When my sisters and I were little we were told things like “You get things by ages” meaning bicycles and such. We also got privileges by ages. I think it is probably that way in most families. Kids need to be a certain age in order to be safe doing certain things, and going places…so we knew that was just the way it was. Naturally, whenever we became old enough for something new, it was a pretty big deal. Looking back on it now, it’s almost funny how big a deal something so small could be.

We lived on East 3rd Street, where my mom still lives to this day. It was and is a quiet, safe neighborhood. There was a gang of kids that lived on our street, and oddly, it was mostly girls, which worked out well for our family which contained 5 girls and no boys. There was a variety of ages among the girls on our street, so we usually had a friend our age. We all had pretty much the same standard of rules…I’m pretty sure our moms discussed all that and agreed on something…well ok, maybe not, but the rules did seem the same. In the summertime, you could play outside with your friends as long as you checked in regularly, stayed on our street, and came home before suppertime. After supper, we got to play outside again, until it got dark, then it was time to head home.

As some of us got older, and were allowed to venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods on our bicycles or on foot, and the ones left behind started to feel the sting of being younger. It just seemed unfair to us somehow, not that our sisters got to go somewhere that we didn’t, but that they got to be the older one. I guess we just knew that arguing the point was futile, but we sure didn’t like it much.

I will never forget how grown up I felt when I was finally allowed to leave the street in front of our house on my bicycle. My friend, Toni and I were allowed to ride our bicycles clear down to East 8th Street…wow, what a day!! We felt so grown up. We actually went just 5 blocks. Not really a very big distance, and considering that I now live on Sally Lane, two houses off of East 8th Street and I can walk to my mom’s house in about 5 minutes, it occurs to me just how small a distance that really is. Still, at that time, it was like traveling to the moon. We were free at last, and we felt that freedom clear down to our toes.

When your kids start driving, most parents are a nervous wreck. You try to tell them about all the possible scenarios and hope they will listen to you enough to stay safe. Most of the time, the kids think you are a total nag, and they wish you would just realize that they know what they are doing…duh!! Nevertheless, as parents, we know that they only think they know all about it. They will someday realize…probably about the time they are teaching their first child to drive…just how they sounded, not to mention, just how little kids know about driving when they first start out.

We lived out in the country when our girls started driving, and that compounded the problems substantially. You add icy roads that are not salted with the chemicals they use in town to melt the ice, and the deer and antelope that roam our area and like the roadway because the food supply is easier to get to there, and you have what could be a recipe for disaster if the drivers don’t stay alert and don’t know what to do in certain situations. During the time we lived out there, there were several rollover accidents, and at least one death because the driver swerved to miss the antelope.

That said, Bob was diligent about telling the girls what to do in those situations. I’m quite sure they secretly rolled their eyes at what they believed to be their over-protective dad. Still he kept on nagging them…drumming it into their heads. I’m sure they thought he was using a hammer sometimes, but one night, all his nagging paid off. Amy was on her way home from town after babysitting, and as she was driving along, an antelope ran out in front of her. Her first instinct was to swerve, and she says she even tightened her hands on the wheel in readiness for that move, but then, her dad’s words came back to her, and she thought, “No…Dad said don’t swerve!!” She slowed way down, and the antelope did hit her car, but he left no damage except a small dent, and she drove home relieved that she hadn’t rolled her car or worse. Her dad’s nagging had probably saved her life.

Going to the dentist is not usually something that kids like doing. It normally frightens them because of the painful Novocaine shots and the scary sounds of the drilling. Once they have been there, most don’t want to go back…but my niece, Chantel had a little bit different experience with the dentist, and I will never forget just how funny it was.

Chantel went to a children’s dentist. That was pretty much unheard of in the mid 70’s when she was a little girl, or at least it was pretty new to us. This dentist wanted to make it a good experience for the kids. So, when she had to have her teeth worked on, he gave her something to relax her. That would make her sleepy by the time she would receive the Novocaine shot, and probably pretty numb too. My sister gave her the medicine about 30 minutes or so before the appointment. Of course, it not only relaxed her, it was similar to being drunk. She got pretty goofy.

We were asking her questions just to hear her slurred speech as she attempted to answer us. This was not the first time she had been given this med and so we kind of knew what to expect, and she loved her dentist, because he had found a way to remove the fear of dentistry. Not only was she not afraid, she was always given gum after the dental work, as a reward for doing so well throughout the procedure. No wonder she liked him. What little kid didn’t like gum.

So, we asked her where she was going, and she said, “To da detist.” And then giggling, we would ask her again, just to hear the funny slurred speech. She tried very hard to tell us the whole story of the upcoming adventure she was going to have…with us laughing all the way through it. Finally we asked her why she liked the dentist and she said, “Ma buddy guve me gum.” Aw yes, the ultimate reward for a sweet little girl on medicine to make her relax.

Yesterday was Chris, my grandson’s first day as a working man. Chris has stepped across the line, from being a boy to being a working man. It is so amazing that he can be one thing one minute and be something else the next. He is 15…almost 16, and he wants to earn money to fix up his car so he is ready to drive when he turns 16. His car is a 1988 Chevrolet Camaro, and he is very proud of it. Yes, it needs a little work, but he and his dad, Kevin will do that together, with a little help from his grandpa, my Bob.

Chris is a hard working young man…something that shows in his football game. He has worked very hard this year to be the best defensive end possible. He loves taking down the big guys and especially the quarterback. He applies himself in the game and the practices. And I know he will apply those same good qualities to his job. His parents have done a great job in raising him. They have taught him the values that will take him far in this life.

They must have been pleased with Chris yesterday because he worked 7 1/2 hours, and he is scheduled to work 4 hours today. I guess they can see the good qualities I can see in my grandson. He is hard working and motivated. I know he will be successful at this job and anything else that he decides to do with his future.

I may sound a little biased and I suppose that is true. I am very proud of my grandson. He is a good kid who stays out of trouble and works hard to reach his goals. He has his eyes on the future that he wants, and he doesn’t mind working hard to make it happen. He listens to instruction and follows the training he is given. Many kids won’t listen, but he isn’t one of those kids. Ok yes, I am proud of him. I can’t help it. Chris, I know you will do great at this job, and they will be glad they hired him. I’m very proud of you Chris!! You will go far!!

Kids, young and old have a fascination with fire trucks. Maybe it is the idea of a real superhero that draws us to them. Or maybe it is the siren that gets our attention. Maybe its the cool truck with all its great equipment. It could be the excitement of the job they do, or the thought of how it must feel to rescue someone from certain death.

No matter what the draw is, it seems to draw us all. When a fire truck goes down the street with lights flashing and sirens blaring, everyone looks and starts wondering what has happened. You scan the sky for smoke and when you see none, you assume it must have been a car accident. Your thoughts wander to the person is serious need of help right now, and inside you say a prayer for their safety.

But for kids, it is the dream of someday being a firefighter…a hero, or super hero. I know of very few little boys who don’t want to be a fireman at sometime in their young life. My grandsons have all talked about ir at one time or another. Girls may not want that so often, but my niece Lindsay went so far as getting a degree in fire science and working for the Forest Service in Hill City, South Dakota for two summers.

The kids get to meet the firefighters at school, and field trips, as well as other events designed to promote safety and awareness, so they get to see how important the job is. In this picture, my grandson Christopher is standing on the seat of the truck. The look on his face shows that he is on cloud nine. He has always likes things mechanical, and the fire truck is the ultimate in gadgetry. Kids today are very used to and comfortable with gadgetry. They thrive on it. The more tech savvy something is, the better. Add that to the whole fireman/firetruck thing and kids are set.

We all look up to the firefighters. They run in to protect and save us when we need them the most. They are our superheroes, and we will always look when they go by, wondering what emergency they are heading to this time. We see them as exciting and brave, courageous and strong. And little kids everywhere looking at them as exactly what they want to be when they grow up.

My niece Susan, is the youngest of three daughters belonging to my sister-in-law Debbie, and my brother-in-law Lynn, and she is a miracle of sorts, in that her life almost never began.

Susan’s older sister, Nancy was born and died on April 7, 1980. She had Potter’s Syndrome, which is basically underdeveloped or non existent kidneys, causing no or little amniotic fluid, underdeveloped lungs, and stiffened joints. Many of these babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth, as was the case with Nancy. It was a devastating loss for our family.

After Nancy’s death, Debbie and Lynn were very nervous about trying for another child. The loss of a child is something that forever changes a person. They didn’t know if the next child would have the same problems or not, but their doctor told them to look at their older daughter. She was perfect. Their chances of having a healthy child were, at the very least, as good as their chances of not having a healthy child. So with faithful hearts and worried minds, they forged ahead, and Susan was conceived.

Susan entered this world on October 28, 1981, a perfectly beautiful little girl. She has a quiet, sweet spirit and a kind and giving way about her that have blessed our family immensely. She is the youngest granddaughter, and was the youngest grandchild for 7 years before her cousin JD would come on the scene. Susan has entertained us with her imagination, bringing her imaginary friends Stubba and his girlfriend Sofie into our lives, like an imaginary Ken and Barbie, who didn’t need their owner to work their arms and legs in order for them to move. She is always willing to help in whatever way she can, and when I think of the fact that, for a time, we almost didn’t get the blessing of Susan, I realize even more, how very blessed we have been by Susie Q. Today is Susan’s 30th birthday, and we rejoice with her. We are very thankful that we have such a wonderful woman in our family. Happy birthday Susan!! We love you!!

When my Aunt Evelyn was a toddler, her parents were trying to teach her how to address different adult family members. Whenever she called an aunt or uncle by their first name, her parents would say, “You must say Uncle Ted or Aunt Gladys.” I’m sure she heard those words many times, as it is hard for a toddler to hear everyone else calling the person by name, and yet they must use something different. It can be a very confusing time for a little kid just trying to learn the ropes.

These days, at least in our family, many of the aunts and uncles go by just their first names, and while some people might think that odd, I am just as comfortable being Caryn as I am Aunt Caryn. We don’t consider it to be any kind of a show of disrespect. But in times past, and in many families today, if the person is an aunt or uncle, you must address them as Aunt this or Uncle that. We do draw the line at grandma and grandpa, and my grandchildren know that while Gma, G, or G-mamma is ok, Caryn is not. I suppose that could be confusing to little kids too, but that is the way it is. Another place where we draw the line is Mommy and Daddy, or Mom and Dad. But for the aunts and uncles we are a little more casual.

Nevertheless, in my Aunt Evelyn’s day and my childhood, the children were taught to use the proper terms of aunt and uncle. So Aunt Evelyn, in her early training days, heard over and over that she must say Uncle Cliff or Aunt Myrtle. And as all little kids do, she worked very hard to try to figure out who was who so her parents, aunts, and uncles would be pleased with her. Children love to get praise from their parents and such.

One day, when my grandmother needed my grandfather for something, all that training came to the point of complete understanding. My grandmother told my Aunt Evelyn to go get her daddy, and quick as a wink, my Aunt Evelyn said, “You must say…Uncle Daddy.”

Yesterday, I talked about a New Years Eve tradition in our family, but the annual height measurement isn’t the only tradition we have on New Years Eve. As I said, we always have a party at my mother’s house for New Years Eve, because New Years Day is her birthday. We always move the kitchen furniture into the living room, and part of the living room furniture into Mom’s bedroom, so that the kitchen can be free of furniture, because part of the party is the dancing. A big part of the party is dancing, and the kitchen floor is the dance floor.

During the party, various people, young and old, get out there and dance. We play a variety of music, from rock to country, so everyone has the kind of music they want to dance to. Some of the cutest dances, as everyone knows, are the ones the little kids do. And, when we aren’t dancing, we are eating the delicious food that each family brings to add to the celebration, and there’s plenty of room to talk about all the good times and the many memories our family has been blessed to share with each other. The party spreads from the living room to the back yard, and even the front yard when midnight rolls around and it’s time to bring in the new year with the beating of the pans, and firecrackers…but that is another story.

And, there is one tradition that, while it doesn’t happen every year, is really cool…when we can talk him into it. My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens, has the ability to do a dance that we fondly call The Rubber Knee. I would love to tell you how he does this dance, but I’m not even sure Mike knows how he does it. The Rubber Knee is an Elvis Presley type of dance move that requires the dancer to have the ability to almost dislocate his knee…not really, but it sure looks like it. And try as we might, there has never been another family member that can duplicate The Rubber Knee. It is a dance that is unique to it’s owner. Mike is a great dancer, and that particular dance will always be remembered as something that had to be done before it could really seem like New Years Eve to our family.

It has been a long standing tradition to have a New Years Eve Party at my mother’s house because her birthday is on New Years Day. Another long standing tradition was the annual checking of all the grandchildren’s heights. Each child got to get their mark, and when we were all done, everyone looked to see how much everyone had grown…or in some cases in our family, not grown. After a while, the adults wanted in too, so we all got measured. My brother-in-law, Chris was and is the reigning King of Height in our family, but for a while there we weren’t so sure. It appeared that his son Ryan might have a chance to pass Chris up, but in the end, that did not happen.

We have a wide range of heights in our family…and I’m talking about the adults. From little Siara, who at nearly 18 years of age, comes screaming in at 4’9″, to Chris who stands 6’4″. And our family isn’t small in numbers either with 57 current members, so that door got pretty crowded after a while, and the prior years weren’t erased, so everyone could see how far they had come in a year.

Some of us just knew that we would be neither a contender for the tallest or the shortest member, but would fall somewhere in the middle. We have had several of the little girls vying for the shortest girl. Chantel, Amy, Siara, Christina, and Shai all come in under 5′. We have several girls in the barely 5′ range, those being, Cheryl, Corrie, Liz, and Jenny. The rest of us fall somewhere in between 5’2″ and 5’11” until you get to some of the guys. Some of them fall in the 6′ and above range, with Ryan at 6’3″ and his dad, Chris at 6’4″.

We all looked at the door off and on, because it was a novelty item. It held so many years of growth for so many people. It isn’t often that you can look back at a glance…at least not for most of us. Most parents keep track of how tall their kids are for a while, but after a time, they forget, and skip a year here and there, until finally they give up all together. Our tradition was remembered, because one or more of the kids always brought it up on New Years Eve.

When my girls were little and in grade school, I used to volunteer to do throat cultures at the school they attended. Throat cultures aren’t done anymore, so for those who don’t know, it was and still is a way to test for strep throat, but it isn’t done in the schools anymore. Anyway, every Monday morning I went into town and my friend Pat Neville and I made the rounds at the school, swabbing throats.

Now my last name is not the easiest name to learn for little kids, and even most adults have trouble with it. So I was not surprised when on one particular Monday morning, when I came into the nurse’s office to get my throat culture cart set up, and two little kindergarten girls had a little trouble with my name.

As I entered the nurse’s office, there were two little girls sitting on the bed waiting for the nurse to come in. I don’t know if one was hurt or what, but that didn’t end up being the most important part of my story.I thought they knew me from throat cultures, because they started talking to me like they recognized me, and I guess they did…sort of.

The first little girl asked, “Are you Amy’s mom?” My first thought was ok, now I have been relegated to being just my kid’s mom, but that thought didn’t last very long, because the other little girl asked, “Amy who?” Then, everything became very clear. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t know my name, or that I was just somebody’s mom. It was my name.

That fact was made perfectly clear when, in answer to her friend’s question, the first little girl said, “You know…Amy Sugarberry!!! Inside I laughed and laughed, because I figured that if someone were going to butcher our last name, that was the best way to do it. With the last name of Schulenberg, I had heard every possible way to butcher my name, but this was by far the sweetest!

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