When Siara was born, we knew she would most likely be small, given the size of her parents. My niece Chantel is 4’10” and Siara’s dad, Tim, about 5’4″. She was such a teeny little baby, and just as cute as a button. She was always a little ham, like her mom, and loved posing for pictures. That hasn’t changed one bit. Of course, being very photogenic doesn’t hurt anything either. Still, cheerleading was never what I thought Siara would choose to do. Now, I can’t imagine why it never occurred to me. She is perfect for that sport. She is energetic and enthusiastic. She is quick to smile, and her bubbly personality brings out the best in people. She knows how to get people excite about the game and get them cheering. I suppose that could be the training she has received, but I think it was always something that was inside her, and now it is coming out.
Given her small size, I never would have figured her for a power house, but that is exactly what she is. I never knew that until I saw some of the pictures from her performance in The American Grand National Championship Cheerleading competition. All I can say is that Siara has amazing strength…and now she is a national champion…impressive!! She is strong and capable. And she is very talented. She is dedicated and works hard to make the entire squad look good…they all do. They are a team. She doesn’t like it when people think of what she does as some namby, pamby girly thing, because it is a true sport, and Siara has the bruises to prove it.
Today, our little power house turns 18, and I find that very hard to believe. Maybe that is because she never grew beyond 4′ 9″, and so it seems as thought she is still just a little girl, or maybe it’s just that it’s always hard to believe that kids grow up. Whatever the reason, our little teeny girl is all grown up today. She has been weighing her options to decide what she wants to do with her life and what college she might want to go to. The way I see it…while she will never be a big girl, no matter what she decides to do, I know that she will give it her all, just like she has done with cheerleading and high school. We are very proud of Siara’s accomplishments. And today, I want to wish you a very happy 18th birthday Siara. We all love you very much.
Some babies…and even older kids, absolutely hate to take a bath. I suppose this applies to boys more than girls. Boys don’t seem to have time to take out of their busy day to do something so silly as take a bath. I mean, what is a little dirt anyway. Of course, it might be more fun when there are 2 or 3 in the tub. At least then a guy has friends to play with…making it more like swimming. Still, most of the little boys I have been around would much rather play in a mud puddle than take a bath.
My girls both loved their bath time. They would splash and giggle…as long as you didn’t get soap in their eyes. Washing their hair wasn’t their favorite thing, mostly because of the whole water and soap in their eyes thing, but the rest of the bath was great…especially if there were bath toys to play with. As for me, I loved their bath time. Watching them giggle and play was so cute. Those little baby days go by so fast that a mother has to hang onto the memories, because before you know it, that is all that remains of those baby days.
My girls favorite thing to do as they got a little older was to take bubble baths. It was always so funny to watch them making beards or fancy hairstyles out of the bubbles, or just blowing them off of their hands. It was a great way for little ones to have fun. And it took me back to my own childhood days. When taking a bath meant a good half hour or more of playing in the water. Making boat sounds with my face partly underwater, and seeing the water churn like a propeller, or seeing how long I could hold my breath were always fun things to do in the bath tub. My mind wandered as I bathed my girls, wishing that these baby years could last forever.
Then coming back to reality, I would lift my clean little daughters out of the water and wrap the snugly in a towel, before putting on their pajamas, the day’s dirt gone, and tucking them in their bed, because one of the nicest things about bath time is that it relaxed the baby and got her ready for bed. After their baths, my girls would just snuggle down and go right to sleep…awwwww, peace!!
As a kid, I always heard the stories so many of us have heard, about how tough our parents had it when getting to school. Many walked barefoot, in the snow, 10 miles to school, and it was uphill both ways. It was a rough life, you know, and yes I heard those stories too, but the one that struck me as strange and maybe a bit scary was the one my dad told of hopping a train to school. In my mind, I pictured these two little boys, maybe 9 or 10 years old, running along side of a slowly moving train trying to hop up in the box cars, and of course, feeling that lump in my throat as my mind pictured all the possibilities of such an ill advised venture. Knowing that my dad obviously didn’t land under the train, since he was, after all my dad, and must have survived such a childish prank, didn’t do much to ease my young mind for my dad as a boy. And I never could figure out why my grandmother didn’t beat the daylights out of her two reckless sons.
In going through some of my dad’s things since his passing, we came across a railroad pass, and that took me back to those old stories. You see, my grandpa worked for the Great Northern Railway Company, and his kids had passes to ride the train for free, so while he may have tried some of those reckless ways to board the trail, it wasn’t necessary for him to do it in order to get a ride, and given the evidence, I would have to think that he probably boarded the train in the normal way. Meaning that most likely he had pulled the wool over my eyes or that I was extremely gullible, or more likely a little of both. Still, I can’t say I would put it past my dad or my uncle to attempt or even be really good at hopping a train. They were full of adventurous spirit as kids.
Still, given my own love of trains, and the love of trains my dad always had, I have to think that it must have been such a great way to get to school, or anywhere else that he needed to go. To me, there is a thrill in my soul when that whistle blows, and the conductor yells, “All aboard!!” Then the lurch of the car tells you that you are on your way, and all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. The scenery flashes by you effortlessly, and you can let your mind wander through the nearby woods to see what animals, meadows, ponds, or rock formations might be in there, just beyond the next turn of the tracks.
When Bob was a little boy, his family lived in Montana. When he was 5 years old, his dad would take a job offer in Wyoming, and the family would move to Mills, Wyoming, which is a suburb of Casper, Wyoming. The family lived in Mills from the time Bob was in Kindergarten until about 3rd grade. During that time, Bob was friends with some of my cousins, and for all I know we played together too, since my family spent a lot of time with those cousins, and at the Mills school, which Bob and his family lived across from. Then the family would move out in the country, west of town. But it seems as though our families were crossing paths over and over for many years.
I was born in Superior, Wisconsin, where I lived until I was 3. Then our family moved to Casper, Wyoming, which is where my mom was born and raised. My aunts future husband’s family lived in Mills, and my future mother-in-law did quite a bit of sewing for them. Later my future father-in-law would work with that same uncle whose mother my future mother-in-law sewed for. I am often amazed at the connections that happen without knowing what they will bring to the future of those involved. People you knew years ago and who didn’t seem to have any particular bearing on your future, suddenly do. It makes you realize what a small world this really is.
For a boy from Montana, and a girl from Wisconsin to move to Wyoming and live there for 15 years, go to different schools, and finally meet because his sister worked at the same place as the girl, and then get married and live happily ever after…is amazing. In fact, when I told my mom’s family who I was dating, they all knew his family. Imagine my surprise! You really don’t just assume that your family will know your boyfriend’s family, unless you had grown up around each other for many years, which was not the case with us. Nevertheless, our families were crossing paths all those years, and now they would be forever connected. I guess we all knew good people when we met them.
My sister-in-law Rachel’s daughter, Cassie, and her husband Chris, gave birth to a baby boy named Lucas Rae exactly 6 months ago today. Little Lucas was not given good odds early on in the pregnancy. It all began shortly after they were told that they would have a son. Joy soon turned into concern as the doctors explained that baby Lucas was smaller than he should be at that point. It was determined that he had an intestinal blockage, a 1 in 8 million chance, that was causing him not to be able to absorb nutrients properly. They were also told that in addition to the surgery shortly after his birth to clear the blockage, he had three holes in his heart that would need to be addressed at some point. They were also told that it was likely that Lucas had Down’s Syndrome. It was a huge blow for a young couple to take, but they faced it head on, determined to win. Prayer requests were immediately sent out.
Cassie was due to deliver Lucas about August 3, but that was not to be. It was important to deliver him early so the blockage could be removed and he could begin to grow, but delivering him early also presented problems, given his small size. Still, the early delivery was the best option. So on July 3, 2011 at 11:51pm, Lucas Rae was born by Cesarean Section in Denver. He weighed 2 pounds 7 ounces and was 16 inches long…4 inches longer than the doctors expected…the first miracle. He was on only oxygen at that point because of immature lungs. They had to wait on the surgery because Lucas was having a little bleeding in his brain, but it was not a stroke or tumor…the second miracle.
Finally, the day came for the intestinal surgery. Lucas had gained a little weight, and the bleeding had stopped. The surgery went very well, and Lucas was soon on the way to much needed weight gain. About this same time they were told that one of the three holes in his heart had healed in its own…a third miracle. Finally Lucas was able to go home, weighing 4 pounds 9 ounces. His favorite place to be, other than in Mommy or Daddy’s arms, was his swing. All too soon, the time came to return to Denver for the heart surgery. After a successful surgery, Lucas was finally able to come home for good…a fourth miracle. He was such a “little trooper” through all of this as his Grandma would say.
Today is Lucas Rae’s 6 month birthday…a day that the doctors weren’t sure would ever arrive, but God and the prayers of faith knew different. He is still pretty little, and looks a bit like a baby doll in some of his pictures, but he is happy and smiley, and much loved. While I, like most of his Casper family, haven’t had a chance to meet Lucas yet, we already love our sweet little miracle man very much.
When a soldier is serving his country, so far away from home, he often feels like he will not be returning to the same world he left when he joined the service, or was drafted, as used to be the case. The letters from home mean more to that soldier than their writer could ever imagine, and yet, so often, what starts with the best of intentions…to write daily letters…soon slips and ends up being every couple of weeks or once a month. That schedule works well for the person writing from home, but is terribly hard on the soldier, so far away, and wondering if they have been forgotten.
My dad’s letters home from World War II, while varied in content, really said just one thing…I wish I was home. In his letter from July 4th, 1944, he talks about all the great things the family did on Independence Day. My dad writes, “The picnics, drives, swimming at Manitou Falls, the ball games, and all kinds of stuff like that.” He goes on to say that it all seems “so long ago” and I can almost hear the sense of loss in his words. Then he talks about how he can “remember each little detail” and how the “little things like that stick in a fellows memory their whole life, because those things that seemed unimportant at the time, all go together to make up one wonderful word…Home.” He continues, “And the fourth of July is as much a part of that word, as the front door is a part of the house.”
I have found that there was a writer living inside my dad too. Something I had no idea about before. His words painted such a clear picture that I almost felt like I was there. And, between the lines, lived the pain of the loneliness that a young soldier was feeling. Then, I could see my dad, pulling himself up by the bootstraps, and setting aside his feelings so his mother wouldn’t worry, when he lightly said, “Say, let me know what you did on the fourth. Will you? Where you went and if you had fun.” He went on to talk about the flowers that grew in England…a subject he knew his mother would like, although my dad always did like Lilacs too, and missed them in England. When I was a girl growing up, our yard was always full of them. I guess he always wanted to feel like he was home and Lilacs were a big part of that to him.
Dad always tried not to let his feelings worry his mother. I’m sure that is what every soldier has to do. Still, I can’t help tearing up when I think of his feelings. I have always thought of my dad as such a strong man, who always knew what to do, and he was when I knew him, but there was a time that he was, as every soldier is in war time, a scared kid, trying to be brave and not let anyone know what they are feeling, and most of all a kid, wanting to go…Home again.
My mom was a New Year’s Baby, born on January 1st, but too late to be the first baby for that year. Nevertheless, hers would always be a special birthday, and would make for a special party every year for as long as I can remember. We have always gathered at Mom’s house for food socialising, dancing, and of course the annual ringing in the new year with the family beating on old pans with spoons and firecrackers going off in the street. The neighbors don’t usually even attempt to go to sleep until we have notified them of the new year. Then the “happy new year” kisses come, followed by the “happy birthdays” to my mom and the phone begins to ring with friends and family calling Mom, because they know she will be up.
Mom was the middle sister…the 5th child out of 9, leaving 4 on either side of her…3 sisters, a brother, my mom, a brother, and 3 sisters. So she was the middle sister out of all the kids and between her brothers…a fact that got her into trouble more than once, as she and her brothers managed to get into a lot of mischief. They were the three musketeers of mischief so to speak, and Mom thought the world of her brothers. She would willingly defend then against any foe…except her mom, after one incident that earned her a spanking of equal or greater intensity than the one that my Uncle Larry received.
As a beautiful young woman, she caught the eye of a man she had decided was “the most handsome man she had ever seen” and before long they were married and starting their “forever after” together. Dad always treated Mom like a princess, and theirs was a beautiful, solid marriage that would produce 5 daughters…and a family that has grown to 58 and counting. Dad called Mom, Doll from the beginning, and I don’t remember him ever calling her anything else, in fact I thought that was her name when I was little. Their marriage would last 54 years before my dad when home to be with the Lord…a day that changed our lives forever.
Today, is my mom’s birthday…the 5th since Dad went home. We had her big New Year’s Eve party last night, carrying on with the tradition started so many years ago. In years past there were often times when there were friends of my parents there, or their brothers and sisters, but mostly now the party consists of my sister, me, and our families, along with various boyfriends as they come and go. We always have a good time, and the party usually breaks up about 3:00, and we drag ourselves home to bed, because the party will continue with New Year’s dinner and cake, ice cream and gifts to follow. Simply a great way to celebrate your birthday, I think. Happy birthday Mom!! We love you!!
When I first went back to work after taking 13 years off to raise my girls up to the junior high level, I found that there were not many places who were willing to take a chance on me and my abilities. That said, I found myself working at a Burger King as the main day girl, mostly working the drive thru window from August, 1988 to April, 1989, when I was hired by our insurance agent and began my career in insurance. The time I spent working at Burger King, while less than fulfilling, because I was capable of so much more, was interesting and I very much enjoyed working with most of the people I worked with. I spent many hours saying, “Thanks for choosing Burger King. May I take your order, please?” It got to be a habit, and I have never forgotten that greeting, normal I’m sure, when you say the same things for so long.
My girls were in junior high when I worked at Burger King, and as we all know, junior high school girls attract junior high school boys. So began the years of phone calls from those boys to my girls. All that seems pretty normal, and it was, but after a long day at work, answering the phone was the last thing I wanted to do. Nevertheless, on this particular night, I answered the phone when it rang, and immediately fell into my normal routine…”Thanks for choosing Burger King…” At that point my mind completely blanked blanked on what should be said. I stumbled along with, “No…that’s not right…not Burger King…” Finally, I pulled out, “Hello.” After a moment of silence on the other end, a boy said, “…is Corrie there???” Yes, without a doubt, he thought I was crazy…and for a moment, maybe he was right.
That has happened to me several times, I’m sorry to say. I have answered my home phone as, “Farmer’s Insurance” or “The Stengel Agency” and I have even made calls to doctors for my parents, and told them I was “Caryn, with The Stengel Agency.” I guess, we get into a habit, at work of saying certain things when we answer the phone, and and after a while, our mind forgets that we aren’t at work. Whatever the reason, telephone faux pas can be pretty embarrassing for the person who momentarily forgets where they are, and pretty funny to the person on the other end of the line.
Being born 1 day apart and spending much of there early lives together, my grandson, Christopher and my granddaughter, Shai have always been close. I don’t say that they have never have those boy/girl germs type of days, but for the most part they were always good friends, as well as cousins. They were so much alike they were like peas in a pod.
Since my daughter, Amy took care of both her daughter, Shai and her nephew, Christopher, they were almost like twins. They played together daily, and even though they were boy and girl, they were close. They had a way of being a laugh a minute with all their antics. Of course, they could also get into their share of mischief too. And they kept Amy quite busy with all the little stunts they pulled. Everything from making a mess of the house, to picking on Shai’s little brother, Caalab. By the end of the day, Amy was the one who needed a nap.
It was always interesting when these two kids got together. They lways had some secret little plan to torment the younger boys, or sometimes the boys decided to torment Shai, so I guess the younger boys have exacted some revenge. But, whether it was playing clubhouse at grandma’s, or tattling on each other, there was never a dull moment.
Recently during our annual photo session for Christmas pictures, we allowed the kids some time to do the goofy picture things they had always wanted to do, Christopher and Shai decided to take a few moments to re-live some of those silly times and capture it all in pictures. The results were really quite good, I’m sure you will agree. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, I would have to agree. These pictures are funnier than words can say, but with this bunch you never know what to expect…except that it will be quite funny.
I have been reading some of my dad’s letters that were written to his family while he was in the Army Air Force during World War II. They were written from places as familiar to me as Salt Lake City and as unfamiliar as Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. He told of all the new experiences he was having, such as flying in the B-17 Bomber, and just checking out the area where he was stationed. And he told of attending church services quite often…something that didn’t change throughout his entire life, and for that I’m thankful. That one thing brings me so much peace of mind…knowing that I will see my dad again.
But, as I read his letters, there was some sadness in his tone. The life he knew was changing every day, and he was too far away, and powerless to stop it. He was always concerned about his mother and sister living so far out of town on the farm, and even asked his brother to rent them a house in town so life would be easier on them, but then when it seemed that they would not be going back to the farm, it was hard to think of coming home to an unfamiliar house. Then, his brother was thinking about getting married (which he didn’t do at that time or to that girl), and moving to Mexico to work for a time, and it looks like he would not be there for his only brother’s wedding. Suddenly it occurs to my dad that so often, life changes when you least expect it, and you find yourself not ready for those changes. I suppose this is a common feeling with military personnel, in that they have little say about where they are stationed, how long they are there, and when they might get leave.
Life changes are hard anyway, and I suppose that being thousands of miles from home would make them seem so much more unbelievable and unsettling. For me, knowing that my mom still lives in the home I grew up in gives a strong sense of stability, but knowing that my dad is no longer here, is very unsettling. In his letters, dad wondered about men he knew from back home, and asked about their whereabouts often. He was praying for their safety, as I am sure they were for his. I have wondered about those men too. So far, in my reading, he has received no answers about those men, so I wonder if he ever heard news of them. I may never find out.
I don’t like change much myself…at least not the kind that brings with it the sadness of loss. Whether it is loss of childhood days, or loss of life, all loss is painful. I know that the service our military men do for their country and its citizens is necessary, and those who serve are honorable men who deserve our deepest thanks, but I have to mourn with them the loss of parts of their lives that must be sacrificed so others can have the freedoms we so enjoy.
As for my dad, I know that the life he returned to after the war was vastly different than the one he left behind, and I feel a deep sorrow for him in that he must have felt that loss deeply. Dad never talked much about the war, and in fact any information we got had to be pried out of him. Maybe some memories are too painful to relive, and are best left alone. Still, Dad’s letters have shown me a side of my dad that I didn’t exactly know existed…or maybe I did. Dad was always a very caring man, who was extremely loyal to his family…be it his mother, dad, sisters and brother, or my mom, my sisters and me. I suppose that all of life’s changes mold us into the people we are, and so they must be.