For most of the time I have been writing about my grand-niece, Katie Balcerzak, my stories have been centered around her love of children and her work at the Montessori school, her happy marriage to my grand-nephew, Keifer, and her desire for a family, but this year is simply different, because this year is all about the baby. The baby, who goes by the name of Reece Victoria Balcerzak, has completely taken over her parents’ hearts. Their whole life centers around her, and for good reason, because Reese is a sweet, smiley little girl with smiling eyes to match her beautiful smile. She is a happy baby, and that makes her mommy so happy. For Katie, life is complete… at least until they decide to have another baby, at which time, they will wonder how they ever could have been a family of three, because they will have two babies to love then.

These days, Katie spends her free time…the time when she isn’t taking care of home and baby…taking pictures of her little gem, and who can blame her, because Reece is a total cutie. Really, all Katie has ever wanted was to be a mom, and she is such a great mom, so that in itself is success. Of course, as we all know, being the mom of a baby does have its challenges too. Babies get crabby when they are hungry, wet, teething, and tired…among other things. Sometimes, they are just in a crabby mood, and why should they be different.we all get crabby sometimes. Nevertheless, even if Reece is crabby, her mommy loves her bunches, and usually knows how to fix it. Katie prides herself in the care she gives Reece, and wants to be the best mommy she can be…I mean, which of us moms don’t want that.

Some of the things that Katie has learned in her journey from new mommy to seasoned professional,have been kind of funny, or should I say her sense of humor was clearly showing, because she points out the long list of today’s parenting Dos and Don’ts List, and how according to these “professionals” just how amazing it is that yesterday’s generation ever survived their parents. When you read the list, you find yourself laughing, because no parent could possibly live up to that. At first glance, you might think she was serious, but then you read the rest of it, and find out that she was really being funny. The only aren’t who would really try to follow that list would be one that will soon find themselves trying to avoid the nut house!! Thankfully, Katie has seen through the craziness, and focuses more on the simple ways to be a good parent and raise a happy, healthy, child. Today is Katie’s birthday, and the first one she has spent as a mother. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The term “coward” doesn’t normally bring with it thoughts of bravery in the face of danger, but perhaps it should…sometimes anyway. Charles Joseph Coward was born in Britain on January 30, 1905. I can’t say what his young life was like, and perhaps it was his parents who taught him to prove his name wrong, but I’m quite sure they were proud of just how well he proved that he was anything, but a coward. Coward joined the British Army in 1937 and served with the 8th Reserve Regimental Royal Artillery. By the time WWII started in 1939, he was a Quartermaster Battery Sergeant Major. They already saw something in him that disproved his name.

In World War II, Coward was fighting against the Nazis when the Germans assaulted the port of Calais on May 21, 1940, marking the start of the Siege of Calais. The German army drove the Allies back, and the British Expeditionary Force fled from France through the port of Dunkirk. Fortunately, most made it out in time…to fight the Germans another day. Unfortunately for Coward, he was not one of them, and he became a POW. He did have an advantage, however, in that he spoke German. He used his language skills to make seven escape attempts by passing himself off as a German soldier. One of the escape attempts worked. He was free, but he was injured, and was sent to a German Army field hospital. Coward kept up his German soldier act. After the German doctors had treated his wounds, he was awarded an Iron Cross for his bravery and suffering. Unfortunately, they realized their mistake pretty quickly. Coward was sent back to the POW camp where he earned a reputation for sabotage while on work details. Finally, he was sent to Poland…Auschwitz, to be precise…not to the death camp part of Auschwitz, but rather to the work camp part of it. Coward arrived at Auschwitz III (Monowitz), which was the working camp, in December 1943. The camp was located approximately five miles from Auschwitz II (Birkenau), which was the death camp. There he became a modern day “Hogan’s Hero,” although there was nothing funny about his situation, like there was in the television show. Coward spied on his captors and risked his life to save those he could. All that under the name of Coward.

IG Farben was a German chemical and pharmaceutical industry conglomerate. Its name was taken from Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie. IG Farben had acquired the patent to Zyklon B. It was originally used as an insecticide and by US immigration officials to delouse Mexican laborers. The Nazis had a different use for it…the extermination of Jews and other undesirables. Coward and between 1,200 and 1,400 other British POWs were kept at sub-camp E715. Their job was to run the liquid fuel plant which produced synthetic rubber. Coward, due to his German language skills worked as a Red Cross liaison officer, because Germany was still keeping up the pretense of honoring the Geneva Convention articles. He was allowed some measure of free movement within the camp, and even permitted to go to the nearby towns. In town, Coward saw trainloads of Jews arriving at the the extermination camp. Auschwitz III housed 10,000 Jews who were “allowed” to work. They were worked to the point of exhaustion and sickness. Given the brutality and deliberate starvation they did not last long. Coward simply couldn’t stand by and do nothing. The British POWs had access to Red Cross items, so Coward and the other prisoners set aside food and medicine to be smuggled to the Jewish section of their camp, to help as many as possible. Coward was allowed to send letters out, so he began writing to his friend…Mr. William Orange, a fictitious person. It was actually the code for the British War Office. In those letters, he explained what was happening in the camps, as well as the treatment and mass slaughter of Jews. One day, a letter was smuggled to him, asking for help. It came from Karel Sperber, a British ship’s doctor, but there was a problem…Sperber was being held in the Jewish section of Monowitz. So Coward exchanged clothes with an inmate and smuggled himself into the Jewish sector to try to find the doctor. Sadly, he failed, but he did see how Jews in the work camp were being treated. After the war, he was among those who testified at the IG Farben Trial in Nuremberg. He helped to have some of the company’s directors imprisoned, although only for a few years.

He wanted to help the Jews, but to pull it off, he needed two things…chocolate and corpses. It was a daring plan, but it worked. Coward gave the chocolate to the guards in exchange for the bodies of non-Jewish dead prisoners. Then, once their clothes and papers had been removed they were cremated. Jewish escapees put on the clothes and assumed the new, non-Jewish identities. With help from members of the Polish resistance, they were then smuggled out of the camp. As the number of those missing tallied with the number of those who were reported dead, neither Coward nor the bribed guards fell under any suspicion. It is estimated around 400 Jews were saved using Coward’s method. In January 1945 Soviet forces advanced deeper into Poland. As they made their way toward Auschwitz, Coward and the other POWs were forced to march to Bavaria in Germany. The prisoners were liberated by Allied forces en route, finally putting an end to the brutal nightmare. In 1963 Yad Vashem recognized Coward as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. He became known as the “Count of Auschwitz.” and a film was made of his exploits called “The Password is Courage.” I think he was a pretty brave man…for a Coward.

My grand-niece, Melanie Harman, who is married to my grand-nephew, Jake Harman have been busy moving into their new house. They are very excited to finally have a house. They really needed a place that was big enough for their family of five. Their kids, Alice, Izabella, and Jaxx get to have their own rooms now, and that makes it even better…and those kids are beyond excited about it. Anyone who comes over to the house gets the grand tour, starting with the kids bedrooms…specially if the kids are giving the tour. Melanie’s husband, Jake did a lot of his growing up years in that house, and he has wanted to raise his family there for a long time. For Jake, moving into this house, is like coming home again.

Melanie has been very busy settling into their new home and taking care of the children. She is a great mom, and the children are well taken care of, well behaved, and totally happy. Melanie has been so blessed with such a sweet family. Their little Alice is growing up so fast, and she is totally loving being her mom’s little helper. Izabella is Jake and Melanie’s sassy girl. She is a bit shy until she gets to know you better, but she is definitely full of spunk. Jaxx, being the youngest and only boy has learned quickly to be very laid back. His sisters were probably rough at first, but they learned to be more gentle. Nevertheless, Jaxx did well, and Melanie can’t imagine her life without her kids, and her husband Jake, who works hard to support his family and loves them completely. They are truly Melanie’s blessings.

Melanie and Jake are good together. They are, in many ways opposites, but then most of us know that opposites attract, and that is likely what brought the two of them together in the first place. They have created a wonderful home, filled with laughter, for their children, and I believe that they were a match made in Heaven, and they will live happily ever after. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When I asked my sister, Caryl Reed to get me some “dirt” on her husband, Mike for his birthday story, she laughed and said it would have to be ranch dirt. Of course, I knew exactly what she meant, because there really isn’t much “dirt” to get on Mike, who is very busy being a supervisor at the Sinclair Oil Refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming, during the week; and working on their retirement ranch outside Casper, Wyoming on the weekends. Working on the ranch isn’t Mike’s only pastime, however. He like to golf, and he and Caryl took a recent trip to salt Lake City to golf on a really nice course there. It was a much needed vacation, because they haven’t taken many vacations lately that didn’t involve work on their ranch…not that either of them were sorry about that really.

Mike enjoys his golfing, and hunting too, and has taken several trips to go hunting, including Africa, Canada, and Alaska. He had a great time on all those trips, and the meat from those he got to bring home was used for a number of things, including jerky for the family. The meat from the Africa trip was not allowed to be shipped home, but rather was given to the surrounding villages, where it fed a good many people. Mike was allowed to have some of it and said it was really good too. While golf, hunting, fishing, and other sports are a big part of Mike’s life, Caryl thinks that the ranch may have just topped them in the priority line. He wants to have everything ready for their retirement, when they will move to the ranch, in less than five years. Being an entrepreneur, Mike has decided to plant hay on the ranch to use as an income source. It isn’t an unusual idea for Mike, who was the one that suggested that they buy apartments buildings for extra income. Caryl has been very pleased with his wise financial decisions for their family, and trusts his instincts completely.

Now that they are having their house built on the land, Mike can hardly stand to be away from the construction site. He put cameras up so he could watch the building of their house from their current home in Rawlins. Their vacations are all about working on the ranch. They’ve started to get to know many of their neighbors, and have many new friends. They all look out for each other, and of course we’re all there for each other. Mike is very well liked out there, as is Caryl. Their retirement plans are shaping up quite nicely. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In March or 1941, the United States was largely considered neutral, so we could provide the countries, who were fighting Adolf Hitler, with war material. It was during this period of time, that the United Kingdom, an old enemy of the United States, since the United States fought against them for our independence, needed our help. Of course, we were allies by that time, and so the thought of a loan to the UK was not out o the question. The UK had been fighting against Adolf Hitler’s Germany army for a while by then, and funds were dwindling. The US loaned $4.33 billion to Britain in 1945, while Canada loaned US$1.19 billion in 1946, at a rate of 2% annual interest. It was a good deal, but in the end, the amount paid back was nearly double the amounts loaned in 1945 and 1946.

The United States was pulled into World War II shortly after, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. That marked to end of the program to provide military materials, because the United States was no longer considered neutral. At this point, the United States was very much needed in a very different way, and could not be neutral and be an effective help, but they also had a score to settle, and it could not be handled on the sidelines. The United States had hoped to sit this one out, but that was not to be. The Axis of Evil was winning against the Allied Nations, and they needed help, but it was the boldness of the attack on Pearl Harbor that finally awoke the sleeping giant that was the United States. The United States victory over Japan in the Battle of Midway was the turning point of the war in the Pacific. Then Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union defeated Germany at Stalingrad, marking the turning point of the war in Eastern Europe. As we all know, in the end the Allies were victorious in World War II.

There are still World War I debts owed to and by Britain. Since a moratorium on all debts from that conflict was agreed at the height of the Great Depression, no repayments have been made to or received from other nations since 1934. Despite the favorable rates there were six years in which Britain deferred payment because of economic or political crises. Britain settled its World War II debts to the United States and Canada when it paid the final two installments in 2006. The payments of $83.25 million to the US and US$22.7 million to Canada are the last of 50 installments since 1950. Upon the final payments, the UK will have paid back a total of $7.5 billion to the US and US$2 billion to Canada. “This week we finally honor in full our commitments to the United States and Canada for the support they gave us 60 years ago,” said Treasury Minister Ed Balls at the time of those final payments. “It was vital support which helped Britain defeat Nazi Germany and secure peace and prosperity in the post-war period. We honor our commitments to them now as they honored their commitments to us all those years ago,” he added.

Yesterday, August 3, 2018, at precisely 7:45am, Miss Elliott Michelle Stevens made her grand entrance into the world. Elliott, who will likely be nicknamed El or Elli, is the daughter and first child of my nephew, Garrett Stevens and his lovely wife, Kayla Smiley Stevens. Elliott is the first grandchild on both sides of their families, and so will be “spoiled” by grandmothers, Alena Stevens and Lynnette Smiley, as well as grandfathers, Mike Stevens and Wes Smiley. She also has three aunts, Michelle Stevens, Lacey Stevens, and Lexi Smiley, who all became aunts the moment Elliot arrived. Elliot has changed a lot of lives, and all she did was to be born. It was a big job, but Elliott was up to the task.

Elliott is a pretty little girl, who likes to suck her thumb a little. Time will tell if that becomes a habit. She is a good baby, who doesn’t seem to cry much. She will find her voice, I’m sure, but for now, she is just relaxing and enjoying her new world and all the loving grandparents and great grandmother she has found there. Little does she know that there are many other family members who are waiting excitedly to meet her too. She has been born into a much larger family than she could possibly imagine, but those meetings will come in time. For now, she is just enjoying a few family members, and especially her parents, who are still marveling at the little blessing they have been given. And while Kayla and Garrett have become something their siblings are not…parents, their siblings have also become something they are not…aunts.

Time will tell who little Elliott will look like, and we all see similarities between her and her family members, but she will change quite a lot over the next few months and more similarities will begin to show. We will see an expression here, a facial shape there, and hair color will also begin to tell the tale. As she finds her voice, we might discover that she laughs like one person, or her voice sounds like another…it might even be an aunt or grandmother…or even a great aunt or uncle. Babies are amazing that way. They are created by God from the traits He ordains in their family DNA to be the perfect little person, unique and yet similar. I can’t wait to see who little Elliott Michelle will resemble as she grows. No matter who it is, she will be beautiful, just as she is right now, because she comes from two beautiful parents. Welcome to the world, Elliott Michelle, and to our family. We love you so much already!!

My brother-in-law, Lynn Cook, who goes by LJ, has always been a guy who loves to joke with those around him. Making people laugh is one of his favorite things to do, but he is also a family man, who really hasn’t ever wanted to be anything else. He drove truck for many years, and spent a number of years as a deputy sheriff in Casper, before moving his family to Thermopolis, Wyoming and then Powell, Wyoming, where they put down roots. At the time of his retirement, LJ was working in on of the area mines in Powell. As I said though, in all reality, LJ was a family man, and that was what he loved.

LJ and his wife, Debbie had three daughters, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith, who both live in Powell too; and Nancy Cook who died a few minutes after her birth in Casper. That was the worst day of their married life. The loss of a child can tear a marriage apart, but their marriage was strong, and it endured. They have been blessed with four grandchildren, Weston Moore, Jala Satterwhite, Easton Moore, and Kaytlyn Griffith. They have been the continuing blessing of a long marriage. These days, LJ spends as much time with the grandkids as he can. They help him at the house, so he teaches them how to do things like mow the lawn, and to be safe. They love spending time with their grandparents. LJ also loves his dogs. They are practically inseparable. Of course, that is how most pet owners are. Our pets become a part of the family. They are just like a child or grandchild, and we love them. LJs dog is very faithful to him.

LJ loves the outdoors, and is happiest when they are camping in the Big Horn mountains. Like his kids, he and Debbie would live in the mountains if they could. LJ has always liked hunting and fishing too. But sitting around the campfire with his family is the priority in his life these days. Being retired gives him more time to spend with those he loves. Today is LJ’s birthday. Happy birthday LJ!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

During our visit to Superior, Wisconsin, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I were treated a couple of wonderful tours of the area. Our cousin, Pam Wendling and her husband Mike took us down to Canal Park, where we watched the Paul R Tragurtha coming into port to pick up a load of coal…that come to Duluth by train from none other than Gillette, Wyoming, by the way. The Paul R Tragurtha is known as the “Queen of the Lakes” and is the longest vessel on the Great Lakes at 1,013 feet 6 inches. Watching that great ship come into port is amazing. It was also great to have Pam and Mike there to give us the lake and ship history. Though we had been to Canal Park before, it just never gets old.

Pam and Mike also took us up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Two Harbors, Minnesota, and showed us all the sights in that area. The lighthouse there is really pretty, and we were able to get lots of pictures. There was a ship in the harbor that was loading Taconite, which is a low-grade iron ore. For a long time, when the high-grade natural iron ore was plentiful, Taconite was considered a waste rock and not used. Then, as the supply of high-grade natural ore decreased, industry began to view Taconite as a resource. Had it not been for Mike’s knowledge of all these mining, railroad, and shipping industries in the area, and in the United States, we would have seen these things, but really wouldn’t have know anything about the rich history that went along with it. It takes someone, like Mike, with a love of history to give us that.

Pam and Mike also do some hiking in the area, and we were shown some of the beautiful hiking trails, and the beautiful wooded areas around the lake. The streams and waterfalls especially appealed to us. That area has so many more trees that we have in Wyoming, and all that greenery made me long to get out and wander down the trail, but we just didn’t have the time, unfortunately. Pam suggested that Bob and I consider a hiking trip to the area, we may have to try to do that. The tours were beautiful, and the time we spent with them was very special to us. I am so glad that we have reconnected with all of our cousins in the Superior/Duluth area, and all over the nation. Amazing family connections.

During the week, my nephew, Sean Mortensen is a hard working family man. His loves, and top priorities are his girlfriend, Amanda Reed, and their daughter, Jaydn Mortensen, who arrived 14 years ago, the day before his birthday. She was his early birthday present that year. Sean works hard to make their life great. A few years back,they bought a house, and together, he and Amanda are making it into their dream home. Sean and Amanda encourage their daughter to be active and enjoy a variety of sports, but her favorite is horses for sure,and her parents are happy about that.

When the working day is done, and especially when the weekend rolls around in the summer, Sean takes his family and heads for the lake. They meet up with a group of friends, and the fun begins. Most weekends will find everyone at Seminole Reservoir boating, and their favorite time is when they find themselves alone at the lake…just their group and all that water. All the kids can swim and hang out to their hearts content, and the parents are right there with them. There is never a dull moment…even in the evening. Cabin to me might fight a little Kung Fu fighting, in good fun, of course. It’s also a time to relax and visit with everyone, or laugh about the funny things that happened that day…because there is always something funny that happened.

Sean is a fun loving guy who loves making people laugh. He doesn’t care what it takes, and he isn’t above funny faces and goofy jokes. While Sean sees life as a happy place, he is also a solid kind of guy, who wants the very best for his girls. He loves Amanda and Jaydn very much, and no one is more important to him in this world. They are his whole life, and they are a wonderful family. they are a team. They work together, have great goals in life, and they have fun together…so let the fun begin!! Today is Sean’s birthday. Happy birthday Sean!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-niece, Jaydn Mortensen is a sweet girl with a great sense of humor. She loves her parents, Amanda Reed and Sean Mortensen, and they dearly love her. You don’t often see such a good relationship between parents and child, but somehow they have mastered it with Jaydn. They go camping together, boating together, skiing together, and snowmobiling together. And they play together and joke together. Jaydn has grown up doing these things and being the apple of her parents’ eye.

Early on in her life, Jaydn fell in love with horses, and they with her. She learned to ride and to compete. She has won competitions, and she is a great equestrian. With each passing year, she gets better and better. Riding has become something that is ingrained in Jaydn. She will probably always love it, because it is in her blood now…in her DNA. It will most likely always be a part of who she is. It wouldn’t surprise me to she Jaydn live on a ranch in her adult life, because I don’t think she would want to be very far from her precious horses.

While horses are in Jaydn’s blood, they aren’t everything that Jaydn is. Jaydn is well able to ride motorcycles, four wheelers and snowmobiles. It would seem that Jaydn is a multi-talented girl. She not only can ride a multitude of vehicles, but she is good at it. Jaydn’s parents are very active people. They are very social people, and they take her everywhere with them and their friends, allowing her to participate with adults who like to do the same things she does. She has learned from a variety of teachers. I don’t know if they specifically taught her, but she watched them…learned from them. And she had a great time learning. She became a social person and learned that from her parents and their friends, and so Jaydn, who seemed to me a quiet girl, might be somewhat quiet, but she is in no way shy, but just the kind of person you want to be around. Today is Jaydn’s 14th birthday. Happy birthday Jaydn!! We love you!!

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