Grandchildren

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After an extra-long wait, my newest great grandson, Jusin King Todd Petersen has finally arrived. Justin went past his due date, but babies do have their own schedules. His parents, Athena Salazar and Josh Petersen have been so excited about welcoming their little boy, and everything seemed to be pointing to an early birth, but someone forgot to tell Justin that. Nevertheless, after an extra-long wait, Justin arrived on October 14, 2022, at 8:20am, weighing 7 pounds 5 ounces and measuring 19¾ inches long. He has dark hair, ten fingers and ten toes, and he is just perfect in every way. He is Athena and Josh’s first child, and they couldn’t be happier.

Justin is a sweet little baby, who calms immediately to his parents’ voices, and snuggles right up to them, as if to say, “Now, I know where I am.” That could be what he is thinking too, because being born puts a guy in a very different place than when he was living in his mommy’s tummy. It can seem a little too big and wide open out there. Nevertheless, Justin seems to be handling the transition very well. He’s just hanging out and chillin’ in the hospital room. So far, he just hanging out with his parents, grandparents, and the doctors and nurses, but soon he will be home, and there will be lots of new people to meet. If Justin thinks being out in the world was a shock, wait until he starts meeting new people. It’s a big world out there, baby boy!!

I am so excited for the next phase of Athena and Josh’s lives. They both love kids, and that means that Justin will not only have siblings one day, but he will have a wonderful life, filled with cousins and close family ties. Athena and Josh are very family oriented. They love lots of family time, and Justin will have lots of grandparent time too. Athena comes from a larger family while Josh comes from a smaller family, so there are two different views of family life. Nevertheless, they seem to be combining the two views very well, and Justin will have the advantages of both worlds. Having nieces and nephews makes Athena and Josh pretty much experts at the whole kid thing, and so they are pretty comfortable with a new baby. Nevertheless, they are first-time parents, and there will be initiations…some of which they have already experienced, like how very different changing a diaper is with a boy than with a girl. Soon though, they will be experts at Justin and his ways. I can’t wait to watch them as their little family grows. Welcome to the world, Justin King Todd Petersen!! We love you very much!!

My youngest grandson, Josh Petersen is not a kid anymore. In fact, he and his fiancée, Athena Salazar are about to become parents…likely before the end of this month, or at the very latest, early next month. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my “youngest” grandchild is so grown up and is about to become a daddy, but here we are. The years fly by so very fast. I remember when his mom dropped him and his brother, Chris Petersen at my house in the mornings. It was my job to take the kids to school each morning, since I went to work an hour later than my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. Josh always came in the door with the same words…”Treat Grandma!!” There was no “Hi Grandma” or “I’m here, Grandma.” Just “Treat Grandma!!” That boy was always hungry. In fact, as much as he ate, I have no idea how he stayed so skinny, but he was certainly a skinny little kid.

All through his pre-driving school years, I took Josh and his brother to school, and then picked them up after so they could go to the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. While it was really noisy, the kids always had a great time at the club. As they got a little bit older, I’m sure the pool tables and other “big kid” games were the big draw. Now finding those kids after the workday was over was a totally different story. There were so many kids there, that you really had to search hard to find your kids. It seems so long ago when those kids, Chris, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh were all in school. In so many ways, I really miss those days, but then if we were still in those days, I wouldn’t have the two great grandchildren I have, and little Justin, who is on the way.

His school days are over now, and Josh has become a man. He has met the girl of his dreams, Athena Salazar. Strangely, these two first met in middle school, and then reconnected when they were working together at Sanford’s. They knew right away that this was it…the real thing!! They have been inseparable ever since, and now their little family is growing, as they add baby, Justin. We are all so excited to meet him. Today is Josh’s 24th birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I never met my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, because he passed away on October 16, 1951, and I was born in 1956. Grandpa worked for the Great Northern Railway as a carpenter. You might wonder what a carpenter would do on the railroad, but if you think about it, the seats on those trains were wooden, and as such, they could break or age, and would need repairs or replacement. That is just one part of the trains and stations that is made of wood. Grandpa’s train carpentry comes to my mind every time I ride the 1880 train in the Black Hills. The work done to restore those old cars, which would have been in my grandfather’s era, makes me think of the kind of work he must have done. The work in those train cars is beautiful. It’s not all fancy, but it’s very nice work. I don’t suppose all the work he did would have been in train cars from the Gilded Age, but I’m sure it was nice for the time.

Grandpa also made furniture, and in fact was really pretty good at it. I wish I could have seen some of the things he made. As a carpenter for the railroad, you know he had a talent for woodworking. I’m sure that in his day, many people made their own furniture, and the best ones developed a real talent for it. There are a number of people in our family who have inherited that talent, and with the proper tools and great imaginations, they have gone further than what Grandpa did. I’m sure grandpa would have been shocked at all the things that can be done with wood these days, but I would love to have something he made, nevertheless.

Grandpa’s work on the Great Northern Railway afforded his kids, as dependents, a free pass to ride the trains whenever they wanted to. They just had to show the pass and they could go between their farm in Holyoke, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. They loved it, and my dad, Allen Spencer, loved trains until the day he went home to Heaven, and beyond. Of course, having a pass didn’t stop my dad and my Uncle Bill Spencer from hopping the train…a big no-no, but to them, a lot of fun. I sometimes wonder why they didn’t take away their passes, but I guess they figured that “boys will be boys” and after all they had a pass. They loved having their dad work for the railroad, because they loved the trains. Today is the 143rd anniversary of Grandpa Spencer’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Granda Spencer. We love and miss you very much.

My grandniece, Katie Balcerzak has been a part of our family, since she married my grandnephew, Keifer Balcerzak in 2015. Together they have two beautiful children, Reece and Aysa Balcerzak. They have been so blessed with two happy, smiling children, who bring more joy to their lives than they could ever have imagined. Reece was born in 2017 and Asa was born in 2021. Now their family is complete. They love doing all the fun activities, like sports and such. Reece is trying different things like t-ball, and while that may not be the sort for her, Katie and Keifer encourage her to give it a shot. They are good parents…always encouraging their kids and each other.

I liked Katie from the first time I met her. We have a few things in common, mostly that we both have sisters, and no brothers. It can make us feel unsure about having boys. While I didn’t have boys, I had three grandsons and only one granddaughter. Katie had a daughter first, and then her son. Either way, for a girl with all sisters, even if she had nephews, having those boys is a bit of a culture shock. Nevertheless, you adapt, and Katie has adapted beautifully. In fact, the love she has for both of her children shows all over her face. It’s just beautiful.

Katie has always been very close to her sisters. The bond they have reminds me of my bond with my sisters. There is something about a family of sisters. Girls think alike. They like the same things, and they like to share their hopes and dreams. The bond between sisters is like a best friend, but much closer. That is the bond Katie has with her sisters, Kellee Schuerman, Martha Simkin, and Bernnie Steadham, have had since they were little girls. Whenever they are together, you can see their love for each other by the smiles on their faces. There is a closeness, comradery, and sisterhood, that is forever. Katie has had the privilege of being a part of a wonderful family, and parents, Vicki Jammerman and Thad Davidson, who taught her and her sisters to be loving, nurturing, and kind people. Their parents taught them good values and it shows in their lives.

When Katie met Keifer, it was love almost immediately. They were young, but they knew that they would become a couple, and grow a family…and that is exactly what they did. They two sweet people were meant to be together. Theirs is a match made in Heaven, and it grows more and more beautiful with each passing day. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Melanie Harman is a sweet girl, who has been so good for my grandnephew, Jake Harman. I would be very hard-pressed to come up with the wonderful things that Jake has to say about his wife. Kake says, “Mel is the most beautiful woman alive, and I mean that physically, mentally, and spiritually. She loves God and whenever anything is wrong her first reaction is pray about it. She wants to give it to God, knowing He is the only one who can fix it.”

Melanie is a hard worker. Currently, she is working for Door Dash, and she has become one of the best loved dashers. When she walks into a place to pick up an order, she will sometimes be on the phone with Jake, and he hears the conversation. He says that everyone yells, “Hi Mel!!” Then, Jake can hear them fighting over who’s best friend she is!! That’s definitely Melanie, and it makes Jake so proud that his wife is so loved. She is always so happy and kind, that people can’t help but love her and want to be her friend. When Melanie isn’t door dashing, she works with her mom to clean their church Mondays and Thursdays. After cleaning, she will go door dash. It makes for a long day, but even after that long day she comes home to her 4 babies…counting Jake, that is, who are all demanding her time. Still, she keeps that beautiful smile on her face and gives each of them the time they need to feel loved.

Jake tells me that he just has no clue how she does it, but she somehow seems to give all of them all of her time. He said that he goes to sleep every night, thanking God for such a beautiful woman and sometimes, he wakes up in a bit of a panic, thinking Melanie was just a dream. Then, Jake says, “I roll over to see her peacefully sleeping and the beauty of my life starts all over because her smile lights up a room and her voice is the closest to what I picture an angel would sound like. She always knows how to handle us whether it is tough mom, fun mom, rude mom, or whatever we need, that’s what she is. She is the best part of each of our lives and definitely proof that God is real. I know He is because without Him she would not be possible.” How can I possibly say it better? Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My little grandniece, Elliott Stevens has been very busy lately. On June 24, 2022, Elliott had a life-changing event occur in her life, when she became big sister to Maya Stevens. Elliott was always a happy girl, and really, very comfortable in her life. I don’t think she even minded being an only child, but then she really didn’t know anything else, so I suppose it doesn’t really count. Now, however, Elliott has a little sister, and that have made her life even better than before. Elliott loves helping her parents, Kayla and Garrett Stevens with Maya, and she and Maya are fast becoming best friends, as well as sisters. You can see the love that shows on their faces every time they are together. Elliott has other activities too, so holding her baby sister isn’t something she can do all the time, although she would if she could. Elliott is getting to be very capable at holding her sister, and loves to make her smile, and help with her care in any way she can. Maya, looking lovingly at
her big sister and knows that before long she will get to play with her too. It’s baby sister love for big sister.

Elliott can’t take care of her sister all the time, because she has a number of fun activities, she is involved in. She takes swimming lessons, as well as, gymnastics, and she goes to daycare, where she has lots of friends that she enjoys spending time with. Elliott is also her daddy’s best little helper. Maya will become a good helper too, but she too little right now. Elliott and her daddy build things together and paint things too, like the playhouse her and her daddy built for her. Elliott works very hard, and I know her daddy appreciates all her help. She also loves going to the park with her parents, and now her baby sister too. She loves the swings and slides the best, I think. Now that her grandpa, Mike Stevens is retired, he and Elliott’s grandma, Alena Stevens can go to Sheridan for visits more often. Elliott’s other grandparents, Lynette and Wes Smiley live in Sheridan, so she gets to see them lots too.

Elliott is a girly girl. She loves makeup, princess clothes, and of course…heels. She even has her own play makeup, and she loves putting it on, even if she isn’t perfect at it just yet…but then what girl starts out putting on her makeup perfectly. We all have to experiment until we find our perfect look. Elliot also loves to spend time with her cousins, Brooklyn and Jaxxon Killinger. They like to go swimming, to the park…or just hang out. It’s a good life, and Elliott is enjoying every minute of it. Today is Eliott’s 4th birthday. Happy birthday Elliott!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I have watched my grandniece, Jadyn Mortensen, grow up since the day she was born. She has surprised me over the years…not because she couldn’t do anything she wanted to, but because she almost instantly became interested in horses. Maybe that wasn’t a surprise to her parents and grandparents, but since she lives in Rawlins, Wyoming and I live in Casper, Wyoming, I didn’t see her growing interest in her day-to-day life. I realized she loved horses when she was in town and out at her grandparents’ ranch. Seeing her with the horses there was a beautiful thing. She was just a girl of nine or ten years, but she was like a horse whisper…even then.

Jadyn is talented in many ways. Besides horses, she loves snowmobiles, motorcycles, 4 wheelers, boats, and I’m sure, a number of other sports. Still, for most of her high school career, Jadyn loved barrel racing. She was amazing. She won many awards, and her riding was so exciting to watch. Jadyn is fearless on a horse, and her horse is fearless when she is riding. They work and move as one unit. Not only is she an amazing barrel racer, but she is also very talented at trick riding…I guess that’s what you would call it. Standing on the back of her horse doesn’t scare her one bit, and that is amazing.

I suppose I could be biased when it comes to the riding ability of my grandniece, but that I’m not the only one who is impressed with her, so I guess that the corroboration makes all the difference. As she was preparing to graduate from high school, Jadyn received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wyoming to be a part of their barrel racing team. They saw how amazing she is too. I know that Jadyn’s college career is going to be a wonderful experience for her, but I think her parents, Amanda Reed and Sean Mortensen are going to find this coming year to be bittersweet. While they are excited for their girl to spread her wings and fly, they hate the fact that she is flying away from home. It’s not too far away, but too far to see her every day, like they are used to doing. Nevertheless, she is going to have a great year. Jadyn is planning to study mechanical engineering, so she will have lots of studying to do, on top of her rodeo events…and of course, hopefully a few fun events too. Jadyn is a level-headed girl, so I know that her studies will be her top priority. Today is Jadyn’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday Jadyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Zoey Iverson is a mature seven-year-old girl. It’s not a matter of seven going on thirty or anything, but rather a girl who has known all her life that those people she loves need her help, and she is ready, willing, and able to give that needed help. Zoey is one of the best “mommy’s helpers” around. When Zoey came into her mommy, Cassie Franklin’s life, Cassie was mommy to Lucas, a Down Syndrome baby, and while Lucas was doing well, he had so many things to learn, and that can be exhausting for a parent. Zoey instinctively saw that her mommy and brother needed a helper, and she knew that she was just the girl for the job. So, Zoey became her mommy’s assistant teacher and helper, and it is a role she continues to this day. To Lucas, she is assistant physical therapist, teacher, playmate, best friend, and the best form of encouragement. And with that Lucas thrived. Where he couldn’t walk before, he does now, and so many other skills have improved as well. Where some little girls are instinctively the “little mommy,” Zoey is so much more. It’s just a big part of her personality.

While Zoey is a great help to her mommy, she has other interests too. These days she is into tap dancing and had a performance recently at the fair in Powell. She and her classmates did awesome. I wasn’t able to be there, but thankfully her mommy is a photographer, and she takes great videos, so I got to watch. Zoey is a petite little girl, and so dance suits her perfectly. She is a natural dancer. Zoey always loved dancing around the house, and it makes her brother smile.

Zoey has been the little sister all her life, but the big news is that pretty soon she will also be the big sister. Zoey’s mommy, Cassie and her partner, Wesley Burr are having a baby soon, and in fact, they get to find out what they are having in about six weeks. I’m sure Zoey and Lucas are very excited to find out if they are getting a brother or a sister…as are the rest of us. I know that while her life is already busy these days, Zoey will be a great help with her newest sibling. She has aways had that natural instinct, and to have a new baby to hold and help care for will be just awesome. I am so excited for the whole family, and this new precious little life that is on the way. Things are sure getting exciting for Miss Zoey. Today is Zoey’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Zoey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Raelynn Masterson is very smart, but she, like so many other people, is also timid and shy. Once she gets to know people, she does great, but it takes a little while to get comfortable with people. In the past, she wasn’t aways confident in her abilities, or in herself, but she is working on that. For one thing, Raelynn was never really good at cooking, but these days she is not only spending time in the kitchen with her mom, Dustie Masterson, learning to cook, but she is learning about nutrition, and how to better take care of her own body and health, which of course includes exercise and fresh air too.

Raelynn has also been stepping outside of her comfort zone to make so new friends and hang out with them. The social aspect of things hasn’t always been easy for her, and like many people, when Covid hit, being on lockdown made the social interactions hard, and many people just started leading online lives. Stepping back out, or stepping out for the first time, is not easy, and I’m very proud of Raelynn for pushing herself to be more of a joiner.

Raelynn likes to write stories and develop characters for her stories. The friends she has made have similar interests, and they like to bounce ideas off of each other concerning their stories and characters. Sometimes it’s a big help to brainstorm together about what you want to do with a story or character. Also, every character needs a backstory. They need to have come from somewhere, and that isn’t always easy to develop or to make interesting. Raelynn is also into art and uses her drawings to illustrate her stories. Raelynn says that using her drawings in her stories “makes it easier for me to visualize that character and what they would do so I draw them at least once and then maybe later in a scene I wrote them in.” She doesn’t necessarily think she is very good, but I think that she is doing very well, and as with any skill, practice makes perfect. She knows that too. She is ok with the progress she has made. She obviously hasn’t seen anything I can draw, or she would really understand that she is leaps and bounds ahead of my skill level.

Raelynn may have held herself back in her earlier years, with shyness and a lack of confidence, but she is breaking out of that shell now, and like with any caterpillar, we are seeing the beautiful butterfly emerging. Raelynn has always been a beautiful girl, whether she knew it or now, but as she becomes more and more social, more people are able to see what we all saw…just how beautiful she is, inside and out. Today is Raelynn’s 19th birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

On July 26, 2022, my nephew, Riley Birky and his partner, Sierah Martin welcomed their new little son, Ryder Scott Birky into the world. Already the parents of Sierah’s son Jace, they now have a new addition to their little family. Jace is so excited to have a baby brother, and he can’t wait for Ryder to be old enough to play with him. Jace has been an only child for a while now, so having a full-time friend is a really big deal, and Jace is determined to be the best big brother ever.

Little Ryder was born at 9:48pm and weighed 7 pounds exactly. He is 18 inches long. His daddy, Riley was there to assist in his natural delivery, and his mommy, Sierah was a champion throughout the whole process. Sierah and Riley are already experienced parents, and good ones too. Having a second child is the next logical step in their lives, and they have been excitedly awaiting the glorious day, when their precious new addition would make his appearance. Ryder is a sweet natured little boy, just like his mommy. Sierah doesn’t let things get to her much. She has a calming effect on her whole family, and I think that is probably what drew Riley to her in the very beginning…along with the fact that she is a beautiful girl.

Riley’s mom, Rachel Schulenberg passed away January 19, 2021, and I am sad that she did not live to see her new grandson, but I know that she is in Heaven, and I know that she is rejoicing over this new family that her son, Riley has gained. I know that she has always loved her son very much, and that she is filled with joy over the direction his life is going. I can actually hear her excited voice saying, “Look at my son!! He’s a daddy now!! And look at my brand-new grandson, his mommy, and big brother!! Isn’t he just beautiful!!” I know that Rachel is already in love with little Ryder. She is one proud mom and grandma. Congratulations to Sierah, Riley, and Jace, on your wonderful new son and brother, Ryder!! We love him already!!

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