The births of my three children are among the sweetest memories of my life. I became a Mom when my first child was born on March 15, 1982. Jennifer Marie was a precious sight to behold!
Jenny was just 3 months old when we drove to Kansas, where my parents live. She did not like riding in the car seat before the trip so it was a long drive with numerous meltdowns. Jenny was my parents' fourth grandchild. Most of my siblings lived near my parents and attended Jenny's Baptism. My oldest sister, older brother, his wife and daughter weren't able to join us that day and my Dad took the pictures.
Like many new moms, I mothered through trial and error. I read parenting books and asked a lot of questions, but in the end, I often just went with my instincts. With Jenny, every first was a brand new experience for me. When Jenny was born, babies were supposed to sleep on their stomachs. Jenny hated sleeping on her stomach so it was wonderful when she learned to roll over.
The first time she slept through the night, I jumped out of bed and hurried into her room to check on her. Jenny didn't like the playpen, but she loved the walker. Putting the Christmas tree into the playpen kept the tree out of the reach of little hands.
Jenny loved her family. We lived next door to my in-laws and Jenny's Aunt Mary, who worked near our house, sometimes stayed with them. Jenny really loved Aunt Mary and always laughed when she visited. Each of Jenny's aunts on her Dad's side had one child. Grandma and PaPa Bottoms enjoyed having a new grandchild around.
Before Jenny could crawl, she would roll around to try to get where she wanted to go. From rolling, she went to crawling in reverse and then to crawling forward. Once Jenny learned to crawl, she was into everything all the time - or so I thought.
By Jenny's first birthday, she could stand up for a few minutes and walk a little while holding onto a table. Wow, 1 year old! How the first year flew by. Jenny loved her chocolate birthday cake!
Jenny eased into walking, taking a few steps before dropping to crawl. After Jenny learned to walk, she ran all the time and seemed very excited to finally be able to really get into everything.
Jenny loved to play with her friends Marie and Renea. She also loved stuffed animals, especially Care Bears. I made these two for her and she took them everywhere. Jenny spent a lot of time outside playing too.
The summer after Jenny turned 2 years old, we drove to Kansas again. Jenny was much happier this time than on her first trip. Jenny was delighted to discover that Grandpa Atkins liked playing Little People as much as she did. There were lots of toys at my parents' house since my nieces lived in the same town.
We always stayed at my sister Debbie's house when we visited Kansas. By 1984, Debbie and Jim were the parents of three daughter: Angie, Diane and Missy. Jenny always had a lot of fun playing with her cousins.
My older sister Kathy tells all of her nieces and nephews that she's the favorite aunt - and it's true! Kathy professed her first vows as a Sister of Charity in 1974 and her final vows in 1979. Although she teaches at high school and middle school level, Kathy loves being with the little ones in our family.
Good-byes are always hard when we visit Kansas. My Mom poses with her four youngest children and Jenny in this picture taken just before we left for the long drive home.
Jenny became a big sister six days after she turned 3 years old. Lauren was born March 21, 1985 and Jenny loved having a little sister. She was a great helper too!
Even though Jenny shared a room with Lauren, she could usually sleep through the night, even if Lauren didn't. Parents don't get much sleep when there's a newborn baby in the house though! I started a new job when Lauren was 2 months old.
This is one of my favorite pictures of Jenny and Lauren. I worked midnight shift and Jenny would climb into Lauren's crib with her in the mornings to play with her before I got home from work. When I got home, Jenny would proudly tell me that she'd given Lauren a bottle of water and toys to keep her happy.
Jenny loved beautiful, frilly dresses and so did her Grandma Bottoms. Papa and Grandma Bottoms posed with Jenny at her fourth birthday party.
We bought our first house when Jenny was 4 and Lauren was 1. When Lauren started crawling, she would head to Jenny's bedroom so she could get into Jenny's toys. Jenny didn't like that very much! As the girls got older, they enjoyed playing together most of the time.
Jenny was so excited to start kindergarten! She could already read when she started school. After her teacher figured out that she could read big kid books, she would send her daughters' Baby Sitter Club books home with Jenny.
Just after Jenny started kindergarten, baby Jack was born on October 15, 1987. Jenny was a great helper with Jack and he loved his big sisters.
This is my favorite picture of Jenny with her baby brother. She's talking to him and he's talking back to her. Jenny was such a big sister that it's no surprise she grew up to be a wonderful mom.
Our family was complete. Here we are at cousin Barrett's graduation from Lynchburg College. The three kids were, and still are, my pride and joy.
Violin and gymnastics, ballet and t-ball all kept Jenny busy. She also loved playing with her friends and often had friends over after school.
Jenny's love of reading began when she was a baby. We read her favorite books over and over every day. When Jenny was in elementary school, she always had a book in her hand. One of her favorite reading spots was in this tree in our yard.
The excitement of many Christmas mornings lives forever in my memory. This is my favorite photo of the three kids on Christmas, coming up the hall to see what Santa brought them.
John and I divorced in 1991. As a single mom, I spent a lot of time doing things with the kids. Hiking was one of my favorites, but they didn't like it as much as I did.
Jenny's middle school and high school years flew by quickly. Some of the firsts I enjoyed during these years included being a band parent and teaching a child to drive.
There was no prouder parent than me on the day Jenny graduated from high school. She looked beautiful as she received her diploma and walked off the stage toward her future.
Kenny and I got married a few months after Jenny graduated. Jenny gained two stepbrothers when her dad remarried when she was younger. Our marriage added another stepbrother and a stepsister to the family.
Jenny made a beautiful bride when she and Ken (BJ) Bryant married the same year. BJ's brother Rob was his best man and Lauren was Jenny's maid of honor.
Jenny and BJ's son, Kyle Jordan Bryant, was our first grandchild. BJ's mom, me and Jenny's stepmom, Vicki, were all blessed to be in the delivery room to watch Kyle's birth.
Kyle's first year went by in the blink of an eye. Jenny and BJ were wonderful parents and Kyle thrived. Kyle took his first steps at his birthday party, shortly after this picture was taken.
Jenny and BJ's work schedules overlapped so Kyle came to our house some afternoons when Jenny went to work. We loved the days Kyle came to call "Grandma House days."
Jenny was the first of her cousins on my side of the family to become a parent. This photo of my parents' grandchildren and great-grandchild was taken in 2004 at a celebration for my parents' birthdays. With nearly 20 years between my parents' oldest to youngest child, several of my parents' grandchildren were younger than Kyle. My parents now have seven great-grandchildren.
One of the blessings of having Jenny, BJ and Kyle live nearby is being able to enjoy time together around the holidays. Jenny, Lauren and Kyle are dying Easter eggs in this 2005 photo.
As adults, Jenny, Lauren and Jack enjoy a close relationship and enjoy spending time together. Jenny and Kyle posed with Lauren and Jack for this 2006 photo taken before Jack left for college.
Jenny and BJ are very supportive of Kyle's activities and encourage him to work hard in school. This photo was taken after Kyle's school program in 2007.
Jenny and BJ have hosted Mother's Day lunches at their house for several years. It's great to get together with the rest of the extended family. This photo was taken on Mother's Day in 2008.
Jenny became an aunt in June 2008 when Lauren's son Andrew was born. Andrew loves going to Jenny, BJ and Kyle's house to play. This photo was taken Christmas 2008 with all of our kids and grandkids.
Jenny and BJ enjoy making Halloween fun for Kyle. This photo was taken before Trick-or-Treating with Lauren, Stephen and Andrew in 2009.
Jenny's a great daughter and also a great daughter-in-law. This photo of Janine, Jenny and me was taken at Kyle's birthday party in February 2010.
Our family grew again in April 2010 when Lauren and Steven's daughter Alexis was born. This photo was taken in August 2010. I made the dress Alexis is wearing in the photo for Jenny when she was a baby.
Jenny is a great mom and her love for Kyle shows through in all that she does. This 2010 photo is a favorite of mine and shows the close relationship between Jenny and Kyle.
Jenny and BJ look so happy in this photo taken after his brother Rob's wedding in 2011. They have learned the secret of living a well-balanced life together.
Even though Jenny works full-time, she's always ready to help a hand when any of us need anything. She's a wonderful wife, daughter, sister and mom.
Kyle's 11th birthday in February 2012 was a good reason to celebrate. Kyle's cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and Granny Great Bottoms joined Kyle, Jenny and BJ at the family birthday party.
Sisters aren't always friends, but Jenny and Lauren are great friends. As their Mom, I feel so blessed that my daughters grew up to be loving women who are also friends.
Kyle is getting taller and taller as he nears his 13th birthday on Christmas Day 2013. I'm grateful for so many great Christmas memories.
The gift of motherhood is one of life's most wonderful treasures. Thanks to my firstborn for making me a Mom! I have so many precious memories from back in the day and look forward to making new memories.
Celebrating with the family for Kyle's 13th birthday. Jenny and BJ look like they are up for the fun and challenges of parenting a teenager!
Happy Birthday to my dear daughter, Jenny Bryant and thanks for the memories!