As my granddaughter gets older, if find myself thinking back on the years since she arrived. As the mother of daughters, my grandsons were a culture shock for me. Boys are very different from girls. They are rough and tumble, and don’t care about the personal things like girls do. Girls worry about how they look and their clothes, and as in the case of my granddaughter, how her nails look. She used to tell me that my nails were a mess if they were chipped at all. Then she informed me that I needed to fix them. Boys just roll their eyes at those things and head outside to get in the mud. When she was young, we shared girl time together, just her and me. It was a special time for us.

Now that little girl is gone, and she has been replaced with a beautiful and capable young lady. Yes, she still cares about how she looks, although she really doesn’t need to worry about that, because she is stunning. She probably wouldn’t agree, and might not like it that I have singled her out today. Like any other teenaged girl she thinks she has had a bad hair day or bad makeup day, and this, that, or something else isn’t exactly right, but she couldn’t look bad if she tried.

And, she has the ability to be such a beautiful spirit. She is kind and loving, especially to children…a trait she gets from her mom, and children love her…something that she gets from her grandpa. She can be funny or serious, happy or sad, quiet or loud, but to me she is always a beautiful person, inside and out. She lives up to her name, Shai…Hebrew for gift…and that she definitely is…a precious gift, that I am so blessed to have…a granddaughter, and the only one I’ll ever have.

Sometimes, as with every teenager, her feelings get hurt, because someone doesn’t see what a wonderful person she is and they step on her feelings, and that makes me sad. I would love to be able to protect her from all the little hurts that life always brings, but I can’t, so all I can do at that point is to let her know that I love her and always will, and anyone who doesn’t see the super special girl that she is, is losing out, because with each passing day, she becomes more and more amazing, and I see more and more how greatly God has blessed me with this precious gift.

We have all heard the saying, “what happens in  Vegas, stays in Vegas” and we all know what they are talking about, but I have a story that is just a little different.  So, what happens when you take two average teenage and pre-teenage boys to Vegas? I found out recently when my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin took their sons Chris and Josh to Vegas over Easter break. When Chris and Josh left here, they were two normal kids, but from the pictures I had a chance to see…well, I guess that something most definitely happened in Vegas, and I want to warn everyone about the possibilities of Vegas. Parents need to keep a close watch on who their kids associate with in Vegas, because this could happen to your kids too.

It would seem that when people go to Vegas, they spend time with people that they wouldn’t normally hang out with. People who dress funny and paint themselves up to try to be something they are not. Some of these people have definite identity issues. Some of these people don’t even remember who they really are anymore. My big concern here is that when we take our kids to Vegas, and we allow ourselves to become uninhibited, we are exposing our kids to these kinds of people. And when we do that, we open up so many possibilities…dangerous possibilities.

We all know how impressionable kids can be. We as parents must always be watching who they are allowed to associate with very carefully, because once they have begun hanging out with the wrong kind of people, they begin to change. While sometimes the changes are just slight, and not too much damage is done, sometimes they turn into people you don’t even recognize as our own kids anymore.

As parents, it is our responsibility to protect them from the kinds of people out there that we would never allow them to associate with if we were anywhere but Vegas. We must stand our ground so that they are able to have a safe trip, and come home the same great kid we let go to Vegas in the first place, and not someone who is so different…that if we are not careful, we might even mistake them for Elvis. What happens in Vegas…I don’t know, I would be very…very careful.

It’s funny that when boys are babies and toddlers, they are so sweet. You just think they will be that way forever. Now, I’m not saying that they are bad…it’s just that it doesn’t take very long for their “boy-ness” to kick in, and when it does, they have to show everyone their new found abilities. It really is a bad time to be the only girl in the bunch, as my only granddaughter, Shai, often finds out. When those boys decide that it is “pick on Shai” day, she is in for it. Sometimes, it’s not too bad, but sometimes she almost needs to be rescued. The good news is that they are just playing, and I know that as they all get older, she won’t think that they are such total pests.

And just because Shai is the only granddaughter, doesn’t mean that she is the only “victim” the boys have, because their moms and even their grandma are fair game. It’s a good thing that I know that they are just kidding, because to be honest, I know that any one of those boys could take me. They are all bigger than I am, and stronger, so I am learning that it is a good thing that they have all learned respect for their elders. They just pick on me because…well they can and I don’t get mad. I guess that makes grandma a pushover, and I would have to say…probably so, because these boys, as well as my granddaughter, know that they really can’t do very much that is wrong in their grandma’s eyes. I’m pretty taken with them.

And it really doesn’t matter how old a boy gets, it would seem that they never really outgrow that “tough guy” persona. You put several teen aged boys together with their grandpa, and the next thing you know, you have a dog pile. Each one trying to prove that he is the strongest. It is the greatest test of “manhood” they have come across in their lives…at least so far, that is. I suppose it is a rite of passage to a degree. Men and boys proving their strength one to another…or maybe it’s the grandsons trying to prove to grandpa that if it’s 3 against 1, he will most likely lose the battle too, although, I’m not really sure who it was that lost this battle…I mean, how could you tell…really.

Children are like an unopened book. You don’t know what their lives will hold until they live them. You just know that there is so much promise…so much possibility. When they are little you look at them and you can see their whole life laying out in front of them, to do with as they choose. They can go anywhere and be anything they want to, if they put their mind to it.

Kids always seem to have a fascination with sunglasses, and every time I see a child in sunglasses, it reminds me of that song that goes like this, “the future’s so bright, I have to wear shades…” Though the child isn’t even thinking about the future, it makes me realize that at least for that moment in time, their future is bright. Their lives could, and probably will take some twists and turns along the way that we may not particularly like, but most kids turn out alright in the end.

Looking at that child in the sunglasses, trying to get them on right and straight, but ending up with them on upside down instead, you realize that they have so much to learn, and you have so much to teach them. It is a moment that can be very overwhelming. Sometimes, you wish they did come with an instruction manual, but as you travel the road from babyhood to toddler to adolescent to teenager to adult, while the trials are there, you find that you wouldn’t miss this trip for anything. Watching them grow into wonderful personalities that are often very different our own, or even anything we could imagine, is truly amazing.

Watching them go through the struggles of growing up, the mistakes, the heartbreaks, the hurts and pains…well, is not quite so much fun. They have to make their own way, and at first they aren’t very good at some of the things they try, but you have to let them try. You have to let them make their own choices and decisions about things like sports, and other school activities so they can begin to learn how to make those choices and many others.

It may not be fun to watch them go from the child who looks to you to handle their whole world, to the adult over whom you no longer have any true control or say in their world. You want to protect them from all the mistakes they are sure to make, but you can’t. You can only be there when they fall, to pick up the pieces and stand then back up on their feet and send them off to try again…and hopefully to succeed…and to find that the future’s so bright…

This past week, my family reconnected with my Aunt Ruth’s family. We had lost touch with them over the years, but a chance connection on and one phone call were all it took to melt away the years, and now we are back in touch with them again. We have friended each other on Facebook, and looked over the pictures each of us has. I have seen the faces of children who look so much like their parents that it’s like they were looking in a mirror. That got me to thinking back on something I have know about myself almost all my life.

I too, look a lot like someone else in my family…my dad’s sister, my Aunt Ruth. I am built like her and my facial features are a lot like hers. Aunt Ruth and her family used to live here when I was a kid, and we got to see a lot of her and her family. She was a slender, tiny woman with delicate features, and dark wavy hair. But, the thing that is the easiest for me to remember, is her laugh…because it is mine. Often when I laugh, I sound so much like her that it brings her face to mind. It is one way to never forget your aunt, who passed away in 1992. She had a beautiful laugh. She could light up a room with it, and I guess that is why it is always with a mixture of sadness and happiness that her face comes to mind when I laugh.

My Aunt Ruth’s family used to live here in Casper, and we got to see their family a lot. My cousins, my sisters, and I got to see a lot of each other. Oh, the times we had. We would play out in the front yard for hours, or out in the yard at their house. It was great. Our lives were intertwined…the closeness of families…the love.

It’s always sad when families are separated by time and miles, and then by the passing of loved ones. I can only rejoice in the reconnection that has now taken place, and know the those who have gone before us would be very happy and proud. And I think of Aunt Ruth, and know that in Heaven she laughs often, so I will hear that laugh from her and not just from me, and since my dad and her son, Larry are both there too, along with parents and grandparents, I know they have had a great reunion too.

When you put three kids together out in the country, where they can’t go play with friends, they have to use their imaginations to find fun things to do. And when two of the kids are quite a bit younger, it is left to the oldest to brainstorm the adventures. Such was the case when Bob and his sisters, Marlyce and Debbie were young. Most often the play was the average kid stuff that all kids play, but sometimes they got into a little mischief.

I’m told of a time when my mother and father-in-law were outside milking a cow and the kids were in the house. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but both Bob and Debbie have told me that it was Marlyce, and that’s their story, and they are sticking to it. The kids weren’t alone in the house very long, but when you put a bag of uncooked macaroni into the toilet, and don’t tell your parents, and it sits there for a little while…well, it expands, and sticks together like glue, and my mother-in-law told me that they broke the toilet. I have tried to figure out how macaroni could break a toilet, and I just can’t completely figure it out, but what is very clear in my head is that if the macaroni broke the toilet, there was one big mess to be cleaned up.

I don’t know for sure what they were playing, but my guess would be that the toilet reminded them of a big cooking pot, so they were pretending that they were cooking dinner. Gross as that may sound. And they are not alone in that kind of play. One of my sisters used to mix Comet, and different shampoo and conditioner types in the toilet. I guess it makes a good test tube too.

The thing that really strikes me a funny, is that the very same children who can get themselves into so much mischief…who can make such big messes…who can cause so much trouble, can also have such angelic little faces. And sometimes those angelic little faces happen right after the big troublemaking mischief they just got into. It can make it hard to be mad at them sometimes, although my guess is that this was not one of those times. I feel pretty safe in saying that even with their angelic faces or at least the attempt at angelic faces, we simply not enough to get then out of the trouble that this triple play got them into.

I spent last evening at my mom’s going through some of my dad’s things. We looked at his old report cards, and autograph book from his school days, a hat I had seen him wear in a picture when he was about 2, a New Testament Bible given to him in the service, his Army Air Force uniforms, and a some miscellaneous other things. It has been 3 1/2 years since my dad went home to be with the Lord. This was hard in many ways, but it was time to do it.

One of the most precious things we came across, was the letters my dad wrote home to his mom during World War II. It looks like she must have kept every one of them, and they are neatly tied together in a bundle, so they would be safe through the years. What a treasure!! Dad was always the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He talked to his mom about the money he sent home to the family every paycheck, and the fact that since he didn’t need much money, he was going to be buying a war bond each paycheck too, and would be sending that home to go toward a savings for his future. He said that he figured he could have a nice nest egg by the time he came home by doing that. Then he told his mom that if she found that she needed money, she was suppose to use those bonds, “even if she used them all, because he expected that there would be plenty of ways to make money after the war, if a fellow was willing to work” so he would be just fine. It was so important to him that his mom and family at home were ok. That is how my dad always was. He always put others first, especially his family, even if it meant working extra hours or a second job.

Dad tried to reassure his mom that he would come home safely. He spoke of the brand new plane, a brand new B-17 Bomber, that had been assigned to him and his crew. You could hear the excitement in the words he had written, as if he has spoken them to you himself. The plane flew “so smoothly” and “you can see why they call it the flying fortress” were the words he used to describe the new plane. He loved the beautiful new plane, but at the same time, he was well aware of what he was going to be flying into. He had hoped for a furlough before he was sent overseas, but it was not to be, and he didn’t know where he was to be stationed yet, but he didn’t want his mom to worry about it. He was flying off into an uncertain future, and not sure of his return, and yet his concern was for his mom and her feelings. That was just how he was. He assured her in a determined tone, that he would “return home in the same condition as he left” and would be protected in the plane that was built to be the “dread of the airways” during the war and because God would watch over him to bring him home; and so He did.

My dad would spend the rest of the war stationed in Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England, and would serve many successful missions in the plane that he was so pleased with. He would be decorated for his success in shooting down enemy planes and for successful air cover, including covering the storming of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He had many adventures during that time, but from his letters, it was clear that his heart was always yearning for home and his family.

When my dad was a boy, he and his family, including his sisters Laura and Ruth, and his brother Bill, lived on a farm in the Great Lakes Region. The winters were bitterly cold, and long. The snow got deep, and you only went places if you had to. This didn’t stop the kids from getting out and playing in the snow, which is typical. Bundled up warmly, their big sister takes the boys outside to pull them on their sled for a while. I’m sure the free time that provided to their mother, who had been cooped up with these bored children, was a blessing.

Living on a farm back then, the kids needed a good imagination to entertain themselves, because there were no video games to play with. Kids had to make their own fun, and my dad and his brother were very imaginative. What began with two sweetly innocent little boys, would soon graduate to the pranks and antics of boys with big ideas. Once summer arrived, the possibilities were endless. From setting off dynamite on the forth of July at daybreak…a prank that makes me wonder how many times their mom wanted to throttle them, to sneaking out by the river with buddies to cool off and maybe try their hand at smoking. You put a group of boys together on a summer day with nothing much to do, and they will be sure to come up with something…a thought that makes me cringe.

Of course, there were the chores too, and my dad and his brother were never real troublemakers, just typical boys.The did use the dynamite to work the place too. The would blow tree stumps out of ground that was needed for some other uses, and they fixed fences and gate posts…sometimes after the sunk the post into the ground with one of their dynamite adventures. They took care of the family pets, and other such chores, like cutting and stacking wood. But they always found time to play, and of course ride the horses…a mode of travel that was far more common to that era that this one. My Aunt Ruth, however, was the one who seemed to me anyway to be the one to thrive on the horses. She can be seen in many of the old pictures riding a horse or in a wagon hitched to two horses, to take her to a quiet place where she could sit and enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun.

That was just a different time and place, when life wasn’t so fast paced. When people worked hard, and then took time out to relax and enjoy the beauty of the country they lived it. It was simply life on the farm.

There is a lot to be said for the way a little brother looks up to his big brother. I know my dad looked up to his brother, and as you can see, my cousin Denny thought the world of his brother, my cousin Gene. Gene was always a gentle soul, and at least whenever I saw him, a quiet man. His sons Tim and Shawn remind me of him in many ways. I suppose that with his brother, and his own boys, there were times when he could be rough and tumble and plenty noisy. And maybe, it is that I was quite a bit younger than he was, so he was almost more like a uncle, than a cousin. I always liked him very much.

From looking at these pictures, it is easy to see that Gene was pretty happy with his little brother too. That is pretty typical with brothers. And, also typical of brothers, I have been told these brothers would get into their share of mischief…like taking things apart and not being able to get them back together…something that seems pretty common with boys…much to the irritation of their mothers sometimes, but as most mothers of boys will tell you, it comes with the territory. And as I understand it, the practice of taking things apart and putting them back together, has moved on to at least one of Gene’s sons, Tim who likes to repair iphones that meet with an unfortunate mishap…probably a good skill to have, since the repairs would likely be expensive otherwise.

I think for a big brother who loves his little brother, the worst time of the day is nap time for the little brother. All you can think about is that you have no one to play with, and of course your mother has told you that you must be quiet so you don’t wake up the baby. So, you sit quietly beside your little brother, hoping that somehow he will hear your thoughts and wake up, so you can play. There is just a look in Gene’s eyes in this picture that shows me a mixture of love for his brother, and frustration that his brother is sleeping. I suppose the picture taking was a way to get his mind off of the situation that he disliked so much…having to sit quietly and wait. And while his brother obviously was too little to play, there is a type of play that a big brother can do that can be very satisfying for both children…making the baby laugh. It is something that is so pleasing to everyone…young and old alike, that even though babies can’t physically play, they can be very entertaining.

Winter can be a long, dreary time…especially for a young boy. And winter around the Great Lakes Region has a tendency to last longer than some other areas. That is the region that my dad and his brother and sisters grew up in. Now, while winter is an ok time of year for a kid, it can limit some of the activities that young boys are most interested in.

When a boy is three or so, and they have a tricycle, their whole world is about being mobile, and the deep snow that you get in the area of the Great Lakes…well, lets just say that a tricycle doesn’t go too well. My Uncle Bill was always an adventurous boy. I remember him and my dad talking about their antics, from the time they were little until they left home. Let’s just say that sitting still was not a phrase that spent much time in their vocabulary, and since Uncle Bill was two years older than my dad, my guess is that at least in the early days, he took the lead on what the day would hold for them.

When he was three, however, Uncle Bill was pretty much on his own for fun, and the winter time put him stuck with nothing to do, and anyone who has had a child stuck at the house, with nothing to do, knows how bored they can get. So, after fussing repeatedly at his mom, begging to go outside, I can imagine that she finally gave in and he hauled his tricycle outside hoping to be able to ride, only to find that sitting on it was going to be as far as he would go. Knowing my Uncle Bill, I’m sure, and if you look at the picture, you can see that this was depressing to him. What comes to my mind is that he is thinking…”when will Spring get here.”

Sometimes, you don’t really know the story behind a picture, but if you look closely you can picture the scene in your head, or see something in their eyes that tells the story. And while I don’t remember my grandmother, who died when I was two, I can imagine that she must have seen something in this scene that prompted her to take this picture. My guess is that she saw just about the same thing I did…a boy viewing the snow is disgust, because he knew that there was no way his little tricycle could move through it, so he sat there, thinking of the coming spring, and wishing it would hurry up.

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