Being a big, muscular kid can have its advantages. You can be pretty sure no one is going to pick on you. That is the case with my grand nephew, Xander Spethman. Xander takes after his dad, Steve Spethman in many ways. He is very much built like his dad, and in so many ways, he has the same values, personality, and strong sense of right and wrong that his dad has…of course, he also gets that from his mom, my niece, Jenny Spethman. While they were the ones that trained Xander up in the way he should go, in reality, Xander already had within himself that protective instinct.
Xander is particularly protective of his little sister, Aleesia, as are her other brothers, Zack and Isaac. They know about loss, having lost their other sister, Laila, and Xander, being the oldest, felt the sting of that loss deeply. Then God blessed this family with a second daughter, Aleesia, and the brothers have basically made her the princess. She rules the roost, and the brothers are just fine with that. One day a short time ago, they all decided to play football in the yard. Aleesia wanted to play too, so it was Xander and Aleesia against Zack and Isaac. Aleesia was basically made the quarterback, and Xander blocked his brothers so they couldn’t get to her. I’m sure you all know that Zack and Isaac were fully aware of the plan too, because they could have tackled Aleesia a couple of times. They just wouldn’t, because she is the princess, and that just isn’t done. Nevertheless, even in play, Xander is the protector of his little sister, and I’m sure that you all know that if anyone really tried to pick on his little sister, Xander would turn into a roaring lion, and they would wish they had never dared to bother Aleesia.
Xander is a champion of protection for those around him who do not have his strength and size. He doesn’t like to see anyone picked on, and he has stood up for someone being bullied more than once. Often, it is the bigger kids who tend to be the bullies, but not in Xander’s case. He is the protector of those who need protection. He would never have it in his heart to bully anyone, because inside that big kid lives a tender, loving, and very kind heart. It really is such a blessing to see how Xander has matured as the years have passed. He never was a bully, but he has become more and more the guy that everyone knows they can count on for anything. Today is Xander’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Dogs are such amazing animals. They sense things that we don’t. As a kid, I read a book called, “Follow My Leader” in which a boy, blinded by a firecracker finds a way to achieve independence with the help of a guide dog. I read that book as a child, but it has stayed with me throughout the years. In all reality, I am more of a cat person, and I know what all my dog loving friends would say to that, but that is the way I am. I had a dog as a child, and I can tell you that King was the best dog that ever lived, and I loved him very much. I just can’t say that I, personally, have ever seen a dog that I could feel that way about since. Neverthess, I have seen dogs that were truly amazing, and those would be the working dogs.
In the book I mentioned, a boy blinded by a firecracker, who thought his life was over, finds a true friend to be his eyes…and finds his way back to a full life again. Seeing-eye dogs are so amazing, and to me they are inspiring. Maybe it was the book I read, or maybe I could just envision how lives could be greatly improved by seeing-eye and other working dogs.
We have had two working dogs in our family. My husband Bob’s cousin, Sandy Kountz had a dog that was able to detect seizures before they occurred. That is one of the latest uses of working dogs, and one that in my opinion has been a huge help to a lot of people. Having been around seizures several times in my lifetime, I can tell you that if there is a way to stop them before they happen, that is by far the best plan. These dogs can bring peace of mind for people struggling with uncontrolled seizures.
All these dogs were amazing at what they were trained to do, and I don’t mean to discount any of them, but I know of another amazing dog, who had no training at all. This dog’s name was Brownie, and I don’t know if it was a male or female, because I never knew this dog. I only knew of Brownie. Brownie was a dog that belonged to my in-laws. They had Brownie when their oldest three children were little. My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled, and she was the oldest child, so she didn’t have older siblings to watch over her when she was outside playing. That’s where Brownie came in. Nobody ever had to tell Brownie to keep an eye on Marlyce. Brownie instinctively knew that Marlyce needed someone to watch out for her, and Brownie decided to be that guardian.
The instant Marlyce was headed to the door to go outside, Brownie was right there, and that dog kept her out of more than one scrape according to my father-in-law. Brownie was her guardian angel. Marlyce was a little girl who wanted to be independent, just like her younger sister, Debbie and younger brother, Bob, but she was different than they were, and without Brownie, she would have felt that difference very much. I am so thankful to Brownie, who was instinctively the self appointed guardian for my sister-in-law, so her life could be as full of fun as her siblings’ lives.
When I was a kid in grade school, our class in 3rd or 4th grade decided to have a tasting party. The idea was to bring a home-cooked recipe from the family home to share with the class. When my mom suggested that I bring her cornbread, I knew that was what I wanted to bring. When my teacher found out that I was bringing cornbread, she was a little bit apprehensive. She just didn’t think the other students would like it, and she thought I would be disappointed. Nevertheless, cornbread was what I was bringing, whether she liked it or not.
All the students were excited for the day of the tasting party to arrive. We were all planning what we would bring and trying to figure out what the others were bringing. Some people told, but most of us kept it a secret. Finally the big day arrived and all the food was brought in and placed on a table. At the appointed time, the party began. Our teacher said that we had to try a little bit of everything and then could go back for seconds of the things we liked. I have to wonder if she was worried that no one would try some of the things, if she set no requirement. Kids are picky eaters.
The party went well. She cut my cornbread into small pieces…I’m sure she was thinking it would be rejected if the pieces were bigger. She needn’t have bothered. After their first helping, every student asked for more cornbread until there was none left. She was stunned, and asked me what my mother’s secret was. Well, it was simple. If you have ever eaten cornbread, you know that it is often dry and tasteless. My mom was always one to add a little sweet to things…even before all the manufacturers started doing it to things that normally wouldn’t have sugar in them. So Mom’s secret was a little sugar. Her cornbread wasn’t super sweet, like cake, but it had a hint of sweetness, and that brought out the corn flavor too. Then, when you add butter to it…oh my gosh!! It had a melt in your mouth flavor that was unsurpassed. I think my teacher learned a lesson that day too. Never assume that something won’t taste good, until you have tried it. You may be very surprised.
I have never forgotten that special day, when my food for the tasting party became the hit of the day. Everyone kept telling me how good that cornbread was. I have to agree with them. Nobody makes cornbread like my mom. To this day, when cornbread is served, I always have some, but I am always disappointed at the taste. It never…ever stands up to the standard my mom set for it so many years ago. I suppose that is why I never have seconds either. My teacher knew that cornbread wasn’t her favorite thing…probably for the same reason most people don’t eat a lot of it, but then she had more than one helping of mine too, that day. It’s really hard to resist that melt in your mouth flavor, and it has spoiled me concerning cornbread that doesn’t have it. I’m just not very interested.
Our nephew, Tucker has always been such a happy kid. He loves life and all that it has to offer. Tucker find humor in things that the rest of us might not see as humorous…a good trait to have when you think about it. Tucker gets very excited with he sees someone that he likes to be around, often running up to them like a streak to give them a hug!!
Tucker started Kindergarten this year, and he is quickly showing his parents what a smart little boy he is. He was coloring with my brother-in-law, Ron, his step-dad, and they started talking about the colors he was using. Tucker wanted to know how Ron knew the specific color of the crayon, like yellow orange. Ron showed him where the color is shown on the crayon, and Tucker immediately began checking out each crayon, and reading of the name. Reading seems to be one of the areas Tucker likes best, which is a good thing, because we all know that if you are a good reader, you can pretty much excel in any subject you are interested, and many that you aren’t.
I don’t know if Tucker has a girlfriend at the moment, but in the past, he has been totally smitten with his early life best friend, Kaytlyn, who has now become his cousin by marriage. I don’t know how that would work out, but since he is only 6 years old, I think we are safe…for now. Of course, his all time best friend is his big brother, Riley. They do lots of things together, and Tucker knows that Riley is there for him, no matter what. A guy really needs a friend like that sometimes, and Tucker is very glad that his brother, Riley is that friend.
Tucker also loves the dogs, and they have some really great times together. I can’t tell you what joke the dog told Tucker, but it must have been a really good one, because Tucker had a really good laugh over that one. Today is Tucker’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great time at Six Flags!! We love you!!
I was a little girl, when the original Kmart in Casper was built. We lived less than a block from the site, and very much enjoyed watching the construction as it progressed. It was very exciting for my sisters and me…at least the ones who were old enough to be able to play outside. Little did I know then, that the construction site was going to be a bit of a problem for me. It had been raining for a couple of days, but I still wanted to go over that weekend and see what had been accomplished. It so happened that I had just gotten a pair of penny loafers, a shoe which was very popular at that time, and one that I had wanted very badly. I was just a kid, and I never gave thought to the rain in relation to a construction site that we girls had been accessing through the alley at the end of the street. Since they had been doing a lot of digging, there were piles of dirt next to that alley…add rain to that dirt and…yes, you get mud.
A kid doesn’t think of boots…especially in the summer time. I simply waded through all that mud in my new penny loafers….and it was probably knee deep. As much as I dislike mud and dirt these days, I really have to wonder why that mud didn’t bother me. I guess I was on a quest to discover how the construction was going. Needless to say, I went bravely on my quest through the mud to see the new Kmart building. In my recollection, the building was coming along just fine, but my muddy legs were getting uncomfortable, so I headed home…yes, back through the mud.
My mom was not particularly happy with me when I got home that day, and the day that followed was not better, but rather worse. After cleaning me up, she did the best she could with my new shoes, and while they looked pretty good, the next day would bring a problem that I will never forget as long as I live. My super cool, brand new, beautiful Penny Loafers had shrunk, and they no longer fit me. They were made of leather, and I had no idea that they would shrink. I was devastated to say the very least. I assume that my sister, Caryl had a super cool, brand new but slightly used, beautiful pair of Penny Loafers after that.
I’m not a wind lover. In fact, most of the time the wind annoys me, but there are things that actually require the wind to accomplish their goal. I remember as a kid, trying to fly a kite a few times. I was never very good at it, which is probably why I didn’t do it very much. Nevertheless, I love watching someone, who knows how, fly a kite. There is just something about watching that kite floating effortlessly on air…provided I don’t necessarily have to be sitting outside in the wind when all that is going on. Watching from my car or my window works just fine for me. One of my favorite times to watch kite flying is when it is a little kid trying to do it. Their little legs just don’t go fast enough to get the kite in the air, but the have a really great time trying…at least for a while. Then they get frustrated, just like everyone else, and if you don’t help them get that kite in the air, they are pretty much over the whole thing.
I love watching the birds on a windy day. What we consider an annoyance, they look at as the perfect way to play. They spread their wings and head into the wind. The wind holds them in place, without even having to try to fly. And they can stay there like that for quite a while. It seems so effortless, and yet, it might be a lot of work for them for all we know. Nevertheless, to see a bird in hover mode is as cool as watching them soar into the wind in playful flight. Here in Casper, we have some pigeons that fly around in the downtown area. I know that the downtown merchants don’t really like them much, because of the mess they leave, but if you sit down for just a few minutes and watch them dip and soar, always in a group, always of one accord, always beautiful, you will find yourself having a hard time faulting them for the mess…or at least that’s how I feel.
For me personally, a windy day is such an annoyance. It messes up my hair, and believe me, there is not enough hair spray on the planet, instant freeze or otherwise, to make your hair stay in place on a windy day. Still, the kid me remembers wearing a jacket out on a windy day, and lifting it above my head to make a sail, and letting the wind pull me out into it a little. It makes me feel just a little bit like a bird or maybe a kite, and reminds me that even the wind has its good points, few as they may be. Maybe I should give that whole jacket sailing thing a try again sometime…I mean, maybe floating on air would lend a little bit of freedom to an otherwise responsibility filled life.
When you are one of two brothers, in a family of six children, your life is spent with a whole lot of female influence, and with most sisters, that means being bossed around a lot. Now if you happen to be the youngest boy and the youngest child, you usually get a double dose from each sister. Such was the case for my brother-in-law, Ron. My in-laws essentially had to families, even though all the children have the same parents. Marlyce was the oldest, with Debbie following 3 years later. Bob is 17 months younger than Debbie. Then it would be 7 years before Jennifer came along. Brenda would follow 2 years later, and Ron was born 5 years after Brenda. So the older kids were like one family and the younger kids were like another, even though Ron is 5 years younger than Brenda. That put the two brothers 14 years apart.
Now, you would expect that so many years between them would have made it impossible to have a very close relationship, but you would be wrong. I think that by the time Ron came along, Bob had pretty much given up on the idea of having a brother, so when Ron was born, I think Bob decided that the brothers needed to stick together, since it was them against all the women in the family. Bob moved out of the house when he was 19, and Ron was almost 6. It was about this time that I met Bob.
Our dating days were different than some, I suppose, because often times we took Ron along. He was a happy little 6 year old boy, and who wouldn’t be, when his big brother and his brother’s girlfriend allowed him to go along to places like Dairy Queen. He was a good little boy, and the three of us always had a great time. Little kids can be so funny, and we enjoyed his joyful presence. I had never had a brother, so to me, Ron has always been that brother I never had. And like most siblings, I could almost say that I have known him since birth…although not quite.
I know there may be other brothers who got to do the things Ron did because their big brother liked having them around, but I don’t know of any. Most big brothers just want their kid brother to leave them alone. For Bob and Ron, their relationship then, and now is a blessing to both of them, and therefore very cool. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday little…ok, big now…brother!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The first time I met my niece, Toni’s future husband, Dave, I thought that he was pretty quiet…which surprised me because Toni is so outgoing. Like most first impressions, this one was wrong, because Dave is very outgoing and quite fun. On Christmas I got to see the goofy side of him, when for lack of a chair, he sat on his brother-in-law, Steve’s lap. I could tell, that neither of them were surprised by his antics, but I certainly was. I won’t be fooled into thinking that Dave doesn’t have an outgoing, and very humorous side again.
Since that first meeting, I have watched how Dave is and looked at the pictures they have taken, and while his goofy side is fun to watch, the thing about Dave that most impresses me is the loving side. It is so obvious to me that Dave loves Toni with his whole being, and that is high on my list of what a husband should be toward his wife. It is so easy to see how in love these two are. Toni is absolutely glowing these days, and as her aunt, I can say that I really like seeing that. I think these two will have a long happy life together.
Another thing that really impresses me about Dave is the way he worked to make a relationship between him and Toni’s son, James work. Blended families are sometimes difficult, and for a kid, it’s hard to accept that your mom is marrying someone that isn’t your dad, but Dave has found a way to win James over. He won’t ever try to replace James dad, but they have a better relationship than so many steps do, because Dave took the time to let James ease into a friendship with him. He included him and even found things that they could do together…guy things, that are important to a kid. I think that has endeared Dave to many in the family.
I think Dave is a really good fit in this family, and will be great to be around. We are a family of teasers, and Dave is that way too, and yet that isn’t all he is about. He steps up and pitches in whenever he is needed, even offering his help with things like raking the leaves up when the rest of us just couldn’t get around to it. Basically, Dave is one of the family. Today is Dave’s birthday…the first since his marriage to Toni. And it’s Super Bowl Sunday too, so that should help make it a good day!! Happy birthday Dave!! We love you!! Have a super birthday!!
It seems to be a rite of passage…you know, the new social interactions of a kid who is now is school, whether it be pre-school or grade school. Suddenly they have all these new friends. Then the oldest kid in the class has a birthday, and invitations are circulating around the class. It is so exciting for the children who get one, and devastating for the ones who don’t…unless it happens to be an all boy party and you have a girl, or vice versa. As a parent, you almost feel as bad as the child that wasn’t chosen, until you are planning the party for your child, and you realize that there is no way you can invite all those kids…you would go broke…or insane. You invite as many of their friends who are close and that you can afford or stand to have, and sadly, the rest will just have to deal with it. Of course, we all hope that it isn’t the same kid left out time after time, but it can be. Since my girls had their birthdays in the summer, we had an easier time of it, in that the invitations were not handed out at school.
Those first little social interactions can be so cute. You watch as your little one spreads their wings and heads out to meet new people that you have no part in until they become your child’s friend. It can be a strange feeling, when they come home and start talking about little Susie or little Jimmy, and your first thought is, “How do you know this person?” And then you remember that of course, it is school. It is a very different time in the life of both parent and child, but it quickly transitions into an understanding that it is normal not to know every friend your child comes in contact with. Many friends will remain friends only at school, and some will become friends that are more like family, in that they spend a lot of time at your house, or your child spends a lot of time at theirs.
I found that it was always easier to have those early parties at McDonalds or Burger King, because then they could clean up the mess, and they even provided the entertainment. The kids always had a wonderful time, and I was much more at ease, and since I had gotten to know some of the mothers, I wasn’t sitting there all alone. So often, parents take their kid to a party, and think, “Ok, now I have a little free time to do what I want to.” And that is ok for the most part, if their child is well behaved, but it is the pits when they aren’t. I was very lucky in that most of the friends my girls had were very well behaved, and most of their moms stayed for the party. It was kind of nice for me that way too. Not everyone has good experiences with their child’s first social interactions, but good or bad, everyone goes through those little changes in their child’s life. And no matter what, it is something you don’t forget.
It’s funny, how at each new stage in your life you seem to change. Sometimes is major ways, like going from being a little kid to being a grade school kid…or even more going from junior high to high school. Other changes can seem more subtle, but in many ways, they are even bigger changes than those prior ones that seemed so big. Like the changes I noticed in my grand niece, Siara, from high school graduation, to coming home from her first semester at college, and her first time living away from home. To most people, I’m sure she seemed like the same Siara that she always was, but I saw something else. She was more grown up, more sophisticated, more…college, and yet, she hadn’t changed that much at all. Can that happen?
Siara has gone from a high school girl without a care, to an adult in college, who knows the heartache that life can sometimes throw your way…right in the middle of some of the best times of your life. How can those two things coinside? One minute you love your life and everything you are doing, and the next, you are in tears because you miss your family so bad it hurts. That is how life is, when you move away from home and to another city. Especially when it is the first time.
For Siara, this particular day is especially hard, because it will also be the first birthday she has spent without her family. Being so far away from those who have always made your birthday a big deal is one of the hardest things to do. Oh, I know that her friends at college will pick up the slack and make her day the best it can possible be, but there will still be a few very important people missing. I know this day will be especially hard too, for her mom, my niece, Chantel, because she and Siara have always been so close. This will be a hard day for them, but I hope they will also find a way to make this one of her best birthdays ever as well. It will be different, but different doesn’t have to be bad. Here’s hoping this birthday is super special, Siara. Happy birthday!! We all love you and miss you very much, but we are also very proud of you and all your acomplishments.