Monthly Archives: August 2012

My dad was the younger brother. His sister Laura was 12 years older than he was, and his brother was 2 years older. Later there would be another sister, Ruth born in the family. The two brothers were, like most boys, always into something. I think Uncle Bill was so excited about having a little brother, that he set out to become a one man entertainment committee for my dad. He loved to make him laugh, and Uncle Bill could be quite funny…and mischievous. Through the years the two boys would get into lots of mischief, but when my dad was a little boy, his brother Bill was all about being a good big brother. He took his brother outside and played with him…which was a help to their mom too. He kept him laughing, and taught him how to do things…maybe not always a good thing.

Dad loved his big brother, and like most little boys, loved having his big brother pull him around in the wagon. But then what kid doesn’t. The wagon is almost like having a car, except that you have to find a motor for it, and the best motor is a big brother who doesn’t mind doing all the work, so his little brother, or sister, can have a good time. And Uncle Bill was a good big brother. He and my dad had lots of adventures, many wagon rides, fishing trips, and other such good times, but after all…what are big brothers for.

My nephew, Barry was another of those good big brothers to his brothers when they were little. Barry is also 10 years older than his brother JD, and almost 12 years older than his brother Eric. Barry was a big helper when his brothers were little. It was even easier for him to pull them around in the wagon. And they, like all other little kids, totally loved it. Big brothers can be the coolest of friends when their little brothers a pretty little. It doesn’t always continue on into the teenage years, but usually resurfaces when they grow up.

Like my dad and his brother, Barry and his brothers, JD and Eric are best of friends to this day. I think there is a bond between brothers that is very special. They are friends no matter the age difference. Yes, sisters have that too, but it is very different than brothers. When I look at how these boys were with each other, its easy to see that the little guys look up to the big guys…want to be just like them, and the big guys, whether they admit it or not, think their little brother is the greatest. They want to show their little brothers the ropes, do the guy things, and help them grow into good men, because after all, what are big brothers for.

Today is the first day of school. Where did the summer go? I know that most parents of school aged kids are very ready for the new school year to begin. Many of the kids are bored and driving their parents crazy. I can understand that, but as a grandmother…who has seen how fast time flies…how quickly children grow up…how soon they are married, I wish time would slow down. My girls are grown and married, and 3 of my grandchildren are in high school, and a 4th in his last year of middle school. How can that be?? Two of my grandchildren are driving, and a third has his permit. The youngest will be 14 years old in September. Where have all the years gone?

As the new school year begins, the kids dread the school work and the early mornings, but a few short years from now, when they are watching their own children go to school, grow up, graduate, and move on with their lives, they will wish they could slow down the time too. To the kids, I say don’t waste a minute of this special time in your lives, wishing it was over. Experience the school activities. Enjoy your young life. The future is coming, and then you will be working, like everyone else. No more summers of relative freedom. No more freedom to spend your money largely as you want to, for when you are on your own, you will have bills to pay, food to buy, insurance, car payments, and school supplies for your kids. You will look back on this time and think, “Man, if I just had that freedom…money…time…those years, back!”

I’m very proud of my girls and my grandkids. They have grown into wonderful people. My girls are among those ready for school to start, and my grandkids are wishing summer was just starting. None of them can totally relate to what I see of the whole situation. They are too close to it in one way or the other. My girls…my babies…are all grown up with almost grown kids of their own, and my grandkids are almost grown too. They should all still be babies, but instead, today they are back in school mode, because, ready or not, we are at Summer’s end!

Alzhiemer’s patients, as you probably know lose their short term memory, but the more distant past is so clear that sometimes it seems like that is where they still live. In many ways, this is a truly sad fact of their lives, but if you look on the bright side of things, you can find a little bit of humor in an otherwise losing situation. And, when dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, you really need to find things to smile about. My mother-in-law and I have a very good relationship, but with Alzheimer’s disease, that doesn’t come without a few disagreements. As her mind progresses backward in time, she has become somewhat kidlike. Another problem she has is very itchy skin, and she scratches too hard, injuring her skin, so I have to stop her from scratching. Whenever I try to stop her, she says, “Don’t Esther!!” The first time she said that, it shocked me. My husband, Bob has an Aunt Esther, but we don’t look alike or anything, so I didn’t know where that came from.

I had the pleasure of visiting with Esther a few days ago, and I mentioned this funny sequence os events, and told her that she was helping with Mom’s care clear from Oregon…or rather she was doing all the stuff that got me in trouble. I told her that it was better for me, if she was the one who got the blame. We had a nice little laugh and then she told me that she knew why she said that to me.

When Esther was a young girl, her family lived on a ranch in Montana. Her brother, Bob’s dad had married by then, and was living in town. Winters in Montana can be pretty severe, making it hard for kids to get to school from the outlying areas. Periodically, Esther came to stay with her brother and his wife, Bob’s mom. As you know, kids can be roudy, and mischievous. It doesn’t mean they are bad…just kids. Being a mom herself, my mother-in-law had to keep order in her house, so whenever Esther would do something she didn’t like, she would say, “Don’t Esther!!” Her own kids, she might spank, but it’s a little different with your sister-in-law, so her main recourse was simply to say, “Don’t Esther!!”

Now it all made sense. I always knew who she was talking about, but didn’t understand how she was connecting me with Esther. We laughed about that for quite a while, and I told Esther that in my opinion it was better for her to take the blame, since she was a lot further away, and doesn’t have to have Mom really be mad at her. As for me, when faced with doing something my mother-in-law doesn’t like, or doesn’t want to do…well, I’ll just tell her that Esther did it. It will sure keep me out of trouble…sorry about that Esther!!

Have you ever noticed how little children interact with other kids? They don’t have to be kids who are younger than they are, and in fact most often it is kids who are older and bigger than they are. It seems that at one time or another, those little kids all have to squat down to look up at another child. This comes, of course, from watching their parents squat down to talk to them. They just think that is how you talk to people. My grand niece, Siara was no exception to that rule. Even though she was, and still is, smaller than most people her age, she thought the proper way to talk to people was to squat down and then look up at them. It was the funniest thing to watch. She thought she was being such a big girl. For her, I suppose that time of people squatting down to talk to her went on longer than most kids, because she was so little. 

Of course, those days of childhood innocence and childlike ideas are quickly over, as children mature and find out why people do things like squatting down to talk to a child. Sometimes I wish those cute little moments could last forever, but then we would not get to meet the adult the child will become, so I guess it is for the best that they grow up. I just wish the years would not fly by so very fast. When I look at this picture, and think back to the time when Siara was just a little toddler, it makes me feel a little bit sad that her childhood is over now. It feels like it was just yesterday the she arrived into our lives, the teeny little daughter of my teeny little niece, Chantel. 

Today we are attending a going away party for Siara, who is leaving tomorrow for college in Great Falls, Montana. I’m sure the party will be filled with laughter and tears, since we are happy for her to be starting this next chapter in her life, but sorry for ourselves that this chapter is over and she will be leaving us for a while. Yes, she will be back a Christmas, and next summer, but that is simply not the same at all, and looking at the beautiful woman she has become, I find myself feeling very proud of her, and yet, still missing the little teeny girl who thought she needed to be squatting down to look up to talk to people.

This has been an exciting weekend…two people have been added to our family. The first by marriage, and the second by birth. In a surprise early delivery, Aleesia Juliette Spethman arrived this morning at 1:52 am, weighing in at 7 pounds 4.3 ounces, and 19.5 inches. She is the daughter of my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve. What a wonderful weekend this has been.

Jenny and Steve have long waited for a baby girl to raise, and as many of you know, their first baby daughter, Laila Elizabeth Spethman was born November 4, 2010 and passed away November 22, 2010, leaving them with broken hearts and empty arms. While Laila can never be replaced, and will always live in their hearts, this new little life brings with her great joy and much celebrating!!

Aleesia is a beautiful baby girl with lots of dark hair…just like her mommy, and seems to look a lot like her older brother Zackery, who looks a lot like his mommy, so my guess is that Miss Aleesia is going to be Jenny’s mini me, which is so cool for her!!

It is also my guess that this little baby girl has her daddy wrapped around her baby finger already. As you can see from the picture, she has her baby finger out there getting started right now, and this picture was taken less than 30 minutes after she arrived. She is wasting no time getting daddy right where she wants him…but then, I don’t think Steve will mind that much.

Jenny and Steve have been through so much over the past two years, and I am just so pleased and excited for them now. A new day has begun. Their home will now have a new look. Pinks will be the new fashion. Their house will no longer be dominated by toy cars, Spiderman, swords, and dinosaurs, but will now add a mix of baby dolls, cradles, makeup kits, and of course, lots of girly shoes, because we all know that Jenny will raise her daughter to have plenty of shoes. A girl can’t possibly get by with just a couple of pairs!!

Yes, the future in the Spethman home is bright again. The empty arms are gone, and the new daughter is here. Aleesia Juliette with fill their days with sunshine and smiles, hair ribbons and little girl giggles, pink dresses and lots of shoes, and most of all joy!! Happy Being Born Day Aleesia Juliette!! We love you very much!! And congratulations to Jenny, Steve, Xander, Zackery, and Issac on the new little girl in your lives!!

Love is in the air, and it has landed on my niece, Jessi and her fiance, Jason. Today, they will say, “I do!” and begin their life together. It is the dream of most young girls…to meet their prince charming and live happily ever after. And it is the dream of most young men to find that one special girl that will make all his dreams come true…his princess. Today that dream comes true for Jessi and Jason.

When you see these two together, it is so obvious that they are in love. They are full of laughter and fun, but it’s in their eyes that you really see it…love. They are two people who are so full of life, and I love their sense of humor…both of them separately…and together. It’s funny, but their combined sense of humor seems almost better than each one separately, which seems impossible. I enjoy watching them together, because they can be so funny.

Yes, there are lots of laughs, but there is something in Jason that that I really liked…it’s how he lifts Jessi up…almost on a pedestal. We were having a cake auction at our church to raise money for the Sunday School. Jessi’s cake was up for auction, and the bids has been raised to a good price. But, that was not enough for Jason. Jessi’s cake had to bring more…it had to be spectacular…Jason insisted. So, out of the blue, at the top of his lungs, he yelled out, “What!!! That’s not enough!! I bid $100.00!!” Everyone in the place was shocked when he yelled out, but very please and impressed for Jessi when the bid was placed. It was just such a sweet thing to do, and in doing it, he placed Jessi up on that pedestal. He showed what he thought of her…how much he thought of her. I was so pleased with him and so proud for Jessi. To be lifted up that way is something every woman wants, and he nailed it. Well done Jason.

So today is the day!! The day when the two shall become one, and travel the rest of life’s journey together, and I am so excited for them. Marriage is such a wonderful place to be. And I can’t think of two people who are better suited for each other. I know that their life together is going to be wonderful…filled with much love and much laughter…and all of God’s greatest blessings. Congratulations Jessi and Jason!! I’m so happy for you!! I love you both!! Happy Wedding Day!!

When I was a little kid, we sometimes got to take our vacations with my Uncle Bill’s family. My dad and his brother were close, and while they unfortunately lived a long way from each other, they really enjoyed spending time together, and getting the families together too. It was always a wonderful treat for us to get to see Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris and the kids. Uncle Bill was always such a kidder, so between him and my dad, the vacations were filled with laughter. I think I would have loved to see the two of them as boys, pulling their little…or as was usually the case with those boys, big antics.

On this particular trip, we had stopped at Wall Drug in South Dakota. Now for those of you who have never been there, this is not your everyday drug store. It is practically an amusement park without the rides. There were all kinds of talking displays, dinosaurs, Indian artifacts, pottery, rocks, souvenirs, and it’s free, except the souvenirs and food. How much of that do you see these days?

We were pretty much free to browse around, and of course, like most kids, we looked for things we might like to talk our parents into buying for us. I’m sure to the adults, we must have looked quite funny. Running around from this item to that…finding each item more interesting than the last one. I guess the good news is that we were all occupied, and there was no fighting going on. And believe me, my sisters and I were pretty much professional souvenir shoppers. It could take hours to decide, unless our parents said to hurry up so we could go.

On this particular trip, Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris wanted to buy something special for their nieces, my sisters and me. We did not know this, however, so while we were making up our minds on a souvenir, they were watching us. I don’t recall if our parents just told us we could get something somewhere else, or just got us some little thing, but whatever it was, we didn’t leave there with the items we would have treasured most, because there was a bit of a conspiracy going on. And here I thought a person was supposed to be able to trust their parents, aunts, and uncles, but now, I know better!!

Later that night, my aunt and uncle surprised each of us with a gift…the very thing we had wanted the most. They secretly bought us those things, and my uncle took pictures of each of us opening the gift, so they could see what we thought of them. It was a wonderful surprise. Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris were always so good to us. They made us feel special whenever we were with them…and not just because they bought us something either. They were just always very sweet to us, and we loved them very much. These days we don’t get to see as much of them as we used to, but I want them both to know that we love both them very much!!

The Great Northern Railway was created in September of 1889. The line was the dream of one man…James Jerome Hill. He was called the Empire Builder, because of his ability to create prosperous business seemingly from nothing. It came to be as a result of the combining of several predecessor railroads in Minnesota and eventually stretched from Lake Superior at Duluth to Minneapolis/St Paul west through North Dakota and Northern Idaho to Washington State at Everett and Seattle. The Great Northern Railway was in operation until 1970 when it merged with the Northern Pacific Railway, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway to form the Burlington Northern Railroad. The Burlington Northern Railroad operated until 1996, when it merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.

I’m sure you are wondering why I would be telling you this. It’s because this particular railroad played a part in my family’s past. My grandfather (my dad’s dad) worked on the Great Northern Railway. My dad and his siblings had passes to ride the Great Northern Railway for free, as a dependant of an employee. I think it is much of the reason that my whole family loves trains and riding on trains.

Grandpa was a wanderer. He loved to see new places and experience new things. The railroad gave him the ability to do just that…and also kept him away from his family a lot, unfortunately. My grandpa was born 133 years ago today..that seems an impossible number. My grandfather was 77 years older than me. He passed away in 1951, 5 years before I was born. My dad drove back to Wisconsin, making the 1000 mile trip in 17 hours, which was pretty quick back in the 50’s. He did make it to his dad’s side before he passed away on October 19, 1951.

Because he passed away before I was born, I don’t know much about my grandfather. I have to think though, that there was a bit of a little boy in him that he never outgrew. His smile indicated that he had a great sense of humor, with just a hint of mischievousness.  I think that his boyish grin could very well have been the very thing that caught my grandmother’s eye. I think he was always full of boyish charm and mischief, and a need to see what was around the next turn in the road…or in this case, the next curve of the tracks.

My grand niece, Jala has very specific ideas about what she likes and what she doesn’t. Jala is 10 years old today, and when asked what she wants for her birthday, she said, “A yellow blanket, because it will match Sponge Bob!!” Now this is not an unusual request for Miss Jala, who is a collector of blankets. In fact, she has been collecting them for some time.

No blanket owner is safe from Jala. When she goes to her grandma’s, if my sister-in-law, Debbie, Jala’s grandma is making a quilt, well, it’s very likely that it will be leaving the house in Miss Jala’s arms. Debbie find’s it very hard to say no, so the best solution is to hide all quilts when Jala is on her way over. And Jala’s mom has an even bigger problem…where to put this massive collection of blankets. She can’t pack them away, because Jala wants different ones at different times, and remembers each and every one that she has. Before Susan’s younger daughter, Kaytlyn came along, the blankets took up the whole top of her closet, but now, she could really use the space for Kaytlyn’s things. Susan doesn’t mind having her daughter collect something, but she does hope that soon it will be something…smaller, maybe!!

As I said, Jala has very specific ideas about what she likes. And Jala loves her grandma’s dog, Sparkie. Since Debbie and Lynn got Sparkie about a year ago, Jala pretty much lives at her grandma’s house. She has taken it upon herself to train Sparkie to fetch, walk on a leash, sit, roll over, and shake hands. And this love is totally mutual, because Sparkie goes crazy when Jala shows up. They are almost inseparable.

Debbie and Lynn had to be in Casper last week, and Jala was very excited, because Sparkie was going to spend a few days at her house. Jala had great plans. Sparkie was going to sleep in her bed, and they were going to play all day. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned. Susan’s husband Josh was working that first night, and in the middle of the night, Susan woke up to find both of her daughters in bed with her. So…where was Sparkie? Well, Sparkie was sleeping peacefully downstairs in the dog kennel, with the door wide open. Unfortunately for Jala, Susan had told her sister, Kaytlyn that she could sleep with Sparkie the next night. Sorry Jala, but I hope your birthday is super!! Happy birthday!! We love you!!

Last Sunday was my mom’s family’s annual picnic. We have been having these picnics, as well as the annual Christmas party, every year for decades now. We do this as a way to re-connect with family that we don’t get to see very often. It was my grandparents’ wish that we not drift apart when they were gone, and we have worked to do this for them, as well as for all of us. These days it is so easy to lose touch with family, and more and more I find that I don’t want that to be our family’s future. So many people know their aunts, uncles, and cousins, but when it comes to their cousins children and their children, well they hardly know them. I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know those young people in our family through Facebook friendships, and I want all of you to know that is has been a wonderful experience to get to know each of you. We have a wonderful family, with so many varied ideas and talents, and to miss out on all that…well, it would be a great loss.

I think this year’s attendance was a little better than last year’s, and I think that is due to Facebook. It was a great way to announce the plan to all the family, and get everyone talking about it excitedly. It was fun to see how much the little ones had grown and to see everyone just enjoying the day, which ended up being a little cooler than the heat wave we had been having.

My cousin, Michael had said that we needed to get together for something besides a funeral, since we had 2 within the last year. I agree, and I wish he had been able to be there. Sadly a couple of the regular attendees, Uncle Larry and Uncle Jack left us this year, and their presence was very much missed at this year’s picnic, but I was glad to see Aunt Jeanette and Aunt Bonnie there, and doing ok. As more and more of my aunts and uncles leave us, we will look back on these gatherings with the fondest of memories.

The annual picnic was a wonderful success, as it always is, and I always find myself sorry when it is over. This year, however, I think it will be better, because I am in closer touch with so many of my cousins and their families. I look forward to getting to know each of you better, and hearing about all your little family stories. And who knows, you might find yourself in one of my stories, because…when it comes to my stories, no one is exempt where a story exists.