Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gone But Not Forgotten

Thanksgiving was bittersweet for us this year.  

On our way to Graceville on Sunday the 21st, we got a phone call from Ryan, who was staying home since he had to work all week. His mom had called saying that his granddaddy had been taken to the hospital that morning. He had bladder cancer and had been undergoing chemo and radiation treatments. Prior to this, he had some good weeks and some bad weeks with the treatments.

By later that evening things had gone from bad to worse. Decisions had to be made that no one was prepared for. On Monday morning, I was notified that the end was near and on the way to Georgia, I got the sad and disappointing news. His weakened immune system, already ravaged by the chemo, was battling pneumonia and some other infection. It was too much for the sweet but frail 88 year old man and in an instant earth said goodbye to one of the best men I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and heaven said hello to a dear saint.

I had the honor of knowing Isaac Shiver Jr. for almost 9 years. I first met him in March of 2002 at the Shoney's in Fernandina Beach. It was the first time that I met most of Ryan's family. I have never known a sweeter man. He willingly claimed me as a part of his family. He was a huge part of Ryan's life and so he was a huge part of mine. He was there for the big moments in our lives such as our marriage, Ryan's graduation from college, and Abigail's birth. And he was there in the small moments such as birthday's, holidays, family gatherings, church services, etc. When you were around Granddaddy you could always expect a hug, a pat on the back, and a huge laugh. I have so many memories of a man who wasn't blood kin but might as well have been because he treated me like his own granddaughter, not someone who had married into his family.

For a while, Ryan and I attended FBC Fernandina. Mimi always played the organ so Ryan and I sat with Granddaddy in the balcony. It was a joy to sit next to him in church. And I loved going out to eat with them afterwards. We had some of the best times and conversations at Down Under on Sunday afternoons.

In the 7 1/2 years that Ryan and I have been married, we have cooked meals and hosted family events. It's something that we both love to do. On most of those occasions, Granddaddy would say that he didn't have much of an appetite and probably wouldn't eat much but I always caught him going back for seconds. That always made me feel good about my cooking. On Ryan's birthday one year, I made Taco Soup. Granddaddy came to the house with the notion that Taco Soup was something that he wasn't going to like or eat. I got him to try a bowl and I think he near about made himself sick that night! He loved it!

Another thing I could always count on Granddaddy for was his opinion of my hair. He liked it long and dark, the same way Ryan does. He would always tell me when it was looking good and when it wasn't. His comments always made me laugh. The last time I saw him was the end of March the day before we moved to Louisiana. My hair was still fairly short and over the last 8 months it has grown tremendously. I was looking forward to seeing him again with my hair long and dark and seeing what he had to say. I'm sure he would have loved it.

I will never forget how proud he was when Abigail was born. I remember the day we brought her home from the hospital, he and Mimi came to see her. The look on his face as he held her was priceless. He just oohed and aahed over her. I always thought she stole his heart that day. Abigail loved Granddaddy too. I am sad to think that she probably won't remember him as she gets older but we'll never stop showing her his pictures and telling her stories about him.

We loved visiting with Mimi and Granddaddy at their house whether we sat inside or if the weather was nice, outside on the swing. Ryan was always kidding with his granddaddy about borrowing one of his Lucky Strikes. He sure liked them but he didn't want Ryan to take up his habit. :) When the visit was over, he would walk us to the door and eventually follow us out to our car. We would finally get in the car and then roll down the window and talk some more before finally leaving. It was always as if he didn't want us to go.

Ryan deals with emotions in his own way but I on the other hand can always be counted on for tears when I'm sad. It was hard seeing his empty chair at his house or the empty chair outside by the swing. It was hard getting into our car and him not standing next to it. Even though I knew we were in town for his funeral, I still caught myself looking for him in the crowd, wanting that hug, and needing to hear that laugh. I know how I feel after only knowing him for a short while. I can't imagine what other's in his family are feeling and how they are dealing with the hole left behind where Granddaddy once was.

Thankfully, we don't have to grieve like those who have no hope. Thankfully, we will see him again. He may be gone from our lives here on earth but he will never be forgotten. And I'm sure, I'll always look for him in the crowd on holidays and at family gatherings even though I know he won't be there.

Birthday Party #2 and Thanksgiving

My mom, Abigail, and I were finally able to leave Louisiana on Sunday the 21st (Abigail's actual birthday) after a trip to Urgent Care and Walgreen's (see A Not So Fancy Few Days for details). We arrived in Graceville later that afternoon. My mom worked half a day on Monday and then we loaded up again and headed to Georgia to be with my family during Thanksgiving.

We got there early Monday evening. On Tuesday, mom and I both had hair appointments at Salon 280. My aunt owns the place and is an awesome hair dresser. Later that day, my friend Amberly, took some amazing photos of myself and Abigail. I needed a 3 year update picture of Abigail and this was the perfect opportunity. Please see www.amberlyfosterphotography.shutterfly.com for all the photos and her great work. That night, we had a small family birthday party for Abigail at my aunt and uncle's house. It was supposed to just be an ice cream cake and drinks but my aunt is fabulous and she made it even more special by adding a theme, Tangled. My grandma made some vegetable soup and my aunt provided hotdogs and chips and dip. The birthday girl got even more presents. It seemed everywhere we went in the last week someone had a present for Abigail. We had a hard time getting everything home. :)

On Wednesday, we went shopping in Statesboro with my grandma. It was fun helping pick out people's Christmas presents and letting Abigail pick out some things with her birthday money.

Thursday was Thanksgiving as you well know. I love holidays with my family. I love getting together and reminiscing. My mom and my dad's side of the family all get together at my dad's parents house. We have the usual Thanksgiving fare. Several years ago, most of the girl cousins on my mom's side, started the tradition of going to see whatever Christmas movie was out, after lunch was over. This year there wasn't one so we all took Abigail to see Tangled in 3D. It was so good and everyone including Abigail enjoyed it. My grandma even came and she never goes to the "show" as she calls it.

We usually all go Black Friday shopping but we had made plans to return to Graceville on Friday, giving us a day to relax, before Abigail and I traveled home on Sunday morning. Our plans were changed due to a death in Ryan's family. My parent's took me to Fernandina Beach on Friday morning. My vehicle was at my mom and dad's since I rode with them to Georgia. Ryan stopped on his way and traded his truck for my SUV and met us in Fernandina around lunchtime on Friday. We spent time with his family and attended his grandfather's funeral on Saturday. We were able to stay an extra day and left at 4 am on Monday morning. We stopped again in Graceville to pick up his truck, eat some breakfast, and drink some coffee. Plus, I had a few things I still needed to pick up from my parent's house. We got back home around 12:30 on Monday afternoon.

We have so much to be thankful for. Our lives should be characterized by an attitude of thankfulness. We so often take life and things for granted. Let us remember to give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His love endures forever!

(I wish I had more pics to put up from this week but my camera died not long after Abigail's Tangled party and I left my charger in LA.)

A Fancy Nancy Soiree

This post should have been written days ago but we had some family matters come up unexpectedly. Better late than never, I guess.

On Saturday, November 20, we celebrated Abigail's third birthday with a Fancy Nancy Soiree (that's fancy for birthday party). Abigail's Aunt Mellissa introduced us to the world of Fancy Nancy last Christmas. We had been shopping at the Town Center in Jacksonville and while in Barnes and Noble, Mellissa showed us the Fancy Nancy book. My parent's actually got her the original FN book for Christmas. After that, she received the paperback holiday versions throughout the year along with some of the other paperbacks as well. Nancy's world revolves around dressing up and being fancy all the time. Is there a better birthday party theme for little girls? I think not.

I've always loved event/party planning so when it comes to Abigail's birthday's, I have to pace myself. With this theme, I had the very real opportunity of going overboard. In a previous post, I told about our recent financial bumps and how I had been learning to be resourceful and make the most of what I had. So, I applied this knowledge to the FN birthday party as well.

I love custom invitations and I would rather not use the pre-made fill-in-the-blanks invites, unless I have to. For Abigail's first birthday party, I had custom invitations made at http://www.vistaprint.com/ and only paid a few dollars for them because they always have great deals. For Abigail's second birthday party, she had a Dora the Explorer theme and I ended up using the generic ones that came with the party supplies. I had searched high and low for the perfect custom invites for this FN soiree. The ones that I had originally decided on were a little over a dollar a piece. In the end, I just couldn't justify spending the money on something that would end up in the trash anway so I decided to put my limited photography skills to the test. I did splurge a bit on Abigail's birthday party outfit. However, I did shop around a lot, and thanks to my sister-in-law, Hannah, I found a tutu and FN shirt combo for $25 with free shipping, the cheapest around. Some tutu's go for $25 by themselves. So I dressed her up in her birthday outfit, complete with fancy accessories. I grabbed some pink and purple sidewalk chalk from her pack and headed outdoors. I snapped about 30 pictures or so and then edited them on my computer. In the end I picked the photo above. I uploaded it to Walgreens.com and found out they were having a photo deal and 4x6's were $.10 a piece. I was able to get all of her invites for about dollar. I looked up some fancy wording online and then handwrote the info on the back of the picture. Now, I had a great custom invite for a great price and most likely instead of being thrown in the trash, it will be displayed on a fridge or in a photo album or frame.

While looking online for party planning and decorating ideas, I came across some very lavish parties. While I would have loved to be able to put that kind of time and money into a party, it just wasn't necessary, plus I was still trying to be a good steward of what God had given me to work with. So borrowing from some other frugal mom's ideas, I headed to The Dollar Tree! I was able to get plates, cups, doilies, bowls, spoons, decorations, party favors, etc. I made two different trips to The Dollar Tree but in the end I only spent about $20 total. I had to get a few things from Walmart like the hot pink tablecloth and napkins since I couldn't find that particular color at The Dollar Tree. I also bought all the items for the cupcakes, parfaits (that's fancy for ice cream sundae), and drinks. My mom contributed to the party buy purchasing the FN balloon, placemats, and stickers for the goody bags, from birthdayexpress.com. Overall, we had a very fancy party without the huge expense. Here are a few pics of the party.

 I made 36 pink and purple cupcakes for the party. They were sprinkled with pink sugar crystals and several of them had FN rings on them. I got those for a steal on ebay. We made parfaits, complete with chocolate syrup, sprinkles, M&M's, and whipped cream. I found really cute parfait cups from Hobby Lobby at the end of the summer on clearance and I found the parfait spoons at Dollar General on clearance as well. For the fancy drinks, I found ice cube trays shaped like flowers at The Dollar Tree. I poured Hawain Punch in those the night before. We poured Sierra Mist into small clear cups and placed one or two hp ice cubes in each glass. The kids enjoyed watching the ice cubes fizz and turn their drinks pink.The goody bags consisted of a boa, a bracelet, sunglasses, a ring pop, and pixie sticks. They each were able to take home their parfait cup and spoon, the FN placemat, and the tiny buckets with their names on them (we put the M&M's in those) as well. I got most of the items at the dollar store or Wal-Mart for cheap. They also colored FN coloring sheets and I read them the original story at the beginning of the party.

Abigail had the best time even if she wasn't feeling well (see previous post for the not so fancy stuff). After the kids were hyped up on cupcakes and ice cream, Abigail opened her gifts and then they spent the rest of the time running around in the backyard. All in all, I think Nancy would have been proud.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Not So Fancy Few Days

On Saturday, November 20, Abigail had a Fancy Nancy birthday party. But before I tell you all about her party, I need to back up to a few days leading up to her party.

On Monday, Abigail woke up from her nap running a fever or 102.2. I gave her some tylenol and made her rest. I couldn't believe she was going to get sick right before her birthday. But by later that evening the fever was gone and she never had another symptom until Friday.

On Friday morning she woke up running a low grade fever. I had so much to do on Friday which included making 36 cupcakes, babysitting for a friend, and to finish cleaning my house before my parents, my brother, and his family got there later that night. She acted fine all during the day until after naptime. She woke up running a high fever again, this time accompanied with vomiting. This went on most of the afternoon and her fever continued to rise. My brother and his family decided not to come since Marlee had been sick the two weeks prior. We were disappointed but we understood why they couldn't come. I finally had to put her in a lukewarm bath and give her a popcicle before her fever would come down.

By Saturday she seemed fine. We went ahead and had her party. Later that night her fever shot up again and we couldn't get it down all night. She also developed a stuffy nose. We were supposed to leave Pearl River at 9 AM on Sunday morning to travel to Graceville with my parents so that we could ride with them to Georgia on Monday to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family. But mom and I had to take Abigail to the Urgent Care and it didn't open til 9. They tested her for strep and the flu. Thankfully both came back negative. The doctor there was super nice and thorough. Having a good doctor is always a plus. She ended up having pharyngitis with flu like symptoms. We then had to go to Walgreens to pick up some pictures we had ordered and to get all of her medicines. The doctor cleared her to travel so my dad left around 10 and mom, Abigail, and I weren't able to leave until about 11:30.

Thankfully her fever stayed down all day on Sunday. We were able to spend time with Uncle Justin, Aunt Hannah, and Marlee on Sunday night. We brought some cupcakes and party stuff for them to celebrate together since Marlee wasn't able to come and Sunday was actually Abigail's birthday. Neither of the girls wanted cupcakes but they had fun playing together.

Abigail got sick a couple of times last night but we think it's because the congestion is finally breaking loose in her chest. We are headed to Georgia this afternoon when mom gets off of work. And tomorrow she is having a second birthday party. Yes, I said SECOND! :) She is one spoiled little girl. When we lived in Fernandina, most of my family from Georgia would travel over for her birthday party since it was only a two hour drive. Since it's 9 1/2 hours from Georgia to where we live in Louisiana, they couldn't come this year. So, we are having a family party Tuesday night at Aunt Jamie and Uncle Rudy's house. I promise to post about the Fancy Nancy party soon but I have to get ready and get packed up for our trip today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Last Six Months

I can't believe that it's been six months since I last posted on my blog. I'm such a slacker. I think that I have about three or four post that I started but never finished. So, I guess it's time for an update.

It was HOT in Louisiana over the summer. Thankfully, most of the parks around here have splash pads. It was a very nice way to get out of the house and stay cool over the summer. And I must admit that I enjoyed playing in the water as much as Abigail! My parents visited us for the 4th of July. We had a great week together. We went to the beach in Waveland, MS, took Abigail to see her first movie in theaters, Toy Story 3, did some shopping and some eating, and had a nice cookout with some friends on the 4th. There are too many pics over the last six months to post, so friends please visit my Facebook page and look through the latest albums, if you haven't already. :) My brother and his family visited in August. We took the girls to the Louisiana Children's Museum in NOLA, frequented the splash pad, shopped, ate, laughed, and just had a great time all around. It's so nice when my family gets to visit and stay awhile, especially since we don't live close by.

In September, Abigail and I visited my family in Graceville. Uncle Rudy, Aunt Jamie, and GG came for the weekend. It was nice to have extended family there as well. My brother, the chef (well not technically but he loves to cook and he's good at it), made milkshakes and blended iced mocha's several time. I think I gained 5 pounds, at least, that weekend. We did some more shopping and more eating! Dad made sushi! He just keeps getting better and better at it! My mom was able to take most of the week off so we enjoyed spending more time with her since she usually has to work while we are there. I finally was able to use my spa gift card from last Christmas and let me just say, a one hour deep tissue massage is just NOT long enough! You think it would be, but it wasn't. Oh and my brother smoked a Boston butt and we made Pulled Pork Parfaits! Let me just say, YUMMY! Take a tall clear glass, put some BBQ sauce in the bottom, a layer of pulled pork, then a layer of mashed potatoes, repeat, and drizzle top layer of mashed potatoes with BBQ sauce. It looks pretty and taste great! Ryan also received a promotion in September. It was much needed answer to prayer. He is now a Club Level Concierge. He really likes it and the raise wasn't too shabby either.

October passed in a blur. I can't really say anything extraordinary happened in October, well except the lessons God taught me especially in October. Without going into detail, we experienced some financial distress in the last couple months but the LORD provided as he always does. I feel like I learned a lot and grew a lot in the past months. While trying to stretch our money as much as we could, I began to realize how much we actually waste and how ungrateful we are for what we actually have. There have been many times that I haven't felt like cooking dinner or didn't want to eat what we had in the house and we went out and spent money on food we didn't need. The hamburger might have been tasty but were we being good stewards of what God had given us? Not that there is anything wrong with eating out but we were blowing a lot of money on something we didn't really need. It was also during this time that I started really paying attention to Freebies4Mom on Facebook. I had added this lady to my friends list several months ago and just ignored her post. She has a website dedicated to helping others find free samples, coupons, and sweepstakes with great prizes. Check out www.freebiesformom.com Anyway, I started frequenting her site daily and signing up for the free samples. Sometimes they aren't things that I necessarily need but hey it's free and if it's something I think I can use, then I sign up. Well, after realizing how much I waste, I had been squeezing the life out of my tube of toothpaste. I was finally at the point where no more was going to come out and I went to check the mail. The first sample that I had ever requested was for toothpaste and I had forgotten about it completely. When I checked the mail on this particular day,there was a mysterious box in the mailbox. When I opened it, it was a tube of toothpaste! Woohoo! It came at the exact time that I needed a new tube of toothpaste! Isn't the LORD, amazing!!! At the end of the month I started keeping a 8 week old baby boy named Dustin. It has been an adjustment for me as well as Abigail but we are enjoying it. He is just too cute and the pay check is sweet too!

I can't believe that November is almost over already. In six days my baby girl is going to turn three. It feels like yesterday that I was being induced, anxious to meet her. She is an indescribable blessing in my life. She is a constant source of laughter and joy in our house. I am amazed every day at how smart she is. When it comes to personality and behavior, she is definitely my child. There are times I am grateful for that and times I wish she wasn't so much like me. You want your child to have your so-called good traits but no one wants their child to have their bad ones! She has an equal mix of both, I believe. :) If I can remember, I'll put a birthday party post up after her Fancy Nancy Soiree on Saturday. Until then, here is a picture of my little cutie.