Monday, September 23, 2013

Books for Charley {2013}

Book collections the whole month of May.
A big move and birthday celebrations in June.
Chaos, catching up and book orders in July and August.
And FINALLY (yes, FINALLY) a big donation to Omaha Children's Hospital and Medical Center in September!

Two Thursdays ago Harrison, his grandmas and I loaded up our vehicles (it took 3 to carry all of our books!) and headed to the hospital.  As I drove, Harrison strapped in his carseat in the back, I couldn't help but think back to our first donation back in 2011.  It was just 3 months after Charlotte had died and it was my first trip to Children's without her.  It took every bit of will power that I had not to turn around and drive back home to Sioux Falls...I was shakey...nauseous...terrified.  Fast forward two years, and I was actually looking forward to walking through those doors.  The employees at Children's will always and forever be an important part of our lives, and seeing them always warms my heart.  They loved (and still love!) or little Charlotte so much.  Having Harrison along certainly didn't hurt either!  I know that he doesn't understand the significance of "donation day" yet, but I'm so excited for him to grow up with Books for Charley as a part of his life and for him to understand the importance doing for others.

We arrived at Children's at 10:00 and were met by two smiling faces that we have come to know quite well over the past 2 years.  Rob and Cheri helped us get everything unloaded onto a large cart and moved into the lobby.  
Once there, we had the chance to catch up a little and even ran into a few of our FAVORITE ladies from the cath lab.  Talk about a bonus!  I wish I would have remembered to take more pictures...go figure!  
 Holy cow I can't believe how much Harrison has grown since last year's drop off!  And to think that next year there will be another little one in tow!
When it was all said and done, our local Books for Charley event was able to donate 1,185 books to Omaha Children's Hospital.  ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE BOOKS!!  I always fear that the excitement around this program will die out, but once again I was proven wrong.  2013 was our biggest year yet and things are showing no signs of stopping. 

South Carolina - 84 books
University of Iowa Children's Hospital - 167 books
Texas Children's Hospital - 500 books
Children's Hospital of Orange County - 300 books
Waverly and Sumner Hospitals (Iowa) - 213 books
Duke Medical Center - 46 books
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital - 150 books
Omaha Children's Hospital and Medical Center - 1,185 books

2013 Books for Charley - 2,645 books

That's 500 more books than we collected last year!

I know that I say this about 200 times every year, but THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to each and every one of you who helped out with this year's collection.  There is no way that we could do it without you.  I hope that you realize how much happiness a simple book can bring to a kiddo who is stuck in the 4 walls of a hospital room or preparing for scary procedures.  And to our fellow Books for Charley heart are amazing.  I'm amazed at how much this little books drive has grown and that is all thanks to you (big virtual heart mama group hug!)  I love you all!

Surprisingly enough, we already have a small stock pile of books being gathered for our 2014 Books for Charley collection.  Remember that even though the official event takes place in May, we never turn away donations.  So keep having those Books for Charley birthday parties, setting out those collection boxes, keeping eyes out for book sales and telling your friends to do the same!  And if there are any heart families out there who would like to join us in coming years by holding donations for your personal hero hospitals....PLEASE let us know (  

Thanks again for a wonderful year and for helping us celebrate sweet Charlotte!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Boy and His Bear

One of these bears is not like the other.
One is worn ragged.  Two are not.
One is stinky.  Two are not.
One has had the fuzzy coating on its nose sucked off.  Two have not.

I know that I've mentioned this sweet little Charley Bear here before.  We received our very first little bear as a gift from my cousin's family.  It sat on our dresser for awhile, and then I came home one December afternoon to see that Matt had transformed it into the most perfect Christmas tree topper.  One year later, my best friend (Harrison's "Aunt" Jessy) got one for him as a gift.  I knew immediately that that little bear was going to be a very special friend for Harrison...but I don't think I realized just how much so!

He carries her around in his mouth like a puppy.
Holds her hand in his sleep.
Keeps her close by his side where ever he goes.
We even found him hanging out in his future big boy room with her...feet crossed, chewing on her nose.
The more and more that he fell in love with his Charley Bear, the more I started to realize that back-ups were in order.  I purchased 2 "understudy" bears off of Amazon and was so excited to see his reaction to his new fluffy friend.  The scene that ensued was not what I had hoped for.  Yes, his eyes lit up when I pulled Charley Bear II.  Yes, he snatched her from my hands and pulled her nose to his face in true Harrison-Charley Bear fashion.  But that's where my brilliant plan fell apart.  He immediately detected the switch, pulled the imposter back to examine her, then chucked her to the floor of my in-laws car.  I was busted.  That night I put him into his with a new bear (he had fallen asleep in the car so I thought I was safe)....until I heard him start crying at midnight (totally not like him).  I stumbled into his room only to find him sitting up in his crib with tears running down his face and Charley Bear II thrown out onto the floor.  Busted again. 

Harrison has won the battle, but he has not won the war.  I caved and gave him back his stinky bear, but I'm continually making attempts to "break in" the newer version.  I've taken one to daycare.  I leave the old bear in his crib while the new one is strategically placed among his other toys.  I've even resorted to this....

Yup...a true desparation move!  

Yet the truth remains, as much as I would like to have a clean bear rotation, my heart is really just happy that he loves that bear like he does.  Stink and all, it melts my heart.  Charley Bear may be just a snuggly stuffed bear to our sweet Harrison, but to his daddy and I, she is so much more.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Our First Look

Yesterday was a big day in the Ritchie household - a day that had us all full of excitement and anxiety all at the same time.  When the doctor's office called me a month ago and scheduled our 20-week anatomy scan for Friday the 13th, I pretty much convinced myself that we were going to hear that there was something wrong.  Silly?  Yes.  But I don't think that you can blame me.  Most people look forward to these appointments, but I get more and more "ugh" as the day inches closer.  I tossed and turned the entire night before and felt like I was mentally preparing myself for a bomb to drop.  Don't get me wrong...the first time I lay eyes on that little black and white image of our child, my heart melts.  Healthy, "broken-hearted"...I love them all the same...but I'm fearful none-the-less. 

Yesterday morning, Matt and I sat together in a darkened sonogram room as an ultrasound tech gave us our first peek at Baby Ritchie #3. 

And he was perfect.

Perfect heart.
Only a heart parent gets a huge smile on their face when the doctor says "look at those big juicy ventricles!"
Perfect thumb-sucking profile.

Perfectly perfect baby boy.

We'll get a much closer look at this little boy's ticker in another month when we have our fetal echo, but we're definitely breathing a little easier after our preliminary peek.  Big sister undoubtedly had a hand in keeping him safe and sound in there! 

Thanks to all of you for the kind words and well wishes yesterday.  Sometimes I forget just how many people we have helping us through this crazy life.  Every text, prayer, and "congratulations" helped make yesterday a pretty amazing one.  We can't begin to thank you enough.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Harry's World

After finishing up a full year of "birthday" posts on the 26th of each month, I thought that I would try to stretch things out a little further to give my updates a little more substance.  Well, here I am, two months and 16 days later....seriously missing my monthly posts!  I was going to wait a few more weeks until the 26th, but there are just too many things going on in Mr. Harrison's world to hold off any longer.

So let's get to it little boy!  Here's are some bits and pieces of what you're up to at fourteen and one-half months!

You, sweet Harrison, are a total ham.  It takes you a little bit to warm up to a new crowd, but once you do....holy cow.  You play peek-a-boo behind the ottoman, show off your killer dance moves, spin around on the floor, belly flop onto pillows, tell stories in a language all your own...the list goes on and on.  You are such a happy little boy, full of grins and giggles!
Your first steps may have resembled a drunken stumble, but it didn't take long for you gain confidence on your feet.  It's almost hard to remember a time when you weren't walking all over the place!  In true Harrison form you are busy, busy, busy and move with impressive speed.  Your favorite is running away from daddy when he sneaks up on you, repeating "I'm gonna get you, I'm gonna get you."  It usually ends with tickles that fill our house with laughter.  

You're 100% boy and have the bumps and bruises to prove it.  Just when one forehead goose-egg is starting to heal, you go and bonk your head again.  Right now you have a pretty killer yellow/green camoflage bruise!   

Mr. Bruiser snapping a "selfie"
Your mama comes from a long line of chatter-boxes, so it's no surprise that you are quite vocal as well.  There's a lot of jibberish to be heard in our house, but from time to time you do throw some English into the mix!  So far we've heard dada, daddy, mama, mommy, puppy, ba (ball), nana (banana), up, hi, hat, boo (moo), baa, PopPop, and various car/truck sounds!  The first thing out of your mouth every single morning is "whassat?" as you point at something in your room.  From there, we continue to answer that curious question approximately 1,000 more times throughout the day.  I was peeling a banana for your breakfast the other day when you pointed and said "whassat?"  I turned the tables on you and replied "I don't know Harry, what do you think it is?"  Your response?  A bashful grin and a confident "nana!"  I love watching you learn!

Your fascination with balls (or anything else you can throw for that matter) continues. Your eyes light up when you see one.  We're slowly learning which things that are ok to throw (balls, rocks in the driveway, toys from the water table) and those that are best left alone (cell phones, remotes, food).  

Rock heaven 
You continue to eat like a horse and have very little patience when it comes to waiting for meals.  You like most everything, though fruit is an obvious favorite. Other front runners include raisins, pasta, green beans, peas, ice cream and anything off of mom and dad's plates.  You're still fitting into a size 4 diaper and wear a size 18 month in most of your clothes.

No kidding...he walked over to me, stole my apple and walked away 

Other odds and ends...You've perfected the art of the tantrum, have your 4 front teeth, love to read books (especially if they are about animals or trucks), are great at entertaining yourself, love being around other kiddos, splash in the dog bowls (a total no no), refuse to stay sitting in the bathtub and can't decide if your a 1 or a 2 nap guy and haven't had a bottle in months!

Life at the Ritchie house is as busy as ever, and we're loving every minute of it!  You make our hearts smile, sweet Harrison, and we thank God for our time with you every single day.

Happy 14 months and 16 days :) 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hurricane Season

Hurricane season has officially hit the Ritchie house.  I know that they normally assign each major storm a unique name...but after yesterday, I think we're just going to stick with Hurricane Harry all season long!

The first victim of the storm was an innocent roll of toilet paper.
When things got boring in the bathroom, it moved onto the office....
and then the kitchen...
followed by the pantry.
Our clean house hasn't been the only casualty of the storm.  Poor old mom took a beating as well.
And just when I thought that a new day would bring a different forecast...Hurricane Harry was back in full effect.  
According to the Weather Channel, hurricane season ends in late November.  Something tells me that the same timeline won't hold true for Hurricane Harry.  He appears to be here to stay!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Farm

We've been in our new home for a little over two months now...and I've been "kindly reminded" on various occasions that while I posted lots of photos of the house as a work in progress, I've never shared any of the actual finished product!  In all honesty, that's probably because things out here on the farm still feel like a work in progress.  We've learned fairly quickly that a life on an acreage is a busy life.  There is ALWAYS something to do.  It doesn't help that things were in pretty rough shape when we bought our land...we've spent most of the summer just trying to get a little bit ahead of the game and coming up with a plan to "minimize" parts of our routine maintenance in future years.  

Having said that...most of our time these past few months have been spent working on the OUTSIDE of the house (translation...I'm not quite ready to give a grand finale tour of the INSIDE!)  Exterior pictures are better than nothing, right??

This, folks, is our home.  Not our house....our home.  A place where we look forward to raising our family, creating memories, and growing old together.  We absolutely love it.

We inherited a lot of landscaping when we purchased this lot.  Landscaping that had been severely neglected for a few years prior to us building here.  What you see here are the two berms (one close, another seen in the distance) that span the front edge of our property.  These berms, while beautiful, are a heck of a lot of work.  We've spent hours out here trying to keep the weeds at bay.  We've got big plans for these babies and are hoping that we can cut back on the time we have to spend out here in the future!
 When I tell people that we have 3.2 acres, I'm usually met with blank stares and questions like "how big is that?"  Since I don't have a concrete answer to HOW BIG it is, I thought I would take a few pictures to give you a better idea.  This first picture is from the front corner furthest from the house (down by berm #2).
 Walk down the property line to the corresponding back corner, and this is what you see.  
This corner is home to some raised planter beds that the previous owners installed.  Right now they are dry and full of dead weeds (and a random tree!) but we hope to develop some green thumbs and plant a garden in the next few years.  Our blackberry bush has given me the itch to grow more things!
Speaking of the blackberry she is in all of her unsightly glory.  This is what it looked like when we discovered it, gangly and growing into a trampoline that used to be out here as well.  I'm trying to do some research on what I need to do to whip her back into shape....but if there are any experts out there, I'd love to get some advice!
This is the other back corner.  This side of the property is butted up to an empty lot if anyone is interested in being our neighbors!  Right now its farmland that the owners rent out...we would much rather have some people there!
 This shot looks up toward the last corner of the house.  We've got white rock leading the way up to our actual concrete driveway.  It might be Harrison's favorite place to hang out.  Lots of rocks = lots of things to throw!
And last but not least, here is the view from our back porch.  Its pretty perfect if you ask me....ideal for sitting outside, grilling our dinner and enjoying a cold drink while H and the puppies enjoy their new-found space. The fenced in portion of the yard looks pretty darn good for having our sod laid in the middle of JULY!  We know that we've got a lot of years ahead of us before everything looks nice and pretty, but for now it's nice to have this happy green space!  
So there you have it...the official tour of the Ritchie farm (a blackberry bush makes it a farm, right?).  My goal is to take these same pictures every least for that we can look back and see just how far things have come.  It's easy to become overwhelmed with our massive to-do list and the photos will be the perfect reminder of the progress that has been made!

I hope this holds the wolves off for a bit longer until I'm ready to snap some indoor photos! :)