chores

My grand nephew, Isaac Spethman has always been an industrious young man. From the time he was just 7 years old, Isaac has had a job. I know that sounds odd, but I’m not talking about chores. Yes he had those too, but this was different. Isaac decided that he wanted a job, so he asked a local grocery store if he could have a job. They were amused, and told him to bring in a résumé. He went to his Aunt Liz Masterson, who is a teacher, because he thought she could help, and she created a résumé for him. When he took it in, I think the store was quite surprised, but they couldn’t resist, this industrious young man, so they gave him a job. Of course, with child labor laws, they could only have him work a few hours a week, and there were some jobs he could not do, but they let him sweep, and take out the trash, straighten, and other such jobs, and they paid him in goods, instead of money. They also framed his résumé and hung it on the wall. The little store has changed hands three times since Isaac went to work there, but Isaac continues to have a job with each new owner. They see that he is a quality worker, and that speaks so well for Isaac. He did different things for each owner, and they are very careful about what he can do because of laws, but they all love having him work for them.

In addition to his work in retail grocery, Isaac also frequently works with his Dad, Steve Spethman and for his Uncle Bruce Gothard on weekends doing various odd jobs. He worked for his Great Uncle Mike Reed out at his ranch picking up nails all over the property when they were tearing down some old sheep pens. There were nails everywhere! He was diligent and picked up many, many nails. The nails could either be reused, or were thrown away, so people didn’t step on them or run over them. Isaac also frequently asks his grandmothers, Cheryl Masterson and Marie Spethman if they have any odd jobs he can do. He’s sure a worker! He is willing to work hard for what he wants, and that has really gained him a lot of respect. Recently he has become one of the ushers at church, and he takes that job very seriously, making sure that he does it properly.

Isaac reminds many of us, in the family, of our dad and grandfather, Allen Spencer. Isaac even looks like him in some of the very young pictures we gave of him. Time will tell, if he will continue to resemble him as he grows up, but I wouldn’t be surprised, and I know my dad would really like that…especially his work ethic. Today is Isaac’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Isaac! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Our FamilyThe other day, as my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were out for a walk, I noticed that the crickets were chirping all around us. Now, I’m not a cricket fan, because they are, after all…a bug, but hearing them was not an unusual event in the summertime. On that particular evening, I guess I just noticed them more than usual. It was a beautiful summer evening, that was cooler that the really hot days we had been having, and with the crickets, it took me back to the summers of my youth. It didn’t matter if we were in the back yard or on a camping trip, the crickets chirping was just a classic summer sound. Then, when you add the birds and sometimes even frogs…well, it’s like going back in time to my childhood.

Summers in my youth were always carefree days with relatively few chores. We used to lay out in the back yard sunning ourselves, walk to the pool to swim in the afternoon, and then play games with our friends until it got dark, and sometimes even later. The sound of kids yelling, laughing, and talking seemed to be everywhere…like we were trying to live a year’s worth of life in three short months, because then school started again, and there was homework to be done at night. It left a lot less free time. Then, before we knew it, IMG_6794we were grown up, and our lives took on work and family obligations I wouldn’t trade my life now for those days, because lets face it. I love my life, but those memories are sweet, nevertheless.

I lived such a wonderful childhood. My family has always been very close. Our parents gave my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me so many great memories over the years, whether in travel or just at home. I can’t fully explain just how blessed we were. We had all the same obligations as kids, that most kids have. We weren’t spoiled children of privilege, we were just blessed…and I’ll take blessed over privilege any day. We took evening drives sometimes just to look at the lights of the city from lookout point or Event Center Hill…although the Event Center wasn’t there then. My sisters and I called the city lights, spread across the valley where Casper is nestled, the Jewelry Box. I have seen them so many times that I can picture them exactly in my head to this day. Those were such glorious, carefree days, of crickets and evening drives, and sometimes I miss them. We didn’t realize then how blessed we were. We just thought all kids Dad and Momhad that kind of life. We later found out just how wrong we were. If I mention some of the things we did as kids, people seem surprised…like it was unheard of. Maybe it was, but my parents just showed us the things they liked to do, like going for evening drives.

Those days are long gone now. They live only in my memory files, to be brought out when something like the chirping of a cricket, the smell of a campfire, or a drive down the mountain cause them to come to the forefront once again. The memories are a little bittersweet these days, because both of my parents are in Heaven, but they still remind me of what a blessed childhood I was given, and they make me thankful for the wonderful parents God gave to me and my sisters.

IsaacMy grand nephew, Isaac Spethman is the youngest son and middle child of my niece Jenny and her husband Steve Spethman. Isaac has always been a very motivated kid. He knew that there were going to be things he wanted and needed, and he was determined to get them for himself. With that in mind, Isaac decided that he needed a job. It was a good decision for a young man to make, as much of their adult life is spent being the bread winner, or at least half of the family bread winning team.

Since Isaac understood that concept, he set out to see what jobs a young man without a vehicle could find to do. The first thing he decided was that he needed to find a job that was nearby, and right across the street was the Grant Street Grocery store. Isaac figured that was a good a place to start as any, so he went over and asked for a job. I think the owner thought he was joking, and so he didn’t really take him seriously, but Isaac kept asking. Finally the owner said, “Well, Isaac's Resumebring me your résumé.” Being a young man, he had no idea what that was all about, but his aunt, Liz Masterson is a teacher, so he knew exactly who to go to for information on it.

When Isaac approached Liz, he told her that he needed a résumé. Liz was a little confused, because you see Isaac was just a little young for a job…or so Liz thought. She explained that a résumé was a letter telling of your job history and work experience. Isaac insisted that he have one, so Liz wrote it up. On the résumé she listed things like playing well with his brothers, taking out the trash, making his bed and cleaning his room, as well as miscellaneous assistance for his mom and dad, and other chores. It wasn’t much of a work history but it would have to do, because this was going to be his first job.

Isaac was so proud of his résumé. He took it, headed straight over to Grant Street Grocery and handed it to them. I guess they finally understood that he really wanted the job, because they hired him on the spot. He even had to have work boots…a hard thing to find. Isaac did all kinds of work, from sweeping up to taking out the trash, and even learning about the cuts of meat. He Isaac's work bootsmade a little bit of money each time he worked, but it wasn’t minimum wage, because you see Isaac was only six years old. It’s never too early to teach your children good work ethics, but in Isaac’s case, other than teaching him to do his chores, his parents didn’t really have to teach him anything, because he sort of taught himself. True, Jenny and Steve are hard working people, and leading by example is always the easiest way to teach people the right way, but who ever thought it would work so well with their young son, but it did, and Isaac now has his first job under his belt, even if it wasn’t for minimum wage, and the next time he needs a résumé, he will have one more job to add to it. Today is Isaac’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you bunches…now get back to work!!

Break TimeOpinions vary on the matter of child labor, and who can legally have their child work and at what kind of job. Some people take it to the point of saying that children shouldn’t even do chores around the home, which is, in my opinion, silly. It is my thought that children need to be helping out around the house, but beyond that I suppose the water gets a little bit murky. In the distant past, children were farmed out to spend their days working at a job that should have been done by an adult, and the kids really had no childhood to speak of. That is cruel treatment, and the current child labor laws prevent that from happening…unless people are so illegal that they do it without the knowledge of the government.

That said, there is a group of kids…even today that do work every day, and it is not illegal at all. These are the children of farmers and ranchers. I don’t know of any of those kids who don’t help out around the farm or ranch. There are stables to be cleaned, and cows to be milked, and animals to feed. There are also crops to be cared for and planted. These kids work and there is nothing illegal about it. Of course, their parents do have to Young Workersbe careful on a few matters. The children must get their schooling, and they have to be working on the parents farm or ranch.

Such was the case for my husband’s great uncles and his grandfather. Many people owned farms when those boys were young, and the kids helped out with just about everything. Most families back then really couldn’t afford to hire the amount of workers that it would take to run the place, so they hired what they had to, and the kids learned to work. I really can’t say that I think this is a bad thing. The kids often like the work…especially taking care of horses…since they often get to ride them too.

If you look back on the lives of our parents and grandparents, you will find that many of them grew up on a farm or ranch, and most of them were working to help out on the place at a very young age. Really, what a wonderful way to bond with the parents. Running a ranch or farm is a big job, and most kids like to do the things their parents are doing, because they want to be just like their parents. If a child is interested in doing the same kind of work their parents do, or take over the family farm, they need to know how to do this from the bottom up. What better way could there be, than to help out as a child.
A True Helper
Of course, not every family owns a farm or ranch, and while they may live in the country, they don’t have that kind of work to do. Still, the kids can and should help out with things. My nephew, Barry Schulenberg, loved helping his grandpa split firewood. He ran the splitter while his grandpa loaded the wood into it. Barry was about 4 years old, but you couldn’t have pulled him away from that job for anything. He was the one who did that, and that was all there was to it. Maybe some people would think he was a bit young, but there was never a single accident when he worked the splitter. I think sometimes we don’t give these kids enough credt. They can often do more than we think they can. They just need to be given a chance.

Clothes on the line 1It’s funny how some of the most insignificant things can spark a memory of childhood that takes you back decades in an instant. As I was looking through some old pictures, from when I was about 4 months old, I noticed something at the edge of the picture. My sister, Cheryl and I were the main focus of the picture my mom was taking, but she also go a picture of the clothes hanging on the clothesline. Many home still have that clothesline in the back yard. For most of those homes, it is a forgotten relic of many years now in the past. Most people don’t bother hanging their clothes on the line to dry. We have a dryer sitting right next to the washer for that job. Of course, if we want to get that sunshine fresh scent to them, we have to as a chemically infused dryer sheet to the dryer, because otherwise they simply get dry…nothing more.

I remember, as a kid doing chores, that one of those chores was to hang the clothes on the line, and later to bring them in, fold them, and put them away. Of course, the clothes didn’t have that dryer induced softness, and so they might feel a bit scratchy at first, but that sunshine fresh scent was wonderful. It wasn’t the heavily perfumed scent that the dryer sheet produces, but rather the light scent of fresh air. I suppose that if you didn’t pay close attention, you could miss that scent, and therefore would think it was probably just my imagination, but I can say that I hung enough clothes on the clothesline to know what that scent smelled like, and I liked it, even if I didn’t really like the chore of hanging and folding those clothes.

These days, I dry my clothes in the dryer, because quite frankly, like most people I know, Clothes on the line 2I don’t have time to spend hanging those clothes, waiting for them to dry, hoping the wind doesn’t blow them away, and taking them back down, before folding them and putting them away. The modern conveniences of the day win out in this day and age. And in reality, I suppose, seeing the clothes on the line in these pictures didn’t make me want to go hang clothes on the line, but rather it reminded me of the days gone by. The simple days of childhood, when the hardest chore was something like cleaning my room or handing clothes on the clothesline. We were so free then. No real obligations…we didn’t even have a part time job. We were kids, we did kid things, and we were living a carefree kid kind of life.

Doing the ChoresThrough the ages, kids have thought that the work done by their parents is fun. They do their very best to mimic everything their parents do. The funny thing is that often, the things they see as being vitally important, are the mundane tasks that we do because we must, but try to get done with as quickly as possible, because they are so boring. I’ve never been able to figure out why those tasks catch the eye of our little ones, or why they place more importance on those tasks than some of the really important things we do every day. I suppose it is just the difference between the thoughts of a child and the thoughts of an adult.
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All in all, it’s not a bad thing that kids like to mimic their parents, because before long, they can do the real chores that they were pretending to do before…if they still want to by then. Of course, that is when your real work starts, because when you tell your child to do their chores, most kids take on a look of being instantly half sick. Their shoulders drop, along with their smile. They look like they have run a marathon, and here you are making them slave around the house, when you know that the only marathon they have been running is a marathon session on the play station. Funny, how that can suddenly be exhausting when you ask them to stop and do those chores.
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Then, in your mind, you see that little kid, begging you to let them help, and if you were ever going to get anything done, you knew you were going to have to buy them a pint-sized version of whatever cleaning tool you were using. If you were ever going to get your work done, you were going to have to find a way for them to help you without actually using the tools you need, because you really don’t want to discourage them. The days that kids want to help are few and far between, after all, and before you know it, watching your kids doing the chores with a smile, are over.

Marion Chester LearyBob’s great grandfather was a single dad for much of his children’s young lives. He worked on the Northern Pacific Railroad as a yard clerk. It was a time in their lives when everyone had to pitch in. The kids, Bob’s grandmother, Vina, and her brother, Kirby had to get things done around the house, because their dad worked long hours at work. Those were different times. Kids at home doing their chores were much safer than they were in this day and age. The two of them knew that they needed to get the house cleaned and supper on the table by the time their dad got home…not because they were afraid of him…because they knew how tired he would be. Grandma spoke so highly of her dad, that I know she felt nothing but love and respect for him.

His occupation was a hard one, but it had its perks too. When his vacation time came around, their travel plans often included a train ride to somewhere. I can imagine how much fun that must have been. Not many kids in those days got to do a lot of traveling, and unless your dad worked on the railroad, or you had a lot of money, you probably didn’t get to ride on a train much either. I don’t know where all they got to go, but since I like riding trains myself, I can totally picture how excited they must have been every time they set out on a new adventure. I can imagine trips back east to visit family members who might have lived back there, or down south, maybe to see the Gulf of Mexico. So many places they might have gone…so many things they might have seen.

I have ridden a train for short distances, but never on a long trip. I can tell you that it is an exciting ride, and one I never get tired of, so I expect that Grandma and Kirby were thrilled every time they got on board. I think it would be so exciting to eat and sleep on the train…especially as young children, who already see life as one big adventure.

I wish I had been able to meet Great Grandpa Leary, but he was gone six years before I was born, and of course, years before I became a part of the family by marrying Bob, and so much too late to meet this man whose daughter always spoke so highly of him. I think he must have been quite a guy.

When Bob was young, he used to love to go to Montana to visit his grandmother. He would go almost every summer. He would help out on the ranch, milking cows, collecting eggs, feeding the stock, and anything else they were doing on the ranch. It was a young boy’s dream summer. Bob loved spending time with his grandma.

To a boy, getting to go spend part of his summer with his grandma was like winning the lottery. Grandmas are notorious for spoiling their grandchildren, even when they have them do chores. It just doesn’t seem like the same thing when it is for your grandma. Grandmas have a way of making chores fun, or maybe it’s just that when the chores are for your parents, it seems boring. Probably mostly because it is for your parents, right.

Bob never outgrew his love for spending time at his grandma’s ranch. As soon as he was old enough, he started going there on his own. Grandma loved having him visit. He even brought his friend Paul with him the last visit before Bob and I were married. He was so proud of his grandma.

After we were married, we continued the tradition of going to visit Grandma on a regular basis. She was so full of life. I quickly learned that Grandma had a way of making everyone feel special. She was so loving, and so welcoming. We went to visit her every summer. Our girls loved going, and Grandpa added to the draw that the ranch held, with his adventurous ways. We just never got tired of being there. They made it so interesting, and they really didn’t do anything so special. They were just themselves, and it was such a different world from what we were used to that we craved it at least once a year.

Grandma and Grandpa are both gone now and we haven’t seen the old ranch house in a long time, but they live on in my memories, as well as Bob’s. In my mind I can still picture the fun times we had out there. Our girls chasing chickens, and riding the horses. And while I wasn’t there at the time, my mind can dream up a picture of a little 10 year old boy spending the summer with his grandparents pretending to be a cowboy and helping with chores that were somehow fun when you did them for Grandma.

When my girls were little, and learning to do chores, I wanted to make it fun for them. Since they were little, they, like most little kids, loved having their picture taken. I got this crazy idea to take pictures of the cleaning process, and the girls loved it! Most kids are that way. Having their picture taken and being able to have a little memento of an event is just cool. And since I had a Polaroid…remember those…they could see the picture right away.

They were great little helpers, like most children at that age. And I think the pictures really inspired them. Too bad those years don’t last…right? All too soon, come the days when you tell them to do their chores, and all you hear in, “Oh Mom!! Do we have to!!” So, you enjoy those years while you can. The girls were always wanting to help out, and they did a pretty good job too. They were willing to listen and eager to please. You see, I thought I had it all figured out. And my plan was working too.

Unfortunately, with their teens, came boys and then cars, jobs, and other activities, and suddenly helping with housework just didn’t carry the same excitement…and pictures didn’t help…at all!! What is that all about? Pretty soon, just like every parent before me, I found out that the girls would do whatever it took to do just about anything but clean house. And I can’t really say that I blame them. I hate housework too…don’t you?

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