baby

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My niece, Lacey Steves in the youngest of the three children of my sister, Alena Stevens and her husband Mike. Maybe because she is the youngest, and maybe because they have similar personalities, but for whatever reason, Lacey and Alena were and still are very close. They are, as her sister, Michelle Miller says, “Two peas in a pod.” Lacey was always a mommy’s girl, and her siblings, Michelle and Garrett never let her live that down. These days, I’m sure it doesn’t bother Lacey one bit, but as a kid, things were different…and yet she couldn’t help the closeness she felt to her mom.

Lacey, being “the baby” got ganged up on by Michelle and Garrett quite a bit…as siblings will do. They didn’t mean anything by it, but sometimes older siblings don’t want to have the “baby” hanging around. One day, Michelle and Garrett were playing in the basement…building a “pillow fort” and Lacey wanted to play too. They didn’t want to let her in, so they started chasing her away. Lacey took off running. She screamed “MOMMY” (like she “always” did, per Michelle) and then under her breath and to herself, she said “get a pillow.” It was such a funny thing to say, and to me…like that little note to herself out loud that she could fight us off with a pillow. I thought maybe it was like her single moment of bravery against her older siblings, but Michelle saw is as “self-preservation.” Lacey’s aunt, Caryl Reed, rather thought that Lacey had decided to take a stand against her siblings, and a pillow was her weapon of choice…at the moment anyway. I suppose that none of us really know what Lacey was thinking at that moment. For all we know she was thinking, “Steal a pillow and the fort will be ruined!!” Whatever the case may be, being the youngest is not for the faint of heart. Time changes all things. As kids grow up, sibling rivalries and those little tiffs melt into the past, as life-long friendships replace the childhood voices. While “Get a Pillow” is a funny story, it has certainly not defined Lacey’s life, except for her closeness to her mom.

These days, Lacey is a successful business owner and cosmetologist. In July 2021, Lacey left The Salon at Ulta Beauty, where she had been the manager, and set out on a new venture. She decided to open her own salon, called Luxlou Beauty Salon. When it comes to cosmetics and haircare, Lacey is a true artist. Her salon is located at the La Bottega Gallery Suites in Casper, Wyoming. The first six months of her salon have been amazing. Her clients have followed her to her new salon, because they love her work, and truly wouldn’t trust anyone else with their hair, or makeup for their special events. Not only do her clients trust her, but they depend on her. Lacey has truly come into her own, and we are so proud of her. Today is Lacey’s birthday. Happy birthday Lacey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Esther Hein and I have a birth story in common…well, a little bit. Hers is quite a bit more extreme than my own. We were both breech babies. A breech birth is really hard on both baby and mommy, and quite often these days, a breech birth would mean a Cesarian delivery. When I was born, they had to dislocate my hips to deliver me, but for Esther, it took 4 days for her delivery. That seems very dangerous to me, because it seems like the stress on mom and baby could be too much. I feel sorry for both moms, Esther’s mom, Vina Hein and my mom, Collene Spencer, because they had to do the work for the babies, Esther and me. I would have to say that they were supermoms, because they made it, and Esther and I got to be here because of them.

Esther is the oldest of Grandma Hein’s second family, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg and his sister, Marion Kanta being in her first family. She has two younger brothers, Eddie Hein and Butch Hein. Esther and Butch are the only ones left here on Earth. When my father-in-law married my mother-in-law, Joann (Knox) Schulenberg, they took Esther in during the winter months, because the Hein family lived outside of Forsyth, Montana on a ranch, and with the winters in Montana being what they often are, getting her to school wasn’t always easy, so living with her brother Walt and his wife Joann was the best solution. Those were special days for Esther, who became very close friends with Walt and Joann, as well as little sister. Esther grew very close to her brother and sister-in-law. She also got close to their first child, Marlyce. Esther was only 10 years old, when Marlyce was born. That said, she had a number of years of school left, meaning that she might have been living with them for as much as 8 more years, during which time they would also have Debbie, and Bob. During her time there, while she might have been a trial at times, I’m quite sure she was also a big help to them as their family grew. I know they were always grateful for the help. Today is Aunt Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When we look at the different nationalities and cultural groups, one thing that seems always to stay the same…difference. These groups always have their own ideas about milestones that should be celebrated. Where many people might celebrate things like the baby’s first tooth, rolling over, smile, word, crawling, steps, and such, the Navaho Indian tribes in the Southwestern United States, who call themselves Diné, have a very different idea of what should be celebrated. This tribe have picked up on the most fun part of life, as the reason for celebration…that first laugh.

We all know how great it is to hear a baby laugh for the first time. It’s great fun, and if you happened to be the one to coax that first laugh out of the baby, it’s even more fun. The Navajo believe that a baby’s first laugh demonstrates their readiness and willingness to fully join their families in life and love. The Navajo people believe that the person who makes the child laugh is also very special. That person is given a great gift…they get to plan the party. It is that tradition, and it stipulates that the person who provoked the baby’s laugh hosts a ceremony and dinner to mark the occasion. The party is called a First Laugh Ceremony (A’wee Chi’deedloh). According to Navajo national Jaclyn Roessel, “This whole ceremony is really meant to show the baby how we’re supposed to be as Diné, as very generous people.”

When I first learned about the tradition, I thought…naïvely so, that it could almost be viewed as a “punishment” for being the one that made the child laugh…depending on the financial status of the person or the size of the family that would be invited. Of course, that is silly. The Navajo people consider it an honor to be that one that brought the laughter. They become very special. I suppose it could almost be like becoming the child’s godparent. In the Navajo tradition, it goes deeper than that. The Navajo believe that newborn babies first live in the world of the Diyin Dine’e, the Holy People. Tradition has it that they stay in this temporary place before they can join their earthly families. As the tradition continues, the Diyin Dine’e are the first people, subjects of the most important myths and stories in Navajo culture. When a baby is first born, the Navajo believe the child lives among the Holy People, until the first time the baby laughs. The act of laughing is a sign the child is transitioning from the spirit world with the Diyin Dine’e and is ready to fully join his or her family in life. This might seem far-fetched, but many people believe that babies and children have the unique ability to see Jesus and the angels. In fact, in Christian belief, many people believe that these children, when they are seen specking to an “imaginary” friend, are actually speaking to Jesus or to their angels. The two beliefs are not really that different. I believe that the “holy people” are, in fact, Jesus and his angels.

Because of the significance that a baby’s first laugh holds in Navajo tradition, family members watch, wait, and listen intently to hear that first utterance of a giggle. Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and just about anyone who is close to the family will try their best to get that first laugh, from silly faces to tickles, and everything in between. I guess they have already planned fo any cost and are already planning the whole thing in their heads. Then, when that special time arrives, when that precious first laugh comes, it’s time to celebrate the journey to their earthly family and welcome this new life into the community with a Navajo First Laugh Ceremony!!

My grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak is a computer programmer for the State of Wyoming. He loves his job, and is a great bread-winner for his family, but it isn’t his job that has made him the man he is today. I have not seen many men who have become a parent, and then had to immediately be the “rock” for his little family. Keifer and his wife, Katie, became the parents to Reece, a 2 months premature little girl, born in December 2017. That was a scary time for Keifer and Katie, and they had to be strong for their baby girl…and for each other. I can’t say for certain that Katie felt like falling apart, but I think most women probably would have felt like falling apart, and would need their strong husbands to hold them up in the face of such a serious situation. Keifer did that for Katie, as she recovered from giving birth, and dealt with the day to day concerns for Reece’s well-being. Her home-coming was a wonderful day for both of them, and in victory, they went home from Denver, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming to start their life. Their lives had changed much more than the normal amount that goes with having a baby. Staying positive was of the utmost importance.

With Reece’s blossoming health, following her rocky start, Keifer and Katie have been able to get back to their normal lives…at least as much as a global pandemic would allow. Keifer was able to play a little softball this summer, and really enjoyed that…at least until someone hit him with the ball, leaving him pretty bruised. Still, being the tough-guy player he is, Keifer toughed it out, and while we know that bruises hurt, Keifer had determined to get himself into better shape, and he was not going to let this or anything else sideline him. Keifer has been in this quest to get into better shape since March of 2019, and has had great success. He wants to be his best self. He feels better, and as any of us who have worked to get in shape know, he looks better…in fact, he looks great. I know his girls are very happy to have a more energetic husband and daddy in their lives too. We are all very proud of Keifer’s success.

The future is bright for Keifer and his family. With their health struggles behind them, and lots of activity and fresh air in front of them, the Balcerzak family is happier than ever, and we are all happy for them. Having your health is a huge part of living a happy life. And now, they are all embarking on a healthy future. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Alec Todd Olsen came into our lives just under three months ago. Hardly enough time to really get to know him, but in the short little bit of time that he was with us, he snuggled his way deep into our hearts. His darling face, and his sweet smile captivated all of us. Alec was the first child of my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick. He was long awaited and very loved. He was, as his mommy called him, a sweet little ray of sunshine, and everyone who met him would agree.

There was no doubt…Alec was a happy baby. He loved to smile at people, especially his parents, and to see people smile back at him. He was really starting to notice things going on around him, but his favorite thing to do was to snuggle with his parents…and usually fall fast asleep. Nevertheless, the ray of sunshine still radiated from little Alec.

Alec left us to go to Heaven on January 25th, when his little body could no longer fight RSV. It was a heartbreaking day for all of Alec’s family. When I visited his parents yesterday, was reminded of other parents who had lost children. The only way to put the look…is a parent’s heart and empty arms. It should never happen to any parent. Our kids are supposed to outlive us. There is no greater pain that anyone can go through, and my heart aches for these precious parents.

Of course, we know that Alec is in Heaven now, safe and healthy…and most of all happy. He would want his parents to know that they needn’t worry…if he could talk to them. And they know that too, but it is so hard to be the ones left behind to pick up the pieces. The pain will never leave. Anyone who has experienced loss knows that, and the reality is that you don’t get over this. Those of us, who love Siara and Nick, can only be there to support them, hold them while they cry, and just let them show us what they need, which they might not even know yet. You never get over this, you can only get on with it…life. Alec can’t come back, and we can’t go to him…yet, but he will be waiting when we can. Rest now sweet little Alec Todd Olsen, and know that we love and miss you very much, and we cant wait to see you again in Heaven. Siara and Nick, we will be here for you…whatever and whenever you need.

Without a doubt, the greatest thing to happen to a person in life is becoming a parent. That is the life change that happened to my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick on October 28, 2019. Now, Siara is celebrating her first birthday since becoming “Mommy” to little Alec Todd Olsen. It is so hard to believe that Siara could be a mom already, and yet, she has stepped into the role as naturally as if she had been a mom for years. Watching her hold her baby puts a smile on my face, and the faces of all her family too. She just looks so content…and, so does Alec. There is nothing like having a baby to snuggle with, to bring home just how precious life is.

Siara is a bubbly, sweet girl who is very capable in her job at Platte Valley Bank, here is Casper, Wyoming, where she works as a personal banker. I don’t think there is one customer at the bank who doesn’t know Siara by the smile on her face and her sweet personality. Of course, going back to work after giving birth to Alec wasn’t easy, as any mother who worked, knows well. I felt so bad for her, because I know how short maternity leave is, when it comes right down to it. Eight weeks or whatever amount each mother has, seems like a long time…if you are waiting for your baby’s birth!! Once your baby has arrived, eight weeks is nothing. It’s over almost in an instant, and leaving your child in daycare, even if you know the people well, is heart wrenching. Eventually thought, you get used to it, and while you miss your baby terribly, you begin to look forward to the end of your work day, when you will be reunited with that sweet bundle of joy. Then, when you pick him up from daycare, your whole world is smiling again. And then, Siara and Nick have the whole evening to enjoy their precious little son, who keeps them smiling with his sweet little face, filled with smiles. The evenings are just perfect for this young family.

Now that little Alec is here, life for Siara and Nick is always looking up. I think that most parents can relate to the tremendous joy they feel with each new day. With each smile, each landmark, each passing year, and each new sibling that comes along after Alec, life will continue to get better and better for them. I am so happy for Siara, as she celebrates her first birthday as a mommy, and for Nick too, as he celebrates his family. The future is bright for both of them, and I look forward to watching little Alec grow up and be such a great blessing to his parents and his family. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday “Mommy” Siara. Have a great day!! We love you!!

Christmas…a time with family, presents under the Christmas tree, eating far too much great food…is that all there is too it? No, of course not!! In fact, those things have very little to do with Christmas. That’s because Jesus is the reason for the season. The family time, food, and gifts are fine, but we should never forget the gift God gave us on that wonderful day so long ago. The people of Earth had made such a mess of things here. No, I’m not talking about climate change. I’m talking about sin. God could have walked away, and started the whole thing over, but His heart was with his children. He wanted us all to be with Him in Heaven, when our time here on Earth is over. He knew that we needed at Saviour, and so His son agreed to leave Heaven and come to Earth…as a helpless baby.

Adam had sinned and ruined things here, and it would take a man without sin…for his whole life, to change the whole outcome of Adam’s mistake. Jesus had to be born as a human baby, because that was the only way to operate in the Earth realm. Then, He had to live a sinless life. It didn’t matter what human parts of him were trying to tell him to do, he couldn’t get angry, be disrespectful, lie, or any other sin. If you and I were to be saved by Jesus’ death on the cross, He had to be sinless. It was the only way for his death to make a difference. It would be a horribly cruel death, and Jesus knew it, but He did what He had to do…and it all started when He came to Earth as a baby to become our Saviour. Nothing beats that.

Yes, the family gatherings are great, and the gifts are nice, but the greatest gift that was ever given was the gift of a perfect life that became the sacrifice to restore righteousness to those who could not live a perfect life. It was an amazing gift, and one we cannot ever thanks Him for enough. Happy birthday dear Jesus. Thanks you for your sacrifice, and Merry Christmas everyone. Have a great holiday, thank you for all you did for us.

My little grand-niece, Mackenzie Moore is a loyal football fan…of her daddy’s teams. It doesn’t matter what team it is, as long as her daddy, Shannon Moore is one of the coaches. Currently, Mackenzie is a huge fan of the Wyoming Cowboys. As her daddy says, she loves the Pokes. Mackenzie always has her game face on at the games, and she cheers on her daddy’s team faithfully. In fact, at two years old, Mackenzie is quite likely the littlest Pokes fan. This little girl is such a loyal fan that she even makes sure she is bringing her baby up to be a fan. I guess she is getting set for the next generation of fans.

Mackenzie has an amazing personality. She always keeps her parents, Lindsay and Shannon, laughing and quite entertained. Nobody ever has to tell this little girl to smile, because its just a part of her nature. Mackenzie loves people and loves making them smile, and it comes so naturally to her. She makes the greatest faces ever. One look and you can’t help but love this little girl…or laugh along with this little cutie. She love playing with her cousins the most, and considers “cousin-time” to be the very best time of all…well, except for mommy and daddy time.

The summer was a great one for Mackenzie, who got to travel some, spend time with her grandparents, and of course hang out with her mommy by the pool. Mackenzie loves her time as a lady of leisure too. That’s a good thing, because before we know it, she will be going to school. Time goes so fast. I really can’t believe that Mackenzie is two years old already. It seems like it was just yesterday that she was born. With all the wonderful life moments this little girl packs into every day, I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. Of course, I wish that we, the rest of her family, got to see her a little more, but now that her family lives in Wyoming again, we get to see her more than we did before, when they lived back east. That makes us happy. We are all happy about the move back to Wyoming. Today is Mackenzie’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Mackenzie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

One year ago today, a sweet little curly haired girl named Elliott Stevens was born to my nephew, Garrett Stevens and his wife, Kayla. Elliott is my sister, Alena Stevens and her husband, Mike’s first grandchild, as well a the first grandchild for Kayla’s parents, Lynette and Wes Smiley, so it was an exciting day. Time marches on, and as with all children, so much has changed in just one year. Elliott now has lots of curls as her hair has grown. Her little smile is sporting teeth these days, and she has learned to walk. That, of course, means that she is “exploring” her world, i.e. getting into things. Her personality is showing now, in so many ways…one of the biggest being her giggle. When she gets into things, and gets “caught” at it, she just laughs and laughs. Her parents ask her what she is doing, and her response is always the same…that infectious little giggle!! She already knows that her giggle can get her out of a sticky situation.

Elliott is a happy little girl, who loves her dog, Charlie. And the feeling in mutual, because her dog is very patient with her little baby ways. Kids aren’t always gentle with their furry friends, but Elliott’s dig doesn’t seem to mind, because Elliott is his baby too. In fact, sometimes he feels like he is in charge of the baby. It seems to be a dog thing. They love to cuddle the family babies…especially at nap time.

Elliott loves the water, and she’s not picky. The bathtub, the wading pool, or the beach. All of them are fun for Elliott. She got to go to California with her parents a few months ago, and if fact, she turned 8 months while she was there. Less than a year old, and she’s already been sunning herself on the beach. Of course, she doesn’t care if it’s a beach in California, she just liked the water and the sand. I think a lot of people would agree with her on that.

Elliott has been such a blessing to her family. She has three wonderful aunts, Michelle Stevens, Lacey Stevens, and Lexi Smiley, so she is very blessed too. Life is great for Elliott and her family, and we are all very excited to see what the next year will bring for our giggly girl. Today is Elliott’s 1st birthday. Happy birthday Elliott!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Those of us who live in Casper, Wyoming know about Garden Creek and Garden Creek Falls. It is a beautiful area, filled with trees and picnic tables. Hiking trails take off from the area, some of which follow the creek. Rotary Park is often full of picnickers and hikers. Everyone is out to have a great time. The Garden Creek area was a much different place in 1891, however. What we know as a day picnic area was a resort area and was lined with camps. A hotel was located at the head of Garden Creek and was a loved summer resort, frequented by local picnic parties. It was frequented by families from near and far.

On, July 31, 1891, a cloudburst occurred over Casper Mountain, right about the area of the head of Garden Creek. The creek is about seven miles long from mouth to source, and it was lined with camps. The heavy rains triggered a flash flood. The swollen creek rushed down the mountainside. The first thing the flood waters reached was the resort at the head of Garden Creek. The buildings were crushed and swept away, and the original site of the hotel was buried beneath wreckage twenty or more feet deep. The rushing floodwaters followed the creek on down the mountain, sweeping away anything in its path. Water marks indicate a volume of water 40 feet high and 495 feet wide must have passed through a narrow area about 2 miles form the mountain proper.

As the water rushed down the side of the mountain, it crashed down upon many campers up and down the creek. Many were either sleeping or just about ready to go to bed for the night. Campers, the Newby family, were sleeping when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by water. Newby heard his wife scream for help, grabbed for her, but missed, and in the next second he found himself being carried off by the rushing water. He never saw his wife or baby son alive again. Newby caught the limbs of a floating tree, He was carried about 200 yards, before he was thrown onto a bank. The body of Mrs Newby was found the next morning beneath a pile of rubble, but the Newby’s baby boy was never found. Near the Newby camp was the camp of Samuel Harrison of Alliance, Nebraska. Harrison’s two children were caught in the flood, and carried away. The bodies of the children were recovered the next morning. The tents and wagons of all the campers up and down the creek were destroyed, and at least fifty persons escaped with nothing but their pajamas. The citizens of Casper quickly stepped forward to bring food, clothing, and comfort to the survivors.

The quick response of the citizens of Casper doesn’t surprise me, because this is a city that often steps up in the face of tragedy. The flooded creek doesn’t surprise me either, because I have seen first hand just how quickly a rain storm on Casper mountain can result in a flood…even in the city proper. All that water has to go somewhere, and Sage Creek near my house is often the recipient of a large portion of that water. Thankfully it quickly drains into the Platte River, and the area returns to normal. Our mostly dry climate helps too, I suppose. The thirsty ground absorbs the water quickly. Still, it shocks me…not that Garden Creek flooded, but more, the vast difference in that area between 1891 and 2019.

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