Grandchildren

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My niece, Chantel Balcerzak is a very creative person. I think that much of her ability to be creative comes from the beauty that lives within her spirit. Chantel can look at a room and see something in it that most people can’t see. All she has to do is look for a few minutes, and the room presents itself to her with all of the hidden beauty that only she can see. I have looked at rooms that she has designed, and I am always amazed at how beautiful they are. Recently, Chantel decided to redecorate her mom, Cheryl Masterson’s bathroom, and when she was done, it was beautiful. Chantel simply looked at the walls, and the bouquets of flowers appeared in her head. She in turn freehand painted them onto the walls, and they were perfect. Each bouquet was delicate and elegant. Cheryl was delighted with how the bathroom turned out, and everyone can see why.

These days, Chantel is enjoying her second career…a combination of wedding décor and interior design. She decorates for weddings, but often plans them too. She has a natural ability to make the wedding perfect for each bride and groom. From the bouquets and floral arrangements, to centerpieces, candles, and ribbons to bring the romance to life. When Chantel puts a wedding together, it is a wedding to remember. Not only does Chantel design weddings and rooms, but she refurbishes furniture too. Sometimes I am completely amazed at the many abilities she has. Everyone has gift at which they excel, I’m told, and this is definitely Chantel’s gift, as anyone can see.

Chantel’s personal life has taken a “career change” too, in that she is now a grandmother to four little grandchildren, Alice Price, Izabella Harman, Jaxx Harman, and Reece Balcerzak. These babies are very special to her and she, like every grandparent, doesn’t know what she would do without them. Grandchildren are the blessings we receive for having children bring parents, and they are awesome!! Chantel, who was called Teensy by her grandfather, my dad, Allen Spencer, has carried on the tradition with her granddaughter, Izabelle, who quickly became Tinkerbelle, and finally just Tink…which completely suits her. She is tiny, with great big eyes, and a bouncy, even sassy attitude, just like Tinkerbell…or maybe just like her grandma, who was much the same as a child. Whatever the case may be, Chantel is totally happy with those babies. Today is Chantel’s birthday. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Few things change a man as much as becoming a daddy. Yes, becoming a fiancé and husband are life changing events too, but when your beloved presents you with your first child…well you never forget how amazing that feels. For my oldest grandchild, Chris Petersen, this past year was that year…the most important year in his life. Chris went from being a a young man to being someone’s daddy, and it doesn’t get better than that amazing day, when that precious little girl finally arrived.

Chris and his fiancée are doing everything they know to do to protect and nurture their little girl. One of those decisions was to protect her from over exposure to the internet, and so my readers will have to use their imaginations concerning my little great granddaughter. I can say that she and her mommy have enriched Chris’ life beyond anything he could have imagined, and I can see the love he has for them in his eyes every time he looks at them. For his parents, and his grandparents, it is such a beautiful change to see. Chris has grown so much. The “wild child” of his youth is long gone, and he is a settled family man, who wants nothing more than to go home after work to be with his girls. They are his life and his joy. He loves them more that he does himself, and he feels so blessed that they are in his life, and every parent can fully understand that. There is nothing like being a parent. It’s a feeling that has no equal.

When a child is little, you simply do not know what they will become, but it is a good bet that at some point, most will become parents. Chris has reached that place, and these days the greatest part of his life is his fiancée, his baby girl, and the simple word…Dada!! Who could have thought that such a simple little word could create such joy in a person. Of course, every parent knows the joy of your baby’s first words, usually mama and dada. They are forever precious. Today is Chris’ 23rd birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day with your girls!! We love you!!

My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg, was all about family. She spent her married life as a stay-at-home mom, but that did not mean that she didn’t work. Taking care of six children is simply no picnic. Between cooking meals for everyone, cleaning, canning food, sewing clothes, and knitting things for them, she was a pretty busy lady. My mother-in-law was always the most comfortable raising her children in the country. She felt like it was too much out of her control in town. She worried about the traffic, and the people around, and about the kids running off while playing. She just needed the control of the country to give her peace of mind.

So the family lived in the country for most of the years that the kids were growing up. It wasn’t until 1989 that the family, now of just three at home, moved into Casper to stay. It’s funny that Joann, who had always hated the traffic, the noise, and the activity of city life, suddenly loved to watch the cars go by on the busy street on which they lived. She liked not having to go so far into town for groceries and such. She liked having visitors come by, because suddenly it wasn’t too far for them to go. Like me, she discovered the convenience of city life. Those long drives into town were the first thing I found my self happy to do without. I’m sure my mother-in-law did too…especially on the icy winter roads around here.

By 1996, my mother-in-law became a great grandmother for the first two times. She got a great birthday present in her first great grandchild, Christopher Petersen, who made his grand entrance on her 65th birthday. It was a treat that she had wanted since her mother was also privileged to receive, and never thought she would get. Then the very next day, she god something else she never thought she would get…a Leap Day Great Grandbaby…Shai Royce. Needless to say we were quite busy those two days. She has gone on to have 11 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and 1 great great granddaughter. Her family has sure grown, and while she has never met her great great granddaughter, I know she would love her as much as we all do. She found out about her just days before her passing, and she was very excited about it. I was glad she got to know, because family was always very important to her. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Mom. We love and miss you very much.

When Wyoming Medical Center merged with Mountain View Clinic, the people who worked for the clinic had to re-apply for their jobs. Not all were kept, but my sister, Allyn Hadlock was hired by Wyoming Medical Center. When she started her new job, it was also at a new location, Wyoming Medical Center, but the people she works with have made her new job feel like home. They have welcomed her like she is family, even decorating her office on Friday in honor of her birthday.

Allyn loves being a grandmother, and is very hands on with the kids. She picks the oldest two, Ethan and Aurora Hadlock, Up from school three days a week, because their mom is at work. Their mom, Chelsea’s work is right by Eileen’s cookies, so they usually stop to get a cookie before she drops them off. Some might say the kids are spoiled, but that’s just what grandmas do. Allyn is also very close to her younger granddaughters, Adelaide Sawdon and Mackenzie Moore. Adelaide’s mommy, Jessi thinks her mother should retire and become her nanny, and Allyn would probably like nothing more than to do so. Mackenzie has lived in North Caroline since her birth, but February 1st marched a big change, when the family moved to Laramie, Wyoming so her dad. Shannon Moore could take a job as a football coach at the University of Wyoming. That puts them back n Wyoming for the first time in a long time. Allyn’s daughter, Lindsay and Mackenzie are staying with Allyn and her husband, Chris until March when the final move is made to Laramie. Allyn is ecstatic. Her family is all close again, and all is right in her world.

Allyn’s birthday, because it falls during Valentine’s week, has always been kind of special, but never more so that since her marriage to Chris Hadlock. He always makes sure that she gets two bouquets of flowers, one for her birthday and one for Valentine’s Day. They are always really pretty. Being almost a Valentine’s Day baby, Allyn has always liked hearts. They are her favorite shape. She has always made a special candlelight dinner for her family on her special China. She would set their Valentine’s on their plates and make it a fun evening. Her daughter, Jessi loved it so much that she does the same for my family now! It is really special, and less expensive than going out. Nom reservations needed. It’s a wonderful tradition. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I never thought that I would have much interest in how a guitar was made, but my grandson, Caalab Royce is interested in building guitars, so of course, I became interested too. You do that with your children and grandchildren. Caalab showed me pictures of the guitars he wanted to make, and told me that he could buy a kit to build one, that would include all the parts. I truly believe there will come a day that he will build a guitar, and it will be beautiful, and sound beautiful. I might be biased, but if my grandson makes it, I know it will be perfect.

Recently, I stumbled across an article about a musical wood. That caught my attention. I wondered how wood could be musical. Of course, it couldn’t, as I already knew and went on to find out, but the Sitka Spruce tree is, nevertheless, the wood used for the vast majority of acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and other musical-instrument soundboards. That told me that the wood must have some kind of musical importance. I found out that the wood has excellent acoustic properties. The wood is light, soft, and yet, relatively strong and flexible. The Sitka Spruce is also used for general construction, ship building, and plywood.

Found mostly in Southeast Alaskan forests, the Sitka Spruce is being harvested at such a rate that the end of the instrument-quality supply is in sight. That doesn’t mean that the Sitka Spruce was becoming extinct, but it takes time to grow to some size, so the instrument-quality is becoming less available. The population of the Sitka Spruce is stable at this point, and it grows in Alaska, as well as Washington, Oregon, and California, meaning that there is plenty of places to re-seed this important tree. It really is just a matter of waiting for the growth, and when you are talking about a tree, it’s very different than a puppy. You are talking years for a tree. A Sitka Spruce grows to around 88 feet in height after 50 years, to 157 feet after 100 years. That means that by the time the trees grow to usable size, the guitar builders of today will be long gone, so a new generation will be the ones to use the new growth. I hope that Caalab will have a chance to build a guitar out of Sitka Spruce before the wood is no longer available.

My husband’s aunt, Margee Kountz is the kind of person that you can always count on. When people need help, she will do everything in her power to help them. Margee has always been a hands-on grandma. While her kids worked, she was there to pick up the grandkids from school, and when her daughter-in-law had cancer, and then passed away, she stepped up to help her son Dan raise his two children, Zech and Stasi. I remember those years well. Her sweet little grandchildren were just 4 and 2 years old, and they didn’t know what was going on. Their mommy was gone and their daddy was very sad. Their grandma became their rock. Stability is a time of chaos. Her sacrifice is something none of them will ever forget. They always knew that she would always be there for them. She was also there for her daughter’s children, Brian Kountz, Nathan Avey, and Destreyia Cannon. They spent lots of time at her house, and she picked them up from school and took them to things they needed to go to. They all love her dearly.

When my mother-in-law, Margee’s sister, Joann Schulenberg developed Alzheimer’s Disease, Margee was there to sit with her when we needed to take my father-in-law, Walt to the doctor or other appointment. We always knew that she would be there for us. The=at period of time was so important, because while her memory was failing her, it was so important to have her family around to help her hold on to the memories she could. Margee talked with her about the old days from their childhood, and about their parents and grandparents. Those memories and the talks that kept them going, were a gift that Margee gave to her sister, and they were a treasure to me, because I knew how much they meant to my mother-in-law. Truly the worst thing a family member can do to a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease, is to simply remember them they way they used to be, and never go to see them. It doesn’t matter if they remember that people came to visit, because that person knows, and the patient knew at the time of the visit. Kindness doesn’t get more perfect than that, and Margee visited her sister as often as she possibly could. We knew she was always there for her sister…even when it was difficult for her to get there. We knew.

One of the coolest moments of her life was when she became a great grandmother to Destreyia’s little Brody Thomas Overby on March 8, 2017. Margee loves being a grandma, and now a whole new generation of babies was starting to arrive. The future looks very bright indeed, and Margee will always be there for these new little ones too. Today is Margee’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As long has there have been road trips with children, there have been bored children, asking, “When do we get there?” They don’t understand that one of the best parts of a road trip is the time spent on the road. The destination is the end of the adventure, not necessarily the adventure itself. Invariably, after the ten time that those precious little ones ask that dreaded question, tempers begin to flare. These days, cars come with built in DVD players to occupy the kids on the road trip, but back when I was a kid, those things didn’t exist.

Somewhere along the way, someone…probably a frustrated parent…came up with the idea of allowing the kids to participate in the trip by giving them a steering wheel of their own, so they could help their parents drive. I do know that in January of 1955, a man named Jack Fletcher of West Covina, California installed a plastic windshield and three miniature steering wheels in the back seat of his car to entertain his children, Janie, Johnny and Ricky, who were 3 years, 21 months, and 21 months respectively. Apparently, it was a good idea, at least for those children, because, the idea has hung around ever since. In fact, for Christmas, we got our great granddaughter a version that can sit on the floor in front of her, or even on her highchair tray. Now she can “help” her daddy drive too. As children get older, I’m sure that the novelty of a steering wheel wore off, but if you got a year or so of peace in the car, it’s worth the effort.

Of course, when I was a kid, there were mo car seats, and it wasn’t illegal to drive with your child on your lap. Many a child, me and my sisters included, learned to steer the car while seated on our daddy’s lap. It was great fun, and a memory we will always have. I suppose that today’s drivers, police officers, and child safety advocates would cringe at the thought of a child on the lap of the driver, and maybe it wasn’t the safest way to do things, but I don’t recall hearing about dozens of children dying in that manner either, so maybe the parents of yesteryear weren’t so careless after all. All I know, is that we had a great time on those road trips.

My grand nephew, Isaac Spethman has always been an industrious young man. From the time he was just 7 years old, Isaac has had a job. I know that sounds odd, but I’m not talking about chores. Yes he had those too, but this was different. Isaac decided that he wanted a job, so he asked a local grocery store if he could have a job. They were amused, and told him to bring in a résumé. He went to his Aunt Liz Masterson, who is a teacher, because he thought she could help, and she created a résumé for him. When he took it in, I think the store was quite surprised, but they couldn’t resist, this industrious young man, so they gave him a job. Of course, with child labor laws, they could only have him work a few hours a week, and there were some jobs he could not do, but they let him sweep, and take out the trash, straighten, and other such jobs, and they paid him in goods, instead of money. They also framed his résumé and hung it on the wall. The little store has changed hands three times since Isaac went to work there, but Isaac continues to have a job with each new owner. They see that he is a quality worker, and that speaks so well for Isaac. He did different things for each owner, and they are very careful about what he can do because of laws, but they all love having him work for them.

In addition to his work in retail grocery, Isaac also frequently works with his Dad, Steve Spethman and for his Uncle Bruce Gothard on weekends doing various odd jobs. He worked for his Great Uncle Mike Reed out at his ranch picking up nails all over the property when they were tearing down some old sheep pens. There were nails everywhere! He was diligent and picked up many, many nails. The nails could either be reused, or were thrown away, so people didn’t step on them or run over them. Isaac also frequently asks his grandmothers, Cheryl Masterson and Marie Spethman if they have any odd jobs he can do. He’s sure a worker! He is willing to work hard for what he wants, and that has really gained him a lot of respect. Recently he has become one of the ushers at church, and he takes that job very seriously, making sure that he does it properly.

Isaac reminds many of us, in the family, of our dad and grandfather, Allen Spencer. Isaac even looks like him in some of the very young pictures we gave of him. Time will tell, if he will continue to resemble him as he grows up, but I wouldn’t be surprised, and I know my dad would really like that…especially his work ethic. Today is Isaac’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Isaac! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My little grand-niece, Mackenzie Rose Moore is a happy little girl who has much of her mommy’s personality. Mackenzie is the first child of my niece, Lindsay Moore and her husband, Shannon, and they couldn’t be happier if they tried. Mackenzie lives with her parents in Greenville, North Carolina, and so we don’t get to see her very much, but her mommy makes sure we get lots of pictures of her.

Mackenzie is usually smiling, and sometimes goofy. She seems to like entertaining her parents with her antics, and loves to pose for pictures. Mackenzie isn’t walking yet…at least not without the security of the furniture in the house. Don’t think that has stopped her from getting into everything, because it hasn’t. She just isn’t too sure about moving away from the furniture yet. She crawls everywhere, and stands up without assistance when she is holding on to a toy or something, and she is fascinated with the refrigerator. Apparently she knows that there is good stuff in there.

Being the daughter of a football coach, makes football a given, and Mackenzie embraces that fanship like a veteran. She enjoys going to her daddy’s football games at East Carolina University, where he is the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. She is learning to be his best cheerleader!! And she’s a Pirates fan all the way. And she likes to watch football on television with her daddy too. Of course, anything she is doing with her daddy is fun, according to Mackenzie. The family spent a fun summer going to the pool, camping, and just being together. Her first word was Dada, which I’m sure pleased Shannon, but her favorite word these days is Momma. Nevertheless, rest assured, this baby girl loves her daddy too.

This first birthday has to be a record for unusual birthdays, or at least unusual ways to celebrate a first birthday. Mackenzie had to get out of bed very early yesterday morning, so she and her mommy could get on a plane to fly to Wyoming, because of Hurricane Florence. Greenville, North Carolina is inland from the coast, but this hurricane is set to be a bad one and is expected to stall over the area. If the power is out for several days, it could become miserably hot at their house. So, Mackenzie and her mommy, said goodbye to her daddy, who was getting on a plane for Florida for a game with his team, and off they all went. Mackenzie spent a few weeks with her Grandma and Grandpa Moore this summer, and now gets to see the Hadlock family. Today is Mackenzie’s 1st birthday. It’s a birthday to remember. Mackenzie won’t, but her parents sure will. Happy birthday Mackenzie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Today, September 9, 2018, my grandson, Josh Petersen, the last teenager in our family, turned 20. It is very strange to think about the fact that we have no teenagers. The teenage years have been a big part of our family for so many years…9 to be exact. I know that many families have teenagers for a lot longer, but then all four of my grandchildren arrived within 2½ years…from first to last. So, now we begin a new era. One where our grandchildren are adults, and have or soon will begin families of their own. It’s a strange thing when your family goes from one era to the next, but then, you get used to it, and you go on…like we will now. Life is a process that you just cant slow down, no matter how much you would like to.

In reality, Josh has seemed older than his years for a while now. He has been taking college classes since he was a kid in high school, and already has his associates degree in Fire Science. He has a year of full time college behind him now,and has started the Paramedic program this year. I am so proud of how far he has gone. He came from a beginning that was 5 weeks before he should have arrived, to spending 2½ weeks in Denver’s Presbyterian Saint Luke’s neo-natal intensive care unit; to growing like a weed; to helping with caregiving from his great grandparents for 13 years; and now, to studying for his own career in fire science and paramedics. I have always felt Josh would be perfect in this type of career, because he has a caregiver’s heart and is meticulous in the things that needed done. If you told him howto do something, he did it…just exactly as you said…no improvising. We always knew we could trust him, and trust is a big thing in the world of caregiving. People are entrusting you with their lives.

Josh is a kind and loving young man, with a strong sense of integrity. He is not one to lie to you. Oh, I’m not saying that he has never told a lie…we have all done that, but he doesn’t make a habit of it. When he tells me something, I believe him. Josh tries to do his best in everything he does, and I really respect that. As he transitions from a boy to a man, I feel a great sense of pride in the man he is becoming, and I know that he will go far in his chosen career, and in life. The things he is doing are so perfect for his personality, and that makes me very happy. And, it makes me happy that he is having so much fun doing it. As the old saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That is what Josh has done, and I am very proud of him, and very proud of the firefighter he will one day be. Today is Josh’s 20th birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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