Thursday, May 30, 2013

Swinging Sweeties

"The Swing"

How do you like to go up in a swing?
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown -
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

~Robert Louis Stevenson







Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eleven Months and Counting

I'm in total denial that I'm already sitting down to write a post about my ELEVEN month old son.  Almost a year ago we packed our belongings, moved to Lincoln and 3 days later welcomed Harrison into our lives.  Now we find ourselves, a year later, preparing for another move and getting ready to celebrate his first birthday.  What a crazy year!

This month has been all about exploring.  Sir Harrison is constantly on the go and is loving his new found independence.  There's no denying that our little guy is leaving his baby stage behind and going full throttle toward toddlerhood.

Big developments this past month??

WE'VE GOT TEETH!  When Charlotte was a year old, she had a teeny tiny little corner of white poking through her gums, so I wasn't expecting to see your chompers for a while to come.  Two came through back to back and now you seem to be taking a little break.  

In the past month I have called you "Harrison Paul" more than I did in the 10 preceding months combined.  "Harrison Paul...that food is for the puppies."  "Harrison Paul...the carbon monoxide detector is not for little boys."  "Harrison Paul...we do not play with cords, the buttons on the cable box, or remote controls."  "Harrison Paul, please don't put that mulch in your mouth!"  Sometimes all that I have to do is clear my throat and you snap your head around to find me, realizing that you've been caught in the act!

You love to play "fetch" with your puppy, Maybe...though I don't think that she gets the greatest workout from your games.  
You are a speedy little guy!  It's the funniest thing to watch you crawl across the room at top speed...mostly because you pant like a dog the whole time!

One of the best parts of my day is when your daddy comes home.  Not because I'm glad to have the extra set of hands, but because of how excited you are to see him.  You flash him a killer grin, say "hhhaaaaaa" and make a bee line his direction.  Melt this mama's heart!

You LOVE books and I'll often spy you just sitting quietly by yourself flipping through their pages.  Favorites?  Ten Little Ladybugs and So Big (Elmo).  

You've got a ways to go before walking, but this month your confidence grew and you are officially pulling up on to things.  Your puppies are starting to realize that there are very few places that they can hide from you these days!

All of your laughs are belly laughs.  It's the best sound in the entire world.

Boy oh boy, do you like to eat!  Bananas, peas, quesadillas, spaghetti, toast....the list goes on and on!  That might help explain why I find myself dressing you in 12-18 month clothes.

Other highlights?  You constantly try to eat mulch, love to play outside, went on swings for the first time, continue to sleep like a rockstar (though bedtime seems to be getting later now that the sun stays out longer), squirm, splash and are constantly on the move in the bathtub, always get compliments on how "cool" your hair is (!), started showing your shy side - burying your head into my shoulder when someone new approaches us, throw a tantrum every single morning when I try to change your diaper.

I thought that getting Harrison to sit still for pictures this month was going to be the most challenging to date, but I was pleasantly surprised at how cooperative he was (for about 2 minutes!).   We took a record low 7 pictures and they might be my favorite so far!

His chubby little legs are the best!
Such a happy little guy 
 Mr. Giggles
 One last picture before he managed to wiggle out of his chair!



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weekending

I know that Sunday is typically dubbed the official "day of rest," but after a crazy weekend in the Ritchie house, we're assigning that title to Tuesday!  

I worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday (boooo)...so Matt was on kiddo duty.  

On Saturday they made a trip to Omaha.  While there, they paid a quick visit to Grammy and then met up with my family for some beach side fun!  My cousin and her family recently built a lake home and we are looking forward to spending LOTS of time there soaking up the sun.  I was jealous that I was stuck at work, but they made sure to send lots of pictures my way!
Apparently he's not a huge fan of life jackets!
On Sunday Matt and Harrison had a play date with our friends, the Metzlers.  Two generations of buddies in the making!  
On Monday, we loaded up the car and headed to Omaha for some more family fun.  My family has been getting together on Memorial Day for as long as I can remember, and I'm so excited to start the tradition with Mr. Harrison.  There's always an abundance of food, followed by out door activities and the annual golf tournament, the Corner Lot Memorial Day Open.  Funny...the only pictures that I took the whole day were of Harrison eating!


Chicken, peas, pasta, and his very first taste of watermelon!  YUMMY!
 Aunt Erin thought that he needed some practice for his birthday in a month and gave him a cake pop.  He dove right in!

 Hmmmmm.....maybe I need to keep closer tabs on Aunt Erin.  Later I walked into the garage and found a certain someone with Oreo salad all over his face.....
We headed home after dinner and some hula-hooping (good lord, I wish I would have gotten some video).  Harrison was extremely OVER tired and fought sleep the entire drive back to Lincoln.  I crawled into the back seat to help keep him entertained and ended up playing with his hair.  All of the sunscreen we'd been slathering on him all day made for some good styling product!  HA!
We made it home right before some summer thunderstorms rolled into town, have H a quick bath and settled down for a quiet night.  I went to lay my sweet baby down in bed, but I only made it to the door before I turned back around and scooped him up into my arms.   

My last perfect Memorial Day was in 2011...and it was followed up by the worst day of my life.  The day we said good-bye to sweet Charlotte.


This mama needed some snuggles. And snuggle we did.

Today is the day after Memorial Day.  A day where most people are dragging themselves back to work after a 3 day weekend.  A day that will forever and ever be a hard one for me for totally different reasons.  Today we are home.  We are playing.  We are packing.  We are enjoying one more day together.  

It is our day of rest.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Little Things

Today's post is a double dipper...I'm counting it as both Thursday and Friday's Month of Chuck.  While I had good intentions of a separate post for each day, sometimes life happens and things don't work out as planned.  Sometimes you have a crazy little boy to chase around the house and subsequently snuggle when he bonks his head a thousand times.  Sometimes you sit down at the computer and stare at a scribbled list of topics, and the words just won't come.

Last night after tucking Harrison in for the night, I sat down and started watching some old Charlotte videos.  Our old Flip camera sorts all of the videos you upload by month...and I quickly noticed that during May 2011, I took more videos of our little girl than I did any other month before then.  Our last month with Charlotte...the most memories captured on video.  So bitter sweet...had I known, I would have filmed every minute of every day.

I watched video after video.  
Laughed.
Cried.
Smiled.
Soaked in every detail that was her.


Those socks she's wearing at 1 year old?  They fit Harrison at 3 months.  She had the tiniest little feet.

Oh, poor baby and her bruised thighs.  She took those Lovenox shots like a champ.

Her noisy breathing...so much quieter than the squawking sound she made when we first brought her home.  

Her purple nail beds...more purple than I remembered.
Her rosy cheeks, goofy expressions, big beautiful eyes.

Potsy...a toy that Harrison plays with every day.  What a silly girl stirring its contents with her little feet.

Then there's her little chuckle after she quietly says "moo."  Always cracking herself up.

Sigh.

I don't know what made me pick up the camera that day to film such an average, everyday moment...but I thank God that I did.  

Oh, baby girl.  I miss you with all my heart.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FIRST Family Pictures

The other day I posted about family pictures...but it wasn't until this morning that I realized I forgot a very important image that day.  Our very FIRST family pictures with each of our kiddos.

Charlotte was born via c-section at 10:15 pm on May 14, 2010.  We got to see her briefly while they cleaned her up and did a quick examination, but then we went our separate ways -- me to surgical recovery, her to the NICU.  They rolled my bed down to see her that night, but with all of the excitement and activity over her little heart, we didn't get any pictures of the three of us.   

This picture was taken 2 days later as we prepared to send Charlotte off for her very first heart cath.   I look at this picture and see so many things....exhaustion that comes with having a sick child, fear of handing her over for the first time, a pesky breathing tube :(....but most of all I see an insane amount of love.  
Just over 2 years later, this next picture was taken - our very first family picture with our brand new baby boy.  It was so different the second time around...no NICU, no breathing tube, no asking if it was possible to hold our own child.  And though so very, very different, I look at this picture and again, my heart swells. 

So much love.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Books for Charley {2013} - An Update

We're officially 3 weeks in to this year's Books for Charley collection and still going strong.  Thank you to those of you who have already contributed to our collection, either through books or monetary donations.  So far we have 200 books in our posession with lots more that still waiting to be picked up.  I know that lots of you have told me that you have books ready....if that's the case, please let me know and we can come up with a time to meet up!  In addition to those books, we also have also received almost $800 in donations!  I'm SO excited to do some book shopping in a few weeks! 

There is still plenty of time to make donations.  We're still shy of our numbers from last year's collection, and while I know that its not all about volume, my competitive side always wants to go bigger and better!!  I've included donation information below, as well as a link to an Amazon.com wish list that we set up for the event.  If you order from this list, the books will be sent directly to us here in Nebraska...and even better yet, if you spend $25 the shipping is FREE!  Can't beat that!

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/Lincoln area. We've got family in all corners of town so we'll work out whatever is most convenient for you!

Harlan, IA donations: If you live in the Harlan area and would like to make a donation, books can be dropped off at 1407 Willow Street (Jan Goeser). Please contact her if you would like to coordinate a drop off.

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
2730 NW Dahlia Drive
Lincoln, NE 68524 

PayPal donations: Click HERE to be directed to the Charley's Heart website. From there, look for the "Donate Now" button on the right hand side of the screen. 

***NEW*** 

Amazon.com Wish List:  Click HERE to be taken to our Books for Charley wish list!  Right now there are 42 books remaining on the list...we would LOVE to get that number down to ZERO by the end of the month.  If you've already made a purchase through this link, THANK YOU! 


**Remember, the C.A.R. Alliance for Safer Teen Driving 2013 Walk/Run is THIS weekend.  I have to work (boo hoo) but some of Charlotte's biggest fans will be our representing Charley's Heart and helping collect books.  Click HERE to register.



Monday, May 20, 2013

Family Photos

Family pictures are bittersweet for me.  I love documenting our family at various stages, looking back and ooo-ing and awww-ing over how much little ones have changed in such a short time, thinking to myself "what was I thinking" with that hair, or "is Matt wearing the same cut-off shirt that he was wearing in our last picture?"  And while these images will always make me smile, they also make my heart hurt knowing that they will forever be somewhat incomplete. 

There will be "before" pictures.  Photos of our happy family of three. 

Fourth of July 2010
 Christmas 2010
 Charlotte's 1st birthday party
And then there will be "after" pictures.  Photos that once again make us look like a happy family of three...when really we are three plus one.  A mom.  A dad.  A smiling baby boy.  And the spirit of a sister gone too soon.

Christmas 2011 - Don't our pups look thrilled? 
June 26, 2012 - Taken just hours before meeting sweet Harrison
 Christmas 2012
There are no photos of Charlotte meeting her baby brother for the first time.
No images of her sweetly kissing him on his newborn baby forehead or trying to poke his eye out.
No crazy moments spent trying to get both kiddos to look at the camera at the same time.

And even though she is not physically in these pictures, I still see bits of here in each of them.  Whether it be through a picture within a picture, a heart sweater so aptly named the "Charley," or a little teddy bear that her brother has fallen in love with.

Harrison meeting Charley Bear for the first time.
 That little bear quickly became a big part of bedtime
 Moments like this...sigh...

She is always with us.  Forever a part of our family. 
Our photos may feel incomplete, but her spirit makes our hearts whole.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This is Where We'll Keep Our Stuff

Things are moving along, slowly but surely, out at the ol' homestead.  There have been a few hiccups in our timeline (which are driving me insane), but so far we've been told that our closing date is still well within reach.  I feel like I've been incredibly patient up to this point, but as we get closer and closer, I really just want things to move forward as planned!

A few weeks back they came and installed all of our cabinets (mudroom, kitchen, bathrooms, laundry). Trim was supposed to start the following Monday...two weeks later it's actually going to happen.  Rather than sit here and stew about it (which I REALLY want to do), I thought that I would share some pictures!  All of the wood that you see is still unfinished.  We opted for a shade of white for the cabinets/trim throughout--wish us luck keeping it all clean with a messy little boy in the house!

Mudroom - There will be hooks across the back for y'all to hang your coats on when you come to visit.  
Living room view from kitchen
Kitchen - I'm already planning our first home cooked meal and envisioning family congregating around our huge center island.  The kitchen is really the heart of the home, right?!
 I've never really understood the fascination with huge whirlpool tubs, so we had them remove the one originally in our plans and replaced it with a wrap around vanity for yours truly.  Call me lazy, but I'm super excited to have a chair to sit in while I dry my hair in the morning! 
 This is where our double vanity was supposed to be (before we took out the tub).  Now it's been transformed into a linen cupboard and a space for Matt to make himself all pretty.  We had ZERO storage in our old master bath, so this will be a huge change for us!

Little by little things are coming together and this frame of wood and drywall is starting to look like the place we'll call home.  Each day I get a little bit more excited and often catch myself daydreaming about the love that will fill these rooms.  We're so ready to have that settled feeling again, and to start making memories in this new place.  So close now....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sweet, Sweet Birthday Boy

People come into your path for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you know which one it is, you will know what to do with that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON it's usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a dificulty…
To provide you with guidance and support…
To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually…
They may seem like they are a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, 
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die…
Sometimes they walk away…
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand….
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled…

Their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has now been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON.
Because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons.
Things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life…
Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime.

~ unknown author

In the early hours of the morning on December 11, 2010, I found myself tossing and turning on a make-shift "bed" in the Omaha Children's Hospital PICU.  Charlotte had had a heart cath earlier that day and was doing a lot of tossing and turning of her own, making sleep quite unproductive for both of us.  As I was laying there, cursing under my breath and desperate for just a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, I heard a sound that froze me in my tracks. The sound of a hospital "code blue".  Suddenly my lack of sleep seemed totally irrelevent and I was shocked back into the scary reality of the PICU.  Still wrapped in my blanket, I shuffled over to Charlotte's bed, kissed her forehead and said a quiet prayer for the family that was on the opposite side of that horrible, horrible alarm. 

A few weeks later I was sitting at home in Sioux Falls when I got a text message from a fellow heart mom.  She told me that she was going to meet a heart mom at the hospital and that her baby boy could use some extra prayers. She also passed along the Caring Bridge site documenting his story.  That night after Charlotte went to bed, I logged onto CB and quickly became engrossed in the story of a little boy named Kale who was born just 3 days after Charlotte.  He was admitted to the hospital in November for a heart cath and surgery and had been having a rough recovery.  I was reading the journal entries from the beginning, each documenting the ups and downs of Kale's admission, when I found myself staring blankly at the words on the screen, my stomach suddenly in my throat..."December 11, 2010...Around 4:20 this morning, Kale crashed."  Crashed.  Code blue.  Kale was the little boy that Charlotte and I had prayed for that night in the PICU.

Charlotte was admitted to Children's for surgery a few weeks after I was introduced to Kale through CB, and while recovering in the PICU, Matt and I had the opportunity to meet his parents.  They were complete strangers to us, yet through Kale's CB site I felt like we knew them...it's funny how that happens in the "Heart"land.  Day in and day out, we watched as Brent and Abbie sat by Kale's bedside, walked the halls of the PICU, and loved on their little boy.  I knew that they had to be exhausted after spending 2 months in the hospital, but I also knew that they would do anything and everything that the could for their son. 

Charlotte was discharged from the hospital 10 days after surgery, and we headed back to Sioux Falls.  While we were trying to adjust back to home, we were also keeping tabs on how Mr. Kale was doing back in Omaha.  There were rumblings of a possible transfer to St. Louis for transplant, and we were hopeful that the pieces would all fall into place.  Then one afternoon, I logged into CB...immediately I felt as though someone had punched me in the gut.  After his long, hard fight to survive, Kale had been called home to Jesus.  I cried...no...I sobbed.  I remember feeling so angry and heart broken.  I couldn't even begin to wrap my brain around it all.  Even now I have a lump in my throat and tears threatening to pour down my cheeks.  I knew that his poor heart was sick...but a heart mommy always believes in miracles, even for a child that is not her own.


I will never understand why God called Kale home when he did, but I will say that after losing Charlotte it became increasingly clear to me why He brought Brent and Abbie into our lives.  Our paths, while so very different, have many striking similarities.  We've known love.  We've known loss and indescribable heartache.  We've both been blessed with second chances.  And while I HATE that their family knows the pain of losing a child, it's comforting to have a friend who "gets it"...someone who truly understands. 


On March 16, my sister Angie sent me this picture of a heart shaped leaf that she saw while out on a walk.  If nothing else, Charlotte truly taught us to take notice of the beauty of life's simplest moments.
The very next day I got a message from Kale's mom, Abbie.  It turns out that her little guy was busy sending special messages from Heaven as well!  I like to think that Charlotte an he put their heads together and came up with a plan to send their mommies some extra love that night!

I believe that this little boy and his mommy and daddy were brought into my life for a REASON, a SEASON and a LIFETIME.  I hate that they had to say good bye (for now) to sweet Kale, yet my heart smiles knowing that Charlotte has a very special friend up in Heaven...especially during weeks like this when their are birthdays to celebrate!

Happy 3rd birthday, sweet Kale! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Birthday Re-Cap

A HUGE thank you to all of you for sending us extra love, support, texts, emails...you name it...on Wednesday as we celebrated miss Charlotte's 3rd birthday.  I know that it might not seem like much to you, but every single word of encouragement or acknowledgement makes hard days just a little more "do-able". 
We had a pretty busy day, full of all things Charlotte.  We started out with a morning walk (to beat the forecasted 100 degree heat!)  While we were out we saw our very first butterfly of the season. I shouldn't be surprised...our little girl always finds a way to make her presence known.

After a divine 3 hour nap (for Harrison, not me) we opened some packages that came in the mail.  Books for Charley!!!  Thanks to H, each one has been thoroughly inspected and is ready to go to Children's Hospital later this summer!
That's not all that came in the mail!  NamNam, PopPop and Uncle Abe sent Charlotte a birthday card and included a special t-shirt as well.  I'm so in love...the back says "Home of the loose meat, loose meat, loose meat sandwich."  Hahahaha!  Made my day!
When Matt got home from work, we wrote birthday wishes on balloons and sent them off to the heavens. 
 And then sang "Happy Birthday" and blew out 3 candles.
 The bakery where I bought the cupcakes had bite-sized samples of their strawberry shortcake variety (white cake, strawberry filling, whipped cream on top)  I snagged one for Harrison and I'm pretty sure it blew his mind.  Totally devoured in about 2 minutes.
 After dinner we headed out to watch Matt play sand volleyball.  It was Harrison's first sand experience and he thought it was delicious wonderful!  Afterwards, we came home to an 85 degree, AC-less house (BOOOOOO).  Rather than suffer through the night, we set up camp in the basement and had a family slumber party.  This little guy was BEAT after a long day of birthday celebrations and totally crashed.  He totally melts me when he snuggles with his Charley Bear (Thank you, Aunt Jessy!)


As I said last year in my birthday re-cap...
Our new birthday traditions are not ideal, but they are our reality.  
May 14, 2013 and every May 14 from here until eternity we will celebrate...
...no matter how much it hurts.