Thursday, May 31, 2012

One Whole Year

It amazes me how temper-mental our minds can be.  I can hardly remember what I wore yesterday, yet every single detail of my day one year ago is crystal clear.  I remember what clothes we were wearing, the smells, the sounds, the fear that took over my body, the blank looks on people's faces, making phone calls that I never imagined myself having to make....I remember it all.  I've been fighting those memories for a whole year.  They sneak in when I let my guard down and threaten to consume me.  They make my stomach churn, my heart ache and my whole body feel like its revolting against me.  I have so many beautiful memories that I carry with me every minute of the day...if only I could shake these.

One year ago life as we knew it came to a screeching halt. The world around us kept on spinning, but we stood motionless gasping for air and praying that we would wake up from the horrendous nightmare that was surrounding us.  I remember it all.  Every detail.

Today we find ourselves in a strange place.  I wish that I could describe it, but I myself don't quite understand.  The passed 365 days have been filled with such a wide array of emotions...heartache, anger, guilt, love, excitement at the the prospect of new beginnings, fear of moving on...it's hard to decipher what it all means.  One year later and the pain is still there - paralyzing at times...but we are learning how to live again.  It still isn't "easy" - I'm confident that it never will be - maybe the best way to describe it is "manageable."  I have learned how to laugh again, how to feel happiness, yet I know when I need to give in to my emotions and just ride the wave of sadness.  

May 31st will always and forever be an impossible day - but we're keeping our chins up and doing our best to remember the blessings that we experienced by having Charlotte in our lives.  We are holding her memory tight and refusing to let go.

Today we remember...

Her smile.
Her laugh.
Her smell.
Her sparkling eyes.
Her crazy mop of reddish brown hair.
Her purple little finger tips.
The faded scars that marked her chest and belly.
Her determination.
Her stubbornness.
Her goofy side.
Her "whispers."
Her snuggles.
The way she chewed on the corner of her green blanket.
The joy she brought to our entire family.
The excitement on her face when we would pick her up at the end of the day.
The way she looked at Matt and I...

These are the memories that make seemingly impossible days a little bit more manageable.

Keep flying baby girl...high in the sky but FOREVER in our hearts.  

We love you Charley Bear...
more and more every single day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

That ROCKS!

I have talked about my love for the website etsy.com here before....well, a few months back I browsing the site and came across some paperweights/magnets that I immediately fell in love with.  They were the cutest little things....small river rocks painted with metallic hearts.  I was really tempted to buy one, but instead channeled my creative excitement into something very special!  

As I announced last week, Matt and I have purchased a lot back in Nebraska and hope to start building a home for our family within the next year.  There is still a lot of planning to be done and decisions to be made, but there is one thing that we have known from the start...our home will be filled with and surrounded by memories of Miss Charlotte.  One of the ways that we are planning on doing this is by planting "Charley's Garden."  It will be a beautiful reminder of our little girlie, hopefully filled with lots of bright colors and lively butterflies!  This garden was one of the first things that came to my mind when I started thinking about those rocks from Etsy.

Though Matt and I couldn't be back with family this Memorial Day, we did provide a little bit of entertainment from a distance.  About a month or so ago we made a trip to a local landscaping place to pick out some rocks that will eventually find a home in Charley's Garden.  We took those rocks to my mom's in Omaha a few weeks back they were just BLAH and dirty.  When we see them again, however, they will have been transformed into beautiful works of art courtesy of Charlotte's' big loving family!

Below are some pictures of "arts and crafts" time on Memorial Day.  I initially thought this would be a fun project for all of the kids in my family...but it turns out that there were some BIG kids who wanted in on the action as well!  

 
 
 
 
Pretty sure this made Matt's day! Thanks Dane!
Look familiar?  This one is painted just like Charlotte's chair!
Here's the whole group!  I have a pretty crafty family, huh!?

We still have a few rocks to add to the pile from Matt's family and I can't wait to see then all in person.  Then we'll get them all sealed and patiently wait until said garden can become a reality! I love that everyone was willing and able to help make this little idea of mine come to life...especially Charlotte's little cousins who worked so hard to make their rocks just perfect!  This was something so simple, yet it that totally warms my heart and makes me smile.  I'm pretty sure I know someone else who is smiling too!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In the Words of My Big Sister


I've been in awe of Kristen's blog since she started it.  I even attempted to start my own blog in 2011, in hopes that I could be half as articulate as she is when she writes.  365 Days of Jill only saw a handful of entries - even though I had hoped to blog everyday for an entire year when I started!  So you might imagine, I was quite interested in helping to fulfill Kristen's quest to blog every day in the month of May this year.  We've all been anticipating...okay, at times dreading, this month for the last year.  A year of firsts without Charlotte behind us - we look forward with hope and anticipation as the new "year" begins.

I'm Jill.  I'm Kristen's sister.  In our family, I'm more commonly referred to as Miss Glitz, Mister Sister, an exercise fanatic, a lover of all things "Pink'd", a CPA turned IT professional, a mommy to two adorable little boys, Jack and Owen, a wife to one crazy (most times perverted...) man named Jay, but like my other two sisters, we are aunties to a perfect heart angel named Charlotte...
 
I think about Charlotte every day.  I miss her, despite the shortness of our times together during her first year.  Ironically, I miss our time at Children's Hospital when we - a blended family of Goesers, Ritchies, and Reynolds -  would patiently and anxiously await the results of all of Charley's procedures.  I love that my kids love and talk about Charlotte like she's still her, but I'm saddened that they won't get to grow up with her.
I ache inside for Kristen and Matty.  

I hate thinking about May 31, 2011.  It was one of the worst days of my life.  

But now, nearly a year later, I look back, and I can muster a smile.  WE ARE SURVIVING.  TOGETHER.  Just like we have so many times before.  We've cried countless tears, shared tons of memories, laughed until our bellies ache, and now we prepare ourselves for the first anniversary of Charlotte's death...Her "Angel-versary" as one blog follower so eloquently put it. 

When I thought about what I might write in this blog entry of mine, my thoughts immediately turned to Charlotte, but quickly realized that I couldn't tell you anything "new" about her. Her mommy has shared so much already and what she hasn't shared will likely come in the future.  So I switched my focus to someone else.  I don't personally know this "someone" yet, but he and I have something very much in common.  You see, like me, Baby Boy Ritchie will be the oldest child, who isn't really the oldest. 

I've said it hundreds of times over..."I'm the oldest of four girls..."  (...and my sisters love to remind me that I'm the oldest...)  But the truth is...I'm not.   I am the second in a line of five girls.  Like Baby Boy Ritchie, my big sister went to Heaven before I was born.  He and I are the babies sent to help ease the hurt of a lost first child...the first brick in the rebuilding of a family that has suffered a tremendous, unexplainable loss.  We aren't replacements.  The hole left by our older siblings can't be filled, but we can hope and believe that we are the first step in a long, grueling, never-ending healing process of many broken hearts.

I can remember talking about my "Big Sister", Staci, when I was growing up.  I knew she died when she was 9 days old because she had a hole in her heart.  I can remember the prayer card from her funeral, modge podged to a piece of wood in a bedroom in the house I grew up in.  We often prayed the Angel of God Guardian Angel prayer on it at night before we went to bed.  Staci was and remains a part of our family...just like Charlotte will remain a part of the Ritchie family now and after Baby Boy Ritchie is born.
I'm certain that Auntie Staci and my Dad love and care for Baby Boy Ritchie's big sis, Charlotte, every day.  I know we'll all be reunited in Heaven someday, me with my sis and Baby Boy Ritchie with his, but until then I'm happy to play my part in our family here on Earth.  Kristen, as your oldest sister, I'm here to tell you that I am confident that you are ready for this next chapter of your life.  You are an incredible women, a loving daughter, sister and friend - one of my best!  You are a devoted wife...but most importantly, I want to remind you that you are a mommy.  Strong, proud, patient, creative, fun,  and I know...very scared right now, but God trusted you with Charlotte, and you have proven over and over to Him that you were worthy of His gift.  I know you'll show your son everything that God has already been telling him about you.   I love you.  Thank you for letting me write.

Thank you Jilly for sharing these beautiful words.  I've read them over and over again and still can't make it through without tears.  Charlotte was so lucky to have such amazing aunts who loved her to no end.  I know that she is smiling down on all of you today.  XOXOXO ~Kritter

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day - Full Circle

I'm sure you remember my Memorial Day post from last summer...it was one of the most perfect days I can remember.  We enjoyed a quiet weekend at home as a family, officially kicking off the start of summer and celebrating how far our family had come in one short year.  The weather was beautiful.  Our little girl was healthy.  We felt like life was finally starting to settle down.

Last year Memorial Day fell on May 30 - the day before our world came crashing down.

That afternoon Charlotte and I decided to take a trip to a park near our house.  Oddly enough, she had never been to a park before....and let me tell you, she was fascinated.  I wish that I could have been inside of her head as she soaked in all of the activity that was going on around her.  There were kids running all around the playground equipment, families playing frisbee in the open grass - so many new things for a little girl who had spent so much of her life in germ lock-down.  


While at the park she experienced another "first" - swings.  Always a thrill seeker, Charlotte wasn't satisfied with the gentle pushes I was giving...she wanted to fly!  


I wish that you could hear her giggles more in this video (they seem to be drowned out by the crazy woman repeatedly shouting WWHHEEEEE!)  She was totally loving it.



I'm so incredibly thankful for Memorial Day 2011--but at the same time it stings like crazy.  So much has changed in one short year.  We have gone from sunshine and swings to....to....I honestly don't know what.  Today I find myself missing Charlotte more than ever and praying with all my heart that there is a special swing set in Heaven that she can "fly" on whenever she chooses.


I love you baby girl.  





Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bad Hair Day?

In all of my "free time" lately (haha) I've been daydreaming about what Charlotte's little brother is going to look like.  Will he be the masculine version of our little girl with big cheeks and big eyes?  Will he have the same shorty short short legs?  Will he come out with a full head of hair like his sister?  I kind of forget that not ALL babies are born with the full mop of hair that Charlotte was - sometimes I'll see little bald babies and am almost caught off guard!  

Where is their hair!?  

The more I thought about this, the more obvious it became to me that I needed to do a light hearted weekend blog dedicated Little Miss's CrAzY hair!  :) 

By less than 1 month old she was already sporting a pretty sweet faux hawk.
Daddy got scolded one day for using "product" to create this masterpiece.
 
Holy fluffy hair!  If I remember correctly, one of her aunts may have contributed to this look.
Not sure WHAT was going on here!  
Judging by the look on Charlotte's face, she wasn't so sure either.
A first time for everything.
Sporting some piggies.
Sigh...I definitely passed my "humidity-intolerant" hair on to her.
Congestion = steam filled bathroom = pure hair insanity
What usually started out as a very nicely groomed hair-do 
usually ended up looking a little disheveled!
Hello volume!
Can you say bed head?
Perfectly messy...just how we liked it!
 
Out.Of.Control. (Mommy may have contributed to the craziness in these!)
Food in my hair?  What are you talking about?
One side was always a little crazier than the other.  Can you guess which?
 
 Here come the curls!  

It really didn't matter what we did - her hair was beyond control.  What looked very "put together" one minute could instantly transform into...well...what you saw above!  Spunky hair for a feisty little girl!  It fit her perfectly.  

Now we just sit back and wait to see if Mister Mister carries on the family tradition.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Daddy's Hat

Charlotte liked lots of things...

Being outdoors
Her puppies
Cookies
"Potsy" her singing pot
Walks in the stroller 

Yes, she liked  lots of things, but there was one thing in particular that rose above the others...one things that she was absolutely fascinated by -- Her daddy's hat. For those of you who know Matt, you know that he is a man who finds a hat that he likes and proceeds to wear it until its original form is barely recognizable. The colors fade, they become sweat stained from the summer heat, and occasionally....well...they stink.  So just imagine my joy when this became the "toy" of choice for Miss Charlotte. She loved taking it off and putting it back on Matt's head....over and over and over again!  When he walked into the room she would get the biggest grin on her face and her had would instantly shoot up in the air indicating that she wanted that stinky old hat. She didn't just like it...she loved it!  Silly girl.


Matt still has a hat that looks just  like the one photographed above, but we haven't seen the original in almost a year.  As a matter of fact, the last time we saw that hat was the last time we saw our little girl. For now she's keeping it safe for her Daddy and I have a crazy feeling in my heart that when we are all reunited some day...little miss will have her daddy's hat firm in her grasp and a big grin on her face.

Sigh...I never thought that I could love a stinky old hat so much. 





Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brother and Sister

I know that all of you are familiar with our buddy RedButt, but I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to another monkey friend of ours...  

Meet BlueButt!  (Yes, I realize that his little bottom is still red...!)


These adorable little monkeys were "born" at the same time, but we didn't know about the blue guy until the baby shower that my sister held for me back in April.  They were separated at birth when RedButt came to live with Charlotte, but deep down they knew that they would be reunited some day.  You should have seen the looks on their faces when they first saw each other!  They both had smiles from ear to ear and they haven't let go of each other's hands since.

I'm so excited to introduce our little boy to these two crazy monkeys and to tell him stories about his big sister and how much she loved RedButt.  I see lots of love, laughter and snuggles in our future!

Thanks Aunt Angie for creating 2 very special additions to our family!!


Don't forget to check out the Project RedButt tab at Charleysheart.com.  Once we get moved and settled into our new digs in Nebraska we look forward to sharing these monkeys with lots of other kiddos!  


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rantings of a Crazy Woman

Our lives are pretty much insane right now.

Moving in a month.
Having a baby in just about as long.
Studying for our Nebraska pharmacy law exams.
Trying to wrap things up at our current jobs.
Hoping to start building our new home soon.
Organizing things for Books for Charley.
Needing to start packing up our rental.
Lining up things for the move.
Carrying around an 34 week old baby in my belly.
...just to name a few.

In the midst of it all, I have found myself getting a little worried.  The funny thing is, I'm not worried about all of the chaos we have going on around us - I know those things will all fall into place in due time.  My real concerns relate to what happens when life actually starts to slow down.  What happens when I don't have a thousand things keeping my mind active and "distracting" me from the grief that resides in my heart?  What happens when the "Month of Chuck" is behind us?  I am sharing memories of Charlotte...NOTHING makes me happier...but I worry that in an attempt to distract myself from grief, I'm also avoiding really dealing with it.  I'm afraid that when things quiet down my mind will take over and I'll sink into some dark place and never want to leave our bed.  A part of me fears it will be some insane postpartum depression on grief steroids.  Another part of me worries about how it will influence my ability to be a good mama to our baby boy.  When I finally have a baby back in my arms, how will I balance my crazy love with my crazy pain?  Deep down I believe that everything will be ok...but fears like these are a very realistic part of my existence anymore.  Its hard to explain.

I saw this graphic on Pinterest today and it made me laugh...  I never used to be an anxious person, but ever since losing Charlotte I have to fight the urge to morph into "Anxiety Girl."  I don't like it - but I've learned to control it.


This wasn't a "happy-go-lucky" reflection on our time with Charlotte like I wanted the "Month of Chuck" to be, but I really felt like I needed to get some of these things off my chest.  I'm not looking for reassurance.  I'm not looking for people to tell me that everything will be fine or that I will be a great mommy to little "Franklin."  I know that we will do our best and deal with the ups and downs as we go.  What I am looking for are a few extra prayers as we take these next steps forward. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What I Am


In Matt's post this past weekend he mentioned the fact that one of the ways we got Charlotte to actually take her bottle was by resorting to You Tube videos.  Trust me, this didn't start out as our method of choice, nor was it my favorite approach, but we quickly learned that so much of our feeding stress disappeared when we paired bottles with music and visual stimulation!  I can't blame the poor little girl for needing a little distraction from her yucky tasting formula (now if only the videos could have distracted Matt and me from the SMELL of it!)

Some of Charlotte's favorite videos were musical segments from Sesame Street, including renditions of popular Jason Mraz and Feist songs.  While they seemed to do the trick, there was one song/video that was a family favorite among all of the Ritchies.


"What I Am" by Will.i.am


If what I am is what's in me
Then I'll stay strong, that's who I'll be
And I will always be the best
Me that I can be.

There's only one me, I am it.
Have a dream, I'll follow it.
It's up to me to try.

(drums)

Oh, imma keep my head up high... HIGH!
Keep on reachin' high... HIGH!
Never gonna quit.
I'll keep gettin' stronger.
And nothings gonna bring me down... No!
Never gonna stop gotta go... Go!
Because I know
I'll keep gettin' stronger.

And what I am is THOUGHTFUL.
...what I am is MUSICAL.
...what I am is SMART.
...what I am is BRAVE.
And what I am is HELPFUL.
And what I am is SPECIAL.
There's nothing I can't achieve
Because in myself I believe in, oh

Gonna keep our heads up high... HIGH!
Keep on reachin' high... HIGH!
Never gonna quit
Just keep gettin' stronger.
And nothins' gonna bring us down... No!
Never givin' up gotta go... Go!
because I know I'll keep gettin' stronger.

What I am is SUPER.
What I am is PROUD.
What I am is FRIENDLY.
What I am is GROUCHY.
What you are is MAGICAL.
What you are is SPECIAL.
There's nothing I can't achieve
because in myself I believe in, oh

Gonna hold my head up high...HIGH!
Keep on reachin' high...HIGH!
I'm never gonna stop
I'll keep gettin' stonger.
Nothins' gonna bring me down
Never givin' up Gotta go
Yeah...

I'll keep gettin' stronger.


As if Will.i.am's sweet hair and a bunch of adorable head bobbing monsters weren't enough, the words in this song sealed the deal for this mama.  They cover so many things that I wanted Charlotte to always remember...most importantly that as long as she believed in herself, NOTHING, not even a sick little ticker, could hold her down.  She was brave.  She was smart. She was super. She was special beyond special.  

Every once in a while this song comes up on my iPod playlist and most of the time I listen to it twice before moving on to the next in line.  I can almost picture myself sitting with Charlotte in my lap, her head heavy in my arms while she enjoyed her "dinner and a movie".  While I wasn't thrilled with the concept of having to con our child into eating, I wouldn't trade those moments with her for anything.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Hello, Books!

Happy Monday everyone!  

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Matt and I were back in Omaha/Lincoln this weekend.  It was a quick trip, but we managed to get quite a bit accomplished.  We saw family (briefly), hung out with friends, looked at a couple of rental properties and visited our lot (which looks like a neglected overgrown mess- EEK!).  Overall it was a pretty productive weekend for a 24 hour turn around time!

When we got back to Sioux Falls yesterday afternoon we were greeted by a STACK of boxes on our front door step - each box containing donations for Books for Charley.  As I opened all of the packages and put stickers on their contents, I started thinking that I should probably do another numbers update.  While I know that its not the actual NUMBER that matters, its still fun to be able to quantify just how many books we'll be sharing with those kiddos later this summer.

As of Sunday, May 20 we have 444 books stickered up and ready to go - thats over 100 books more than we had just one week ago!   In addition to that we received over $500 in donations that will be used for a MASSIVE book shopping spree at the end of the month.  Holy cow people!  You blow me away!  In the beginning I was worried that people might not have the same enthusiasm about this event the second time around, but you are most definitely proving me wrong.  Thank you a million times over!!

I have gotten a few messages/updates from Aly, Claire and Mason's families as well and it sounds like collections are going strong.  I'll try to share more about these individual donations as Books for Charley wraps up at the end of the month.

Time seems to be moving very quickly these days, but there is still time to donate if you are interested.  Just in case you missed it the first time...



How to Donate:

 Local drop-offs:  Please email us at charleysheart@gmail.com if you would like to coordinate a drop-off in the Omaha or Sioux Falls area.  For those of you who know any of my family members, you can reach out to them as well!
Harlan, IA drop-offs:  If you live in the Harlan area and would like to make a donation, my aunt has graciously offered to help with collections again this year.  Please contact her if you would like to coordinate a drop off.  I didn't want to include her personal info here on the blog so you can either email the address above and I'll get back to you, or look her up in the phone book (Jim and Jan Goeser).

Mailed donations:  Last year we had books come in from all over the country!  If you would like to send your donation through the mail, please use the address listed below.

Charley's Heart
7604 S. Hughes Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57108

PayPal:  Go to the Charley's Heart homepage and click on the "Donate Now" button on the right hand side of the screen.  From there it will guide you through the donation process.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lettin' it ALL Out

Alright...I've hit my secret keeping limit.  My will power has been stretched about as far as it can stretch.  The flood gates are about to burst wide open.  While many of you may already know some of the following information, I have to ask the rest of you.....

Are you ready for some BIG secret reveals?!?!?!?  
Yes, I said revealS as in multiple secrets.

Here we go!

Secret #1


Yup, that there is a SOLD sign.  
A sold sign that sits on a lot that belongs to Mathew and Kristen Ritchie!
A sold sign that stakes our claim on 3.2 acres of land that we will one day call home.
A sold sign that represents so many new beginnings for our family.
(Wanna know how good I am at keeping secrets?  This picture was taken back in OCTOBER!)


Secret #2

Said sold sign photographed above is in NEBRASKA!  
(I just got a huge smile on my face as I typed that!)
We always knew that we would eventually make it back that direction, and when my sister Jill told us about this lot last year we knew that we had to jump on it.  
Nebraska = both of our families and lots of incredible friends
...just the support system we need.


Secret #3

I quit my job.  Well, maybe a better way to say that is that I decided not to renew my contract for next year and as of June 21st I am officially unemployed.  My current plan is to take a few months of maternity leave (though I don't think its still called "leave" when you are simply jobless) and during that time also do a little job hunting.  If anyone knows of any pharmacy positions, keep me in mind!  Or if any of you are just dying to pay me to stay at home with "Franklin," I would settle for that, too!


Secret #4

Matt quit his job.  Haha...ok, so thats totally untrue, BUT there is a job change in his future.  Matt has officially accepted a new position with Cardinal Health that will begin this summer.  New job.  Same company.  No "quitting" involved...simply a transfer.


Secret #5

WE'RE MOVING!
You may have guessed that already...you're all pretty smart.
We sold our house in Sioux Falls in August.
We've been living in a rental since September.
We bought a lot in Nebraska in October.
Since then we've been waiting....
waiting....
waiting....
Good things come to those who wait, right?

Our very tentative plan is to be back in Nebraska toward the end of June (right before "Franklin" is born).  The lot above is still stands empty so there will be another rental in our future while we wait for construction to start/finish on our new home.
Do you have any idea how good it feels to use the words "OUR" and "HOME" in the same sentence again?  

Needless to say, we are excited.  Excited to finally feel like we are taking some productive steps forward.  Excited to start the next chapter of our lives--though still clinging so desperately to the previous.  The next few months are without a doubt going to be stressful with a move, a baby and a new job all happening at the same time, but we know that we'll be taken care of.  We know that the chaos is temporary and that its all a part of God's crazy plan for our family.  Having said that, prayers for our sanity are always welcome!!


Soooo.......

Anyone know of any houses for rent?  Here's our list of "needs/wants:"
-Lincoln or WAY western Omaha with quick interstate access
-Fenced yard for our crazy pups (a MUST)
-Possibility of less than a 1 year lease (not a deal breaker)
-2+ car garage (again, not a deal breaker)

We're actually headed back to Nebraska this weekend and are checking out a house in Lincoln.  Its a cozy little place, just slightly bigger than the rental we are in now, but perfect for our short term needs.  We'll see how it all pans out.  In the mean time, keep us in mind if you see any "FOR RENT" signs out and about.  


Whew!  That was a lot of sharing!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mother's Day: Mamma Edition

Hello loyal readers.  Today, instead of the eloquent words of Kristen, you will have to read my hair-brained scribblings.  Let me apologize in advance.

The reasoning behind this sudden, and some would say misguided, interruption of service is the continuing series of Mother's Day posts......a series that would be grossly void without including Chuck's beloved Mamma herself.  I knew that her modesty would preclude her from truly being able to describe the great Mom that she is, so I decided to step in and try my hand.

Along side my Daughter and my dogs, I was able to see first hand, the mother that Charlotte was able to experience in her short time here.  She may have faced disadvantages in her life.....but in the realm of feminine parental figures, she had every advantage imaginable.

From the time we found out about Charlotte's special heart, the gears of my wife's mind were constantly in motion.  She took care of everything that was hard.  First time parenting is hard.  First time Motherhood is harder.  First time Motherhood, when you know that your precious daughter has a life-threatining heart condition seems impossible.  In the end however, everything was in place when our girl arrived....from scales, to pulse oximeters, to medical bills to the special car "bed" that Charlotte had to ride in because she couldn't ride in a car seat.  Those are the hard things to do....the mundane things.  Through the stress of a pregnancy, that you knew would only end in a continual uphill battle, Kristen set forth a blueprint of our lives to come.

I distinctly remember our daughters first moments in this world and one of my most vivid memories was of the look in Kristen's eyes when she saw her daughter for the first time.  "True love" is the best I can describe it.


Through surgeries, recoveries, new hopes and setbacks, Kristen was the constant in Charlotte's life.  I was good comic relief (and even managed to steal Chuck's first word:  "DADADADA"), but when the chips were down, our little girl was still a Mamma's girl.....for good reason I might add.  Mothers go through life with a lot of what they do going unnoticed and often unappreciated.  Life happens quickly and we become blind to the day-to-day operations much too often.  I can't possibly list all of the examples of Kristen's efforts to give Charlotte the best life possible.  The one word that springs to mind that may sum it up best is "Calories".

About two weeks after Charlotte was born, a nurse or a doctor (I can't remember which) put a bug in my wife's ear that we really had to be aware of Charlottes calorie intake and make sure she was getting enough for her healing and developing heart.  Heart kids are notoriously lousy eaters was the message we were getting.  The message was confirmed throughout Charlotte's first 10 months of life.  About 3 months in, we also found out that Chuck had a lactose allergy to boot.  CUE MOM!  My wife was bound and determined to get those calories in that child and she spent countless hours on the internet, talking to doctors, at the grocery store and experimenting to find a solution to to our calorie dilemma.  She also had the patience to find ways to distract our kid into eating.  Sesame Street clips on YouTube seemed to do the trick after many trials and tribulations.  Even down the road, when we were on tube feeds (that always seemed to be "Chucked"-up on us promptly after), Kristen never lost her resolve to make that little girl gain weight.




Eventually we found out that she loves to eat carrot and crayons and our prayers were answered.

I don't want to ramble, and I just don't know how to sum up how amazing my wife is.  I guess the way I feel can be summarized as follows:

No words can express:

1. The pain in my heart that you have to spend your special day here while our little Angel looks down on us from heaven...

2. The joy in my heart that the time our Bear was with us was spent with such a wonderful, caring and loving Mother and that she was a able to experience true love and joy thanks to you.

3. The peace in my heart that our son and our family will have you in our lives.
I love you!  Happy (belated) Mothers Day Blog to you!