It is a dilemma that every mother of a baby girl has had at one time or another. That statement that was intended as sweet, that came out as insulting…at least to the mom. You know the one, “Oh, he is just adorable and so handsome!” Your first thought is, “Really, you think my little girl looks like a boy…Seriously!! I mean she is wearing pink, for Pete’s sake!!” Deep down you know that it is very hard to tell a girl baby from a boy baby, but you secretly hoped your little princess would be the exception to the rule…you know, the one that was so beautiful, even as an infant that it was obvious that she was a girl. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and you try to control your tongue as you stand there seething for the third time this shopping trip. You grit your teeth, and say,”She’s a girl!” Of course, the person in front of you, who now knows very well that they have insulted you and your little princess, meant nothing by it, and really wishes they could become invisible…or better yet that they had kept their comment generic, so they would not find themselves in the position they now find themselves in, but it is too late. They apologize and quickly move away, but you are left with the knowledge that you have to do something to protect your darling little daughter from such abusive remarks in the future.

So, since you are already in the store, you set out to solve this problem, once and for all. Obviously, pink isn’t the answer, so what is next. I mean, she doesn’t have enough hair for ribbons or bows yet. Well, when my daughters were babies, there were no baby headbands, but I’m sure many of you are starting to see where the idea for a baby headband came from. My mother’s generation tried many things to girlify their daughters. Even dresses weren’t totally helpful, because many people back when my parents were little put both boys and girls in a long baby gown. And even when my girls were babies, there was the pajama sack…a night gown that had the bottom sewed up to keep their little feet inside and warm.

My mother told me to tape a bow to their heads, or use corn syrup to make it stick. I never really liked the mess that made, so I determined to find another way. I suppose many people would think I was trying to go back to the Old West, but I never really thought of it that way when put their little bonnets on my girls heads. All I knew is that they looked so cute, and no one would think they were boys again!

Kids have always loved playing in boxes and most of us can attest, and some kids can really get carried away with boxes. When the box becomes more important that the item in the box, you know that your kid is one of those kids. Of course, this is something kids just do when they are little, and it doesn’t last very long, so it is something you should smile about while you still can.

Sometimes, they are so infatuated with the box that you start to wonder if you should just wrap that up instead, because they would have more fun with it. Of course, clothes are always a good option, because they can get rid of those pretty quickly and then they are left with the box. Cool, in their opinion…and maybe in yours too.

My youngest daughter, Amy was one of those kids who really loved to play in boxes and with boxes. For whatever reason, it fascinated her. She liked to put things in the boxes just to see if they would fit, or get in the boxes and play. Seriously, who needed toys. Just give Amy a box. Birthdays and Christmas were great fun for her…even if it wasn’t her birthday or her present. And nobody had to fight with her over their gift, just hand her the box.

It is kind of sad these days, at least while children are little, that most gifts come in bags, because you can’t really play with a bag in the same way. In fact, it ends up looking just like wrapping paper, which oddly, doesn’t hold much interest for the kids. I would think they would love to rip it up and make noise with it, but they just don’t.

One of the funniest times concerning a child in a box however, was the Christmas that Amy was 1 1/2. She was really into the whole playing with boxes thing, but have no idea how big a box needed to be to hold a kid. Someone had opened a gift, and given Amy the box, and after playing with it for a while, she decided to sit in it. Well, as most of you know, Amy was and is a pretty small girl, and at 1 1/2, she was about the size of a 6 month old baby. That didn’t really help matters very much, however, when she decided that she could fit in a shoe box. It was a fact that simply escaped Amy, and I’m not sure she would have cared anyway, because, what mattered is that even if she did overflow a little, she found a way to sit in that shoe box. I mean, that is what boxes are for…right!!

With boys, hugs and kissed usually stop in their toddler years…at least what we all know as PDA’s (public displays of affection). They are learning to be a man after all, and men don’t show emotion right?? I used to think that it was mostly boys whose dads were worried about them being wimps that caused their sons to act this way. Of course, this thought came from a woman who had 4 sisters and no brothers, and then 2 daughters and no sons. I know better now that I have 3 grandsons and only one granddaughter. Boys instinctively know that they have to be tough, and just like girls who are learning to be nurturing by playing with their dolls, boys learn toughness by pushing back their emotions…and the first thing to go is those good old PDA’s. I mean, “A guy could get beat up” right!!

The good news is that those things will come back into play when they get to the point where they actually like girls again, which must happen after the girls get over their case of the cooties, or the boys get vaccinated from them anyway, because as we all know cooties are the worst germ out there!! So as women, we either need to vaccinate our little boys against cooties…try convincing them that the shot is a good idea…or wait the whole thing out and plan on missing those kisses and hugs until we lose the cooties.

Sometimes, however, something a little boy does is so sweet and thoughtful, and it takes you so by surprise, that you can’t get it out of your mind. It’s almost as if they forget themselves for a moment and just let the emotions flow out of them. Last night I was having dinner at my mom’s house with Mom, my sister Cheryl, and her kids, Rob and his wife Dustie and their kids, Christina, Raelynn and her friend, Matthew, and Audrianna. I was sitting in the chair that was right in front of the door as you walked into the house. As they arrived, the girls all came in and said hello to me, as did their parents. But, when Matthew came in, he walked straight up to me and gave me a big hug!! Now, I am his great aunt, and I know he loves me, but most of the time when I see him, I either have to expect that there will be no kiss or hug coming, or I might get one after the wrestling match it takes to get him down long enough to steal one. Not so last night. That sweet little boy came right up to me and hugged me. I almost cried. It was a precious moment. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that he will continue to do that, because he is only 6 years old, but it was such a loving and thoughtful gesture, that I think I can let the times when he doesn’t do it slide, because he is after all…only 6 years old.

I was at the hospital yesterday, bringing my father-in-law, who had been in the hospital for surgery, home.  A nurse on the floor, who was not his nurse, and so didn’t know his last name, came in to see if the transport team member needed any assistance. When he said he didn’t, she looked at me and said, “You’re Amy’s mom aren’t you?” I laughed and said, “Yes, I am.” She told me that she had gone to school with Amy and asked me to tell her hello.

As I was leaving the hospital, I thought back to the first time someone had asked me that question. Amy was in Kindergarten and I was volunteering at the school, doing throat cultures to check for Strep Throat. As I walked into the nurses office to get my supplies ready, I saw two little girls sitting on the bed. One of them had apparently scraped her knee, and the other one was there for moral support. The little girl who was there with her hurt friend, said, “Are you Amy’s mom?” When I said that I was, the hurt little girl said, “Amy who?” The first girl said, “You know!!! Amy Sugarberry!!” That encounter put a smile on my face the rest of the day.

I have been told many times that Amy looks like me, although that is not alwyas something I can see. It must be so, however, because in recent months, I have had several people who know that I am Amy’s mom, tell me that I really look like her. Still it is surprising to have someone who doesn’t know me as Amy’s mom already, be able to just pull her name out of the hat when they see me. It really brings to light that we look very much alike.

I have always known that I bear a strong family resemblance, because I have had people recognize me as being my sisters’ sister many years after the graduated from high school, and ask me if I am my dad’s daughter, when it has been years since they have seen him. I guess with that said, I should not be surprised when they can see a strong resemblance between my daughter and me. Nevertheless, I find myself still amazed that even after all these years, I am still known as Amy’s mom!

When Amy was 3 months old, we found out that she would probably never reach 5 feet. I know that at 3 months that hardly seems like something anyone could predict, but she had not grown at all since she was 6 weeks old, and my doctor being a seasoned pediatrician, and after examining her, concluded that, “If she reached 5 feet, he would be surprised. Well, he was right, and today my little girl is a 4 foot 11 inch adult. But don’t think she is a wimp, because you would be wrong.

Amy had her little blond moments as a child, like the time she brought the outfit she wanted to wear out to the kitchen and put it on. Then she started looking around for something…all over the kitchen. Finally I said, “What are you looking for?” She answered, “My shirt!!” I answered, “You have it on!!” She looked down in total surprise to find the shirt on, just like I had said. She did have her blond moments.

And then there was the time that we were walking into Kmart. Amy was about 3 or so. She was just ahead of me as we walked through the parking lot, and she always had a tendency to look behind her or around herself and she walked forward. So, suddenly I hollered to her to look where she was going, but it was too late…Amy walked right into the bumper of a parked car. She wasn’t hurt, but I found myself having a hard time not laughing about it.

All kidding aside though, our little blond is a very capable, and really not blond-like most of the time, adult, who is a great help to me. I might tease her a little, but I don’t know what I would ever do without her. Amy and her sister are two people I can count on…no matter what I have to ask them to do. The life of a caregiver, which both of my daughters are, is a tough one, and those who have not been there, don’t understand. Many people would not take on the challenges of caregiving, but when the needs arose, my girls were there for me, and their grandparents, on both sides. They know what it takes, and they don’t give up. Ever!! That is…priceless!! I know that those commercials are done in a joking way, but really, all joking aside…my girls are priceless!!

When they say that big things can come in small packages, it was Amy that they had in mind. And I am so blessed. How could I have been so blessed? It is a question for which there is no answer. Today is our precious little blond’s birthday, and I can’t say enough about what a wonderful honor it is to be her mom. Happy birthday dear Amy!! We love you very much!!

One memory from when I was little is of Grandpa’s rocks. He had many of them, because he was a rock collector. Grandpa went many places to find his rocks…and no place at all. That’s because great rocks could be found just about anywhere, and you never really knew what they could look like until you put then in a rock tumbler and polished them up. Then, even the rock that had seemed so plain, could turn into a beautiful stone. To find that special rock, you had to have an eye for it, and my grandpa really had an eye for it.

He had some beauties. I always wondered how he could find so many beautiful stones…and where he could find them. I liked to looks for pretty rocks too, but aside from an agate or two, I never really turned up much that was very pretty, much less stunning, like his were. Of course, I didn’t have a rock tumbler to bring out the beauty, but still, I’m not sure that I would have had the eye for the rock that had the potential to become a beautiful stone.

Grandpa spent years looking for rocks…possibly his entire life. I can picture him as a little boy, looking around and finding a rock here and there that had touches of color in them. Maybe some pinks or whites mixed in with the gray or black that most of us see. When I think of rocks, they are all plain and ugly, but I have to wonder how many beauties I passed up because my mind couldn’t see inside the rock…couldn’t see the rock’s potential, but Grandpa could see it. He could see inside the rocks…see their potential, and he knew how to bring the inside of the rock out and turn it into a beautiful stone.

It was almost as if Grandpa knew how to talk to the rocks…coax the beautiful stone out of the simple gray or black rock. Maybe it’s just because he was able to see the beauty in many things. Grandpa had so much love to give. And he wanted to share his love of nature with his family. They would go on rock hunting treks. The kids got to do what so many kids would love to do…hunt rocks and bring them home. And nobody stopped them from bringing their treasures home…and then he could take those treasures and turn them into something more. Of course, I don’t suppose Grandpa had a rock tumbler back in those days, still a little water could bring out the different colors in an otherwise Plain Jane of a rock, I’m sure. Eventually, with the invention of the rock tumbler, Grandpa was able to show the rest of us what he was always able to see…the beauty that lies inside of the rock.

As summer begins, the thoughts of most kids turn to their favorite summertime activity…swimming. And swimming knows no age limit…young and old alike love to go swimming. When I was a little kid, we occasionally got to go to the park next to the grade school. There was a wading pool there, where all kids who couldn’t swim yet went to cool off in the summertime…and it was always packed. There was hardly any room to move sometimes, but it was cool and the day was hot, so you didn’t complain. That wading pool has long since been removed…partly because of some drain safety issues that we never had problems with, but I guess there were some in some other pools, and partly because of so many people buying the backyard wading pool. The backyard wading pool was just easier.

By the time my girls were born, there were no wading pools in town. We got them a wading pool as soon as they were old enough to walk, because it gave them something to do in the summer. We lived out in the country, and going to town for activities was a wasted day. They didn’t care about going to town, as long as they could play in their pool. The girls would spend hours out in that pool, and come in looking like prunes, but they always had such a good time. I think I loved the wading pool as much as they did, because is was a wonderful entertainer. All too soon though, the backyard wading pool became old news, and they wanted to go to the big pool in town…not that I can blame them, it was just that it meant that I had to make the trip to town to take them.

The backyard wading pool has never lost its charm, however. When my grandchildren were born, we found ourselves back in wading pool mode very quickly. It was great watching the grandkids play in their pool and having such a great time. The wading pools of today are much cooler that the ones we had when my girls were little. They have slides and other fancy things built into them. If we wanted a slide, we had to put the pool near our swing set. It worked, but today you don’t have to do that. I have often wondered how we ever managed without those pools, and how kids ever survived the hot summers. I guess we did have the sprinkler, but I don’t think it could really compare to the backyard wading pool.

Today is the last day of school in Casper. Some places go longer, and maybe some are out earlier, but for Casper, today is it. All the students are excitedly anticipating the end of the day that marks the beginning of summer vacation and…freedom!! I remember when I was in school, that last day seemed like the longest day of the year, and I liked school, so for kids who didn’t, it was worse…an eternity. The teachers spent most of the day wondering why they even had to come today, because other than the high school students who had finals, most of the classes consisted of watching movies, playing games, or picnics. The students have no books…those have been turned in, so the teacher couldn’t do any real lessons, and the students couldn’t study. It was and still is a wasted day, but the reality is that no matter what day is the last day, the result would be the same.

So, today is the last day. Some of my grandchildren finished up yesterday. Those who didn’t have finals today were able to skip today, and one who was just going to be watching movies didn’t go so his family could start the Memorial Day weekend early by going camping. There were a few kids that didn’t go the last day when I was in school too, and it fueled the whole “why do we even have to go today” syndrome in those of us who were left behind to complete the year. It makes sense to the adults that it doesn’t matter what day is the last day, it is a wasted day, but to the kids…especially the younger ones, it just doesn’t make sense.

As the school year ends, we are reminded that next year we will have 2 Juniors in high school, 1 Sophomore in high school, and on 8th grader in middle school. Where have the years gone? How can my little teeny grandbabies be such grown up people already? It is a stark reminder that time waits for no man…it simple marches on. Before we know it, these kids will be high school graduates, and out in the world, going forward to make their own way in it. We don’t know where their path will take them. Some of them have ideas and goals. Others don’t, and may not until they are graduates. Sometimes, life experiences show people without a doubt that they are perfect for one career or another, sometimes they have to explore some first. Time will tell.

But for today, they are simply moving into summer vacation and rejoicing in the chance to sit back and relax a little. Chris and Shai will be working this summer, of course, and Caalab will probably get a job when he turns 15 on the 25th of June. Josh will be the only one that doesn’t have a job yet, but I know he will do odd jobs for extra spending money, because that is the way he is too. As for the school year…well, for the summer at least it will have a distant place in the back of their minds…stored away until the fall, because this year is over. The clock moves forward to the final bell for this year…and it’s a wrap!!

A client was in my office yesterday with his little granddaughter. When he gave her a kiss, his whiskers rubbed on her cheek, causing her to make a face. When he told us why she had made the face, it took me back about four to five decades. Back to when I was a kid, and my dad used to play with my sisters and me by giving us whisker rubs. It was something Dad did when he was in a playful mood. He would come home from work, and we would gather around to greet him. Dad always loved to tease, and see if he could put a smile on our faces after his long day at work.

Dad’s 5 o’clock shadow would always scratch us when he would kiss us hello, and I suppose that was how it got started. Just like my clients little granddaughter, making a face at the scratchiness of her grandpa’s face, we probably made the same face. My guess would be that he thought our little face was so funny that he did it again to see that funny little face that looks a bit like a kid who just ate lemons. After a while, it became kind of like the “tickle torture” we had used on our sister, Caryl…a “weapon” used without warning to get a rise out of us.

I suppose people might wonder why such an act would be continued after the first time. Well, the answer would lie in the fact that after Dad would finish giving us the whisker rub, we would invariably say, “Do that again, Daddy!!” It was always a fun little goofy thing we had with Dad, and as we grew older, and had children of our own, they too, were introduced to the whisker rub. No one was exempt, nor did they want to be, because to be exempt, would have been to be left out of the fun.

My dad was a great dad and a great kidder. He brought fun and laughter to our home, and made each of his girls feel like princesses. We were so blessed. Family was the most important thing to him. He had so much love to give, and such a good heart. He was always doing fun little things to bring a smile to our faces and sunshine to the day. I miss those days…especially when I see a dad or grandpa playing with their little one or even accidentally doing something similar to the playful things my dad did…like the whisker rub!!!

Every kid goes through times when they wish they were bigger…grown up. They do everything they can think of to look more grown up. It’s just normal I guess…but the funniest thing is when they try on the shoes of the adults in their lives…especially the boots of their dad or grandpa. I’m not sure what it is about those boots, but they just seem to love wearing them. And it isn’t just limited to the boys. The girls want in on the action too. They just love walking around in those shoes that are huge on them.

They stagger around the room trying not to fall…trying to see if they can really make these big boots keep going in the same direction, because usually they want to go in opposite directions, making it very difficult to walk…and very funny. Trying to stand back up after falling down is even funnier. In boots that cover almost the entire leg sometimes, standing back up is really a bit of a trick…especially if the child happens to be a bit younger, and therefore shorter.

This fascination with Dad’s or Grandpa’s boots is one of the sweetest things kids try to mimic, because it shows how much they love their dad or grandpa. They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and that is exactly what they are doing. There is very little that kids miss, and they want to be just like those people the love so much…all the more reason to watch what we say or do, because we might be a negative influence if we don’t, and wouldn’t you rather be the kind of person that you are proud to watch your children or grandchildren become.

Is I watched these little ones over the years learning to walk and then trying new things, it was like those boots, when they first tried something new, they weren’t experts at it by any means. Still, with the same perseverance that they used in trying to learn to walk in those big boots, they kept at the new thing they were trying, until they became experts. All of these kids are either grown up or almost there, and I must say that each is very different from the others, which is not unusual in that Jessie is my niece, Barry is my nephew, and Chris is my grandson, but each of them knows how to succeed in whatever they try. I don’t think that it was those boots that have made them a success, but rather the fact that they had in themselves, the drive to succeed that made them master those boots, before they were old enough to have the boots fit them.

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