Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Books for Charley {2} - Books Books Books

When I officially announced our second annual "Books for Charley" collection back on May 2nd, I never imagined that it would be the very end of July before I would have the final updates ready to share with all of you.  I think that I underestimated amount of "busy-ness" that was going to occur in the months following!  Having said that, I'm so happy that today I can finally tell you about our BIGGEST donation yet....Omaha Children's Hospital!

Yesterday Harrison and I loaded up the car and made the hour drive to Omaha for the big day.  I wasn't as anxious/nervous about the donation this year--I think having him with me helped.  As we drove I told him all about the special donation that we were making later that day and how Charlotte would be so happy and proud that he could be there to "help".  We talked about the importance of giving back, helping others and also about how much LOVE our family felt (and still feels) while Charlotte was a patient at Children's.  Harrison slept through most of my rambling, but I'm pretty sure that his sleeping mind was still impressionable!  

After a quick stop at Grandma Debbie's house to load up our delivery, we made our way to the hospital where we met the kiddo's Grammy Vicki.  She wasn't able to come to last year's drop-off so we were thrilled to see her this time around!  From there we did a little last minute "stickering",  transferred our book totes/boxes into the lobby and snapped some pictures.  We also did some final book number crunching (more on that in a minute!)

Being slightly OCD, this year I decided to help Children's out a little by trying to organize our donation.  Not all of the books made it into totes, but the picture below gives an idea of of what we were able to give.  We had everything from board books to coloring books, first readers to chapter books for older kids-- we even had a whole bag full of Spanish/English books!  I'm still quite overwhelmed by it all...

Check out Harrison.  He was over the whole "Book" thing and decided that it was a good time for a nap.  He looks like he's deep in thought with his fist on his chin like that!  

So...back to my comment before about "number crunching."  Last year our TOTAL donation (Omaha + Sioux Falls) came in at just over 1200 books.  I was blown away by that number, so just imagine how totally SHOCKED I was when we were able to deliver 1,124 books yesterday to Omaha Children's alone.  


I cannot stop smiling.  Seriously.  Cannot.Stop.Smiling.  Are you smiling?  I'm smiling.  Smiling, sniffling and drying my eyes...but SO totally smiling.

 So, where does that leave us for the "Official" 2012 Books for Charley collection?

Aly, Claire and Mason donations = 572 books
Sioux Falls = 340 books
Atlanta donation = 126 books
Omaha Children's = 1,124

TOTAL books = 2,162 books 

I know that I have said this repeatedly over the past two months, but THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who contributed and made Books for Charley {2} such an overwhelming success.  I would hug you all if I could!  My family cannot begin to express how grateful we are for your willingness to continue helping us celebrate Miss Charlotte.  She may have only been with us for a short time, but my oh my did she leave a giant impression behind.  Thanks to all of you our little girls memory remains strong...and that makes this mama's heart sing.

I love and miss you Charley Bear...beyond words or explanation.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Month of Bliss

My sweet, sweet Harrison,

I cannot believe that it has already been a full month since your daddy and I were blessed with your presence in our lives.  It was something that we had waited and waited for, but all of the anticipation was well worth it.  You have been such a blessing to us and I cannot imagine this world without you in it.  This first month with you is something that I will forever and ever hold dear to my heart.  You are our second child, but it was a month of so many firsts in our house.  Your big sister spent the entire first month of her life in the hospital, so each new day with you marks the beginning of some new adventure.  

It has been a very busy month for all of us.  We have settled into a house that you will likely never remember living in, Daddy transitioned into a new position at work, I've been rediscovering myself as a Mommy and adjusting to all of the new things that come along with the role.  You on the other hand have been busy eating, sleeping and above all, growing!  When you aren't mastering those very important survival skills, you are perfectly content soaking in the world around you.  

-Your first month has been a SCORCHER!  The week you were born the temperatures were inching toward triple digits with about 99% humidity and it hasn't let up since.  I offered to take you swimming so that we could get out of the house for a while and stay cool, but you apparently weren't in the mood. Hopefully this heat lets up soon so that we can start exploring outside a little more!

-Every once in a while I notice that your breath smells like butterscotch.  I LOVE it!

-You, Harrison Paul Ritchie, have one CrAzY head of hair!  I can't say that I'm surprised after dealing with your sister's mop, but really...yours takes the cake.  You were blessed with a cowlick just like your Mama and there is absolutely no hiding it.  It grows in about 400 different directions!  After a bath I have been "experimenting" by combing it all different ways, but it always ends up the same once it dries.  I personally think its adorable and your Daddy thinks its the most "awesome" hair ever.  

-Speaking of bath time...you are NOT a fan.  Not a fan at all.

-We're all about nicknames in this house.  Nickname of the month?  Stinky Pants Hiccup Man.  I think that one is pretty self-explanatory.

-You are a pro at sticking your tongue out!  You are doing it less and less these days, but there was a point in time when it was OUT of your mouth more than it was IN.  

-This month you celebrated your very first holiday, July 4th!  Of course it was 100 degrees outside so your day was spent inside, but you had plenty of people willing to stay in and snuggle with you.  While you were staying cool, your older cousins (and your mom and dad) were busy outside participating in our annual Olympic games.  I can't wait until you are a little bigger and we can cheer you on as you bob for apples!  Lord knows you've got some competitive genes!

The Black Team
 Getting ready for the Egg Toss
 Daddy was on the winning Tug of War team!  
Mama wasn't allowed to play...something about recovering from surgery?
 Go Daddy, Go!

-From the time we were in the hospital you have been showing off just how strong you are.  You are quite the wiggle worm and like to pretend to be an inch worm during tummy time.  A few weeks back you even decided to do this....
And you didn't just do it once, but THREE times!  Needless to say your Mama was a little surprised by your antics!

-One of my favorite parts of this month was taking you to meet a very special group of ladies.  We were back in Omaha for your 2 week doctor's appointment and decided to make a pit stop at Children's Hospital to visit some of your sister's very favorite nurses.  Wow, were they ever excited to see you!  I called two people to let them know we were coming, and before you knew it there was a waiting room full of people lined up for Harrison snuggles.  At only 2 weeks old you showed us that you already know how to work a room full of women!  YIKES!

We were all ready for your 1 month photo shoot but ended up having some "technical difficulties" with your birthday chair.  Not wanting to skip it, I got a little creative and decided to go with a deconstructed look!  We'll give it another shot at 2 months, but for now I think this is pretty darn cute!  I just couldn't decide which one to share so I figured I do LOTS of them!

 We love you so very much Harrison Paul and cannot wait for more new adventures!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Starting Him Early

We Ritchie's consider ourselves to be "classy" sports fans.  
Nothing says classy quite like a tie, right?

I mean, really....
Can you blame me for wanting to snuggle with this little peanut 24 hours a day?  

Thanks Hoffman's for the adorable onesie!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weight? Huh?

The other day a stranger saw me at the store with Harrison and after commenting on how cute he was :)  said "He's so tiny!  How much does he weigh?"

My response?  "Umm...uuhh...he was 8lbs 2 oz when he was born." 

I find it crazy how totally thrown off my game I was by that simple little question!  When Charlotte came home from the hospital she was accompanied by a baby scale that we used to weigh her each and every morning. We needed to make sure that she was effectively gaining weight and also that she wasn't holding on to fluid (evidenced by rapid weight gain) as lots of kiddos with heart problems do. With her I could have told you her exact weight on any given day...no hesitation.  The last time Harrison was weighed was at his two week appointment. That was a week and a half ago and I haven't given it a second thought since that day.

That simple question from a stranger really got me thinking about just how different things are this time around. I understand that welcoming a newborn, healthy or not, is life changing...but  sometimes this whole journey feels so simple compared to what we adapted to last time around!  The differences are almost too many to name, but I'll give you a little bit of an idea.

-First and foremost, we left the hospital with our child after only 3 nights.  No surgeries, no intubation, no 4 AM phone calls to check in with nurses.  I remember walking to my car each night after having said my "good nights" and "I love you's" to Charlotte in the PICU.  My eyes were usually filled with tears, my heart heavy. I just wanted her home.  I longed for nights that were sleepless because we were up caring for our child, not sleepless because we feared for her life.  I was so jealous of the families that got to leave with newborns tucked safely in their car seats...but this time around we were one of those families.

-Speaking of car seats...Harrison has one!  Because of concerns with head control and the potential for obstructing the blood flow thru Charlotte's shunt, she "got" to ride in a special car bed until she was 3 months old.  With a car bed the baby is restrained in a flat position rather than sitting upright like with a traditional car seat. She hated that thing. So did I. Good riddance car bed.

-With Harrison, we lose sleep because he wants to get up to eat. With Charlotte we lost sleep because we worried that she wasn't eating enough. This is by far one of the biggest changes this time around. I actually BREATHE when I feed Harrison. It's relaxing. It's stress-free. We don't have to measure volumes and keep records of how much he eats and when. We just feed him when he's hungry. Heck, we even let OTHER PEOPLE feed him!  Wow. Who knew that something so normal as giving my child a bottle could fill my eyes with tears!

-No medicine, no twice daily shots of blood thinner, no peeling tape off of sensitive baby skin for dressing changes...oh how our little girlie got picked on. I promise baby girl, it was all because we loved you. 

-He may be a little boy, but my oh my does Harrison look good in pink!  Pink skin that is!  I find myself just staring at his perfectly pink toes, lips, nail beds...it's a color that I'm not used to seeing. Charlotte had less blood flow to her lungs. Less flow = less oxygenated blood = more blue blood than red blood. Even on her best of days when I thought her color looked awesome, it never came close to Harrison's rosy hue.

Things this time around are so very different.  A part of me wants to say that they are "better"...obviously I would choose this heart-healthy life for any child...but I think that different is a more fitting description.  Yes, life with Charlotte was challenging, but so is life with Harrison.  One is not "better" than the other, they are simply different courses to which we have had to adapt.  I learned so many things by being her mommy and am using them all to be the best mommy that I can be to her baby brother.    

Every day is something new.  I may not know his exact weight or keep intricate notes on feeding schedules...but one thing I do know is that I'm head over heals in love with Mr. Harrison Paul.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Books for Charley {2} - Meet Shea!

I was cleaning out my inbox the other day and came across another Books for Charley story that I have been meaning to share with all of you...this one courtesy of a special little girl named Shea!  I "know" Shea through my mother-in-law Mary and while we have never officially met, I've heard lots of stories that have totally melted me!  She has apparently taken quite the liking to our little Charlotte and loves looking at pictures of her with her mommy, Wendi!

Miss Shea celebrated her birthday in early May and asked her mom if they could collect books for Books for Charley at her party.  Now keep in mind...Shea just finished kindergarten.  How many kiddos her age do you know that would make such a generous request for their birthday!?  This little lady has a  HUGE heart and we were so excited that she wanted to include Charley's Heart in her special day. 

I don't know what made my heart happier...that big box of books or the super sweet grin on Shea's face!

Thank you SO much Shea for helping us collect all of those books!  I'm sorry that I had to miss your party but was sending you lots of HAPPY BIRTHDAY love on that day.  You are truly something special!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Books for Charley {2} - ANOTHER donation!

After three whole weeks of living in the dark ages, I'm thrilled to report that the Ritchie's FINALLY have the internet!  Okay, so we both have smart phones with limitless online capabilities, but sometimes its nice to just sit down at a computer with a full keyboard to type these blog posts.  PLUS, now I can upload lots of the pictures that have been just sitting here begging to be shared with all of you!  Those will have to wait just a little longer, though, because my post today isn't about Mr. Harrison...it's a Books for Charley update!

I'm still trying to figure out when we are going to make our last (and biggest) donation of the 2012 collection...schedules kind of got shaken up a little with the move and a baby, but I assure you that we will be placing the last of our stickers and making the final delivery sometime very soon.  

Since I don't have any book updates on the Nebraska front, today I want to take the opportunity to introduce you to three very sweet (and very adorable) little girls...Reese, Sage and Brynn.  Back in January I got the following message from their mom, Sara...

"My youngest daughter has an undefined immune deficiency which can make her more susceptible to illnesses that have resulted in a few hospital stays in isolation. During those weeks we would receive toys from the hospital for her to play with and for her sisters when they visited. It was so touching and I knew that I wanted to find some way to give back. Not long after that Books for Charley was started and I knew this would be a perfect way. So in lieu of gifts for my daughters birthdays we asked the families to donate a book in honor of Charlotte. In Dec Brynn turned 2 and yesterday Reese turned 4.  From their parties we have 75 new books that we would like to donate to Books for Charley.  We will have another batch this summer after Sage's birthday but I couldn't wait that long!!"

I was so incredibly honored when I got this message and was again reminded of just how many people continue to hold our little Charlotte close to their hearts.  Heck, I'm sitting here right now with tear-filled eyes just thinking about it.  Rather than have them pay to ship all of those books to South Dakota, we decided that it would be easiest to send them some Charley's Heart stickers and to make their donation to the hospital that they themselves had spent lots of time in...again allowing them to "give back."  Just today I woke up to find another message from their mom...

"For each of our daughters birthday parties we asked families to bring a book donation for Books of Charley in lieu of gifts. The response was amazing!!! The girls received a total of 93 new books that we will donate to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and 33 gently used books that we took the local donation store. Thank you so much for letting us participate and honor Charlotte. Here is a picture of the girls and the new books - Left to Right is Reese (4.5), Sage (6), and Brynn (2.5). The girls were so excited to help put the stickers on the books and kept talking about how these books are going to go to babies to make them feel better while in the hospital."

I have looked at this picture about 100 times today, and each time the smile on my face grows a little bit bigger.  I mean really, how cute are those little grins?  I absolutely love the excited looks on their faces!  Thank you so much Guyer family for including our little Charlotte into not one, but all three of your beautiful little girls' special days. 

For those of you keeping track....

Aly, Claire and Mason donations = 572 books
Sioux Falls = 340 books
Atlanta donation = 126 books

TOTAL books = 1,038 books 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kids with Cords

It seems as though all of our babies come with a cord. No, not an umbilical cord...a cord cord...like one that needs to be attached to a power source.

After Charlotte's first open heart surgeries there was a portion of her incision that just didn't want to heal. In order to help the process along, they decided to hook her up to something called a wound vac. Basically it was a contraption that attached to her chest and provided constant negative pressure to the site, promoting the healing process. Children's hadn't used this contraption on a baby to small (~3 weeks) but it was just what she needed. We came home with the vac for 1 week before we were cleared for normal dressing changes. During that week we carried around a bag with the actual pump in it and juggled the chaos of a new heart baby coming home along with cords, careful sponge baths and fear that we would accidentally pull something in the wrong direction in our day to day activity. I never took a picture, but just envision something very "Iron Man-esque". We called her Iron Baby. The picture below shows the tube that connected her to the actual pump. Awkward.

Fast forward 2 years to the arrival of Mr. Harrison. We had a healthy happy baby and never expected to welcome cords back into our lives. Wouldn't you know...jaundice snuck in and our little yellow baby needed something known as a bili belt. While definitely not as big of a deal and less invasive than the wound vac, there were still cords, plugs and general awkwardness! Not to mention lots of flashbacks of our days with Iron Baby. Luckily Harrison only needed his light for about 24 hours before his bilirubin normalized and he could be officially unplugged.

Here is a picture of our little glow worm with his belt. If he could talk, I'm guessing that he would be saying something like "Take that jaundice!"

Umbilical cords. Electrical cords. Cords. Cords. Cords.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Letter to Harrison

My sweet Harrison,

Welcome to the world baby boy! As I write this letter you are just over a week old. It has only been 9 days since I first held you in my arms--9 short days, yet I can hardly remember or imagine life without you in it. In just 9 days your presence has managed to heal mu heart more than I could have imagined. You have made me feel like a mommy again...deep breath. To feel you in my arms, to watch you as you sleep, to kiss the top of your head as you snuggle against my chest--I realize now that it's the simple things that I have missed the most.

You were born on Tuesday, June 26th--delivered by the same hands that brought your big sister into this world. The very first time that I saw your face it literally took my breath away. I glanced over at your daddy and knew immediately that he saw it to...you were the spitting image of Charlotte. Same squishy face. Same full head of hair. Same strong cry announcing your arrival. It was the most surreal experience. All that I could do was stare at you through tear-filled eyes as they cleaned you up. You were finally here. You were ours.

I have so many hopes and dreams for you, little Harrison, but more than anything I want you to know love. I cannot promise you that life will always be easy or fair, but I give you my word that no matter what your journey brings, I will love you with every bit of my heart...probably more than you will ever understand. I promise to be the best mommy that I know how, to protect you, to teach you, to always be there for you.

I am your Mama, Harrison Paul, and I love you...

Beyond words or explanation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Still Here!

Just checking in to let everyone know that we are alive and well and to wish you all a very happy 4th! We are feeling a little more settled after the chaos of the last few weeks and are excited to be back in Nebraska!

We're still waiting to get our Internet set up at home, but I promise lots of updates on Harrison's first weeks and life in the Ritchie household as soon as we're up and running (I'm keeping a list so I don't forget anything!). Until then, stay cool and be safe! And of course, I can't leave you without a picture!

Sigh...love him.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone