Kids

My grand nephew, James Renville got the “travel bug” early on in his life. The first trip he took was when he was just when he was just 3 weeks old. His parents, my niece Toni Chase and her then husband, Jim Renville to their newborn son to meet his grandpa in North Dakota. Many babies don’t do well on long trips, but James was calm throughout the seven hour drive. He was such a good baby for them. The only times he fussed was when he was hungry, and then it wasn’t much fussing. Really, from that point on, James was at his most calm when he was traveling. His mom says that he “knew what vacation meant from the start.”

Toni read somewhere, and many of us have always thought the same thing, that when you are an “only child,” like James is, that “you are likely to mature early and manifest adult behaviors an attitudes.” I’m sure it is because they around adults so much. That was never made more clear to her than when they went on the first trip that James was old enough to really know what was going on. They took James to the water park in South Dakota. He really had a blast, but he refused to go on any of the “kiddie slides” or “baby slides,” as he called them. While that was great for James, it meant that since James really was a “kiddie” or “baby” himself, he also couldn’t go on the big slides without an adult. So, his mom and dad had to go up and down the steep hills, carrying James most of the way, in the 90° heat to get to the slides. The plan had been to let the kids…James and his cousins…play for a while, and then head home in the afternoon. Well, when everyone else was ready to go…the cousins had already fallen asleep, James definitely was not. He wasn’t one bit tired, or as his mom puts it, “Not even a yawn!” They ended up staying until the park closed.

Last August, James took a trip with some friends of his. It was a chance to say goodbye to summer, and to one friend who was leaving to start his career in the Air Force. For James, it was also a way to “say goodbye” to being a kid. College was over, and everything was going to be different now. The friends went to Denver to cut loose a little bit. They went to Eliches, went clubbing, and checked out some of the breweries. Toni began to think of what was coming next. She wanted things to be good for James, and he did love to travel. He had taken tips to the Netherlands and Spain, and she wanted to do something fun for him.

Toni and her husband, Dave Chase began to plan their own travels and some trips for James too. Things started off really well. Toni and Dave took him to a concert at Red Rocks in Denver. It was to be the first of several fun trips the family would take, including a trip to San Diego with Toni and Dave. The San Diego trip was amazing too. They spent 5 days there. They planned activities for every day. They went to an air show that Toni is sure James only went to “for her.” Then afterward, James said it wasn’t what he had expected. He said he had a great time. Then they went to a festival in La Jolla, several beaches on the ocean, the Cabrillo National Monument and the surrounding area, and the brewery district in the San Diego area…then relaxed at the resort.

After these trips, the Covid-19 Pandemic hit, and the whole world went into turmoil. For James that meant no trip to Las Vegas with his dad, Jim and the rest of their pool team for his first pool tournament, and trip that was to be the “Shangri La” of them all, James’ long awaited trip to the western coast of South America. He had planned to take that one last year, but couldn’t get the time off from his job. Now, it is all on hold, until the trips can be rearranged, and who knows how long that will be. Still, James really was born with the “traveling bug” and he has been building his skills for years. He is very driven and never wants to miss a thing. His past trips have included the Rocky Mountain Region (Wyoming, Montana, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Colorado), the deserts of Nevada, the lakes of Arizona, the beaches of Florida, the ocean surrounding California, the eastern shores of Virginia and Washington DC, the costal plains of Alabama, the French Quarter of New Orleans nd Louisiana, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, and far beyond the northern hemisphere to see parts of the Netherlands and Spain. While some of his trips were cancelled or postponed this year, there is always next year. For James…well, next up is Peru, and it will be amazing!! Today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Garrett Stevens was a boy who loved kids and family. His cousins were so special to him. Whenever he could, you would find him surrounded by the younger cousins…all begging to swing them around, or chase them, or play hide and seek with them…anything was ok, as long as Garrett was playing. Time passes so quickly, and Garrett’s childhood years are long gone, but not his love of children. Garrett met a wonderful woman a few years ago, named Kayla Smiley, and they were married July 23, 2016. Then, on August 3, 2018, their marriage was blessed with a beautiful little girl named Elliott. I know that for Garrett, not much has changed, at least not where kids are concerned. These days he just has a different child to swing around in circles, to chase around the yard, and to play hide and seek with. Elliott loves her daddy, and hanging out with him. Elliott loves her daddy, and her mommy too, of course. These days, Elliott is Garrett and Kayla’s whole world.

Of course, like many men, Garrett likes to hunt and fish. During the past winter, Garrett and his dad, Mike when ice fishing for the first time. They had a great time, and they were pretty successful too. They liked it so much that they decided to build their own ice fishing hut for next year. Personally, I prefer warm weather, so I doubt I would get excited about ice fishing or and ice fishing hut, but to each his own. Garrett is good at both, and loves doing it. Over the years, he and Mike have had good success in their hunting and fishing endeavors.

Garrett is a welder by trade, and since shortly after moving to Sheridan, he has worked EMIT Technologies. He is very talented, and can fabricate just about anything you are looking for. Garrett takes after his Grandpa Al Spencer in his welding ability. Welding is a talent that is partly learned, and partly inherited, I think. You have to have an inner talent for it, at least if you are going to be good at it. Like the many other talents Garrett has, he is a very talented welder. Today is Garrett’s birthday. Happy birthday Garrett!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Many of us define success by the degree or the career we have. I don’t dispute the value of the college degree, but is that really what defines us, or is it what we do with our lives that defines us. I know a lot of people who have a degree, but do not work in the industry they degreed in. That doesn’t mean they failed, just that they found success in something other than their area of study. Some people do work in their degreed area, and are quite successful at it. Still, that doesn’t define them either. My niece, Kayla Stevens is one of those who work in her degreed area, and yet the person I see is so much more than a social worker. She works at the VA hospital in Sheridan, Wyoming, but she is really all about her family.

Since having their little girl, Elliott, Kayla and my nephew Garrett have been basking in the sunshine of having a family. Elliott is such a character, and she keeps the not only on their toes, but she keeps them laughing too. They hardly need any entertainment, because their girl, who is almost 2 years old, is very entertaining. Kayla is a great mom and really loves being the mom. She may be a social worker by degree, but she is a family girl all the way. Her husband and daughter are the most important people in her life.

Recently, when Garrett’s parents, Mike and Alena Stevens were visiting, the whole family got the chance to go hiking along the Tongue River near Sheridan. The family had such a good time. Sheridan is a pretty area, and there are lots of places to go for a nice weekend getaway. Kayla’s family lives near Sheridan, out in the country. Kayla and Garrett go out to their place after church on Sundays for lunch, and are often there for dinner on the weekends too. They love their families, and want to give Elliott the benefit of knowing both sides of her family. They realize just how important it is for her to know both sets of grandparents, as well as aunts and uncles. Family is so important to Kayla and Garrett, and they feel very blessed with such close families. Today is Kayla’ birthday. Happy birthday Kayla!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister, Alena Stevens has always had a great sense of style…especially when it came to interior decorating. Her ability to somehow see something in a room that almost speaks to her. She can just picture what the room should look like before she even starts decorating the room. I was always impressed that she could do that, because I practically have to copy something out of a magazine or webpage to get the room to look good. Alena just sees it all in her head. It must be her creative side.

I was always impressed with the beautiful rooms Alena could create. Her house always feels warm and homey. What I didn’t expect, was when a house spoke to Alena. No, I’m not being creepy, but Alena saw the house she and her husband, Mike now own, after it had already been sold. At that time she told Mike that if it ever went on the market again, she wanted it. After a few years, the house did go on the market again, and they jumped at the chance to buy it. The house was everything Alena had dreamed it would be. She set about decorating it, and the house seemed to glow under her loving care.

Over the years, Alena had changed the décor of the home, and each time it is just as lovely as the time before. When we went through our parents things, after their passing, she incorporated the things she got into lovely areas of tribute to them. Then she made a wonderful man-cave for Mike. Don’t get me wrong on who does the work here, because Mike does most of the heavy lifting and the mechanical stuff, but the design is all Alena. Her design talents are well known in the family, and a number of us have her ideas in our own homes, including me. It is something we can all feel very blessed about, because talented interior decorators are not easy to come by.

These days, a part of Alena’s heart lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Her son Garrett, his wife, Kayla, and daughter, Elliott live there. Alena and Mike go up as often as they can. Elliott is their first, and for now, only grandchild, so visits are precious. Elliott is an almost 2-year-old toddler, who is full of personality, and makes everyone laugh. She holds her grandparents’ hearts for sure. They keep in touch by FaceTime when they can’t be there, but it just isn’t the same. With Alena’s retirement this year from the school district, she will be able to go to Sheridan more and I know that she will do just that. Today is Alena’s birthday. Happy birthday Alena!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As my daughter, Amy Royce’s birthday approached, I found myself looking back on her childhood. While Amy was my bigger baby, 7 pounds as opposed to her older sister, Corrie Petersen, who weighed 6 pounds 2½ ounces, it turned out that she had put all her effort into her pre-birth weight, and she slowed down after that…only reaching 4 feet 10 inches by adulthood. She might be little…a midget if you ask her husband, Travis, but Amy is feisty, She always has been. I think it was self defense, from her toddler years when the other kids thought she was a baby doll, and wanted to pick her up an carry her around. Of course they only tried once. The blood curdling screams that came out of my girl were enough to cure those kids of any desire to carry Amy ever again. The funny thing is that, while she had a temper, Amy was also a very happy toddler…most of the time. Just don’t assume that you could pick her up, hahaha!! As long as she felt safe, Amy was a bubbly little girl, who rarely walked, but rather somersaulted or cartwheeled around the room. Walking was just too boring, I guess.

Amy and Corrie spent lots of time together as little girls, because we lived in the country. What I saw through that time was two little girls who were best friends. While there were little fights, they would also protect each other no matter what. Their closeness is harder these days, because they live so far apart, but they love each other very much. Many people commented to me when they were little, that they got along so well. They just couldn’t believe that sibling love my girls had. I am so proud of their relationship, then and now.

As I look at the life Amy has built now, I am very proud of her. Amy is a peace-loving person, and her lifestyle notes that very well. Amy loves the rainforest area of Washington state, and the beaches that go along with it. The area she lives in just feels peaceful, especially when she and Travis head out to Birch Bay to watch the sunset. Even now, while they are required to stick closer to home, their back yard has become a sanctuary for them. Amy has roses, calla lilies, and a variety of other gorgeous flowers, enhancing the beauty of her back yard as well as the fragrant smells. Travis loves yard work too, especially mowing the lawn, and so their grass is beautiful. The built a patio and set up a table and chairs with an umbrella, and a fire pit, to enhance the relaxing effect of their yard. It makes me very happy to know that she and her family have such a beautiful place to relax and reconnect with friends and family. Bob and I love to go for visits, because it give us a chance to enjoy the area that has drawn Amy’s family to its beauty.

Amy is on vacation this week, and so is home relaxing. She is an account manager for Rice Insurance in Bellingham, Washington. She, like so many people, worked from home through much of the pandemic, but now she is back at the office. At home or at the office, Amy is a hard working insurance agent, and she stayed very busy. Today is Amy’s birthday. Happy birthday Amy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My great grand nephew, Jaxx Harman is the youngest on my grand nephew Jake Harman and his wife Melanie’s three children. Jaxx is their only son, and having two older sisters can be awesome, or it can be a fight. Thankfully for Jaxx, he has great sisters. While there are those minor disagreements that all siblings have, they are pretty great to have around. For most of his life, his older sisters have been showing him the ropes of life, but Jaxx is getting to be a big boy now, and his own attitude is starting to present itself into the family picture. A boy with two older sisters has to get a handle on things before he gets too old, or they girls will push him around.

Jaxx can’t have that. At the grown up age of three, he has to start asserting himself…or at least that’s what he has decided. Jaxx is all boy, and like many boys, he loves to wrestle, fight, and in general, be ornery. According to his mom is a little monkey. I can totally picture that too. From jumping on the bed…when Mommy isn’t looking, to climbing on every thing he can think of. It’s every “boy-mom’s” stressor. Still, when Jaxx looks at his mommy, her heart just melts too, because he is, after all, her boy and she loves him!! While Jaxx is ornery, he still is just so sweet too. It’s all part of his charm.

Jaxx loves his sisters, but he is the brother, and brothers must tease sisters. I think that is an unspoken rule!! His favorite argument with his sisters is, “Who is Daddy’s Favorite!!” Of course, his daddy loves each of his children equally, but it’s a fun argument to have, and Jaxx is just figuring that out. Jaxx may be the youngest child, but he can still give his sisters a “run for their money” when it comes to a fight. His sister Izabella fights and wrestles back, but his oldest sister, Alice takes it pretty easy on him. I’m sure she worries about hurting him. That could change as he gets older, and bigger.

Jaxx is learning about manners and etiquette. He is very careful to follow some basic rules. If someone sneezes, Jaxx is quick to say, “Bless you.” He is learning things like please, thank you, and excuse me too. One of the very sweetest aspects of his personality, is that Jaxx loves to pray at bedtime and before eating. His little spirit loves God so much, and he wants to know more about Him. His parents are active in their church, and Jaxx wants to be just like them. He has good role models to follow after all. Today is Jaxx’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Jaxx!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand nephew, Xander Spethman like most kids this year, had a challenging school year. He had never planned to be homeschooled. He was used to having his friends around him and all the activities at school. He was used to some level of independence that going to high school offered. Then, suddenly he was at home with his siblings. His parents were often at work, so that also left Xander in charge sometimes. In many kids Xander’s age, that many hours with the younger siblings might have made life miserable for all concerned, but Xander is a kind-hearted young man. He loves his siblings, and they look up to him. Xander tried to be a lead-by-example kind of person. That makes for a much more harmonious household, whether the parents are there or not.

Xander and his brother, Zack have become best friends. They share a love of long boarding, and now they go as often as they can. He is also sweet to his other siblings, Isaac, and little Aleesia, who thinks her brothers “hung the moon,” a fact that is obvious by the way she looks at them. Xander is a very loyal person. He is also protective of his family. He is an amazing big brother, who always takes time to help with whatever his little brothers and sister need. Xander has demonstrated many leader qualities, that have been beneficial to his siblings and his friends alike. Xander’s mom, Jenny attributes those attributes to being the oldest child, but I disagree. Being the oldest doesn’t guarantee leadership. Those leadership qualities come from several sources, not the least of which is good parental upbringing. It also comes from something inside a person that says, “This is the right thing to do, and that is not.” It is about being settled in the right things to do, and it’s having a determination to do what is right, even if it is the harder road. Xander has that determination, and his family has become the beneficiary of those good leadership qualities. They are very proud of him.

Xander is a very good example not only to his family, but also to his friends. The leadership qualities Xander displays to his friends, cause many of them to seek him out when they need advise. Unlike many situations where kids are advising kids, which can be catastrophic in their misguided advise, Xander is a very good counselor to his friends. He has a strong sense of right and wrong, and doesn’t like it when he sees anyone being mistreated…a very important quality in a time when “bullying” has become the norm in schools. He always helps anyone who asks and tries to look out for everyone. That is the kind of friend, and brother, everyone is proud to know. Today is Xander’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Rob Masterson has had what his wife, Dustie recalls as a “not very interesting” year, but as I talked to her, I determined that maybe that analogy wasn’t quite accurate after all. Rob, who is a supervisor in the auto shop and tire sales area of Sam’s Club, has done something that no other employee of that area of Sam’s Club has done so far. Rob became the first Sam’s Club employee, at this location, to complete all of his out of state tire trainings. At his trainings, Rob learned everything anyone could possibility ever want or need to know about tires, and probably more than most of us ever cared to know. Nevertheless, Rob found it quite interesting. He told Dustie that he drove cars with new tires on the front and then another one with them on the back to feel the difference. He got to drive all kinds of tracks on many different vehicles and wheels.

Dustie is sure, and I would agree, that Rob’s favorite training trip was to Las Vegas. The Vegas trip was the final training trip, so Dustie told me that the training was a little more relaxed. I would say so!! According to Dustie, “He got to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and an Alfa Romeo on the last Vegas speedway. He got some video of it. He was driving like a madman!” Not many of us, who are not racing drivers, get the chance to feel what it is like to race on an actual speedway…much less to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or an Alfa Romeo in the manner of a driver in a real race. Rob got that opportunity, and he relished it. I’m sure many men would have.

Work, for Rob, might not have seemed interesting to Dustie either, but for most of us, this year has been quite interesting, indeed. How many years have most workplaces adopted the practice of wearing medical masks. Not many who are not medical workplaces, I would wager. Nevertheless, while at work, and especially while helping customers, masks have become mandatory in many businesses. The jury is still out as to how effective the wearing of masks is, in disease prevention, but for now, this is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Because they have worked so much this year, Rob and Dustie and decided that they owe it to themselves and their children, Raelynn, Matt, and Anna to take some trips this summer. They decided that even though travel is necessarily somewhat limited right now, Wyoming has enough historic and beautiful places to allow them to spend all summer traveling and learning the history right here in their home state. They are planning trips to Devil’s Tower, and Thermopolis for sure, and are looking are several other places too. I’m sure they will have a wonderful summer, for sure. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens, who has always liked fishing, had the opportunity this past winter to try something new, when he and his son, Garrett went ice fishing for the first time. The trip took them out on the Tongue River Reservoir, just outside Sheridan, where Garrett lives with his wife, Kayla and their daughter, Elliott. The spot they went to is just a couple of miles into Montana, next to the coal mines up there. Kayla’s grandfather has an ice shanty there. The morning was not very productive, other than lots of visiting, but they did see one Northern Pike, which Mike quickly speared. The fish, it turns out weighed 14 pounds…nice!! Since the fish didn’t seem to be hanging around that area, they decided to go down the ice to where Kayla’s uncle had a shanty. After just 10 minutes, they speared two smaller, approximately 9 pound Northern Pike, about 10 minutes apart. Then, 15 minutes later, a big 15 pound Northern Pike came in and swallowed the lure, they had to spear him to get him out of the water. Garrett tells me that Mike was “hooked after that first one and then having the other 3 come in so fast just solidified it.” They are talking about going again next year, and Garrett plans to build his own shanty. It is a wonderful new way for father and son to connect.

While Mike likes to fish, that is not the draw that Sheridan has on him these days. Garrett and Kayla and their daughter are the main reasons Mike and Alena want to go to Sheridan. Elliott is their first grandchild, and they are so in love with her. Having the kids live a couple of hours away has been hard on them, but with FaceTime, they are able to keep in touch, and they go to Sheridan as much as they can, to spend time with them. My sister tells me that whenever they FaceTime with the kids, Elliott asks for her Papa, but Alena is still sure that she loves her Namma the most, hahahaha!! I suppose Mike will argue that one.

Another new thing for Mike and Alena this year, was hiking is the Sheridan area. They hiked along the Tongue River, and Alena said it was an absolutely gorgeous day. I can totally relate, because my husband, Bob and I love to hike too. I haven’t spent much time near the Tongue River, but I suspect that Mike and Alena will find themselves hiking that area a lot more. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Life takes many turns and journeys around winding roads sometimes. Sometimes we think that the dreams we had will never come to pass, and then, suddenly, we find ourselves right in the middle of our life’s dream, and we are just a little bit stunned at how we got there. For almost as long as I have known her, my grand niece, Katy Balcerzak has wanted to be a mom. I think that for part of that time, she honestly didn’t think it would ever come to pass, but then, suddenly she found herself and her fiancé, Dylan Herr expecting a child. I can imagine that the sky lit up with rainbows and fireworks at the news. There are few things that truly compare to bringing a child into the world. For so many couples, it is the picture of their love.

Katy’s life had already taken many wonderful turns, when she met Dylan. They are just so happy together. They always look so serene when they are together, but as anyone who has been in love knows, that is the look of love. Now they have that look, not only for each other, but for the new little life that is growing inside Katy. June can’t come soon enough for anyone in this family. Our Katy is absolutely glowing.

Katy has relocated to Brighton, Colorado, where Dylan owns the latest of his three Red Wing Shoe Stores. We miss having her here, but Colorado isn’t so far away that they can’t come for visits sometimes. I know that will be especially important for the parents, step parents, and family members she has here in Casper. Thankfully, in this day of Facebook, texting, cell phones, and ease of travel, I know that Katy and Dylan will be able to keep both sides of their family involved in their baby boy’s life. Life is shaping up nicely for Katy and Dylan, and we are all very happy for them. Today is Katy’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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