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Pretty FishyMost little kids don’t really like fish much, unless it is in the form of fish sticks, and I don’t think fish sticks existed when my sister, Cheryl and I were little girls. I don’t know why Cheryl wanted to have her picture taken with all these fish, or if my mom just set her there because she would be a good point of reference to show just how many fish there were here, but I do know that it would have been a good thing that the fish were dead already, because if they had been flipping around, Cheryl would have probably been freaking out for sure…I know I would have, but then I was a baby. The fish were Smelt, and there were lots of them.

Rainbow Smelt, which are silver-colored fish about 6 to 9 inches long, are not native to Lake Superior, but rather to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Smelt entered the Great Lakes accidentally in 1912 when they escaped from an inland lake in Michigan where they had been stocked as forage fish. After that, they quickly spread throughout Lake Michigan and were finally discovered in Lake Superior in 1946. By that time, Sea Lamprey, which had also invaded Lake Superior, had begun reducing the number of native lake Trout, so there were far less Trout to eat the Smelt and they began to rapidly increase in number. Every year in mid-April, the Smelt head for the streams to lay their eggs. They are light sensitive, so smelting must be done at night. The best place to go smelting is at the mouth of the streams where they enter the Lakes. The rapids make it more difficult for the fish to jump over them into the stream, and so they are in abundance at that place. Smelting was a big deal at the time we were living in Superior, Wisconsin, when Cheryl and I were little girls.

When April came around in 1957, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Doris took Cheryl, me, and our cousin, Pam, and went smelting. Of course, the women pretty much just watched the proceedings, while Dad and Uncle Bill gathered up the buckets of fish that would be our haul for the evening. It was a good run, and the amount of fish they took home was amazing. The fish were then cleaned and frozen for lots of good eating down the road. I’ve never been smelting, at least where I actually participated, but I can imagine that it was pretty exciting to see all those fish all at once. usually think of fishing as a lazy day sport, and normally it is, but during a smelting run, it sounds pretty exciting to me!!

Ryan and ChelseaMy nephew, Ryan reminds me more and more of his dad, my brother-in-law, Chris every day. They are both very tall men, and they always use that to their advantage when it comes to teasing all the poor, defenseless women and girls around them. Oh, it’s always in good fun, but they always win…no matter what. I guess it’s a good thing we love them, isn’t it. Still that lets them get away with picking on all of us, and Ryan has perfected the art. As much as Ryan likes to pick on all of us though, that isn’t all he is about.

Ryan is a great dad to his kids, Ethan and Aurora. His combination of a teasing kid and a capable dad, makes things at their house very interesting, indeed. And now, I see Ethan displaying those same teasing tendencies. I guess it is something that is passed down from generation to generation. I think Ryan must be a fun dad in so many ways, because when I see him with his kids, they always seem to have such a great time. Ryan has always been great with kids. I remember him playing with some of his younger cousins and the great times they had too.

Ryan is a hard working man who takes good care of his family. He doesn’t put off the things that need doing, such as clearing the trees and snow off of their driveway after the recent storm we had. He had the driveway cleared almost before the storm was over. He also works hard at his job, so his wife, Chelsea can stay at home to care for their two 1175030_10200438894562472_1475851582_nchildren. That may mean he is a little tired at night, but that is simply prioritizing. You have to put the most important things first in your life, and that is exactly what Ryan does, every day.

But, I think, with Ryan, as with many other people, when they meet their true other half, they blossom into the person that has been hiding inside for most of their lives. When Ryan met Chelsea, his true self came out and you could finally see the incredible person that had always been there, only hidden. Today is Ryan’s birthday. Happy birthday Ryan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Allen-and-Ruth-Spencer-with-dogKids always seem to do things in grand style. They never start out small and work their way up once they have some experience under their belt. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, they always do things in a big way. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the things they are doing will not be done well, just that they might be over-done to a degree.

My Uncle Bill and my dad were pretty handy with tools and building things, so when they set themselves to the task of building a home for their dog Shep, they felt confident that they knew what they were doing and that they could do a good job. They loved Shep and they wanted him to have a good home to live in. In their minds, maybe Shep was a bigger dog than he was in reality or maybe they just wanted his home to be roomy enough for him to be comfortable. Or, it could have simply been a matter of their calculations being a little bit off…Uncle Bill doesn’t really clarify that. Nevertheless, when the house was built, it was…well, grand!! It wasn’t that they lined it with gold or anything, but it definitely had a vaulted ceiling.

When their mother, my grandmother saw the dog house, she got such a kick out of it that he dubbed it the two story dog house. When you look at it, she was right. It looked like it had a loft in the upper area. Of course, in reality, Shep had a smaller dog house that looked really big on the inside. If any of the kids had wanted to spend the night out there with the dog, they probably could have stood up inside.

Looking back as young men, I’m sure they have all had a good laugh a time or two about that old dog house. These days, they would never have wasted the wood on such an extravagant dog house, especially since all that open space probably provided less warmth than a smaller dog house might have, but they were little boys, trying to do a good thing for their beloved dog. I am equally sure that Shep appreciated their efforts, and never told them about it…if the house felt cold due to the extra space.

imageAs we head into summer, many people start making plans to go camping. Bob and I like hiking a lot, but we really don’t go camping…strange I suppose, especially considering the fact that my parents took my sisters and me camping every summer of our childhood. And, I liked camping then, but Bob and I like the comforts of a motel room, and we get our nature fix when we go hiking. I know lots of people would laugh at that idea, but to each his own, I say. Things change and people change, and that isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different thing than before. I still love to sit around the campfire at night, just enjoying the warmth and beauty of the flames, but it sometimes gets pretty cold at night, and in the early morning, and standing around a campfire in my coat wishing I was warmer, isn’t my idea of fun.

Still, the memories of the days when we went camping are fond ones. We used to sit around the campfire until midnight or later, and then sleep in the next morning. We woke up to the smell of the campfire and coffee brewing. It was a smell that sure could make you hungry, and then you still had to wait until breakfast was cooked before you could eat. The pine trees gave off a scent all their own too, and to this day, the scent of real pine trees, reminds me of camping…and of being out in the fresh air. Memories…like echoes of my past.

I don’t miss camping so much, but I miss those days in my childhood…days when we were all together, with no one missing. I think that was what made camping fun. Being out in the woods, but always knowing that my dad was there to keep us safe. Being outside at night, but knowing that Dad would keep the fire going, to keep the bears away. It was such a special time in our lives, and I don’t think I could feel the same about it now. And yet, I don’t think I will always be able to see, in my mind’s eye, those memories…the echoes of my past.

Love that babyEveryone thinks of boys and men being all tough and macho…at least when it comes to emotions, but that really isn’t always the case. In my experience, the fastest way to turn a guy from tough and macho to mush is a girl. Yes, girlfriends and wives will bring that out in a man, but the thing that really melts my heart is watching a man with his daughter or a boy with his baby sister. They just lose all that tough macho stuff, and become pretty much putty in her hands…living the rest of their lives wrapped around her baby finger, because she is quite simply their baby girl…their princess…their little darling…their everything.

The future will bring many frustrating times. She will be rebellious and argumentative. She will fight with them and annoy them. She will want to start dating My Girland going out with friends, leaving her poor daddy to sit up, just waiting for her to get home, and then waking up after a late night to go to work, whether he feels like it or not. Her clothes will cost more than he ever dreamed, because obviously a girl can’t have too many outfits…or shoes. And yet, somehow all that doesn’t really matter, because she is their girl. They feel that protective instinct kick in. She is fragile and tiny, and they want to make sure nothing ever hurts their little girl.

It’s funny how even little boys can tell that their is something very different about this new baby. You have to be more careful and gentle than with a brother. For her…and no one else, they will change their play from rough and tumble to girly things…and Lovin'Sissyyou had better never tell anyone about it! She is simply special. She can make her brother play house…and have fun. She can make him stop running around…and run to pick up her dropped toy, without even trying. All they want to do is make her happy. They will turn into a clown, making little faces at her just to get a smile. And yes, they will hug and kiss this girl…at least for now, because we all know that at some point in a boys life, he figures out that even his sister can have cooties, and then for a time, she might have to realize that she is temporarily contagious. But then again, maybe she always was. Maybe the contagion has just changed a little bit…from “I love my girl” to “Girls have Cooties” and back again, because she will always be their girl.

Josh helpingI finally got my Christmas decorations and my tree down today. My grandson, Josh came to help me. Some years are just like that. I love the holidays, but like many people I know, the un-decorating is…well, not so much fun. This year was messed up, because we had to put my mother-in-law in the hospital and then a nursing home on the weekend I would have taken down the tree. After that, there just never seemed to be a good time. We were either visiting her, or visiting and taking care of my father-in-law. Of course, there were a few moments mixed in there that might have been used for taking the decorations down, but we were just too tired to think about it.

This year reminded me of another year when I just couldn’t get to the task of taking down Pho4C9Bthe Christmas decorations. We were living out in the country then, and bowling every night of the week. We weren’t home very much, or as my sister, Alena would say, we weren’t country people…we were city people who slept in the country. And she would be right. We took a change of clothes and came home after bowling. Needless to say, it made taking our Christmas decorations down, a little difficult.

Our daughter and future son-in-law, Kevin had been dating a while by then, so Kevin felt comfortable teasing me about the Christmas tree that was still up in March, and I guess I deserved that one, because I suppose I should have found a way to get it down, but time just got away from me. Before I knew it, March had  arrived.  Then, the girls  and Kevin had decided  to take matters into their own hands.PhoB256

We were coming home from bowling one night, and when we pulled up, Kevin’s car was there too. He wasn’t usually there when we got home, so we wondered what was up. When we walked in to door, here were the three kids, taking down our Christmas decoration, and having a good time laughing about the fact that it had come to this. Needless to say, I was quite embarrassed, by their teasing, and vowed never to let that happen again. It isn’t March yet, so I guess I’m ok, but I’m sure that the kids have had a laugh or two this year too, because as we all know, the holidays really are over.

Winter has never been my favorite time of year because of the slick roads, wind, and cold, but one thing about winter that I love is the beautiful snow scenes. Sometimes, it is like looking at a Hallmark card. The snow glistens in the sunlight, like diamonds in a necklace. The leaves mostly gone are replaced with snow and frost…Winter’s lace.

Light snow falling gently to the ground, brings a sense of peace and quiet, so that you can almost hear the snowflakes touching the ground. The wind has calmed with the snow’s appearance, and it brings a quietness to both mind and spirit. If you happen to venture out in the evening, under the street lights, the snowflakes look like falling stars twinkling all the way to the ground. It feels like you are walking in a wonderland. It almost seems like make believe. The air is crisp and cold, and add that to the quiet, and you can feel like you are completely alone in the world.

A light snow that sticks to the tree branches becomes like a lacy dress, especially in the moonlight on a crisp, cold night. It’s hard to capture that in pictures sometimes, but when you do, they are amazing, and so you take a little bit of time to try to capture the perfect picture of Night Lace. Finally, you succeed, and then it’s time to head for home.

Walking home in the cold Winter air, makes you finally long for home, The cold air finally creeps into your bones. The snow flakes gently flutter to the ground, and make you want to snuggle up in front of a warm fire with a cup of hot cocoa, and just soak in the fire’s warmth. These Winter evenings seem to encourage those cozy moments by the fire, with the smell of the burning wood, and the crackling of the fire. The hot cocoa begins to make you feel tired, and ready for a warm bed and sweet sleep, but your mind continues to linger on the beauty of Winter’s Lace.

Kids play so hard. From the moment they get up until they fall asleep they are going. It’s almost like they are trying to cram a lifetime of play into each day. They don’t understand that there is always tomorrow. I love watching toddlers as they get to that point where they want to keep playing, but they just don’t have any more play in them. They start to get sleepy and they try to go faster and faster, until they simply fall asleep.

Sometimes that can be a parents dream…especially if the child is one who is hard to get to sleep, but it also seems like by the time the child falls asleep, it is late enough in the day that after their little nap…they will be up half the night. What is the parent supposed to do? Wake the child back up and deal with the grouchiness, or let them sleep and plan on a late night. It is a tough decision to make.

My grandson, Christopher was one of those play ’til you drop kids, but not the hard to get to sleep type, and he loved his sleep time, so we got to enjoy those all worn out moments. He was so funny. He would play so hard that he could fall asleep sitting up if, you weren’t watching. In fact, that seemed to happen rather often. Not everyone can sleep sitting up, you know. He just didn’t care. He would fall asleep in the middle of dinner or playtime. The need would hit him and he was out like a light.

He always made the funniest faces, and some of the funniest ones came when he was just waking up. That point of still being half asleep and half awake, made him look as if he had been given just a little bit too much to drink. Of course, that wasn’t the case, but he sure looked the part.

Yes, kids just don’t know when to quit. They don’t shop ’til they drop…the play ’til they drop. Sometimes, I think we are the ones missing out on things. We spend our lives slaving away at our jobs, and all too often forget to allow for a little play time or down time. Then the years fly by and we wonder where they have gone, and how we missed them. Maybe we should take a page out of their book and play until we are so worn out that we could sleep sitting up. Think of how contented we would feel!

As summer approaches, my thoughts drift back to summers gone by. Once school was out for the summer, the neighborhood kids had three months of wonderful, carefree days. We would run and play, or lay around in the shade reading a book or watching the clouds float by. Three months of freedom!! It was so relaxing, and looking back now, I’m sorry I took those days or granted. All too soon, they would be gone…just a memory.

We went swimming and sun bathing. And since I love the sunshine, this was the perfect time of year for me. I have always been a “Popsicle Person” so the heat and sun were my best chance of thawing out from the too long and too cold Winter. I relished the time I could spend outside. Then as now, the summer months are my rejuvenation time. I feel so dragged out during the winter, and when summer comes, I start to feel alive again. So…bring it on!!

At some point, every summer, our family took a vacation. It didn’t matter if money was tight, we always went somewhere. We camped out under the stars. The smell of the campfire was everywhere. Roasting marshmallows was a nightly event. The air was warm and the scent of flowers and pine trees was everywhere. We would sit around for hours…far into the night, just enjoying the beauty of the night. Our family loves a good camp fire so much, in fact, that we often have fire pits going during the summer evenings at home, just to be able to sit around and watch the fire, and smell the wonder scent of the burning wood. The days on vacation were filled with sight seeing, shopping for souveniers, fishing, or just relaxing. We were so blessed to have traveled to so many places.

As summer approaches, I begin planning our annual trip to the Black Hills, where Bob and I spend a week hiking in the hills. We will end up at Harney Peak at some point in the trip, and as usual, we will be sorry when our time there is over, because it is one of our favorite places on Earth. I am so ready for the summer months, that it is hard to wait. I’m thankful that April was, and May is starting out nice and warm, because a rainy Spring can put a big damper on my thoughts of Summer.

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