Monday, December 23, 2013

Project RedButt {2013}

Last Thursday, Harrison and I had the opportunity to make our 3rd annual holiday RedButt donation to Children's Hospital and Medical Center.  It's hard to believe that this is year number three already.  As you all know...the first donation served as a way for us to simply "make it" through our first holiday season without Charlotte.  It was a way to keep our hands and minds busy...a distraction (a small one at that) from the pain that consumed most every minute of the day.  Back then I could never have imagined the transformation that would take place in the years to come - not only the healing that has taken place in our hearts, but with the growth of Project RedButt.  We've donated 60 monkeys to the PICU and have sent 100+ monkeys to heart kiddos around the US.  RedButt has even gotten his passport stamped a few times as he made his way to Germany, the UK and La Paz, Mexico with the Los Cabos Children's Foundation.  What started as something so very, very hard has turned into something so incredibly rewarding and central to our lives.  

I hope we're making you proud baby girl...

As always, the lobby at Children's was beautifully decorated --and we think it made it just a little bit more beautiful when RedButt decided to cozy up on the branches of their GIANT Christmas tree!
He even made friends with a soldier standing guard nearby.
I don't get to have pictures with BOTH of my kiddos together...but there is peace in my heart knowing that Charlotte is with us in all that we do. 
He's REALLY good at making monkey sounds :)
This year Grandma Debbie was able to come along for our drop-off.  She is a huge driving force behind Project RedButt, and simply put, we couldn't do it year after year without her.  She's got monkey making down to an art and I'm pretty sure that all 20 of this years RedButts were constructed by her.  (insert endless thanks, a round of applause, hugs, high fives...)

It's three years later.  The holidays are still hard.  The ache is still there.  The sadness still threatens to break us at the least expected moments.  The difference is that three years later we have learned how to function despite it all.  We look forward to our trip to Children's each December and are honored that the wonderful people there continue to share a tremendous feeling of love for our little girl.  

So much love.  Beyond words or explanation.



A huge thanks to all of you who made donations to Charley's Heart and Project RedButt this year.  The expense of supplies (socks, stuffing, buttons) and shipping can really add up and every contribution goes a long way.




Thursday, December 19, 2013

HoHoHo!

We've been working on our "HoHoHos" for a few weeks now in preparation for the day that Harrison and Santa Claus himself would meet face to face.  When the day finally came, I figured that it would be somewhat of a disaster, but still wanted to give our little guy the benefit of the doubt.  Well...we had our opportunity this past weekend and I'll share a few pictures to give you an idea of how it all went down!

H was pretty cool with jolly old St. Nick from a distance...
but his skepticism grew when it was time to actually move in for the kill.
 It was only a matter of time before all hell broke loose :)

Everyone has one of these pictures of their kiddos, right?!  I know that I should feel bad at the fact that he was terrified, but at the same time I can't help but chuckle.  Thanks, Santa, for being so sweet to our freaked out little boy! 

So our first attempt at meeting the big guy wasn't the most successful (surprise, surprise), but it was a good time, none the less.  Special thanks to our good friends at Heart Heroes for organizing "Cookies with Santa" for members of the heart community and for providing a cozy environment for us to make our introductions.  Even though his face doesn't show it, Harrison had a great time and loves the gift that Santa sent home with him.

And just because I can't finish this post without at least a partial grin...here's a shot of Harrison getting a few driving pointers from his dad!  He spotted this car the minute that we walked into the event and it was head and shoulders his favorite part of the afternoon (even better than the cookies!) 



Monday, December 16, 2013

A Little Christmas Cheer

This year marks Matt's and my 4th stretch of holiday celebrations as parents.  Two have been with babes too small to recognize the festivities going on around them, 1 can best be described as being "heavy" as we grieved the loss of our little girl...and this year...well, this year we have finally been given the blessing of seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child.  The little things - a strand of garland hanging in the dining room, twinkling lights on the banister, old and new ornaments dangling from our tree - they all feel a little bit more special as we watch Harrison soak them all in.  And while he may be too young to comprehend the meaning behind all of this celebration, he most definitely gets that something is up.  His reactions have been absolutely priceless (wide-eyed stares and frequent shouts of "WHOA!") and he is constantly naming off all of the objects he sees on our tree - puppy, ta (star), hohoho, and most commonly "Issa (It's a) Packer" at Matt's various Green Bay ornaments.  I want to bottle it all up so that I never forget the innocence behind his awe.

Speaking of our tree...it has to be one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.  Yes, there is something inherently mezmerizing about the glow of a  trees lights in the evening, but the part that I love most are the ornaments. 

There are memories of my childhood...
Opportunities for me to learn more about Matt's...

And in most recent years, reflections of the life that we are building together.  

(Cue my tears!)

We even have some special additions this year...
And of course, it's all topped off by the world's most perfect tree topper. 
Year after year our tree tells a deeper story.  Year after year it gets a little more "full."  Full in terms of the love that it reflects...and full in terms of the number of ornaments that we crowd onto its branches!  This year we thinned things out a bit and put up a special angel tree.  Let me tell you...between sweet Charlotte and her Papa Paul, there's a whole lot of love covering this perfect little tree.  And just like our larger version, this one is topped by symbol of our little girl - a Charley's Heart ornament that was given to us as a gift last year (Thanks, Holly!)
Our home is definitely filled with the holiday spirit and we are so excited to introduce Harrison to all of the magic of this season.  And while I often find myself day dreaming about what our house would be like with a crazy-haired, 3-year-old girlie running around with him, this time with Harrison has been so incredibly healing for me.  He makes my heart smile with every "whoa," and serves as a constant reminder of life's many blessings....of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.


We hope that your homes are also filled with love and that you're enjoying a little extra magic this holiday season!


  





Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving {2013}

Late last week I was admiring some amazing photographs taken by my cousin's daughter Ana, when I stumbled across some words on her blog that really resonated with me. Words that remind me to approach days like today, Thanksgiving, with a gracious heart...even when I know that there are parts of me that hurt. 

Ana ever so wisely said...


"Thanksgiving isn't only about the good stuff.  The delicious food, family gathered, new jobs and a blossoming photography business. It's about finding the good in the not-so-good. Thank you God for my difficult college classes, they helped me appreciate my free time more fully. Thank you God for that terrible cold, it gave me a week to rest. Thanksgiving is about recognizing God in it all and bowing down in praise."

And while this kind of graciousness doesn't always come as second nature, her words hold so much truth. 

Today (and every day) I am thankful. Thankful for the good days - those filled with family, laughter, snuggles and new milestones. Days where I can sit back at the end of the day and watch my baby boy and his daddy roll around on the floor, play catch in the living room and chase each other around our kitchen island, screeching and giggling all the while. But I'm also thankful for those inevitable days that are a little more challenging.  Days where tears seem to outweigh giggles, where new teeth get the best of us all, where a determined spirit feels more like down right stubbornness.  Days where I just want to be angry that my little family will always feel somewhat incomplete. Despite it all...and in it all...we remain so incredibly blessed.

So today among all of the obvious, I'll say out loud...


Thank you God for little boy tears, for they provide the opportunity for extra snuggles and loves.

Thank you for teething.  CRAZY, I know, but Charlotte never had teeth. Each new one that pops up in our little guy's mouth is a reminder of how blessed we are to have had him for 17 months, 8 teeth and counting.

Thank you for stubbornness, for it teaches me much needed patience.  


Thank you for early morning wake up calls, for we know that tomorrows are never guaranteed.


Thank you for this life that we have been blessed with.  It hasn't been, and probably never will be, easy, but I have learned so much because of its challenges.  I appreciate and celebrate the little things in a way that I know I didn't just 3 short years ago. Today we are thankful.  Thankful for the good and for the ability to find the good when it's a little less obvious.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Baby Ritchie #3 {29 weeks}

This showed up in my inbox today...

Day 207:  Excuse Me
"It's any lady's worst nightmare:  flatulence in the presence of others.  But as your uterus continues to grow, it may be harder to control these impulsive bubbles."

Bwahahahahah!  I can't stop laughing!  I should probably try to get a hold of myself...I wouldn't want to let any "impulsive bubbles" escape!

So here we are, 29 weeks and 5 days into pregnancy #3.  I'm feeling well, sleeping okay, eating like I'm carrying triplets, starting to have more and more heartburn, and struggling a bit with the whole tying my own shoes thing!  Harrison routinely uses his baby brother as a step stool (sorry buddy!) and officially called my "bump" a baby this morning.  I won't lie...I've started to freak out a little bit at the fact that d-day is only 10 weeks away!  Time has gone so quickly with baby #3 and I'm struggling to comprehend how much this new addition to our family will change us, our routine, our everything.  It's a challenge I'm excited to face head on...yet still grateful at all of the helping hands that we have nearby.

28 weeks with sweet baby Chuck
28 weeks with crazy Mr. H
 28 29 weeks with baby #3...more commonly known as "Raymond Cassanova" 

Bring on the turkey, mashed potatoes and now that I learned that I passed my glucose tolerance test, any sort of dessert other than pumpkin pie.  This lady's wearing her big girl maternity pants to dinner and she's ready to eat!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Harrison the Entertainer

Do responsible parents let their kids play with the string on their blinds?  Let them drape the cords across their head, fling them over their shoulder, walk with them until they can't walk any farther? 

When they're this cute, they do!



Luckily he's not strong enough (or doesn't realize he's strong enough) to actually raise and lower the blinds....cause you know....then I might have to lay down the law!  You know...because I'm responsible like that.






Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween 2013 {Herbie Husker}

October came and went in the blink of an eye, and with it came a flurry of activity and excitement in the Ritchie home.  We kept busy with a rapidly growing baby boy (well...2 for that matter!), work schedules, a road trip to Indiana for our godson's baptism, late birthday celebrations, trick-or-treating, and capped it off with some exciting news!

Last week we wrapped up October, like most of you, with Halloween festivities.  When Halloween rolled around last year, Harrison was only 4 months old.  We dressed him up like an adorable little football, snapped some pictures, and then went into full "Ba-Humbug" mode (translation: turned our lights off to ward off trick-or-treaters).  This year, however, we had a crazy little 16 month old on our hands, and we were excited to start implementing some Halloween traditions.  We knew that H would love showing off in his costume...and show off he did!  Meet Nebraska's biggest little Husker fan....Harry "Herbie" Husker!  (the University of Nebraska mascot for those of you non-Nebraskans!)
He knew he was the center of attention and absolutely loved it!
I wasn't sure how the hat would go over, but he's a big fan!  
And of course Herbie needs an ear of corn (courtesy of the owners of the lot next door to ours...thanks whoever you are!)
One of the best parts of living back in Omaha is knowing that Harrison will grow up surrounded by his family.  This year (and hopefully years and years to come) we were able to spend Halloween night with Matt's sister and her family.  Harrison and Benson are only 9 months apart in age and I'm positive that they will be best buds growing up.  Here's to many more Halloween pictures of these two cuties together.
I mean really...Isn't Benson Knievel the cutest little daredevil you've ever seen!  AHHH I LOVE HIM!
Our best attempt at a family picture (with the hat).
This little boy doesn't have time for silly things like pictures with his mom and dad!
Last year our Halloween was all closed-doors, and this year it consisted of more photos than actual trick-or-treating, but we still had lots of fun!  Hard to believe that this time next year there will be THREE little boys to corral!  What do you think....the 3 stooges??

Curious about the "exciting news" I mentioned at the start of this post?  This lady landed herself a new job!  No more working every other weekend.  No more 11 hour days or getting home at 8:30 at night.  No more shuffling H from house to house when our schedules overlap (which happened way too often).  I'm beyond excited for what this means for our little family and can't wait to get started in a few weeks!  YAY!



Monday, October 28, 2013

Perfect Little Pumpkins

I grew up in a home where it was more common to decorate Halloween pumpkins with some paint and/or colored Sharpies than it was to carve them into jack-o-lanterns.  As a matter of fact, last year was the first time in my 30 years that I had ever carved a pumpkin on my own!  My opinion?  While the finished product was absolutely perfect...the whole process was a little on the messy/stinky side for my liking!  H was only 4 months old last Halloween, so he didn't get to take part in the pumpkin decorating festivities.  This year, however, seemed like the perfect time to introduce a new Halloween tradition.  I'm sure that some day we'll transition into carving, but for now a pumpkin, drop cloth, muffin tin, paint and our fingers worked out perfectly!

Checking our our canvas
 He needed a little coaxing at first... 
 But then jumped right in!
 The makings of a masterpiece!
 Holy cow!  Is it just me or does he look like a TOTAL big boy here?! 
In the end, the pumpkin wasn't the only thing that got a makeover!  Here is H doing his new signature pose.  Who knows where he comes up with these things!

While H and I headed upstairs to wash off all of the paint that "missed" the pumpkin, daddy stayed behind and painted another very special pumpkin.  Have I ever mentioned here how much I love him?! 


Our pumpkins are painted and proudly displayed on our front porch, and Harrison's costume is ready for Thursday night.  We didn't trick-or-treat last year, so this will be a first for us as a family.  Stay tuned for lots of pictures of our little guy with his sweet cousin Benson.  

Hope you all have a very SPOOKY and HAPPY Halloween!