Grandchildren

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Seven days might seem like enough time when your kids come home for a visit, but when it comes time for them to leave, you find that it is definitely not enough time. Of course, deep down, you knew it wouldn’t be, you just hoped that you could cram everything you wanted to say and do into the short amount of time you had. Then, almost before the visit started, it’s time to say goodbye again. That’s how my Casper family feels every time our Washington family comes for a visit, and I’m sure that’s how they feel whenever we go to visit there too. Included in the visit is always a certain amount stress and pressure, both for them and for us, because they are trying to make time for their family…and their friends, and we are trying to spend as much time as possible with them. No one wants to share them exactly…selfish, I know, but when they are your babies, you tend to get a little bit selfish.

This trip home for my daughter, Amy Royce and her kids, Shai and Caalab, was to attend the graduation of my youngest grandson, Josh Petersen. The trip was wonderful, as we attended his graduation party, awards ceremony, and of course, the graduation. We went out to eat, and just sat around and talked, and we even had an early birthday party for Amy. We laughed, talked, and when I was given Friday off, we even did pedicures. The kids hooked up with all their friends, and for the most part, decided that sleep was an unnecessary vice best left to old people…and apparently mornings fell into that same category. Still, they all did their best to divide their time with family and friends as fairly as possible. Nevertheless, to my “mother’s heart” it was not enough time. I found myself wishing that I could turn back time to the first day of their arrival…over and over again.

Try as I might, before we knew it, the last day arrived. Amy had planned a friends night to get all her friends together at once, and it went very well. I made the bold move to “horn in” on the action, even though it was supposed to be for her friends, and they graciously accepted my intrusion. My only regret was that I should have “horned in” my other daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin, who I thought were spending the day with their son, Josh, who went back to Bellingham with Amy, Shai, and Caalab this morning to spend his Senior Trip with them. I suppose I should have realized that Josh would be attending the graduation parties of his friends, but I wasn’t thinking very clearly, because the kids were leaving and I was dreading the tearful goodbyes I knew were inevitable. Hindsight is 20/20. As I contemplate the visit that we had, mixed with the sad goodbyes, a thought came to me…”Goodbyes are always hard, but I’m very thankful that we can look forward to the next hello.”

When a child is born, you think about what they will become. Your thoughts drift to the future…that seems so distant, and you think to yourself, “The future is still so far away.” Then, much sooner than you ever thought possible, the future arrives, and your little baby is suddenly 18 years old, and graduating from high school. Then you think, “Where have the years gone?” It doesn’t matter if that child is your child or your grandchild either. The future arrives so fast. I’ve said it many times before. When you look at that precious baby, you must be aware that next week, they will be graduating from high school, and going off to make their own way in the world. In time and space, it may not be a week, but it will most certainly feel like it was.

That is where my daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband, Kevin find themselves today as their son, Joshua
Petersen graduates from Kelly Walsh High School. Josh has changed so much over the years. His beginning was a little rocky, as he jumped the gun and arrived five weeks early. After spending two weeks in Denver, at Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital, Josh was finally ready to come home and join the rest of his family. His rocky start over now, Josh quickly ate everything is sight, trying to make up for lost time, I think. Yes, Josh has changed in many ways, but in many other ways, he has not changed at all. He has always been a wonderful young man with a caring heart, and in that way, he will never change. He is so considerate of the feelings of others.

As the years have passed, we saw in Josh a gentleness and sincere caring for those in need of health care. When he was just six years old, he started helping take care of his grandparents, and he continued doing that until three had passed away, and the last one was in a nursing home. Josh was meticulous with their care. If you showed him how to do something, he did it exactly that way. For that reason, I was not surprised when Josh announced, “I want to be a firefighter.” I don’t think there was a shocked face in the place. Now, I know that a lot of kids say they want to be a firefighter, but Josh meant it. He even began taking Boces classes toward his degree in high school. Josh is so driven, so goal oriented, and that makes me so proud of him. I have no doubt that he will be arriving at his life’s destination very quickly. The years have flown by far too fast. It seems like Josh should still be little boy, and yet here he is at the threshold of adulthood. Josh, we are so proud of your hard work and perseverance. I know that you will go far in life and in your chosen field. We are so very proud of your abilities, drive, and mostly your kind heart. Congratulations on your graduation!!

Leap Day Babies, by definition are numerically challenged…not age challenged or mathematically challenged, although both of those things come into play…simply numerically challenged. Things just never quite add up for them. They start off behind the rest of the kids born that year, because when that first birthday rolls around, the other kids turn one, but a Leap Day Baby only turns ¼. It’s because the 29th of February only happens every four years. I call those other three years nano-birthdays, because the birthday arrives somewhere between 11:59:59pm and 12:00am. It is a nano-second in time, and that is when that missing birthday occurs. Even their younger siblings pass Leap Day Babies up. The Leap Day Baby is pretty good at fractions, however, because after their first year of life, they are ¼. After their second year of life, they are ½. And after their third year of life, they are ¾. It isn’t until their fourth year of life that the Leap Day Baby turns 1. This is a fact of life that my granddaughter, Shai Royce has had to live with since her birth 21 years ago. She wasn’t always sure she liked it, because the boys, her brother, Caalab Royce, and cousins, Chris and Josh Petersen loved to tease her by saying, “I’m older than you” and it was true in every way except the number of years each had spent on the earth.

Nevertheless, Leap has it’s privileges. While the boys had to wait until they turned 16 to get their driver’s license, Shai got to get hers at the age of 4. She got to graduate from high school at the age of 4½. One of the biggest privileges Shai has as a Leap Day Baby is the fact that she can celebrate her nano-birthdays on either the 28th of February or the 1st of March…or both. Her grandpa and I have our anniversary on March 1st, so we liked sharing our anniversary with her on those nano-years, but often it seems that Shai likes to celebrate it on the 28th of February. That has been a distinct advantage for Shai and every other Leap Day Baby…the ability to honestly have an early birthday. This birthday has been a particularly cool one for Shai…especially in the early birthday department, because how many kids say that they actually got to legally drink the day before their 21st birthday? Only the Leap Day Baby. And since the government doesn’t even know what to do about the matter exactly, they even made it legal for her to cheat the system and start legally drinking the day before her birthday.

I guess that while Leap Day Babies only get a birthday once every four years, Leap really does have it’s privileges. For now, Shai might like being older sooner, but some day she will seriously appreciate the fact that she only ages every four years. Today is Shai’s Nano-21st-Birthday. Happy birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Sometimes the age your kids or grandkids are turning on their birthday has a tendency to shock you. That is where I am on this, my oldest grandchild, Chris Petersen’s 21st birthday. It just seems completely impossible that he could be 21 years old today. Chris has come so far. He finished college last year, and he is busy setting himself up in his chosen career. He has a degree in Culinary Arts, and his work is beautiful. I know that Chris will go far in this field, but I suspect that it will happen down the road a bit, when he is able to open his own restaurant. For now, he is busy getting some experience in all aspects of the restaurant business so that he will know what things that make a restaurant successful and what things make one fail.

A few months ago, Chris moved out of his parents home, and into an apartment of his own. He is enjoying his new found independence. Of course, it wasn’t like he wasn’t independent before, but when you live under your parents roof, there are still certain rules you have to abide by. By the same token, when you live on your own, you don’t have anyone else’s rules to follow, but you are the one responsible for your own bills and such too, so I guess it’s a trade off. Still, I don’t know of a single kid who has moved out on their own, who didn’t think it was worth the trade off in the end. Chris is no different than any other kid, moving out for the first time. He is adjusting to new things, and he really misses his family, especially hanging out with his little brother, Josh Petersen. I suppose that is why Josh has stayed the night several times. Brothers just need to hang out.

All that change is one thing, but the biggest change for Chris and every other kid turning 21 is the legal drinking age. Gone are the days of trying to con his parents into letting him have a sip, trying to find someone to buy beer for you, or going to a party and hoping you don’t get caught. Now I don’t know if Chris ever did any of those things or not, and as the grandma, I can feign innocence, and assume he would never do such a thing. It is my right. Nevertheless, today, Chris is of legal age to have a drink if he wants to. That is sure going to take some getting used to. He is still too young in my mind, so to see him drinking a beer with the guys will be one of those shocking moments for sure!! Nevertheless, that day has come. Today is my grandson, Chris Petersen’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day, and make sure you always have a designated driver!! We love you!!

For as long as I have known my husband, Bob Schulenberg, he has attracted the little girls. It surprises me every time I see it happen, although it probably shouldn’t by now. Bob got used to little girls when he became a daddy, first to our daughter, Corrie Petersen, and then our daughter, Amy Royce. They thought their daddy hung the moon, and I had to agree with them…he has always been a special kind of guy. Still, I can’t quite understand why it is always the little girls who tend to flock to Bob. It’s not little kids in general…it’s little girls. Of course, the little boys like him too…especially his grandsons, but the little boys are usually not the ones who come running up to Bob, or shyly wave at him, even when they don’t know him…that is the little girls. Of course, Bob would never pickup a little girl who was not the child of a friend, but that does not stop them from saying “Hi” and waving at him. Our own girls loved hanging out with their dad, and if he was working on a vehicle, they might be lifted up to stand on the bumper or they might be riding their bicycle nearby. Our grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, also loved to be picked up by their Papa, and to this day, he is their go-to mechanic when something is wrong with their vehicles, or anything else he can help with.

One little girl in particular, Brooke Cardinal, who passed away at seven and who we miss very much, was very taken with Bob. Her grandpa, our friend Edd Cardinal ran the bowling alley in Casper, and both our family and his spent a lot of time down there. Brooke couldn’t wait for Bob to come in on bowling nights. She was waiting at the door for her hug. I even teased her mom, Dani Cardinal that Bob had a girlfriend. She was ready to kill him for cheating on me, until she found out that his “girlfriend” was her own little Brooke, who was about four years old then. Bob was forgiven for having a girlfriend, but the “girlfriends” didn’t stop there. Whenever we go to a restaurant and there is a little girl around, they always notice and wave to Bob. When we are out walking on the trail, at Sunrise Shopping Center, or the mall, little girls wave. And on New Year’s Eve, the next generation of girlfriends obviously arrived, when my grandniece, Aleesia Spethman took a shine to Bob, and hung around him much of the night.

Bob is a great guy, with a gentle heart, and that is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place, but never in a million years would I have expected that every little girl within a mile radius of him would seek him out for the sole purpose of saying “Hi” and waving at him. It’s almost like he is a little girl magnet. Some day, maybe I’ll figure out just what it is about Bob that catches their eye, but until that day, and even beyond, I’m sure, I will have to share him with every little girl who comes into view, because he sure attracts them.

My youngest sister, Allyn Hadlock has always been the sweetest one of us all, and I don’t say that to sound like the rest of us are horrible hags, because that isn’t the case at all. It’s just that if you ask any one of my other three sisters or me, what one thing we all agreed on concerning Allyn, it was that “Allyn was always good.” As a little girl, our mom couldn’t spank or even yell at Allyn, because she would become so broken hearted…when Mom simply told her no-no. Allyn just has a very tender heart, to this day. Being tender hearted can have it’s really good side too. Allyn has a kind way about her, and it is not something that goes unnoticed in any setting. Everyone notices her kindness and sweet ways.

Over the years, Allyn has done her very best to always make those around her feel loved and blessed. She had special nicknames for her kids, and songs using their name that she either made up or replaced a name in a song with theirs. One thing her kids could always count on is that their mom was going to put a smile on their face every day. We all felt that way, so I know what I am talking about.

Other than being married to her husband, Chris Hadlock and having her children, Jessi Sawdon, Ryan Hadlock, Lindsay Moore, and Kellie Hadlock, I think that the greatest blessings in recent years have come in the form of her children’s spouses, Jason Sawdon, Chelsea Hadlock, and Shannon Moore, and now the beautiful little grandbabies she has, Ethan Hadlock, Aurora Hadlock, and Adelaide Sawdon. These days the little name songs have the names of those precious babies in them, and Allyn makes sure that each of those babies knows that they are just the sweetest one, and while it might seem odd that each one could be the sweetest one, in the world of a grandma, that is totally possible. Grandmas love each baby the most, no matter how many there are. That’s because we love each one the same…100%. Allyn is as blessed as a woman can be, and she is still thought of as the sweetest one. In fact, that very thing came up last night when I was at our sister Cheryl’s house and we were talking. We all agreed that Allyn was always good. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Caalab with GrandmaShai & CaalabWhen my grandson, Caalab Royce was a little boy, he was obsessed with being “older” than me…or anyone else for that matter. He would often come up to me or other people and say, “I’m older than you.” It was always such a funny thing to have this little tiny, under five year old boy telling me that he was older than me…his grandma. It always made me smile, and maybe that was his plan anyway. He is, after all, a comedian…always had been. Not everyone was happy with his little joke, especially his older sister, Shai Royce. She was living behind the age eight ball anyway, because she was a Leap Day Baby. So the reality is that by the time he was one, he technically was older than she was. It was a source of contention, until I finally told her that she might only be two at eight, but she would get to drive when she was four and her brother and cousins would have to wait until they were sixteen, so it all evened out in the end.

Caalab has long since ceased to be that little boy trying so hard to be older, and I haven’t heard that funny little comment in a long time, but the story lives on in my memory files. Now that he is going on twenty years old this summer, I guess being older is not so important anymore. And, at almost twenty one…or 5¼…Shai is no longer bothered by such comments. I think that I just assumed that those days of hearing the comment, “I’m older than you” were over. How wrong I was.

Flash forward now those eighteen plus years, to my niece Kellie Hadlock, who is also a serious comedian…if that is possible, and you have Kelli calling me, my daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, and most of the rest of the girls in the family, Little Baby Caryn…or whatever their name might be. That is because Kellie is 6’0″, compared to my 5’2″. Kellie likes to hugs us and lift us off our feet at the same time, to make a point that we are vertically challenged. Today in church, where Kellie, her mom, my sister, Allyn Hadlock, and I are all kellie-hadlock-3Caalab & Shai abackup singers, Kellie greeted me with her usual, “Hi, little baby Caryn.” I called her little baby Kellie, to which she giggled, “I don’t think so.” I told her that since I am older than her, she will always be little baby Kellie to me. Then, straight out of the past, came the sentence I thought I was done hearing, when Kellie said, “I’m older than you!” The shock must have registered on my face, because my sister said, “That would be ok!” I had to agree, because since I’m sixty and Kellie is almost twenty seven. I could handle being twenty six…or, maybe not, but it was a funny blast from the past.

Chantel and IzabellaimageDad and MomOn the last day of the year, many people are busily planning the festivities for the evening. Others are contemplating the coming year and how they might make it better than the last. These are things that I am doing too, but I am also looking back on the year that is quickly coming to a close. Every year has it’s good things and it’s bad things. This year is no different. As the year began, I was recovering from a broken shoulder, while my niece, Chantel Balcerzak was getting used to her new role as grandma to little Izabella Siara Harman. February brought a promotion for my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock to Lieutenant with the Casper Police Department, and then the sad 1st anniversary of our mother’s passing. I couldn’t believe she had been gone a year already. March brought the 41st anniversary of my marriage to Bob Schulenberg, and the love continues to grow. It also brought the purchase of a home in northwestern Washington for our daughter, Amy Royce and her husband, Travis.

April brought my 60th birthday, although I felt no upset by that. I have always felt that the key is to enjoy the age you are at, and I will continue to do so. May 5th brought the sad reminder that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been in Heaven for 3 years now. May also brought the graduation of my grandson, Chris Corrie, Amy and meimg_8305Dad SchulenbergPetersen from the Culinary School at Sheridan College. It’s hard for me to believe that his college years are so quickly over. My daughter, Amy made the trip to Wyoming to attend the graduation, and it was so good to see her again…even if it was for such a short time. June brings the birthdays of my daughters, and these days it’s a little bit bittersweet, because Amy is so far away. My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband, Kevin went camping for her birthday, so we joined them on Casper Mountain for a birthday evening. We all had a lovely time. I just wish Amy’s family could have been there too.

July brought with it one of the biggest changes of my life, when my husband, Bob Schulenberg retired from the City of Casper. It was a day of rejoicing, because he had been ready to retire for some time now. July also brought with it, another loss…of sorts, when my granddaughter, Shai Royce moved to Washington to be near her family. It was hard on me, but I knew it was best for her, because she had been so lonely for her parents and her brother, Caalab. While we continue to miss her and the rest of her family, we are happy, because they are happy. July also brought wedding bells for my nephew, Garrett Stevens as he married his best friend, img_9127IMG_4538img_5927Kayla Smiley. August brought a beautiful new addition to our family when my niece Jessi Sawdon and her husband, Jason welcomed daughter Adelaide Ione to our family. Addi was named after Jessi’s great grandmother and Jessi’s grandmother, my mom, Collene Ione Spencer. In September, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg, had skin removal surgery after losing 350 pounds. She had a bleeding issue, but she is doing well now, and we are very proud of her. September also brought with it the sadness of loss, as we said goodbye to Bob’s aunt, Linda Cole. Hers was a shock, because her passing was so unexpected.

October found my grandson, Josh Petersen actively pursuing his dream of becoming a firefighter as he took Boces classes to get a head start on the Fire Science degree he needs. It also found us celebrating with my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock, as he became the Peace Officer of the year. November brought an unusual Thanksgiving as Bob and I traveled to Ferndale, Washington to spend the holiday with Amy’s family, in a week that went by way too fast. Then, as we were on our way home, we found out about the passing of my cousin, Shirley Cameron’s husband, Shorty’s passing…another shocking passing that was very unexpected. December img_5862michelleblue-jean-brendabrought the sad reminder that my dad, Allen Spencer had been in Heaven now for 9 long years. That seems impossible to me. December also brought college graduation for my niece, Michelle Stevens, who will now start her teaching career. This was most certainly a year of ups and downs, but with the coming new year, comes the hope for a great future.

Christmas PastBrenda by the Christmas treeAs I was contemplating the Christmas Day activities to come, my mind wandered back to Christmases of my past. As a child, I remember waking up very early, with struck orders not to go out into the living room until our parents were awake. It seemed like a lifetime before they woke up. It wasn’t, of course, but in my youthful mind, it felt that way nevertheless. Christmas was a day to stay home. After the presents were opened, the cooking began. Of course, the turkey had been cooking for a while by then…another sign that Mom and Dad weren’t really still sleeping when we were trying to wake them up. My sisters and I had the rest of the morning to play with our new toys, and help out in the kitchen. It didn’t matter if it was snowing outside or not, because we had no place to go…the day was ours. I miss those carefree, slowed down, stay-at-home Christmases sometimes.

When I got married, there were suddenly two families to spend Christmas…and every other holiday, with. Things got hectic very fast. We found ourselves running from one house to the other in celebration of the day. Yes, there was plenty of stress, but there really was celebration too, because Christmas is a day of celebration, both in the spiritual and secular versions. Families worked together to make for an easy transition from one house to the other, even though each one wished they could have had a little bit more time with us. Finally, at the end of a very long day, wonderful as it was, we dragged ourselves back home, and figured that there was always tomorrow to stay home and let the kids play with all of their new things.

When our girls got married a whole new facet was added to the Christmas/holiday mix. Not only was there still NativityAmy & Corrie Christmas dollhousemy family and Bob’s, but now we had Kevin’s and Travis’ families. The holidays became almost chaotic. Still, it was about family, and that was what mattered. Our families, their families, one big happy family. What I learned from this time spent reminiscing is that whatever Christmas or the other holidays are to your family, that is the thing that matters, because after the real reason for the Christmas season…the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ…family is the next thing in the line of the most important things in life. Merry Christmas to all of my dear family, and everyone everywhere.

img_6049Last night my sisters and I, along with our families, got together for our 2nd annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. Our family made a commitment long ago, to stay close as a family. Family is so important, and all too often, people lose touch, because they don’t realize the importance of family, or they think there will always be time later. It is never a good idea to put off family until later. I’m thankful that my mom’s parents, George and Hattie Byer asked their kids to stay close, inspiring the annual picnic and Christmas parties to keep us all close, because it was those events, that gave us the inspiration to do the same. Then, our sister, Allyn Hadlock, and her husband Chris decided to host the annual party at their house. What a wonderful blessing that has been for all of us. This year was a smaller crowd, as there were several family members who will be spending Christmas in various locations across the United States, but I know they were there in img_6043spirit. Of course we missed each one of them, but we understand. I hope that maybe one day, we will be able to have a party with all of us together again.

The one thing that I have noticed about each of the two parties we have had since our parents left us, is that when we are having the party, it’s like Mom and Dad are there with us. Part of the reason is because of the fact that the conversation always turns to them, and to Christmastimes of the past. The memories of special gifts given and received, moments of surprise, and comical moments too, flood the room…along with the laughter as we reminisce about the Christmases of our lifetimes. Still, it always leaves us with an almost bittersweet feeling. Sweetness, because we have been blessed with such great parents, and that we are making the proud, but bitter, because they aren’t here with us. Nevertheless, we know that we will all be together again.img_6026

We really have been blessed with wonderful sisters, and all of the other family members. The family has grown exponentially. Like my mom’s family, we are related to about half of the town. That part in itself is an amazing and wonderful thing. We all feel very blessed by all of the nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the wonderful additions that have joined us by marriage. This time of year, we start to think more and more about family, and while I miss my parents more that I could ever say, I am thankful for my sisters, everyday, because sisters really are forever friends.

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