I'm baaacckk-with BIG news!

Well it's been a while, but I'm here now after taking a few months off from blogging. I didn't really plan it, I just went on vacation this summer and never quite picked it back up....then it felt good to not feel like I had to write something for a while too. I love to write, but y'all know what I mean, sometimes its just good to NOT have to do something for a while. But boy, how life has changed....and I do mean BOY!

Yup, the Mr. and I found out at the end of August that WE'RE PREGNANT!!! Since then we found out we are expecting a little baby boy and he's due to arrive May 5, 2012. Cinco de Mayo...this kid knows how to party already ;) Thrilled and excited do not begin to describe our anticipation for this child! We are just so, SO overjoyed to know in just 4 months we'll be holding our son. Here are some pregnancy pictures for ya...

Months 1-4...I'm not sure where month 3 is and we took month 5 pictures with my new camera...that my husband doesn't know how to work...and they were very blurry. So we will be re-taking those and I will share when we do. I've just started to "pop" out a little bit, but up until Christmas Day it didn't really look like anything from the front. Here's a picture of me right at 5 month's with our cousins the weekend before Christmas and I don't even look pregnant!

So, I am kinda happy that now the belly is starting to kinda look like a pregnant belly and not just like I'm getting fat. 

Well, this pregnancy has been quite eventful, to say the least. At my 9 week ultrasound my doctor found a large, grapefruit-sized ovarian cyst. Apparently they are normal in pregnancy but mine was already double the "normal" size they usually are. So at 14 weeks she did another ultrasound and it looked to be either two large cysts or the one had grown into one enormous cyst. I was sent to Duke a week later for more specific measurements and at that appointment the doctor said I needed surgery to remove this as soon as possible. What???!!!! Excuse me? I'm pregnant, I'm not supposed to be having surgery! The doctor didn't agree :/ He said if we didn't remove it now then it would continue to grow and eventually rupture or cause my ovary to twist and either would be an "emergency situation", extremely painful and would require emergency surgery. Obviously that would also be a higher risk to the baby's health than if we would have a calm, planned surgery to remove it. So, on the day we found out this baby was a little boy, we also found out that on November 30th I would also be having major abdominal surgery. No tiny laproscopic incision's here.

VERY begrudgingly I had the surgery. I had never even been put under anesthesia let alone been operated on before. The day before the surgery I was told I was going to have a vertical incision that would run from the bottom of my belly to my belly-button and maybe over that. Not only that but I was told about their worries that this cyst was cancerous because of it's abnormal growth and appearance. So it would be sent off to oncology to be tested and I would get results a week later. Oh, and they also said they were going to remove the ovary that the cyst was attached to. Well, with all that new information it put me in one.bad.mood. all day long and scared me even more. And I was most scared that the baby wouldn't survive! I was only 17 weeks along the day of the surgery and they said if I went into labor and delivered then there would be nothing they could do to help the baby to survive because he was just too early.

However, God blew our socks off! He was so good to me and our baby! The surgery was over in an hour-it was supposed to be two-and the doctor had great news. They didn't know until they got into surgery but I did not have an ovarian cyst at all!! Nope, it was a really rare and benign tumor growing from behind my uterus. So that means they didn't have to remove my ovary, and that it was not cancerous!!! Amazing. Also, the best news of all, my little baby is quite the tough little guy. He survived and his heartbeat stayed so strong through everything. Praise the Lord! He was actually taken out of my body {still in utero} for them to perform the surgery and they wrapped it in warm wet cloths in order to not shock him. Isn't that wild!? So does this mean I have to throw him a birthday party every November and May??? And if all that wasn't perfect enough as is, God cares about even the small things too. The doctors at the last minute decided to not to a vertical incision, but rather a low, horizontal one more like a C-section. It is higher than a C-section and longer too, but its better than looking like I had been gutted! The Lord answered all our prayers and even more and we couldn't feel more blessed.

Since then I've been out from work and won't go back until January 16. I have been so blessed by family and friends who have cooked for us and provided us with gift cards for meals, and helped us out in any way they could. But I really couldn't have made it through without Daniel. The first 5 days after surgery were hell. It was just awful. I was in extreme pain and I literally couldn't do anything on my own. He had to do everything for me, and he did and he never complained but was such an amazing rock! Daniel was cheery and encouraging and offered to do anything before I even asked. I am SO lucky! After 3 days I went home and he continued to take care of me, the house and work full-time. 

I kind of feel like even though it was terrible our church got struck by lightning back in June leaving the pastors without an office until the building was repaired, it has been a blessing in disguise for us. Daniel has been working from home and because of that he could still work and just check on me in the next room then get right back to work. It has been so nice to have him around too.

So even though I took a long break from blogging, I feel like maybe it was God's perfect timing knowing I was going to have more than enough to worry about. I have followed everyone else, especially now that I've been home, but I'm glad to be back. I'm recovering well and feeling closer to normal everyday-the hard part is over now :)

Ugh, I'm so long-winded. I was trying to make this as short as possible. Tonight we are going out with friends to ring in the New Year!!! I'm so excited for this since I missed all the Christmas parties and fun festivities because of recovery. We are excited for 2012 because it is the year we will become parents, and life will forever change for us. I hope you all have a Happy New Year! Stay safe!


Homemade Organic Raspberry Jam

I have seen lots of easy-peasy jam recipes recently and was inspired to try one out. There was a sale on organic Raspberry's at my Harris Teeter so that was the berry of choice! Hopefully these steps make sense.

You will need:

6 cups of fresh raspberries {about 5 of the 6oz cartons}

mixing bowl
one box of fruit pectin {huh? that's what I said....I used Sure Jell which I found with canning supplies}
one pot
3/4 cups water
5 1/4 cups sugar
8 half-pint mason jars {even though the recipe called for that I only filled up 7 jars}

Before you start anything else, rinse all your mason jars and lids in boiling water.

Dry jars thoroughly.

While waiting for jars to dry I rinsed my raspberries then used a biscuit cutter to begin smashing them. It was a great way to get out frustrations, I highly recommend it as the medicine for a hard day!

You'll get a soupy mixture like that last picture above. Now it's time to strain out the seeds and chunks you don't want. I didn't want a chunky jam so I strained...a LOT!

THEN add all that sugar!

I gave that a good stir then put the water in the pot and turned up the heat. Pour in the Sure Jell and let it come to a boil for one minute, but stir constantly.

Then pour the pectin straight into the raspberry mash and stir for 3 minutes.

 Now, grab those mason jars and begin filling them. You'll really be able to feel the mixture turning into jam when you start scooping! I just used a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop mine. Just stop about 1/2 inch below the top of the jar.

Almost done....don't they look pretty?! Wipe the tops of all the jars to make sure nothing spilled before you seal them with their lids.

Viola! Homemade organic raspberry jam all year-round! This stuff keeps in the fridge for 3 weeks and will freeze for a year-just thaw in the refrigerator before using. I've already gone through half a jar in my house, the rest are frozen and I think I'll be giving some away. 

Also, since I have 5 unused mason jars and I saw that blackberries are on sale this week at Harris Teeter I might be making some of that soon too! I'll post if I do.

Summer is winding down and that means berry season will too. Before it does get some of those end of season sales and make some of this jam for your family! Mister has already told me that I screwed myself with this one-I am never allowed to buy jam again, I must make it. Haha, I think he was just trying to be sweet. Good luck and let me know if you try this!


Who Knew?

 Where oh where has my summer gone to? That's what I find myself saying/thinking multiple times a day lately. Whoa, but I do have two weeks until I have to go back to work.....but one week is taken up by VBS at church. So one week....which we will be spending on vacation at the beach, woohoo!!

Did y'all know a great way to find vacations at a great price is to go on Craigslist? Now, you do have to be careful of scammers as always, however, if you're smart about it then you can find an amazing deal. My super awesome husband was bound and determined to find us a place at the beach so he looked everywhere and found us a great house for an even better price on Emerald Isle for 6 days and 5 nights!! Can we say, saawweeeet!

A lot of people posting are homeowners who need to fill a week quickly if someone backed out at the last minute so they are willing to drop their prices. I would have never thought to look at Craigslist but there ya go. Now we are dreaming of being there in a week from today.....ahhhh.

So now I'm thinking of the things I need to get/do before we hit the beach:
more beach towels-two for two people and one dog just will not do.
beach chairs
bug spray
more sunscreen
make a menu for our week at the beach
do lots of laundry

Sorry, this was a short post with no pictures, just wanted to say What's up! to all y'all Southern ladies out there. So, have you gone on vacation yet this summer or are you anticipating it like me?


August Goals

I love looking through our vacation pictures from years past. This is when Daniel and I went with my family on vacation to Topsail Island last summer. Growing up we always rented an oceanfront house there every summer for one week. I love it more than any other place for vacation. This summer we are so busy that we are missing family vacation....super sad day! We're hoping to find a few days before I have to go back to work but I don't know if it will happen this year? But there is a lot for me to get done this month so here are my monthly goals!

{August 2011 Goals}
Paint guest bedroom nightstand white.
Plan VBS lessons to teach.
Teach VBS...pray for me, I do NOT want to do this!
Paint scripture painting for our house.
Paint picture for Daniel
Start planning exciting things for the girls of our youth group!!!
Go back to work...waahhhhh!
Come up with a solution for living room end table.
Buy a third Moroccan mirror for the living room-two just looks off.
Finish reading both summer books and start a third.
After a summer of eating fast food and camp food with the youth it is time to diet and detox!
Finish making my flower pillow.
Make it to the beach at least for a day!!
Spend a lot of time by the pool.

So, do any of you have goals you want to accomplish before the month is over? It's the last full month of summer, soak it up people!


Oh, hello there!

So, it's summer now and my vacation from blogging is over I suppose. I didn't intentionally set out to take a break from blogging it just sort of happened. We stay busy in the summer with graduation stuff, camps, mission trips, etc. and so when we do happen to be home we want to do absolutely nothing! On top of that our church caught fire at the beginning of summer which has thrown us out of whack for a little while. But churches are just buildings and can be repaired.

I thought the best way to catch up on the last few months was to do one of my favorite things-make a list. So in the last few months.....

-Daniel was a camp speaker in Birmingham, Alabama for a week.
-We took our youth group to one of our favorite places/home/family, Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters for a week of camp. 
-Daniel's teenage cousin stayed with us for two weeks.
-I have dived head first into yoga classes at my gym and am in love with it now.
-We went to a friend's outdoor wedding in the rain and it was beautiful!
-Just got back from another camp with the youth group.
-Celebrated Daniel's 27th birthday!
-I got laid off from my job due to budget cuts and then got re-hired and moved to a different school but same position...and I am not very excited about going back to work.
-A whole chapter of my teenage-adult years ended when I went to see the last Harry Potter movie ever :(
-I began reading "Radical" by David Platt and it is challenging me and how I live in huge ways!!
-I have gone whitewater rafting, super slip and sliding, canoed myself across a lake and back, swung off of rope swings, laid on a dock in the sun and under the stars, been bitten by mosquitoes, have too many bruises to count and lived in bathing suits, sunscreen and bug spray for months....and loved every.single.minute!

Here are a few pictures from Snowbird:

I could write for days about these pictures,and I have about 300 more that I didn't post! However, the greatest thing about it was that we saw student's lives changed! God moved in their hearts and we are already seeing the fruit of it from some of them!!! Praise God! Snowbird is by far the most fun camp out there, but that is not why we take our students there. It is because they are challenged spiritually unlike any other camp I have ever been to or seen. They talk to the students like adults, and don't sugar coat baby bible stories for them. It's amazing what happens at Snowbird. Check out the website, download a few pod-casts and see if it challenges you too-it does for me, every time!

One thing I haven't mentioned yet which is the biggest thing that happened this summer in my opinion is our 5th anniversary! It was two days ago on July 29th. I am so proud to have been married to Daniel Paul Ritchie for 5 years!! It wasn't the most romantic day ever, unfortunately. Our church had booked it's kids camp during that time so we were traveling home that day from camp and after unpacking, getting kids home and our luggage in the house it was almost 2pm. We collapsed, took naps, showered then headed to Raleigh to pick up our dog from my parents house. Since we had to go to Raleigh, we decided to have dinner and dessert there as well. It was a hot summer night but we made the best of it. I couldn't imagine being married to anyone other than Daniel, he is my best friend and there is no one I want to spend time with more than him. Here is to 5 years and hopefully 100 more!

5 years later and I love him so much more! I love you Daniel, and I love living this life with you!


Message in the Mirror Mondays

"I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in his toil-this is God's gift to man."
-Ecclesiastes 3:12&13

Life has been very busy for me lately, but this verse reminds me that all my toil and work everyday is to be enjoyed. I need to be joyful and do good, and eating, drinking and taking pleasure in my work is God's gift to me. 

I think this verse is really great for right now as summer is around the corner. For me personally, my soul feels the most free, carefree and joyful in the summer. That is the time that I really do find joy in things like a good meal with friends, salt water in my hair, warm nights outside...I could go on and on. I hope this verse is encouraging to y'all this week.


May Goals.

::May Goals::
Exercise 3 days a week.
Finish spring cleaning around the house.
Participate in the 30-Hour Famine with our youth group May 6-7.
Go to a sweet girl's dance recital.
Swap out winter clothes for summer clothes-yay for shorts!
Take youth group to a concert on May 21.
Go to Charleston, SC with two of my best girlfriends for a GIRLS WEEKEND!
Catch up on my journaling.
Help host Charis Mother's Day Banquet at church on May 20.
Unveil new logo for the youth group {tonight!}.
Take a relaxing bath at some point and slow down {if I can}.

May is busy for me, but I'm always prepared for it because every year May is just a busy month. It kicks of crazy summer time for the Mister and I. With him being a youth pastor and I the trusty side-kick summer is a whirlwind for us and it already looks like we will be gone at least 4 weeks, and knowing us, even longer. See, crazy, but we love it. 

If you have any goals, to-dos, wanna-dos or wannabes then leave 'em in the comments!


Message in the Mirror Mondays

A favorite verse of mine that I really need this week.

"From the ends of the earth I call out to You, I call as my heart grows faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
 -Psalm 61:2-

This girl is hanging on that truth this week.

Check back tomorrow for May goals!


The Royal Wedding

Who else got up at 4am to stumble out of bed and watch the Wedding of the Century as I like to call it? If you did then you know it was worth it, and if not then I've got a re-cap for you. 

 This is what we were all waiting for people! What will she wear?? Well, here it is. A dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. I had a feeling it would be quite modest since she is normally, let alone at her wedding, the royal wedding. While it is nothing that I would wear, I think for the future Queen of England it was the right choice. She is young and so had a v-neck front and the bodice was cinched in very tightly to accentuate her tiny waist, yet she was nothing but elegant and not the tiniest bit ostentatious.

Personally, I dislike veils over the face of a bride. I refused to wear mine that way as much as my mom begged I wouldn't do it. However, when I watched Catherine get out of the Queen's Rolls Royce, and the wind blow her thin veil across her face so gracefully, it really took my breath away how beautiful she looked. This picture above is exactly what I'm talking about.

Here are Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England, her husband, Prince Phillip, Charles, the Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall. I thought every one of them looked lovely and seemed to all be very genuinely happy for Will and Catherine's wedding.

There it is, that is the fairytale! This is what I screamed to my husband as they walked down the aisle....demure and royal, I know. I can't get over the trees inside Westminster Abbey, so genius! I love the natural beauty of it instead of gobbs of flower arrangements. Even her bouquet was uncomplicated.

THE KISS! The kiss that lasted .0021 seconds that is. Even my dear Mister turned to me and said, "That was it?! That wasn't a kiss, that was a peck!" True, I was disappointed I waited for 4 hours for that. But they quickly redeemed themselves when the crowd chanted for one more kiss and they kindly obliged. Did any of you see when those doors opened on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and Catherine said "Oh wow!" when she saw the sea of people gathered just to see her. If it were me, I would have said Oh wow, too!

As the Queen does for special occasions such as a wedding, she bestowed titles on the newly married couple and they are:
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The Earl and Countess of Strathearn
The Baron and Baroness of Carrickfergus

However, we will refer to them as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge instead of that whole long list. Apparently, once Prince Charles becomes King then we will officially refer to William and Catherine as Prince and Princess. All this monarchy formality stuff is quite interesting, don't you think? 

Now onto some fashion...can we say, heelllooo fascinators?! Now, honestly, some were downright beautiful, tasteful and stylish, but what in the world were Princesses Eugene and Beatrice thinking with these??!!

Yikes! Is all I have to say about that. Now, Catherine's little sister Phillipa or "Pippa" as she is called looked absolutely stunning!! Her dress, another Sarah Burton design would make a beautiful wedding dress itself. Not for a royal wedding, but for a simple commoner's wedding for sure. I loved the cowl-neck with lace trim, mermaid silhouette, cap sleeves and buttons up the back. The fit was perfectly altered to her tiny frame. That family has some good genes! 

The beautiful bride left with her Prince in a horse-drawn carriage and later changed into another dress by Sarah Burton after the luncheon given by the Queen. Other celebrations included a dinner by Prince Charles, an all-night party given by Prince Harry and Pippa which was to last until 6am. Finally, to wrap it all up Prince Harry hosted a "Survivors Breakfast" at 6am for anybody who wasn't too tired to make it.

Here are a few last pictures just for the fun of it. And boy, wasn't the excitement of it all just that...fun!! 

So, what did you all think of the Royal Wedding?