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

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.