Kids

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My grand nephew, Xander Spethman is growing up so fast. It seems like yesterday that he was a little boy, and now I see a tall young man of 14 years. He has grown so tall and strong that I find myself having to do a double take to make sure it is Xander that I’m looking at…in fact, I recently saw him on the trail my husband and I walk on, and almost didn’t recognize him at all…and talking to him doesn’t help either, because his voice is suddenly pretty deep. I’m sure his years of doing sports have contributed to his new physique, and the fact that his dad, Steve Spethman is a man with big shoulders had a lot to do with it too, I’m sure. It could be Xander’s size that makes his a great protector of those who are being bullied, but I don’t really think it is. I think that being a protector is just part of Xander’s nature. He is kind and compassionate, and he doesn’t like to see anyone getting their feelings hurt, or being hurt physically…other than maybe the payers on the opposing team in football, and even then, he would not really want to hurt them…just take them down.

Xander is a great marksman in his own right, having been trained by his dad and mom to shoot guns at a young age. He has a good respect for human life, and gun safety. He knows what can happen if a person gets careless, and is determined not to be a person who is careless. He is very proud this year, in that he earned the money for and bought his own hunting rifle. Not bad for a 13 year old kid. He likes the feeling of accomplishment her gets from doing things on his own, but that doesn’t mean that his parents don’t mean the world to him…rather, just that they have trained him well to be independent…an part of good parenting. nevertheless, his mom, Jenny Spethman will always consider him her baby boy…as any mother would do.

As with many teenagers, Xander is spending this year wearing braces. I’m not sure how he feels about that, but I don’t know many teenagers that like it much. Still, when the time for braces is over, most of them are very happy with their new smile. Xander is a pretty easy going guy, and doesn’t let too many things bother him very much, so I suspect that he is ok with it, and given his size, who would dare to pick on him about it anyway. Today is Xander’s 14th birthday. Xander, we are all very proud of the young man you have become. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When my nephew, Rob Masterson was a boy growing up in a house full of girls, he took it upon himself to pick on his mom, Cheryl Masterson, and his sisters, Chantel Balcerzak, Toni Chase, Elisabeth Masterson, and Jenny Spethman. For Rob, this was his chosen career. In fact, I would have to say that he has a Masters Degree in the field of Sister Teasing Torture…and he keeps up on his practice to this day, whether it is sisters, mom, daughters, Christina, Raelynn, and Anna, his nieces, and yes even his son, Matthew and his nephews. Even his aunts are not exempt. It’s all in good fun, of course, and the girls have to admit that they would wonder if he was mad at them, if he didn’t tease them, so we all just know that it is a fact of life.

While teasing has been a life-long career tor Rob, there is something else that he does, that is probably more on the unusual side. Rob’s wife, Dustie tells me that Rob has the unusual habit of being a person who would rather give than receive. Now we have all heard the saying, “It’s better to give than receive,” but few people can be said to live by that motto. Rob really does. Dustie tells me of a situation that unfolded after she began running the Fresh Cut Department at Albertson’s on the west side of Casper. Most of us know that with use a knife gets dull, but Dustie was really unprepared for just how often her knife would become dull. Most of us don’t use our knives in quite the way Dustie does. Needless to say, her knife seemed to be forever dull. Rob had been given an old stone knife sharpener by his dad, and suddenly, there seemed to be a real need for it. For the first six months that Dustie ran the Fresh Cut Department, Rob would spend half an hour to and hour, every other day, painstakingly sharpening Dustie’s knife. Then around Christmas time he decided to take the Christmas money he had received from his mom, Cheryl Masterson, to buy a diamond sharpening stone…as Dustie said, “For me! It was his Christmas present and instead of picking a gift for himself he bought a nice stone to sharpen my knives with. He is just that way. One of the most selfless and giving people I know. He even sharpens the knives of my co-workers, because he knows they can help me more effectively if they have a good sharp knife. I have never met someone who truly enjoys giving more than receiving. If you ask him to do something, and it’s within his power, he will go out of his way to do it.” Now, I could have tried to re-phrase that tribute to Rob from his loving wife, but I could never have said it as sweetly as she did.

Rob may tease his mom and sisters, but I know and have witnessed the fact that he will also bend over backward to help them with whatever the need help with, and I’m sure any one of them will tell you that his selfless acts of kindness, far outweigh any sister teasing torture them might have to endure. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister, Caryl Reed is younger than me by three years. She was always the ticklish one in the family…or at least the one who was the most fun to torture. That made her the “victim” of numerous attacks by all of the rest of her four sisters. We were probably brutal in some ways, because lets face it…not breathing is probably not good for a person. Nevertheless, we tickled for as long as we dared…stopping just short of the point of Caryl passing out. I think the Tickle Torture was a dreaded source of pleasure, for lack of a better term. Tickling doesn’t hurt, and some people even like light tickling, but the torture part was definitely a source of dread…for Caryl anyway. Caryl survived those torture years, got married, and moved away…go figure. It wasn’t her idea exactly, but I’m sure se didn’t miss the Tickle Torture while she was gone, and now that she lives closer, we don’t seem to attack her anymore. Still. she is always the potential “victim” in my mind.

Caryl has learned how to monitor breathing, as a respiratory therapist, so maybe we could tickle her even longer now…hmmm!! Still, she doesn’t live close enough for any kind of daily attacks. Caryl works at the Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Rawlins, Wyoming, and is a respected, essential employee there. In fact, there are things they would have a hard time handling if she were not there. Caryl is dedicated to her job and her patients, and we are all very proud of her accomplishments.

Caryl and her husband, Mike Reed are working on their retirement home, that will ultimately bring them back to Casper to stay. They have purchased a piece of land out on the Old Poison Spider Road…which takes me back to my own childhood years, when a friend of mine lived out there. They are building a beautiful home there with a huge garage, and beautiful living area. Caryl has always wanted to have horses, and they currently board horses there. It’s a win-win situation for her. Eventually they will live there permanently, and then hopefully they can have horses of their own. Either way, their place is a great place to live, and while it’s further outside of town than I want to be these days, they love it. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! Watch out for tickle attacks, because I might mention this to Mike or Andrea. Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand niece, Katy Collett and her husband, Jake love the outdoors. They knew that they would want to live in the country, so recently the bought a place out in the country where they would have room to spread their wings, and their dogs would have room to roam free. I think in many ways Katy and Jake feel the same way. They love to roam free, and they enjoy not having their neighbors living too close.

Katy’s interests vary, and include hiking, children, and of course, her beloved dogs, especially Bubba, who is her Gentle Giant, and basically dwarfs her. I have seen pets that love their masters, and even pets that hug their masters, but seeing Katy with Bubba…well, it either accentuates just how little she is or just how big he is. Either way, I have to think it’s a good thing that he loves her so much, because he could probably eat her up if he wanted to. When you see them together, Katy looks like a child…maybe ten years old. That’s how big her Gentle Giant…Bubba is.

Katy and Jake both have a great sense of humor. They love jokes and funny videos…especially when there are dogs involved. Their Facebook pages are peppered with funny videos and jokes. I think they like to bounce things off of each other, to make their days brighter. That is really what a good team does. And I think it is a big part of what makes a good marriage. When a couple laughs together, they are far more likely to stay together. Katy and Jake are so good together. It makes me happy to see them having such a great time.

Life if moving forward for Katy and Jake. I don’t know what their future plans are yet, because I don’t know if they know for sure, but they have lots of time to figure it out. Whatever they decide to do, I know that they will be highly successful. They are both great people, and that is half the battle in life. Today is Katy’s birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Kayla Stevens has been spending her time studying for her degree in social work. I haven’t had much experience in that field, but I can tell you that Kayla has a heart for it. Her dream job would be in the school system, and after listening to her talk about a program that is dear to her, you can have no doubt that she will be an excellent social worker for children. When someone has a real heart for something, it simply bubbles out of them as they talk about it. Their excitement about it can not be contained. That is what I saw in Kayla the other day at my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s house.

Kayla and her husband, my nephew, Garrett live next door to Cheryl, and all of Cheryl’s little grandchildren love to go visit Kayla and Garrett. They would be over there all afternoon if they could. I knew that Garrett loved kids…he has all his life, but you don’t know if his wife would tolerate them because they are his cousins, or if she genuinely loves them too. After listening to Kayla, I can say that there is no doubt that she loved kids too. I knew they wanted kids, so of course, she loves kids, but it is often different when they aren’t your kids. Many people have no real patience for other people’s kids. That is not the case with Kayla, however. She genuinely loves kids, and she genuinely wants to help them. For that reason, and from listening to her, I know that any school district would be extremely blessed to have Kayla working with their kids…she’s awesome!!

This past weekend marked the completion of Kayla’s college education, as she received her Masters Degree in Social Work…graduating with honors, a wonderful thing to show for all her hard work and perseverance. We are all so excited for her and she begins her new journey. I know that success will follow her wherever she goes, and that any employer would be very blessed to have her on their team. She is kind and caring, and very good at what she does. We are so proud of all you have accomplished. You are going to have a great future in social work, and your clients couldn’t be more blessed. Your heart for kids and for those who need help is amazing. Congratulations Kayla!! We love you!!

Every year since 1907 (or 1914, if you go by the day that Congress designated the day) children have celebrated a day of remembering all the wonderful things their mom has done for them. Being a mom is often a thankless job. It involves long hours, filled with worries, headaches, weariness, and work…and it’s an all volunteer job. Of course, if we had to pay our mother for all the things she did for us, we would all be broke, and the moms would have all the money in the world…or a good chunk of it. The job of Mom, is a highly skilled job, encompassing many different careers. Moms are nurses, teachers, chefs, nannies, coaches, maids, chauffeurs, financial advisors, tutors, counselors, advisor, judge, and jury, just to name a few. Most of her training is on the job training, because motherhood is a career that starts the instant your first child arrives, and lasts for the rest of your life. There are no days off, no passing the torch, and no retirement. And the funny thing is that no mother ever wants to retire, in fact, they wish their babies would stay little forever.

My own mom, Collene Spencer was a most amazing woman. She raised five daughters, teaching us to cook, clean, take care of a home, and how to be moms. She taught us that we could do anything we set our minds to. As our lives progressed and we took on our adulthood, she became our cheerleader…even if what we were doing was a hobby, she always had faith that we could do it. I remember when I started writing, she wanted to have me read the stories to her. She missed so many of them, because I didn’t see her that day, so I finally made sure she got them on her Kindle. She read every single one. She was my biggest fan, and I miss having her tell me how much she loved this story or that one. And I miss calling Mom to ask her about a detail from her childhood. Her information enriched my stories, because she knew all the little details of the events. Many times, while I’m working on a story, I think, “I need to ask Mom about that”…then, I realized once again…that I can’t. It would be nice to have a phone to Heaven, because I have questions for my mom…and my dad too. And I miss them, and just saying hello again would be wonderful.

When I got married, I assumed that I had learned everything I needed to know, but that was not so. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg had been raised on a farm, and had a very different take on life and caring for a family. So, once again, I had things to learn. Having a vegetable garden meant that rather than buying vegetables at the store, you got them out of the cupboard, and that was because you had picked them from the garden, and canned them. It wasn’t that my mom didn’t know how to do that, but we didn’t have a garden, so we didn’t can. My mother-in-law sewed, knitted, and crocheted, and while I knew how to crochet, I hadn’t been exactly willing to learn much about sewing from my mom. I learned how to do these things, but unlike my mother-in-law, they would not become a big part of my life. Some things just simply are, what they are. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the things I learned from my mother-in-law, who also taught me that you never really know it all. My mom is in Heaven now, but we still have my mother-in-law for a while longer. Happy Mother’s Day to my Moms!! I love you both very much.

My niece, Andrea Beach loves to cook. She works at the Turnbuckle restaurant, located in the Best Western Hotel in Rawlins, Wyoming. There are just two chefs that cook there, the Head Chef and Andrea, so she is basically running her own show a lot. My sister, Caryl Reed, says the Turnbuckle is the best restaurant in Rawlins, so working there is an honor for Andrea. She loves to be creative with her cooking, and would love to go to Culinary School someday, but for now, she is happy being able to cook in a great restaurant, and share her creativity with the guest there.

While a person’s career is important, it is still…a job. A person’s life is their family. Andrea has a great son named, Topher, and he keeps her busy with his activities. This month Topher is playing soccer, so you guessed it…Andrea is a Soccer Mom. Over the past few years, that term has become almost a household word, since it was used during the McCain/Palin campaign for the presidency. Most of us hadn’t really heard much about that term, unless of course, they were soccer moms. Being a Soccer Mom means more than just showing up at the games for Andrea. Soccer Moms usually have to bring the treats after the game (I guess they still do that), but since Andrea is a single mom, she is Topher’s full time cheerleader and his home coach, as he practices his skills. Topher is Andrea’s whole world, and she really wouldn’t know what to do without him. She is a good mom, and she has raised a great kid. Topher is very blessed to have Andrea for a mom.

Andrea rents one of the apartments owned by my sister, Caryl Reed and her husband, Mike, who are Andrea’s mom and step-dad. It works out really well, because Caryl and Mike are living in one of their apartments too, while they build their retirement home here in Casper, Wyoming. For Andrea, this is ideal, because that means Topher’s grandma and grandpa are in the same building. When she has to work nights, Topher can just go to his grandparent’s apartment. And when she gets off work, it’s not far to go to pick him up and go home. Andrea also helps Caryl and Mike out, by acting a part-time apartment manager for them, when they are out of town. It’s a win-win situation for all. For Andrea, life stays pretty busy, but I think she likes it that way. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

There is an old song, that Willie Nelson wrote in 1980, called On The Road Again, and one part of the lyrics goes like this, “The life I love is makin’ music with my friends.” That line reminds me of a story I heard about my Uncle Larry Byer. My Grandma Byer’s house was the place to be when all the kids were home. There were always kids hanging out there, and because of the varied ages of the siblings, the ages of the visiting children varied quite a bit too. The family had always loved to sing, and several among the family members played an instrument. Grandpa Byer played the mandolin and the violin. Uncle Larry played the guitar and the mandolin, as well as the piano. My dad, Allen Spencer, and Uncle George Hushman also joined in with guitar and singing. It was like a big jam session. For the kids, like my Aunt Sandy Pattan, those jam sessions were like a big party.

Uncle Larry always had a group of friends who loved to hang out at the house…among them Bobby Boatman, Caryl Sparger, and Gene Tholl. They and the rest of the gang played music and just had a good time in general. Aunt Sandy even told me that they had a machine that recorded the songs and put them on a record. They would hang blankets to make a sound room and record their own songs. I sure wish some of those old records were still around. I would love to hear my dad, grandpa, uncles, and their friends singing and making music with their friends. One of the songs that Uncle Larry used to play for Grandma…his mom…was her favorite, “Springtime in the Rockies.” Grandma loved that song, loved hearing him play and sing it. It was a song Grandpa always sang to her, so it had a very special meaning. I’m sure it was a sweet love song to her from Grandpa.

Aunt Sandy told me that when Uncle Larry went into the Army, she really missed him, like most little sisters would. She missed his joking ways, all the friends who came over, and especially, she missed those jam sessions. Nevertheless, when he came home, it wasn’t those things that Aunt Sandy was thinking about. Her big brother was home and all she could think of was to run into his arms for a great big hug. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. I can’t wait to see you again, and get one of those great big hugs too. We love and miss you very much.

My niece, Michelle Stevens has always had an artsy flair, so when it came time to decide on a career, there was no real decision to make. She knew that art had to be a part of her life forever. She also knew that she wanted to share her love of art with others, so what better way to do that than to teach art. I know that some people might think of an arts and crafts instructor right about now, but that is nothing like the requirements an art teacher has to have. They have to know how to do every kind of art…painting, sculpting, sketching, and so many others. To be an art teacher, one must be an artist in every sense of the word…and they must also be a teacher.

Looking forward, I can envision Michelle’s life filled with beautiful artwork…moat of which she has made herself. Of course, I don’t know that, it’s just the way I see it. Michelle has always had a artsy flair about her, and now that she has trained for both art and teaching, it is time to take the next turn in the road. School is over and now she is ready to become a teacher of art. The next plan so far is to move back to Casper, and of course, we are very happy about that. We all hope that she will be able to find a teaching position here at home, but of course, that remains to be seen. I think teaching here would be awesome.

This past weekend marked the final step in Michelle’s education, when she walked across that stage to receive her diploma. The excitement was clearly showing on her face. Her parents and boyfriend were in the audience, almost unable to contain their pride. Years of work were behind her now. She had made the cut. We are all so proud of her and so excited to see where life takes her now. Casper couldn’t possible be blessed with a better art teacher than Michelle. She loves her chosen profession, and the really nice thing is that she can mix her favorite pastime with her career. The future is so bright for her…and so colorful. Congratulations on your college graduation, Michelle!! We are so proud of you and we love you!! The future is yours!!

It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away. Of course, if you asked my mother-in-law, his wife, Joann, he is still here. Alzheimer’s Disease has taken away the memory of his loss, for her anyway. Sometime I think her loss of that memory clouds my own feelings about to too. She often calls my husband, Bob…her son, Walt, and of course, he pretends that he is. Or she asks about him, and we tell her that he went to Walmart. In many ways, her loss of the memory of his passing has kept him closer to all of us. Pretending that he is still here makes is seem real somehow, because the mind makes it seem so.

Dad was the glue in the family. Mom might have been too, had Alzheimer’s Disease not taken that spot from her. Dad’s passing brought a different family unit with it. We don’t get together quite as often now. It makes me sad, because I know how much he loved his family, and how important it was to him that we stay close. We have stayed close, just not in quite the same way as it was when he was still with us. Family was everything to him, but of course, he understood how busy people can get. The main thing he would have wanted us to do, is to be there for the love of his life, and in that respect, I know that he knew before he ever left, that we would take good care of her, and so we have.

My father-in-law, was a sweet loving man who loved to joke with the family. He loved it when everyone was together and having a great laugh. It made him feel good to know that no matter what, our day had been like, we could come together and enjoy each other’s company. He was a great dad, grandfather, and great grandfather. He loved those babies. I suppose that is why they had six kids of their own. Dad loved to see the kids playing at his house, and he was never too busy to get in there and play too. The years since his passing have flown by, and that makes me especially sad, because I miss him very much. I wish we could go back in time and have our loved ones back, but that just can’t be. I know you are happy in Heaven Dad, and that we will see you again, but I sure miss you in the here and now.

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