Monday, April 30, 2012

A Month of Chuck


It used to be one of my favorite months.

Not too hot.  Not too cool.  Flowers blooming.  Green grass.  Walking around barefoot 99% of the time.

Now I think of May and I have to stifle my groans.

Mother's Day.

Charlotte's 2nd birthday.

The one year anniversary of the day we said good-bye.

How's that for a month?  We can't just prepare ourselves for ONE day...rather we have gut-wrenching milestones beginning, middle and end.

I can't wait {Insert sarcasm}

I plan on doing my fair share of moping, crying and "depressing" this month, but I also feel the need to use these impossibly hard days to honor Charlotte and reflect on the memories that she left behind.

Prepare yourselves for the "Month of Chuck!" starting May 1, 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We Remember

I mentioned in my post yesterday that this past weekend, Sunday to be exact, we attended a Remembrance Service at Omaha Children's Hospital to honor our little lady and all of the other little kiddos who had earned their wings over the past year.  It was an emotional day...not just during the service itself, but anticipating it all morning and getting ourselves in the door in the first place.  It was great to see some familiar faces--doctors, nurses, fellow heart/angel parents--but also served as a heartbreaking reminder of just how many families are going through similar grief.  Too many.  Simply too many.

In addition to attending the service, a few months prior I received a phone call asking if I would be willing to do a reading at the event.  I immediately said yes...but then proceeded to hang up the phone and think to myself "What the heck did I just agree to!?"  Self doubt hit me like a ton of bricks as I questioned if I would be able to hold myself together long enough to speak for 3-5 minutes.  Doubt or not, a little flutter inside of my heart told me that it would be ok.  The same flutter that gets me through most scary things.  I knew I could do it for Charlotte.

Leave it to me, I couldn't just pick a nice reading or poem to share, but rather decided to make it more personal--something like I might post here on the blog.  I have debated on whether or not I would share my words from that day here...a part of me feels like they were words reserved for the families that were honoring their children that day.  On the other hand, I know that there are grieving parents who come to this site and they are words for them as well.  Plus, I want to be able to document that day without having to keep my crumpled up sheets of paper that I clung to during those 5 minutes.

So, here you have it....

Had you told me a year ago that I would be asked to speak at a Children’s Hospital Remembrance Service I would have thought that you were crazy. My family of three was living a fairly normal life. Our daughter Charlotte was 11 months old and we were starting to plan her big 1 year birthday party—a huge milestone for a little girl born with such a “broken” heart. But Charlotte was thriving…defying the odds…and showing us day after day what it meant to have true “heart”. Little did we know, that just over a month later our perfect heart warrior would be taken from us in the most sudden and unexpected manner. And because of that I am here today.

My name is Kristen Ritchie, and I stand here before you today as a grieving parent - a member of a “club” that no one wants to be a part of….and as I look around the room my heart breaks knowing that each and every one of you here has been affected in some way by a similar loss. We may have ended up in this place through different means, each of us at different points in the grieving process…but at the end of the day, we are all here--heart-broken, feeling lost, trying to remember every tiny detail of our children, and doing our best to navigate through the world without them.

Being a mommy to Charlotte was the best experience I have ever known. She taught my husband and I how to love unrestrained and to give of ourselves whole-heartedly. She taught us strength beyond measure and opened our eyes to the incredibly fragile nature of life. NO ONE IS GUARANTEED TOMORROW...Young, old, sick, healthy, crazy heart or not. And while each of these lessons doesn’t do much to take away the heart ache that we feel on a daily basis, they serve as a guide to help us though this chaotic journey without our little girl. Through my daughter’s memory I am constantly reminded of what is important in life --to take a step back and to really appreciate the gifts that I have been given, even if at times life feels chaotic or overwhelming.

Shortly after Charlotte earned her wings, a friend shared the following phrase with me…

“Living as a person of faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

None of this makes sense to me. No one should have to say good-bye to a child. No one should have to experience the grief that I know you know all too well. No one should have to beat themselves up with WHYS and WHAT IFs. Almost a year later I am still asking myself these questions knowing full well that no one is going to be able to provide rationale. On those days where it all just seems like too much, I find myself repeating that phrase to myself over and over….”trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” While it may not always feel like it, I truly believe that there are good things in store for all of us. I have the most incredible husband whom I love an insane amount. I have family and friends that are always there to pick me up when I stumble or full-out collapse. I have friends that took care of our little girl whom I know will never let her memory fade.  I have Charlotte's baby brother squirming around in my belly as we speak that I am so excited to meet and to tell all about his big sister. And most of all, I have a perfect little angel watching over me…always there when I need her most. It doesn’t make sense now…I’m guessing in 10 years, even 20, that it still won’t make sense. But I live each day in faith knowing that there are good things in store for us (for ALL of us) and that someday we will see our babies again.

Thank you Children's for a beautiful day full of "remembering."  I am so honored that you thought to include me in the day, and even more honored that I could share a few pieces of our story with a room full of people who truly GET IT.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


My weekends are usually filled with extreme amounts of laziness. I sleep in (well…kind of. I usually have a baby dancing on my bladder by 7:45 or so), lounge on the couch, do a little cleaning if the mood strikes…nothing too terribly exciting. I always hear mom’s making the comment “if only there were more time in the day!”—I can’t wait until we have our little baby boy in our arms so that we can have that feeling back.  I miss weekends with my little girl - no work, no daycare, just family time and lost of snuggles.

So anyway, in stark contrast to my normal leisurely weekends, this past weekend was CrAzY busy. Matt and I spent a few days back in Omaha with family and friends and in a span of three days managed to squeeze in lunch with friends, a visit with Charlotte, a baseball game, a baby shower, 1st communion and a remembrance service at Children’s Hospital. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t have to wrap the weekend up with a 3 hour drive back to Sioux Falls. This mama was SLEEPY!

I will eventually share pictures and some details from Mister Mister’s shower, but it will have to wait until my sister gets back home from her vacation. She took all of the pictures on her camera and with everything going on this weekend, didn’t have time to get them sent out before their 6AM flight to the Dominican Republic on Monday morning. I’ll give her a pass this one time!

For today I will leave you with a picture from the Creighton game that I went to on Friday night. I was lucky enough to get to help celebrate a very special someone’s 13th birthday with Matt’s family.

Matt had to work that day and didn’t make it down in time for the game, but did get there brownies and ice cream afterwards (isn’t that the most important part?!)


Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby Bumpin {28 Weeks}

Dear Mister Baby Ritchie II,

Can you believe that as of TODAY we have officially spent 28 weeks together? Sick of me yet? Tough luck if you are--even when you are alive and kickin’ on the outside, there’s no getting rid of your CrAzY Mama!

As you and I start our THIRD trimester together I wanted to make sure to post a few things about trimester number two. I feel like I haven’t had a whole lot to update on with this pregnancy, which I suppose is a good thing!  And while I don't have all of the "medical stuff" to document like I did with your sister, I still want to make sure that I don't forget all of the fun little things.

-You are most definitely a night owl. My bedtime seems to be your prime time for bustin’ a move, you are ALWAYS going strong when I get up for my 3am bathroom break, and I'm awakened each morning by some crazy tap dance routine. No wonder you sleep all day with so much activity at night! Let's just hope your whole day/night issue doesn't stick around for too long. Repeat after me little guy, “Sleep all night, play all day. Sleep all night, play all day.”

-You're a big fan of 90s hip hop...particularly Warren G’s Regulate. I had XM 90s on 9 on in my car one day while waiting in line at the carwash and when this song came on you went NUTS!

-If the old wives tale that “Heartburn = Hair” holds true (much like it did with your sister) you are going to be born with hair down to your toes! Tums and Zantac are now officially a part of my daily routine.

-Silly me, I gave up candy for Lent without even consulting with you first.  I'm pretty sure that you're glad Lent is over!  HELLO PEANUT M&Ms!

-Sigh…I’m totally going to out myself on this one…but I suppose that this blog is all about memories and honesty! If I lay on my right side for too long, as soon as I sit up I am capable of belching like only a burley mountain man should do. Never had that problem with Miss Charlotte so I’m guessing it’s a boy thing. You apparently want to show off your manliness from an early age!

-I’ve got a progressive case of baby brain! My newest thing is ASSUMING that all faucets, soap dispensers and doors are automatic. Sometimes after I use the bathroom at home I will find myself just standing at the sink waiting for the water to come out. Oops…not automatic. God forbid I actually have to turn the water on by myself!

-You have an innate sense of when Mama is sad. REALLY! You do! It’s almost like you start stirring to remind me of all of the blessings in my life. And you know what? It works. Your sister used to do the same thing when I would get sad about her sick heart. It’s almost like my kiddos know to keep a close eye on my heart from the inside!

Here is Mama when she was 28 weeks preggo with your sister.  
Talk about a big ol' yellow belly! 
This is a perfect example of why pictures are being taken from the OPPOSITE side this time around.  My forehead is just about as big as my belly!
And now for the YOU shot!  You're officially 28 weeks and growing like a weed!
Only 12 weeks to go Mister!  Or if you decide to be like your sister, it could be 9!  Yikes...I suppose I should do some baby laundry or something.  
Or find a place for you to sleep.  
Or buy some diapers.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 2012

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter.

Our Sunday has been pretty quiet. Matt worked this morning; I slept in.

There were no Easter dresses, no great search for hidden eggs, no early morning anticipation about an overnight visit from the Easter Bunny. Instead we have been quiet and taken the opportunity to reflect on the reason that we celebrate this day.


Christ's victory over death gives those who believe the promise of a similar victory. Death is not the end, but rather a beginning. Our Charlotte may have been taken from us in her Earthly form, but I know that her spirit remains whole. To believe in and to celebrate resurrection helps remind us that we WILL see our baby girl again. We WILL hold her in our arms. We WILL be reunited with the promise of eternal life. To me, that is worthy of some celebration.

Special thanks to a very special Aunt who "dressed" our little lady up a bit for Easter. So much love.

NamNam, PopPop and Abe had a very special visitor in their backyard this morning.

Hehehe....a silly little monkey helped hide some eggs at the Musil house last night. How can you NOT smile at that?

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Charlotte Kind of Day

It's been one of those days where I know for a fact that Little Miss is trying to let me know she is with us.

First we got a package in the mail from Charlotte's NamNam, PopPop and uncle Abe. There were lots of reminders of our little lady awesome Cha-Cha t-shirt, some butterfly note cards and a note reflecting on our time together last Easter weekend. So thankful for the memories.

Later in the day a package showed up on our front door step. Inside was a card from a stranger...a woman who was there the day Charlotte earned her wings. We read her card through tear-filled eyes and then unwrapped the tissue paper wrapped contents of the box. Inside was the most perfect butterfly wind chime. The butterfly strikes again. Love. It will be the perfect addition to Charley's Garden when we finally have a place of our own again.

Speaking of butterflies, not 10 minutes after opening the package above I got a text from my sister with the following picture.

Our little nephew Owen wanted to make a special Charlotte Easter egg this year. Not only is there a butterfly, but he made sure that is was the same color of Charlotte's green meekee!

Three kind gestures.
Three reminders.
One day.

I feel you baby my heart and in every breath I take.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, April 2, 2012

Remembering Our Angels

When we found out about Charlotte's broken heart we were unknowingly inducted into a community of heart families.

When our baby girl earned her wings and went to be with Jesus, once again there was a community of other grieving parents ready to welcome us with open arms.

Never in a million years would I have chosen to be a part of EITHER of these communities, but through them I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible people who inspire me on a daily basis.  One such person is a woman named Bettina that I "met" through a private group on Facebook for Mommies of Heart Angels.  Sadly, Bettina lost her precious little Noah when he was just over 10 weeks old.

Last week Bettina reached out to me through this blog and asked if I would be willing to share Charlotte's story for a project that she has been working on on her blog My Life My Love My Story...a project aimed to HONORING and REMEMBERING our angels.  I had already read the first two stories that she featured, and was so honored that she thought to include us as well.  

Charlotte's story is featured at My Life My Love My Story today so head over and check it out.  While you're there, be sure to read up on little Noah and some of the other precious angels that Bettina has featured.  Our babies will not be forgotten.

"If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died -- you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift."--Elizabeth Edwards