Kids

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This year has been a little difficult for my nephew, Barry Schulenberg and his wife, Kelli. Their long-time companion, Dakota, a Black Labrador Retriever dog passed away a few months ago, and they were feeling very sad. Anytime you lose a pet, there is period of time that must pass before you feel ready to have another pet. It’s different for everyone. Dakota went everywhere with Barry and Kelli. He was their hiking and camping companion….always happy to be right there beside them. Dakota was always waiting at the door to greet them when they got home from work. Dakota was like their child, and he had been with them all of their married life. It’s hard to imagine life without your pet, because the reality is that your pet is a part of the family…a big part of your family.

After that kind of loss, there is always a grieving period, before you can possibly move on and find another dog to adopt into the family. Barry and Kelli took their time. healing at their own pace. They did the normal things they like to do…camping, hiking, target practice, and just spending quiet nights at home. Soon though, it became clear to them, that something was missing. It was time to fill the void left behind with Dakota’s passing. That is a big step for any pet owner. It’s hard to open your heart to another pet, after losing one that was such a big part of your life for so many years. So, after some soul searching, Barry and Kelli decided to take to plunge, and adopt again.

They went to see what was available, and came up with a male Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog mix. For a while, their new “baby” didn’t have a name. They wanted to see what name might fit him. Before long, the puppy became a Scout. He always seemed to be at the alert, as if scouting his next move. Barry and Scout became inseparable. Scout loves to hang out with Barry, hoping to receive the scratching and petting that all dogs crave. Scout even loves riding around on the 4-wheeler with Barry. They say that a dog is man’s best friend, and Scout is definitely Barry’s best friend…with the exception of Kelli, of course. I know that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Barry, Kelli, and Scout, and I think Dakota would be happy too. Today is Barry’s birthday. Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For most people the holidays are all about tradition. Of course, for all Christians, Christmas is about Jesus, but it’s also about family time, family traditions, parties, and gifts…with the greatest gift being Jesus. But, one tradition concerning those parties, for me and my family anyway, is the traditional Byer Family Christmas party. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s parents George and Hattie Byer started the tradition years and years ago, when their house really got too small to handle their large and ever growing family. The party was moved to the Mills Fire Hall, and on the day of the party, we literally filled it up!! Grandma and Grandpa Byer were surrounded by their loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and they were so happy. With a family as large as ours, well over 300 now, of course, you might not get to talk with each and every one, but you saw them, and they saw you, and it kept the family close. Grandma and Grandpa wanted that tradition to continue, even after their passing, and so they charged their children with the task of keeping the tradition alive, and the family close. And they did a good job of it.

Now, there are several of those kids who have, themselves, gone on to Heaven, and sadly, our numbers are dwindling, because we…the grandchildren have failed to take the reigns, and keep Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s dream alive. It is so easy to look at the aunts and assume that this is their duty, and not ours, but is it…really? Aren’t we, the grandchildren old enough now to also take up the simple task and honor our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles, in such a way. There are, of course, a number of the grandchildren who still come to the party every year, and we find ourselves very blessed by the evening. It is fun, and if we take a few minutes to walk around the room and visit with our aunts, uncles and cousins, we will find that we have a pretty wonderful family, and that the traditional Byer Family Christmas Party is a blessing that continues to grow…needing really just the watering of more loved ones to join in. It saddens me to think that the day might come, when it no longer makes sense to rent the facilities, because so few have shown up in past years, but it could come to that I suppose. We all think there is a lot of time to visit with our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but every time one of them goes to Heaven, we find out that there was so little time, and we wasted it, by thinking that our presence didn’t really matter. They could do without us. And yes, the party did go on, and we all had a great time, but the family members who were not there…who could have been, because they didn’t have to work, or have anyplace else to be, the ones who simply stayed at home…believe me…yes, you were missed, very much.

Grandma Byer was a great cook, and she taught her children well, and they taught their children well, and I can tell you that we are a family of great cooks. The food last night was delicious, everyone enjoyed it very much. The children were able to run and play without being in the way, and their parents could relax, because no one was going to think they should make their children sit still. The party is one where everyone’s feeling are treated with care, and oh my…did the children have a great time. No one got hurt, and they got to get their wiggles out, and probably eat far too many sweets, but hey, what is a party for anyway? I loved seeing all the precious little ones, whose eyes danced with glee as they got to spend time with other children that they hadn’t seen in quite a while, and as you know, kids don’t need an introduction. The see another kid their size, and it’s an instant friendship. Oh, that we adults could make friends so easily. All too soon, the party was over, and for many of us, it will be the last time we will see each other until the summer picnic…the other family tradition. We all lead busy lives, and daily visits are hard, but Grandma and Grandpa Byer wanted us to continue the tradition. So to all of you who came, thank you. It was great to see you and I really enjoyed our time together. And to all who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. Merry Christmas to all of you.

Over the years of her adulthood, my niece, Jessi Sawdon has been an excellent organizer. She worked as a runner for a law office in high school, and the moved on to working as a legal secretary. She was also active in the young professionals association. She was the epitome of a professional career girl. It would have looked to the untrained eye, that Jessi would go far in the corporate world, and maybe even become a lawyer, but those of us who know her well, do not have untrained eyes. While Jessi is a great organizer, a savvy legal secretary, and a great career girl, she also had a greater calling.

When Jessi met her future husband, Jason, she was almost complete. Jessi and Jason were perfect for each other from the start. Their personalities, their goals, and their crazy sense of humor, all seemed to line up perfectly. I guess that’s what happens when a match is made in Heaven. Things were changing for Jessi, and at first, it was hard to be sure where all this was heading, but the sure thing was that Jessi’s life, and Jason’s too, for that matter, were never going to be the same. I’m sure they didn’t know where things were headed…at first, but before long, they knew that theirs was a forever kind of love. Jessi and Jason got married on August 18, 2012, and settled into married life. They were parents to their sweet dog, Daisy, and Jessi went back to school. For a while, it looked like the career girl was going to push forward in her career, and maybe even become a lawyer or something.

But, Jessi still had that greater calling…motherhood. On August 25, 2016, their daughter, Adelaide Ione Sawdon came along. Suddenly, both Jessi and Jason knew what their greater calling was!! And with the greater calling…life has changed…forever. Jessi and Jason found out that their greatest calling…parenthood, was like no other calling in the world. Life would get crazy. They would lose sleep…many times, both now and in the future. They would laugh and cry with their little girl, because they would intensely feel every emotion she did. That’s what parents do. Parents feel every scraped knee, every bumped head, every failed attempt to do whatever their child is trying to do, and every victory when they are successful at their ventures. As their child learns the ropes of life, their parents watch, hoping to help their little one avoid as many of life’s pains and hurts as possible, while celebrating every accomplishment that the precious gift, that is their child makes as they go through their life. There is truly no greater calling than that, except the calling to God’s service, of course.

Jessi’s life has changed in many ways since her marriage and motherhood. In some ways, life has taken on a more relaxed pace, but that doesn’t mean that she is no longer a career girl, she just found an attorney who lets her work from home. That keeps her foot in the door, so that if she wants to go back into a career full time, she could do that later on. Don’t think that a relaxed pace means a slow pace, however, because as any parent knows having a child in the house is anything, but slow paced. Today is Jessi’s birthday. Happy birthday Jessi!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Machelle Moore is a sweet, sometimes quiet girl who spends her life surrounded by boys. She is married to the oldest boy, Steve Moore, and together, they have sons Weston and Easton. For someone who only had sisters, and I can relate, because I was the same way, being a part of a family of men is…a culture shock. Moms of boys who came from a house full of girls should maybe belong to a big club of other girls just like them. Boys are…different from girls in every possible way, and they don’t care if what they are doing is polite or not. It’s a guy thing, and their mom will just have to deal with it, because those boys will never change. In reality, I think it is the moms/grandmas who went from an all girl family to an all boy family, who do all the changing. Once the initial shock wears off, you realize that while this little man can be…embarrassing at times, he can also be a great joy, and after a while, it just doesn’t phase you anymore. They do something you find embarrassing, and you just roll your eyes, because that is just how boys are, and nothing you do is going to change them one bit.

It’s a good thing that Machelle loves the outdoors, because with three boys in the house, there will be things like camping, and in the case of her husband, Steve, rock hunting. That is always fun in my opinion, but then I grew up hearing all about going rock hunting, and have collected plenty of them in my day. Not all girls like that sort of thing though. Of course, when your man turns them into beautiful things, like Machelle’s husband does, it’s hard not to get enthusiastic about the rocks you find. They take the boys camping too, and I’m sure that when they were little, they brought home the usual menagerie of frogs, toads, snakes, and bugs that every mom of boys finds herself oohing and aahing over while trying not to eeewww too much, because lets face it, those little boys would know an eeewww over an aah in a minute, but then most of them know that you don’t much like snakes, bugs. or frogs.

Being the only girl in a house full of boys is interesting…to say the least, as with a house full of girls, it is also very rewarding too. Your kids are always a blessing, and while they can be gross and embarrassing at times, they make up for it completely every time they give you a big kiss or a hug. That sort of thing just melts your heart, and those boys know just how to make their mom feel loved and special. That’s because moms are big softies when it comes to their kids, and Machelle is no different. We love our kids…boys or girls, and they know just hoe to wiggle their way into our hearts. Today is Machelle’s birthday. I’m sure her house full of boys will make it very special. Happy birthday Machelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Kelli Schulenberg is a lot like me when it comes to Winter’s cold…we don’t like it. It interferes with a lot of the things we want to do, like hiking, long beautiful nights, green trees and grass, and most of all…warmth. Winter is hard for a Summer girl. It’s almost like an invasion of privacy…blasting into your life, seemingly overnight, and while we usually have some warning…it really needs to be about ten years longer!!

Kelli is the type of person who really doesn’t like to have situations, circumstances, or seasons to interfere with her plans. I think we can all relate to that. Hiking is difficult to do in the winter, so my plans get waylaid in the winter, but Kelli and her husband, Barry go snowshoeing, so I guess her plans aren’t quite as waylaid as mine. Nevertheless, things like icy roads are a huge nuisance. They make it hard to travel and everything takes longer. I think she and I would both just stay home in front of a fireplace with a nice cup of hot cocoa…if we could.

Kelli loves music and concerts…Country music, of course…although she might like some of the other genres too. She and Barry often travel to go to different concerts, which is nice, because it lets them see the sights along the way too. Their concert tours have taken them to lots of great places, and with the concerts, they had something fun to do during the trip.

Kelli and Barry have hiked in a number of places, including Casper Mountain, of course. Kelli’s mom, Mary Wages runs a campground in Colorado, so they go see her and get some hiking in there too, but wherever Kelli and Barry travel, they try to find a trail to hike on. Hiking is such a great pastime, because you get to see places that you just can’t see from a car. You are out in nature and the fresh air, and sometimes you even get to see some amazing wildlife…when they aren’t hiding from you that is. Today is Kelli’s birthday Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every November 22nd brings unimaginable sadness to members of the Spethman family, as well as the rest of our family, as we remember the baby most of us never got to meet. Laila Elizabeth Spethman was just 18 days old when she went to Heaven, leaving behind her a family wishing that things could have been different. There are never any easy answers for why a child dies, only questions. The biggest question is, “Why did this happen to us?” Of course, there is no answer. Things like the loss of a child don’t go after certain families. Death is not vindictive…it’s just painful. It just leaves us feeling empty…just horribly, and irreversibly empty.

That’s what Laila left behind, when she went to Heaven…emptiness. There is an empty spot in the family, where she should be…six years between her big brother, Isaac and her little sister, Aleesia. And empty chair at the table that Laila never got to sit in. And empty spot in the first grade, where she should be learning. There is an empty spot for Aleesia, who will never have a sister, and empty spot for Xander, Zack, and Isaac because they knew her for those days, knew that they were supposed to have a little sister named Laila, and then they didn’t. And there is an empty spot for her parents, Jenny and Steve, who have had the feeling of empty arms since that awful day…they have a daughter named Laila, but they can’t hold her, raise her, or know her. But all they have in emptiness where Laila is concerned. It is an emptiness we all feel.

Yes, Jenny and Steve have four beautiful, happy children, but that can never fill the emptiness that the lost one left. That’s because each child is their own person. They are not interchangeable. One cannot replace another. While each of their children is a joy in their own right, they are never going to be able to fill that one empty spot…the one Laila left behind. We will always love and miss you Laila Elizabeth Spethman, and we will see you again someday in Heaven.

My niece, Siara Harman is one of many girls who were cheerleaders in high school and college. She even won a State Championship and a Grand National Championship with the Kelly Walsh Cheer Squad in 2011. Since it’s beginnings, cheerleading has come a long way. In fact, I doubt if today’s cheerleaders would recognize their earlier counterparts, if they saw them back then. Siara was a skilled cheerleader, and very athletic, and we are all proud of her cheerleading years.

The roots of American cheerleading are closely tied to American football’s roots. The first intercollegiate football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Princeton University and Rutgers University in New Jersey. By the 1880s, Princeton had formed an pep club. Organized cheering started as an all-male activity, as many sports do. As early as 1877, Princeton University had a Princeton Cheer. Basically, it was a fight song that was documented in the February 22, 1877; March 12, 1880; and November 4, 1881, issues of The Daily Princetonian. This cheer was yelled from the stands by students attending games, as well as by the athletes themselves. The cheer, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!” remains in use with slight modifications today, where it is now referred to as the Locomotive. Princeton class of 1882 graduate Thomas Peebles moved to Minnesota in 1884. He took with him the idea of organized crowds cheering at football games to the University of Minnesota. The term “Cheer Leader” had been used as early as 1897, with Princeton’s football officials having named three students as Cheer Leaders: Thomas, Easton, and Guerin from Princeton’s classes of 1897, 1898, and 1899, respectively, on October 26, 1897. These students would cheer for the team also at football practices, and special cheering sections were designated in the stands for the games themselves for both the home and visiting teams. On November 2, 1898, the University of Minnesota was on a losing streak. A medical student named Johnny Campbell assembled a group to energize the team and the crowd. Johnny picked up a megaphone and rallied the team to victory with the first organized cheer: “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!” With that action, Campbell became the first cheerleader in America. Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students, who still use Campbell’s original cheer today. In 1903, the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded.

In 1923, at the University of Minnesota, women were finally permitted to participate in cheerleading. However, it took time for other schools to follow. In the late 1920s, many school manuals and newspapers that were published still referred to cheerleaders as chap, fellow, and man. Women cheerleaders were overlooked until the 1940s, when collegiate men were drafted for World War II, creating the opportunity for more women to make their way onto sporting event sidelines. As noted by Kieran Scott in Ultimate Cheerleading: “Girls really took over for the first time.” A report written on behalf of cheerleading in 1955 explained that in larger schools, “occasionally boys, as well as, girls are included,” and in smaller schools, “boys can usually find their place in the athletic program, and cheerleading is likely to remain solely a feminine occupation.” During the 1950s, cheerleading in America also increased in popularity. By the 1960s, some began to consider cheerleading too feminine an extracurricular activity for boys, and by the 1970s, girls primarily cheered at public school games. However, this did not stop its growth. Cheerleading could be found at almost every school level across the country, even youth leagues. In 1975, it was estimated by a man named Randy Neil that over 500,000 students actively participated in American cheerleading from grade school to the collegiate level. He also approximated that 95% of cheerleaders within America were female. Since 1973, cheerleaders have started to attend female basketball and other all-female sports as well. As of 2005, overall statistics show around 97% of all modern cheerleading participants are female, although at the collegiate level, cheerleading is co-ed with about 50% of participants being male.

When you are a part of an outdoorsy family, things like hiking, horseback riding, camping, and hunting are second nature. The funny thing is that growing up, my niece, Susan Griffith really didn’t seem that type to me. In fact, Susan grew up being a city girl, not a country girl. All that changed when she and her husband, Josh moved to the country, outside of Powell, Wyoming. Since then, Susan has thrived on every aspect of the country life. Together they ride horses, go camping as much as they possibly can, go fishing, and hiking. Susan has told me that if they could, she and Josh would live in the mountains, but of course, that wouldn’t really work well for their girls, because kids need to be in school, with their friends, and their activities. So, I guess that living in the mountains will have to come after their girls are grown up and living on their own.

Susan and Josh are great parents. They are raising their girls to be strong, capable young ladies. Of course, they encourage the girly things, but they have also shown them the other side of things. They go hunting, and have taught their older daughter, Jala to hunt too. Kaytlyn’s turn will come when she gets a bit older. Going hunting has helped to fill their freezer with meat, and saves money on the food budget. So far this year, both Josh and Jala have shot their elk, but Susan has yet to get hers. With that in mind, this weekend is going to be a birthday hunting weekend, and I hope Susan has a successful hunt.

Susan has felt like she is living a dream life ever since she and Josh met. She and Josh are so happy with the life they have built together. Josh has helped Susan expand her horizons so much. Some of the things she was skeptical about, like 4 wheelers, are no longer an issue for her. She is confident and capable, and she loves horseback riding, which they started to help her get over her fear of 4 wheeling. I guess it was just something about being out there with no car around you for protection, which makes sense to me, since I’m not a motorcycle/4 wheeler fan myself. Susan has, in many ways, become a completely different person since she met Josh. She is feeling blessed, and loving every minute of it. Today is Susan’s birthday. Happy birthday Susan! Have a great day and a great hunt!! We love you!!

My niece, Dustie Masterson is my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s only daughter-in-law, but she really seems more like Cheryl’s daughter to all of us. She fits in the family so well, that it’s like she has always been a part of it. She and her sisters-in-law, Chantel Balcerzak, Toni Chase, Liz Masterson, and Jenny Spethman, seem to have a great comradery, and whenever I see them, they are always laughing and joking around. For our family, Dustie was my nephew, Rob Masterson’s match made in Heaven, and of course, he feels that way too. Theirs is a close, loving relationship, with a heaping portion of joking, teasing, and much laughter.

Dustie is such a sweet, loving person, and so patient too. She works with her children, Raelynn, Matt, and Anna to make sure they do well in their studies. With the encouragement of their parents, they are all good students, who like school. Dustie is also very good with her nieces and nephews. She and my grand niece, Aleesia Spethman have a very special relationship. They are good friends, but Aleesia knows that Dustie is likely to tease her too. They have spent quite a bit of time around each other, so even at 5 years old, Aleesia pretty much has Dustie figured out.

Dustie recently changed jobs, and now instead of working at Albertsons in the fresh cut produce department, she is at Sam’s Club, and she couldn’t be happier. Her work includes cashier and she has her own department to take care of too. Plus, she has the added benefit of having her husband, Rob working at the same store, but in a different department. Nevertheless, they can drive to work together…occasionally. With the hours at Sam’s Club, they don’t always work the same shifts.

I think that one of the best aspects of Dustie is her curiosity…the drive to know more. Dustie loves documentaries, a love we share. She thrives on history, and I do too. I suppose it is the “mouse in the corner” aspect of it, in that we would both love to be that inconspicuous observer sitting in the corner watching as the events unfold. To be able to watch great historic events as they happened…in real time, would be of great interest to both of us. Dustie also likes to watch documentaries about how things work. The intricate functions of amazing inventions, as well as things like the weather and how it affects things around it. It truly is quite simply curiosity, and it is an aspect of Dustie’s personality that she has honed to perfection. Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy birthday Dustie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Tucker Birky is a funny guy. Being funny comes naturally to Tucker, so much so, that often he doesn’t even realize that he’s being funny. Making people laugh is just a skill that Tucker seems to have been born with. He loves his mom, Rachel Schulenberg, and his step-dad, Ron, and considers him to be is dad. Tucker loves to make his mom laugh every day. He always wants to leave her with a smile on her face, and in her heart. Tucker reminds me a little bit of my daughter, Amy, who used to stick a Chiquita banana sticker on her nose to make us laugh. Tucker has taken that one step further, making funny faces, and even putting a chip clip on his eyebrow. Now I don’t know if that hurt or not, but Tucker smiled right through it.

Tucker also has a kind side. Every morning, he tells his mom what a great mom she is. It is such a precious thing to get up in the morning and have your child tell you that they couldn’t ask for a better mom. Tucker knows that his mom misses his older brother, Riley, who is in Guernsey, Wyoming right now, and he misses him too, so it’s important to help lift his mom’s spirit, and Tucker senses that instinctively. Of course, that isn’t the only reason he tells her that she is a great mom. The main reason is simply because she is. Tucker also knows that his mom misses his older sister, Cassie; her husband, Chris; and their children, Lucas and Zoey, who live in Powell, Wyoming. That said, Tucker is the only kid who is with her right now, and his kind heart is just what Rachel needs to make her smile.

Tucker is a busy guy. He is a straight “A” student. He takes piano lessons, and is getting quite good at playing and has recently memorized his next piano piece. Nevertheless, school isn’t all Tucker likes to do. He loves to ride his bicycle and motorcycles on their property in the country. He loves his animals, and snuggling up with his dog to watch television. Tucker misses his brother, and an uncle who doesn’t live here. Tucker also loves to hang out in his dad’s shop, and help him work on things. He and Tucker are very close, and they work well together. Ron is teaching Tucker the ropes of mechanic work, which is an important thing for every young man to know. In the years since Ron and Rachel have been married, I have watched Tucker grow into an amazing young man. Today is Tucker’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Welcome to double digits!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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