childhood

My brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock has had a very busy summer. Last year, he and his wife, my sister, Allyn purchased the land where his parents lived, and he grew up, and had the old home torn down, because it was in disrepair. Then, they built a new house on his favorite place on earth, his childhood home on the Platte River. The house was finished in time for the holidays last year, and because they love to entertain, we have all been the beneficiaries of their beautiful new home. The Spencer Family Christmas Party was held there and a wonderful time was had by all. We had the Spencer Family New Year’s Eve Party there and again enjoyed a wonderful party. And I know there will be many other gatherings to come, including a barbecue this weekend as our cousin Bill Spencer will be here from Wisconsin for a visit.

They still have work to do on the house, as they plan to finish the upper level, but the lower level is done. The spring brought with it, the beginning of the plans Chris and Allyn have for the outdoor areas of the property. They used the time of Covid-19 and Social Distancing for a retaining wall project on the east side of their house, where the builders dug the dirt out to build the house. It really does look great. That just goes to show what can be accomplished when we have lots of extra time on our hands. I think a lot of people had social distancing projects in the works. When you see your house all day long, you really begin to notice the things that need to get done.

Chris really loves to work on the land they now have, and the back yard that borders the river is a wonderful incentive to really make it into a sanctuary. Because I have spent time in their back yard, I can tell you that it was beautiful, peaceful, and quiet. Their home and property sits far back from any highway, and even far back from the closest road to get to their driveway. Their driveway is long, and the house sits in a little valley at the end of the driveway. That effectively eliminates traffic noises, and allows you to sit and listen to the birds and the river as it meanders by. Peace and quiet just doesn’t get better than that. I suppose it’s like camping out at your own house, except they aren’t sleeping in a tent or camper. Instead, they are sleeping in the awesome log bed that Chris made for them. Chris has a knack for wood work, having done work on other cabins, as well as chainsaw carving, both of which he excelled at. It is always nice when you can do some of the construction and other building work for yourself, as it saves a lot of money in the end. Chris has proven himself in all these areas. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister, Allyn Hadlock and her husband, Chris recently inherited the land his parents had owned, and the home where Chris grew up. The house was old, and had to be torn down, but they built a beautiful new home in its place. The move was a dream come true for Chris, to live in his childhood home again after his parents passed, but while my sister loved her in-laws very much, I was still surprised to see the joyous transformation that occurred in her when they began the work. Allyn has always been all about family, and she loved her in-laws very much, but this was different. It was like she became a kid again, just like Chris had done at the prospect of living in his childhood home again. They really love it out there in the country, by the river. It’s peaceful and they have plenty of space for the kids to run around and have fun.

The home is done now, and they are living there. The child-like elation has very much continued. At Christmas, they hosted the family Christmas party, and we all had a great time, but it was more than that. Recently, they had a gathering of their family at the house, and the reality hit me. They had started their second childhood. With the recent snows, and the perfect sledding hill right in their back yard. Having the kids out to go sledding is a pretty normal activity, but the grandparents don’t always get out there to go sledding with the kids. Still, its not like my sister and her husband are…old. She is seven years younger than I am, and my husband, Bob and I love to hike…some pretty difficult trails. That said, while physically, I could go sledding, I’ve never particularly been a snow and cold kind of person, so sledding is not an activity that is on my radar, but it apparently is something that is on their radar, and they truly love doing it. That’s obvious.

Nevertheless, for my sister and her husband, who have a number of smaller grandchildren, it was the perfect kind of day. Looking at all the pictures my nieces, Jessi Sawdon and Kellie Hadlock took, and the stories they told, I could clearly see that the day was very special to all of them. My sister is all about her family. She is a wonderful mom and grandma, as well as a wonderful wife to Chris. They have a great place now, out in the country with a great hill to sled on and the river nearby for summer fun. It is a dream come true for both of them, and I am very happy they have this place, I also know that Chris’ parents would be thrilled to see their home continue to be home to their family. They would love that the children are back running around the place having the time of their lives. And I think they would be smiling. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Throughout their childhood, my nieces, Michelle Stevens and Lindsay Moore were the best of friends. They were always having adventures…usually funny ones. The girls at one time decided that they needed a secret language, so that they could communicate all their little girl secrets privately. Of course, in reality they were talking gibberish, but the language sounded close enough to legitimate, that it might have fooled the untrained ear. The girls loved to talk their secret language…especially in public. They actually got pretty good at it, and might have even understood each other, as can happen in these developed childhood languages.

Michelle’s imagination was quite good. She likes to tease people in pure “Michelle” fashion, by telling people she was on her way to their house, when she was actually at home. She even went so far as to say she was outside their house, and could see them through their window…when in reality, she never really intended to come over at all. She was quite funny, and I think maybe her imagination soon led to her chosen career…art.

After Michelle graduated from Black Hills State University, with a teaching degree and an art degree, she moved back to Casper, Wyoming, hoping to get a job in the local school district. With the country in a downturn, schools were closing, and jobs weren’t available. So, Michelle found another type of dream job. The Nicolaysen Art Museum snatched her right up for a teaching position there. Michelle loves working with the various groups, teaching art projects and classes with people of all ages. Veterans, home schoolers, art club, seniors. This is a different kind of teaching than she thought she would be doing, in that the students are of all ages. That is an unexpected pleasure for Michelle, who didn’t expect to be working with adults, when she went into teaching. She absolutely loves it.

For an artist, the art museum is a favorite place to be, and she love the Nicolaysen, and takes great pride in it, as well as working there. Recently, Michelle was chosen to do an Art Integration Conference for teachers Professional Development. It was a great honor. She was a presenter for one of the sessions, at which time gave a lecture about Art Basics for the Non-Artistic. Hmmm…I should have attended that one, since Michelle has more artistic ability in one strand of hair, that I have in my whole body. Her lecture was a quick breakdown of Introduction to Art, after which she gave the teachers various strategies on ways to integrate art into any class. The people at the museum are super impressed with her and have put their faith in her. Her boss, Zhanna wants her to help her develop a whole Art integration Conference for 2021. We are very proud of her.

Time changes things, and for Michelle, that means that with the improving economy, the Natrona County School District is once again looking at her for teaching positions. She will start substitute teaching in the school district in January, and she is hoping to land one of the three art teacher positions opening in the school in June. Of course, that would mean leaving the Nicolaysen…a move that saddens both Michelle and her work family at the Nicolaysen. She has not finalized her plans in that respect, but it is an opportunity that will be impossible to pass up. We all wish her well, in whatever decision she makes. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Few days make me dread writing my daily story, but then few days in my life have marked the beginning of such drastic change in my life either. It was December 12, 2007, twelve years ago, and my dad, Allen Spencer had been sick, or recovering for a little over two years, after being hit by Pancreatitis on October 1, 2005. My sisters and I had been caring for Dad, and our mom, Collene Spencer, who was diagnosed with Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma in her brain in July of 2006. Mom’s tumor was gone quickly, and there were no other serious concerns with her, but Dad’s care required much more. Everything seemed to be going well, but Dad’s liver was giving out due to the intravenous feeding, something we couldn’t really see…or at least something we didn’t know to expect as a possibility.

My dad had always been the “rock” of our family. None of us ever considered that he was not as strong as he once had been. We knew that no matter what was going on around us, Dad always knew what to do about any problem. It was a very comforting feeling in a family where he was the only original male. Of course, his daughters were married now, and a few grandsons had also been added to the mix, but for our childhood years, my sisters, Cheryl, Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I were the kids they had, and so Dad was the only male. He was used to being the man with the answers, and we always looked to him when we needed those answers. It was difficult to see him in a state of weakness, but we would fight for his survival with all we had…never expecting to lose the fight.

With Dad’s passing on that awful December day, our world was forever changed. We were now going to need to take care of our mom, who needed us more than ever. While her health was ok, she didn’t drive anymore, and wasn’t as mobile as she had been before. We had promised Dad, we would take care of her, and as with Dad, we wouldn’t have it any other way for Mom. It wasn’t just the change is our care structure that changed either. Everything changed with Dad’s passing.

We had seriously never expected to live on this earth without our parents, and now that entire perspective had changed. We knew that very likely the day would come when both parents and our parents-in-law would be gone. We knew that we were going to be the leaders of our families. It was up to us to keep our families close, as Mom and Dad would have wanted us to do. There would now be great grandchildren who have never met their Great Grandpa Spencer, and later Great Grandma Spencer. It was up to us to tell the kids about their great grandparents, so they wouldn’t be forgotten. t was up to us to tell them that their Great Grandpa Spencer was a World War II Veteran, who fought bravely for his country…to make sure that his legacy lived on. It is a big responsibility, and sometimes seems impossible, but we must, because our Dad showed us the way we should live, and we must now live it. There is no other choice. Twelve years ago today, my dad began his life in Heaven, and we miss him every day. We can’t wait until we will be reunited again. We love you Dad.

Years ago, my mom, Collene Spencer told me about witnessing a plane crash as a little girl. I wish I had thought to get more information from her then, but at the time, all I could think of was the vision of the crash she told me about, and specifically the airplane in a corkscrew nosedive toward the ground. She said she didn’t hear any engine sounds, and she thought the plane was a piece of paper at first, but then she realized that it was a plane. I didn’t think to ask where she was at the time…whether she was at home or if the family was rock hunting or something. I wish I had asked more questions, back when I had the chance to do so.

Rather than asking questions, I began to try to research plane crashes in the area over the years of my mom’s childhood. I had expected it to be an easy search, given all the information on crashes that is out there these days. I was wrong, and by the time I decided that I needed more information from my mom, she was gone. I tried asking my aunts about the crash, but they did not remember it. It’s possible that they didn’t see it, and so they were unable to help me with it.

After much research, I have found possibly the only plane crash my mother could have seen at the age she would have had to be…provided she was close to her childhood home when she witnessed the crash. The crash would have been a B-17 bomber on a training maneuver 25 miles north of Casper, Wyoming. The biggest problem with this crash is the 25 mile distance from Casper, but looking north from Casper, you can see a very long way, provided you are near the events center, which could have been a possibility back then. The distance could also explain the lack of engine noise, if the engines were still working as the plane was going down, which is unlikely.

The plane, which crashed on March 3, 1944 was carrying three officers and five enlisted men. There were no survivors in the crash, which is in line with what my mother told me about the crash. The bomber was on a combat training flight, according to Lieutenant Colonel Marcus A. Mullen, station commandant, who said that the cause of the crash was not yet determined but that a board of officers had been named to investigate. The dead were later identified as Captain Charles W. Bley of Berkeley, California, Second Lieutenant Eugene E. Ravera of Newton, New Jersey, Second Lieutenant John A. Williams of Morristown, Tennessee, Staff Sergeant Carl E. Cleveland of Sunbury, Ohio, Sergeant George P. Peterson of Perry, Ohio, Sergeant Vernon E. Arne, Stewart, Illinois, Sergeant Duane T. Zefah of Cushing, Minnesota, and Corporal Elmer L. Walters of Pawpaw, Illinois. I can’t say, for sure, that this was the plane crash my mom saw when she was a little girl, but it is noteworthy, and so worth telling about. I know that the crash was something that my mom never forgot, even though she would have only been eight years old at the time.

Many people think of Kindergarten as almost a play date. They think of a classroom filled with toys, books, and craft supplies, as well as a playground for recess. Many people think of it as a daycare for working parents, and of course, a place for early childhood development. All these are good things, but this was not the original plan for the creator of Kindergarten, German born Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel. He wanted it to be a place that was both ‘a garden for children’, where children meet with environment and also ‘a garden of children’, where they play together and express themselves in a smaller garden world by means of play with their age group. He believed that “children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.”

I’m sure this sounds odd to most of us, but when you look at his background, I think you will understand why he felt the way he did. Fröbel had an unhappy childhood with a severe step-mother. He was abandoned and treated in a strict fashion as a child. He got to know what happiness was, when he was living with his uncle’s family while studying at high school. He had a huge desire for education, strong Christian faith and love of nature. He studied mineralogy in Jena, Germany and architecture at the Berlin’s Humboldt University. Inborn skills of an educator helped Fröbel to realize the failure of teaching system because of its incompleteness and the failure to include the outside world in the educational process. The first kindergarten was established by Fröbel in Bad Blankenburg in 1837. He renamed his Play and Activity Institute to a ‘kindergarten’ two years later in 1840. That Bad Blankenburg Infant school used play, games, songs, stories, and crafts to encourage children’s imagination and broaden their physical and motor skills. “Kommt, lasst uns unsern Kindern leben” Come, let us live with our children’ turned into the catchphrase of the early childhood education.

Friedrich Fröbel also used studying and nurturing plants in a garden for stimulating children’s interest in the natural world. In reality, we can trace the similarities to the Montessori school system and the Pestalozzian consideration of importance to grow up in harmony with nature. Fröbel paid much attention to preparing for further school education by training the children through the complimentary self expression, creativeness, collective involvement, and motor activity. He considered training of all the vivid faculties: artistic, imaginative, linguistic, arithmetical, musical, aesthetic, scientific, physical, social, moral, cultural, and spiritual, complete growth and harmonious development to be even more important than any kind of knowledge. Fröbel’s kindergarten system flourished globally. Most kindergartens were organized for children of all social classes, ethnic groups and religious believes, Jewish as well as Christian. Fröbel’s vision of kindergarten seems to be so familiar and proper, however it was a fresh and revolutionary look on early childhood education in his time.

Caryn abt 3rd gradeSixty years…it is an age that many people dread, but for some reason, it just doesn’t bother me. When I look at my life, I find that there are memories over the past six decades that I will always want to keep in my memory files, but would I go back in time, if I could? No, I don’t really think I would. Each event in my life had it’s time and it’s place in the years of my life, and one would not fit in with the other. Knowing what I know today, would without doubt, detract from the memory of a different time, because I would know that someday loved ones would be gone, or children and grandchildren would move away. It would only serve to dim the brightness that goes along with a memory that carries with it, a promise of the future.

Through the past sixty years, many things in our Caryn Spencer 15 yrs oldworld have changed so much that going back would feel like we just entered the Stone Age. No, I’m not as old as dirt, as some people might say, but my generation has seen the invention of the computer, the Space Shuttle and the Space Age, the cell phone, DVD players and the versions that have come and gone before them, Skype and Facetime, the internet, and so many other great inventions. People from sixty years ago…could they step across the distance of time…would have passed out at all the things we have, and yet many of those very people invented the things we have today. The price of gasoline in 1972, when I started driving was just $.36 a gallon…and we didn’t like it much then, but let’s face it, riding the strip was simply not negotiable…everyone with a car did it. It was the weekend evening pastime for every teenager, and it didn’t matter if you lived in Casper, Wyoming, or Los Angeles, California…somewhere out there was a strip, waiting Caryn at 60to be driven on.

Those memories, and so many others, will always live in my memory files, but I still don’t think that is the place I would want to be now, because lets face it, we’ve all moved on from that world and that lifestyle. There are other things we would rather do now. Childhood, adolescence, teenage, and even young adulthood, would all be things I just don’t want to relive, except in my memory and my stories. Besides, I kind of like where I am in my life right now. That’s because I think that each stage of life is perfect in itself. And I’m right where I want to be.

11694089_10204683045098070_3668387031740809078_n11223795_10204683045538081_1404549543291501804_nPeople may think that having children is a way of staying young, or reliving our childhood, but in reality, having children ages the parents. They go from being free from responsibility to being surrounded by responsibilities. Diapers, feedings, and lots of tears give way to school days, after school sports, and homework…which gives way to the terrible teens, dating, and driving. By the time they have graduated and moved out, you tend to feel either old, or overwhelmed at the thought of an empty nest, wondering where all the years have gone. Ok, those years weren’t that bad, but if all that happened in a short time, you would feel completely shell shocked. Being a parent is a big life change. Of course, all too soon, those years are over, and our children are grown up. Suddenly, when we are once again free from responsibility, we just don’t feel the same about it anymore.

Then, just as suddenly our kids bless us with grandchildren, and in the absence of the parental responsibility, we find out that it isn’t our kids that keep us young, but our grandkids. We find ourselves going outside and playing with the kids again, and not just pushing them in the swings. Sometimes we have to wonder what we were thinking. When we try to do cartwheels, or skateboard, or jumping on the trampoline, and realize that maybe we were being young, or maybe we were being foolish. When my grandkids were first getting cell phones, they brought me into the 21st century where a cell phone was not just for talking on, because if I wanted to staying touch with them, I had to text. It was the thing. Thankfully that wasn’t dangerous. Then came Facebook, which I originally got of to keep up with my teenaged grandchildren’s busy lives…I know, I know, my Facebook use has exploded from there…what can I say. The things we do for our grandkids…right. But then, I would do anything for them, and I think they know that. Basically, what I’m saying is that my grandchildren have kept me young. How amazing is that.

That is what my cousins, Terry and Shannon Limmer have found out too. With grandchildren from wagon to bicycle age, they have re-experienced all of those life events that kids go through. One day, Terry got the idea to see if he could still ride a bike. Supposedly, it’s something you never forget how to do, right. The biggest problem I 11221903_10204685941610481_9165805021070964704_n11800126_10204685940530454_5069537387030457008_ncan see here is that Terry is pretty tall, and his granddaughter, Trinity’s bicycle is pretty little, since Trinity and her twin brother, Triston Patsie are just 9 years old. Nevertheless, Terry proved that he’s not old. He’s still got it, and that includes a bicycle that is far too little for his tall frame. Shannon also proves to the kids that she can still play, and she can either pull or be pulled in their wagon. Their play with the kids is that of adults going through a second childhood. It’s what we do for our grandchildren, because our grandchildren help us to be young again.

Alena Spencer Stevens, Caryn Spencer Schulenberg, Cheryl Spencer Masterson, Caryl Spencer Reed, Collene Spencer, Allyn Spencer HadlockAs little girls, my sisters and I would get very excited when our different grown cousins, aunts, or uncles would come over. Like all little kids, we would want to hang out with the adults, and tell them about everything we knew…or could dream up. I think this is as common among kids, as breathing is. Maybe it is about someone new to listen to your stories or maybe it’s that everyone in the household has already heard them, so they don’t want to listen again…or maybe it’s just that you like the person who has showed up. Whatever the reason, you just can’t seem to hold yourself back…or at least that was how it was when I was a kid.

Now, fast forward about 50 years. A couple of days ago, I had to take some groceries to my nieces house for my grandson’s graduation party, which she is graciously holding at her home for my daughter. I had called to let them know I was coming, and they were on a walk, so when I got there, I just waited in my car. Pretty quickly, two of my grand nephews, Xander and Isaac came running up to my car. They had run ahead, obviously excited that I was there. Xander is twelve now, and so was a little better able to contain his excitement, but Isaac being only eight, was not able to do so as easily. While Xander ran back to let his parents know I was there, Isaac decided that he could bring everything up to the porch. He proudly carried five bags at once, and the bags were up on the porch in no time.

After his parents got back to the house, we were inside talking, and the kids, including Zack and Aleesia, all 1374780_10200970626643807_1769404481_nwanted to tell me or show me things. They were so excited to have me there. I was suddenly taken back those 50 plus years, to my own childhood, and I could so completely relate to how they were feeling. I could tell that their parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, were thinking that they should stop the kids from chattering, but for me, it was really cute. I guess that it gave me a picture of what my sisters and I had looked like to our family members all those years ago. I don’t think they were ever irritated with us. They just knew that we loved them very much. As I recall, they always listened to our stories and made us feel like we belonged…never acting like we should just go play. I thought that now, I was that aunt that all the little ones were so excited to see and talk to. It made me smile, because it was such a special place to be.

Cheryl getting ready to kiss CarynBeing the second child in a family is a special place to be. I know this because that is exactly what I am. The first child in a family comes home as the only one. There are no playmates waiting there. They must make their own way in every step of those early years. But, as the second child in a family, I didn’t have to make my own way, because I found my sister there. My older sister, Cheryl made my homecoming and the years that followed so special. Cheryl, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not found you there.

As little girls, Cheryl and I had great times. She was such a great big sister, and since there were three years in which she and I were the only children, we had lots of time to become close. I love watching the old movies of us playing, because of just how comical two little girls can be. My sisters and I are in the process of transferring the old movies onto DVDs, so we will be able to watch them Sisterson our televisions. I know we will all enjoy them immensely.

Over the years, Cheryl continued to show me the way. Her style and abilities were standards I looked up to. During my awkward years, I was able to look to her as role model. I could never quite figure out how she could always manage to be so together, when I was such a mess, but she was always willing to help me to be more comfortable in my own skin. I really can’t tell her just what a blessing it is to have her as my sister and my friend. It is just another reason that I have felt so blessed to have found her there when I came home.

In the past few years, our friendship has grown stronger and stronger. I find myself very much enjoying spending Thursday evenings with Cheryl. It is our traditional evening together, that began as an evening with Cheryl and our mom, Collene Spencer, and now has become just Cheryl and me, and sometimes her daughter Dad, Caryn, & CherylLiz Masterson, who has added a wonderful aspect to our evenings. Those Thursday evenings have become such a special time for me.

As I look back on our lives, I find myself more and more thankful that I found Cheryl there when I came home as the second child, as well as being thankful for each of my sisters as they made their grand entrances. Having four sisters is such a blessing, because girls usually think a lot alike on matters, but having such an amazing oldest sister has been a wonderful blessing for us all. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! I’m so glad that when I came home, I found you there. Have a great day!! We love you!!

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