Christmas party

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!!

My niece, Michelle Stevens sees things that most of us would miss. Of course, when I say that, I am talking about seeing art in things most of us couldn’t even imagine. Not all of these things were her ideas, but she could make them work, because she is very talented. Her artwork is truly prize winning. Michelle has studied every form of art in her pursuit of her art education degree, and I think she could do any of them and will no doubt create some in the future.

Michelle has taken up crocheting. I did that once, but I don’t think I was nearly as talented as Michelle. She made a beautiful blanket for her little niece, Elliott Michelle Stevens. It is beautiful in gray, pink, and white. Little did Michelle know at the time she was making the blanket, but her sister-in-law, Kayla was decorating Elliott’s room in pink and gray. The blanket fit in perfectly. Of course, becoming an aunt to Elliott has been the biggest change in Michelle’s life for this year. She doesn’t get to see as much of little Elliott as she would like, because she and her parents live in Sheridan, and Michelle lives in Casper, but she is still Aunty Michelle, and that is very cool. Michelle has also taken up sewing with a sewing machine her mom, Alena Stevens gave her. She wants to make quilts and things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few little baby outfits make their way to Elliott for her Aunty Michelle either. Michelle sees many different things as art, and she is very good at all of them. She makes wreaths, pottery, and is planning to take up mosaic glass art. Even Michelle’s fur babies, dogs Obie and Leia got gifts. She made them stockings, because she loves those puppies like babies and I hear they are spoiled rotten. Michelle is an artist in every sense of the word. Oh…to have such talent!! Unfortunately it is not in my sphere.

On top of all her artwork, Michelle is a great cook. When we had our family Christmas party last weekend, Michelle made crab stuffed mushrooms. They were amazing. Michelle loves to cook, and like everything else in her world, she considers it a form of art too. The more creative she can get with it the more she likes it. Oh…to have such talent!! Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

img_6049Last night my sisters and I, along with our families, got together for our 2nd annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. Our family made a commitment long ago, to stay close as a family. Family is so important, and all too often, people lose touch, because they don’t realize the importance of family, or they think there will always be time later. It is never a good idea to put off family until later. I’m thankful that my mom’s parents, George and Hattie Byer asked their kids to stay close, inspiring the annual picnic and Christmas parties to keep us all close, because it was those events, that gave us the inspiration to do the same. Then, our sister, Allyn Hadlock, and her husband Chris decided to host the annual party at their house. What a wonderful blessing that has been for all of us. This year was a smaller crowd, as there were several family members who will be spending Christmas in various locations across the United States, but I know they were there in img_6043spirit. Of course we missed each one of them, but we understand. I hope that maybe one day, we will be able to have a party with all of us together again.

The one thing that I have noticed about each of the two parties we have had since our parents left us, is that when we are having the party, it’s like Mom and Dad are there with us. Part of the reason is because of the fact that the conversation always turns to them, and to Christmastimes of the past. The memories of special gifts given and received, moments of surprise, and comical moments too, flood the room…along with the laughter as we reminisce about the Christmases of our lifetimes. Still, it always leaves us with an almost bittersweet feeling. Sweetness, because we have been blessed with such great parents, and that we are making the proud, but bitter, because they aren’t here with us. Nevertheless, we know that we will all be together again.img_6026

We really have been blessed with wonderful sisters, and all of the other family members. The family has grown exponentially. Like my mom’s family, we are related to about half of the town. That part in itself is an amazing and wonderful thing. We all feel very blessed by all of the nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the wonderful additions that have joined us by marriage. This time of year, we start to think more and more about family, and while I miss my parents more that I could ever say, I am thankful for my sisters, everyday, because sisters really are forever friends.

Mom's Sweater000_0007A few days ago, our family held the first annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. It was a little bittersweet, and at times very sad, because things were very different from what they had been just 10 months earlier. Our holidays are all in the process of being redefined. With our mother’s passing, on February 22nd, we knew that everything would naturally change, and everything has. Nevertheless, like the Byer family…which is our mother’s family…we knew that our parents would not want their daughters to drift apart after their passing, so our youngest sister, Allyn Hadlock, and her husband Chris decided to host the first annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. This first year was filled with some special gift exchanges which included home made jerky, reproductions of special pictures of Jesus that had been in Mom and Dad’s home, special Bible verse plaques, and flash drives that held old family pictures from our childhood. This was an emotional gift exchange, filled with sisterly love and sharing…and yet lacking in the one thing we wanted there more than ever…our parents. Since that was not to be, we had to settle for a Christmas party they would have absolutely loved…and on that note, we succeeded is a very spectacular way.

Having gone through most of our parents things, we knew which things were precious, and which things brought back sweet memories. One of the things that brought back sweet memories of Christmases past, was 1426135_10153151378577237_3060145788597431175_n6042_10153151378082237_5880498802184847998_nthe Christmas sweater that Mom always wore that day. Your really couldn’t call it Christmas until you saw Mom in that sweater. She also wore a goofy necklace with Christmas lights on it. Our sister, Alena Stevens got that sweater, and decided to wear it to that Christmas party. It was almost like having Mom there, or at least like the echo of Christmas past. It really was a special treat to see that sweater. The necklace went to my niece Jessi Sawdon, and while she didn’t think of wearing it to the party, she wore it to church the next morning, so the echo of Mom at Christmases in our past was complete. I don’t think that we could celebrate this particular Christmas without the Christmas Sweater. That’s what kept Mom close to us.

There were of course, some new faces at this year’s party, but it seems there always are. We had several boyfriends or girlfriends who joined us. The grandchildren are getting so grown up now, that we are almost to the point of another growth spurt in the family. In fact at the time of the party, my grand nephew, Jake Harman and his fiancé, Melanie Price were expecting a baby, but at the time of this writing, she has already arrived. Little Miss Izabella Siara Harman made her grand entrance at 12:55pm on December 21, 2015, weighing in at 5 pounds 11 ounces. This year seems to be a year of firsts…some good some not so good. 12370712_10153151379212237_3161729108663980941_o12391807_1668040590133092_7724041499587443344_nIzabella’s arrival was definitely a good first. She is the first great great granddaughter of my parents, Collene and Al Spencer, the first great granddaughter of my sister Cheryl Masterson, the first grandchild of my niece Chantel Balcerzak, and the first child of my grand nephew Jake Harman…as well as the first sibling of Melanie’s daughter Alice. She has turned some of us into great grand aunts and uncles, and others into aunts and uncles. She joins a huge family, with more to come in the future. We are all so very blessed and I know that our parents would be so proud and happy too.

IMG_8055IMG_8058Every year, my mom’s family gets together to celebrate Christmas as a family. Of course, it isn’t on Christmas, but rather a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas. They get together to stay close to each other and to honor their parents’ wishes that they not drift apart. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer, like her sisters looked forward to that party every year. She planned the little gift that she would make for each of her sisters. She worked on them with great care, planning every detail, so they were just perfect for each of her siblings. There was always that special moment when the siblings would gather at one of the tables and exchange those precious little gifts that showed how much they loved each other. It was always such a sweet thing to watch. It was never about the gift they received, but about the love they all had for each other. I felt a sting of sadness, because Mom and Aunt Evelyn weren’t there at that precious moment of sisterly love. Nevertheless, I was happy for Aunt Virginia Beadle, IMG_8047IMG_8060Aunt Bonnie McDaniels, Aunt Dixie Richards, and Aunt Sandy Pattan, because they still had that precious time together.

As the years have passed, fewer and fewer of the siblings remain, and this year, we lost two more of the sisters, my mom and my aunt, Evelyn Byer Hushman. Everyone felt the sting of those new absences, and my aunts tried to console us and we them too, but it really didn’t do much good. We simply cried together, because we missed them so much. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our own grief, we can forget that there are others who loved our loved one too. I somehow hadn’t grasped that thought before, but while talking to my aunts, I realized that they are grieving as much as we are. These were their sisters, who they had known all of their lives, and they missed them too…very much.

IMG_8052IMG_8068This Byer Family Christmas Party was different in several ways, but it was also the same in many ways too. The same people that usually come, were mostly there this time too. These are the family members who have embraced Grandma and Grandpa’s dream of a continuing close family. These are the ones who have strived to keep the future generations of the family close too. We have a wonderful heritage in our family. Our grandparents left us a legacy of love. Those connections warm our hearts with every party or picnic. We are all busy, and seeing each other every day…other than on Facebook…is very hard to do, but these precious family gatherings will always keep the legacy of our grandparents alive.

As I walked around the room, talking to the different family members and taking too many pictures to possible show here, I could hear the echoes of those aunts and uncles who are in Heaven this year…Aunt Evelyn IMG_8056IMG_8048Hushman, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my mom and dad, Collene and Allen Spencer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and of course of Grandma and Grandpa Byer. It was as if they were there in spirit, celebrating the family with us. I could hear some of the things each one had said over the years. I was thankful that many of their family members were there at the party, because even though they are in Heaven now, we are all still part of this wonderful family, and we belong together celebrating this family and the legacy our precious grandparents left behind.

IMG_6737imageEvery year my mother’s family has two gatherings designed to keep the Byer family close, which was my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s desire for their family. They were married on Christmas eve, so a Christmas party was the ideal event for on of those gatherings. It was decided that the other would be a picnic in the summer. Over the years, attendance as dwindled a bit, which I find very sad, because this is an easy way to stay connected, but this year was a bit of an exception to the rule, because unusual as it is, we had a family member come from out of town, and everyone wanted to see him. Greg Hushman decided to make the trip down from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to visit family members and attend the picnic. We were all excited to see him, and people who had never come to the picnic before, came and really enjoyed themselves.

Elmer Johnson is a regular attendee, like me, but with Greg’s appearance, we had two of the Three Musketeers imageimageof Mischief in attendance. Unfortunately, Forrest Beadle, who was the third musketeer, passed away in July of 2005. He was very much missed yesterday. As we visited with Greg and Elmer, they recapped some of the various ways they managed to get into trouble…especially with Grandma Byer, who had a broom that could somehow reach around corners, and down stairs to wallop the, by then running to get away, mischievous musketeer. They could never figure out how she did that. Surely they were quick enough to outrun Grandma. After all, she was only 4’10” tall, and being a grandma, she must have been too old to run…right??? Nevertheless, she never failed to make them painfully aware that short and old or not, she was the boss…and they simply better never forget it!!

My sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock all commented that they had never been spanked by Grandma Byer…after which I had to admit that I had. I was probably the more mouthy one of imageimagemy siblings…no not probably…I was. I argued with my Dad…we called it debating, but my sisters thought I was about to die, for sure, because they never dared argue with Dad. Well, anyway, somehow, my Grandma Byer didn’t understand the difference between arguing and debating, and she just called it mouthy, so I got a spanking. Not to self…don’t argue or debate with Grandma Byer!! She will win!!

Of course, most of the still living original siblings were there, but this year, we lost two…my mother, Collene Spencer, and Aunt Evelyn Hushman. It felt a little bit empty without them, and in a strange way, I noticed that the remaing original siblings worked very hard to connect with all of the nieces and nephews, almost like they were concerned about those relationships. Uncle Wayne Byer was seen teasing several people, and Aunt Virginia Beadle, Aunt Bonnie McDaniels, Aunt Dixie Richards, and Aunt Sandy Pattan made a great effort to make the rounds to talk to as many of us as they could. As did the cousins, like imageimageClyde and Susie Young, Terry and Shannon Limmer, Dennis and Wendy French, Kevin and Jamie Patsie, Jeannie Liegman, Jimmy Richards, Keith Beyer and his brother, Cliff Byer’s family, Cindy Ellis and family, JeanAnn Stanko, Rachelle French, Corrie Petersen and her son Chris, Jim and Alina Young, Dwan Orr and family Steve and Jenny Spethman and kids, and lots of the children. I felt like this was one of the closest picnics we have ever had. I suppose that the more family members we lose, the more we realize just how quickly we can lose each other. The time to stay close is right now!!

Aunt Evelyn HushmanLate yesterday afternoon, my mom’s eldest sister passed away after a battle with cancer over the past few years. It was a battle she had mostly kept to herself. She had spent much of her last years taking care of her husband, my Uncle George, with the help of family members. Caregivers, like Aunt Evelyn have a tendency to brush aside their own illness while they take care of others. They simply don’t have time to be sick. They are busy making others well.

Being the oldest of Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s nine children, Aunt Evelyn learned at a very young age that she was needed to help with the younger siblings. While Grandma Byer didn’t work or go many places, there were after all eight other children, and the oldest if often the best helper. Aunt Evelyn was also a very social person as a girl though, and really all her life. It was Aunt Evelyn, who would make her parents grandparents for the first time, something that can be a bit of an honor, in itself. It was Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, who would double date with my mom and dad during their courting years. They would all survive being hit by a train during one of those dates because of the quick thinking of both of the men. I’m sure that was something they all talked about for a long time.

Now the memories are flooding my mind. Times we spent at her house as kids, playing hide and seek, and all the other kids games we used to play. I remember the New Years Eve parties they spent at our house, and all the times at Grandma Byer’s house. I remember sitting out on Aunt Evelyn’s lawn on summer afternoons, and her beautiful house, which was her pride and joy. She enjoyed throwing and attending the annual Christmas party, and the summer picnic, until it became too difficult…which made me sad indeed.

It seems that with each passing year, our family patriarches become fewer and fewer. I remember thinking that we would always have the aunts and uncles with us, and now there remain only five of the original siblings and four of their spouses. Somehow, we all believed that they would always be here. I guess our minds play Aunt Evelyn & Uncle George Hushmantricks on us when it comes to loved ones…even to the extent of refusing to notice that they are aging, until we look back at pictures after they are gone. Then suddenly we realize just how tired they were, just how weak and weary, and maybe, just how sick and in pain they were. Nevertheless, they kept up a brave face, smiling at each visit, in spite of the pain. They tried so hard to make us feel better, when in reality they were getting ready to say goodbye. That’s how Aunt Evelyn was. Always thinking of those around her before she thought of herself. Always trying to make their day better, a thing she did quite well with that beautiful smile of hers. I will always miss her smile. It is so much of who she was, and who she will always be in my heart. We love you Aunt Evelyn, we will miss you very much, and we will see you again in Heaven very soon.

IMG_4815IMG_4812aThe annual Byer Family Christmas party took place last night, and it was nice to see so many family members, who I normally get to see only on Facebook. The Christmas party is always a joyous time, when we can catch up with other family members to see what they have been up to. The snowbirds like Susie and Clyde Young were back in town for the holidays, and kindly managed to bring the warm Nevada weather with them. Most of our grandparents children were there, like Aunt Virginia Beadle; my mom, Collene Spencer; Aunt Jeanette Byer; Aunt Bonnie McDaniels; Aunt Dixie Richards; and Aunt Sandy Pattan. For their presence, we are always thankful. The younger generations don’t always come to the party. I wish they would, because while this party and the summer picnic are great times to get together with the family, these gatherings are more importantly, the dream of our IMG_4844aIMG_4825agrandparents. The parties are our grandparents’ way of trying to keep the glue in place, that holds the family together.

The regular groups are there…the ones we can always count on. There were too many to name them all, but there were members of the families of Aunt Evelyn, Aunt Virginia, Aunt Delores, Uncle Larry, my mom, Collene, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt Sandy represented. It was so good to see everyone. We got to meet Aunt Virginia’s newest little great grandson, Kasen. And we got to see and be shocked at how much all the little kids have grown. The food was delicious, as always, because we are a family of really good cooks. We all ate to our heart’s content, and as usual, it was more than we needed to eat. But in realty, it isn’t the food we come for so much, but rather the company. Since connecting with so many family members on Facebook, I really feel comfortable visiting with them in person, because I truly know them now, where I basically knew they were family before.

Of course, we understand that not everyone can make it to the party each year, but for me, the thing that IMG_4837aIMG_4840aadded a little bit of sadness this year is the ones who truly couldn’t come. These are the ones I really felt were missing. People like Grandma and Grandpa Byer, Aunt Delores and Uncle Elmer Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my dad, Allen Spencer, Uncle Jack McDaniels, Forrest Beadle, Alyssa Harman, Jonah Williams, and Laila Spethman…all of whom live in Heaven now. I also really missed Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, because Uncle George has a really hard time getting out. And the one that hit closest to home for me, my grandson, Chris Petersen, who hasn’t missed one of these in years, but he is away at college and won’t be home until Tuesday. That was a really hard thing for my kids, Corrie and Kevin Petersen…and I know it was hard for Chris too.

Every year, we are grateful for the family members who come to the party, because we love to see everyone. Corrie & KevinIMG_4845aThe Byer Family Christmas Party is a day to treasure. As more and more of them pass away, I realize that we may not have the chance to see some of these people again. I am reminded of Grandma and Grandpa’s desire for this yearly celebration, and I’m reminded that they are there in spirit. I’m thankful for the people who come to the party, and look forward to the next time I will see them. The Annual Byer Family Christmas Party was a great success, because so many people came…and yet sad, because some were missing.

Jake HarmanMy grand nephew Jake has always been a goofy kid. His favorite thing to do is make people laugh, and he will do just about anything he can to make that happen. He has been known to sit on people’s laps just to see if they are surprised, and then turn around and goof off with a cousin or two to see if he can make them laugh…while he is sitting on the lap of the first person. Such was the case at the family Christmas party, when Jake sat on my lap and teased Mindy and Missy Grosvenor. We all had a good laugh with him. They though it was quite funny that he was sitting on my lap, and we all three laughed at the funny things he was saying. This is so typical of Jake, and one of the things that makes people like him.

Jake has really never met anyone he didn’t like. Every time I see him, he puts his arms around me and tells me I am his best friend. I don’t think I am really his best friend, but it’s nice that my grand nephew likes me. When you are the great aunt, you kind of figure that you are just a part of that older generation, and the younger ones really don’t give a lot of thought to the older generation, but Jake has always treated me like he enjoys seeing me, and that makes me feel good…but then that is what Jake was trying to accomplish.

I think Jake is the kind of guy who really likes to have everyone around him be happy. That is probably why he likes to joke around with everyone. Jake figures that if he can bring a smile to someone’s face, then he has accomplished his goal for the day. It’s not a bad way to be…especially when people are feeling down. It takes a special kind of person to work to make people smile, and that is what Jake is like. He doesn’t care if he has to look like a clown to do it either. I think that is what makes Jake special to me. Every time I see him he is upbeat and happy. It’s really cool when people can honestly say that about you. Today is Jake’s birthday. Happy birthday Jake!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Twins...NotEvery year, in the tradition my grandparents started, the Byer family gathers to celebrate the Christmas season together, and to keep my grandparents’ dream alive. It was their desire that their children wouldn’t drift apart after they were gone. The family has done their very best to honor their wish, and the Byer Family Christmas Party is a big part of honoring that wish. Over the years, we have all worked together or split the hosting into families, but the party has always been held. Santa Clause has shown up to talk to the kids, bags of treats for the little ones were always given out, and the food…the best in the world. But, the most important part of these wonderful gatherings is the family. Re-connecting with all of them and hearing all about what is going on in their lives…that’s what it’s all about…that’s the dream that our grandparents had for us. The connection to family.

This year I had a chance to hear about how well Autumn Beadle is doing in school, and her plans to graduate at semester in her senior year, and then it’s on to Nursing School for her. I got to see how much she cares for her grandma, my Aunt Virginia. I got to touch base with Aunt Dixie, Uncle Jim, and their family. We used to see them at the mall a lot, but in recent years that hasn’t worked out so well. I ran into Michael and Deena McDaniels on Black Friday, and we laughed about our shopping trials tonight. I had seen Missy and Mindy Grosvenor at Partiersthe movies on Thursday, and we had a chance tonight to discuss how much we liked “A Christmas Candle” tonight, as well as how much they like taking care of their niece, Piper and sometimes her brother and sister, Parker and Payton. Cousins, Clyde and Susie Young spend much of their winter months in Arizona these days, but they were able to get home for the holidays and the party.

Anthony McDaniels showed up in a suit, adding a special touch of class to our party, while Shai Royce and Christina Masterson dressed up as twins, even though they are not. Aunt Bonnie’s little grandson, Noah spent the latter part of the evening trying to give her a bunny tail. Aunt Sandy has been a mainstay for information for some of the great stories I have been able to relay about the Byer Family, and has also spent several afternoons with my mom this year at the Senior Center, which my mom has cherished and fully enjoyed. The party has brought Elmer Johnson back into our lives after a time of not being able to be there, and since he and I have connected on Facebook too, we have grown to be even better friends than we were as kids. Aunt Jeanette is doing well, and always brings a smile to my face with her awesome laugh. Corrie and Kevin Petersen and their boys Christopher and Josh have been busily planning for Chris to start college in Sheridan next year and Josh to get his driver’s license. Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Cottonball FightGeorge were not able to join us this year, but their granddaughter, Rachelle French took lots of pictures for them so they would not feel left out.

This year’s highlight, however, had to be the idea someone had to open up bags of cotton balls for the little kids to play with. It turned into a cotton ball/snow ball fight, and everyone had a wonderful time. Xander, Zack, Isaac, and Aleesia Spethman; Kya and Noah Hamilton; Logan and Lea Orr; Mateo Steiner and Dera Elvidge; Noah Williams; Parker, Payton, and Piper Dobson; Raelynn, Matthew, and Audrianna Masterson all had a wonderful time picking up, loading up on, and throwing those cotton balls. I don’t know who thought of it, but it was a great idea.

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