Friday, April 10, 2015

Wedding Plans in the Works

 Amber left our holiday festivities early to spend New Year's with her boyfriend, Casey and to return to work. She had spent most of her time here finishing a blanket she was making for Casey and planned to give it to him as a Christmas gift when she returned. He, of course, was thrilled with the gift because she had put so much time into it. It was crocheted with "Game of Thrones" quotes on it. Beautiful. He was truly touched. He was wishing he had his surprise for her that night because he would have sprung it on her then. Instead he was patient and stuck with the original plan. He took her to one of their favorite spots on a lake with a pier leading out to the water. He pulled out a ring he'd bought for her and asked her to marry him. I'm sure there were a few tears as she emphatically said YES! You can see that he is all smiles here too because he was happy with her answer. She called us and let us know and we were all squealing with joy for her. They've been dating for three years and have known each other for about seven years. I'm sooo happy that she's found her true love.

Her ring is beautiful. She had to have it resized to fit her hand but is quite excited to be wearing it.
This is where he proposed. Such a beautiful setting for them to return to each year.

Now the fun has begun and we are in full wedding planning mode. First item checked off the list was finding a venue. I drove to NC in early February and we drove to about five different venues in the mountains and finally settled on one in Asheville, NC called Laughing Waters . It has a nice lodge with housing for our family and the girl's side of the wedding party. There is a creek running in the back of the lodge and there are several great locations on the property for holding the ceremony. If it rains we can always set it up in the lodge as well.

It will be a beautiful place for a Fall wedding. We reserved it for the weekend of September 18, 19 with the wedding on the 19th.

My next visit was in early March and we worked on wedding flowers. I met her at her local Michaels and we got the flowers for 50% off and then went back to her apartment to put the bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages together. I showed her how to wire flowers and she was a pro in no time. She said she enjoyed doing it and I'm sure she will find other ways to use that skill in her home decor.

At the end of March I made another trip to NC to look for wedding dresses with her. Hannah drove over from Goldsboro for a girls' day out. Amber had shown me several months before this a dress she'd found online that she liked and was hoping to find something similar at the shops. She found one at David's Bridal that she liked but it was a little more formal than she had hoped for. She wanted less of a train. After talking about it that evening she decided to order the original dress she saw online and take a leap of faith that she would like it when she tried it on. We put in the order the next day. I'm hoping it will be the dress of her dreams when it arrives in June. Next up will be "Save the Date" postcards and Invitations. She will be a most beautiful bride. I'm enjoying sharing all the planning time with her. So nice to see her smiling so brightly these days. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Our house and hearts were full this year with the entire family here for Christmas.Even though we celebrated a day late we didn't notice the difference. It made me smile as each of my kids told me traditions that they wanted to do this year. I realized that somehow along the way I've left them with some family traditions that they cherish and want to carry on with their children. It was magical watching the wonder in my grandkids' eyes as they saw the tree on Christmas morning or listened to "The Night Before Christmas" being read by their dad/uncle. I tried to capture it all through the lens of my camera because I know these moments are rare when we can share this time together.

Pictures have a way of capturing the wonder of the time together so I will let them show a little bit of how we celebrated this year.

It was requested that I make all the kids' favorite holiday sweets. Stephanie likes to observe and learn how to make them all herself.
We took the boys to see our local Christmas tree lights. This guy does such a nice display that we drive through every year. The boys were in awe as they watched them all snuggled in their carseats with blankets.
Cory read "The Night Before Christmas" before we put them all to bed on Christmas Eve.

The boys left cookies and milk for Santa. Brayden wasn't sure if Santa needed all those cookies and tried to help out.

Everyone got dressed up for the opening of presents.

We started the day with the traditional cinnamon rolls breakfast. The boys thought that was pretty cool.

I spent the morning preparing the traditional Christmas Day meal of Ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, macaroni and cheese, homemade rolls and corn.

After the kids were tucked into bed, my kids wanted to make and decorate our Christmas cut-out cookies. This is something we've done since they were little and they get more creative each year. Cory got quite artistic with his snoopy cookie.

Papa enjoyed spending time with the boys too. They love the way he reads stories to them. Brayden is always happy in Papa's arms.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

All my Grandkids in One Place!

 It's been our custom since Liam was born that Stephanie's Mom, Shelle would be with Stephanie during the birth of each child and stay for the week following and then I come in for second shift when they are about two weeks old. When Hannah heard I was flying to CO to help with Kinley, she asked if she and Brayden could come along too. She texted Stephanie to make sure it was ok and then got her tickets on my flight so I could help her with Brayden. I was very excited to meet my first granddaughter but it was even more thrilling to know that I'd have all my grandkids in one place for a week. I think I was all smiles all week as I snuggled and loved on each one of them.

Brayden was thrilled to have so many toy options all around him and he was doing pretty good with mastering holding onto the walking toy and pushing it around the room. I think he'll be walking very soon. The boys, were excited to have Hannah there as well as me. They had us climbing into tents for bible class and making forts in the basement. It was good for Hannah to get some time to get to know her nephews too. Dantell decided to come in midweek since he'd never been to CO before. Hannah and Dantrell and I took the boys to the zoo while Cory and Stephanie went to the Dr. about some complications with her healing from surgery. Hannah was thrilled to see the giraffes (one of her favorites) and she even kissed an Orangutan through the glass.

We had a fun afternoon with the boys. I think Hannah found her match with Liam as the perfect arguing partner. They had me laughing as she had answers for every argument Liam posed. He didn't know how to answer her after awhile since she's so good at it. They are a lot alike in the stubborn area so it was fun to watch them try to out stubborn each other.

I was especially thrilled to get my picture taken with all my grandkids together. It was hard to get them all looking and smiling at the same time but the outtakes are kinda fun. I cherish every moment I have with each of them. This Nana's heart was quite happy with all my bundles of joy all around me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Welcome Baby Kinley

Today we welcomed our first granddaughter into the world. Kinley Lynne Barnhart was born at 11:46 this morning (mountain time) and weighed in at 6 lbs. 9 oz. and is 19.5 inches long. They had texted that they were going to the hospital because Stephanie was in labor and I was waiting to hear word of her birth. I went to lunch with Russ this morning and I stopped at Kirklands afterwards. Cory sent me a text and said to pray for Steph because they were taking her in for an emergency C-section. I won't lie, it scared me quite a bit because I'm still haunted from memories of losing my youngest son and I definitely didn't want them to ever experience that. I left there and went for gas praying the whole time. I was starting to get a little nervous because it was taking so long. I guess I didn't realize how worked up I was getting. I was pleading with God to let Stephanie have her little girl and not to scare Aimee when she was due shortly after. Aimee is a friend of Cory and Stephanies (and mine) who had a miscarriage at about two weeks from term. She had finally gotten over her fears from that and was pregnant with #2 and I didn't want something to scare her so close to term. I guess I was just a little over the top in the worry category that day but I tried to turn it over to God to handle it. As I got to the light at Old Norton which leads to my neighborhood I finally get a text from Shelle (Stephanie's Mom with a picture of Kinley. I had to pull into the church parking lot on the corner because I started crying and thanking God for answered prayers. She was beautiful like I knew she would be. I can't wait to meet her in a few weeks when I go for second shift after her Mom leaves CO. One of these days I'll master the "not worrying" thing. I try very hard to leave things with God and let HIM handle things instead of my worrying about it. but I guess the memories of losing a baby will always be with me. It's something I hope no one else will ever have to go through. I'm thankful that God has blessed Cory and Stephanie with three beautiful children. I know that little Miss Kinley will have her Daddy's heart from the start. Welcome to the world baby Kinley. Nana is sooo in love already.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Goodbye Sweet Mama

It's been the roughest of weeks for me as I said goodbye to my dear sweet Mama. Russ and I had just gotten back from our Jekyll Island trip and were just sitting down to relax for the evening of September 23, when Angie called to tell me Mom had passed away. It hit me hard because I'd just talked to her the day before and she'd told me she was doing well so I guess I really wasn't expecting it so soon. She died in Angie's arms which was a great comfort to me although Angie will probably be haunted by that for a little bit. Angie was an excellent caretaker and it was nice to know that if Mom was scared as she passed from this life that at least she knew that Angie was holding her and helping her up to the very end.

I had a tearful evening as I reflected on the past year. Russ was in one of his weird moods that night and kinda deserted me to grieve alone. It was not one of his finer moments. I think he figured that I knew it was coming so I shouldn't be too upset or surprised. Maybe he wanted me to be tougher but I wasn't. She was my Mom, my biggest fan, my person that had been with me from the beginning. I loved her dearly and it will take me a little while to sort through all the many phases of grief. If I could change one thing about this week, it would have been to have a more supportive husband that night. I called each of my kids and Hannah sat and cried with me on the phone. Cory and Amber were both working but sent messages through the night checking on me. Later I talked to Kara who also cried with me. It was a lonely night. All my siblings were together and had each other and I was here grieving alone.

The next day Russ and I packed our bags and drove towards Akron. We spent the night in the Cincinnati area and arrived mid-morning on Thursday at Angie's house. The church group had already begun bringing food. Angie and I cried together and she told me all the details of the night before. I told her about my night. Kara and family arrived a few hours after we did and we all had lunch at Angie's and then got dressed to go to the funeral home for our family viewing time. I have to say that I was quite impressed with the quality of care that went into fixing her up for the viewing. She looked very natural and true to her. She looked like she had just fallen asleep. They dressed her in one of her favorite pink dresses. She looked beautiful and I think all of us found comfort in seeing her that way. They had her set up in a private viewing room and allowed us as much time as we needed to be with her. We each took some time to say our goodbyes and Bobby Kara and Neal and I stood around and told Grandma/Mom stories. There was a little laughter and a lot of tears. Mom would have wanted it that way. She loved watching us joking with each other. Before we said our final goodbyes, Angie suggested that we sing to her. There was only one song that fit the occasion. I asked Russ to lead "God Be With You Til We Meet Again". It was beautiful to have the whole family standing around her casket singing and harmonizing together. It brought chills up my spine as one of the most beautiful moments of the whole week. I can't say we all made it through the song without crying but we were each strong for part of it and it was awesome.

Yesterday, (Friday) we had a graveside service for her and Don Wright officiated the event. My cousin, Tim Boyd came in from D.C. and Tina and Kim (Aunt Myrtie's girls) and Kim's husband, Donald came in from Florida. They had five chairs set up for us and we sat in birth order. As I sat and listened to the sermon, I thought about what an awesome gift that Mom had given us by living a faithful Christian life. We knew that she was now onward towards her reward that she'd spent her lifetime working towards. I felt a sense of happiness for her that day and I felt a sense of calm as I sat there knowing that her suffering was over and she was with Dad now. I could picture in my mind him standing at the gate to take her hand and say "I've been waiting for you". None of us knows what truly happens at the point of death but it's comforting for me to picture in my mind her joining my Dad and all her siblings and cousins and parents in singing praises to our God.
She was buried in the same grave as my Dad. They used to joke that he got the bottom bunk and she gets the top bunk. We stayed until they lowered her down into the grave with him. Her name was already put on the grave marker. I looked at my sister as they lowered her down and said "I guess we are now orphans". No matter how much you think you are prepared, it's always hard to lose a parent. In a sense we'd lost her the year before when the dementia kicked in but we could at least still give her a hug, say I love you and hear her say I love you right back. Although they called it alzheimer's I'm not sure that's what she truly had because she just went into a silent world. She knew each one of us until the very end. She could also identify every relative in any pictures I showed her up until my last time with her at her birthday. My siblings may have been together the night of her death while I was alone but they all described to me how hard it was to see her after she died. I, on the other hand, was blessed to have my last memory of her as a beautiful vision. She was laying in her bed as I was leaving Angie's that night and she raised her hand and waved to me and smiled. I ran into her room and hugged her and told her I was leaving. I told her I loved her and she said "I love you too hun."(honey). We waved one more time and I walked to my car crying because in my heart I knew that was my last time to see her alive. But oh what a beautiful memory to comfort me this week.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Happy Place

Russ and I have spent the weekend at our favorite place...Jekyll Island. Sadly, tomorrow we will have to venture home to Fayetteville but we always leave refreshed after relaxing at the beach. When Russ first made the reservations we were expecting beautiful weather but as we got about a week out we checked the forecasts and it was calling for rain the entire weekend. We were a little disappointed and thought we'd be spending the weekend reading inside.

As we got closer to our departure, we started seeing better forecasts with rain on Saturday and nicer days on Sunday and Monday. Rain was expected to return on Tuesday. Russ put both bikes in the car so that we'd both have one to ride and we left on Friday afternoon arriving around 6 p.m.  Russ decided to take off on his bike that evening even though it was raining. lightly. I stayed in the house and unpacked all of our things.

Me - before the rain

The cloud build-up

Drenched me
The next day I slept in rather than doing my normal "watch the sunrise" because I figured it was going to be too wet. The skies started clearing up by noonish so I took off on a long walk after lunch. Russ left around the same time for a long bike ride. I had gone about an hour out walking and when I turned around to head back towards the house I realized that the clouds had been building up behind me and were looking quite dark. I picked up my pace but it wasn't fast enough because about half way back (still a 1/2 hour walk) it started pouring down rain. I made sure my camera and cell phone were protected and then just enjoyed the rain. I hadn't played in the rain for who knows how many years but it was fun to just get totally drenched, stomp in puddles and have rain dripping off my hair. My clothes were pretty heavy when I hung them out to dry. I squeezed a lot of water out of them. Russ returned about a half hour after me and he was equally soaked. He'd been at the other side of the island when it hit. It's not often you find a good "play in the rain" storm without lightning and thunder.

After that day we had two days of beautiful sunshine and we walked on the beach, watched sunrises and sunsets and went on bike rides. I enjoy the solitude of the Island when it's not tourist season and I love sitting on the deck with a good book and the music of the waves crashing against the rocks. I love watching the sun rise in the morning and walking the beach in prayer. I love the sunsets over the bridge, humting for sand dollars and chasing the sea gulls. The Island has captured my heart because of the peace I feel when there. Yep, it's my happy place for sure.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Recipe for a Happy Nana

Nothing puts the smile on my face quite like spending time with my grandkids. We just returned from a trip to Colorado to see Liam and Ryan. (We saw Cory and Stephanie too but the boys were more fun than them.) We picked a great week to go because the weather was gorgeous the whole time we were there. Cory just built the play set we'd helped them buy for the boys and so it was fun to spend time outside with them in their new back yard. They moved in June to one of Stephanie's parents' houses and they now have more space inside their house and more play area outside. The boys seemed happier there with plenty of room to run and play.
I found some "Cars" themed computers for them at a flea market and I was anxious for them to see them. We always bring some kind of fun toy and at least one book every time we visit. I knew that these would give me "way cool Nana points" when they saw them. I was right. Liam was mesmerized by them and wanted to spend all day playing the games. We sat down with him and showed him how to play a few of the games and he was playing several of them on his own by the time we left. Seeing their eyes light up when they saw them was pretty fun.
The Mater computer was made for a younger child than the Lightning McQueen one was but they both liked just hearing them talk to them. For $5 each, I was thrilled to find them in basically new condition.
Even though they loved the computers they still love the books I bring too. They've got quite a collection now of favorite stories from Nana and Papa. I hope they will both grow up to be readers. I sure do cherish having them sit in my lap for story time because I know one of these days they'll be too busy for Nana and reading books together. 

I love watching them interact with each other and I love their individuality. Watching Liam is like seeing Cory grow up a second time. They look so much a like and even have similar personalities. Liam is more timid to try new things where Ryan is more brave to try things and then form an opinion. They make me smile and always have. My heart is full when they call my name and ask me to come and play or read. They are one of my best recipes for a happy day.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

She Made It To 90!

When Mom fell in January, if you'd have asked me if she would make it to her birthday, I would have confidently said no. We thought, based on the assessment of the doctors caring for her that she had less than a week to live. But those Drs. didn't know our Mom. We all call her the energizer bunny because she keeps getting back up after tough challenges and keeps on going. In July, the nurses were telling my sister that I should probably come soon if I want to see her alive because they were seeing signs that she was nearing the end of her life. I, knowing my Mom, waited to see what she would do and as usual she perked back up and was alert again. All along I've said that this birthday was my goal for her. All of her siblings died at 89 or younger and I wanted to see her make it longer than any of them and SHE DID IT.

I was in Akron for the past week and just got home last night. I went early so I could do some more work at the house and continue to sort through papers and boxes to clear out some of the clutter. My main goal for being there was to celebrate with Mom on reaching 90. My first few days there she seemed very tired and in one of her unclear phases but as the week went on, she became more alert and clearer. I always ask her when I'm there..."Do you know who I am?" and she'll look at me and smile and say. "Yes. You're Donna." and my heart does a happy dance because her forgetting me has been my dread from the beginning. Angie told her I had come into town for a birthday party and she asked her if she knew whose birthday it was. She said she didn't and Angie said..."Your birthday is on Wednesday, Mom and you will be 90 years old." She looked at her with a surprised face and said..."Oh my!". I don't think she expected to make it. Even before she got sick it seemed like 89 was the magic number for her when she expected to die. Since all her siblings died by 89, I think she figured she would do the same. She was preparing for it by making sure everything was in order before she hit 89. I always assured her I thought she would live longer than all of them but she never seemed to embrace that possibility.

We all met at Angie's for a 1:00 birthday party since Kay and Dale had to leave for work by 3:30. Angie had done her hair and had her fixed up with a little makeup. She looked beautiful. We all had our picture taken with her individually and also took quite a few group photos. I think all of us expect that this will be our last time all together with her alive. She's been known to surprise us before but we're all feeling like the end is near so the urgency was greater this time to take as many pictures as we could. We also took individual pictures of our hands with hers as well as group ones. I know I will cherish having all of these pictures. Mom seemed fairly alert and seemed to know it was her day but it was tiring for her too. We read all her cards to her and then took her to the kitchen for cake. We sang to her and then Dale helped her blow out her candles. She tried but she just didn't have the strength to blow them out herself. I know we wore her out though because after the party Angie put her in bed and she fell right to sleep and slept the rest of the day. I stayed with her that night while they went to church and she was asleep the entire time.

My prayer this year has been for her to see this day and I knew that God has had a hand in keeping her here for this one last celebration of her life. I know this will be her last birthday on this earth because her body is failing her at rapid speed but I'm thankful for this one little day of happiness before the end where we could all be together one last time to celebrate the life of a wonderful woman, our Mom. She may be tiny but she's a tough lady and I thank God that he gave me such a special lady to be my Mom. I'll end with a few more pictures of the day.