Caryn

My niece Michelle is currently in college studying to become an art teacher. Sometimes, when you think about the abilities of the younger generation, you find yourself thinking, “What talents do they have?” and “What will they become?” And you allow yourself to go along thinking of them as kids, probably a lot longer than you should. Michelle is just about done with her studies, and while I have seen her work before, every time I see it, I am in awe of her artistic abilities. Her art is truly amazing!

She has the ability to do a wide variety of art types, and in my opinion, she should get a website to show her art to the world. I suppose that will come in time…when her studies are done, and between grading papers and planning classes, and living life…hmm, I might have to push her on that one a little. Michelle has never been the type to “blow her own horn” and in fact, has always been rather quiet about that sort of thing. Maybe that is why I was so surprised when she told me what she wanted to do with her life.

Michelle has always been a very sweet and loving person…a trait to be proud of. It is her sweet spirit that has taken her to the places she has gone with her life. I suppose it is also that spirit, that essence of who she is that has brought out the artistic abilities that she most certainly has. I wish I could show you more of her work here, but there isn’t room, so I will show you the one that first took my breath away with its perfect lines, and real life form. I was like looking at the real thing, only black and white. I don’t understand how she is able to get the depth to it, but I guess that is the difference between Michelle’s artistic mind, and my…well, definitely not artistic mind. You really don’t want to see what I could draw, unless you wanted a good laugh.

One might expect that Michelle, being an artist would be living in a bit of a dream world, but she is an intelligent person with a great sense of humor. She, along with her cousins, sister, and brother, keep those around them in stitches much of the time, but all are very sweet people who have grown into wonderful adults.

I think Michelle will make a wonderful teacher. She is very dedicated to her work, and when she talks about teaching and art, her eyes just light up. You can always tell when someone loves their work. I also think her students will be very blessed to have such a wonderful, dedicated, and fun loving teacher. I see a wonderful future ahead of her, and I am very excited for her, and very proud of her.

Christopher and Shai were best friends from the very beginning of their lives. They were born 1 day apart, cousins and friends. They shared so many things in those early days…mostly because they spent most of their days together at Shai’s house, because her mom, Amy, my daughter babysat Christopher. Those were special days, for all of us. The kids got loving care from mom/Auntie Amy, and Corrie, Christopher’s mom, my oldest daughter, and I got to go over at lunch and spend quality time with the kids and Amy. It just doesn’t get better than that. I will always treasure those early days spent getting to know my grandchildren well. They were the foundation for the great relationships I have with them to this day over 15 years later.

Watching the kids play and their friendship grow was wonderful, as well as interesting. As most of you know, the friendships of children go through many twists and turns. One minute they are best friends, and the next minute they are worst enemies, and the next, they are friends again. That was the case between Christopher and Shai. They played together so well most of the time, but there were just things that were not allowed, and moments when they both wanted to choke the other…and might have even tried…or at least tried to beat the other one up. These are just typical parts of the lives of children, and the source of many headaches for the parents and other adults. Those little territorial issues, “that’s mine” or “I had it first” are simply a part of life.

Such was the case when Christopher one day decided that Shai’s infant car seat, that was soon to be used for her little brother, Caalab, was a great place to play. While Amy was waiting for Caalab’s arrival, Christopher and Shai played in the car seat. A car seat that the kids hated to be in as infants, became a great chair. So the kids would get in it to play, and it became a bit of a fight sometimes…like here, when Christopher was sitting in the car seat, only to attract the attention of Shai, who also wanted to be in the car seat. Her solution was to climb into the car seat behind Christopher, in an attempt to force him to get out of the car seat, so she could get in. Well, Christopher was having none of it, and they began screaming. Oh my gosh!! You would have thought they were killing each other.

Most times there was a way to decide who had things first, or who it belonged to, but every so often, the only solution was to take the item away from both children. Of course that didn’t exactly solve the situation. Not only did you still have both children crying, but now they were both blaming each other for being the one to start the whole fight in the first place. “If you had just let me have it, things would have been just fine” sort of comments rage back and forth at each other, until the parents, who have had enough of it, tell both kids to get away from each other. That solution usually solves the problem too, because the minute you tell them they can’t play with each other, that becomes the most important thing in the world. So, now all they can think of is playing with the very friend their parents have told them that they can’t, and they are friends again. Hmmmm…problem solved.

By the time Josh came along, Amy had gone to work, so she was not able to babysit her younger nephew. Our good friend Dani stepped up and took on the job of babysitting all 4 of my grandchildren. She was either amazing, or insane, and I was never quite sure which it was. She would take 5 kids, including her Brooke, to the store, lunch at Hamburger Stand, and various other places…ALONE!! And never lose one, or any other such disaster. I would have gone crazy, but she just did it like it was no big deal.

Dani’s youngest, at the time, daughter, Brooke, who has since passed away, and who I miss very much, because she was a delight to anyone who knew her, decided that my grandson Josh was her baby, and you had better not argue the point either. She had to be involved in every aspect of his care, and she did quite well with it, I might add. She was a natural born mommy. I didn’t have to be to work until 9:00am, and my girls had to be there at 8:00am, so I always took the kids to Dani’s house. Brooke couldn’t wait to get her hands on her Baby Josh, as she dubbed him. She wanted to hold him, feed him, turn on his swing, help with diapers, and anything else she could think of that she could help with. He was too young to play much yet, or she would have been in charge of that too.

Brooke totally loved Baby Josh, and he loved her too. I think babies can tell when another child is going to be gentle and kind. He just warmed right up to her, and they were best buddies. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure Brooke thought she was Josh’s babysitter, and not Dani. She was determined to be the one in control of his care, and if things didn’t go right…well those of you who knew Brooke would say that she would be sure to straighten out your misunderstanding mind. Hahaha, she was quite a character!!

Brooke was very much a mommy type, with all the bossiness that goes with that, and I say that in a loving way, because even with that, Brooke had a very tender side to her…especially where Josh was concerned. Her little mommy’s heart wanted to nurture him every moment that he was there. She was a good little babysitter, and I think Josh was blessed to have known her…as were we all.

Kids do so many funny things, but one one the funniest is learning to feed themselves. Food gets poured out and wiped on the face and the hair. It gets dumped on the floor and thrown across the room. And that is food they like!! So just imagine the food they don’t like, or think they might not like. It is quite the picture.

Many people in recent years buy a little cake for the first birthday, and turn the baby loose on it. Oh boy, is that a funny thing. Here is the baby looking at all these people who usually aren’t there at mealtime, but for some reason they are today, and then they give you this huge cake, and tell you to go to it. Well ok, sounds good, right? Absolutely!!

Yes, learning to eat can be quite the ordeal for the parents and quite the laughing matter for a baby. Some times the baby just wants to play, and what better way to play than to squeeze the food between their fingers and watch it ooze out. And even the parents must admit, that it can be funny to watch the whole process.

Well, Christopher was a wild one when he ate. The food went everywhere, and sometimes I think he liked putting on a little show for his parents. He has always been a bit of a clown. Maybe its just a boy thing, because as I recall, Caalab and Josh were pretty good at it too. Shai, on the other hand mostly didn’t like being messy. She was a girly girl from the very start. So, to see her really messy didn’t happen as much, but when it did, it was quite funny.

Unfortunately…or maybe thankfully, babies soon learn to feed themselves without all the mess, and those funny little moments are soon over. Perhaps, we should cherish them instead of worrying over them so much. I think that parents sometimes get caught up in the idea of having a perfect child, and they forget to enjoy the funny little imperfections that make up the child and make that child unique. All too soon, those days will be over and the child grown…but then you get the opportunity to go through it all over again with the grandchildren.

Today is Father’s Day, and while I wish all the dads a happy Father’s Day, I feel a little bit like an orphan. My dad went to Heaven 3 1/2 years ago, and it is something I will never really get over. I have felt like the impossible has happened. The world has continued to go on and my Dad hasn’t. It is just wrong that the world should go on as if nothing happened when our loved ones have left this world. I have feel like the world should sit up and take notice…why doesn’t it? Why?

I guess it is supposed to get easier…that time will dull the pain…but how long does that take? There are times when it seems like it has gotten worse. My heart doesn’t seem to know that it is supposed to hurt less with time. It just hurts!! I miss my Dad!! That doesn’t change!!

So, that said, my Dad is very much on my mind and heart today, as he is every day. He was such a sweet caring man…so patient with his girls, and I for one was a bit of a challenge. I always liked a…good debate…no I liked to argue, and I was very opinionated. But Dad was patient and put up with it…most of the time. And we had an understanding about it. When he said, “Don’t argue with me!!” I didn’t..anymore…at least for that moment. I knew that was the end of the discussion…he had had enough. Dad rarely lost his temper, even when we argued. He just got done.

Dad was a quiet hero. He fought for his country during World War II, but never spoke of it, unless we pried it out of him. He never thought of himself as a hero. On a rare occasion, when I took him to the airport to see the B-17 bombers, which is what he was on during the war, he told me a few things. He talked about where he stood and how he worked his gun. He talked about the work he did as flight engineer. The flight engineer was the go to man in any emergency. He had to know the systems and be able to do anything the ground crew could. If the plane was in trouble, he was the best chance they had to avoid a crash. That day did come for my dad’s crew when the landing gear wouldn’t come down, and my dad had to hang upside down in the bomb bay area and crank down the landing gear, saving the lives of his crew members.

Dad was all that to our country, and yet such a good dad. He always knew what to do to solve a problem. Maybe that came from his training, but I really think it came from his deep love for his family. He would have done anything to fix things for his family. He was an amazing husband and dad. We were so blessed to have him in our lives, and I just wish he was still here. Happy Father’s Day Daddy!! I love you and I can’t wait to see you again!!

Usually when people oooo and awww over a child, it is the baby that they are so excited over, and that is always a precious thing, but sometimes, the older child can have a profound effect on your heart. That is the case for me when I think of my sister-in-law, Marlyce. I have been thinking about Marlyce a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I have been going through old family pictures, or maybe it is just because she was so special. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I miss her very much. She went home to be with the Lord in 1989, when Cancer ravaged her 39 year old body, and ended her all too short life.

Marlyce was developmentally disabled, and I suppose that to some people that might mean living a life of less value than a “normal” person would have, but then, they didn’t know Marlyce. She was a loving, giving, caring person, even if she didn’t think and act like what people would call “normal” in today’s world. No, her way of thinking was, in my mind, superior to that. Marlyce loved everyone, unconditionally…especially children. She loved being big sister and later, aunt. Those babies were the greatest thing ever to her. I remember when my girls were born. Marlyce was so proud to be an aunt. She made things for them and played with them, and held them. She absolutely beamed.

Marlyce always had a soft spot for little kids and animals…and anyone who loved her in return. I was very blessed to be one of those who loved her and, in return, she was the sweetest sister-in-law anyone could ever ask for. I remember well her chocolate chip cookies, and her knitted hats…and to this day I can’t see either one without thinking of her, but it doesn’t make me sad, like you might think, the memory is always sweet, just like Marlyce was.

My dad and Uncle Bill were born 12 and 10 years after their older sister, Laura. It would be another 19 months before their younger sister, Ruth would be born. The two boys would be the main playmate for one another for quite a while. Laura was old enough to be a big help to her mother, but she didn’t really have much time to play games with her younger brothers.

Like most little boys, the brothers were full of mischief and adventure. My dad always looked up to his big brother and my Uncle Bill always thought his little brother was the greatest gift. One look at his face tells the story of a brother’s love for his little brother. They would often play in their Zenith Coaster wagon, the very latest thing of their day. My dad loved having his big brother pull him around in that old wagon. He couldn’t get enough of it. His big brother was a little boys hero.

The brothers loved to go fishing from the earliest of days, and often came home with several fish to be fried up by their mother for dinner. I’m sure it made them feel like they were making a great contribution to the family household needs. Their adventures would later take them from fishing on weekends to blowing a tree stump out of the ground with explosives to the occasional explosives blowout on Independence Day, as well as blowing a gate post further into the ground by seeing how the explosives would act when placed on the top of the post. Of course, they had to quickly figure out a way to fix that one before their mother got home from town, but they got it done, and so dodged the “bullet” or at least the punishment that might have come out of that one when she got home.

As most little brothers do, my dad looked up to his big brother as being just what he wanted to be…not when he grew up…now. My Uncle Bill was very proud of his name, as it was passed down through the generations, as was my dad’s name. Uncle Bill used to say, “My name is William Malrose Spencer.” And in true little brother style, my dad would say, “My name Penchi Marrow too!” It was the best his little boy mind could duplicate the name of his hero big brother.

My oldest grandson, Christopher had to wait the longest to get a sibling. He spent a lot of time with his cousins, Shai and Caalab, so he got to see first hand how it was to have a little brother, and while Shai didn’t always like it, Christopher thought a brother would be the coolest thing ever. For Shai the wait was 16 months, but for Christopher it would be 2 1/2 years.

Christopher and Shai did so many things at the same times, and I suppose he thought this should be no different. Sure, he liked playing with Caalab and maybe that was a little like having a little brother of his own, but it really wasn’t the same. And he wanted it to be the same. I suppose having a male cousin was the next best thing…for a while

Finally it was to be his turn, and his parents knew that the baby would be a boy from the ultrasound. They told Christopher that his brother’s name would be Joshua and that they would call him Josh. So Christopher called him Josh from the time he learned of his coming. He was so excited that he was getting a brother too. His very own brother. One that could stay at his house. He was one happy little boy. Josh’s arrival was marked by some problems that would send him to Denver for 2 weeks, much to Christopher’s dismay, but soon he would be home and Christopher would be a big brother…finally!!

Christopher loved his little brother and completely enjoyed helping his parents with Josh’s care. He wanted to be a part of everything. He was careful not to wake the baby when he was asleep, but when he was awake, he wanted to hold him and, of course, play with him…but that would have to wait. So he settled for holding Josh, but occasionally that didn’t go too well. It’s a good thing he was sitting on the floor at the time, and it’s a good thing babies are resilient, because Josh had a big brother.

Today is my grandfather’s birthday…he would have been 118 years old. My grandpa was a gentle man who loved children. My mom tells me of the many times when Grandpa would patiently sit while the girls, his daughters, would comb his hair and paint his nails. Then he would go to work with those same painted nails, rather than hurt his little girls feelings. If anyone dared to tease him about that, he never told his family about it. I think it takes a special man to be so comfortable in his own skin that he can share those special moments with his kids, and not be embarrassed about it. That was the kind of man he was. Nothing was more important than family. He was totally gone on Grandma, and loved his kids and later grandkids more than anything.

I remember going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house when I was young. When we would walk in the door, Grandpa would always say, “Come on in, kid.” He always said it in such an endearing way, and you just knew you were loved. Grandpa was just so sweet. But, he also had quite a sense of humor.

I remember Grandpa calling the house. He would always try to disguise his voice to sound like he was a very old man. Then he would ask to speak to Mrs McGillycuddy. It wasn’t until we were a little older that we stopped being fooled, then we would laugh and say, “Grandpa, is that you.” He loved making us laugh.

As occasionally happens with every kidder, at some point, the joke ends up being on them. That day came for my grandpa one day when he stopped by our house. My mom was on the phone, and the front door was open, so she told him through the screen to come in. She went on with her conversation for a minute, then noticed that Grandpa was still standing outside. She again told him to come on in and went on with the conversation. She looked up a third time, wondering why he wouldn’t come in. It was then that she saw our German Shepherd dog, King, guarding the doorway. She said, “King, you let him in!” As King moved away from the door, she said it was the only time she ever saw a dog laugh. King knew who my grandpa was, and he would never have hurt him. He just saw the chance to kid a kidder, and he took it.

Years ago, before Alaska and Hawaii became states, my mother and father-in-law decided to purchase a quilt pattern for the then, 48 United States of America. The pattern was was for the state birds for each of the 48 states. They thought it would be a wonderful addition to their home.

When it arrived, she was excited about it, and went to right work on it. She always liked that sort of thing. She used to knit, crochet, embroider and sew. Of course, with 3 children and later, 4, 5, and 6 children, time to spend embroidering things that weren’t necessary to the running of a household, or clothing the children…well, it was just scarce. So she worked to embroider the squares whenever there was time in her busy day, but gradually there was less and less time for such things, so it became a long project.

It was a different time and place then. You didn’t have dishwashers, and many people grew large vegetable gardens and canned or froze their food, and since that is very time consuming, the quilt squares took a good amount of time to finish…not to mention the fact that embroidery is a very meticulous art…one I never had the patience for. Anyway, I’m sure you can imagine, time was something she had precious little of, with cooking and cleaning, canning vegetables, and clothing 6 children. So, over the years the squares were finished, but as often happens in with these projects, life got in the way, and they were packed away with the intent of someday turning them into a quilt…a plan that wouldn’t materialize for over 20 years and of course, the addition of 2 more states.

One day, their daughter Debbie came across the squares and decided to have the work finished. Her mother-in-law quilted, so she spoke to Cleo, and she agreed to put the quilt together so it could be returned to my mother and father-in-law as a surprise. And a wonderful surprise it was. They were thrilled to have it, even if it had taken so many years.

Again, like often happens, the quilt was packed away for safe keeping, and thought to be lost…until recently when Debbie was helping them go through some things and came across it. Which is how we once again have a little piece of history…the quilt of the 48 United States of America.

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