Monthly Archives: October 2011

Every year since they were born, we have taken Christmas pictures of my grandchildren together. Everyone loves to get those new pictures to compare with a year ago. Kids change so fast. Some years have been a trial, some years feel almost impossible. My grandchildren are all very different people, and they have very different personalities.

That was not totally the problem in the really early years. When you are dealing with infants, they are either asleep or crying. So you work with them and work with them until it is finally right, and after this photo session, you head home to put the baby down for a nap, and take one yourself, because…you have earned it.

As they get older, it’s the fighting that stalls the whole process. This one doesn’t want to sit next to that one, or this one wants to be in the back, not the front, or someone is touching someone else. Oh my gosh, the tragedy of it all. Heaven forbid, having to be somewhere in the picture that you didn’t want to, and if you let them choose, they all want the same place. And all you can think of is next year they will be one year older and it will work better.

Then next year comes around, and you have a whole new set of issues. Makeup is horrible, or is it the hair, they hate what they are wearing, or the inevitable as they become teenagers…they are too tired. So you try letting them pick a few of the poses to break the ice a bit. Sometimes even that doesn’t work well, but sometimes it does, and you end up with a very funny pose, or set of poses.

Ultimately, no matter what the age, with a little persuasion, such as the promise of candy afterward or…maybe bodily harm if they don’t behave, you get a few good poses, and the pictures turn out quite well. And of course, when the pictures are given out, and only the best ones are given out, by the way, everyone just loves them. They all think, “How did you pull that off? Getting them all to smile at the same time.” And of course, you just smile and let them think what they want. You know it was a lot of work, but…it was so worth it. Once again, it is time to start thinking about those pictures…no wonder I have a headache!!

We most often think of the husband being older than the wife in a marriage. But that isn’t always the case, and I happen to know of some very good marriages in which that is not the case. Many people might find that to be odd, but love doesn’t really understand age differences…thankfully.

There can, however, be some funny side effects to being in a marriage in which the wife is older than the husband. I suppose, sometimes it is a good idea to have a bit of a sense of humor…especially if the wife in this marriage likes to…well, rub it in a bit. Bob’s grandmother was 5 months to the day older than his grandfather. Each year on her birthday, she would tell him, “Well, now I’m older and wiser than you are.” He never really said much, but I’m sure he was thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I hear you.”

The way I see it, most of the marriages in which the wife is older, include at least some degree of teasing by the wife, because that is the way most women are. It is what gives life a little spice! There might be people who would disagree with me on that one, but I know that Bob’s grandmother thoroughly loved being 5 months older than his grandfather, and he liked hearing things like she had robbed the cradle, which is usually a term used on men. That one was also used on my daughter Amy, who is 11 months older than her husband, Travis.

Sometimes, it is the unusual that makes a marriage special. The private little joke, the endearing nickname, and yes, maybe the unusual ages of the couple. We look at May/December marriages as being odd, but there are very often filled with deep love, though those on the outside of the marriage are always suspicious of that type of marriage. And even marriages with a medium sized difference in age might seem odd to some, but can be filled with the deepest, enduring love that there could possibly be. Marriages come in all kinds of different forms, but it is love that makes the marriage, and love simply doesn’t notice the differences that people do.

My great grandmother lived next door to my grandparents for all the years I knew her. She was my mother’s dad’s mother, and all of us kids loved her very much. Whenever we were at my grandparent’s house, we would always go over to Little Great Grandma’s house. She would always have cookies for us to eat, and she would sit with us at the table and talk a little. We didn’t go over often, because there was always something going on at my grandparents house…always lots of kids there to play with.

Whenever we got to go over, I loved seeing Little Great Grandma. I don’t know who started calling her that, but I don’t remember ever calling her anything else. When I think about my own grandchildren and all the nicknames they have come up with for me though, my guess is that one of the great grandsons got taller than her, and decided that she was now Little Great Grandma. My grandsons, who are all taller than I am now, are always calling me Little Grandma, so it stands to reason that, since my great grandmother wasn’t a tall woman, she would eventually be given that name.

I used to think it was unique to this generation or my family, since my sister’s grandchildren have those nicknames for her too, but when I got to thinking about my great grandmother, and the nickname we always called her, I think it is something that crosses the generational lines. I suppose my great grandmother would have cringed at some of my nicknames, but as times change, so do the nicknames.

I also think it is a form of endearment. Kids call ’em as they see ’em. My grandchildren used to call me the fingernail grandma (I believe Christopher thought of that one) when they were little and trying to figure out a way to distinguish which grandma they were talking about. I do love to paint my nails and they are always long, so I guess it stands to reason. As the years have gone by, I have been Gma, G (came from Josh, it was easier), Gram, Gramama (definitely from my granddaughter, Shai), G-pickle (Caalab, my joker, came up with that one), as well as several others that didn’t have a very long life, and so don’t come quickly to mind.

Endearing nicknames are only given to those we love, and since I know my grandchildren love me very much, I can look at the silly nicknames I have acquired over the years, and know that funny as they are…they are my own, given to me by grandchildren who love me with all their heart, and they show me that every day. I love each and every nickname, almost as much as I love each and every grandchild.

I was born the second of 5 girls, with no brothers. For 3 years it would be just my older sister, Cheryl and me, and I am blessed enough to say, “She loved me!” While there would be years when Cheryl and I would fight like cats and dogs, most of our lives have been lived as good friends. Cheryl loved being the big sister, and I always looked up to her. Somehow, she was always the cool one, with a sense of class and sophistication, and I was…well, not. I was much more shy, and awkward, except when it came to gymnastics. I could do that without trouble, but when it came to being one of the kids that fit in with the crowd, I just really didn’t. I guess I was more of a geek, and these days that is cool, but it wasn’t back then.

As I said, I did well in gymnastics and pretty much anything else like that. When Cheryl and I were little, probably about 3 and 1, I could crawl as fast as many kids could run. Mom has movies of me crawling across the floor, and Cheryl trying to keep up by crawling along beside me, but after quickly losing ground, she would have to get up and run to catch up with me. Then she would try to crawl again and would get behind again. The movies look pretty funny. It was the one place I could beat her I guess.

For most of our lives, it didn’t matter who had the upper hand, except in our teenage years, when it didn’t matter what we did, it always ended up in a fight. I’m quite sure it was because I was smart alecky, but I’m not admitting to anything like that, so don’t quote me on it. I will say that I had the ability to be a little aggravating, and my poor sister, Cheryl had to deal with that a lot.

Nevertheless, as the years have gone by, I have learned the value of such a wonderful sister as mine. When the going gets tough, you can always count on her to be there for you. She possesses a quiet strength and an ability to move past irritations and on to peace. That is a wonderful quality, and one I wish I had. I watch her and how she does things, and I try to run my life like she does. I am not saying that she never gets annoyed, or even downright angry, but she is much quicker to move past that and on to peace than I have been able to do. She is my mentor in so many ways, and a role model that I can always respect. And Cheryl, “I love you too!!”

Little girls love to mimic their moms. They see their mom getting ready for the day, and putting on their makeup, and taking great care with every detail, and they learn that this ritual is something very important. Little girls want to be just like their mom, because they love her and they think she is the most beautiful mom in the whole world. These are moments you wish could last forever…the moments before you become a total embarrassment to your child, as most parents do when their kids reach adolescence. For a time…a short time, you are just exactly what they want to be…until you become old fashioned, that is.

Like most girls, Corrie and Amy loved to play dress up, and makeup was a big part of that. I had to really keep an eye on my makeup or I might just find out that it wasn’t lasting quite as long as it really should. Of course, Corrie, being the oldest, was a little better at getting enough makeup on her face than Amy was, until Amy was a little older, that is. My girls always wanted to do the things I was doing, and not just in the area of makeup. I guess it is part of the whole finding yourself process. Before you can find yourself, you have to try out a few different possibilities.

Sure, as mom’s we look back on those moments as maybe a waste of good makeup, or a mess we had to clean up, but in reality it was so much more than an inconvenience…it was a rite of passage, I suppose. Boys are encouraged to have a rite of passage, so why not girls. It is part of becoming a
woman, but it certainly can be funny as they try to get it just right. And to ask them, it was perfect.

It is just what little girls are all about. It is in their makeup, pun definitely intended. In a desperate attempt to save my makeup, I finally bought the girls some of their own…the kid variety of course. They used the fake stuff, until they realized that it didn’t show up on their faces, and then we had to get something different. They went around with all sorts of different looks. It didn’t really matter, because girls will be girls, and I have seen some very different looks on bigger girls than mine.

For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bill has been interested in guns. I’m certain that interest dates back to his childhood days. Being the oldest brother, and with his dad working on the railroad and away a lot, Uncle Bill helped provide for the family by hunting and fishing. Of course, many men, and women have an interest in guns, but few turn it into a career.

For many years, Uncle Bill traveled to gun show after gun show, sharing his interest with many people. I remember him telling me about one particular trip that found him driving around Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. For those who don’t recall, that fateful day was the day the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was sunk in Lake Superior during an early winter storm that produced near hurricane force winds. No one knows for sure exactly how the actual sinking occurred, but my uncle told me that it was a storm to remember, and one he very much wished he had not been out in. I suppose I can understand how he felt. A storm that was bad enough to sink a 729′ ship, must have been horrible to drive in.

Since my uncle had lived most of his life around Lake Superior, he knew what an early winter storm could mean. Lake Superior had taken down many a ship and she was ruthless when she got a ship in her clutches. He said he wondered about the ships that might be on the lake in such a storm, and he was not surprised to hear of the loss of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, when the storm was over. Oddly, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the only ship lost during one of the worst storms to ever hit Lake Superior, but that sinking was a permanent reminder of the perils of a life at sea.

Being a collector, Uncle Bill collected all the newspaper articles that came out about the tragedy. A year later Gordon Lightfoot came out with a song called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and when I mentioned the song to Uncle Bill, he told me of his harrowing drive around the lake on that fateful day. Then he sent me all of the articles and such that he had saved. When I was done looking it all over, I told him I was ready to send it back, but he said to keep it. That’s how he was and still is. He wants to get history into the hands of those who are interested. Maybe we are alike, he and I, because I enjoy getting little bits of history into the hands of those who are interested too.

In July of 1976, Bob and I made plans to take a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit his great grandparents. My grandparents wanted to make a trip to Cascade, Idaho to visit some family there. Bob and I decided to take them to Cascade, and another family member was going to pick them up and bring them home when they were ready. My grandfather was 83 years old at the time. He would live 4 more years before he went home to be with the Lord. My grandmother was 67 years old at that time. She would live 12 more years before she went home to be with the Lord.

While he was 83 years old, my grandfather was still pretty sharp, but there were things that worried him some. My mom told me to just do our best to put him at ease if he got nervous about any of the trip. This trip was interesting to say the least. We were in my 1968 Plymouth Fury III, and while it could comfortably seat 4 adults and two children, it was…well, snug. We had a car seat in the center front and a car seat in the center back. I know that you aren’t supposed to have a car seat in front, but there was no such law or requirement in 1976. My grandparents just took it all in stride, and the girls were very good, so while it was a bit tight, it was a wonderful trip.

The trip was going quite smoothly, and we were all enjoying ourselves. My grandparents proved to be very pleasant traveling companions. Most of the trip went uneventfully, but there were several occasions when my grandfather thought we might be on the wrong road. Bob was so kind to him. He would pull over, and get out the map. He would show my grandfather where we were on the map, where we were going, and the road we would take to get there. Grandpa would immediately feel more relaxed, and the trip would continue. This happened several times, but Bob always handled each event with kindness and compassion. Grandpa was also worried at one point about whether or not we needed chains for the tires, but Bob again put his concerns to rest, and our trip turned out beautifully all the way to Cascade, Idaho where we dropped them off and continued on to Yakima, Washington.

About 4 years later, my grandfather was in the hospital…his last time in the hospital before he passed away. Bob and I went up to visit him. It was a pleasant enough visit, under the circumstances, but the thing about that visit that I will never forget is that while my grandfather’s memory was going, and he really thought I was the nurse, he knew exactly who Bob was. They talked about that trip to Cascade, Idaho, and I could tell that while it seemed like such a little thing to Bob to ease my grandfather’s worried mind, it had meant much more to my grandfather. It was an unforgettable act of kindness.

My grandson, Christopher, always loved to play in boxes, baskets, cupboards, or any other possible hiding place. I’m not sure why he liked these places, but I do know that picture after picture of my grandson finds him grinning happily from his hiding place as he peeks out to see if anyone is watching him, or if his parents can find him.

I am always amazed by the things toddlers see as being all important. Little ones are continually watching their parents and other adults around them to see what they are doing. Little did we know that our every move would be watched and mimicked…until we had kids that is. It makes you want to think about the things you do and say, doesn’t it? Children interpret the actions of adults as being what the cool kids do. Then they do everything in their power to imitate those people who are so important to them.

We always found that with Christopher, the household chores were the most important part of his day. His waking hours would find him “folding clothes” or should I say, unfolding the ones Corrie had in the basket or taking the unfolded clothes out of the basket, because there was something about that basket that made it very important. If it was a good enough place for the clothes, it was good enough for Christopher…so, clothes removed, enter Christopher, and there he would be sitting in the basket grinning…with the clothes all around the basket.

Christopher was also very interested in the kitchen work. Given a free moment from taking care of all the family’s laundry, Christopher would make his way into the kitchen to start dinner for the family. Pots and pans would come out of the cupboards in preparation for the days meals. Sometimes, it seems the pans had moved to the back of the cupboard…as pans will find a way of doing, but little trooper that he was, Christopher would simply climb into the cupboard and crawl back to the back to retrieve the exact pan necessary to making the meal he was working on.

When you are taking care of your family, Christopher always found that the day’s work was never really done. He “worked and worked” all day long…as his parents went along behind him picking up the clutter left behind…but really, how could they be upset when Christopher would present that precious, grinning little face. After all, we can always use a little help in the kitchen…right?

Bob and his dad have always had a close relationship. As the first son, and the only boy for 14 years, Bob and his dad had quite a bit of time for father/son bonding. They did a lot of things together. My father-in-law was a mechanic by trade before he retired, and he handed down many valuable skills to Bob. But while there was always work to be done around the place they lived, my father-in-law still made time for having a little fun with his kids.

For a number of years, my father in law worked at jobs that caused him to be out of town a lot, so the times he was in town were precious to him. He wanted to connect with his kids…all of them. He is first and foremost a family man, and they are his number one priority. That is a quality he instilled in my husband, his son, Bob.

Those were times when meals were eaten around the table at night, and everyone talked about the events of the day. The kids were home for dinner most nights, and life really was a little bit like the old television shows, except with his job, my father-in-law had to miss many of those nights. It was something that tore him up inside, especially when his kids were little and didn’t know who he was when he came home. He couldn’t do that, so he quite the jobs that put him out of town, and worked nearer to home. He and his family never regretted that decision.

Bob and his dad still have a very close relationship…one to be cherished. At 82 years old, his dad is not as strong as he once was, but he is still very much a sweet, loving man. The relationship I see between them today warms my heart. My father-in-law has always had a wonderful sense of humor. Through our 36 years of marriage, I have been able to enjoy the many moments filled with laughter in my in-laws home…and they are moments I will treasure forever.

After reading a story I wrote about our grandmother, my cousin Shirley, told me something about her mother, my Aunt Ruth, that shows that while my aunt was a beautiful, petite woman, she was also a strong woman, like her mother before her. My Aunt Ruth has always loved horses. I have a number of pictures of her, and quite often she is with horses. Some people are just amazing with horses…seem to know what they are thinking even. I believe that my aunt was one of those people. In fact, I’m pretty sure she loved most animals. She is also pictured with dogs quite often, and they seemed to be best friends. Not everyone has the gift of being so good with animals, but she certainly did.

Aunt Ruth thrived on the outdoor life. She loved life on a farm, and growing much of their own food. They had a place outside of Casper, Wyoming when I was little, and she had a garden that took up about 3/4 of an acre. Like her mother before her, she taught her children to help care for that garden, and help with the 100 or so chickens she raised every year for butchering. They hunted and froze wild game as well. Not only did my aunt and uncle teach their children how to live off the land and love the outdoors, but to have fun doing it.

As I said earlier in my story, my Aunt Ruth loved horses, but I also think there might have been a bit of an inventor in her. When the work was done, my aunt came up with a great new invention I’ll call The Butter Churn. What?? You don’t think my aunt invented the butter churn? Well…I think you just might be wrong. Let’s just see. My cousin, Shirley tells it like this, “When there was time she would let us take the horse out to ride and she would give us each a quart jar of cream and while we were riding we would turn that cream into butter. She said that was the easiest way to do it but I can tell you it wasn’t that easy on our arms. That was a lot of shaking. But the best part was no additives and no preservatives, and boy was it good butter.”

I know, you might say that there is no proof that she was the one to invent that, and you would be right, but there is also no proof, that I know of, that she didn’t, so I’ll just stick by my story that my Aunt Ruth invented a new and, in my opinion, very interesting, although maybe not easy way to churn butter. And since I really like the taste of real fresh butter, I can totally imagine just how good it was. I just wish I could remember it, because I’m quite sure I must have had some.

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