grandkids

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Every year…like clockwork, parents dress their children up in costumes, and the annual tradition of children roaming the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and asking for treats…with the threat of tricks, if the “blackmail” is not paid…begins. It’s Halloween, of course. These days, not as many children really understand how the whole thing is supposed to work. They just see it as a day to gather up as much candy as possible. I read somewhere that children consume, on average, 7,000 calories worth of candy…or the equivalent of almost 11 Burger King Whoppers, without cheese, and not the new meatless version, of course. It’s a good thing that most kids are very active, or that many calories could be bad. And that isn’t even considering the sugar high that the parents will have to deal with. Try putting that child to bed after all that, and you’ll find that it’s going to be a long night. The best you can hope for is that the day falls on a Friday, so they don’t have to get up for school the next day…not the case this year, unfortunately.

So, with all the negative aside, the costumes people come up with are usually very cute. I prefer the costumes that don’t focus on the gruesome and horrific, but there are always a few of those. This year, with all my grandchildren grown up, we will only have our little great granddaughter heading out to see what she can come home with. At just 17 months, she will most likely only be going a few places, and since she is so little, she isn’t as totally addicted to candy as she will most likely become in future years. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen her turn down a treat either.

I remember Halloweens past, when my grandchildren were little. They couldn’t wait to get out there, and they really preferred if their parents didn’t stand around and talk. After all, they had rounds to make, and it wasn’t getting any earlier. My grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, always had the cutest costumes. I suppose I might be a bit biased, but I don’t care. I’m sure every parent and every grandparent feels the same way about their own little ones. It’s our prerogative!! Our little ones never had any tricks up their sleeves, that I knew of, but I do recall the year when I, as a little kid, was handed a little bar of soap, by my mother, Collene Spencer. It was my “trick” and I was only asked by one person, what trick I had up my sleeve. When I showed him the soap, he let out a great big guffaw!! He had no idea that I would even know what he meant. He said that it made his whole day!! Happy Halloween everyone!! Be safe out there!!

A few years back, I connected with a member of my Schumacher cousins, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, in what would become a quest to get to know all of my Schumacher cousins, and like my Byer cousins, there were lots of them. The journey has been a wonderful trip, as my sisters and I have cultivated friendships with these precious cousins, some of whom we met on our 2014 trip back to our roots in Superior, Wisconsin. Now, four years later, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I have returned to Superior, Wisconsin for a family reunion. We have been so excited for this reunion to happen, and in fact, have looked forward to reuniting with all of our cousins since we first met or found each other on Ancestry and Facebook.

The reunion took place today at Pattison Park, and it definitely lived up to every hope we had for it. These precious cousins were friendly, hospitable, and informative, while also being curious about us too. We all shared tons of stories about our families, and of course, pictures of our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We hugged on the little ones, most of whom looked at us with a sense of wonder as to who we were, and maybe even wondering if we should be hugging them at all…at least until their parents said it was ok. We moved from group to group, and person to person trying to get to know everyone, all the while knowing that there just wasn’t enough time. We found out who the jokesters were too, because what family would be complete without those wonderful people who keep us laughing. We built bonds that will last a lifetime, and parted ways with expressions of sadness that the time had passed far to quickly. We tried to see how soon we could feasibly do this again, knowing that for most of us Facebook would have to suffice until the next reunion.

The time went by far too quickly indeed, and while we wish we could have had far more time to sit and talk, we all knew in our hearts that we had been given a precious gift…a gift of family, friendship, love, and a sense of belonging, because after all, that is what family reunions are all about. Families grow quickly, and the numbers can quickly grow to a point of losing sight of the ones who started the family in the beginning, but at reunions, those who have left us are remembered and discussed, because everyone is trying to put into context, just exactly where they fit in with all these people. We talked of those who weren’t with us with love and sadness, because they would have really loved that their families have made the effort to keep the closeness going. To all those who made this reunion so very special, we love you and thank you for making our family reunion amazing.

If you want to know about a person, talk to those who know that person best…their family. Of course, I know my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock, but nobody knows him as well as his wife and kids. I wanted to know what kind of dad Chris is, because that delves into a whole different dimension of the person he is. I asked his kids to tell me the one thing they loved most about their dad. The first thing I found out, was that these kids couldn’t give me just one thing. In fact, they had a hard time keeping it at just two or three things.

Jessi Sawdon is Chris and my sister, Allyn’s first child. Told me of how helpful her dad is. No matter what he has going, or how full his day is, he always finds time, somewhere in the day to come and help with whatever his kids needed. Their needs are always his priority. She also told me that when it comes to his grandbabies…Chris has the softest heart, and that those grandbabies think their grandpa hung the moon. On one hand, it’s hard for me to fathom Chris as softhearted, because of all the years he spent as a cop, and yet I think that most people who know Chris have seen that softhearted side at one time or another. Nevertheless, when it comes to grandbabies, every grandparent develops a soft heart where their grandbabies are concerned.

Ryan Hadlock, Chris and Allyn’s son, and second child, remembers going fishing with his dad. He remembers the lessons his dad gave him so that he could become a good fisherman, and he remembers…like it was just yesterday…that while his dad was teaching him to fly fish, that his dad caught 75 fish in one day!! Those father/son times were and always will be very special to Ryan. I know they were very special to his dad too. Ryan also told me that he loves to see the joy his dad gets…just from being with all of his kids and grandkids. There is nothing quite like knowing that your parents love you, your siblings, and your kids more than anything in the world.

Lindsay Moore, Chris and Allyn’s third child immediately said, “Oh man! One thing!?!?!? How is that possible?” That was the sentiment I got from all the kids. Lindsay told me about how tenderhearted her dad is. Lindsay’s favorite part of her dad is a side of him that not everyone gets to see. It is a side of Chris that is reserved for Allyn, their kids and the grandkids. It has been an enlightening thing to have all of these kids tell me, not about the strength everyone else saw in Chris for so many years on the police force, but about the very different man that came home from work each night to simply love on his family. Lindsay also told me about the way that Chris brought fun and laughter to their lives with his incredible witty and sense of humor.

Kellie Hadlock is Chris and Allyn’s youngest child. She was the first one to mention work ethic, saying that Chris is the hardest worker she knows and that he does everything with integrity…always doing the right thing! Kellie’s sweetest thought of her dad is that he is the best guitar player she know. One of her favorite things to do in the world, is to sing with her dad. Kellie loves singing, and when the two of them get together, it is truly beautiful. We all love hearing it, and can’t wait for the next time. Kellie says, “He is literally the best dad in the world!! Sorry there was no way I could have said just one thing!” Today is Chris’ birthday!! Thanks to all of his kids for their special tribute to their dad. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

On Saint Patrick’s Day, my cousin Michael McDaniels and his wife, Deena took his mom, my Aunt Bonnie McDaniels to a celebration in downtown Casper, Wyoming, as part of her birthday celebration. That reminded me about the many times that my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I would run into Aunt Bonnie and her husband, my Uncle Jack at the fair with their grandchildren. They took them every year and the kids had a great time. We would run into them, because we still went to the fair at that time. I always thought it was great that they took their grandkids every year, because lots of kids don’t get to go. Either their parents couldn’t afford it, or just figured the kids could wait until they were old enough to go on their own. Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack’s grandkids didn’t have to worry about that, because they got to go every year.

Aunt Bonnie also loved attending the various events of her grandchildren, and I’m sure she was that way with her kids too. I usually saw her at the track meets at Grant School, where both of our grandchildren went to elementary school. Of course, Uncle Jack had to work in those days, so he didn’t get the pleasure of coming to the track meets. Aunt Bonnie was always so excited about the events, and spent the day cheering her grandson, Anthony McDaniels on to, hopefully, victory. For Aunt Bonnie, her family was everything. She wanted nothing more than to spend time surrounded by them. They were the product of the great love she had for Uncle Jack, and in them, her life was complete.

Aunt Bonnie has blessed many people in her lifetime. Her cakes have graced many a wedding, but it was her smile and her cheerful way that were the real blessing. Every time Bob and I ran into her, oddly most often while grocery shopping at Walmart, she and Uncle Jack were always pleased to run into us, and we always had a nice conversation…even if it was a short conversation. We just always enjoyed running into them. Things are different for Aunt Bonnie now that Uncle Jack has gone to Heaven, but it pleases me to see her kids taking her out to do the fun stuff. It’s almost like going full circle. What she and Uncle Jack did for their kids, they are now doing for her. And what a special treat it must be for her. She got to go to something she wouldn’t have done on her own. Today is Aunt Bonnie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Bonnie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister-in-law, Debbie Cook leads a pretty busy life. During the school year, she is the “bus driver” for her two youngest grandchildren, Easton Moore and Kaytlyn Griffith after school. The older kids, Weston Moore and Jala Satterwhite have activities that go on after school, so Debbie has just the little ones. Debbie likes to do special things for the grandkids, such as the brownies she made as a treat for Valentine’s Day. Of course, when its nice outside, there is a lot more that can be done, like going to the park, where they can run and play, which is probably to their parents liking too, because then they are more settled at night…or is does that only work on the little ones?

Winter is a dreaded time for lots of people, an most especially for anyone who like to got camping. Debbie and her husband, Lynn love to go camping, and I think that they would move to the mountains if it weren’t for the fact that the kids and grandkids live in town. So the next best thing is family camping trip to the Big Horn Mountains. Their daughter Machelle, told me that going camping with the family every weekend is so peaceful and quiet and that they al really enjoy it. Machelle says it is like having a sleepover every weekend. Now when you think about it, which of us wouldn’t love to go home sometimes to relive the days of our youth…especially the ones when you and your siblings had a sleepover on the living room floor. That’s kind of how it feels to the family when they are all camping together in the beauty of the mountains.

Her family is the most important thing to Debbie. She loves being around the grandchildren, and especially having them all want to go camping together. It’s like taking weekly vacations together all your life. Most people quit taking together vacations when they get married, so it’s something special. I suppose that with the next generation coming of age, things are likely to change. When the grandkids are driving and working, they can’t always go along on the fun stuff, and they are old enough to stay alone, so things slowly change. Hopefully it doesn’t change too fast. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I love looking at the pictures my family posts…especially the kids. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s true, but sometimes it’s the caption that really grabs me. Such was the case the other day when I looked at this picture posted by my cousin, Grace Oltman. The picture shows the smiling faces of her son, Hosea and her sister, Angel Pallas’ daughter, Hazel. These kids never cease to amaze me, because they are just being kids, after all. Grace captioned the picture with, “They will do anything for some candy.” That immediately took me back to the years when my grandchildren were little ones, and we tried so hard, sometimes in vain to get a good picture of the four of them.

As the grandma, it was my idea to do the four of them, and sometimes I think my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, thought I was crazy. In fact, sometimes I thought I was crazy. We tried everything to get them to all four smile at the same time…and I mean we tried everything, including candy, if they cooperated. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Now, looking at the pictures Grace took…which turned out amazing, by the way, I see what my problem was. She gave them the candy while they had the picture taken. What kid wouldn’t smile with a piece of chocolate in their hand? Oh, if I had only known. Of course, these little kids, Hazel, Hosea, Tenley, and Canaan, as well as cousins, Addilayde and Meadow, are definitely not strangers to the camera. Their parents take lots of pictures of them, and these kids know how to smile for the camera. I think that is why I enjoy looking at all their pictures so much. There is just nothing sweeter than looking at a smiling child…even if it is a candy smile, and even if the candy, cake, or whatever else they may enjoy having, is all over their face.

Every once in a while, however, even mom’s who take great pictures because the kids are so cooperative, will hit a bit of a snag. Such was the case when Grace took the picture of little Hosea and his little brother Canaan. Hosea was wearing his usual great smile, but Canaan needed a little help. Uh…Grace, I think you forgot the chocolate on this one, but then I guess Canaan was a teeny bit to small for that. Nevertheless, those sad face pictures can be just as cute as the ones that are all smiles. In the end, I had to promise to let my grandkids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, do one goofy picture in order to get good smiles out of them. I guess that the moral of the story is…whatever works.

1779808_10151865058222237_1602427287_n12974521_1524900421151122_5616398070330787217_nMy brother-in-law, Mike Reed is a man of many talents. His wood working talents are known to many people, and those who have been blessed to have some of his work can attest to that. Mike makes all kinds of furniture, from tables to beds, and everything in between. Mike’s work is detailed and beautiful. His talents especially lean toward the rustic, and that also shows in work they are having done at their ranch west of Casper. Mike is having a barn remodeled into…well clearly not your everyday variety of barn. Mike is an avid hunter, and this “barn” will become a beautiful showcase for his hunting trophies, and an entertainment space for barbeques and such. Mike and my sister, Caryl love to have people out to the ranch…especially their kids and grandkids. They keep horses there and the horses are great fun for them and the family to ride, as well as entertaining to watch.11057409_1452960625011769_5585380818628242805_n

Last year, Mike and Caryl took their kids and grandkids on a wonderful trip to Miami, along with a cruise. They all had a great time, and it was really the trip of a lifetime for all of them. once your kids are grown up, you don’t often get to take vacations together anymore. Everyone has their own lives, schedules, and ideas, so coordinating such an event takes a lot work, and a lot of planning. Nevertheless, they pulled it off, and had a great time doing it. I’m not sure if this was when Mike caught his amazing swordfish or not, but it definitely is a trophy piece.

Mike has been a part of our family since he married my sister, Caryl in 2002. It was a blending of two families, that was a blessing to all. Mike is kind-hearted and generous. And he makes my sister so happy. It doesn’t get any better than that. Theirs has been and will continue to be a life filled with adventure, because that is the imageimagekind of guy Mike is. It’s strange to think that Mike and Caryl have been married for 14 years, but on the other hand, it’s like he’s always been a part of our family. You can tell when someone is a great fit, by how right it feels to have them there. Mike is helpful and capable, and always willing to be the jack of all trades when needed. We can’t thank him enough. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Birthday GirlBirthday Surprise 6Every four years, our calendar has an extra day…February 29th. Now, to most people, that is a novelty, but to my granddaughter, Shai Royce…that day is very special. If you only got a real birthday every four years, I’m sure you would think that day is quite special too. Shai has not always embraced every aspect of a Leap Day birthday, such as having the three grandsons in the family inform you that they are older than you, even though two of them were born after you. These days, Shai embraces Leap Day, because of it’s pure novelty, and someday she will really love it. Just think, when she’s 64 years old, she will, in reality, be 16. Who can say that? Only a Leap Day Baby, and that’s because…well, Leap Happens, and when it does, people don’t age in quite the same way.

This year looked like it was going to be a bit lonlier for Shai, but her brother, Caalab surprised her with a visit all the way from Seattle, Washington. Shai was completely shocked, and so was I. That sneaky little brother of hers managed to swear everyone who knew to secrecy, so Shai, her grandpa, and I were completely in the dark. When her family moved to the Seattle area, Shai decided to stay in Casper, and now she has taken a page out of her mom’s book. She is in the insurance industry and working with her very blessed grandma…me, at The Stengel Agency. Like her mom, she started out as a CSR, and is learning the insurance ropes. Who knows, she might even become an agent like her mom and grandma someday. I am very proud of all that she has learned here. She handles changes, payments, filing, and phones with ease. I think she comes from good insurance stock. She is doing so well for someone so young…I mean how many 5 year olds do you know who work in insurance?

This is the first year that Shai has lived on her own too, and I am very proud of how she has handled that. She is quite stubborn about accepting help with anything, and insists on paying for herself. Most of the time I let Birthday SurpriseBirthday Surprise 2her too, but sometimes, like her birthday lunch, I have to put my grandma’s foot down. Of course, she is much like all my kids and grandkids. They are just responsible people, and I am proud of each and every one of them. Shai may only be five years old, but Shai the adult, shows me often that she has earned her twenty years, and her adulthood. I can’t believe that now two of my grandchildren are in their twenties. It seems totally impossible!! Where have the years gone? Today is Shai’s 20th birthday. Happy 5th Leap Day birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Valentine's DayA lot of people think that a day like Valentine’s Day is simply a commercialized day to get people to part with their money, and maybe to a degree it is, but why not have a day to celebrate love. Our world seems to get more and more filled with hate every day, so maybe we really do need to had a day to celebrate love. A person doesn’t have to have a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife to celebrate love either, because your valentine could just as easily be your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or friends too. All it takes is to have someone you truly care about. In fact, it’s even ok to have multiple valentines too. In my family, it has always been tradition for our parents to give valentines to all the kids and grandkids, and my sisters and I have continued the tradition. Our kids and grandkids always had a valentine, because after all love takes many forms, not just romantic love. They can even be from brothers, and sent on a day that isn’t even Valentine’s Day.

When I look back on all the years of valentines from the time I was just a little girl, through the grade school Valentine heartsyears, to boyfriends, and on the my family, I must say that other that valentines from my husband, Bob, none were a sweet as those to me from my parents, and I hope my children feel the same way. I guess it’s like most of the boyfriends, that never measured up. You think that certain things are so important, like having a boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. As a teenager, that seems like the most important thing, and if you don’t have one, you feel like the loser of the year. Nevertheless, later on in life, you realize that all those years, all those boyfriends…or the lack thereof, meant nothing. Those boyfriends weren’t the ones who stayed with you. Their gifts were nothing more that cheap glitter, even when placed next to the smallest, most inexpensive gift from the one who really loves you and has chosen to spend the rest of their lives with you. Just the gift of self from someone who really loves you, boyfriend or husband…well, it makes the others look like dirt, even if they cost more, because cost has little to do with it.

Beyond the romantic valentines, comes the family valentines. Those family valentines, even if they cost just Valentine from her brotherpennies…or nothing at all…are worth really, solid gold. Drawings done by your babies in pre-school or Kindergarten, are simply priceless, because they come from the best that is in your children, and they portray the love they have for their parents. When they are grown and out of your house, those little echoes of their younger years will be beautifully enhanced by things like valentines drawings done when they where little more than babies. Valentine’s Day is for lovers, it’s true, but some of the sweetest valentines are those that cost nothing, but are worth millions because they were sent with more love that anything that was purchased. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!! I hope your day is filled with true love.

Corrie with ChristopherKevin, & ChristopherToday, my grandson Chris Petersen heads back to Sheridan for his final semester of college. It has been a long two year road, and hard on all of us, but we are proud of what he has done. Nevertheless, while he has been here over a month, it seems like he just got here. Time flies by so quickly, and somehow along the way, this one or that one of your kids and grandkids seem to fly away. Some literally!! As each one goes, you are left to wonder what the draw of that place is, or sometimes, like with Chris, you know that it is not that place, but rather the dream. You know that they have to follow their dream, and you truly want them to be happy…even if that takes them far away from you.

The reality is that the future of our children is not ours to set. It is theirs. All their lives, you watch carefully, noting their talents and abilities, and wondering where their future lies. I think that for most parents, the hope is that their kids future wont take them too far away, because while we have been watching their little lives as they grew, our hearts just never planned for that moment when they would tell us that their future plans and our idea of their future plans are simply not the same. As they leave, you feel like your heart is being torn from your chest. You fell like the tears will never stop, and in reality, sometimes…when you least expect it…when you thought you were finally ok, those wretched tears come rushing back to you again.

As Chris leaves, I think about the fact that once again, half of my children and grandchildren don’t live nearby. It makes me feel lonely. For Chris, the homesickness will flood in, because he is once again alone there, without his family, with whom he is very close. I know he would rather stay here, but he can’t. And with job placement looming ahead, we know that the distance will grow. I want Chris to go where they place him, because it is a once in a lifetime experience. He won’t have to stay there permanently. I know that his ultimate dream lies in a different place, closer to home, if not right here in Casper. But, dreams can change. He may like the place where his job placement takes him. He may choose to stay there, or go somewhere else. And if he does, we will be ok here. We will miss him terribly, and we will notice that empty chair where he should be, but we will know that he is off following his dream…like other family members before him…and we will adjust.

Chris PetersenChris & Josh before VegasChange is a part of life, whether we like it or not. Our children, once grown, are not children anymore. They are adults with the right to make their own choices. We can’t live their lives for them. We are their past in a way, even though we will always be there for them, and they can always call our home their home. We are home base, but the world is out there. It is theirs to see and explore. So as each one leaves, all I can think is…and off you go. Remember where you came from, walk with God, don’t forget the way home, and while we miss you, we’ll be alright…right here, holding down the fort.

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