tell you how hard it is to see your child immediately after open heart surgery...and I hope that you never have to know for yourself.  This is the closest that we could get to "holding". 
Snuggling with "Red Butt".  No breathing tube, no oxygen.  Just a cute girl with her monkey.
The first smile after a sleepless week in the hospital is always the best!