My dad and Uncle Bill were born 12 and 10 years after their older sister, Laura. It would be another 19 months before their younger sister, Ruth would be born. The two boys would be the main playmate for one another for quite a while. Laura was old enough to be a big help to her mother, but she didn’t really have much time to play games with her younger brothers.

Like most little boys, the brothers were full of mischief and adventure. My dad always looked up to his big brother and my Uncle Bill always thought his little brother was the greatest gift. One look at his face tells the story of a brother’s love for his little brother. They would often play in their Zenith Coaster wagon, the very latest thing of their day. My dad loved having his big brother pull him around in that old wagon. He couldn’t get enough of it. His big brother was a little boys hero.

The brothers loved to go fishing from the earliest of days, and often came home with several fish to be fried up by their mother for dinner. I’m sure it made them feel like they were making a great contribution to the family household needs. Their adventures would later take them from fishing on weekends to blowing a tree stump out of the ground with explosives to the occasional explosives blowout on Independence Day, as well as blowing a gate post further into the ground by seeing how the explosives would act when placed on the top of the post. Of course, they had to quickly figure out a way to fix that one before their mother got home from town, but they got it done, and so dodged the “bullet” or at least the punishment that might have come out of that one when she got home.

As most little brothers do, my dad looked up to his big brother as being just what he wanted to be…not when he grew up…now. My Uncle Bill was very proud of his name, as it was passed down through the generations, as was my dad’s name. Uncle Bill used to say, “My name is William Malrose Spencer.” And in true little brother style, my dad would say, “My name Penchi Marrow too!” It was the best his little boy mind could duplicate the name of his hero big brother.

My oldest grandson, Christopher had to wait the longest to get a sibling. He spent a lot of time with his cousins, Shai and Caalab, so he got to see first hand how it was to have a little brother, and while Shai didn’t always like it, Christopher thought a brother would be the coolest thing ever. For Shai the wait was 16 months, but for Christopher it would be 2 1/2 years.

Christopher and Shai did so many things at the same times, and I suppose he thought this should be no different. Sure, he liked playing with Caalab and maybe that was a little like having a little brother of his own, but it really wasn’t the same. And he wanted it to be the same. I suppose having a male cousin was the next best thing…for a while

Finally it was to be his turn, and his parents knew that the baby would be a boy from the ultrasound. They told Christopher that his brother’s name would be Joshua and that they would call him Josh. So Christopher called him Josh from the time he learned of his coming. He was so excited that he was getting a brother too. His very own brother. One that could stay at his house. He was one happy little boy. Josh’s arrival was marked by some problems that would send him to Denver for 2 weeks, much to Christopher’s dismay, but soon he would be home and Christopher would be a big brother…finally!!

Christopher loved his little brother and completely enjoyed helping his parents with Josh’s care. He wanted to be a part of everything. He was careful not to wake the baby when he was asleep, but when he was awake, he wanted to hold him and, of course, play with him…but that would have to wait. So he settled for holding Josh, but occasionally that didn’t go too well. It’s a good thing he was sitting on the floor at the time, and it’s a good thing babies are resilient, because Josh had a big brother.

Today is my grandfather’s birthday…he would have been 118 years old. My grandpa was a gentle man who loved children. My mom tells me of the many times when Grandpa would patiently sit while the girls, his daughters, would comb his hair and paint his nails. Then he would go to work with those same painted nails, rather than hurt his little girls feelings. If anyone dared to tease him about that, he never told his family about it. I think it takes a special man to be so comfortable in his own skin that he can share those special moments with his kids, and not be embarrassed about it. That was the kind of man he was. Nothing was more important than family. He was totally gone on Grandma, and loved his kids and later grandkids more than anything.

I remember going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house when I was young. When we would walk in the door, Grandpa would always say, “Come on in, kid.” He always said it in such an endearing way, and you just knew you were loved. Grandpa was just so sweet. But, he also had quite a sense of humor.

I remember Grandpa calling the house. He would always try to disguise his voice to sound like he was a very old man. Then he would ask to speak to Mrs McGillycuddy. It wasn’t until we were a little older that we stopped being fooled, then we would laugh and say, “Grandpa, is that you.” He loved making us laugh.

As occasionally happens with every kidder, at some point, the joke ends up being on them. That day came for my grandpa one day when he stopped by our house. My mom was on the phone, and the front door was open, so she told him through the screen to come in. She went on with her conversation for a minute, then noticed that Grandpa was still standing outside. She again told him to come on in and went on with the conversation. She looked up a third time, wondering why he wouldn’t come in. It was then that she saw our German Shepherd dog, King, guarding the doorway. She said, “King, you let him in!” As King moved away from the door, she said it was the only time she ever saw a dog laugh. King knew who my grandpa was, and he would never have hurt him. He just saw the chance to kid a kidder, and he took it.

Years ago, before Alaska and Hawaii became states, my mother and father-in-law decided to purchase a quilt pattern for the then, 48 United States of America. The pattern was was for the state birds for each of the 48 states. They thought it would be a wonderful addition to their home.

When it arrived, she was excited about it, and went to right work on it. She always liked that sort of thing. She used to knit, crochet, embroider and sew. Of course, with 3 children and later, 4, 5, and 6 children, time to spend embroidering things that weren’t necessary to the running of a household, or clothing the children…well, it was just scarce. So she worked to embroider the squares whenever there was time in her busy day, but gradually there was less and less time for such things, so it became a long project.

It was a different time and place then. You didn’t have dishwashers, and many people grew large vegetable gardens and canned or froze their food, and since that is very time consuming, the quilt squares took a good amount of time to finish…not to mention the fact that embroidery is a very meticulous art…one I never had the patience for. Anyway, I’m sure you can imagine, time was something she had precious little of, with cooking and cleaning, canning vegetables, and clothing 6 children. So, over the years the squares were finished, but as often happens in with these projects, life got in the way, and they were packed away with the intent of someday turning them into a quilt…a plan that wouldn’t materialize for over 20 years and of course, the addition of 2 more states.

One day, their daughter Debbie came across the squares and decided to have the work finished. Her mother-in-law quilted, so she spoke to Cleo, and she agreed to put the quilt together so it could be returned to my mother and father-in-law as a surprise. And a wonderful surprise it was. They were thrilled to have it, even if it had taken so many years.

Again, like often happens, the quilt was packed away for safe keeping, and thought to be lost…until recently when Debbie was helping them go through some things and came across it. Which is how we once again have a little piece of history…the quilt of the 48 United States of America.

Little kids are so much fun, and your grandkids would have to rank right up there at the top. They have such an innocence and wonder over life. Everything is new and exciting to them. It is so fun to watch.

When Christopher and Shai were little, they were going through all the new experiences together, since they were only 1 day apart in age, Christopher being born on February 28th, and Shai being born on February 29th. We had such a great time with them. Every new thing, every excitement, every experience, we had times two. What a cool blessing to have both my daughters become mothers one day apart. Even though one was a boy and one a girl, they went through all the same experiences at the same time. Slightly different in the things of boys and girls, but many were identical too. It was wonderful.

It was great playing the little games with them that I had played with their mothers. People who aren’t grandparents don’t know how cool it is to get to watch two generations of their children go through all the newness and excitement of those toddler years. That wonder of learning and playing. And with your grandchildren, you just feel differently about it. You don’t feel like you should be somewhere else, doing something else. You aren’t the parent. You are free to simply enjoy. No responsibilities to make sure they grow up right, not that you don’t want that too, but the responsibility belongs to your children now. You have earned the right to simply play with the kids. It is a very liberating feeling.

This particular picture looks like two kids just playing in a hallway, but if you look very closely at what Shai, my granddaughter, is looking at, you will see the real reason for the looks on their faces. There in the corner of the picture is their grandmother…me. We were playing “I’m gonna get you” and they were doing everything they could to get away, only to put themselves in a position of nowhere else to go. The next few seconds included delighted screams and giggles. I had caught them, and it was quite a moment.

Sometimes it just amazes me that a child can look so much like one parent, and yet at the same time can look so much like the other parent. Not in every way of course, but while they may look a lot like one parent, they can take on a whole different look when they smile or maybe frown.

Such is the case with my grandson, Caalab. Now Caalab is definitely his daddy’s boy. He looks and acts so much like Travis that it is like looking at a picture of Travis, and I’m sure that when they look at each other, it is like looking in a mirror. And their personalities…well, anyone who knows them can tell you that Caalab definitely got his personality from Travis. Wow…it’s like they rehearsed it or something.

But, sometimes when I look at a picture of Caalab, he reminds me so much of his mom that it astounds me. He smiles like Amy smiles, and when they are both deep in thought, they look so much alike. I have pictures of them as little babies, that could almost pass for the same child, and yet I have seen pictures of Travis as a young boy that are totally Caalab.

It isn’t unusual for a child to look totally like one parent or the other, or be so much a mix of the two that the child doesn’t really look like either of them, but to look so much like his dad, and yet sometimes look so much like his mom, seems unusual to me. Of course, I must say that with Caalab, it is pretty much in a look here and there, and certain situations that he is like his mom, because in most ways, I have never seen a boy more like his dad!! It’s almost uncanny.

I guess children are their own people, built from the DNA of their parents, and taking from both sides, but sometimes there is enough alike in them to take you by surprise. And when the similarities come so early on in life, you just can’t believe that it is the child copying the parent. Caalab has always been a jokster, as has Travis, but when Caalab started telling whole jokes at 4 or 5, and never missing the punch line…I had to remind myself that he couldn’t be reading them. It was just Caalab being just like his dad. That is one place where he is definitely all Travis.

Through the years, my Aunt Bonnie has made dreams come true for many brides in the family. I know that might sound odd to many people, but my Aunt Bonnie made wedding cakes, and cakes for many other events. Her creativity was amazing, and her cakes beautiful.

Aunt Bonnie made my wedding cake, and my 25th Anniversary cake. She also made the wedding cakes for both my girls weddings. These were exquisite cakes that would have cost a fortune anywhere else, but she wouldn’t take payment for them. She said it was her wedding gift to the couple. And what a wonderful gift it was. Her cakes tasted wonderful, so they made the party a great success, but that isn’t all they were. The cake is the central focus, other than the couple, at the reception. The pictures are taken around it, and it is always featured in the photographs. So it was a gift that is forever treasured, and never forgotten.

As I said, Aunt Bonnie is very good at making cakes. They are truly a work of art, as you can see. She takes the design the bride picks and the ideas in the brides dreams, and turns them into a stunning reality. It is one part of the wedding day the bride can completely relax about, and just leave it in the capable hands of my Aunt Bonnie. She always has the bride’s interests foremost in her mind, and because she has such a sweet heart and spirit, the cakes she creates simply shine on the special day.

While she doesn’t make the cakes anymore, the memories and happiness she gave to those who were blessed enough to receive them will last a lifetime. You have given more than you will ever know Aunt Bonnie. Thank you. I love you more than words can say.

Every grandma will tell you that every moment with your grandchildren is a special one. From the first time you hold them after they are born, you just never get over how wonderful they are. They delight your heart with their antics and their humor, and even when they are being a little naughty, their charm will make it almost impossible to be mad at them.

Why is it so different with grandchildren than it was with your own kids. You knew you had to discipline your kids, and you knew you should with your grandchildren, but they are just so darned cute, and after all, it is their parents responsibility to discipline them…isn’t it? So, you spoil them and shower them with love, and their parents hope you don’t do more harm than good, but it just seems like you feel differently about kids behavior as you get older. The little things just don’t bother you as much.

What you notice instead is just how much you can love that little tiny person and just how easily they can wrap you around their little finger. It is a place you will live for the rest of your life. They will always have the ability sweet talk you, and make you feel like they didn’t. And while you know it is going on, you just don’t seem to mind. You simply don’t have it in you to be as hard on them as you felt you must with your own kids. And sometimes they are just so sweet that your favorite Grandma picture doesn’t even include Grandma, it was just a grandma moment.

So, you treasure each moment, each smile, each laugh, knowing that all too soon they will Shai and GrandmaJoshbe grown up. It is with mixed emotions that you face that reality, because you realize that before you know it, they will be grown and their little kid days will be gone. But then you also realize that when they are grown up, they will marry and before you know it they will have children of their own, and the cycle will start all over, with new little grandbabies to love and hug, and to share those grandma moments with. And you realize how very blessed you are.

Sometimes the things kids find interesting can be so funny. When my oldest grandkids were little, like most kids, they liked places like boxes, baskets, and other such hiding places. I don’t quite understand what the draw is for kids, but they always seem to think it is a secret place, or maybe a fort, or their own special place. Whatever it is, those little places are as special to them as…maybe a car is to young driver. They thought of it aa their own play area.

Christopher’s family has always had dogs. They were and are members of the family. Since Christopher grew up with them and Shai spent a lot of time with Christopher, it just stands to reason that the dog’s kennel held some interest for those two kids. The dog was a special friend, and the kennel belonged to her. It was the coolest place they could think of.

In fact, that is putting it mildly. It was a favorite hangout for them. Every time they were together, Corrie would find them in the kennel, playing. They would bring their toys in and play in there for hours. Meanwhile, the dog really wanted nothing to do with the kennel when the family was at home. It was a bed for her and nothing more. She knew she had to be in there when they were gone or in bed, but the minute she was allowed out, she was out. And here are these two little kids who can’t wait for the dog to vacate so they can take over. I guess it is all about “the grass being greener” on the other side.

I seems that the very coolest thing for the kids was trading places with the dog. I guess that isn’t so odd, since, all the dog wanted to do was trade places with the kids. It seems that the grass really can be greener on the other side, because it is all about the eye of the beholder. Or maybe it is like the big box that the appliance came in. Once the item that was normally in the box, or the kennel, came out, the kids could go in. And so they would…and they would have the most wonderful adventures while they were there.

Kids make all kinds of faces. Of course, they cry and pout, and they are serious and silly. Their little looks make our world a little bit more interesting. Oh I know our children can annoy us. They can scream loud enough to break eardrums. Still, through it all, we love them, no matter what their look is today.

Josh has always been a smiley boy, who loves to make goofy faces, and they always make me laugh. One of the cutest faces is the one you see when a child is filled with excitement, like Christmas day or their birthday. The smiles are the biggest ones you have ever seen. Kids have such a hard time containing their excitement and joy. I find it sad that we tend to lose that as we get older. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have that same innocence and happiness in our lives.

A baby trying not to fall asleep, or one who has just awakened from sleep, can be some of the funniest faces out there. The face Caalab made trying to stay awake when he was little, was just so funny. His head kept dropping and then he would jerk it back up. He finally lost the battle, and sleep took over. Christopher on the other hand was just waking up, and the funny look on his face makes you wonder what exactly is in that cup he has, but since I know his parents well, I know it is just juice, and Christopher is just goofy.

Learning to wink is one of the things that can produce so of the funniest looks. First both eyes blink, then the nose crinkles up and the mouth opens, and finally after lots of work a wink appears. Shai worked so hard to be able to wink. She really wanted it, and she was so proud when she got it. She would wink on demand, and it was precious.

Kids have many moods and many faces. They are precious lights in our lives. They bring joy and…well, life into an otherwise dull day. What a wonderful blessing from God they are.