Kids

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!

When my niece, Susan was a little girl, she had an imaginary friend, like many children do, but her friend’s name was…well a bit unusual as was the fact that her friend was a boy, which was not usually the case with imaginary friends. His name was Stubba. Susan says she liked the word stubborn, but didn’t know what it meant, and that Stubba name came from that word. Susan loved her friend. He went with her everywhere, and they had many adventures together. One thing about an imaginary friend is that they are very loyal. They don’t run off and play with they other kids very much, because they would rather stick close to their best friend.

Recently my daughter Amy, got to thinking about Stubba again, and posted just his name on Susan’s Facebook. Well, that was enough to get things started all over again. Susan commented with, “Oh!!! My long lost friend Stubba!!! I sometimes wish I could go back to those days where my only worry was what my friend Stubba was up to. LOL!!!! Good times!!!” I know just what you mean Susan. There are times I would like to go back to my carefree days too, but then I think…”Naw, I would be missing out on too much,” as would you.

As Susan grew up, her need for Stubba dwindled, and eventually it was time for Stubba to leave us and go where all imaginary friends go. As I recall, in order to let his passing be permanent, Susan told us that he fell out of her grandpa’s pickup bed, and died. We were all a little bit sad for Stubba, who would no longer get to run and play with the little girl he loved so much, but we can all take comfort in the fact that while Stubba is in Heaven now, Susan’s life has been blessed with so much more. I’m quite sure Stubba would be pleased to see that she now has Josh, Jala, and Kaytlynn in her life and that there is most certainly no void there. No…I think Stubba would be very happy for his dear friend, Susan.

Many people name their children a longer name, planning to shorten it to a nickname. Names like Christopher and Joshua are shortened to Chris and Josh. Some times, names are changed to initials. Names like Joel David, Machelle, or Brenda are changed to JD, MAC, or BR. Names even had things added to them, like Susan becoming Susie Q, or Shai Renee becoming Shai Reenie the Pooh. And sometimes directions came into play when Weston and Easton became West and East. And some names didn’t need to be changed, just used in their entirety to be a nickname of sorts, like Caalab Rolles Royce. Such is the case in our family, but I guess I had to be different. I never intended to use nicknames for my girls, Corrie and Amy, and for the most part didn’t, but the nicknames they did get, didn’t shorten their names…rather, they lengthened them. Odd…I know, but that is what happened.

Corrie became Cornelia…after my grandfather according to my mom. Amy became Amelia, mostly I think to match Corrie’s nickname, but it was all so perfect. Their names were similar and fit perfectly to lengthen their names from the original to the new nickname. We had a lot of fun with those new longer nicknames, but it never escaped my notice that they were of an unusual type.

Everyone had their little additions. Some added middle names so Cornelia became Cornelia Sue. Other made rhymes, so Amelia became Amelia Bedelia. The play on words was fun and interesting. We even had a few little songs that incorporated their nicknames. Just another way of adding to the fun of it. And through the years, more and more nick names have been added…some short and some long. Corrie has been Cor, CorSue, Corrie Lou, and even Apple Core, and Amy has been Ames, Amos, Amy Lou and Strawberry Shortcake, because she was so little. The names changed through the years, but never really went away.

The other night at bowling, Amy came up to me and said that Pete, another bowler, had called her Amelia, and was surprised when she turned around and responded to the use of the nickname. He said, “I didn’t figure you would answer to that name.” She said, “It has been my nickname all my life.” So I guess nicknames, don’t always mean a shortening of the name, and it isn’t so uncommon for nicknames to be a lengthening of the name. But, what is really funny to me is that when we picked names for the girls, I said I didn’t want names that would be shortened…and well, I guess I got my wish…at least part of the time.

We have all had a best friend…someone who is as close to us as a sister or brother, but through the years these close friendships often dwindle and fade into the obscurity of time. Friends go their separate ways as their lives grow and change. Sometimes, those friends go out of our lives never to return…but, sometimes life takes a different direction and the result is quite special.

Machelle and Rachel were best friends in high school and beyond. Their sons were best friends practically from birth. But this friendship will not be one that will dwindle away, because Machelle introduced Rachel to her Uncle Ron. You can introduce someone to a friend, but you can’t make that relationship work. That is up to the new couple. Well, the relationship between Ron and Rachel worked, and in June of 2010, they were married. With this marriage, Rachel went from being Machelle’s friend to being her aunt…but Machelle has informed Rachel that she refuses to call her Aunt Rachel.

And this situation has infiltrated a second generation. Machelle’s son Weston is best friends with Rachel’s son, Riley, and now, because of the marriage of His mom and Ron, Riley and Weston have become so much more that just friends. They are cousins once removed. Of course, most people just call that cousins, because to call it cousins once removed, is just confusing…especially to two boys who don’t really care one way or the other about how they are related to their best friend, they are just excited that their best friend will always be their best friend, because they aren’t just friends, they are family.

It’s always a special thing to know that your best friend will always be close to you, abut it is even more wonderful to know that your best friend will always be in your life, because they have become part of your family. And our whole family has been blessed because of the friendship that began with Machelle and Rachel, and grew into parts of a family.

While most of the time my two oldest grandchildren have been good friends, being the same age did sometimes cause some vying for superiority. As toddlers, kids don’t understand the whole boys don’t hit girls thing. They are just two kids who can play well together one minute, and have a huge fight the next minute. The key to most of these little fights is…”I had it first!” It doesn’t matter who it belongs to…except to the one who thinks that ownership should give them the advantage.

No, it doesn’t matter who the item belongs to, or even if it is a toy at all, or in this case, how much a child hates being in the car seat. It’s all about the fact that one child is enjoying the item a little too much. Then it begins. That whole, “it’s mine” or “I had it first” thing. Have you ever really seen a child who likes being buckled into their car seat…at any age? No, of course not. So, what makes that same car seat seem so important when it is in the house and they don’t have to be in it? Well, that’s just it…they don’t have to be in it. They can pretend that it is something else, and not a car seat. Maybe they are driving the car…like their parents do or maybe it is just a chair. Whatever it is, the child who didn’t have the idea, tends to have a problem with it.

It’s the fact that for just a few minutes, one child decided it might be fun to be in the car seat…just as long as it wasn’t a requirement, and the other child though it was a great idea, but there was only one car seat in the house, and there you have it. The recipe for disaster…or at least a perceived disaster. And with that, two great friends, are at each other’s throats.

And then as quickly as it began, they are over it. Because toddlers or kids in general for that matter, never stay angry for very long. They explode in anger, and then something new catches their eye or occupies their mind, and they are friends again. Because after all, they really didn’t really want the sit in a car seat anyway. They hate those things!

There are people out there, and we all know them, who simply love the mud. They have a bit of an obsession with the thought of conquering it…usually with their truck. And if we didn’t all like the idea, there wouldn’t be anything like the mud races, but we do and that is why there are mud races. We pay good money to go out and see if someone can run their truck through a mud pit, secretly hoping that most of them get stuck, because we want our favorite to win. For a while, my favorite was my son-in-law, Kevin. He got into mud racing, and bought a special truck for it, and competed in quite a few races. It was fun watching his races.

Now, getting down and dirty in the mud isn’t my thing, but I don’t mind watching other people do it. And many people don’t mind doing it. Maybe it’s the adrenalin rush or the screaming crowd, but whatever it is, people flock to see the next guy do his best to conquer the mud pit. And the adrenalin rush isn’t limited to the racers. Everyone in the crowd is filled with excitement and anticipation as each truck begins his run. Then, mud flying, they are off. Sometimes the mud is tough, and very few racers get through. Then it is a matter of who got the farthest. Other times it’s a little easier, and then it is a matter of who got through the fastest. Either way, it is always a challenge, and a definite crowd pleaser.

During the time that Kevin was mud racing, his boys, Chris and Josh had a chance to feel special too. They could tell people that this truck was their dad’s and that racer was their dad. It was a wonderful way for them to share a guy thing together. And of course, Corrie didn’t mind the whole thing either. Each race is unique, with it’s own set of problems. From trucks breaking down, to being damaged in the race, it was a work in progress, and not a cheap one. But in the end, it was a family thing that brought them closer together.

Kevin decided that mud racing was a little to much money to continue with a few years ago, and the truck was sold. They have since moved on to other interests, such as the boys’ sports, but they will always have the memory of the nights spent door deep in the mud, and the days spent washing that same mud off of the truck to prepare for the next event. I’m sure Kevin misses those days a little bit now and then, but the memory lives on and the pictures will always tell the tale of those days…in the mud.

From the time they were old enough to walk, my nephews, JD and Eric were around motorcycles. Their dad loves motorcycles, and motorcycle races. They were in motocross, and learned all the jumping skills that we see at the shows these days. They started out on these little teeny motorcycles, and the bikes grew as the boys did. Since I’m not a motorcycle person, I have to say their races made me nervous, but the boys thrived on it.

After a while, you didn’t expect to see JD or Eric, unless you saw them on a motorcycle, or at the very least, in a motorcycle suit. They had these great little motorcycle racing suits, and they wore them as much as they could. The boys were so proud of the suits and the bikes. When they raced, they poured their heart and soul into it. They worked very hard to learn all the little tricks that added speed to their race and cut seconds off their time or put them out ahead of the guy in front of them. It was all about the race.

They have participated in many events in Casper, as well as in other states. While their sport made me nervous, I was also very proud to hear their names as their ran their various races at the monster truck races and such. Whenever they raced, we screamed louder than anyone around us. We were very loyal fans, and they were our favorite racers. It made us feel special to know two of the racers personally.

The years have gone by, and the little boys have been replaced with men, but their love of motorcycles has never changed. They may not race much anymore, but they love to ride and Eric even incorporated a motorcycle into his wedding recently, as he came charging into the outdoor ceremony on his motorcycle to claim Ashley, his lovely bride. I expect motorcycles and even racing will be a part of their lives for many years to come…as they fulfill the need for speed.

Every year since they were born, we have taken Christmas pictures of my grandchildren together. Everyone loves to get those new pictures to compare with a year ago. Kids change so fast. Some years have been a trial, some years feel almost impossible. My grandchildren are all very different people, and they have very different personalities.

That was not totally the problem in the really early years. When you are dealing with infants, they are either asleep or crying. So you work with them and work with them until it is finally right, and after this photo session, you head home to put the baby down for a nap, and take one yourself, because…you have earned it.

As they get older, it’s the fighting that stalls the whole process. This one doesn’t want to sit next to that one, or this one wants to be in the back, not the front, or someone is touching someone else. Oh my gosh, the tragedy of it all. Heaven forbid, having to be somewhere in the picture that you didn’t want to, and if you let them choose, they all want the same place. And all you can think of is next year they will be one year older and it will work better.

Then next year comes around, and you have a whole new set of issues. Makeup is horrible, or is it the hair, they hate what they are wearing, or the inevitable as they become teenagers…they are too tired. So you try letting them pick a few of the poses to break the ice a bit. Sometimes even that doesn’t work well, but sometimes it does, and you end up with a very funny pose, or set of poses.

Ultimately, no matter what the age, with a little persuasion, such as the promise of candy afterward or…maybe bodily harm if they don’t behave, you get a few good poses, and the pictures turn out quite well. And of course, when the pictures are given out, and only the best ones are given out, by the way, everyone just loves them. They all think, “How did you pull that off? Getting them all to smile at the same time.” And of course, you just smile and let them think what they want. You know it was a lot of work, but…it was so worth it. Once again, it is time to start thinking about those pictures…no wonder I have a headache!!

Little girls love to mimic their moms. They see their mom getting ready for the day, and putting on their makeup, and taking great care with every detail, and they learn that this ritual is something very important. Little girls want to be just like their mom, because they love her and they think she is the most beautiful mom in the whole world. These are moments you wish could last forever…the moments before you become a total embarrassment to your child, as most parents do when their kids reach adolescence. For a time…a short time, you are just exactly what they want to be…until you become old fashioned, that is.

Like most girls, Corrie and Amy loved to play dress up, and makeup was a big part of that. I had to really keep an eye on my makeup or I might just find out that it wasn’t lasting quite as long as it really should. Of course, Corrie, being the oldest, was a little better at getting enough makeup on her face than Amy was, until Amy was a little older, that is. My girls always wanted to do the things I was doing, and not just in the area of makeup. I guess it is part of the whole finding yourself process. Before you can find yourself, you have to try out a few different possibilities.

Sure, as mom’s we look back on those moments as maybe a waste of good makeup, or a mess we had to clean up, but in reality it was so much more than an inconvenience…it was a rite of passage, I suppose. Boys are encouraged to have a rite of passage, so why not girls. It is part of becoming a
woman, but it certainly can be funny as they try to get it just right. And to ask them, it was perfect.

It is just what little girls are all about. It is in their makeup, pun definitely intended. In a desperate attempt to save my makeup, I finally bought the girls some of their own…the kid variety of course. They used the fake stuff, until they realized that it didn’t show up on their faces, and then we had to get something different. They went around with all sorts of different looks. It didn’t really matter, because girls will be girls, and I have seen some very different looks on bigger girls than mine.

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