Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mike and MichelleEvery year when our annual trip to The Black Hills is over, I feel a bit of sadness. I always hate to see it come to a close, but this year is a little different. This year it feels like we are leavig something behind…or rather, someone. My niece, Michelle, who is the daughter of my sister, Alena and her husband, Mike, has moved to Spearfish during the time that Bob and I have been on our vacation. She will be going to college at Black Hills State University in Spearfish for the next two years, so she will live there for at least that long. It’s strange to feel like we left something behind, when we didn’t even see Michelle on this trip, but still that’s how it feels.

I remember when Michelle was born. She was a teeny little girl with beautiful eyes. She loved to laugh and made everyone around her smile. With every Michelle Kristine Stevens 6.5 years oldsmile, her eyes danced and her whole face lit up. Michelle was one of those bubbly people who was a lot of fun in any crowd…and yet she was not the type of person to be conceited in any way, and hurting anyone’s feelings was just not her style.

Michelle has always had an artistic flair, and it is that ability that has prompoted this move. She wants to teach art, and to get her degree she must switch from Casper College to a University, in order to get the rest of the needed credits. I believe she will make an excellent teacher…or an amazing artist…if that is what she chooses to do, but the thing that I find very odd, is that she should still be this little girl in grade school. Where have the years gone? Michelle simply should not be old enough to be living on her own…in a different state!! But, she  is and  all those little  girl days are  over for her.

Yes, as Bob and I head home from our vacation, it feels like we are leaving someone Michelle & Alenabehind. That’s because we are. It is little Michelle, who is not so little anymore. She didn’t come over with us, but nevertheless, she is staying behind in The Black Hills to live, work, go to college, and start living her own dreams. For many of us, it is a sad day, because we won’t be able to see her smiling face as much as we used to. For her, it is a bittersweet day, because while she wants to chase her own dreams, she will also feel the twinges of homesickness for a while, and she will miss her family…sometimes terribly. But, she will be fine. She will get used to being away, and the homesickness will ease. All we can ask is that she remembers that we love her, and that she remembers the way home.

Bob's TrainAs a little boy, Bob loved trains. When his family was living in the small town of Point of Rocks, Wyoming while his dad worked in the construction business, the highlight of his day was when the trains would go by, because he would run outside, and count the cars on the train. To most of us, that would seem like an odd thing to do, and in fact did seem odd to me, but to a train lover, it is not so strange. Bob got his train set before he lived at Point of Rocks, so I guess it was not the trains there that started his love of trains, but I do know that his love of trains has never left him.

Whenever we are in a place that has any kind of a train display, Bob has to go have a look. The cool thing about that is that we have seen some amazingly Model Traingreat set ups. Some have housed several towns along their route, along with beautiful scenery. It occurs to me that Bob is in good company in his love of trains. I have to admire those people who set up those displays, because that is no easy feat. Those parts are tiny and everything has to line up perfectly or the train won’t run smoothly and you will have wasted your time.

There are not a lot of opportunities for people to ride trains these days, unless you work on one, but each year Bob and I get that opportunity when we come to The Black Hills for our annual Independence Day holiday. Our last day, which will be tomorrow on this year’s trip, we take a ride on the 1880 Train. Yes, it’s a touristy thing, but we don’t care. Riding the train always brings that little thrill of excitement. The train whistle blowing, the smoke from the engine, the scenery, that never gets old, even though we have seen it 1880 Trainmany times before. We know the route by heart, but that doesn’t matter. We still sit and hold hands, as if we were on our honeymoon. Maybe that’s because the trains have a little but of a romantic feel to them…at least to us they do, and always will.

Today is Bob’s birthday. We have celebrated 39 of them together and I still feel the same way about my wonderful husband. He is the love of my life, and I knew that on that first birthday celebration, before we were even married. He is a wonderful man and I am incredibly blessed. Happy birthday Bob!! I hope your day is as great as you are. I love you very much!!!

Chris and the girls on the mountainMy brother-in-law, Chris and sister, Allyn wanted a place on the mountain for quite some time now, and a few years ago they finally bought a place. Every year they spend as much time up there as they can, in both summer and winter. In fact, most of their Christmases are spent skiing…as soon as the more traditional things are over that is. The mountain has become the family’s getaway…a place of refuge, which is just what Chris had always hoped for.

The plan is to eventually build a cabin there. I don’t know if they plan to live up there full time, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. I’m sure that when the cabin is built, it will be beautiful. I have seen some of Chris’ work, and it is amazing. Chris does beautiful stairways, and also does chain saw carving, so you don’t know what the post might look like. It might be a bear or a pine cone. It’s just hard to say, but it will be beautiful.  About that, I have no doubt.

Chris has a job that is stressful in many ways, so being able to get away and enjoy some peace and quiet is very important. Maybe we all need that at times…stressful job or not. We all have different ideas of what is the best way to relax, and I suppose that is best too, or we would all be doing the same things. I can relate to the way Chris feels about the mountains, however. We may like different activities when we are in the mountains, The Gang's All Herebut the mountains are a relaxing place for both of us, and our families.

Another thing that is high on Chris’ list of important things…being a grandpa. Chris, like most grandpas, loves those grandkids. They bring him so much joy and happiness. I know how that feels, and I know that as his family grows and new babies are added, the joy of being a husband, grandpa, dad, and father-in-law, will grow right along with it. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We Love you!!

Bob on the TrailRed Winged BlackbirdSince 1995, Bob and I have loved hiking. At times we could not do much hiking, because we had important responsibilities elsewhere, but as much as we have been able, we have hiked. I have a treasure trove of pictures from our various hikes. They are all beautiful, and I wouldn’t trade a single one of them. They are the memories of those amazing times that we have been able to spend together. The peacefulness of those hikes cannot be copied in any indoor setting…nor would I want to. The fresh air, the birds and animals, the quiet, and the push on our bodies, all add to the feeling we get from our hikes.

Many of the pictures I have taken over the years, while wonderful, were not of the quality I had wanted. They were taken with my phone, and while they were great shots, I still could not get that elusive shot of landscape or wildlife. I knew I would need a better camera, but I hesitated because of both cost and bulkiness. Nevertheless, that elusive shot was always in the back of my mind, especially when it came to wildlife. I wanted to be able to get a shot of an animal or bird that looked like I was standing right there, next to it, and that was impossible with my phone…even though it is an iPhone and has a great camera…along with the dozens of apps I had tried, in search of just such a camera.

This year I decided that the time had arrived to get the camera that would do what I wanted it to do. It’s not the most expensive camera, but it has a couple of good lenses, and it takes good, high resolution pictures. I had played with it a little bit at home, but this vacation was going to really put it to the test. My hope was to finally get the kind of pictures that would be award winning…whether I ever entered them in a contest or not. With each hike we have taken my appreciation of this new camera has grown.

I have three more days of hiking and picture taking ahead of me before we head for home, and the possibilities are endless. I could potentially take some amazing pictures, and any Downy WoodpeckerBridge on the Trailone of them could be better than any I have ever taken. Still, I have to think that while the pictures I took of the Red Winged Blackbird were…less than amazing, the picture of the Downy Woodpecker, which was the first of those elusive shots, has more than made up for it. Yes, the pictures of us on the trails are great, and the bridge on the trail is very quaint, but  it is the Downy Woodpecker that finally got me that elusive shot.

Raelynn and Audrianna Early in her life, Audrianna was a tomboy. She was shy and quiet too. Now that she is a little older, she has begun to change and become more like her older sisters. She likes pink and bling. She isn’t the shy, quiet little girl she used to be. Now she is quite the little chatterbox. She loves to goof around with her sisters and brother. I think she might turn into quite a little kidder.

Audrianna used to be too shy to just come up and hug someone, unless she was told to, but recently, she he lost that shyness, and in it’s place is a loving girl who surprised me the other day when she came up to get a hug from me. I love it when these little ones come into their own, and begin to know who is related to them and who is ok to talk to. Before that, unless you are very close family, those shy babies aren’t too sure of you.

Audrianna has a gentleness about her that you don’t often see in a child of six years, but that is just a part of who she is. I think this quiet little girl might just be a little bit like her great aunt, in that we both concentrate deeply. We can get so lost in thought, that we almost don’t hear what is going on around us. The world just disappears around us. It seems odd, but it is how we are.

I’m excited to see where Audrianna’s personality will go next. She is at that age where Dustie and Audrianna change is inevitable. She has Kindergarten behind her now, and she is now moving into the independence that begins to come with grade school. Their personality is now influenced by more than just their family…as teachers and friends begin to play a part. Nevertheless, I think that Audrianna will not be easy to turn from her sweet little ways, and so only the good things will be gleaned from those around her. Audrianna strikes me as a very stable girl, and I think that Audrianna will grow up to be a wonderful woman some day  It’s a part of who she is deep down inside. Today is Audrianna’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Audrianna!! Have a great day!! We love you !!

Children on old fashioned Merry-Go_RoundIf you were ever a kid, I’m sure you have been on a merry-go-round. Still, I doubt if the one you were on was exactly like this old merry-go-round from days gone by. I have never seen one that had actual chairs on it. I showed the picture to Bob, and he thought you might be able to hang on better. Maybe, but it would not be something I would be willing to test. You see, I hate merry-go-rounds…and any other ride that spins in a circle, usually far too fast, and definitely far too long. Even as a little kid, I got off of the merry-go-round almost as soon as I got on, and I’m quite sure my face had changed from pink to green. I can’t say why that bothers me, but it always has. I can do other rides, like Roller coasters…provided they don’t incorporate spin into the mix, and I can do a ride like the Ferris Wheel, that goes up and over…just not a spinner.

While I am not the person to ask about how fun a merry-go-round is, I can tell you that there are lots of kids over many years who have had the best of times on the merry-go-round, and the funny thing was that it didn’t do anything fancy. In reality it simply let a child be twirled without the parent having to be dizzy too, another good thing for me, because that was almost as bad as the merry-go-round.

Most people don’t have the issues I do with merry-go-rounds, and for them this would be a lot of fun, and in reality none if these kids are trying to get off of the ride. As a child, I remember all of my cousins running for the merry-go-round at the family picnics. And I know my girls liked them too. And if they could get an adult to push them so that they didn’t have to make it go, they were in 7th Heaven. Of course, the adult usually got worn out pretty quickly, and the kids were on their own again. Nevertheless, kid leg power worked pretty good too, and those who weren’t having to push had a really great time.

I checked into the history of the merry-go-round, or carousel, and was amazed to find out that the earliest known record of a carousel was in 500 AD. I couldn’t believe that. Of course the first one was different than what we see today, and had a very different use. It had baskets suspended from a central pole, and was use to train soldiers for battle. Wow, I guess I can see that, but it’s still very odd. I think I prefer the more modern version, whether it is the simple style in a park, or the one we see at the fair each year, with horses and carts.

Caalab softball 2As little boys, my grandsons played baseball. It was hot and took up a lot of time in the summer, so after a while, they didn’t want to play anymore, which didn’t hurt my feelings, nor those of my daughters and sons-in-law, because as I said, it was hot!! Nevertheless, the boys had a good time with it while they played…except for when Christopher took one to the nose and broke it…real good!! Each of them played well, and each of them played best in a different position. Caalab was a very good catcher, but he struggled with batting. He struggled…until his mom, my daughter, Amy figured out the reason he was struggling. Caalab is right handed, and in most things, that works, but when it comes to batting, well…Caalab is a lefty. Amy watched as he struggled and thought he looked awkward. So she told his coach to have him try batting left handed. The rest…shall we say, is history. Caalab improved quite a bit then, and if baseball hadn’t been such a hot sport, he might have continued playing.

Fast forward now, to the present day. Caalab is working at Johnny J’s Diner, in Casper, and they have a softball team. They asked Caalab if he wanted to be on the Little Caalabteam, and he decided to go for it. The good news for us, his parents and grandparents…the games are played at night…much cooler. Caalab has grown tall and slender now, and because he works out, he is very strong. When he hits the ball it really takes off. I’m very pleased with his new found skills. Caalab is no longer the catcher, because his talents are really needed elsewhere.

I know that sometimes a player is put in the outfield because they can’t catch the ball very well…at least that’s how it often is in co-ed softball. Caalab has been playing the left field at lot lately, so we wondered why that was. Then I heard one of the players on the opposite team say, “Whatever you do, don’t hit it to left field!” A short time later, I figured out what their concern was. One of the players hit the ball to left field…and not straight to Caalab either. Caalab took off running and next thing we knew, he caught the ball and the player was out. The next guy in the lineup must have thought it was a fluke, because he hit it to left field too, and once again, Caalab was off like a rocket, and the player’s fate was Caalab softball 1sealed. The ball was caught and the inning was over.

Amy and I…well, we were stunned, and I said, “Now we know why that team didn’t want them to hit it to left field!!” It was fear…or at least a good understanding that if you took the chance and hit it to left field with Caalab playing that position, you were going to be sorry. He has grown into a strong young man who will be a asset to this or any other team…and not just a softball team. He’s a good worker, and a very responsible young man…a rarity sometimes in this day and age. I’m very proud of that quality in Caalab.

July 4, 1973Most people think of the 4th of July as a hot, mid-summer holiday to celebrate our independence, and they would normally be right…but not always. In Wyoming, and I’m sure there are a few other places as well, there are times when the 4th of July can be cold. We don’t get that too much, but we do on occasion. The year my oldest daughter, Corrie was born, I recall that it snowed on the 4th, and I found myself thinking, “How can this be happening?” Another year that saw snow on the 4th of July was 1973, which was almost 2 years before I married Bob, so I didn’t know his family then.

Apparently, they decided to take a trip up into the Shirley Mountains that day, and were surprised to find snow…quite a bit, in fact. It was obvious to me that they were unprepared for what they found in the Shirleys that morning, because the kids had on shorts and even, bathing suits. It would seem that it had been pretty hot, so when they came across that snow, everyone wanted the chance to really cool off. Everyone started dancing around on the snow… some of them, barefoot!! They were out there on the snow…dancing!! It made me think of the Ice Capades…or in this case, the Summer Ice Capades!!

They had such a good time, and I’ll bet they didn’t even notice, if their feet got cold. Or maybe they didn’t. The day doesn’t exactly look like it was cold, but it must have been, Summer Ice Capadessince there was still snow on the 4th of July. I know that it felt cold on July 4, 1975, when it snowed 4 days after Corrie was born, but maybe this snow simply hadn’t melted yet. That would indicate a colder summer, but not necessarily as cold as it was two years later.

Whatever the case, a surprise snow bank brought a cool down moment to a summer day. Sometimes, it’s the little things, things you would never expect, that end up being fun. And sometimes, when you can let go of the everyday things and see the unusual, and allow yourself to be goofy…you just might find yourself having a really great time. Happy Independence Day everyone!!!

 

Lucas 2 year oldThe excitement of having a baby is hard to contain. But, finding out that something is wrong is so completely opposite of that excitement, that it has the ability to make you feel like you are dying, even though you have none of the symptoms of impending death. Those feelings come from the unsure future that you and your baby now face. Your thoughts turn to wondering how you are going to deal with all these new challenges. This is where the parents of a child suspected of having Down’s Syndrome, or any other disability find themselves…and where my niece, Cassie and her husband, Chris found themselves two years ago…and Down’s Syndrome was what little baby Lucas was diagnosed with. I’m sure that Cassie and Chris felt all the normal fears, but they bounced right back and have proven themselves to be very capable parents. Lucas is a blessed little boy!

I suppose that you might think that this is a sad story of shattered hopes and dreams, but Baby boy kissesyou couldn’t be more wrong, because Down’s Syndrome is what Lucas has…not who he is. There is no room for sadness in the home that Lucas shares with his mommy and daddy, because Lucas is a happy, smiling baby, who leaves no room for sadness or regret over what might have been. Lucas loves with all he has, and brings so much joy to his parents’ lives, that they simply can’t see how they could be any happier.

There is no sadness in this family because of Down’s Syndrome, because that is just not what defines Lucas. Instead, there are giggles and smiles. There are all the firsts that every baby has…first tooth, first time crawling, sitting up, and so many other milestones. It may take Lucas longer to do these things, but he will do them. There is nothing holding him back. People with Down’s Syndrome can and do live very productive lives.
Daddy's boy
There is no room for sadness in the home where Lucas and his parents live…because it is too full of love for sadness to have any space at all. Sometimes, people think that the parents of a disabled child are always thinking of their hopes and dreams, now all crushed into the dirt, but that just isn’t so. Lucas is making new strides every day. His future is as bright as his smile, that is filled with new little teeth. There is nothing standing in the way of success and a happy life for him and his parents. Today is little Lucas’ 2nd birthday. Happy birthday little man!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Chelsea 2Few things are harder on a mother, than disciplining their child. Especially when their little darling is so heartbroken about it. And then, if he pulls a 1-800-Grandma on them, it can get worse, because for those of you who haven’t guessed, 1-800-Grandma is when a grandchild tells grandma on mommy, and then mommy has to reiterate that the punishment will stand, even in the face of Grandma’s sad and sympathetic look.

Such was the case the other day at a family gathering, when my niece, Chelsea told her son, Ethan, that he couldn’t have a piece of cake, because he had acted up. Of course, Ethan went to sit with his grandma, my sister, Allyn and told her that he couldn’t have any cake. When she asked him why, he said, crying the whole time, “Mommy won’t let me!!” Like me, Allyn has a really soft heart when it comes to those grandbabies, even though we might have done very differently with our own kids. It’s just that…these are our grandbabies, and we can’t stand denying them anything!!

Of course, this new twist to the situation is about to get…ugly for Mommy. Allyn turned to Chelsea and said, “Why can’t he have cake?” That left Chelsea to defend her decision…or Ethan would know that he could get away with it by going to Grandma. So, Chelsea said, “You know you would do the same thing, if you were me!!” Oops!! Allyn, like me, had stepped into the middle of something we really wished we hadn’t. Just why is it that we don’t turn right round and chew out that grandbaby for putting us in the middle? It’s what we would have done if it were our mom, and our children! So what makes this different? Mostly, it’s that we did not dish out the punishment, and after all…its our grandbaby…so how is it that Grandma can’t fix this little heartbreak for him!!!  That is a grandma’s job…can’t his mother understand that!!

Nevertheless, Chelsea stood her ground, and Ethan got no cake. He will know the next time, that when his mommy says to do something, she means it. It is a lesson that every good mother has to make sure her child learns. If they don’t, they will always be out of control, and no one will want to be around them. Really, she is doing Ethan and his little sister, Aurora a great service by teaching them the rules when they are little, because if Allyn and Ethanthey are little terrors, people don’t want to be around them, and don’t want their kids around them either. Ethan and Aurora are good children, and, as we all know, Grandma’s heart will be ok.

It doesn’t make it any easier to discipline your children, because in reality, it breaks Mommy’s heart too. That is her baby, and even though whatever he did was wrong, not allowing him to have cake is pure torture…for Mommy!!! It is the act of a good mother though, and must be done. Today is Chelsea’s birthday!! She is a good mom. I think Ethan will be a good little boy and will get some cake today. Happy birthday Chelsea!! Have a great day, and don’t make Ethan call 1-800-Grandma!! We love you!!

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